Spell the Sixth
So As To Open Secret Doors
1. Abruptly I am passionate in regard to neatness -- even to the degree of caring very much how the battered pots and pans are arrayed atop a shelf across the room from where I sit. The colander, please, needs breathing space; the handles of the skillets must be aligned. Two salts must flank Mrs. Dash. Is this a point at which I ought to be concerned? On the other hand: I just moved one of the four canisters of oatmeal a little to the left and now -- Phew! I can hear so much more clearly what it is I have to say.
2. Accidentally I tipped the cleaning lady who looks after the cafe’s toilets so extravagantly that now, when I need urgently to pee, she finds toilets where toilets did not previously exist. She has a retinue of secret doors and I have priority boarding. I am in real danger of becoming one of those heinous Americans prone to announce, I am so blessed!!!
3. You’ve got such good handles, says the bartender with the long black beard as he, with one hand, passes me the first proper pisco sour I’ve had in years and, with the other hand, strokes first one and then the other ear.
4. The triple pina colada at the next table is sad because she’s never seen the green flash. I want to tell her I’ve never seen it either, though I have sat many times looking out upon the ocean and the people beside me have seen it. I’m not saying it’s not real. There are green flash people and there are no flash people: no use being bitter about it. Take a pill to cancel the pineapple, ma’am, renew your hair, and go right on -- though not necessarily with this same man you’ve got here with you now.
5. It’s getting dark, Under the Boardwalk thumps along, and I realize that every time I’ve heard this song I’ve imagined, like, an 18 inch crawl space. Which surely is missing the point?
6. Upon ordering nachos, in falsetto, each syllable precise, and calling the teenaged moustached waiter sir 3 times, at least, it occurs to me that perhaps my zealous niceness is simply the social mask of an alcoholic and maybe I’m just waiting for a few more drinks for that to become apparent. Not so many drinks. Niceness -- how could anything be commendable that is so entirely saturated with fear? Would someone please like to adopt a gimp-legged fellating dog who continuously emits short book reviews?
7. An army, that’s what I expected. Instead, there’s just this down-low bar for swing-shift staff. Crank up my eye gates and: whoever shows up. (Even before the door opens they are there, knocking on the metal gate, wanting to drink, get fucked, somebody to listen to their goddamned story.) Sure, there are regulars. I am not in control of them either. I have to welcome whoever shows up. I have to feed and drink them.
8. To himself: You ought to practice playing hard to get. This is not something with which you have any experience. It is not something which is natural to you. Nonetheless. Por exemplo: when a big stocky man with a beard compliments your alleged hotness, you should NOT immediately say, “You can do whatever you want to me. Start making a list.”
9. When I go at sunset to check on Dad he says, “Is it because we talked too much about your brothers, how beautiful they were? Didn’t you ask once, Aren’t I beautiful too? We seem to remember that.” I’d told him I was publishing a story; he asked what it was about. I told him, “It’s about a man who’s promiscuous because he’s obsessed with feeling ugly and physically defective. Same as all my other stories.” Now, bless him, Dad is trying to understand. He’s concerned that he said something wrong. God knows he has. Still, I felt it hadn’t been decisive. “I remember feeling ugly and ashamed when I got my thick brown bifocals -- and wasn’t that before I turned 4? Please don’t worry,” I assured him. “Mom was dead before I was 8. I promise I never heard you say anything good about my brothers after that. No, they were very thoroughly demonized.”
10. A man asked me, “Are you drunk when you write?” Which I am confident is not a compliment. I told him No. Which is not exactly true. I don’t drink when I write -- OK, a glass of red wine at most, when bribery is most urgently required. However, when I do drink -- which I prefer to do in public but alone -- I often scrawl notes, deep thoughts and perversities, and these often form the basis of the next day’s work. Moreover, approximately once a month, I get totally shit-faced and sit in a corner writing detailed instructions to myself. (I always have a great time doing this and feel glorious. Why is that? Perhaps it is because I spend the lion’s share of my deeply sober, feeling stone cold lost.) You should see what the pages look like when I finally go to bed: all bullet points, pronouncements and scrawl. I could present one of those pages to a psychiatrist and the doctor would not even need to read it -- no, he or she would give me a prescription for something fierce on the basis of the handwriting alone. And I don’t destroy or hide these proofs of pathology, oh no, I obey them diligently, every scrawled bullet point, every ungrammatical pronouncement of the Lord. So, OK, I wasn’t drunk when I did the writing. (That would be wrong.) But perhaps I was drunk when I wrote the instructions.
11. How unnerving it is to open the drawer of my father’s nightstand and find, among the bottles of pills and dead batteries, dozens of note cards upon which he has scrawled pronouncements to the world and reminders to himself. People say to me, “What?! You are not taking over the farm?” No. I have chosen to extend the family pathology in other arenas.
12. I only wish to give to others what I myself have so often wished for: a little sudden unexpected rescue, now and then.
13. Waking up in the depths of the night to see my angel turned from me, covers off, bald-headed and bare-assed. Smooth, soft, in early middle age, as stark and inviting as a sand dune. When he’s awake I mostly get to see the other side of him, the kindly eyes, the hairy mouth, the big, insistent cock. I am surprised to see he also has these gentler, smoother parts. I no longer worry about not sleeping. I rest, safe and happy, in the vision of beauty.