Well, once again, I have a piece of fiction to share. If you only want real-life bullshit, sorry, it’s just fake bullshit for now. I might try to put up something about going back to the US, or something about visiting Seoul’s brand new Taco Bell, but we’ll see. Anyhow, here ya go:
I am holding her. I am holding her and not saying anything. And the barlight is corduroy and chic. We’re giving smiles all gypsy and vermouth. There’s a jukebox even though it’s unmodern.
My mouth is bloody against her shoulder, teeth throbbing but still there. I know there’s a gash across my nose even though I can’t see it. My eyes are soggy, waterlogged and slowly sinking, puffy black life boats surrounding them. I’ve got an itchiness like stale blisters.
Her shirt’s fluttery buffalo skin. We’re both spiked and completely deranged: paper hearts and skinned knees. She says something about coffee and cherry pie.
It’s a luckless, lushy pose.
/// /// ///
I’m staring out a large, frosted window. My reflection is bright, and beyond it it’s starting to snow. Everything calmly flickers. Everything is muted static hovering. Piles of coats are quickly tucking the scents of cigarettes into their sleeves and seams. Our scarves slither up and down the booth.
And so we’re going to play some drinking games, maybe the one where we spin a quarter around on the table, keep it going, then slam the quarter into the knuckles of whoever fucks it up. My blonde friend always fucks it up. Since she’s deathly afraid of getting cut up by the quarter, we just make her drink as punishment. She gets needlessly trashed.
Me and my two friends start the game. The quarters jingle-jangle and slice the top of the table in clumsy figure-eights. We’re talking about a subway party we’re going to have tomorrow night with some of our other friends. We’ll get on the inner city loop line and ride it all night. One friend is bringing a boombox he’s held onto since his 1980s childhood. A girl is bringing decorations — confetti, streamers, random banners that say Happy Birthday! or Congratulations, Graduate! or It’s A Boy! — which we’ll wrap around ourselves and wear, along with our stupid party hats and Hawaiian shirts. We’ll pack thermoses of margaritas, daiquiris, mojitos, and pina coladas. A tropical subway party is just what December in the city needs.
After a half-hour of our quarter game, we move to the shuffleboard table. I’m my own team, playing against my two friends. He and she are kicking my ass. I can’t seem to get any sort of rhythm going being responsible for all eight shots having to continuously move back and forth around the table. The topsy-turvy game is ruining my normal flow. I feel like a fucking joke.
This girl behind me mocks my performance after three straight rolls slip over the salty surface of the shuffleboard table and careen off the edge like so many fiery movie car crashes. She’s just wearing a soft white shirt (cashmere? I don’t know) over a dark gray, long-sleeved undershirt. A red scarf is wrapped around her neck. An inappropriately short skirt covers just enough of her legs that she shouldn’t feel awkward in public.
I jokingly tell her to fuck off and ask if she thinks she can do any better. She takes up my challenge, obviously smashed.
It turns out, toxic blood alcohol level or no, she’s a fucking ringer. My friend starts to complain about her skills, but she slurredly shushes him and sets a puck right on the edge of the table. She rocks, man.
She secures the comeback in game two, knotting our teams at one win apiece. The third game sees me with my rhythm restored, my friends’ confidence and composure shattered (their expletives aren’t making their shots better), and this chick still cleaning up like a motherfucker. We win easily, and my friends buy shots for me and girl. She and my blonde friend (she’s blonde, too) take Slippery Nipples because their girls, and me and my other friend have Jaeger Bombs because whatever.
This girl invites us back to her table, where she’s left her purse and coat by themselves, no friends to guard them, no friends in the bar at all. I ask if she’s just a shuffleboard hustler, making her weekly rounds, picking up free shots to sustain herself. Actually, she’s just early, meeting up with friends who were at a different bar. She’d obviously been at another bar as well.
This girl wants to know if we smoke pot. We laugh heartily like we’re twisted aristocrats, sip our cheap beer, and nod in affirmation.
It’s noisier now in the bar, and all the surfaces are starting to feel sticky and warm. I can smell the heat and I feel a weird feeling looking out the window and seeing the chill wrap itself around the city as my palms get drippier and drippier. I rub them on the knees of my jeans, then start tapping my knees on the underside of the table.
So, she reaches into the black hole of her purse and pulls out a one-hitter that’s terrifically jammed with green business. My tongue already feels dry. My hands are still sweaty.
