It had been a dead end.
I quickly came to realize there was nothing more I could do. I had to wait. Back in the day, you didn’t have any app to tell you where to go, where to find the next person. There was no swiping right or left movement, nothing of the sort. You had to wait. You had to wait for the green light, you had to wait for the rain to show up, you had to wait in line. Nowadays, people just don’t bother. You don’t see lines in the street anymore, you see riots, mishapen circles, geometrical atrocities, spatial representations of even more atrocious people really.
I took a turn left and walked for two miles. There wasn’t any clouds, I feared it had something to do with the preparation of an A-bomb. I often thought about an old crazy history teacher who kept rambling about how blue skies with no liner probably meant war right at the corner. What if? I pictured myself on the battlefield, running up and down hills or what would be left of any landscapes. There wasn’t any chance that the earth, our earth, would make it out alive. She’d be part of the traditional casualties, the body count, of every war we’ve waged.
When I came up on George St, I decided to head toward the Attic. When in doubt, you should always head for the nearest bar, that’s what my father used to say. No wonder why he owned one, he was a tortured soul. It took me some time to get the appeal behind alcohol, why it had such a grasp on everyone. I drank my first pint at fourteen, and alcohol and I hit it off right of the bat. I wish I could say my relationships with human beings were that easy though. The Attic was like any other joint you could step in. The same old wooden floor, greasy yet sticky, brown bar and brown barman, and the same generic playlist. U2, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Steve Miller, Tom Petty, Dire Straits, Springsteen. There wasn’t anything surprising, and this is what everybody was looking for. You don’t go to a place like that to be surprised, to be shaken up. You go there because you need comfort, a constant, something tangible.
As I sat and the barkeep poured me a drink, a man was heard yelling and falling down. Other people simply stared at him for a second and laughed. I could only see his shoes from where I sat, but I already knew that Chinaski had been taken down for the count. The man had been like an urban legend for at least three decades, but his growing age and diminishing health had started to turn the myth into a joke. I felt it was what happened with life – you get something good going on for a while and it eventually turns to shit.
“Wasn’t expecting you tonight Frank.”
“I live to surprise.”
“Heard you were working for Fetch these days? He still such a nutbar?”
“Nuttier than a fruitcake.”
I knew people from around, and they knew me well. Well, that’s taking it too far. They knew me, period. It all started after I managed to find Ole Benson’s missing girl. People came to me and asked me stuff. Frank, can you find my dog? Frank, somebody robbed me last night, care to help? Frank, I can’t find my own anus, I need help. I didn’t care much, but I needed money, and I liked the effort. Searching for someone or something missing, digging, overhearing conversations, all of that amused me to a certain extent, so I decided to go along with it. Until now, it had been a fairly easy ride, and for the first time in my life I had a knack for something that wasn’t royally screwing things up.
Fetch had gotten to me months ago after the disappearance of his wife Dora. Everyone in town took him to be the ugliest alcoholic moron that ever lived, but the fact was he really loved his wife. He cooked and did the dishes for her, rub her feet when she had had a long day, even agreed to take three cats named after singers. The Fetch you saw behind closed doors had absolutely nothing to do with the reputation he had in the streets. Obviously, he had me sign a contract – I had to keep my mouth shut if I wanted to get any money. I wasn’t much of a talker anyway, it was all fine by me. It generally took me a few weeks to uncover tracks, hear rumors of sighting or even find the missing person myself, but it had been different with the wife. Carmella had disappeared and no one really knew anything or even cared for that matter. I necked my drinking and called the barkeep for another one. He left the bottle.
I had used each and every traditional way that I had and nothing had paid off. Contemplating the bottle, I felt as empty. Is this how life goes? You swim and swim and swim until the current gets to you? Two guys entered the bar talking loudly and it distracted me for a moment.
“No, I’m telling you, we are going to be the first company ever to do that. This is a revolution. Gosh, I’m so lucky to be a part of it now, so lucky.”
“Well good news is, you’re gonna make loads of money and you’ll buy your old pal a few drinks won’t ya?”
“You got it!”
“Well in that case, I’m the lucky one!”
They laughed, I drank.
“Speaking of. How’s the blonde? What’s her name?”
“Diana. How’s Diana? Got lucky with that too?”
“Lucky like you wouldn’t imagine. Hey barkeep, com’hea. Two beers.”
The barkeep moved as fast as he could, he walked and served drinks in what seemed to be a single and fluid motion. I hated grace, nobody should move like that. Especially to serve clients like those. Every turn I took I heard it – I got lucky with this or that, love or job, money, dreams, whatever. People just assumed it was about a single stroke of luck, as if we all had Irish origins or something. I for one found that to be utterly ridiculous. I never had any luck, luck is for losers. Everything I had I either earned or stole, that was the way it went back in the day. Of course there were moments when I felt I didn’t have anything, but I never ever counted on luck to help me get my shit together.
It had been a dead end.