Moles Drink the Darkness. Moths Look for Light.
It begins with broken bottles. They call it the cocaethylene blues, euphoric emptiness. It's like lycanthropy. One moment steady hands, the next a raging snarl and claws.
Shark howls inside as I stand outside smoking a cigarette staring at summer skies with comma clouds. I think, Good God someone needs to get Sharky out of here, but it’s his place, and it’s only me.
And I don't have the determination to get him to quit drinking, or drop his moon madness and get to work.
I'm the ride to work, not the interventionist.
He screams “Gah dahangit!” and slams something inside, spills something else. The door opens and he’s fat, fully bearded, dressed in all black, sweating aggressively, but he smiles “They don’t FUHHING prepare you for today do they, eh Cricket? DAH!” His backpack’s full of beer, and hair full of Bona Fide Pomade, and hands pale, and behind him in the house an overturned chair and broken bottles, and a bear skin rug with his dog’s shit smeared on it, and then the door closes and he howls “AHHHahah,” a Hyena’s laugh.
He wipes his nose on his shirt sleeve.
This was not the Sharky of last summer.
He knows and I know he’s been drug through some shit.
He bays at life and keeps life at bay. He rues the parents and countless generations of people that brought him into this world. They don't prepare you for today. 'They' thrust you into the present.
Ruination. Ruin, in, this, nation. Ruined minds. That were once, so, beautiful. They were sparkling in fact, Sharky. But you won't see it that way, suffering as an absolutism inflects your entire present.
Worse part is he would want me to paint his portrait pessimistically. It’s a play, and Shark’s his own puppeteer. I'm merely the audience and author of it.
“You know cicadas Crih?” Shark asks as I drive him drunk to work. He’s tapping his foot to Empty as a Drum by the Turnpike Troubadours, “right there on the verge of pulling out my hair, acting nice though I could not care…”
“I’m too old to be this dumb” a sad winsome song, which has its affect upon Shark, so I switch the song to Every Girl, lowering the volume, but he’s buried in bad memory anyway. It doesn’t matter what I play.
Every thing, every song, somehow reminds him of June Bug. Even though he’s never heard this song, it does too.
Shark wants sad songs. He tells me to switch it back, though he’s barely listening. He wants depression to drop into the background while he brings his own to the fore. Shark surrounds himself in psychological masochism.
“Dig this: Cicadas lay dormant for seventeen years, in cycles, they keep underground in darkness from the day they were born, and for a week or whatever they spring out of that darkness into daylight and buzz about trying to find a partner to populate the earth. Seventeen years man, means the last time I was out in the sunshine I was six. Shih.”
And I thought I’d seen Shark shine sooner than that, last summer in fact, when we got back from Cholerado, when he first found June at our bar called Church downtown. They were shining. They were light and fun, and full of life.
Now Shark was grossly overweight, enigmatic, and muddy as the ground after a summer’s deluge. There was no delightful shine in his words.
“Do they stridulate?” I asked.
“Think so, why?”
“Just wond’rin. Wouldn’t it be wicked to have like two antennas atop your head?” I say, “you could call for sweet girls with a sweet stridulating song, rub two antennas together and get together a whole slue of chicks and hens right to your door, and all you gotta do’s choose.”
Shark ignored my attempt at conversational redirection.
“Shih. I am a dah dormant ahh cicada (damn dormant-ass cicada)” Shark says in Shark-ese, and stretches back in his seat. The seatbelt sign goes off. Then the shrill siren bleeps.
"It won't stop," I say, "until you buckle up."
"What the HEH do I care?"
"I know you don't care about your safety. Hell, I know you don't care about your damn life, but for my ear's sake, buckle up bro."
"DAHH... alright." He fumbles for the lock.
He opens one of the beers he brought in his backpack for work and offers another to me. I accept, keeping it tucked between my knees, taking sips as we drive, droughts on this hottest day of summer, 104°, dreary thoughts, steamy AC, and long takes on RUNNING MAN’s BEER, upending at stoplights and taking a right towards his bar: The Rover.
