Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Curtain Falls to No Applause


In the first week after moving into my current apartment, I went grocery shopping at the store conveniently located across the alley. Grocery stores forever hold a special place in my heart, for my life seems at times to revolve around them. When I think back on my life, I always start with where I grocery shopped. My mother once told me she went into labor with me while she was at one, so that may have something to do with it.
Anyway, one night in the early stages of my relationship with my new store, I noticed two boys walking up to the self-check out lane. They must have been 14 or 15, and tall for their age. Their clothes were dirty, weeks dirty, and hung loosely on their thin frames, and their shoes were old and worn out, and also too big for them. They knew they were dirty. They knew they weren't dressed like other people. They knew people thought little of them, and they kept their eyes on the floor and slouched as they walked. They wore the weight of their dysfunctional family, which can feel like the weight of the world when you're that age, palpably on their shoulders, and deep within them. But they also had an aura of humility and sweetness to them, that seemed to fill the room. At that moment while I stood trying not to stare too much at them, as they ripped my heart out, they allowed themselves the briefest moment of quiet glee over the bottle of soda and candy bar they were buying. They had spent some time carefully figuring out how far their money would go, for they slowly scanned the items, and checked the monitor to make sure they didn't go over budget.
Again, a brief smile crossed their lips when they realized they could leave the store with what they wanted.
I remembered when I was a boy, and a can of soda was something special. I remembered when a small, happy moment shared with a brother or friend was a welcome oasis during the trials of childhood.
I wanted to give them every cent in my pocket. I wanted to cook them a big dinner. But what I wanted most was to set them free. I wanted them to know no matter what was going on in their lives now, they had the power within themselves to create any kind of life they wanted.
I didn't talk to them that evening at the grocery store, mainly in fear I was projecting something of my own life onto their situation that may or may not have been there, but I look for them and think of them every time I go back.

It's Up to You

I thought B moved out of my apartment on Pinegrove after Christmas of 1988, but I found the Valentine cards we gave to each other, in 1989, so now I don't remember when the hell he moved out. But I do remember that Christmas of '88...
Christmas. I don't know what it is with me and that holiday, but there is something.
That year it was especially cold, and now, as I write this, I remembered B was still tending bar at Windy City, and had to work Christmas Eve, and I didn't want to leave him home alone for the holiday, especially since the last time I did that, someone died.
Erin and I went Christmas shopping together at Oakbrook Mall, where she worked, and I bought Brad some under ware and cologne, and she gave me my present there, at her work. It was a brooch with a built-in perfume bottle, which I, of course, still have.
How I managed to spend any money on gifts and not drugs and alcohol, is a mystery to me, especially since my landlord had to call me every month to remind me to pay him. I always did, but always late. Thank God he lived in Florida, and probably wouldn't be knocking on my door any time soon.
I spent Christmas Eve with B, at his bar, til 4 am, and when it came time to leave, he didn't want to stop the party. We went home to get the money I had purposely left there, for fear of spending it on blow, to go buy some blow.
We walked to Halsted, to his connection's house, in the bitter cold. B rang his bell, and told him what we wanted, and heard But it's Christmas, B. over the intercom. Yea, I know what day it is. You have any or not? B answered back. A pause, then the buzzer let us in.

I sat on the stairs, trying to squeeze some warmth back into myself after the long, cold walk to this apartment, while B knocked on the door. When the over-weight, middle aged, bleached blond man opened his door, I could just see a sliver inside his place. It was a Christmas shrine. Every square inch was decorated, and all of it glowed on fire from the post dawn sun streaming in his east facing windows. Dozens of presents sat under the opulent tree, as he sarcastically said Merry Christmas, and handed B an envelope. A waif-like Asian guy, clad only in bikini briefs, gingerly tip-toed up behind his benefactor, to see just who was making such an early Christmas Day purchase. He quietly said Hi B with a smile, as the blond shut the door.
For someone who peddles such shit, he's sure full of the holiday spirit. I said, as we walked for a cab. B said nothing.
I noticed in the car on the way home, it somehow got colder. Everything was covered in a thin layer of white ice. Nothing moved, nor seemed able to move, and the newly risen sun burned an acid yellow glow into everything. Everything looked dead.
The end. This is it. It's over. This is never happening to me again. I thought to myself.

I awoke Christmas Day at around 5pm, and quickly ran out the door to buy a holiday feast at White Hen I didn't have to cook, (no stove, remember?) and a log for the fire place. I had to beg B to get out of bed to eat something, and to share some sort of Christmas together. Give me another hour or so: Bob. He said. All he would have to say to me was 'Bob', and I understood.
I spent the time in the kitchen, making the meal look nice, and sat and waited for B to get up, to give him a nice Christmas.
He eventually did, and we ate our meal in the dark, save for the glows of the fireplace and the TV, as we watched a movie neither of us had seen before, It's a Wonderful Life, choking down cheese and crackers and swigs of beer through our tears.

Thinking of You

Links: The Colourfield, The Specials

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Doesn't it suck depending on someone else's mood and schedule on a holiday? I always ended up with winners, too...