On The Town

Part of a longer true story…

The last time I was in a public place on purpose with more than one person was almost a decade ago. I mean a time when I had to wear long pants, a shirt featuring buttons, hands washed really well, and no baseball cap on my head.

Under my bed are over one dozen pair of creepers; candy apple patent leather, chessboard, faux leopard skin, blood red, blue suede… I have four other pair of shoes I’ve purchased over the past three years with the express intent of ‘wearing them on a date.’ These shoes remain in mint condition on a shelf.

Folded neatly in a drawer are eight pair of 501s, the good ones with the tapered leg like back in the day. Leather belts are loosely rolled to the side.

Hanging in my closet are some classic bowling shirts; the subtle, cool ones with diamond-cut patterns, boomerang silhouettes, and starburst, next to some grey, long-sleeved shop shirts. Classic standards.

Occasionally I will put on these clothes and stand in front of my mirror, picturing myself without this big, stupid beard, a younger man with a sharp jaw and some prospects.

That was a long time ago.

I sit down beneath a heavy cloak of resignation, unbutton my shirt, then untie my shoes. Standing, I gently grab the top of the fly and rip down four buttons with one smooth motion. My socks are white, always white with creepers, and they come off inside-out. I leave them on the floor.

All of this reminds me to feel something, even if it’s a canned memory from that time when I thought I was a charming boy, before the world clutched me by the scruff and flung me headlong into a world I was ill-prepared to face. Those weren’t the best times, but hope was young back then.

I climb into bed and hope to dream.

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I Would Die 4 U

‚ÄčThere was this place in Wiesbaden frequented by lots of GI’s called The Western Saloon. Live Aid was playing on a big television in the corner of the joint. The place was small for what it was, with a few booths, some tall but small round-topped tables, and a bartendress named Liz who looked like a young Lauren Bacall and spoke perfect English. I drank a dark alt beer called Kutcher and shots of this hot cinnamon stuff called Tom Dooley from a bottle without a label.

Times were simpler.

Bridget had a twin sister named Gabrielle. They were six feet tall and blonde and quiet, with easy smiles. The closest I ever got to talking to one of them was across a tiny dance floor, drunk as fuck and miming the gestures for this song like some stupid white boy trying to be as cool as Prince or Smokey or The Temptations or The Pips.

She walked across the floor, smiling, and said in a gentle German accent as she passed me, “Don’t drink so much and ask me to dance next time.” I had to look pretty stupid with that response. I don’t know why I remember such hazy things. Those memories were usually wiped when my brain was reformatted with a hangover.

It might be the most confidence I’ve ever had in a situation where I didn’t get the girl, and I never get the girl. 

Identity

For some reason this simple thought gained a ton of traction over on that other writing site. It was innocuous when written but no less true. I thought my Jim Croce tweet was better, but what do I know. To be clear, because I fear very little doesn’t mean I have all of my shit together. Just some of it.


Too many years passed before I figured out who I was. Half a century, to be honest. Even before the internet, where people will express their unsolicited opinion of you because they are bored, I was so very concerned about how people saw me. I tried to please everyone, and hence, never allowed my true identity to form.

My shirt usually remained on at the pool. I didn’t ask a girl out until late in my senior year. She was the wrong girl. I was very booksmart, tall, quiet, shy, kept my opinions to myself, and tried my best not to make waves, not that waves need be made by default.

In my 30s I drank, and this cloaked my crippling lack of self-esteem. I weighed 240 lbs (booze and bacon) and didn’t get any real sleep (drinking sleep just ain’t the same) for a decade.

Then, I turned 50 almost three years ago and a switch went on. Booze and cigs were already in my distant past, but inside my head…it was like stepping into the light from what I thought already was light.

I knew who I was, but more importantly, there was no longer a need to please everyone by being who I thought they wanted to see. Confidence isn’t a thing, it is a result of letting go of needing to be liked, and reliance upon the lessons learned while growing up.

I’ve always felt very deeply, but the repression of self didn’t allow anyone in to see it. Once the fear of not being liked, of not being accepted had vanished, all of my feeling gushed out, and it gushed out in words. Probably not worthy of being in print, but the words are mine and I don’t fear sharing them. Or myself.

I don’t fear much, honestly. A feeling man is not a weak man; he may be vulnerable, but with confidence comes strength. I wish more men could see this. Maybe then we wouldn’t all be such assholes.

