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Photograph by Mike Murray

Corkscrew


Mike Murray
Flash

The Pacific casts fairy dust effervescence over the entire City. 

Sometimes, things just happen. You stop for a Martini at the Aub Zam Zam. A tall blonde with cat eyes sits next to you, her lips are red. Logic does not explain the why of this, but your idle chit-chat with the woman becomes a conversation. After a while, she places her drink on the glistening bar. She says, “Wanna see a first edition, Post Office?”

“Bukowski?”

“Yup.” Her smile reveals canine teeth, feral, gleaming. 

You reply, “Ya’huh I want.” Arm in arm you cross the Panhandle. Talk dive bars and  robot cars and how money is ruining and will always ruin the City. In spite of her cat, her place is cozy; the turret window, found furniture, modern art, bark orchids tacked about. She produces an actual cat-pissed first edition Bukowski. Make-out in the tiny kitchen smushed against the shopworn orange Formica counter. On the walk home, fog diamonds the lenses of your glasses. It’s the after-the-bars-close urban witching hour where traffic signals flash red and glistening streets harken Dashiell Hammett noir. You grin all the way home.

Things continue. Crazed sex in the turret window. You’re invited to stay overnight,  and to your relief, wake to good coffee. She doesn’t mention that you might snore. A month in, she spirits you to a secluded bungalow along the Humbolt coast where among the Redwoods you screw like crazed forest creatures. Your inconsistent culinary experiments do not raise her ire nor the thematic similarity between your apartment and the Hells Angels clubhouse over in Dogpatch. 

The sex is glorious. You daydream on the dirty little things you will try next. Over time, earrings, bangles, multicolored hair-ties and thought-provoking lingerie accumulate in your apartment. 

Then.

 You say or do or forget, something; the toilet seat, a haphazard eye-drift, missed holiday or birthday, an unreturned call, football, razor stubble, snoring, the toilet seat–again. It’s all so random. You think she’s joking. Big mistake. The mugging she lays on you is like an ill-intentioned Shiva, so many arms, so many bludgeons. Though rote, you’re still screwing. She alludes to fun possibilities in the Hells Angels clubhouse in Dogpatch. You weigh this statement. She departs with an eye-roll and a door slam brutal enough to kick start a straight-pipe Harley-Davidson. 

Change tack. 

Balance. Clear the mind. Meditate on the long odds of anticipating and understanding the ethereal nature of her displeasure. Against those odds, disprove her negative. Then laugh at the frayed tightrope on which you teeter. Understand–even small indecision has mass. The rope breaks. Though the fall is bad, it’s the landing that fucks you up. Out of the blue, her schedule changes. Now she’s regularly working late with Dick. Dick is married but he’s, you know, such a nice guy. When you say Dick, she gets dreamy. Evaluate. Retreat to the Tower of Manly Regret and consider your penchant for recidivism. As summer turns to autumn it’s non-stop Dick. 

Rubicon, crossed. She ghosts you. 

In mute protest, stop shaving. Why bother grooming winter’s solitude? Dark months wane, your mood; in the toilet. You’re mistaken for sasquatch’s hairy cousin. Springtime means unwelcome beard-itch. In multitudinous conversations with yourself, never once do you question your sanity. You befriend a sympathetic barber who charges by the pound. At least you’ve made a friend.

Summer. The landing.

Clean shaven though heart-sore, lug every dog-eared copy of Bukowski you own up Haight Street. A chastised huckster, you’ve scrawled FREE in unsteady hand across the top of the sagging box. Dropping the box in front of Aub Zam Zam is the sickening dull thud of a wino’s head hitting the sidewalk. You openly weep. Your tears and the shit of life merge and flow to the sea.

Later.

Java Beach Café and a small table against the wall. Black coffee, A Brief History of Time, open to, ‘Uncertainty Principal,’ corkscrews your brain.  A woman, brunette, petite, high cheekbones, red, red lips, kind of scattered, smiling dimples interrupts your public solitude asking if she might share the table. You nod, she insists on exchanging pleasantries, you’re polite though yearn to mope. When she extracts, Notes of a Dirty Old Man from the shopworn backpack, you recoil. She smiles Satan-like, cocks her head then finger combs her thick hair, “Familiar with Bukowski?” 

“Yeah…” 

“Check it out.” She passes you the book. Your voice sounds vaguely familiar as if the speaker isn’t really you but some, perhaps, better, version of you. She smiles with the reassurance of distant church bells. Somehow you find a common sine and flow like waves to shore. Casually, over more coffee, you dissect the wretched entirety of human experience with this person in this City on the edge of the edge of the world. Under a passionless fog, gulls screech overhead.  Beyond the dunes the endless Pacific, incubator of uncounted sea-serpents and timeless mystery, churns and worries relentless against this tenuous spit of land that may at any moment, drop into the sea, but for now, everything is fine.