"These people are soon PINE-THETIC! Dah." And he truly means everyone. He is drunk.
He drinks when he thinks of her. And he’s always drinking, from the time he wakes up till the time he passes out from broken bottles and heart, he’s thinking of her.
The White Lady
June was a barmaid at our bar called Church last summer when we got back from Colorado. Like a little drunken love-dog Shark hung by her heels, hoping for some scraps of sense. He prayed at her bar counter altar from a barstool. He prayed to have and to hold her till death. He got it.
He wanted to hold her attention. He held her hand.
They went to Colorado in the winter. She had family in Denver. They were wrapped up in one another as sticky cotton blankets that screech when seperated. They slept by the San Juan Mountains. They slept under Santa Fe stars after a meeting with The Great Zealous Zeke.
By May they were separated.
Shark was in a whirlwind. He had a hard time accepting it was the end. He had a girl he called The Anal-Chick. Anal-Chick said he was a dick and needed to win June back. There was no winning her again. He knew, but refused to admit: he’d lost her. He’d been a bastard. He’d been unemployed. He’d been a bad boyfriend. He’d been many things, but especially a mad phantom.
Shark stopped seeing sunshine. There was no silver lining to anything. "Everything relative to everything else is entropy and misery," he'd said this summer.
"Suffering is the universal rule Cricket," he'd say shortly after.
This summer Shark stood outside his shack on a gravel lot downtown complaining about his ten Mexican neighbors. They complained to the landlord. He left beers and dog crap on his never-mowed lawn. He was up at all times of night, shouting at the sky.
He believed he lived with ghosts. His brother Coal-Man said he saw HER.
It was late, and they'd been drinking. Coal-Man slept by this altar in Shark's house with pictures of his childhood, candles and frozen cicadas. The altar said In Remembrance of Me. It was from a local church. Coal looked up and saw HER, standing there, looking at six-year-old Shark.
We tried an Ouija board one night when Matt Bloom came to town. We were trying to talk to HER. Her spirit escaped us. We could not make contact. Our seance failed. Shark broke the board. She did not show herself. We were skeptical that she ever would again.
Shark slept from six or seven in the morning until three or four in the afternoon. He was wasted and ragged. He drank incessantly during the day and snorted past midnight, what he called coasting, watching war movies until the sun shined and then he slept unsoundly.
He complained about being worthless in work, and death. This was 'coasting' through life.
Shark was smoldering all day. He told me not to pick him up for work until precisely 3:50, ten minutes before he had to be work. He wanted to be late, “fuh that place” he said, “I’m sick of wormin, and their sick of me bein a worthless cicada.” It was okay with me if he was late.
I tried to convince him to leave Cooley. Maybe we’d go to Cholerado and he could stay with his Dad in Durango for a bit. I'd drop him off, no problem. He said no, there was "nothing in the Rocky Mountains." Furthermore, Cholerado reminded him of Her. I knew without him saying.
He hadn’t spoken of June Bug for weeks. Nothing, I guessed, had illumined her for him. He was ashy, deteriorating even as he gained weight from a diet of bad bar food, beer, cocaine, and TV.
When he did speak of her it was full of hopelessness concealed in badgering us about whether or not he had a hope of a chance. Oftentimes we lied and said it was possible -but not probable.
I didn’t dare ask him how he was doing on June’s front anymore. I knew he was losing the war, and she went AWOL. It was not on Shark's authority. She'd found some freak Shark said was "actually physically and mentally brain-dead." It was sad to see him so jealous about June's new brain-dead boyfriend.
Shark was forlorn. He’d lost his fire, her, and replaced it with lonesome cinder. Cocaine. He could combust any moment. He was a loveless bomb about to blow, but with no barricade, no bridges left to burn, no beauties to win, just charging, charging, charging like a eunuch bull out on that lonely field with other slain lovers, looking for her flag. It was at half-mast.
June had her new brain-dead soldier. His name was Phil. He looked like an electric car crash dummy that walks and talks but only at half the necessary battery power for higher prefrontal cortex functioning, actually.