We each duck under the table to the hit the fake metal cigarette, a charade that draws more attention to us probably than if we just brazenly toked it out in the open.
We’ve all had our fair share and the one-hitter is finished. Shit is glassy and syrupy.
My friend tells a story about how one time a roommate of his shaved one of his sideburns and he didn’t notice for a day and half. He found out what had happened when he felt a zip-loc bag filled with the hair underneath his pillow.
My blonde friend tells a story about how one time when she was a little kid, two boys shit themselves at the same time when she was playing with them in the sandbox. She said she’ll never forget the smell: apples, tainted beef, and a slight grandfatherly musk.
This girl tells a story about how one time she quit her job as a waitress at a vegan restaurant by gathering the attention of all the shitty customers and announcing that many of the dishes were made with chicken stock and other unnoticeable but meaty ingredients. It wasn’t true, but they were shitty customers and she wanted out of the job pronto. There was some vomiting.
I tell a story about how one time when I was in high school, my friend caught a chipmunk in his backyard and let it loose in my car. Luckily for him, there was a box of Pop-Tarts under the passenger seat, so the little guy stayed in there for two days until I caught on to him and flushed him out.
We talk about dancing, but none of us move. We’re quiet, except for this girl telling us that her friends texted and said they wouldn’t be making it. We’re okay. My friends are about to make out. Her blonde hair is glued against her forehead with a dab of sweat. A neon light threatens to go out above them. It’s shorting out so beautifully. This girl has a look on her face like she wants to giggle but she’s being cautious about it or something. We touch knees. I want to eat popcorn. She probably does, too.
I have to go to the bathroom. It’s just me and this dude in there at the urinals. He’s really out of it, swaying, muttering to himself through a half-smile that seesaws slowly up and down his face. I’m just staring at this guy’s face, giving him a concerned look. I’m really, really fucking high.
This dude starts pissing against the wall to the side of the urinal now. It splashes and hits my hand. I say the word fuck so he’ll know what’s up and stop, but he doesn’t. His piss keeps splashing against me.
I say the word fuck again, but louder, and push this dude against the sink.
I walk out of the bathroom and I know he’s behind me, with improved lucidity. His steps bite the ground hard.
So, I turn.
His knuckles burst in little auroras as they hit my face. The world is funhouse mirrors and offbeat kick drums. So I’m spinning, then I half-dry-heave as I pull my body back forward and regular. My senses are back and my mouth has some spit in it now. I duck another punch, somehow, and almost fall again from my own dizziness. I tackle this dude and hold him against a table for second. I’m about to start hitting his head and throat repeatedly (like, just thrash him), but he puts his hands over my face. This dude’s not hitting me or anything, just blinding me, stretching my eyelids and tearing out the seedlings of my eyebrows.
So, I spit on his hands. He pulls them away and I slam my fist against his cheekbone. I want to see under his skin and watch the bone distort and malign. I’m figuring out this dude’s kind of an asshole. In the back of my mind, I’m getting mad about stupid things: my shirt will stain with blood; I don’t want to look like shit for the subway party tomorrow; I don’t remember if I set my drink down or if it flew out of my hand; I liked that song that was on and now I’m fucking missing it.
This dude’s face is tearing surgical, going so gnarly. A spilled drink is creeping into his hair. An ice cube edges against his left ear.
This dude coughs and flecks of blood dot the front of his shirt. They are scattered ashes. Or a Rorschach test. Or loose tea leaves at the bottom of a finished cup.
This dude takes a couple of aimless swings with each arm. They connect with my nose and close to my right temple. So I’m knocked back. When he tries to stand up, he stumbles: jerky and manipulated by the injuries I gave him.
A bartender has hopped over to our side and begins shoving this dude toward the door. My friend pulls me away from the scene. Broken glasses lie shattered into hundreds of baby teeth.
This girl is there. She tells me she’ll take care of me tonight, and she’s kind of serious.
/// /// ///
I am holding her. I am holding her and not saying anything.
I’m staring down her back, paying attention to how her ass fits in her skirt, still wondering why she’s wearing a skirt in December. The words FOR PEACE are embroidered across it. I concentrate on the space between the words.
It’s last call or something and the lights go fully on.
She says I look like shit. I tell her she should see the other guy.