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                As Summer Ends- Sep 08

At night we go to the Gold Coast area.  It’s crowded and I hate it.  An ambulance moves through the crowds to stop by a boy sprawled against a bar puking.  They hook a plastic bag around the back of his ears, and carry him to the ambulance.  We walk a mile to Hub 51.  There is a line out-front, and I contemplate finding an alley to take a piss.  Instead I wait as the model bouncers let the line move when they want to.  Inside I push my way to the bathroom in the basement.
“Hey man, do you mind if I go next?” I say.
“Do you mind if I go next?  I’m dying here.”
“Go ahead.”
Upstairs I order a Sapporo, the place is packed, but I like the people I’m with, and the music.  People are drinking cans of Bud Light.  Draft import is the same price, but they want to be seen with a can.  After we go to the Rock ‘n Roll McDonald’s, where I eat cheeseburgers and tell myself if it wasn’t so crowded that I would get myself kicked out.  A friend tells me I can stay at her place.  We make out in the cab, and even though I’ve known her for several years, it’s the first time being around her when she didn’t have a boyfriend.

It’s 92 degrees outside in September.  I leave the air conditioner on a little, too much and I’ll fall asleep, but I can’t stand it when it’s off.  Everything looks pretty dry, including the crops.  I remember the Midwest being wet.  I’m sure it will come.
On the Illinois/Missouri border there are a series of small signs:   ‘Crooks Are Many’, ‘Cops Are Few’, ‘Why Can’t You?’, and the last sign is for the Guns Save Lives website.  I cross into Missouri and check the map to make sure I’m headed in the right direction for Kansas City.

Going back to Illinois I drive in a constant rain that is the remnants of Hurricane Gustav.  In a small town I exit off the Interstate for gas.  I buy a fountain soda in a Styrofoam cup, and as I drive across Missouri I can smell and taste the cigarette smoke that has soaked into the Styrofoam.

At dinner we go for sushi.  She has made reservations so we move in front of the line that is standing in the bar.  I pick up the check, and we go to a birthday party at a friend’s apartment.  There are twice as many women as men, which I like, even when I’m out with someone.  The music is good hip-hop, and it’s nice being at a party where everyone had enough money to buy alcohol, and there is an excess of top-shelf vodka.  I mix us vodka-tonics until we are drunk.  A girl that I partially undressed in New York comes to the party.  I try my best to be sweet to everyone.  The three of us drink and talk until it is late, and I leave with the girl I came with.

The weather is starting to cool, high sixties, low seventies.  In the morning I drive my pick-up with a zip-up on.  The windshield usually has water condensed on the outside, and as I drive through the traffic, the wipers scrape against the dry glass and I realize that I’ve forgotten to turn them off.  An ambulance passes on the other side of the road, and it’s like a dream because my music is so loud that it blocks it out until the last minute, and the sirens play in the background as the song continues.

Over the weekend I go to Minneapolis to visit with the family’s accountants.  In the meeting I find myself staring at a bottle of water.  I’ve been dreaming at night, and usually it will wake me.  In the morning I can remember the night for several hours, and moments will stay with me for days so that an experience that never happened will be vivid and real in my memory.

The office is thin, with fake wood panelling and tan wall-paper.  Mike holds a lit cigarette on the right side of his mouth while he talks on the phone.  He runs the place, an unassuming appearance in a black t-shirt and light-blue jeans, but he knows why we’re here.
We can’t get him to cut a check for what he owes.  They don’t have the liquid funds, but the owner tells Mike he will pay, and we make plans to pick it up next week.

She is coming to stay over in Naperville for the first time.  Usually I would go into the city, but I need to get up early, and the investment bank she works for let her off before ten, and pays her hundred dollar taxi ride into the suburbs.  The apartment is cleaner than usual; I take the beer and wine bottles and condom wrappers to the dumpster before she gets here.

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