I was convinced Sharky needed to leave Cooley, so full of fine memories that were beginning to grow sour and rusty. But there are some things you say to a friend that find no affect. I told him I thought it was for the "best." This was one of the optimistic lies.
"Best relative to what?" Shark asked. It was a rhetorical question.
He was convinced She would come and take it, his love, his life, once more, what was left.
“Sucks. You got what? Six months left on your lease?”
“Shit. Wish you could come with. We'd find some trouble bro, you know we would.”
“Dah, me too, nothin for me here.” But he wouldn’t budge. Not even for June. It is August. He was waiting. He was waiting for what would be THE END, and an unforeseeable beginning with HER.
Neither of us was very august this summer. We were both molting our feathers, revealing the soft and sad underbellies of our existence, just "worming" as Shark'd say.
Sharky was becoming a Mole-Man. He was blind to the sunshine. His house had blackout curtains. He called his house REFUGE. I called it REFUSE. It was stacked with pizza boxes, Chinese takeout, cabinets, all the cabinets, full of cans and bottles, and candles dribbling wax upon the floor.
His house was amber. Everything inside was frozen in a moment of melancholy and dormant desecration.
He didn’t know how to fly high anymore, only how to snort and scrounge like a snail through slimy sewers. He kept himself in the dark. He'd been down so very dah long he said, since age six.
I wanted badly to be a bird, scanning the sky for a new place to spread my wings and sow some seeds, to move, to turn nettles into nest, to meet a woman to adore and share worlds with; and Shark wanted daunting darkness, blindness, suffering stasis, cellars of solitude, drug, drink, all to doggedly deride whomsoever stepped inside his dingy den, whomever decried there's a better world coming.
But Shark was not belligerent with me, not mostly, because we were men who were boys together. And as they say old feathered friends… well whether or not we were both birds we cawed same, we shared cynicism, we could howl as untamed dogs.
Searching for places to rest the pinions. Someday you'll either fall from the tree or try to fly.
How we go there, got there, it’s breathing; you will breath, but how…?
“Yeah man that’s the ticket.”
I'd screamed "Asshole, I'll split your spine from your collarbone" at someone who cut me off. Shark was glad to hear me get vociferous. Any other day we would've followed this freak driver to put the good old fear in their sweet and innocent and terrible driving soul.
But today Shark was working. His day was starting. It was 4:10.
Today was not a day where the road unwinds. There was no flight. We were landing low.
There were no planes to catch. Earlier in the summer I took Shark to the DFW airport for a flight to Cholerado. We drank an entire bottle of bourbon; rather, Shark drank an entire bottle of Kentucky bourbon.
I got slightly tight. As always Shark wanted to wait until the last moment to leave. We arrived ten minutes after takeoff. He ended up having an eight-hour layover anyways, so it worked out well.
Today, it was 4:15 and Shark was late for work, and very crapulous. He didn’t care. We sat in my car in the parking lot, drank another RUNNING MAN’S BEER and ambled inside, neither of us looking professional, neither of us acting professional as we took a seat and Shark ordered some shots and said “don’t even think about drinking these they’re mine but pretend they’re yours and order something else too I’m gonna get an app-etite so just sit and chillax.”
And I did chill for a little while. I drank. We talked.
The world over wouldn’t care what we said.
His employees watched him with wonderment and distrust. But no one said a thing about his bad beer breath, lack of professionalism, lack of deodorant, and lack of good judgment.
We were drunk. I know I was tighter than he was. He only thought he was tight all the time, but he drank all the time and that hardened his kidneys while killing his brain, but that was all right. Shark was a sparkler burning at both ends, and I was still striking a spark.
He hissed, “Makes a man wonder…”
“All this. This shih.”
I looked around The Rover. It was dead. Eerily still, so what was it that we were meant to wonder? His wonderment was a curse. Sharky never cursed outright. But that subtle shih was it. It was weak, we knew, yet still we said “fuh this world.” Which was weak. But these past few weeks we didn’t care. Why were we so full of anger and sudden apathy? Why always apathy and anger? We were shut up in a rut again: Cooley.
Adventure. The Rover was just another bar trap.
