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Monday, February 16, 2009

You Are An Old Man

Mink Smithsonian

You Are An Old Man

You're old, & you're eyes are glassy. They're weathered and preoccupied. You have a wife - had. You had a wife. There were kids, too. One's dead and the other's an ingrate bastard. A real bastard, you like to say. A real one- you never married his mother. That bitch. Your son. Henpecked shithead, too pussy-whipped to ever the bring the grandkids with him- your grandkids- or act like the man you raised him to be. Your son, the coward. Your caretaker. He bought you a rascal two years ago for your birthday, used, & you don't use it unless you have to which isn't often. And godamnit ain't no one gonna make you use the damn thing, either. You have a walker, and a cane. There are no tennis balls on your walker, & you only use it for getting around the house and even then only since your surgeries. You like to take walks, snow on the sidewalk or not. You laugh at all the dog shit in your neighborhood. When the snow begins to melt, is when there's the most of it. Trash, too. You chuckle & stagger along, wondering how many different dogs it took. You shuffle around the block thinking of the people that threw their trash on the ground.
You keep your pill bottles in the kitchen, & taking them each morning gives you something to do. Generally, you take as much time to complete this regimen as possible. You remember the times you sat in train stations for hours on end with nothing to do but stay awake. Had to or the cops would kick you out into the cold. You'd do this by doing only a few things, slowly. Walk to the bathroom, walk back. Sit. Walk to the water fountain, then back. Sit. The window; sit. This time, you don't bother remembering where you were headed so early in the morning, or even the names of the person or persons you were going to see. That train has left the station, as they say. And anyway, you're just trying to remember how to extend things.
You shower daily- you have always really enjoyed taking showers, even since you were a kid, even since you've been an adult. Now you sit naked in a white plastic lawn chair when you shower, & let the water cascade down your shoulders chest, your stomach. You let it land softly in your lap, & run down your legs or pool up in the sagging seat of the plastic chair. You do not always have the courage to get your hair wet.
You're an old man, & the scars from your youth have all been absorbed- lost in your wrinkled skin. But not the scars from all the goddamned surgeries you've had on you these past few years! You're building up quite the collection of those! Damn doctors. You remember the saying, "taken to the cleaners," that your health problems make up "quite the laundry list." You laugh, but then stop, because the joke is corny & you didn't even really make one, anyway. Just thought some things. Like you always said: bad luck, & poor execution. You, & your surgeries. You laugh, but feel it in your eyes this time. Ah, fucking procedures. The last one took out part of your colon, and now the cancer's back, in your esophagus this time. You aren't going to see those damn doctors anymore. You heard somewhere that if you live long enough, you get cancer. Kind of like nature's population control. Screw the doctors.
Early in the afternoon you like to take a nap in your bedroom. Sunlight spreads out across the room- the walls, your bed- and you nap, or else lay there, awake. Then you get out of bed, and sit in the other room, the room with the windows. Out your windows are rooftops & treetops. There are also powerlines, exciting, anonymous powerlines, connecting the whole world. Your storm windows are new, relatively new, new as of a few years back, and they keep the house very quiet. The sound of planes always gets through, though, thank god. You think about the people on these planes, wonder if any of them are people you've known. You're reminded of people you never knew by all the strangers overhead. Ah hell, make it this far, everything reminds you of someone. The punchline is you never can tell how much these memories are true to the people you spent the time with. It's a pretty good game, you think, seeing how many different versions of a single person it turns out you knew. Maybe they were sick, or drunk, or didn't pay attention, or else were more important than you remember, more than passing faces. Just keep remembering until you like the person, is generally the rule you play with.
And your daughter, your dead, dead daughter. No one or no thing is coming to get you because you played your cards wrong & you lost. Big deal. Hey, that's a good one! Things aren't so bad-- you might have a cat. Instead you have these things in your home, their solitude, all these damn dusty things. They're someone else's- they must be. Confusing but familiar. Like traveling when you were a kid. Maybe you didn't know the whole city, but you knew where you were standing. You knew North, South, & where you were staying, too. Knew where you'd been, and that's about it. You'd have fun trying to figure these places, or else not worrying about it one bit; glad to be standing somewhere. Well that was then. Dumb fun for a dumb kid, but it beats setting down wondering how the hell you came to have a porcelain black jesus with a broken nose, and three kings come up to his ankles over there on that end table. Who bought you that, anyway? How'd all this crap get here? You wonder what-the-fuck's going on around here.
You try to place these things, try making one thing lead to another, but suddenly you're having a rough go of it. You wrestle with the memories now all around you. You know they're yours, you know they belong somewhere. Things aren't adding up, and holy crap is this what it finally feels like to actually be lost? Ha! Wait, when did you get out of the shower? You did shower...? Hold on, weren't you just in bed? Right, yes, wait, well when was that? Goddamnit, how long have you been sitting here? Couldn't be that long- sun's only just dropped off. When did-- it must just be, you- ah hell. You're confused, you accept this. You're very confused.
Yeah, well, certainty is for fools & liars anyway, right? haHA! You try to comfort yourself with this. You set your eyes West, out through the window, from your chair. Somehow, your body is trembling, but your keep eyes steady. Out the window, certain in their intention. Your eyes are glassy, and weathered, sure, but they're steady, goddamnit- unwavering. You're fighting the shaking in your body now. You almost didn't notice. It's everywhere; your whole body shaking & awake, you're in it, you're fighting it. For what? You let go. You remember dog shit in the snow, and laugh.

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