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Somewhere south of Market

Yesterday I was vomiting and nauseous, but today I feel like climbing Coit Tower and singing the BeeGees' greatest hits. Pike sounds near death in the next room, though, coughing up phlegm, hacking his throat dry, and he's not sick.

This is his morning ritual. He wakes up, and coughs for half an hour, or 45 minutes. The racket is as reliable as a rooster crowing at sunrise, though with Pike it's more like 10AM. It must be a side effect from all the drugs he does, and he does plenty.

Pike has been conducting his throat orchestra for an hour now, which is longer than usual. If he was a friend of mine, perhaps I'd ask about it, or offer him some of my cough drops. But he's not, so I won't.

♦ ♦ ♦

Maggie, my ex, is in Livermore, visiting her daughter and staying at her sister's house, so I called to arrange lunch or dinner or whatever. She kept me on the phone, long distance, till I ran out of quarters, but she wouldn't commit to a time and place. She said to call back at 6PM, when she'd know her complicated itinerary better. What Ever.

♦ ♦ ♦

Worked a few hours with Bill at Black Sheets, and he gave me the enviable assignment of reviewing two books, Penis Size and Enlargement, by Gary Griffin, and The Joy of Uncircumcising, by Jim Bigelow. Some light reading for bedtime.

Came home with the books under my arm, thinking I'd relax, but no relaxing would be allowed, because Pike and Terry were loudly yelling at each other. After putting up with it for too long, I took a bus ride instead. To nowhere in particular and then home again was my plan, hoping they'd be done yelling before I got back.

♦ ♦ ♦

Despite their noise I'd been in fairly good spirits when I climbed onto the overcrowded #14 bus, but somewhere south of Market my spirits sank.

It might've been Terry, sneezing and screaming at the apartment — she's aggravating, but when I (rarely) stop and think about it she's sadness brought to life. How hellish it must be, to be her.

Or it might've been a shouted argument in Mandarin at the back of the bus...

Or the teenager across the aisle popping his bubble gum loud as Oklahoma City...

Or it might've been the phone call with Maggie, someone I used to rather like, who feels like only an obligation now.

Or just the general hell of Muni, where the drivers delight in alternating at random between brakes and gas, to see how many standees they can topple...

Whatever the cause, I was depressed, and lonely. Depression hits me now and then without warning, probably a sign of mental fragility or a chemical imbalance, who the hell knows. Loneliness doesn't come as often, because usually I like being alone, but there are limits, I guess.

Loneliness and depression at the same time? Man, I was down. 

Rang the bell and stepped off the bus, then walked around the south Embarcadero with a serious bad attitude. I was talking to myself and saying awful things, kicking a rock, daydreaming of vandalism and violence, when a voice behind me said, "Hey, excuse me?"

Without even turning to see who'd spoken, I said, "Excuse yourself. I ain't giving you a dime, so fuck off," but it turned out to be a guy I used to work with. He was trying to say hi but he'd forgotten my name, so we re-introduced ourselves, and I apologized for snapping at him because apologizing is what you're supposed to do, but I wanted to snap at him again. We talked for a short while that was too long, until I said "Gotta go, man," and walked away, cold.

Around a corner I stopped for a slice of pizza at some greasy, dirty dive, where I didn't leave a tip. That's something I'm not proud of. For a poor boy I'm usually a generous tipper, even when the food sucks and the service is barely there.

After another bus ride, a red-headed hooker on O'Farrell caught my eye, which is also unusual. It's stupid that prostitution is illegal, but on the sidewalk the idea usually repulses me. Sorry, ladies. Unlike what's for sale in my neighborhood, though, some of the ladies for hire downtown are attractive, and this one had nice legs, smiled at me, and hello, I was hardening, but no.

Called Maggie from another phone booth, at 6:00 sharp as instructed. She was out — or possibly she was playing games. Sometimes she does that, especially when I wish she wouldn't.

The annoyance of Margaret led my thoughts to Sarah-Katherine, that sweet woman who's been brightening my world a little over the past few months. Not tonight, though. The mental image of her pretty face only make me feel worse, certain I've been deceiving myself. She can do much, much better than this fat fart. She's nice enough to write me some letters, and I appreciate it, but probably we've seen each other for the last time.

Called Maggie twice more like a good boy, and twice more she wasn't there. Third time I rang, her nephew who sounded about ten years old asked politely, "Would you like to leave a message?"

"Yeah," said I, not so politely. "She told me to call at six, so please tell her I called at 6, 6:30, and 6:45, and I'll probably call again tomorrow, but I'm out of dimes tonight.

"Who is this?" he asked, and I said my name. Hope he relays the message.

Stopped at a corner rip-off grocery for an overpriced loaf of bread, then waited while the skinny kid on the other side of the counter ignored me and talked on the phone. I watched him waste my time for maybe half a minute, maybe less because I was grumpy, before putting the bread into my backpack and announcing, "It's free if you don't want to ring me up."

"Just a minute," he said — but he said it into the mouthpiece, then actually apologized to me, took my money and even said thanks. I was so amazed I put the change in his tip can, maybe to make up for stiffing the pizza guy.

A third bus took me home, where Pike and Terry were watching TV, holding hands like they like each other, not screaming. The sight and soundlessness of it lifted my spirits from 'absolute shit' to 'lousy', and then he said to me, "You got a letter," and pointed to an envelope leaning on the wall, next to my door. 

Zine mail and family mail comes to the maildrop. Nobody has my home address except Sarah-Katherine, so I said thanks, and slipped into my room, and ripped the envelope open. The way I was feeling, I was pretty sure it was "Dear John," but no, it was a nice letter. Not nice enough, and too brief, but it got my mood from 'lousy' to 'so-so'.

By then, though, Terry and Pike were calling each other assholes (they're both right), and I was reconsidering my position against domestic violence.

I wrote Sarah-K an unromantic response, which I ought to rip up and rewrite instead of mailing it. Maybe I should've smoked some marijuana, or borrowed some of Pike's cocaine or heroin or whatever shit he inhales or ingests or injects. Instead I decided to turn in early, hoping for a good night's sleep that might clear away whatever's got me down.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

First, though, a talk with Pike was necessary. The rent is due tomorrow, and my half is ready, but his half is always iffy. I stepped out of my room and into theirs, and they stopped arguing, looked at me, and I asked the big question: "Will you have the rent ready tomorrow?"

"Ah, screw the rent," he said, smiling through a fog of pot. "Let's not pay it at all this month," and I remembered why I'd once liked Pike. He's an ass, but for all his irresponsibility and fondness for drugs and that horrible woman, he still has the ability to make me laugh, and I laughed.

"Sounds good to me," I said. "And while we're at it, let's toss some bricks through the landlord's window and flip off the cops when they come for us."

"Let me get my jacket," he said, of course without moving from the couch. Then Pike and I laughed at each other while Terry sat mute, not getting the joke, because there is nothing, nothing between her big ugly earrings.

Yeah, fuck the rent. We'll pay it, or it'll be late. Tomorrow I might give a dang, but tonight I don't. Anyway, my name isn't on the lease.


From Pathetic Life #13
Monday, June 12, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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