Read part one, if you haven't already.
Three hours later, I’m three sheets to the wind, camped out in the bar booth, which even now that I’m familiar with it, is as eerie as a swamp from an old horror movie. Since it remains that type of setting and I have made it my home, then I am the creature from the dismal swamp. Truth be known, I’m hoping Charles will come in. He’s been scarce since I told him to fuck off, which is typical. He takes things so personally, asshole that he is, ghost of an asshole that he is.
Night is thinking about taking this ludicrous whore of a town to bed. I can hardly wait. Because with both of them distracted by each other, I might try to sneak home unspotted. To while away the last light, I signal to Enright—that’s the barkeep—for another. Since there are only two other people in the joint, cocooned in a beery discussion that might be political, he sees me right away and comes by with a whiskey sour in only about a half hour.
“Much obliged, Enright.” No reply.
I knock back the drink in three domino slugs, and at last my equilibrium topples. I’m going to be sick. I lay down on the forsaken leatherette and gaze at the churning, catacomb beneath the table. I close my eyes, but it’s worse. I open them and tell myself that I’m not going to be sick. If Charles would chime in, it would make a nice, startling rasp to draw my attention. He’d tell me that puke or no puke doesn’t matter. The scum and filth are inside me, and inside everyone, and there’s no getting apart from it. If the vomit isn’t on the floor, it’s in my belly and my esophagus, making me sick from within. You could call Charles an anti-transcendental, the philosopher of the lowest muck you can find, like that on the bottom of the table. I go ahead and vomit with surprising stealth. I think the noise I make is no louder than a deep sigh. The substance I release feels instantly at home where it lands, and I don’t think the stench will travel quickly through this air. Now that the nausea has passed, I’m sure I can beat it.
I sit up and suffer a headrush that’s no worse that my inebriation. I teeter through both of these to where Enright stands, staring out at the new night. I’m sure three twenties will more than cover the drinks with a tip so generous as to be sarcastic. I toss them overthree and keep moving toward the door, exiting on my monologue:
“Nighty night, Enright, gentlemen. This is a great place. I hope to come back soon. Where the hell am I?”
This punch line hits two steps into the sidewalk. I can see right away that I should not expect a great deal of hansom traffic in this neighborhood. With a faint sense of downtown, I begin to walk, taking deep breaths, trying not to think. There is a beautiful rim of purple light on the western horizon, peeking around the low buildings and trees. It’s heartbreaking in its color and in the way it radiates peace as it leaves..
“That’s the color of a peaceful death.”
I stop walking, not sure who spoke. It might have been Charles, but he’s not here. There is a black man not far from me, leaning against a brick wall, looking at the light. I look at him, but he makes no indication that he said or heard anything. Maybe it was me, but my mouth is closed and my tongue is in that kind of sleep where even if a fire alarm went off my muscles would only twitch. I turn in place. I should ask the man for directions, but I don’t. I resume walking toward the light while Miami and her night collide.
I have both dumb luck and a mind for maps. Combined with the sun-faded partial diagrams posted at a series of bus stops, these bring me to a thoroughfare where there are taxis. A few blocks away there’s a movie theater, and I go there. It’s big, 20 screens or more, and so bright, that my eyes ache. Squinting into the box office, I order a ticket for the next movie that’s starting.
“Spy Kids 4?” asks the cashier.
“Yeah. I’ve been waiting months to see it.”
Inside the theater, the light drives drills into my skull, but the trappings of familiar entertainment, familiar from coast to coast, are so comforting that I actually stop at concessions and stand fourth in line to buy a big bag of popcorn and a 7-Up. 7-Up is what I always drank when I was a kid with the flu.
In the theater, it’s dark for a moment before the film starts and all I see in that space are Amy’s eyes. I see her. She’s hurt. But then the previews start, and the sound swallows me, and I eat popcorn and drink 7-Up and fall into a trance that turns into sound sleep before the film begins its unfunny comedy about nothing.
I wake when the lights come up. I leave with the crowd, go the can, and close myself into a stall. I feel nauseous again, so I put down an ass-gasket, drop trou and sit. After about ten minutes, I nearly fall asleep again, but roust myself, go to the sink, deluge my face in cold water. Then I wash my hair in great splashes from the sink. I wash my face again, and my neck, then move dripping to the towel dispenser while boys and their dads skirt around me for their business. Men typically give one another breadth when they do their bathroom, and that’s a mercy.
With paper towels, I dry off more or less, then go back to the same theater. There’s a young usher looking at me who clearly wants to say something about my double-dipping. We exchange a conversation with our eyes.
I tell him not to worry about it.
He tells me he needs to enforce cinema rules, but he’s not trying be a dick about it.
I tell him I’m harmless, by which I mean to leave me alone and go find the teenagers who are doubtless causing trouble somewhere in this entertainment megalopolis.
But he takes the meaning of my confession to harmlessness as an invitation to confront me so he can feel good about earning his minimal if not minimum wage without risking anything too serious.
With a last visual cue, I let him know that we’ve already made our peace.
“Can I see your ticket?”
“Sure. This is my movie. I just came late to the last show and just want to see how it starts.”
He looks at the ticket. “Okay, go on in.”
“We could have avoided all that.”
I go into the theater, take my same seat, and doze off again before the previews start. The last image I see is Amy, whom I love. Who is somewhere in Miami stung by the first and hopefully last jilting of her life.
God, I don’t know why I did that.
God, I don’t know why I did that.