Sand, Soil, Lime and Shit - Nov 08
I go into the city on Friday afternoon and come back Sunday evening. I sleep on couches and in beds. Halloween on the El: water bottles of liquor, girls crying in their seats, fat girls dressed as race car drivers, skinny girls dressed as witches, and drunken adults running through the car.
Saturday college football, I try to order a 312.
“Are you a pussy?” the bartender says to me.
“What?” I say.
“How about a Miller Light?” she says.
“I drank a lot of Miller Light last night.” I find it hard to say ‘no’ to her.
“How about a Leinenkugel’s?”
“What was that about?” I ask my friend.
“Look around you.” The bar is lined with Badger and Packers paraphernalia. As far as I know, there’s no Minnesota bar.
That night the little investment banker has bought tickets for us to see Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. The solo CD had reminded me of I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, which made me long for the old Bright Eyes, but I had found myself listening to the solo album more than I expected.
People cheer for all the songs, and there’s an intensity that makes even the abysmal ones enjoyable. I hold on to the hope of him playing Eagle on a Pole, maybe closing with it, but he never does. As I leave I’m disappointed, but I know I would rather him not play the song, than play it in the middle of the set.
The cashier rips me off a couple bucks, but I need to catch the train so I let him keep it without a word and run for the tracks.
“You know by now.”
As per a grooming they have me work at a dealership, not one of the dealerships I sell to, but another salesman’s customer.
Sand, soil, lime and shit blow into my hair and eyes. I can knock my jeans and watch the cloud of dirt rise up. My hands are red from the rust of farm equipment, I like that. I’m helping at the ammonia tanks when a worker takes a cap off to let the last vapours out. It hits me instantly and my head jerks painfully to the right, my body wants to run but my eyes are watering and my lungs are empty. The worker laughs, everyone becomes experienced with ammonia, because the panic is different than pain or suffocating.
That night Burack Obama wins the election and I’m asleep in central Illinois as a million people gather in Chicago. I read about it in the paper at four-thirty the next morning.
The girls are all respectively busy, and I watch a black and white film, The Bigamist, on Turner. Red wine in hand and a bag of tortilla chips on the floor.
“I felt like I had stepped back from the edge of a cliff onto solid ground,” the main character says.
I know that relief, but the choice is usually too late, all the things you’ve done have taken on an inertia of their own, and it no longer matters if you’ve decided things will be different. The protagonist discovers this on his own, as the movie moves towards its natural conclusion.
I have to do complex arithmetic at work, nothing I couldn’t have handled with ease in high school, but it feels unclear from the wine, beer, and rum from the night before. There’s a decision to be made in Chicago tonight, who to see? I have plans, but I wish I didn’t. I need to end it, take that step back onto ‘solid ground’, but I probably won’t, because it’s easier not to in the immediate.
Living alone you can go days without seeing people except as they shuffle about and greet you at the check-out counter. Television becomes depressing quickly and all that’s left to do is read. On recommendation I’ve been trying Conrad again, Lord Jim this time, and I can’t figure out what is wrong with me that I find him almost unreadable.
“Did I tell you how my mom gave me a vibrator?” she says.
“Huh?” I say.
“That's how I reacted.”
“How do you get over that?” I watch the cracks in the sidewalk as we walk. “Have you used it?”
“No, of course not, it’s sitting in a drawer in my bedroom.”
Driving into the Twin Cities, I feel appreciation for the excitement that the skyline used to give me. Everything made sense, coming into the city from the country. There were possibilities and excitement. Readily available happiness that was in short supply in country life, and it isn’t until you’ve exhausted all the happiness that you realize it was never the happiness actualized that made your heart race.
11/27/08 - Thanksgiving
The generic recorded message for an unavailable person clicks on in Czech, as I try to call old flames in Prague. It’s late there, but not so late as to keep me from almost having a panic attack. That calm fucking recorded voice, I still knew instantly it would begin after the slight static break in the long European dial tones.