When I wake up, I wake up with a start. As soon as the spark is lit in my consciousness, the dis-ease groans. I take a few seconds to collect dream memories, but I’ve awoken so fast that they are lost. Thank god. It’s hard enough to get over someone without dreaming about them every single night. And day.
After laying in bed for a half hour having distinctly immoral fantasies, I get out of bed. I’m wearing a hood, my favorite ironic tee shirt, boxers and socks. My left thumb is throbbing, upon inspection I see that it’s been split open, caked in dry blood. For a second, I fear that I’ve had another bicycle accident. I grab an Excedrin. Then I remember it is a wound suffered upon attack by a teenage girl, Alessandra. Alessandra is severely A.D.D. and I guess I’ve become a sort of brother or uncle to her since I’ve been living here. She says that I’m not a man, I’m a boy, and that I am very gay, which to be sure, I can’t deny. I had, in a state of drunken courage, invaded her room for inspection. I’m not acid tongued with her as her father, I’m not as coddling as her mother, and yet somehow I’ve garnered this mark of affection on my thumb. I can’t remember what she was swinging at me, but I remember laughing heartily and telling her that I’d block every shot, which I did. In a state of intoxicated grace, I deflected blows with the casual ferocity of a cat. Sometimes space and matter synch up with awareness in such a way that it transcends ability and skill.
The yard is a mess, disarray. Bicycles, a motorcycle, power tools, tarps, venetian blinds, a box of nails has tipped over, dozens of beer bottles, a prescription medicine bottle. I check my phone and realize Nash actually picked up his phone last night, and we talked for a half hour. He wouldn’t reveal his location; he claimed he was at home and that strippers had stole his car. In the light of morning, I realize he was probably being honest. I can’t remember what I said to him, but I remember what we talked about.
I pick up the yard and finish just as rain begins falling. Then it’s all John Cale, all the morning. By noon, I walk downtown to buy one single guitar string and two bridge pegs. And one 40 oz. of Mickey’s. I had found a one lone Summer Shandy in the fridge and it was just a lick before a whistle. I consider just getting a pint of Beam and trying to nurse it till I go to bed. But I know that by at latest it will be gone by 4:30, and then I’ll want another. Then I’ll pass out nicely sloshed around 10 after drinking a fifth. To be honest, I kind of want to stop. For a while. If I hadn’t gotten a call from Murph with orders to bike my ass over to Nash’s and then drive him to the emergency room, I would have probably doubled back down to the drug store for some good ol’ Jake.
Murph is a natural pill popper. He can mix the sauce in well. I take a picture of him last night with a beer bottle resting on his lap clasped between his hands as if in prayer, slouching in a chair in the backyard. Peter O’Toole in the film “My Favorite Year” plays a sort of aging Erroll Flynn, an alcoholic swashbuckler, and in one scene he walks into a meeting room, says a few lines, and face plants on the board table. Some dialogue ensues around him. Later on, he has recollection of the dialogue. He’s asked “You heard that? But I thought you were out!” He chuckles in that beautiful coppertone way and explains: “My dear boy. There is “out”, and then there is out.” It takes no talent to sleep while holding a martini glass; it takes inborn predilection to always wake up with it still there. That’s Murph. Some addicts aren’t addicted. They’ve merely learned to let the drugs in only when certain situational criteria are met, and then to allow the effects affect only their self and no one else, and most importantly, no familial or financial responsibilities.
So I slam the rest of my beer, and I’m there at Nash’s 10 minutes later. I knock on the door of his shitty basement apartment. “FUCK OFF!” I retort, “I’ll fuck up or down but not out.” I can hear that he’s got Murph back on the line. He gets nearer the door and I hear him say into his handset “Hold on, I’ve gotta find a sword.” And he’s rattling around the many implements of violence he keeps near the door. “I’d prefer a bludgeon, please sir, if you may.”
The door swings open and he’s got a nightstick raised. I’ve got my steel drawn chest high. “I’ll fucking kill you!!!” “Put down the fucking nightstick. Put on your boots.”
The place smells like roast beef marinated in armpit and days old urine. He’s wobbly, slurring. Rambling, incoherent, belligerent. “Put your fucking boots on, Nancy.” He wants to roll a cigarette, somehow his fingers finally find muscle memory once he takes his mind off of the task. The minutes tick. I know I shouldn’t dawdle. I get him to cough up his stash. A fucking Texas fifth of Five O’Clock and it’s almost all gone. I take a swig right in front of him, and pour the rest down the drain. His girl calls, dramatically shaken. More dawdling. “PUT on your GODDAMN BOOTS, SON, WE’RE GOING TO GET ICE CREAM. NOW. NOW. NOW.”
