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Jun 2014
'There wasn't a beer in the house. The wind pushed the branches and the leaves of the trees outside like bullies does its prey. There wasn't a single beer in the house while the moon hung in the night sky like a thick toe nail. The stars were splatters of milk on an endless blackened canvas. I looked at my watch. It read 1AM. I had an hour.
My dog Wino laid next to me on her side. She was a miniature french bull dog who took pleasure in sleeping, eating, and occasionally drinking wine mixed with cocoa cola and water. The perfect dog if one had a small attention span and could keep them fed, petted, and fit. The coke and water trick had not come into fruition by my mind, but from my friend, Penny. He drank at a place called The Lounge, a dive of dives meant for locals and young kids with old souls. Luckily we were still young and somehow blessed with the formalities and general manners opposite of a drunken frat boys bent solely on intoxicating themselves on red bull and jager shots mixed with an aperitif of bud light.
The Lounge was four blocks toward downtown from where I lived. It was the kind of place that served microwaved hot dogs until closing if you're wondering what I meant about dive of dives. Penny was there, dead drunk or pain-stakingly sober, depending on how much money he had. I don't know why I thought of him at that moment, most likely trying to figure who else to drink with other than myself, but right when I thought of him, I knew it was already a lost cause. It was 1:05. The hour was too late to reconvene with anyone. I knew I'd have to go alone.
*******, there's got to be something, I thought, this God forsaken house is empty? A beer? A shot? Anything? Nothing! How can it be? My good for nothing roommates must have drank it all...or maybe it was me? Maybe I'm to blame? No...that couldn't be right. I would have remembered? But why so sure? I could have easily forgot from all the beer I was drinking before...people make mistakes...happens all the time. Jesus, I told myself, get yourself together and start thinking straight.
I felt like a handicapped, bloodthirsty hyena. Pensive, I looked down at Wino. She was dead asleep with her tongue oozing out between her lips. The stench of wine coke hung around her. She would be no help at all.
I got up from the kitchen table and looked in the refrigerator. Hungry gripped me as well. Getting attacked on the front of drink and food was not an enjoyable place to be. Moves would have to be made...but where? When? Well, before 2AM of course and where, well, that would take some thought. As I scrounged around in the deep crevices of the refrigerator, pushing aside moldy mashed potatoes and old plastic tins of Chinese food, furry oranges and near empty bottle of ketchup, dark soups with mysterious things swimming around inside and a very large bowl of what looked to be sugar, but was actually Arm and Hammer. We would eventually get a dating and signature system to avoid all of these unwanted science experiments, but that's another story.
There was nothing of nourishment in the fridge so I closed it, discouraged, weighing my options. There was a liquor store on Geary, the main drag in the inner richmond, my neighborhood. But it was a Wednesday and they were most likely closed. Why would they stay open late on a weekday? For people like me? Not a chance. I stepped into the laundry room and looked out the window. The sky was clear and the moonlight and the stars were white florescent shining down on the tops of the leaves hanging from the branches of the trees like a prisoner dead on the gallows. The roofs of the apartments across my ours were painted with this same cream white. I could smell the salt of the ocean from sporadic gusts of a sharp wind. In the distance, an ocean tanker heading into the city or out to sea blared their fog horn. It sounded like a whale in heat. There was a party going on in an apartment across the way. I saw people with glasses in their hands and listened to their chatter and their laughter. I knew they would have *****. I also wondered who throws a party on a wednesday night in the middle of June in San Francisco's winter of all the times. The fog had been rolling in hard the last few days and that night was no different. I was in a thick sweater, pants, and knee high socks and my teeth were still chattering. No use staring over plaintively at their apartment, I thought, I probably look like some kind of shadowy, drunk apparition. Better go inside before they call the cops on me...
Inside, I ran the faucet with hot water into a bowl. When it was almost full, I stopped the water and submerged my hands. That sting that happens when extreme cold goes to extreme hot began. My entire body started to tingle, go numb, especially my hands. The reason for this action I never fully understood for I really wasn't that cold, but the image of a hot water filling a bowl just popped into my head and I gave it no thought, only action. If anyone had walked in at that moment, I'm sure they would have thought me drunk and craze and, well, maybe I was? I was no longer sure. The only thing I did know that needed to happen was to get down the stairs, out the door, down the street, and to the 8th and Geary where my liquor store hopefully, was open.
My phone read 1:21 PM. I'd be cutting it close. Luckily, I had cash, so they wouldn't have to be bothered with a debit card transaction. I recalled trying to use a debit card there once and they were convinced it was OK to charge me $5 for a purchase under $10. Most places would charge you 50 cents, a dollar at most, but these hustling swindlers were trying to push $5! I wouldn't have it. I walked outta' there quick and knew the next time I ever was forced (I usually bought alcohol at grocery stores where their inconvenience offered more deals) to step foot into a liquor specific store, I would have cash in hand, poised in the ready position.
