Sunday, June 14, 2015

Alexander

Bright light.

My mother is leaning towards me, smiling, running her fingers down the side of my face, twirling the stray pieces of my hair...whispering...

Anthony...Anthony....

Except my name is not Anthony.

Waking up there is a pure and perfect point of pain.  An intense searing violence that seems to be right in the middle of my brain. I feel for a moment, like I could just sit up and vomit all over the bed.

But, the feeling passes.

Looking out of the twenty-second story condo window, still very dark, a January 4:30 a.m. Toronto appears sterile and empty, as it does every morning, and reaching for the Camels I bought on the last junket I light the cigarette in a successful attempt to stave off the desire of my stomach to empty last night's contents.

Out of bed, naked, my chest hair itchy,  my arms and legs sore and my vision dizzy, stumbling to the shower. Ice cold water for a moment, then hot. The water feels like shit. It is like the shower is fucking attacking me. Why the fuck am I awake at all?

Somehow, seemingly seconds later, though that can't be right, right (?), I am in the condo gym, alone, happy it is open the full twenty-four. I am on that machine, the running one, running. And running. The gym windows are fogged by the cold and you could think that the city was a Impressionist painting looking through them. Almost beautiful instead of the dump that the daybreak will reaffirm it as.

An empty financial center full of empty financial people.

My watch says it is six. Six a.m. Too fucking early to go in. Too late to go back to bed.

Kicking open the main suite bar sized second fridge freezer  there is a little of the vodka left. I figure I have an hour to finish it.

Office open, 7:30 a.m. I am there a few minutes later, obligatory black coffee in hand. Receptionist barely registers me as I pass. I have come in before everyone almost everyday I have been in town lately.

Computer on, and I am at it. Activity slowly begins around me, volume level gradually increasing, hellos said, people filing past.

I don't care about any of it. At all. Of course, I say hello, you have to. But I can't wait again until they send me to Paris, Milan or fucking Topeka for that matter. If I never saw any of these people before the day I die, it would be too soon.

Except Alice. But she hasn't been by yet.

Alice, looking at me, eyes wide, "You know this can't go on..." Holding the back of my head as the cell phone bleats out a melody...her husband calling yet again. What was that book that you gave me Alice? That one by Graham Greene?

I walk out into the fierce January cold. Negative twenty today. Just sucks the air right out of your lungs. Going to eat shit knock off Indian food from some Yonge St. take out dump. Won't be there in a few weeks. They all come and go with interchangeably bland fare. People shuffling in line in front and behind me, all dreary looking. The young man behind the counter, handsome. But defeated, I think. He takes my order and he looks just so perfectly bored. Like he must count the seconds of every long and pointless day of relaying these orders to cooks who equally are doing time.

So many people, so many lives, spent doing this totally superfluous shit. When the vast improbability that is the universe decided to grant you the gift of this tiny instance of life, you ended up spending it doing this. Or that. Or what I am doing, also irrelevant.

Ask not if anyone will remember us 100 years from now. No one will care to remember us fifteen minutes after we are gone. Our pictures may be on the mantlepiece for a few years, but nothing we did will linger on. Because, we did nothing.

Up the elevator. The negativeness of this space. I hate the fucking elevator. Caged with people you don't know. All looking ahead. Or forced to listen to tiny fragments of conversations that you are not a part of.

At the desk again, more painkiller.

In the taxi, everything blurring by, down from Bloor to the condo. He is shaking me. Stay awake, buddy. We've been into the whiskeys. The good ones...every drink a bit of liquid gold. Two hundred twenty seven dollars later. Give me one of your obscure words....ok...we have had a jeroboam of whisky my fine asshole of a friend. How is that for obscure. He laughs.

It is noon now. Cell phone buzzes. My lawyer in Montreal. I ignore it.

Anxiety compels me to the bathroom. Lock the door and a few minutes later it feels numb again. My pills can do that to you. Numb but alert. The anxiety gone for now. There is no point in worrying about things that you cannot change or undo.

