Monday, October 15, 2018


When I awoke I had a fleeting feeling that I wasn’t me. Or I wished I wasn’t me. Then it came back to me in a rush. The shame. The pleasure. The bemused expression on the bouncer’s face. Finally Dan and Terry, each taking me by an arm. The violence of it.

And I knew this: I would do it again.

My phone was all lit up with texts and calls. I knew what they’d be asking. I turned off the screen but put it in my pocket anyway. By reflex.

At the coffee shop later. Same thing. Felt the chair against my back, the wood. Not comfortable but did not care. Not care. My ass on the seat. That’s more comfortable. That little concave part. That nod to the human body.

I crossed my legs sometimes. Uncrossed them after a while. The hours passed.

“Sir, it’s closing time.”

I heard these words.

“Sir? Sir?”

I heard the man speak.

“Sir.” He was leaning over me now, peering into my face with some concern. “Are you OK? You have to leave. I’m leaving. I’m closing up.”

Then he figured I was deaf. He said it all again a little louder, in front of me this time so maybe I could read his lips or gestures.

“I’m not going anywhere,” I said finally. I made the words sound flat and dull, so they could be heard any way you wanted. Defiant. Resigned. Reassuring.

A tense quiet ensued. Then he disappeared out back.

Through the picture window I watched the sidewalk and the street, people passing by. A woman in a long dark coat. A woman wearing a flowered backpack. Running for some reason. Ordinary life in its perfect unpredictability. Two police officers walked past, one black, one white. Now they were inside the café. And they were walking toward me. The black one leaned down into my face while the white one consulted with the employee.

“Sir, it’s time to go. Time to leave,” he declared, thumbing in the direction of the door.

I watched him blankly. Crossed my arms. His tag said Harrison. The other one said Wirth.

“What the fuck did I just say, huh? You have to go,” Harrison continued.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

The employee produced a worried sigh. I stared at them all. Finally the cops glanced at each other. Wirth gave a little nod.

“Sure you aren’t,” said Harrison as he took me by an arm and Wirth took me by the other. They heaved me up and the chair fell backwards with a clatter. I hung limply, heavily between them now. As they dragged me toward the door I felt that sweet, hot pain in my shoulders again. Daydreamed that my arms would pull out of their sockets and let my body pour onto the floor.

Outside they tried to get me on my feet but I refused.

“You fucked up? Huh? Huh?” Wirth yelled in my face.

They conferred with each other as though I wasn’t there suspended in the space between them.

“He don’t actually seem fucked up to me,” Wirth told his partner.

“Nope. Can’t smell nothin’ on his breath.”

“He don’t seem high.”

They put me on the sidewalk, propped against the wall.

“What’s your name? You’re not gonna tell us your name?” asked Wirth.

I stared at the sign above a laundromat across the street. Lucky Laundry the letters read. The letters were red. The red letters read.

“My name is Lucky,” I declared.

Wirth made a dark little chuckle.

“Where do you live, asshole?”

And so I found myself again staring down, my dragging feet bent out of view below my knees. Shoes getting scuffed and scraped. I did not care. Ankles banging on curbs. I did not care. My body pulling down, down, down from my arms, each in the grip of a cop on either side of me muttering curses and jerking me up now and again in spite and frustration at his absurd burden.

Harrison rang the super’s bell. He emerged from his ground floor apartment and stared at me, stupefied. At Wirth’s direction he found my keys in my pocket and went on ahead up to the second floor. The cops carried me upstairs head to tail like a corpse.

I awoke on the kitchen floor.

The wall clock proceeded through the minutes and the hours, sometimes quick and sometimes slow.

Light reflected off the cars below and shone on the ceiling by the windows. Little shapeless entities drifting by to nowhere.

Shouts from the street. A jackhammer. A woman laughing.

My phone buzzed in my pocket now and then. Texts, calls. From concerned friends and family and automated scam operations. Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.

Day turned into night. Headlights now shone from the street, amid the ambient glow of lamps and signs.

I was hungry. I did not care.

Deep in that second night the street grew still and quiet. That’s when I began my incantation.

You’re gonna die if you can’t stop being a drag.

I startled myself when I first said it. What a dumb, weird thing to pierce this holy silence with. And yet I said it again. And again. And again. And again. And again.

You’re gonna die if you can’t stop being a drag.
You’re gonna die if you can’t stop being a drag.
You’re gonna die if you can’t stop being a drag.

I think the sun was rising. Maybe that’s what woke me up. I wasn’t even sure I’d been asleep. My body ached everywhere, inside and out.

I rolled over on my side and wondered if my free arm was strong enough to steady me. I remained there a few minutes. Then I bent my other arm at the elbow and braced against the floor, lifting myself up so my upper body was finally off the ground. I felt a wave of dizziness and was just about to collapse back down. But I didn’t. I held steady for a while and then sat up, leaning forward with my hands flat on the floor. I was stunned at how difficult this was. But finally I got up on my knees, and then on one foot and, steadying myself on a dining chair, on the other. I stood all the way up now, still leaning my head down so my blood wouldn’t rush away.

The floor before me was dark and blurry. I did not quite know where my foot would land. Or if it ever would. But still I took a step.