No More Theories

He lived where he could
town to town
couch to floor
counting on friends
barely friends
new acquaintances
to give him a place to spin
into a new direction.
I was one
of those barely friends
a guy who enjoys a good
drinking partner
I drank with him
roamed the roads.
It had been five years
since we went
to get him a job
First,
downtown
for black slacks
for a white shirt
because that is the uniform
of the bus boy.
Waiter –
that was too high a hope
and bartender
forget it.
He put on
his new duds
and we bussed along the streets
to the Hollywood Athletic Club.
It was in Hollywood
that might seem obvious
but I’ve been all over
and Hollywood this
and
Hollywood that
pops up in the unlikeliest
flat Nebraskan towns
crusted with stale ice
and speckled with
Hollywood nails
Hollywood tanneries
and often
a Hollywood tannery and nails!
What it wasn’t was
an athletic club.
It was a bar
and in we went for work to be sought.
It was late summer, August
hot
sweat
the cheap
freshly purchased pants
bled black dye
it stained his hands
rubbed into his new shirt
when he wiped perspiration
from his brow
it got him there too
in the end
he looked worse than before
like a hobo to be sure
or more like a Vaudevillian
with a new hobo costume
and in blackface.
It worked.
The woman doing the hiring
her heart bled
as sure as the cheap pants
and he was in, bussing beverages
emptying ashtrays
and best
stealing great quantities of booze.
We drank his stolen bottles.
Soon he lost the job.
Not for theft.
Just for not showing.
He bored easily, and of me too.
He disappeared.

Before he appeared the first time
he had been in New Orleans
He showed me his gunshot wound
through his forearm
where the crack head
got him
with a revolver.
Getting shot by the crackhead
made him insecure with New Orleans.
He told me the junkie
may not have fired
if he hadn’t called him a nigger.
That, I said,
might be true.
I only mention the nigger thing
because I don’t want
to airbrush the soul from the eyes
of the now dead face.
I can’t get a straight answer
he was found dead
on the side of the freeway
in a homeless camp down in the nickel
outside an East Hollywood bar.
Regardless, he was
found somewhere, lifeless
and it was on Halloween.
His favorite day of the year,
probably, at any rate,
I didn’t know him
well enough to know.

There was a time
when he got drunk and delusional
called me “an intellectual serial killer,”
but damn me if I got him.
Even after his death
I remained the optimist
Granted, I didn’t know he was dead
until three years after the final fact.
He disappeared
just like he appeared
and I thought it was off to new adventures
new cities
new people
people he wouldn’t tire of so quick.
Women on the street
the ones attractive enough
he’d propose to them
“You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,”
he’d say.
“Will you marry me?”
The women, nearly all the same
would laugh
almost demurely
and tell him not today.
“What if,” I quizzed
“one of these women says yes?”
“Then I’d marry them. I have nothing
better to do.”
I really thought that was the Case
for three years I did.
There was the prison theory
rejected
The dead theory
rejected
I liked the woman
who said yes theory
and held on to it
but there are some
who would say my optimism
was for a fate worse than death
and for him
yeah, maybe so.

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