Used to be a wise man, but that woman she made me a chump

I wake to cold tiles and the taste of stale bile. I’m slumped against a white door, and my phone won’t stop ringing. I recognize this bathroom. I live here. Good. That’s a good sign.

There’s blood on my ripped jeans and I’m not wearing a shirt. Hmm.

My phone keeps on chirping, eternally enthusiastic. Fucking thing.

Jesus christ it’s bright in here.

I think today is my birthday.

Chirp chirp chirp goes the phone.

“Hello?” I whisper, head hung between my knees.
“HAPPYBIRTHDAYTREVOR!!”

I knew it.

“Hi Maryam. What time is it?”
“It’s one! Happy birthday! Are you so so excited?”
“So so excited.”
“How old are you now?”
“Forty-three.”
“Haha. You look pretty good for your age. How do you pull it off?”

She might think differently if she could see the pale, shivering wretch curled up on the bathroom floor. I hold the phone away and dry heave once, painfully.

I pick up the phone again. Expectant silence.

“Clean living, sweetheart. Clean living.”

I hang up and slip back into unconsciousness.

———–

Twenty-six years old today. How the hell did that happen? Snuck right the fuck up on me. Blindsided me.

I never had a chance.

I know thirty waits just on the other side of this door, slavering, licking its sick, yellow fangs. I can hear it pacing, growling and snorting around in the hallway outside the bathroom. Greedy, starving, cloven-hoofed thirty.

Right the fuck there. Just outside.

God help me.

————

I wake again, this time in bed, tangled and trapped in the sheets. I check the back of my head to see if there’s a hatchet lodged in my skull, perhaps an icepick. Nope.

Guess it just feels that way.

I look out the window. Another bright, cloudless February day in SF. Sixty-five and no wind.

What a nightmare.

I dress and trudge to the front room, a mug of water in my trembling hands. I look like a concentration camp survivor, victim of some horrific Nazi tequila experiment.

“Good afternoon, sunshine.” Ellie says.
I mumble incoherently and slump into a chair. I sit in silence, willing myself slowly back to life. I take sips of water, despite my protesting stomach.

Time passes. Ellie clicks away on her laptop. Blurry, opaque visions of last night swirl in my head. I clear my throat and sit up a bit. I’m a disaster.

“What a fucking night. Today is my birthday, you know.”
“I know.”
“Did we make it to Skylark?”
How many times have I asked that question in my life? Too many. Fuckin’ Skylark.

“Yep. No one else did though, except that Russian girl and that other guy. The one with the beard. The rest of them quit at The Lexington.”
“Hmm.”
“Do you remember walking home?”
“We WALKED home?”
“Do you remember them filming the Harvey Milk movie on Market?” Vacant stare. “With all the candles?”

Vague, frightening half-memories float to the surface.
“Ooooooh shit I do… that… yeah, kinda.”
“Yeah, weird night.” She says.
“You’ll have to tell me all about it some time.”
I sip my water.

—————-

We crossed onto Market at Valencia at about 2:30 in the morning. I was still trying, pathetically, to catch a cab, waving psychotically at any pair of headlights I saw. Ellie walked a few steps ahead, the picture of sobriety and composure. Huge detour signs were propped up against semi trucks. We followed the yellow line, wandering down the empty street.

I remember generators, and police motorcycles, and flashing orange lights. Quiet groups of people huddled near chemical toilets. It was eerie as a bastard.

“What the shit is all this about?” I asked, raising my hands and addressing the empty street.
“Look up there.” Ellie pointed east. Hundreds upon hundreds of silent, shuffling figures wandered down Market ahead of us, each holding a tiny, flickering candle.
“Crap! It’s some kind of… thing…”
We got closer.
“This is really surreal.” She said.
I squinted into the night, shading my eyes from a non-existent sun and watching the crowd.
“Are they… they’re all in bell bottoms and shit… OH GOD!” I shouted, throwing up my hands in boozed-out, shrieking despair. My voice echoed.
“What’s wrong?” She asked.
“LOOK AT THEM ELLIE! THE PEOPLE!” I pointed, with both hands. For effect. “Look at their clothes! It’s finally fucking happened man. We fucking fell through a hole in the space-time continuum, or something.” I slumped down on the asphalt, near to tears. “I seen this shit, man. On the TV. Fucking happens man. All the time.”
“Trevor, what are you talking about?”
“DO YOU SEE their shit man? Look at these road signs, these billboards! It’s the seventies! We fucking fell backwards in time! FUCK man.”
“Calm down Trevor. Please.”
“Fucking bullshit, man. Fucking seventies! IT’S MY BIRTHDAY THIS IS NOT FAIR.”

A tight-jeaned, leather-vested passerby ran over towards us, blocking our path. He had a small coiled wire hanging from his ear, Secret Service style.

“Oh shit.” I said, getting back to my feet.
“You guys don’t belong here. You can’t go this way.”
“What’s going on?” Ellie asked.
“You guys aren’t dressed right.” The guy said. “You need
“EXCUSE ME.” I interrupted. “Listen man this is going to sound crazy, but she and I, we’re from the future. I know, I know, man, but it’s true!”
“You guys don’t have the right clothes, you have to go back.”
“We’ll just” Ellie started to say. I interrupted.
“I KNOW MAN! This is how they dress in the future! Believe me, we just want to get back, man. We can’t live here with all you coked out disco freaks. I just want to go home man.”
“You guys just go up around the block.” The guy said, glaring angrily, hands on his hips.
“Ok.” Ellie said, dragging me off by my sleeve.
“It’s my birthday.” I explained to no one in particular. “I’m too wasted to deal with this weirdness.”

We stumbled off into the night, stopping to rest on the stone steps of City Hall.

—————

There’s a lot riding on twenty-six. Think of all the greats that have died at 27.

Hendrix. Cobain. Joplin. Morrison.

Fucking Robert Johnson.

Guess I better get busy being awesome. Time is desperately short.

Die young or live forever, right? Anything else seems like such a cop-out.

-T.

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