Everything is unraveling in a most inglorious fashion. All of the multicolored prescription capsules that weave around like DNA science fair projects between my ears are staging miniature revolutions. I'm thinking too much; I'm blank; I'm thinking too much; I'm blank. This is what it feels like when something essential snaps apart and all of the illusions and skin and hair products that make you actually believe that you are you dissipate. This is what happens when you break apart.
"Why do you have a pistol in your pocket?" my friend Chris drops his jaw somewhere in my living room.
"Don't," I whisper into futility.
"Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it," Alan morphs into Charlton Heston, pulling a .45 from his crotch.
What follows is a dizzying chicken-egg scenario regarding the Constitution and states' rights or something, the sort of conversation I'm used to sitting on the sidelines and pouting at whenever I present the chocolate of the outside world to the Republican peanut butter of my spouse. There's some kind of machismo standoff between prattling academia document citations and the whiskey ramblings of Robert E. Lee that inevitably ends in me changing the subject. I need to call in backup.
"Tony, get over here right now!" I silently scream into my phone.
"I hate everything and everybody and I'm in hiding," he rolls back into his dark corner.
"Good. See you soon."
By the time Tony arrives, the NRA Civil War has mutated into some kind of conversation about exploitative capitalist enterprise in third world countries, because, hey, what's more interesting than that? Chris, as it turns out, has just returned from Nairobi and he's flexing some kind of fair-trade ethos as a means of creating athletic shirts that are "sexy."
"For whom? Like, Madonna?" I play along and take a bow.
Alan fades out, while I politely engage in an ill-informed coffee-table treatise on fat white men screwing willing native prostitutes and how that always happens because the West is awful and entrepreneurship is just another word for nothing left to sell.
"I'm wary of the skin trade," I throw in some Duran Duran for good measure.
"Billy, when did you get so cynical?" Chris states the obvious. "There are good things happening out there."
Then it only gets worse. Alan leaps back in with some Stoic philosophy via Seneca, which pulls Tony into the regurgitation pool with some reference to modes of light in infinity (attributed to Baruch Spinoza) or whatever else can be pulled out of one's ass. Chris, whose eyes have now glazed over into the same blankness as mine, tries to bring the whole mess of words back to himself. "We're calling the line of athletic shirts ‘Courage,'" he says. "I'm waiting to see what my branding specialists come up with?"
"Um, how about a red badge?" I utter my last synaptically connected breath.
"Uh, why?" Chris loses 400 points.
Tony and I giggle, Alan's eyes roll, we point out the obvious literary reference and Chris retorts, "Dude, I have two degrees!"
And I need about four drinks. Tony and I say our goodbyes, hanging them around some loose premise that these stationary conversations are all head and no feet; interaction is the key to pushing the second hand forward each dying second on the clock, and we'll be damned if that's going to happen here, on my couch. We're going to Wally's, motherfuckers.
"Life is so much easier when you can just hate people and not think," Tony defrags in my passenger seat.
And at first, that's rather easy. There are precisely six sad-looking people propped up on the Wally's altar island when we show up, six people staring straight ahead at nothing.
"Shame we couldn't find a game board to keep some score!" bellows one in the direction of a fuzzy trivia screen next to the food show and the sports show and the news. The bartendress doesn't respond. There is comfortable peace here.
Of course, by the time Tony and I hit the wall-mounted jukebox with our peculiar brand of press-on-nail musicality, the already thin crowd has gotten thinner. OK, we're the only people left. I choose "Pavement Cracks" by Annie Lennox because why the fuck is this miserable song even on a jukebox? Tony opts for "Take the Money and Run" by the Steve Miller Band, because he's an entrepreneur with nothing left to lose. Then we both settle for Pet Shop Boys' "Always on My Mind," just because.
"I want to sing this song to everybody I've ever known," Tony gets inappropriately profound. "I want them all to cry."
An unexpected old friend named Sean, a hot straight bear, pops in for a few minutes of distraction and regales us with stories about LSD and camping, what it's like to have kids now, life used to be so much better, etc. It seems there's no escaping the decline. We're all just getting heavier with thoughts, philosophies, degrees, memories and meals never digested. We're all more and more likely to sink.
I plunk one last dollar into the machine and play Supertramp's "Take the Long Way Home," hoping to perhaps extend my warranty. But even that doesn't work.
"You're drunk" is Alan's greeting after my too-short journey back.
"Yep, that's what I am." I look down at my hands and start to cry a little. "Wait a minute! My Tiffany lock bracelet is missing! Or, my life is over!"
The way back to Wally's reveals that staffer Eddie, with the help of a flashlight, has located my bracelet and its fragile lock pressed unflatteringly up against the corner of Wally's naked-lady wallpaper. It's a Depression miracle!
"You are one lucky bitch," Eddie adds.
Maybe. But at least I'm me again.[email protected]