Old Tuesdays

Anna poured drinks every Tuesday at The Ritz. Her hands were strong yet feminine, like those of an athlete, and while she worked she would once in a while glance at me and smile.

Evenings were grey, and I thought this apt accompaniment to my life at the time. Winter was approaching and while the confines of my sparsely furnished apartment seemed more comfortable after a long day working two jobs, I very much enjoyed Anna’s company. Crowds and loud places make me anxious, and spontaneous conversion is a persistent fear, but Anna made all of that background noise.

After the market closed and paperwork had been filed, from 5:00 in the evening until 10:00 or so I would sit at the bar and read The Independent, The Thrifty Nickel, or whatever paper was stacked by the door. I always dressed a little better on Tuesdays to make an impression; faded dark green cotton trousers, a white oxford, and an outdated necktie purchased in Germany while serving in the Air Force. Ironed and starched from a can by my hand, my clothes were faded rags, really.

Any style I had was lost in the crowd. All the other men wore stylish dark suits with fancy silk ties, shirt collars starched like Don Cherry’s on Hockey Night (but not as tall), and the bezels of their expensive watches glinted in the warm glow of Christmas lights recently strung in the bar’s front window.

So that she found time to smile even once in my direction made me feel like the luckiest boy in school. It wasn’t just that she was remarkably attractive with dark hair, flawless skin, piercing dark eyes and a smile that wasn’t too big or too frequent. It wasn’t that I imagined tracing the curve of her hip during a slow dance. It was how she was. Anna never tried to do anything, she was simply comfortable in her own skin and this was wildly appealing.

That was twenty-three years ago.

This sort of thing rarely happens anymore. Wall Street is a distant memory and now I work on Main Street. I am older now, even more reticent than in my youth. That feeling has faded into obscurity. I miss the feeling of attraction, of my heart racing past my mind to press up against the inside of my eyes for a closer look at beauty.

And I don’t know how to reclaim that gift.

Please, Please, Please

A deep and massive post lost to an app crash. This is how Mondays are. And Tuesday through Sunday because I have no days off and alpha and omega are meaningless to me.

“Surely your life is not as bad as how you describe it,” people say.

Yes, yes it is. It’s not a matter of perspective as some might have you think. There is no optimum; there is barely nominal. Good in my life is merely a lesser volume of bad.

I understand why people take the long way around me. There is not a lot I can do about this loneliness, this persistent despair. This is not where I want to be, but it’s where I am.

So rather than the really good post about the last time I was truly happy, here’s the last thing on my clipboard, pasted here for all to disregard.

I give you melancholy à la Marr/Morrissey.

Good time for a change
See, the luck I’ve had
Can make a good man
Turn bad

So please please please
Let me, let me, let me
Let me get what I want
This time

Haven’t had a dream in a long time
See, the life I’ve had
Can make a good man bad

So for once in my life
Let me get what I want
Lord knows, it would be the first time
Lord knows, it would be the first time

Spotless

I try not to think about her, and this seems such a horrible admission.

Once she shared with me the last good book she read, called Kissing In Manhattan. The library had a copy available. I liked this girl a lot, had for a long time, so I wanted to savor the tale.

The story revolves around a hotel, each chapter a displaced vignette, some tied together from earlier in the book, some stand alone, but all stories are related to the building.

That was two years ago. I enjoyed the book so much I bought a used hardback copy (it was out of print). Nowadays I ride to work, mere blocks from two consecutive streets bearing names of elements in the book, Rigg and Otis.

No matter what kind of hypnotherapy might ever be practiced on me, I could never unremember little details like that; coincidences usually mean something in my world. It’s how we met, really. I was deleting pictures and preparing to leave Facebook and she made mention of my socks (in a picture), or maybe I said something first about a shared sentiment regarding small talk (we both detest it), or that thing about The Smiths. I don’t know for sure, but half an hour later and I would have been gone.

But my timing is off, so far so, I sometimes wonder if the whole thing was in my head. What seems to have had no impact whatsoever on her moved my world quite a bit off-axis. I don’t go looking for life-shifts that extreme, but cannot vouch for why else they might happen. She pretty much ruined me for anyone else, and that’s not her fault.

It’s all a part of my ongoing grudge with Fate.