I got back to town after visiting my mom, the drive down, eight and a half hours, straight to work, good thing I stopped for my ritual double quarter pounder below Harrisburg, topping off the tank for the last stretch, traffic heavy in Frederick, the Beltway, River, Mass. Ave., Wisconsin, parked in the lot across from the Gaul, came in, fifteen minutes before the door opened, Christmas lights to great me, the cooler a disorganized mess of questionable stocking (not a single soda water left), get dressed, and then they're on me right at 5:30 while the downstairs guys stand around oblivious, leaning on the cooler, and as I get through my shift and finally done with it around 1, despite being a good host, the inappropriateness of my doing such a job, and how it ties into my psychology, the good unquestioning foot soldier, the one who has a hard time asking for the very basic things of an emotionally supportive life, though of course the customers are, in their own way, to their abilities and to their own adult responsibilities and attention spans for such people as I, helpful, and the busboy is good, even left to dangle as I am tonight, with the wine tasting, the twelve mom's in the back room, the bar full, regulars... the entertainer.
But yes, really, what am I doing here in glorified lackey land, the educated educator manqué, who does not now how to fit in, and again, getting ready for work.
And the recurring memory, to exorcise or exercise, of the pretty hostess from Chicago, many years ago, waking next to her after a Friday night shift, and having to go in to do the hard long Saturday brunch turnaround, she whispers, push, and my wildest fantasies are coming along, but the clock is ticking, and after only a brief little while, I have to go off dutifully to that lousy shift, people on you from the door opening til the relief... The older guy, coming in for "coffee," but in addition, an "elmer," meaning Budweiser, and soon enough, "a 'dura," a shot of Herradura tequila, up at the bar, while the families and nice couples go past, down the step into the dining room. And all the years I wasted there, the original Austin Grill. What a lovely person she was, but I messed that up too.
What do I want, what are my needs... What did I want to become? I wanted to be a writer, sure, but how do you do that? How do you do that, but by writing?
I liked the people, I liked the socializing, but to the heart, it was visible, "I don't want to be doing this." I don't know how else to put it. I wanted a scholarly life. Sure, some exposure to humanity, but not the full on, do this particular job to try to eke out a living. Was it that I felt bad for all those people who sat at the bar, publicans, sinners, drinkers, gluttons, working people as we all must work, the addicted, those lacking in faith and a sense of God's love for His creatures, in need of comfort. And if I quit, having had to, burned by being too close to the fire, I'd then become a voice of reason. Calm in the storm. Of faith.
And simultaneous, you realize your own susceptibility to the problem of a physiology set-up for the disease that is manifested by drinking and cured through sobriety and proper nutrition. And only you yourself can do this for you. But after being taken as a wine expert, professionally, where does that leave you, you ask yourself. What would I do for money, for a living? How would all this not be construed as a major error on my own part.
You want to get down to work, but what work?
It wasn't all necessarily me. The job, in other words. A poor choice in a profession.
After which, you want to hide out. Meditate. Privacy. A sense of shame.
It hurts, not having a social life, waiting on people. What they say about waiters is that they are not living their own lives, as if they weren't trying. And this may be true, in many ways.
And Christmas time, when you think you'd grow closer to meaning, accepting the job, more meaningless, more an absolute waste it appears to be.
writing, the dirty sport...
It's late, it's raining, it's the end of a Sunday night, and one heads to the Safeway, for protein and supplies. Epsom salts, mozzarella of different kinds at a good price. 1 AM, busy at work from the start, set up what one could. In the aisles, brightly lit.
Through checkout, the gentleman at lane seven counter, put your selections on the conveyer belt, put in your phone number, he scans the bar codes, then back out into the rain, just above a mist barely, enough to make you wet. A DC Police small SUV up ahead, an officer with someone, backing the guy under the awning of a men's clothing shop good value chain store. And the guy has been beaten up, in a way one has not seen, this is not movie make-up, black eye, scratched, bruised, bloody, puffy, there, seen in a quick glance. The guy stands there, oh well, just another day. He's homeless, looks like, once decently bred, and now out in the night, beaten up, standing there, now oblivious to his own fate. Brutal scabbed wounds, and he's just standing there, as it shrug, that's life. His clothes, his cooperation with the police officer.
One gets the groceries back to the shop. Prepares for the final leg back to the apartment.
That scene from Last Tango, Brando, in the news. Even as a kid, even thirty years old and a kid still in a lot of ways, there was that deep gut reaction, this is fucked up. The gut, this is very wrong, look at her reaction. Very wrong, very weird, very unhappy, very sad. Even a dumb kid, never seen it before, not coached in anyway, if anything coached to see the film as a work of art all the way up the end, a lesson, Brando character dying, shot, going out onto the balcony to look at the rooftops of Paris. Endured to the end, but that scene staying with you.
And if you came up with that, saw that, a rape in film, then maybe the rest of your reactions weren't so bad. And that girl you met, when you were young, the one you think about, and all your mistakes
therein, well, maybe it was the same good kid, sensitive to such things, like I suppose wild animals are, hurt by slights, charmed by friendship and smile and play, but it hurts, still it hurts, all your reactions...
But all I've done in adult life, seems to have been a great mistake, following upon the ones made in college, the bad track record with a person of opposite sex of mutual like and esteem, the mistakes of misreading, of missing, of being stupid... Very very very stupid.
From tomfoolery they build and they branch into new mistakes, opportunities already gone, fading away, until you have no life, really. A Hamlet Buddha, a guy in a restaurant.
Kabir's poem speaks to the deeper reality.