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A Walk with the Invisible Man
Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
The darkness arrives, rendering me invisible.
It surrounds me, ethereal Kevlar protecting me, bone, tissue and blood, walking among the living and yet seen by none of them.
I gather up my belongings and dump them into the abandoned grocery cart with one wobbly wheel, a fitting metaphor of my life. In it is my sleeping bag, a few spare shirts, a rusted can-opener, a Bronze Star, and my old scout’s knife. I begin my rounds.
The first discovery is a cigarette butt with a good half-inch of un-smoked calmness. I fire up the Bic and inhale, the smoke caressing my lungs and giving me ten seconds of bliss. I close my eyes, but there is no comfort there, only memories of days deserted, hopes rejected and dreams shattered.
This is my world.
This is my life.
Will you join me?
I’ve Come to Talk with You Again
Can you hear me?
Most nights I can’t hear the voices in my head. They are drowned out by the cacophony of street sounds, the horns of impatience, the screams of misery and the groans of surrender. I am fine with that, for those voices only speak of recrimination, and it gets tiresome kicking my own ass while maintaining a façade of bitterness towards others. Silence is my friend when that fickle bitch embraces me, but tonight she is nowhere to be found.
Stray dogs, some the real thing, two-legged, four-legged, scavenge the alleyways for a leftover, root through the dumpsters for a meal, and when all else fails, dine on the misery of others who are clinging to the last threads of hope.
I am the invisible man. The upper-crest cannot see me. The middle-class avert their eyes and choose ignorance over compassion, for to recognize my existence is to admit that what can happen to one can happen to anyone. I walk among them and yet I am not there. How is that possible when the cops can see me, the hookers, johns, pickpockets and junkies all see me, invisible to some, Technicolor reality to others, how is that possible?
Two hours on the street corner nets me five bucks, and five bucks nets me a fifth of rot gut, mad dog nirvana in a paper bag, and I scurry with the rats into the shadows to drink my liquid medicine in relative peace and quiet.
‘neath the Halo of a Street Lamp
Delightfully wasted now, I stumble down forty-fifth to Beacon, and glancing into the smog-covered night I see Debbie, manning her post under the red light. What’s the haps, pops, she says, nothing I say, just keeping it real, Deb, and fighting back the heebie-jeebies with guns blazin’ and hopes sinkin’. Quiet night she says, no soldiers looking for a twenty buck blow, no restless husbands desperately seeking respite from married bliss, just that goddamned cold seeping under the door and through the windows and say, how about sharing that bottle? Give old Deb a drink now, soldier, and I comply, cuz’ Deb’s good folk, she’s paid her dues on her knees, on her back, and straddled from behind by self-righteous church-goers who will trade all the Bible preaching in a month of Sundays for a half-hour of carnal pleasure under stained sheets and a dull street lamp.
Walking on I salute Kingfish, torn asunder by a desert war and spit out by the machine to fend for himself. Semper fi he hollers back, and salutes in turn, and shuffles into the shadows hoping to regain the guts, the glory and the meaning of his youth. Semper fi indeed, as if those words have any meaning in the underworld. He’s a good man, that Kingfish, as long as the crack isn’t feeding his veins and then watch out, that man can be mean, don’t mean nothing by it, but watch out all the same.
And Lilly and Mark, Bobcat and Tajuan, all visible to me, all shucking and jivin’ their way through another night, picking up and discarding, lying their asses off and telling the cold hard truth, that the “land of opportunity” are true enough words as long as the lottery of natural selection spits out your number for a winner’s bonus. If it doesn't then, well, you be screwed.
And in the Naked Light I Saw
Fires in the trash bins, anything to stave off the cold and keep us alive one more night. For the most part the cops ignore it all, oblivious to the underbelly when more hours need to be spent on the housing developments keeping the suburbian dream safe and sound. They cruise the streets bordering the shopping malls, keep the sidewalks clear where commerce breeds, and leave the alleys and gutters to the winos, the addicts and those with one foot in a grave. It’s a division that works for all concerned, and as long as everyone knows their part and plays their part, all is well.
I know my part and I play it with subdued gusto. My family is gone, blown with the wind to all corners of the earth, my sperm shared by four and where are they now is a mystery that will never be solved. I know I’m alone and yet my true brothers and sisters are all around me, solitude in a crowd like youth in a bottle, a fabrication at best and a miserable lie masked with truth at worst.
The fire dies down, the cold wraps its tentacles around my bones, and the time has come to find shelter from the winds and rains. First come first serve at the Mission, and all cots are taken but that’s all right, I’m not in the mood to praise Jesus and promise my soul to him. I ain’t that desperate tonight though I’ve been there before, I won’t lie to you unless, of course, it benefits me, then I’ll spin a yarn that will make Hemingway stand up and take notice.
Shuffle on down to the train tracks surrounded by woods. Lay my bedroll underneath the boughs of a big old fir, pile cardboard all around me, and my own personal five star hotel is ready for the night. All that’s missing is room service, and I laugh at my own joke, take a last gulp from the paper sack, and then howl to the moon, howl to the gods, howl to the forsaken and lost on this cold hopeless night.
Disturb the Sounds Of…….
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, just another baby in a manger as the coyotes and winds howl in harmony. Good night John Boy, good night Mary Ellen, as papa and momma ruffle my hair, pull the covers up to my chin, and kiss me good night and sweet dreams, but they’ll be no sweet dreams on this night, or any night for that matter, and that’s just the way it is.
The Invisible Man signs off for the night.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
"Helping writers to spread their wings and fly."