Jonathon comes down the hall. Ass kisser that one. But Jonathon has a soft spot for me.  He wants to see me at two. Jonathon, tell him I left at one.

He smiles.

It is a Thursday. I might have had somewhere to go.

The bottom of the Scotia Plaza. Small underground bar. Not underground in some revolutionary sense, but literally. No one drinking here at two in the afternoon is making less than $75K. But it is dark all day long. You can pretend it is always nighttime. My kind of place.

Bar is mostly empty. I get a Glenfiddich. Then another. Two tables over are two suits. Assholes you can tell. But that is easy. We are all assholes around here. The biliousness with which the one spouts his puerile reactionary nonsense is nauseating. One of these business know-it-all types. But he doesn't know a fucking thing. I contemplate walking over to his table and punching him right in the face when fortune intervenes on his, (or my?) behalf and I feel a slight touch to my shoulder.

I don't need to look. Its Alice.

She sits down. He's looking for you you know. I know. Why did you leave? What difference? He can find me tomorrow.

She smiles. I don't get you. But you don't need to get me do you? No, I guess not. Detente then. I won't try to understand your motives, and you won't try to understand mine.

A terrible feeling. Like something is bursting out of my chest. I am trying to slow down, but inevitably I will get there, no matter how slow I walk. Long institutional hallways. I am finally at the door. Opening it and the first thing I see is the bed.A few more drinks. I already have a headache. It will get worse, but then better. This is what always happens.

Let's go for dinner. Where? John and Mohammed are at Rodney's. Why not?

We walk down the stairs, Rodney's is packed. After work crowd now.

I order two dozen oysters and a very expensive Chablis.

Mohammed looks great in his blue double breasted. John is a picture of junior executive perfection. Fancy watch, lovely shirt and tie. Expensive cufflinks. I want to kiss them both.

Mohammed is circumspect. We missed you at the meeting today. Had to see a client. Silence. They know I am lying, of course. How did it go? It went as it always goes.

What do you think of Sandra's proposal? I laugh. Guys, do we really care right now?

What did you study? Was it hematology after all? Why did I see you there...that distance I traveled to be away from you? Looking out from the Via car window, you there on the platform awaiting another train to a separate place, and despite wanting to get off and to run back to you, all I could do was to look down at your overshoe.Then it is just Alice and I again. Walking so slowly almost to spite the bitter 10 p.m. air.

Why do you do it? What do you mean? Why don't you just quit? Everyone knows you don't want to be here anymore. They only keep you because you produce. But, Alice, where would I go? And why? Wouldn't anywhere else be just the same? If you have to chose between two identical places to wither, why not chose the one that you are already at?

She kisses me and hails the taxi approaching us. I must leave you my dear. He has become something of a martinet, my husband.

With Cassandra at the bar. She has seen many of my night's ends. The usual crowd is around. A few unknown faces. Cass serves me the draft and the double bourbon. She shouldn't really but she does anyway.

Trying to push through the crowd at the accident site. Coming back to see it. The rope has cordoned off the area around the parking lot and the curious strain to see the remains of what what once a young man. As I turn around, knowing now that what I feared was true, rushing to the stairs of the station, she pushes the Jesus Saves handbill into my chest.

Jesus Saves what?


It is near 2 a.m. Cassandra hands me my last drink. There is no one here now, save her and I. Cassandra, I love you. Now...now...you know I don't sleep with the customers. I know. But even if you did, I would never try. I don't sleep with people I like. What about Alice? Well, I tell you too much Cassandra, I suppose I do like Alice. Well, then maybe you are not so bad after all, I like her too. You only met her once. It was enough. She is married. We are all married to something. I'll call you a taxi.

I wanted normalcy. I wanted to dream the same dream you did. I wanted to be where you were. But we can't always help ourselves. I failed you. I failed you the moment we met. I could never be the person I told you I could be. You understood this long before I could.

Bright light.

My mother is leaning towards me, smiling, running her fingers down the side of my face, twirling the stray pieces of my hair...whispering...

Alexander...Alexander....

Except my name is not Alexander.

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