A voyage will be good medicine, I thought.
They don’t prepare you for today Cricket.
They don’t prepare you for today. That's why we die burning by both ends so suddenly and brilliant towards the middle hissing and then the clamoring KA~BOOM!…Over, so suddenly, and over so sullen a thing…
This wasn’t the Sharky I knew yesterday, this was the Sharky of today that no one prepared for.
Last summer we went to Colorado, jumping into aquatic sublimity.
Last winter he went to Colorado with June and they slept in his car in the Rocky Mountains making love, and things were good for Shark. They smiled in all their pictures.
Things were good for me too.
That winter I was writing twenty thousand thoughtful words a week.
Now, I can hardly write a word I like.
Neither of us smiled much this summer. Neither of us took too many pictures this summer.
And today, Shark stands forlornly, waiting for a customer to come in and order a drink and try to tell him something he sincerely doesn’t want to hear. Today, nothing Shark says is clear.
"A Margarita?" The man says unsurely.
"We don't sell margaritas. This is a bar."
"Sorry?" His face contorts. He loses control over his expectations.
His wife nudges him not today Carl.
"Do you want to speak to my manager?" Shark asks. The customers leave, quite quickly. Today Shark didn't want customers. He did not posses the ability to be dishonest today.
And today, I fear I have nothing left to say which is dear and honest. I miss walking in the sunshine and smelling an island, and writing about angelic Antiguan women, instead of worldly woes. Today, I can't escape Cooley. Today, I miss smiling. Today, I'm tired of being so damned grumpy.
I left Shark’s gloomy worming life into the grand sunshine. I put on my shades. Across the street I could see the mall, and the entirety of fine Frisco cars zooming and cutting and honking for parking spaces, personal places.
I wear shades so I can hide inside myself. Makes a man wonder…Over, so suddenly, and over so sullen a thing…
The moon will make earthly things all right.
Now was the big buy-up, money grubbing, worming; the Ol’ Monday Market'S OPEN seven days a week, including Sunday, everyone works, everyone spends. There is no stopping it. GOD! Must Man continue to count cash, swipe credit cards, or can we return our tires to the rubber trees and live out a life of peace amongst the plantains and primates from whence we came? I want to turn my tires towards the forest, and let the vines encase the car, and suck me into a society fit for Armadillo Kings.
The moon will make every earthly thing all right.
You must understand to overcome…Over, so suddenly, and over so sullen a thing…
Then bleary-eyed out into sunshine, I shall stand. “I shall be free!” Ask me Mr. Zimmerman: “ask me why I’m drunk all the time levels my head and eases my mind I just walk along and stroll and sing I see better days and I do better things. I catch dinosaurs, I make love to Elizabeth Taylor…”
As I drive home I take the highway, way over the bustling city spread like butter on that plain of toasted bread, the day's delight and delicious drink for humanity melting atop nature so slowly and buttery as ever, rushing towards wherever.
And wither went the spirit of our beasts? They disappeared a bit in the brick and the blacktop and the crisp cashier’s checks and the fast food eateries; harkening back to the axed forest with: this chicken is 100% free-range chicken, home, home on the five cent bun I spent seven dollars for. Oh chicken commerce! I shall be free of mayo. We're so civilized we choose diet.
Are we not fit to live like Armadillo Kings again? In our high hills.
As you may have inferred I was definitely drunk driving home. Always makes a man wonder about his responsibilities when he's hanging out the window about to blow miniature burger chunks onto a Fiat driven by an octogenarian. It's an irresponsibility I'll make mine.
The Armadillo King
I return home. Someone will pick Shark up. He assures me there will be a party tonight. Ant-Man will be there. It will be a great bumptious gathering. There will be beer and more cocaethylene blues at midnight. There will be music.
My parents are home. Pops is in his study now, reading a book on Theodore Roosevelt or Romans, hard to say, he says “hey Cricket, where were you?” I tell him and he nods, and then returns to his nightly reading stints.
Pops is not a fan of Sharky. He knows like I do that Sharky is shut up in a rut. He also knows I’m biding time until September when I leave for long moments of movement.
