Mika Lula was like milk left out too long. She hung on me like a superhero cape outside the club as we waited for the biohazard team to finish scrubbing the stains from the dance floor. The heart was cracking like glass left too long on fire. The crowd gathered, then abandoned. She was Asian in features and figure and her teeth were as white as untouched snow when she smiled all lopsided and giddy. She was dressed up like a pink kitten.
There was a golden light birthing forward from the street and a big fancy car pulled up and a woman with a wide white hat and a faux fox fur strung around her neck came walking through the mist like she owned the world, a cigarette huffing off the end of one of those long holders. The guards shoved us out of the way as she walked into the club before us. I complained about her cutting in line and some guy told me to shut up.
“She’s the most important detective in the world,” the doorman scowled. “And where were you when all this happened?”
“At a quiet table in the corner with a round red candle.”
“Bug off before I talk to the police about you.”
I turned and started to walk off into the night.
“Wait!” Mika Lula called out, and she scuttled toward me, trying to keep her fuzzy pink cat tail under control. “You’re leaving?”
“Yes. I’m done,” I said, ferociously walking toward nothing in particular. She struggled to keep up with me.
I stopped, turned, and raised a finger at her. “Don’t do this.”
“Do what?” she wondered, black coffee eyes wide, confused.
“Wrangle me into a relationship neither one of us wants.”
“You don’t like me?”
I sighed, weakened. That’s me. Always pulling punches at the pivotal moment because I’m too nice. Why is it so hard for me to ‘just say no’, like she was drugs or something? But I had to try because she was driving me crazy.
“You’re a fine person… But I’m not. I’m no good for you.”
“Ohhhh,” she said, her head going down, eyes scanning the moist and dirty sidewalk. “It’s you, not me. Right?”
“Something like that.”
She started to cry.
“Don’t do that,” I said. “I’m not worth crying over. We’ve only known each other for…” I brought my wrist up and looked at my watch. “Not even three hours.”
She looked up at me, tears falling out of her black coffee eyes, her jaw tightening. “Fuck you!” she said. Then she turned and walked back toward the club, her fuzzy pink tail flopping around in the neon infused night steam of the city.
When I got back to my lowly apartment, I turned on a box fan and opened a window that looked down upon a street. There were people walking, people stumbling, people chatting and laughing as if I didn’t even exist. Police sirens cried out in the night. I could see the pops of blue and red scattered around the city like a spilled kaleidoscope. Everything was becoming an emergency. Everything was becoming fractured. I didn’t know how to live like this.
I sat down at my desk and powered up a road-weary computer. The light stung my eyes at first. I went to start a Word document like this:
Mika Lula was like milk left out too long. She hung on me like a superhero cape outside the club as we waited for the biohazard team to finish scrubbing the stains from the dance floor.
Then I stopped. My mind clogging up like a messy drain. I sat there staring at the small cluster of words I was able to scratch out. “Shit!” I said in frustration, and I got up from my desk and went to the kitchen in the corner and opened the avocado green refrigerator. I studied the contents inside. It looked like I didn’t even live here. I grabbed a cold can of beer and popped it open. Coors. Who drinks Coors? I thought to myself. I do. What am I doing with my life?
I left the lonely apartment and went down to the street to walk. I stopped at a bodega for a pack of Lucky Strikes and a roll of mint Mentos. I went along slowly, hands in the pockets of my brown chinos. I looked around at the womb of the town and the city, the steaming, vibrating wreck of it all with a few squirts here and there of some decent stuff, but mostly slutty strips of shops, annoying and flickering neon, glass, cement, brick, asphalt, autos, traffic lights, billboards — too much mad rushing and shoving of petty shit in the faces of all the people that live here with me.
I walked through a tempest of make-believe crinkled leaves and ice chips in the Green Head Storm neighborhood and to the bookstore there. It was one of my favorite places to just go and get lost for minutes or hours or days — like taking a long train ride to the sea, a train with no one else on it, and just the clickity clack on the rails and big views of unbroken land through big windows.
It was one of the largest bookstores in the city and it was housed in a very long and old building with creaking floors and steps and the place had the smell of old wood and old time and old paper and burnt coffee and stale perfume all mixed together in an elastic olfactory orgy that made my bones and soul feel good and sick, feel like home, feel like time standing still for once, not like all that constant rushing about to get nowhere but spinning and spilling in big, boring circles, catering to ungrateful souls of chaos.
There was something about being in the bookstore that inspired me to write. Just looking around at all the spines and the words — nerves pulsing through an endless body. All those thoughts, all those tumblers of ink spilled across virgin paper, virgin electricity. It left me wanting to go home and jump on a blank page like one jumps on a wife to initiate a slow, hot screw against a broken window. There was always that desire to shatter glass before sleeping — a need for listless and beautiful dreams instead of trying to run in fear.
I pulled a book out of its place in the fiction section. It was titled The Ambulance Witch written by someone named Gilead Frost. I looked at the cover. It was weird and intriguing — a dark forest, a winding road, an orange sky. I flipped it over to read about it even though I already knew what it would say. There was a picture of Gilead Frost up in the corner. It was hard to believe I used to look like that. The details of my bio were now all vaporized by a heartless world and my own personal derailments — the only reliable fact being where I was born, but then again, maybe that’s not true either. How could I even know? It’s all hearsay. I shoved the book back in between the other books where it would remain for an eternity, touched only by me when I came to visit.
I browsed around some more and found and bought a copy of Ask The Dust by John Fante. I had owned the book before, but I don’t know where it is now. It somehow got lost in all the moving and reshuffling of my life. The young female clerk behind the counter had no idea what it was when she stuffed it in the fancy little paper bag. I walked out alone.
I went to a 24-hour diner around the corner from the bookstore. It was one of those places where the strung out, bombed out, lovesick street kings and queens would go to when there was nowhere else to go. Every table was reserved for the broken and the lonely, and if you ask me, you could stuff that place to overflowing with people exactly like that. I see them everywhere, all over the streets. I see them in office buildings and hospital hallways, in bars and bookstores, at bodegas and bus stations. I even see them in my dreams and dramarama plays of prayer performed in an empty theater.
I had coffee and a warm biscuit with butter and honey on it. I was taking a sip, eyes cast out over the rim of the cup, when Mika Lula came strutting in still dressed like a pink kitten and she was clinging onto a new man as if she was dangling from a cliff, eons from a fatal fall. I waited to see if she would notice me… Not that I really cared. They took a booth on the opposite side and kind of got lost in the smoke and the voices and the ambience of solitude with strangers. I paid my bill and walked back to my apartment in the big, percolating city of God’s guts.
When I got back home, the box fan was still whirring. The window to the street was still open and its noises and whispers soaked the walls of where I lived. I used the bathroom. I saw an image of Napoleon Dynamite in the floor tile. He looked happy for once. I went out and reluctantly sat down at my desk. I sat there a moment before firing up the computer to try to write again. The end went something like this:
I looked up at the calendar above my desk and realized it was Mick Jagger’s birthday. He was 79. Mick Jagger is almost 80!? I couldn’t believe it. How? Because none of us escapes the unraveling of time. We all transition within the skin, outside the skin. Organs and nerves all wind down like a dying clock. We all meet the same fate. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done in your life. We all come in the door — we all go out the door… It revolves like the pinprick of a planet we are on, around some sun of love like it should be. And I’m always wondering why.