A Song For David Bowie


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I was deeply affected by David Bowie’s passing today. I called my friend Rob to talk about it. We met up later and listened to some of the hits, and then bought a six pack and watched labyrinth. I’d never seen it before. It’s magical.

I tried to find a copy of Bowie’s new record in town, but every store was sold out, and that’s saying something when you live in LA.

Rob urged me not to go buy something. It’s not right, he said. For David Bowie, we need to make something.

So I did.

It’s called Quicksand:

 

*****

 

I was adrift, stumbling around London in a haze. I could tell you I wasn’t drunk, but that would be a lie. I could tell you I had better things to do, but that’d be a lie too.

I came across an out-of-the-way tavern down the east end. It was a tall old building. It looked like it could have been something many years ago, a rich merchant’s house or a church or maybe even a school. It was crumbling now. The top floors looked barely habitable. The dark front door had a worn, hexagonal brass doorknob in the center of it. Above the door, a large, black star that was back lit somehow. I didn’t care how.

I went inside. My buzz was fading and I needed a drink. Plus, I was trying not to go home.

It was a dive. I pushed past the purple curtains that shielded the interior from the cold and found a rotten palace of beer-stained hardwood. Crumpled cigarettes twisted in overfilled ashtrays. Pool balls sunk into deep grooves on the pool tables. The smoke was thick. It made my eyes wet. I was pretty sure it was illegal to smoke indoors, but I wasn’t about to tell anyone to stop.

I just needed a drink.

I stumbled to the bar and found a stool next to a garbage can, which was just perfect for me. It felt like a rock.

“Pint,” I grunted, and an arm slid a glass of something dark and bitter toward me. I downed it. It tasted like mud. Good mud. The kind of mud you could grow something in. It tasted like… like fate. I’m not really sure how, or even what, but that’s just how it was.

“Thirsty?” A voice asked me. I turned to my right and say that the voice belonged to a man. A woman. No… he was a man. He wore a bedazzled, leather 18th-century outfit that would have been right at home at a fancy dress party in West Hollywood, and he smoked a cigarette out of a long holder. You know the kind. Cruella DeVille had one.

Very Femme Fatale.

“What are you,” I asked him, “some kind of clown?” He smiled at me as he picked up a cigarette packet. He offered me one and I took it. I don’t really smoke. I just sort of suck on the things. If I haven’t been drinking, a get a little head buzz from holding something that can kill me in my mouth. I had been drinking, though, so it was all rather pointless.

“I’m the entertainment,” he told me. I glanced at him, and he jerked his head back at a dingy stage. There was an old, upright piano there with an orange and blue lighting bolt painted on it. I smirked.

“Classy,” I said.

“Hey, man,” he said, “just relax.”

I took a drag and signaled the bartender. He brought me something else. “Fair enough,” I said.

He watched me as I drained the glass, and then took his cigarette out of the holder and snubbed it on the counter. He crossed his legs and stared at me.

“What’s wrong, then?”

I swirled the backwash in the bottom of my glass. Then I drank it.

“I don’t have any problems,” I told him.

“Everyone has problems,” He told me.

“Yeah? What are yours?”

“One of my eyes is permanently dilated.” He showed me. It was.

“Huh. I never heard of that.”

“It’s called anisocoria. Got it when a bloke hit me in school.” He lit another cigarette. It couldn’t be healthy. “We were fighting over a girl.”

“Who got the girl?” I asked. He just shrugged. I laughed. It was short lived.

“So what is it?”

I looked at my empty glass, and signaled for another. “A friend of mine… well, not really a friend. This guy I looked up to. He passed away.”

“And you’re sad about it?”

I didn’t say anything. The man took a long drag.

“So what did you make him?”

“What?”

“What did you make him?”

“He’s dead, he’s not having a birthday party.”

“No, no. People die, so you make them something. It’s how you remember them, right?”

“I remember people by crying a lot and buying things.”

“Does it make you feel better?”