There was a problem with my departure though: I couldn't find my shoes. I thought back to when I got home from work, beers in my backpack as well as a pint of whiskey in the secret zipper department. My shoes were on at that point, I was sure of it. When I had arrived say around 3:30 - 4 o'clock in the afternoon, no one was home. They were still all at work and in no way taken my shoes by accident. This had never happened, so I was curious why I thought that that specific day, when I would later need my shoes so desperately, somebody would have mistakingly took them to thwart whatever plans I may or may not make to go out. In truth, I couldn't see any of my roommates devising such a plan, at least on a week day, even more so a wednesday. But where were they? Had they slipped under the couch? I checked, but was only to discover a few quarters, which I pocketed for pool and juke box use in the future, various types of potato and tortilla chips, a hat, *****, lint covered socks, and a remote control to the TV which I had been searching since the week I had moved in a year ago. No shoes though. Where could they be?
I lightly ran downstairs to check the shoe rack that no one ever used. The middle of our door is a rectangular piece of glass, so one could see right through and down to the street. The stale light of of a single street lamp beamed an orange streak across the pavement. Besides that, the block was black. There was a car parked in the space in front of our steps. No one was inside, at least it didn't look like there was. It was very dark. I could have been mistaken. The car sat underneath a large tree with heavy, thick branches that blocked any light that may have been coming from the lamp or the stars, so very possibly there could have been a mysterious person, thing, entity, what have you in vicious wait. But, I asked myself, waiting for what? For me? Why for me?. All I'm looking for is a six pack and another flask. What would this thing in that car even want with me except twelve bucks? I stared out the window, thinking these things until I remembered why the hell I was there in the first place. The shoe rack was filled with old bills, coupon brochures, voting ballots, and neon pink Chinese menus. I rummaged around this heap, with no sign of my shoes. Well, I thought, there's only one more place these ******'s could be.
My desk, which holds most of my books, looks out onto the street. It holds stacks of papers in deep drawers that should be thrown away but are kept due to the fear of tossing something potentially important, condoms, pens, checkbooks, candies, film canisters, notes from friends, headphones, cards, hair gels and deodorants, and really anything I don't want on my desk. Occasionally, there will be a left over dinner or breakfast plates lingering around the edge of the desk, flirting with its own demise and even more so if I have left the window open, which isΒ Β half a foot away. If not plates then bills that have yet to be paid or notes on old papers, probably old bills, that I never got around to flushing out or did and just never got rid of. A large oak desk, it sits and feels a little small for my size, but, I make it work, for it was a gift. I try to use whatever I receive for free to the utmost until the discomfort is either too much or I come across something better that I can afford, which is rare. But, there they were, pushed up against the wall that faced the street. My chair was jammed all the way up into the desk as well , so much so that it was tipped slightly upward, like someone had been trying to throw the thing out the window. I didn't remember doing this at all which made me think perhaps it wasn't me, maybe someone else had been in here...but who? Why would anyone trespass on such a simple, lowly place with no real worth or chance of treasure? It just couldn't be, so I threw the thought into the wind and got my shoes on. I checked my phone again. It read 1:37. That gave me 23 minutes.
I stumbled down the stairs, out the door, and down the stairs. A car drove by me as I walked down the street toward Geary. Their headlights were off. I turned to see the driver of the car as they passed me, but they were mere shadow, their faces black, blurry smudges. I paused and turned around back toward my apartment. Something in me told me the car would stop at my house, but it continued on to the stop light, then up the hill toward the park. Where we they going?
At Geary, I took a left and walked quickly toward 8th avenue. There were no cars on the main drag. Both sides of the streets were completely empty. A large gust of wind from the west forced me to pause, almost making me take a step back. I looked up into the sky. It was thick with a rolling grey fog. At night, the fog always rolled in the hardest. I never knew why. It just did. And there were no stars. Everything was black and grey, but when I pushed forward through the wind, I saw the neon yellow and red shell station ahead as well as the flashing stop lights which hung over the streets. As I came to 8th avenue, I saw the liquor store. It was closed. The only light that shone was a rotating blinking light in the shape of a beer bottle. I wanted that beer bottle, even if it wasn't real.
The store windows were grated and there was a large metal gate before the actual door to the store. This told me they had had trouble before, probably from guys like me. Inside there was everything I would need to get me through the night and to the morning. Out there, on the cold sidewalk with a violent fog swirling around me like a hurricane, I was just cold and dangerously sober. Reality rapped on my temples like a ravens beak on a thin window. There was nothing I could do. I was forced to go home, empty handed.
As I brushed my teeth in nothing but my underwear, I wandered to the back deck and opened the window. The fog was still rolling heavy and would continue to do so until the sun came to burn it all away. Sometimes, the fog was too much and it would hang there all day like a heavy shawl. Those days were nice. They didn't make me feel guilty about staying inside all day reading or sleeping or really doing nothing at all. Sometimes that is necessary. I spit my toothbrush saliva mixture into a dead plant that rested on the banister near the ladder that lead to the roof. I hadn't ever been up there. Terrified of heights, I figured I never would be.
My clock read 2:13. It had taken me a long time to walk home after such a defeat. I had spent so much time thinking about moving I had failed my overall goal. Too much discussion with oneself can make you go crazy. I've seen it happen to friends, family, ****...myself. I closed my eyes and told myself there is plenty of value in talk, in discussion, but it takes a true human being to act after all of that talk. I would have to remember that one. Yes, I would have to write that one down.
Mitchell Duran
Written by
Mitchell Duran
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