JD Adamski has had a lot of jobs in his life. From packing trucks 3rd shift in the UPS yards with the ex-cons and the tweakers to slinging stouts to hawking vitamins and other panaceas at the medicine show, he’s tried his hand at many things. Along the way, he got a degree in Religious Studies and a minor in English at DePaul University. Currently, he fancies himself something of a writer and helps curate this site.
When I get up the sun is already high. I’m on the couch. I’m usually an early riser, without an alarm clock. In the kitchen I toast a bagel and flip on the coffee maker. Take two bites of the bagel, think better of the coffee, which somehow is twice as full as it should be anyway and looks watery and grey. Almost overflowing. I put the plate with the bagel in the sink and find it full of others, each hovering at an angle over the next. Doesn’t smell great either but I ignore it for the time being as I’m supposed to be at the café in a half-hour. We’re chatting again.
On the street it’s warm. The lawns are very green, the sun so bright sprinklers project full rainbows in what moments ago were just fiery arcs of static. Then they’re gone, signal lost, static again. And while the houses’ siding looks warped and soft, especially those dressed in raw cedar rather than tight-lipped aluminum, the concrete is very hard. My knees, still stiff with sleep, ache with each footfall. I pause and stretch and my back pops so loudly I wonder if I’ll collapse like a robe falling off its hook. The thought and heat and sound make things dim for a moment. But then I’m off again, everything again bright and swaying.
On the next street life rattles on, echoes in the stalls, in the shops and alleys. Everybody talks and laughs quickly, at the same time. They all understand without hearing. Or have memorized the bit. Or imagine it now, reply at random to whatever and whenever, past or present or around the bend. Pat each other untouchingly.
Pets sleep in the doorways. Children run and snarl amongst the wares but nobody minds. The mothers know their brood has more rights than we, while shop owners bank on this flimsy dogma, hence all the artfully balanced gewgaws out front. The breeze edges one piece into a better position. If the kid’s within a yard when it goes, it counts. I step around onto the street, as my funds are sort of low lately.
Up the block a dolled-up tranny with glossy legs and enormous tits marches past me and half throws a shoulder when we’re caught between two vendors and I don’t stop to let her past but just tuck in my arm. Apparently of two minds today, or several. I almost fall into a web of rickety dreamcatchers and peace pipes whose owner, a turquoise-laden white guy with his long grey hair in a thick Cherokee braid, attempts to reel me in the rest of the way with his eyes and a nudge from behind by either carrion-craving bastard Coyote or Raven. I catch myself instead on a cast-iron Kokopelli, which is thin but doesn’t bend. The shop owner checks. Disappointed, he scowls then bitches at me while I wipe my hand on the next stall’s shutter, what used to be a cigar shop run by a shrewd-looking man from India.
After this I decide I need a cup of coffee after all and dip into a shop. While perusing the menu I hear, “There you are,” and turn to find Marie sitting at a booth. “I already ordered you something.”
I sit down. She looks sad. I rest my hand on hers because she looks so down but she pulls it away and says don’t and the diamond chip nicks my palm. I shrug. My coffee arrives, which is very black and strong looking, like the tranny who accosted me for being unchivalrous. I take a big sip, burn my mouth, but it’s still good. Marie frowns. “No cream or sugar?” she says.
“Not a chance,” I reply, afraid of breaking its proud back, or turning it into the dirty bath water sitting in my pot back home. I hate it. A whiff of the dishes stinking in my sink finds me—a memory, a trace on my sleeve—watering my eyes.
“How are you?” she asks
“Slept late today.”
“You look tired.”
“Too much sleep always does me in, but you know that.”
“Not really. You never slept in. Barely slept at all sometimes.”
“Well, I do now, making up for back then, I guess.”
“Does that mean you’re off…?”
“Doesn’t mean anything! Can’t a guy just sleep in once in a while?" I lower my voice. "Maybe if I’d slept more we wouldn’t have argued so much, and now we wouldn’t be in this position, you know?”