I didn’t say anything.

He shook his head. “No, no. Make him something.”

“Like… what, like a tribute?”

“It’s not for them, love. It’s for you.” He stabbed the cigarette on the counter and leaned forward. “You feel something, right? You admired this guy?”

“He was unique. He was brave. He was kind.”

“So make something unique. Be brave. Be kind. He made you feel something, so use that feeling and make someone else feel something. You know how people say if you remember someone they never really die?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s bullshit, love. Bullshit. They’re dead, but that doesn’t mean you have to forget. Use what you feel and make something that he would have said ‘yeah, I like this’ about.”

I reached into my jacket and pulled out my manuscript. “I think I did. It’s why I started drinking. I’m just… I’m not sure how it turned out.”

“So you’ve been carrying it around London?”

“Yes.”

“All night long?”

“That’s right.” I laughed. It’s the sort of laugh that you laugh when you’re really just begging for affirmation. “I was thinking about throwing it away. That’s why I took the stool by the garbage.”

He shook his head. “What are we going to do with you?”

“I just need to know.”

The lights dimmed. He smiled again. “There’s only one way to find out.”

He set down a clear, glass orb on the counter and snapped his fingers. The arm brought him two shots of something amber. He downed them both. I smiled.

“I never took you for much of a drinker.”

“Baby, I’m not even really here.”

He walked over to the stage and pressed some keys. I stared down at my manuscript. It was hard to focus. 

“Alright, ladies. We’ve got time for one last song.” He started gently pounding out some chords and singing. “Oh I ain’t got the power anymore, no I ain’t got the power anymore.” He dove into the verse, and I dove into my manuscript.

I read it. He played.

He was better. He was way better. It wasn’t even close, but then again, I didn’t want to compete, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t either. He played, and I read, and the music swirled around me, and I felt the power. My mind lit up like a solar flare with the sort of electricity you only get when you’re around someone who cares so deeply about what they’re doing that you end up caring, too.

“I’m sinking in the quicksand of my thoughts, and I ain’t got the power anymore.”

I looked at the garbage. You know how sometimes, in really dim light, you look into something that has volume to it, like a trash can, and it just yawns at you, and it seems like it doesn’t have a bottom, and it won’t ever, ever end?

Yeah, it wasn’t doing that anymore. The trash can, I mean. I could see a condom at the bottom of the liner.

I finished my drink and managed somehow to stand up. The room tilted and whirled so hard it made my brain hurt, but I found a path and made it to the door.

“Don’t believe in yourself, don’t deceive with belief. Knowledge comes with death’s release”

It didn’t really make much sense, but it worked, in a weird sort of way. We made eye contact, and he nodded at me.

I just nodded back.

Then I left.

I suppose I made it back to Bloomsbury at some point because I woke up the next morning in my own bed, wishing I would have died.

I looked at the clock.

Morning. That was being generous.

My roommates would be back from Wales soon, and I…

Had it really been four days?

I rolled over. There was a manuscript on my bedside table. It had a touch of glitter on it. Next to the manuscript was a clear glass orb.

I never did find that bar again. It’s gone now.

I went looking for it my last night in London. The weather was warm, and we took Barclay’s bikes and rode them around the whole fucking town. We didn’t wear helmets, so our hair streamed behind us, and we laughed at the sheer folly of it all, kicked our legs out and screamed like kids, and the blood raced through our veins and our hair was blowing behind us and we could feel the life throbbing through our temples and I never did find the bar again.

I never found it again, but…

Now that I come to think of it,

I’m not sure I ever did.

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In Line With The Coffee Girl


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She wore a pink dress, the kind I imagined you would wear to a sorority recruitment party, or maybe a little soiree to a Connecticut country club. She had a pearl necklace, and smelled like lilacs. She was on the phone.

I was working customer support, restocking things, making whipped cream and caramel, and pre-closing the store, so I was walking by the register right when she said it.

