© 2016 City of Broken Dreams
That was then.
This is now:
come crawl home—it’s 3 a.m.
When I enter through the front door, the only thing I can smell is the stench of my own filth: bourbon fumes rising from my pores, evaporating off my skin; cigarette and cigar smoke suffused into my clothing; the faint scent of some random whore’s pussy clinging to the flesh of my thigh.
Honey, I’m home!
But there are no more ghosts to greet me. Not anymore. Not in these post-exorcism days, anyway. I’m not sure how long it’s been, but enough time has passed that even my ghosts have abandoned me; even the haunters have grown tired of haunting.
I scatter the contents of my pockets across the dark espresso finish of the dining room table: out spills my wallet, some loose change, my phone, a lighter, a panoply of loose pills (dig all them pretty colors, man)—some legally obtained, most not. O Lord, unburden me from the weight of this unholy night!
Shimmy, shuck, and jive myself free of my anxiety-imbued, sweat-drenched clothes. Shake free from the fabric of my sins like the serpent sheds its reptilian skin. Notice the dried blooms of crimson that have mysteriously flowered on the cuffs of my shirt sleeves. Baby, it can only be blood—but if not my own, then whose? Out, damned spot! Out, I
And down down down I go. Down for the count. Down into the ring of fire—where the flames do indeed grow higher. Where it really does burn burn burn—just like I used to burn for you.
The world spins. My teeth have gone fucking numb. I can’t bloody breathe—because I’m drowning in my own goddamn living room! I need air. I swim/slither/squirm to the outside world—the balcony beckons, the dark night is calling my name.
My head breaks the surface of the cold oceanic abyss. I breathe. Scorched lungs fill with frigid nighttime air—feels so good, feels so right. Grab a hold of the rusty balcony railing; steady myself so I don’t fall—
Fall like my neighbor Krystal did—five years ago, when she took a drunken suicide-dive down from three floors up. I didn’t see her jump, but I saw the paramedics wheel her body away. The ambulance didn’t peel out muy rápido; the ambulance didn’t pull away with lights flashing or sirens screaming. Because the dead don’t need to rush, you see.
Even though I saw her corporeal form take its last exit, Krystal didn’t really leave me. I used to be the most haunted man in the City of Broken Dreams, remember? The ghosts—they used to be drawn to me, just like I was drawn to them. Like moths to a mutual flame. Like drowned flies in the same jar of honey. Like a pair of filthy junkies itching for the same dirty spike.
Krystal—I would still see her from time to time; on late nights, just like this. She used to haunt the common area back lawn. Her ghost would just stand there, in the exact same spot where her neck snapped like a frail, brittle twig when she came crashing down to the ground. She would stare up at me, half-lit by the florescent light spilling out from the back entrance window. She never moved, she never spoke; speechless and motionless, she would just gaze at me from below, an impassive look upon her gaunt, ghostly face.
I don’t know why Krystal haunted me—I barely even knew her. Maybe I was supposed to save her that night. And I didn’t. Poor Krystal—only if she had known that I’m barely capable of saving myself.
Krystal is gone now. As are all my ghosts. The night is bereft of all the specters of the night—both literal and symbolic. Where did they all go? I think they all finally gave up on haunting me, and just fucked off into the night. Probably because I gave up on being haunted by them. There is no benefit in being haunted. I know that now; so I guess I’m not some kind of complete fucking idiot, after all.
No more ghosts. Just the empty intersection at Sparkwood and 21, the cover of night, the echo of Howlin’ Wolf’s voice booming from the metaphysical jukebox (a 1952 Seeburg M100C) that sits at the center of my madness.
[Well, somebody knocking on my door
Well, somebody knocking on my door
Well, I’m so worried, don’t know where to go]
No more push/pull from the gravitational force of memory’s cruel embrace. I have finally let go of the great void of nothingness that I once held onto so tightly. I have anesthetized, damaged, and destroyed the part of my psyche that is integral to the process of resurrecting the dead. Obliterate to emancipate—my final sacrament, my last act of contrition as a once haunted man.