Somehow they let him out after 3 hours. We have to go inside to have him released to us. I want to ask if he’s being kicked out for being bellicose and lewd, but I just can’t bring myself to embarrass him much more, so when Joux Joux asks if he’s being “dishonorably discharged” ( wink wink, nudge nudge ) the physician doesn’t even acknowledge. By the look on the face of the woman who’s had to deal with him for these hours, I would say, yes: today an alcoholic who has drank himself onto a transplant list came into my job and made pathetic juvenile advances to me. And said I had beautiful tits and a great ass. And that he would pleasure me for several hours.
Nash isn’t a jerk. He’s just an asshole when he’s drunk. When he’s sober, he’s an excitable acerbic junk-picking hallucinatory artist oaf, with no fear of any man, save for himself. When he’s drunk, he’s an overly sarcastic cutesy boyish avoidant. He was a Ritalin kid. He was a side show act—shark hooks, fire-breathing, setting his whole body on fire, a freak predator engorged on pain. Now that he’s being forced to choose between dying from his favorite vice and dying from life…well, after divorce, after fate twists your maternal experience on this earth in absurdly tragic and lonesome ways, it’s not an easy choice; the path of the organism unto death becomes a hastening. The last time I was released, the psyche asked me “what is most important to you in life?” I was confused. “You mean right now, or generally?” “Generally.” Without any thought I answer “Freedom”. Freedom to live by my reckoning, not Johnny Law, not mom and dad, not societies imposed codes of moral and ethics. And, if I can’t find freedom here with the living, I’ll find it in death.
In the waiting room, he insists I can relate to what he’s been going through. He’s gone 90 days dry several times since finding out his liver is dying a few years ago. It’s 1/8 of normal size. He’s taking medicine that costs around a grand a month. He has an old flame returned to him, who is bughouse crazy for him, who happens to be an insistent caretaker to people; she grows medicine. She knows the score, she went off the rails and got back on a decade ago. Her mother drank herself to death. I tell him fuck no, I have no idea what’s wrong with you. I have an addiction and I am trying to cope. I’m nowhere near death. I’m nearing a state of health which will make death sooner than later. I predict that I will even out and get sober. If I had liver disease, no way would I drink. Especially with the kind of pot hook ups he has. I tell him, “It’s a disease I must cope with and try to prevail against death by being able to control it.” Nash has a definite death fixation. I just wanted anesthesia. To be sure, at one point I did want to die. Not specifically to die, just to make absolutely sure I could feel absolutely no pain. And so I drank. Now, I’m in love with life again, and the pain has become little shiny trinkets that dangle and mesmerize me. But I gave myself a sickness along the way…
The last time I stayed with Murph and Joux Joux, I entered, stated that I required a drink to take a shit, and upon inspecting the liquor cabinet, declared that before I left I would have to leave a few new bottles behind. Now that I’m back, I’ve been mostly perfect about not raiding the cabinet. Tonight, I’m so tired that I’ll be able to sleep in minutes of laying down. But I’m glad Murph has hid the whisky somewhere else. And the gin. And the vodka. And I’m sad that I don’t have another Mickey’s. And I’m sad that tomorrow this all starts over for me. And I’m sad that my kidneys, not my liver, are weak little things that hurt. And I’m sad that Nash is killing himself.
But I’m glad that I am, at all times, absolutely free to do whatever the fuck I want with my life and death. My father went out his own way, asleep and willing. I did get to tell him that I was proud of him before he went. The last time I saw him, I got trashed. I remember his eyes got squinty, steely and watery, and he smiled and shook his head at me, and called me a lush. “Whisky’s for sipping.” That’s what he’d always say—and he knew this by getting blitzed and driving around with a rifle one night long before I was born. The bullet veers a few inches and I never get born, and dad does a 25 year sentence for manslaughter. In my first 18 years of life, I saw him drink exactly twice, and once he actually got a little schnockered at his sister’s wedding. My mother has no issues with overindulgence, outside of maybe peanut M&M’s. Maybe it’s because her father was wild Irish drunk, and in all my life, I’ve never met him. If I wanted to, I could find out his watering hole, sit down next to him and he’d have no idea who I was for a few minutes. Maybe I’m just born under a bad sign, on St. Patrick’s Day in the year of the Monkey. Even my astrological birthchart—laugh if you want, but did you know the birth sign of the first A-Bomb blast was Cancer with Cancer rising?—says I have a pronounced tendency towards drug abuse and occult fascination.
But things are looking up—mayhaps very soon I dose on acid from the Mission district. I could really use another peak reprogramming. It’s been 12 years.