UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
Without A Net: The Poetry Reading
The cafe is cold, stainless steel. Musty air reeks of soured tea. Sweaty dreadlocks. I keep my pen and nose tucked into a battered black leather notebook. I do this not for the sake of art or even
The waitress smiles "Hollywood" through crayon greased lips. Candy-apple red. Her bloodshot eyes dream if only tomorrow could be today...and today she fills my coffee mug half-full. She is quite aware of the silver flask tucked neatly inside the front pocket of my worn bomber jacket, and the vodka it contains to numb me through this night (and every other night) of plastic people with their fake smiles and trivial personalities. Only I seem to notice the tiny red blotch marks that line a vein along her wrist. Most of the crowd just notices the nickel silver bracelet peppered with lapis and turquoise stones cut from some Mexican mine she uses to cover them up.
A few nights ago, her and I shared this flask and drunk ourselves through the emptiness that only exists when you awake in a world you feel no connection to. A world you have no desire to reach out and embrace except in only the most superficial of ways. Lips to bottle. Lips to flesh. The two of us well aware that we were not truly engaged in any moment, but merely placing our drunken fingers on a random, seeping artery of time...to get us through to the next fix.
Heroin. The perfect elixir to erase the dull, inconsequential moments. If you dissect the days I have been dope free during this alleged life and banded them together in a tight rosary, the weight of my boredom would rip the beads apart one by one as I sunk further and further down into the blackness where I feel most complete. Heroin isn't something I do just to get me through a day. Heroin is something I do simply to prove a day exists.
The waitress. Diane. I imagine she was beautiful once. Maybe 20 some odd years ago. I have never been beautiful. I have never had appreciation for beauty. Beauty is obvious. Beauty is contrived. Beauty can be purchased for a few thousand dollars in some nip and tuck shop off Sunset Blvd. Ugliness is earned. Ugliness is a scar from a broken beer bottle sliced by an alcoholic father along a teenage cheek. Ugliness is a badge of honor we pick up along the way from the there to now that defines who we really are. Ugliness are the heroin tracks that line my right arm to remind me I can escape this mundane existence for $20 a pop, wash myself in total blackness, and close my eyes while this world ceases to exist with each shallow beat of my blood.
Rarely do I waste my time with an event such as tonights poetry reading. Toss my words naked before an audience of dullards captivated by the latest game show or late night soap opera disguised as reality TV. Their poetry and chit-chat overflowing with bullshit and lines borrowed from bad 3 minute pop songs. But tonight I am here to read a few pieces of this shit they call poetry. Poetry my ass. I am amazed I have you all fooled. My words are but notes carved in memory to get me through each day. Should I recite a list of license plates off cars that trolled by earlier today searching out crack whores as I nervously awaited my dope dealer? Should I paint portraits in words of toothless faces sparked into life by a crack pipe in some dark alley I had to traverse to get back to my cold water flat after scoring the gram of black Mexican tar that would fuel my dreams deep into night and through the bowels of morning? Are these petty details poetry?
Details. If you want details read the nightly police blotters. If you want poetry grab a shovel and dig up the soiled remains of Walt Whitman and swab away the rotted cum from his bloody asshole. If you seek beauty and truth let the warm syringe kiss a solid vein as stars collide into a silent orgasm where all words and language achieve their just and timely death in the blackened silence. You will then find heroin addiction isn't a disease. Language, which fails so inanely to define the undefinable, is the true disease. Heroin becomes the cure.
I am not a poet. I offer, nor see meaning in anything. I am just another junkie wandering the streets in search of the next score. Tonight, this poetry reading is the next score. This English major has neatly assembled a collection of my latest diatribes into a 30 page saddle stapled chapbook. By her accounts I can sell $50 worth of these pamphlets, swallow free rounds of cheap booze, and be tucked back into my hotel room waiting for Julio to drop off a gram of Mexican black tar heroin by 9 p.m. To me the odds are much better than stealing some geeks IPOD and pawning it off at 10 cents on the dollar.
The reading performance itself isn't hard. It's the dumb fuck cheerleader and sunshine college girls that decide it's cool to just plop down at my table uninvited and inquire about my life as though I were some freak on display. I don't owe them anything. Read my shit or don't, but never feel you are entitled to follow-up questions as though I were some criminal on the stand testifying to the pathetic details that make up my life. I give up everything of myself freely anyway, but at my own pace. I am like a cheap whore teasing you dollar by dollar until I finally wrap my lips around your limp cock and suck. And trust me, this giving up freely of the self does not come from some inherent need to share or be understood. It comes from the simple fact that the more of myself I give, the less of me you can take.
Boring people. Boring questions. They want details about my heroin addiction. The sad cliched tale of my girlfriend that OD'd at 19. They want some punk rock legend, not this middle-aged shell of a man that shakes inside his own skin. They stare at me with the sad eyes of failed saviors. They want to take me home on a leash and embrace me in real love. One girl even slips me a $20 balloon of heroin and begs to watch me shoot it up in the tiny bathroom stall as though I were a monkey dancing before some hipster organ grinder.
I take deep breaths. I refuse to lose whatever cool I have left on this college girl with her neatly pleated jeans and black suede sport jacket over her skimpy see-through creme silk top. I may have to bum a few dollars from her tomorrow to score a wake up fix. I need meaningless little rich girls like these. Just like back in the punk days. They bought tickets to the shows. Bought the tapes and albums. Bought the t-shirts. All just so they could stand around some dirty warehouse pretending they were actually living their life instead of hiding from it in some dorm room listening to Clash albums.
Perhaps I am just a monkey dancing for my next fix. You can believe this if you wish, but never fool yourself for one minute into believing you are the one that actually controls the organ to which I dance.
RC Edrington's writings can be found at http://edrington.blogspot.com
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