A hipster on rollerblades stirs honey into his drink to the side of the barista. Blood runs down his arm into his cup.
“Do you see that?”
“Are you listening to me?”
“That guy’s bleeding all over the place.”
“It’s a tattoo.”
“What… no, it…. Well, it must be fresh. Looks like it’s stained the lip of his cup.”
“Christ, Martin,” she sighs, adjusting her bracelets and the chip on her left hand. “You know, Kevin called and said he hasn’t heard from you in weeks. Left you messages but you never called him back.”
“I called you back.”
“No you didn’t, you….”
“So you’re still talking to Kevin?”
“He was my friend, too.”
“Well, he’s a liar. And a sonofabitch who’s probably trying to double-cross me, now that you’re kinda on the market again. Always had an eye for you.”
“What are you talking about, Martin? We’re talking about Kevin, right, your oldest friend? And even though he and Jeff were once close too, because of you he won’t talk to him anymore now. He only called me out of concern. And clearly I’m not on….”
“Yeah yeah yeah. I know, you’re right and see the good in every one, and I’m just being paranoid. Sorry….”
Marie rubs her brow. A moment later her lower lip starts to quiver. This upsets me because I know it’s just a ploy to get me to agree with her. If I’d agree with her everything would be fine. Not just now, but before. Forever. And sometimes I hate myself for not doing it. What does it matter what I believe? It’s all just something to say because silence is so unfashionable. I mean, her opinions and my opinions are all clearly of the same mode, more or less, will keep us in the good with our present camp. So why not take up her slant and leave mine on the curb where I found it in the first place?
I don’t know. I just get attached to things, I guess. Would rather lose something out of forgetfulness than have it taken from me. It’s a form of materialism, this stupid pride.
“Anyway,” I say for no reason, leaning back in my chair.
She raises her head. “Martin, maybe you should….”
The worst possible follow-up to the parading her correctness and quivering lips. Should. I cut her off by slapping the table. Then a few tears fall, as does my bright red coffee cup onto the floor. I’m sorry as hell to see it smash like that. I watch it do it several times. It never gets easier.
Someone puts their hand on my shoulder. I can’t tell who because I’m still watching the cup explode, which looks new, or at least well taken care of. Pristine. Maybe it’s the rollerblader, as something warm is on that shoulder other than the hand, onto my clavicle, oozes down my chest. It turns my stomach. Then some bad noise, a few jolts and flashes. Marie yelling people away, telling them to back the fuck off, growling sort of, then turning on me once outside the café.
“What the hell, Martin? Really!” It’s even brighter out now, and warmer. Then: “Oh, fucking Christ… Look what he did! Just spends his life waiting for damsels in distress, I bet, the asshole. Come here. Hey! Where are you going? Come back. Martin? Martin! Don’t be a jerk, okay? Please. Hey! I’m calling your parents. I’m not kidding. I am!”
I mean to walk back home and clean the dirty dishes I can’t get out of my mind or nose, but instead find myself at the lakefront. The beach is again closed with E.coli. Gut flora run rampant. So I don’t dip my face into the water, attempt to soothe its ache. I sit on a slab of rock instead and wish Marie had come along. She’s good with cuts and stuff like that. Used to let me rest my head in her lap, even when I wasn’t hurting, or away, and that’s probably why.
I watch the small waves break at the beach’s hem, curl back with their cache of infection. But they look too small and frail to carry any real danger. Still, I resist running up to them, letting them lap upon my feet and lower me by minute increments into the sand. Then I remember the cut on my palm and examine it, which now is all that burns. I lick it once, twice, but it doesn’t help. I raise up my hand and let the breeze blow on it with puckered lips. It only burns more, starts traveling up my arm. Starts to make me anxious, like I’m out of options, breath. My vision shrinks to a pinpoint. The beach trembles. Desperate, I reach out for the sea.