But I'll be back.
My mother and sister are watching TV. They greet me. We talk small. I pet my dog and cat nestled at their feet. Everything is fine at home. My drunkenness is mellowing now, and the moon is coming as the sky outside my window turns salmon and the streets hiss with construction cars lurching in hiccups up the hill. And I feel cool. Air Conditioning.
It was a sultry day.
The Armadillo King has his high hill kingdom.
I hear someone below say, “where?”
“I don’t know,” the other responds carefully then considers it no further.
Kids clap at pool water. An old lady walks her miniature schnauzer. The sounds of someone’s attempts at rockabilly music blare out of bad speakers.
My fingers hover over the keyboard.
Backyard barbeques. Beers I bet. Dogs yapping at the fences, and trees wavering in the wind, birds and bees never make love but circle into selfsame sky, spreading their pinions and doily wings, fluttering with fireflies about in the breeze to the song of evening.
Yes, The Armadillo King has his high hill Kingdom.
I love laughter. I hear Hannah, my sister, and my mom laughing. Laughter loves me.
I get the call. It awakens me from the calm moment and it’s Ant, telling me they’re going to “Applebee’s.”
“Yeah, so what?”
“Oh nothing, only that that’s very sad.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“That’s were the decrepit drunks go to get their Monday evening fix with family who are only just there to drive them home after they buy fried pickles for sobriety.”
“You don’t like Applebee’s?”
“Never been.” We laugh.
“You’re a pessimist Cricket. Come on. We’ll be there in fifteen minutes after Shark gets his dust candy.”
“All right.” And Ant hangs up.
I decide to wait for the window to show the scenes of night, with little dots of starlight, assuring me darkness has arrived and it is meant for misfits like me, who live for the moon, Mole-Men, like us, who drive to dive bars at one ‘o clock in the morning not to get busted up or wasted but because there is life’s light during night.
The late night bar is an insect killer. It makes Moles into Moths. It calls come in, drink till you drop.
Come and Take It.
We want to hold the moon in our pocket and shine. Oh! Moonshine.
And we’d been down so very damn long that darkness looks so very bright with the stars so high above, sparkling, sparkling like fat jewels in the sky for us, for us to stretch out and play to grasp, clasping cosmic palms around the telescope to see, to see back, to see back to where we’re from, the stars and the Moonshine. But Shark doesn’t care, he feels so alien under the stars.
I'd quoted Sagan, “Survival is the exception Shark. Extinction is the rule,” Last Summer.
“There you go pal-ee.” Shark said, smiling drunk on The Animus River of Souls.
Now, I say the same thing, but it's a beat horse, and Sharky is apathetic to any -ism.
Shark does not see himself selfsame as stars.
I remind him many nights what we are made of: "The stars are sometimes as sweet as friends to me on fine nights like this. We are made of stars, as Carl Sagan says, “we are star stuff”, and someday, there will be no we to see, but all, infinite, and I know in that infinitude I will meet what matters and need not say a word."
"Fuh that shih," he laughs, "think you've got it all figured out Cricket, dah college boy."
"Listen: We will be blind, and feel as all energy is. Still, there is extinction, I admit it man. Our shine will dim." I work my tongue dizzy.
"That's more like it kid, but all that beautiful reverie shih is depressing me. Drink!"
We were, we are, and will be, star dust. Someday, Shark will realize the dust he snorts is the stars.
The stars shine now for us as forever homeward, as friends. And so I go to see my human friends.
Friends are wards against loneliness. They are old lights and old energies leaping into the present, evincing themselves like millions of stars, millions of years in the making. We smile and shine for a time together. These moments of memory are amber to me.
When I get to Applebee’s, Ant-Man and Sharky are sitting in his car. I go up to the window and heardsome music. Shark is still drinking. I rap on the window. Ant accosts me, jumping out of his square Scion car and raps me on the back and then we shake hands and hug like belligerent bears as always.
Shark got out. He was high, but he seemed so very low.
We went inside.
Tom, Dooley, and Brennan, were inside already.
