To Live Outside the Law, You Must Be Honest–Bob Dylan

The Case of the Black Pearl Necklace--fragment, early chapter

 

my mona lisa nero gray scaleI slipped into the self-inflicted gunshot wound line at the grocery store and waited for my mind to clear, pretending the pack of jumbo cotton balls was extremely heavy—well, it is to a dying man—as I placed them on the checkout conveyor with my food items.

Cashier’s name was, “Mylicia.” I’ll say. Wish she was MY licia…as I was bleeding out in line.

“Writing is easy; you just sit at the typewriter and bleed,” said the famous writer who killed himself with a shotgun to the head, holed up in his writer’s retreat cabin in some pristine wilderness….

To which I would add: facing the existential horror of being versus nothingness is easy; just stand in the checkout line and bleed.

Not coincidentally, a few happy blocks later, I heard a loud voice saying, “I’m just going to shoot myself in the head.”

Looking around, I spotted a young man, at least he was younger than me, over on the park bench here in the upscale shopping district before you crossover Market and get down to the nitty gritty…in the Tenderloin.

It was getting a bit chilly on an April evening, but he was wearing only a pair of underwear, some navy blue boxers, thank God for the choice of dark color, and nothing else!

“Of course, I don’t have a gun, “ he continued for anyone within twenty feet.

Obviously. You don’t even have clothes!

“But I could kill myself with a live wire, or something.”

Way to be creative. Or, you could just get clothes.

Some gray-haired tourists looked away, whiter than their hair. This sort of thing fits right into NYC—skyscrapers, lunatics, and everything.

But here?

Yes, here!

It just goes steadily downhill from there. Twelve  blocks later, nearing the metal filing cabinet I call home, a dealer I know—I mean I know, like I’ve scored off more than a time or two, mostly China, stepped on for days—scurries by like a slant-eyed possum.

He squints sideways at me and says, “Have a good night,” probably trying to trigger me so I’ll score.

I wanted to say, “I’ll have whatever kind of fucking night I want.”

But I just swallowed it.

Fobbed the lobby door and slipped into energy-saving gray glint of dilapidated furniture and half-dead plants.

Pressing the button on the ancient elevator, creaking down to the lobby like Frankenstein, I congratulated myself on my restraint.

“Yeah, don’t shit in your nest,” I said to the tropical plants clinging to life, “may still want to buy a balloon off him some day. But not tonight!”

The elevator groaned open. I expected Boris Karloff to be inside, sitting on a wooden stool, wearing a gray suit with brass buttons that matched his gray skin and yellow eyes. But it was just the usual filth and stains from getting cleaned only once a month.

Janitor just hides in the basement, smoking and reading Russian magazines. Probably some relative of the Ukrainian landlord.

I carry this weight all the way up to number 503. Open the heavy metal door.

If my window is open, I have to be careful not to let the door slam. If I do, another Russian who runs some type of party entertainment business—yeah, right, whatever—and who keeps strange hours, but I doubt he lives in his office, like me (which is a lease violation, but I know how to keep it on the down low)…Okay. What was I thinking?

Oh, yeah, Ivan yells at me, “Close the door with the handle. Okay! Can you do that?!”

Now, living on the fire escape, I usually remember to close my window, not that there’s much in here but paper clips, bus fare, and my alto, when it’s not in the pawn shop over on Geary. So my door doesn’t slam coming and going very often. Still, I used to not say anything, afraid he’d go Russian outfit guy on me.

But now that’s all changed. Living my life on a perpetual suicide watch, it’s fun, it’s easy. “Go back in your cave, Stalin, and leave me alone!”

But none of that is actually happening. Just thinking about it all so intently, my lips are moving as I mouth the lines.

I throw the six-pack of yogurt, ham and Swiss on rye, one quart of whole milk, two apples and one orange into my mini fridge.

My window out to the fire escape and all those dream weavers is closed, so, I pull it up and open. Heat’s included in my office and it came on tonight before I got home—old radiator hissing water heated by the converted coal-into-oil furnace down in the basement…of my mind.

This was an old Hotel, built in 1913, and revamped into offices during the 90s dot com craze. And a few years later, when it crashed after the towers were brought down with demolitions explosives, you could get an office here on a seven year lease for a song.

That’s what I did, transitioning from line cook to cabbie to California certified gum shoe.

Slipping through the open window and out onto my balcony, fire escape, mind escape, dream weaver, I sighed to the lone star choking through the Tenderloin haze like a cancer survivor.

Lit a cigarette. “It’s good to be the Cadillac.”

 

 

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