“I’m sorry,” she said with that bitchy sort of lilt Emma Roberts would use in a Ryan Murphy show, “I’m with the coffee girl, one second.”

The coffee girl.

My manager is in her thirties, and she wears a special black apron that says Coffee Master. It’d be difficult to mistake her as the “coffee girl,” unless of course you weren’t even paying attention.

Which she clearly wasn’t. Which tickled me all the more.

Working the support role at Starbucks is kind of like being a ghost. You float around, doing things that people don’t really notice, and the troubles of the mortal realm (people on bar and at the registers) don’t really bother you.

They don’t just not bother me, though. They amuse me.

Here a fat woman complains about not getting her venti caramel frappacino fast. She flushes in anger. There, somebody spills their coffee after a pitching a huge fit that it didn’t taste right. Over there, a child screams in line, wanting more and more madeline cookies. If you were affected by these mini tragedies, they wouldn’t be funny. To me though, the friendly ghost, they are better than TV.

So I laughed. Out loud. My manager and the woman turned to me. My manager gave me a sort of motherly “what are you doing? Stop right now,” look, The woman looked at me like I was an unruly servant.

I looked back at her and tried not to laugh out loud. She wasn’t laughing. She still wasn’t even paying attention.

I wondered what her life was like.

She’d leave this land of the coffee people after she got her drink. Maybe she’d do some shopping at Bloomingdales, interacting with the clothes people, or maybe the makeup beings, in their natural habitat, before hopping in her Mercedes and heading over to the pet groomer, where she’d pick up her small, white dog from the dog person. On her way home, undoubtably, she’d stop off at another Starbucks to refuel with another trenta gren tea from the coffee girls, because a dry mouth is no mouth at all, as the cleaning monster used to say. She’d swing by whole foods on her way out of the valley, where the foodlngs and meat creatures would supply her with whatever she desired. On to the 101, where undoubtedly she would speed, a and a law thrall would pull her over and give her a ticket. It doesn’t matter, though. The number demons would have this sorted and paid for as soon as an assistant thing brought it to them.

Money was no issue.

Finally, back in Beverly Hills, where the civilized world lives, she would park in her driveway. Danny, the handsome actor, would wave at her from his yard. I bet his wife doesn’t have to interact with the northern beasts, she thinks to herself as her heels clack across the imported paving stones.

Inside, she passes off her dog to one of her many assistant things, and inspects the work of the cleaning monsters. Flawless, as usual, but creatures of their status excel at menial jobs.

She sits down on a perfect couch. After a hard day of shopping, who doesn’t need a rest?

She’d hear a squawk, and turns around. There, inside the gilded cage, would be the parrot her husband bought her last week. A cleaning monster finishes polishing the outside, and then bows to her and leaves.

She’d walk up to the cage, and gently pet the gold. The parrot would cock its head, look at her with one eye.

“I love you,” It’d say, and then she’d be sad.

She’d be sad because she didn’t know from whom it learned the word.

I clutched my mop to my chest. I was no longer laughing on the inside.

The woman was staring at me. My face just changed from comedy show to funeral in less than ten seconds, with no apparent stimulus. I must have looked incredibly insane. She ordered her drink and left.

“Coffee girl?” My manager laughed once the woman was out of shot. “Can you believe that?”

“This isn’t the 19th century,” Jac laughed.

I didn’t laugh. “She might not have meant it,” I sad. They both turned to me.

“What?”

I searched my thoughts, and then I gave up.

“Never mind.”

I kept mopping, stealing glances at the woman in the pearl necklace, looking for something other than sadness behind her eyes.

The Parrot Cage

Glass


Here’s the last of my poetry series.  Viola!

She had a glass-hewn flower,

I never understood.

I crushed underneath my boot,

Simply because I could.

Farewell


Farewell

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A twinkling star shone bright for me

One night I asked it why.

Its twinkling light diminished,

And then it vanished in reply.

I pondered long what I had done

To cause the star to go.

I ponder of it still today

Perhaps I’ll never know.

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