We greeted. I made my rounds finding out what my old friends were up to: “not much.” Then we ordered a round and Ant told me about his new band and if I would like to hear, said they sounded like The Cure. I had my polite doubts.
I appreciate Ant. He always has something new. He has a beautiful baby girl now. He shines in all his pictures with his fiancee and baby. Ant looks like an adult, but I have my polite doubts.
We left, deciding Applebee’s was just as sad as I’d forewarned, and chose Church as our destination. Shark would not join us, though Tom assured him June no longer worked there.
Shark didn’t care. The memories were maddening. Her light lingered in the fireplace, and all over the place in downtown Cooley. He could not be bothered to stare there.
He wanted to head to his hovel home and ‘coast’ on coke. So we dropped him off.
At Church we bellied up to the bar and ordered, and after about five minutes this fifty year-old ginger came up to the bar and asked us “d’you guys like young girls?”
“You’re gonna have to clarify that.” Ant said.
We scrunched our faces skeptically.
“Oh no, nothing weird, not underage girls. Look. I’ve got this great girl here, she’straight nineteen,” and he tried to show us a picture. Tom and Brennan looked at. “Met her last night at the casino and I’ve been trying to get her to talk to me, sent her about twenty texts, but nothing. All I need is a picture of y’all to send to her.”
I was disinterested. The girl looked all right, drunk, high, but this guy was weird, very distasteful.
So Ant and I talked about ghosts and the current themes of specters, phantom movies, gore, all great stuff we had in common, cinematically. We did this to block the boring ginger out.
But the sad man was busy, snapping our pictures like an annoying fruity-bee. His smile was sinister with some shine, and some moon madness. He said to me, “get in the picture.”
I darted behind the bar’s corner column.
"Come on man. One picture."
“No. I don’t take pictures,” which I don’t as a general rule when some strange sex-swindler asks me for a photo, I suck myself deep into the muck of obscurity. I turn my head.
“See, she’d like you best, young, cocky, cool.”
I wanted to tell him he was wrong, and gently refused the photo once more. There were many nasty things I would say.
He winked at me.
“Come on man just one photo. It won't hurt you. Let me take one picture.”
“Listen man, I wouldn’t let you take a polaroid of my earlobe if you paid me.”
He gave up and went over to Brennan and Tom and Dooley on the other side of the bar. By this time he was far enough away for me to explain to Ant-Man why this possible pedophile was interested in more than contacting some ‘nineteen-year-old’ chick. He was interested in us.
He’d enflamed our egos, and it made me sick.
I explained: “Think man. Why would he want our photo? More than likely he’s gonna take Tom into some mushroom cellar and string him up and rub soap all over his body.”
“Silence of the Lambs.” Ant laughed. “It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.”
“Shit man, if he’s a wolf, I’m a coyote, can’t trick a coyote, but you can trick a Doofus (Dooley), a Badger (Brennan), and a Toad (Tom).”
“Fuck that freak.” We agreed and ordered two mules with jalapenos, and began to play Chinese checkers at a pair of leather couches next to the fireplace. We played until midnight. Ant got very tight. He tied two on. He was not a very experienced drinker. He’d only started in the past year. Before that, he was what is referred to as ‘straight-edge’, no drugs or drink. He could hardly keep his concoctions down.
That was all right. I won every hand of Chinese Checkers. Ant flipped the board into the fireplace. Nearly set it aflame. I decided he'd had enough to drink. He decided one more mule for the road, one more shine for the moon.
I did not intervene in Ant's newfound fascination for drink.
Tom was on probation, hence sober, hence the designated driver for our funny little outfit of misfits. He kept saying to the creep, "yeah I work out a little." Ant and I scoffed at this.
Dooley was so drunk he tried hard to tell us, and everyone willing to listen, about his baby-mama problems. But the bartender just said, "problems the world over." And I thought, Dool's a drooling lost cause man. Dooley got through to no one.
When last call came the middle-aged ginger was still snapping pictures of Brennan, but I got everybody out, even though Tom was trying to get this guy to take him to his dungeon for some strangulation or something just as sinister, out we went. "See you guys," he said. I said nothing.
