I crossed the street to get a light. I might as well have been crossing the street into a different continent. Back in the pub, between innings of the Orioles game, my pint of red rye sat there.
The first people I saw were these girls a little ways off. Utility was my objective though. There was this big tattooed dude glaring at me in the yard of this grill, and I made the lighting gesture to him. He just kept glaring at me, and shook his head. His friend was glaring at me. I knew his friend from working with him at a grocery store recently.
I approached this ugly dude, and he willingly gave me a light. I started walking back to the pub, so I could smoke over there. I wasn’t one of those grill people, didn’t even glance back at any of them. I’d been there before, with all of them, had wrestled with a dog, had tasted ramen noodles and Cheez Whiz, had watched hours and hours of talk shows. All I wanted now was my Black and Mild, and then my red rye. I hadn’t even eaten anything in like six hours, had no desire to. My grandmother had passed away. I was nestling myself anticlimactically within the parameters of planet Earth, my humanity unloading into me as I sought a light.
The sun shone down as a precursor to the upcoming winter, which everyone had heard was going to be the worst winter of all time. Maybe everyone’s wondering why I’m not helping them out with this, I thought. Something’s going on. We’re breathing. There’s energy batting through our eyelashes, there’s blood running through our highways. I’m opting for red rye over panther piss, over chain smoking and barking lewd comments at unattractive employees of friendly grills. Though if I got killed, I’d become famous, and my family would collect and say nice things about me. Those people at the grill would even say nice things about me. He’d been a good dude, just wanted a chance, just wanted a break, wanted respect, a job, interaction, nouns, verbs, cellulite, celluloid, the lewd massacre. But what a sack of crack, he didn’t even get it. Every day the ATM had a different potted shrubbery next to it. Some days it would be a handsome fir, some days an Australian fern, or a jade, and this buxom lady in a uniform came out and tended to these. She’d always smile at me, because she didn’t exist. I could put my hand right through her, but never did this, not since my last acid trip at 17. It had been snowing then, in a lot of ways.
I went back into the pub, and the gorgeous bartender smiled at me, and I nodded at her with my own moribund smile. I sat stone still watching the game while she talked to others. I would have gladly given her a child if I’d had money. This was one of my psychotic moods. She reminded me of Antigone, and I saw some place in her eyes, some place I keep going, ignoring the ATM and all its tenets.
Tragedies made the paper, the government administered diseases, and I sat with my red rye, owing a lot of debt to corporations, but not friends. This is the way it should be, I thought to myself. I didn’t owe anything to my late grandmother. In a world where you can hurt people without even trying, it’s best to sit stone still, so this is what I did.