old friends part 2
December 7, 2010 § Leave a comment
and that would be that
another old friend in every sense, first published by PenHouseInk Press, vol 1, Naked Writings, 2001
By now he would be a stinking slinking Mission District bum, drunk for sure and working up to dying. I’d catch him by surprise. He wouldn’t expect to see me in this neighborhood, or at this time of day, or on this day of the week. He’d try hard not to see me, but there’d be a glimmer run across his face. He’d raise the brown paper bag in my direction and bow his head just slightly. After that it could go any way.
He could be all romantic and sing sad Mexican ballads. Or get all lonely and maudlin and then flip into being real expansive and chatty. But drunk most likely he’d be plenty mean, full up with anger, and roaring about screw it all, nobody gives a damn.
He never really got mad with me, at me, though he meant to enough times. And now, if he saw me, he’d look me dead in the eye, and he’d begin to smile, and then eloquently he’d spit at my feet and curse me and my kind. Or meaning as much disrespect he’d stand to greet me gallantly and then speak to me in Spanish. Or in mocking broken English, wanna drink lady? wanna fuck? spare change for coffee?
But we wouldn’t talk that’s for sure. And he’d not let me stay. He’d run me out of town. And he’d laugh at my back. And begin to cough in time to my footsteps.
And he’d still be handsome.
And before I’d get to the middle of the block and before wistfulness, and without a shred of surprise, actually to either of us I would turn around and yell at him, my loudness shattering and echoing in the silence. You fucking asshole! Go to hell!
Thank you ma’am I will, he’d say. But he’d look at me now.
And get up and walk toward me, to see.
Scorn meets pity.
Honor meets anger.
So we stand there. Weaving. His excuse he’s drunk. Me, I can’t make up my mind.
Pridefest. An old contest.
There’d be no words said out loud. But we’d stand there for damn near ever.
And then he’d walk me to my car of course and I would let him. And that would be that.
Or maybe he’d not be a drunk any more. And I’d run into him at a tacqueria on Valencia Street. Actually I would know he was there, all of a sudden be thinking I was thinking about him before I would see him. He would see me at the counter when he came in, waiting impatiently to place my order. And he would stand there for a minute or two behind me before saying anything. And then maybe he’d say to the young kid behind the counter, por favor a vegetarian burrito for the lady, and then slip right into, Hola señorita! ¿Qué tal? And I would turn around as if I had just seen him yesterday.
Ça va bien merçi et toi?
And then the weaving would start.
He’d be full of himself or beside himself gallant and chatty. Leaving no room to speak about how it had been when he was losing it. Losing his mind his health his job his family his life. Leaving no room to talk about how it had been when he couldn’t manage anymore, not alone for sure, and doing it together was past gone.
Brown eyes meet brown eyes.
Oh Julio, I would have to say.
And he would pay for my burrito so that I wouldn’t notice his eyes.
And he’d sort of maneuver me outside, to the as if we’re leaving now zone on the sidewalk, in front of the tacqueria.
I’m okay now, Jude, he’d say. Don’t worry about me.
And for him that would be that.
And I would just stand there. Knowing he was serious and just the same, flashing across my face, you can’t be serious. And he would nod at me and say, si.
And now, I would cry. I would stand there shamelessly and cry.
And he would stand there with me, weaving, not knowing if he could or should touch me. But he would stay there with me. And he’d wipe the tears from my face with his thumbs. And he would take my hand and he would walk me to my car of course.
And I would let him.
And you, he would finally ask as I was getting into the car, are you okay?
Comme çi, comme ça, I’d start to say. And he’d shut the door and turn to walk away.
Stop you lousy son of a bitch! I’d shout. But he’d already be gone. Past hearing. And that would be that.
So next time I’ll be the bowery bum and he can come all slicked up and I’ll spit on his shoes.
And he’d laugh and I’d scream and he’d snatch me up off the street and bundle me and hold me until I stopped. And he’d take me home and run a bath, and sing romantic Mexican ballads. And I’d sleep. And he’d be gone.
And that would be that.