We smoked cigarettes outside, except for Ant who vomited on somebody's car, then we scattered towards Tom's car as the lonely ginger left Church and stumbled towards us like a lost puppy.
We left quickly. We left in the light. A trail of vomitus to follow.
As long as we’ve been friends we’ve found ourselves in such predicaments at midnight, scented down by some strange lone wolf of the night, like a fifty-year old were-ginger with a hankering for young girls and young drunk guys wanting to have pictures taken, be idolized, be immortalized for a moment, and get egregious egos inflated with hot air, ballooning to bursting. And I drag us off to disembark, driving through Cooley as morning comes, with wheels and wind whipping in one wild sweet song: movement.
I kept calling “movement men! Make Haste!"
We were on the move towards Shark’s house.
When we got there Shark was prostrated with his nose on a large FarSide book with four or five small lines of cocaine on cartoons. His dog was digging her snout into the stuff, so Shark shouted, “back Polly, back!” and continued to take the crap up his nose. His younger brother Coal-Man was face chatting through the laptop before Shark.
I stepped behind Shark and smiled, waving to Coaly. “Hey Coal-Man.” Coal smiled. He too was drunk, but lively, and younger. He hadn't inherited Sharky's prevalent pessimism, yet.
“Cricket!” Coal shouted. “Hey Mahn, wazzzzup?”
Shark snorted another line. The others went outside for another cigarette.
“Chillin like a villain. What’s up with you kid?”
“You and your brother.”
“I do say, Coal is coming up like a cicada.” Shark was still digging dormancy and darkness. He hoped to impart his dire philosophy to his younger brother, and all of us. In fact, his house was in absolute darkness before we barreled through the front door and I lit some candles. Only Coaly's face illumined the scene. I was thankful for that lifeline.
“So what’s up Cricket?” Coal smiled a wide winner.
“Not much, just got back from the bar, where’re you?”
“With your girlfriend?”
“Yeah.” She was nowhere nearby.
Shark snorted another line of candy.
“You’ll be goin off to college soon huh Coalman?”
Shark snorted his last line. Then snorted disapproval.
“Coal thinks he’s so Cooley, and he is.” Shark said.
Sharky offered me one new line he cut and I accepted. Coal and I talked for a bit like madmen and then Sharky started ranting about one of his Mexican neighbors who came by while we were at the bar asking for him to keep quiet. I went outside as Ant came in. He continued the conversation I’d left.
I created a conversation in the vacuum Ant had left outside with Tom, Dooley, and Brennan.
My lips moved without my comprehension. The coke was working. I unraveled with it. I talked at Tom and Brennan and Dooley about being sheets of paper, about singularities, the origin of continuity in black holes. Brennan was very intelligible about black holes and time, a decent discussion. Dooley tried to interject. We appreciated his attempts. Tom went inside, disinterested, since he wasn’t drunk.
We stayed silent, smoking cigarettes looking at the stars, and I thought of the last time I was on this porch.
It was after I’d gotten back from a cruise and met lovely Noelle, and then went to Austin for a day or two and then Corpus Christi’s beach for the 4th of July, and on the way back I met up with Matt and his fiancée Erika in San Marcos. We drank. We walked. Erika watched our weirdness. We stole a frisbee from an old man named Frisbee Bob, in nothing but underwear by the river.
Matt Bloom decided to come back to Cooley on my back fender. And we went to go see Sharky after Matt’s dad warned us not to tie one on too thickly, and we laughed, and we did drink heavily and Matt confided to me that night how Shark "seems so sad” and I nodded gravely saying Shark was digging himself into darkness like a Mole, and Matt agreed.