Gone baby, gone; you’ve finally set me free, baby. I shall be released back into the dark and empty streets of my solitary fever dreams, once more. Where I used to walk, where I used to roam; where I was the ghost, and not the haunted; where I somnambulistically shambled through a lifetime of never being certain if I was asleep or awake. The repetition and loneliness will kill me, of course, but the loneliness is just loneliness—not longing, not obsession, not compulsion.
So tired now. And so now it’s my turn to fall—not three stories down to the killing floor (like Krystal did), but to bed. But not before forcing down a glass of water to help mother’s little helper
Now I just need to wait. I need to sit tight; to try and not let the world spin out of control. I need to tamp down the urge to purge, to spew. I just need to hold on for ten minutes more. Just ten more minutes is all I fucking need.
[Well, somebody calling me, calling on my telephone
Well, somebody calling me, over my telephone
Well, keep on calling, tell them I’m not at home]
There. Feel it now—feel that benzo free fall and—
Down the rabbit hole. Down into a black hole. Down onto the softest bed in the whole wide world. My bed. My big empty bed. Sans ghosts. Sans shadows. Sans cold leftover memories. But fuck me, I’m falling. Falling too fast, falling too far. So keep one foot on the ground to maintain my equilibrium, to stop the bed from spinning round and round and round. One foot on the ground while I cling to the edge of the mattress as if I were clinging to a life raft, lost and floating in a cold, black sea.
[Well, don’t not worry, Daddy has gone to bed]
The Black Sea of Night.
Floating atop the murky waters of pre-unconsciousness: not quite slumberland but most definitely not the land of the waking, either. There are no dreams here, but reality has also faded and slipped away—deep down into the cracks of the early morning dark. This is where and when the night gets to play the trickster; gets to play funny little games with the brain, jerking on the strings of an almost-sleeping body like a puppet-master pulling on the strings of his marionette. O unholy night, I’ll do funny things if you want me to—I’m your puppet.
Lying prone on the edge of the mattress, even though all those years gone by since the impulse of unrequited romance compelled me to do so. The reenactment of memory—a melancholy, ghostly anachronism brought on by booze, drugs, and muddled muscle memory; it’s just the night up to its old tricks again. As is the altogether subconscious and subtle movement of my arm slowly inching over to the other side of the bed: a tentative, exploratory reaching of the hand for the long ago, almost-forgotten past.
For something that is no longer there—that hasn’t been there for a very long time, that may have never been there to begin with: A handful of thick, silken hair; the hair color undefined, constantly shifting like a kaleidoscopic chameleon, unseen in the dark of the room:blonde… crimson… raven black. The slender sleeping shoulder of a body that doesn’t cringe from my touch, but instead, cleaves even closer to it. The delicate lub-dub of a dormant heartbeat thrumming through flesh and bone, its gentle vibration eager to be felt against the palm of my open hand. The velvet touch of a cleanly shaven mons pubis, equally formulated and fabricated to toy with as it is to be toyed with.
I toss. I turn. I reach. I grasp. But my fingers can’t seem to grab a hold of anything; the content of the delirium desire is an evasive and fickle beast. Just before my fingertips are allowed to brush up against something warm, something familiar, the mass of particles that comprise the notion of the ghost is violently pulled away—back into the inky depths of denial and regret, back into the oblivion of never-was. And so my fingers, my hand, my entire arm, plunges deeper into the cold, dark waters of the Black Sea of Night, instead.
And just like some desperate and degenerate addict of the most despicable kind, I show no hesitation in recklessly diving straight into the lowly depths of the liquid black that has begun to pool at the center of my bed; chasing after the tail of my neurochemical white rabbit, following the trail of my thrill me/kill me fix.
I know they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. But you would think by now that most people would know that it’s just a load of bullshit—a lie we tell ourselves to somehow make it easier to swallow the poison milk of loss and grief. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes it grow darker. And mine’s getting too fucking dark, way too dark to see. In fact, it’s gotten so damn dark that I’ve completely lost track of where my heart ends, and where the goddamn night begins.
“Ring of Fire” (1963), Written by June Carter & Merle Kilgore, Performed by Johnny Cash.
“Moanin’ In the Moonlight” (1959), Written by Chester Burnett (A.K.A Howlin’ Wolf), Performed by Howlin’ Wolf.
“I’m Your Puppet” (1966), Written by Penn & Greene, Performed by James & Bobby Purify.