Sunday, February 3, 2013

Unlike life

The two of them sat there drinking vodka over ice. Outside it was snowing big flakes. You could hear the plows working on getting the intersection cleared, red and yellow lights flashing through the falling snow. Beep beep beep. It had been going on for hours. There were only a few other people in the bar singing sad songs to themselves. The TVs were on but not the sound. A college basketball game. Three big guys in stiff suits close captioned, thank god. Lou thought to herself, lousy ephemera, my life, this room. The bartender was reading one of Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther novels. Berlin seventy years ago -- quite a place. Unlike now -- Berlin was happening now -- all the upperclass American kids wanted to go there and make movies. The creative class. Not like here where the sickness in the countryside had come into town and infected practically everybody. No one was immune. Everyone was medicated, used up, on edge.

Lou didn't want to go home until the snow let up. Even if she lived to be ninety, more than half her life was gone. It hadn't hit her till Steve Jobs died and she read Mona Simpson's eulogy online. Steve's last words were, "Wow wow wow." She cried for a long time after reading that. What would her last words be? Tonight she was with Twitchell. A bit of a nobody without his clothes on but okay to drink with in a place like this, on a night like this. Better than no one. Her brothers were on the road up near Scranton the last time she heard from them. They claimed to be working on some kind of deal. She was content to stay here and drink and remember a time when a couple of drinks at the start of an evening would lead to long satisfying sex and crazy promises. Funny girl.

That was a long time ago. Now it was just drinks. Stupid and sloppy but out of the cold. Twitchell had no work in the winter. He just hung out and mooched off friends -- if it hadn't been Lou buying his drinks tonight he would've found someone else. And if he hadn't found someone else, he still would've gotten a place to land and go to sleep. His life was nothing, he had nothing, he had no one, which meant he didn't need anything more than a refuge from the elements. He made Lou sad. She looked around the bar -- they were all stiffs but at least they had each other.

What else did they have? Nothing. But it wasn't a case of misery loves company. These people truly cared for each other as best they could. Lou knew she could count on them when the chips were down. They were sufferers too. Because their suffering knew no bounds neither did their sympathy. She could feel it, the warmth in the room. And it wasn't just the vodka or the orange glow of the table lamps or the way Twitchell closed his eyes and nodded his head in time to some unknown music only he was capable of hearing. The warmth was coming off them, it really was. Lou would never be young again but that was okay as long as the present moment held, the closeness of it, and the secure feeling she felt inside. Let the storm rage out there and the workers fight against it. Better to sit here and drift off soundlessly.

It took a while to write out these words and make sentences of them. And then the goddamn sentences had to follow one another logically and make some kind of sense. It's not easy to make sense. Whoever wrote the books that Lou read was pretty good at doing this kind of work -- the difficult job of making sense out of a progression of words. Their stories began where they were supposed to and moved forward in a recognizable arc. Lou even said once, well-written novels are satisfying, and so are biographies and histories, as long as I can follow the narrative. I need to know where the story is going. Unlike my own life.

No comments:

Post a Comment