And now I was talking about this again to Dooley and Brennan who were trying to grasp my metaphor on our beautiful minds that become buried, the contrast of Moles and Moths. MoleMen are bogged down by the weight of memory instead of living in the light of the moment like Moths, in energies, as purely as possible, which none of us are capable of doing perfectly, but to comprehend possibility NOW digging vibes all around us and inside us, and so we stand on shores as the waves rock and we smell the salt coming from the sea and it’s like second breath, and I was out of breath, but fighting to tell them of the things I thought about humanity being comparable to newspaper print:
“When babies are born they have a blank page and eventually the page is filled up with fine lines, monkey mimicry, youth inspires originality, transforming forms ya dig? and then towards old age the words whither but so long as the stories are intact in someone’s mind that life remains living in some form of life which is above, abstract, amber, yes! but amidst the blanket of blackness we’re spots of sunrays shining brighter for our beautiful life-lights left behind. The night cannot conceal our brilliance boys!”
Brennan and Dooley and I attempted to understand. We dug the vibes of the crescent moon night vigorously. We were reconnecting. We were connecting.
Dooley said, "so are you nature or nurture?"
"What do you mean?"
"Man, there ain't separation. The stars nature nurtures us."
"So you are nurture?"
What I’d said was already a lose fragment floating up into the firmament, and only the dimming echo evinced itself. I smoked a cigarette. The moment, that intractable energy inflating amongst us, deflated, and evaporated, and Brennan and Dooley said they were tired. I tried to tell them to stay and keep jumping headfirst into the moment, but now the moment was.
Everyone said “Bye.”
It was a shy departure. We knew we didn't know when we'd see each other again. But...For a moment we were Moths, shining in the moon, men. We'd had the moon in our pocket.
I wasn’t drunk from drink but bad vibes. They hit my brain like photons, splaying out in several directions from the same source, never knowing what memory or feeling would spring slender. It was hard to track my own movements. I was sad to see my friends depart.
But...Morning always remakes me. There is change in clean shaves and showers.
I moved off the front porch finally.
It was one in the morning and it was just Shark inside after Ant left and Tom left and Brennan and Dooley left. As Matt Bloom left for his Love Erika, they left for life elsewhere. And I was about to leave for bed. I felt fine now playing an accordion as Shark snorted some more candy.
I had abstracted too much, and now, the moment.
“Ya know man,” Shark said after Coal was disconnected from face-chat by a bad signal, “sometimes shining is death, like we always say, the suns’re death and life, and you say I’m Shark the sparkler burning at both ends, but dahhngit! They don’t prepare you for today, you just rot away man, entropy, entropy of all entities, you gotta burn man, you gotta turn to ash, you gotta be buried right, right? Day. Dah! I wake up screaming with diarrhea every dah day!”
“You gotta burn bright, that’s right. Like a Phoenix.” And I felt fiery.
“Shih, wanna another track of dust?” He motioned towards another line of cocaine. I shook my head and shook his hand. His eyes drooped like a dog's. We'd disconnected.
“Nah, no thanks man. You take care of that shine though, even when you can’t see it.” And I meant June Bug. I wanted to impart something of the stars to him, something of heaven, since we're brethren.
“Yeah man, it’s so stupid, and fuhhing pine-thetic, and I’m embarrassed, but I gotta try.” And Sharky understood we spoke of June Bug without saying so. There was a long silent moment of stillness before he raised a rolled up five-dollar bill to his nose, said “Bye Cricket-shih,” and snorted his last line.
His profile flickered in the wan candlelight as I left. He was half-illumined, half-shadowed.
"Shark seems so sad," Matt had said a month ago.
"Yes, but some good will come and take it."
“See ya Shark.” And I meant it.
Try my little Fly friend, the Spider's Web of sorrow ain't so strong.
And I moved past the midnight, seeking home, seeing the sliver of the sliver moon shine. Morning’s soft, lovely light. And the Moths. And the Fireflies. I followed these friends homeward with my headlights low.
Moths at Night
“The true division of humanity is this: the luminous and the dark. To diminish the number of the dark, to increase the number of the luminous, behold the aim… But he who says lights does not necessarily say joy. There is suffering in the light, in excess it burns. Flame is hostile to the wing. To burn and yet to fly, this is the miracle of genius. When you know and when you love you shall suffer still. The day dawns in tears. The luminous weep, were it only over the dark.” (831)
-Victor Hugo's Les Misérables
© 2015 Eldon Arsenaux