Spotlight

With vodka in hand I fled the car I live in to make way for bleachers. Darkness filled this Friday night, my last weekend in Austin. Months of shuffling, the mix and match of nada, boiled down to this. Sweat and booze. The warmth of spring. Late March turning winter rain to muggy air. In an hour or two I’d walk three miles to go dancing but for now it felt too hot to just sit in the car and steam.

I walked to the top of baseball field bleachers and nestled down on a weathered board, clearing grease-soaked trash from fithy fans. I propped a pillow and tried to nap but sleep stayed out of reach. Instead I swallowed fermented bug juice and listened in on people in the parking lot. Rolled to watch them through wire mesh.

Cops cruised by on side-by-sides to scan for someone with a spotlight. They checked the bleachers so I sat up as if to look normal. Soon they slipped off. In turn I returned to my voyeur ways. The observation deck.

I liked all the action on hand. The bums phasing through, each en route to woods or river. The families and folks now skipping into this warm weather weekend. The earth had woke from winter. Was alive once more. I filled my body with more bungle juice. It too warmed me. Filled skin with sweat.

A young homeless woman stepped to the bleachers and asked who was there. If I was so and so. I said I don’t know her but she plowed past that, instead stating that if X comes by she’s not here. I couldn’t make out much of her and her none of me. I lay bedded behind a rise in the bench. A half hidden creature sucking vodka from a can. The girl wandered off. Disappeared to darkness.

I returned to my drink, to scanning a light blotted sky, when two bums rolled up on bicycles. They entered the bleachers and noticed the woman who spoke to me earlier. One pointed to an area past the dugout opposite our vantage.

“Yeah she’s over there on the other side talking about pirates.”

I popped out the parking lot shitter to spot a copter shining its searchlight. It scanned then locked on. Microwaved its target with white hot heat. There it hovered no more than two thousand feet from me. A still and steady focus. Soon the voice of god erupted from the beam. An intercom that cut the din of city noise. Of whirring blades.

A command of “Do. Not. Move.” crackled out in a male voice that seemed semi-robotic. This the distant cousin of a dystopian police pitch. The spotlight shone to a nearby park so I headed that way, crossing over water. The copter circled and scanned again. Light cutting darkness in an off-kilter algorithm. Its target erratic. Fleeing for freedom.

I propped my body onto rocks to watch it dance in darkness. My drunk brain enraptured by Cops come to life. Man on the run. Copter on the chase. Three middle school girls walked up the trail and into the park, apologizing for invading my space. Each giggled as they walked off.

I could tell they’d snuck out. That they were here to fuck off. To drink. To inhabit a moment of illicit freedom. The park was closed but here we each were. I swallowed more bug juice as they dropped into darkness.

Another command bellowed from the intercom. Transmissions from hell but made from above. “Do not go in the water. Do not go in the water.”

From where they scanned I knew this to be the Colorado. A massive waterway sure to swallow one up. I caught the sound of sirens in the distance. Soon police cars blew by in a seizure strobe of red and blue. The copter zeroed in on a spot then shone a small area. Dipped low to ground. Its lights locked on. No more commands. Did they have him or not?

The spotlight shut off as the copter sat close to land. I could hear its chop and whir. See its red blinking light, green lit bottom, white bulb nose. Did they have him or not? I wanted to go dancing in a tiny room an hour walk away. Didn’t want to abandon this drama but felt pressed for time. I looked back to the bird of prey. No more lights. No more commands. But still it sat there.

Once more its beam flicked on. A long light turning night to day. The copter scanned an endless path, far from where they just perched. Then it exited. Their man escaped.

I came to a sidewalk along the river. Scattershot groups of men and one woman slept in the open. In the lights along this busy path. The night was young, no more than 11, but they’d all crashed out. Some stirred as I blasted past, the rest still and silent.

I noted bums in bags on long slats of cardboard. Their possessions, their beds, in tatters or disrepair. Some slept on cement, others on benches with middle dividers meant to harass the homeless. It was the same folks as every other weekend. The ones I always see here. Those who call these benches, this piss-soaked cement, their home.

I slipped to the party streets of downtown Austin. A small group of MAGAs adorned in red hats and border wall gear carried a flag. I knew these types well. Their attire’s sole purpose to snare those brainless enough to gobble the bait. Soon a young couple bit, hooked deep in the gut.

I sat on trash-strewn cement as the two groups frothed themselves into a passive-aggressive argument. This man and woman against a clan of red caps. Sarcastic remarks slapped back and forth. The drunken discourse of dipshits. A Latino officer stood watch as these folks recorded their opposite with phones. As they repeated talking points ad infiinitum. Statements slung as if each might be the slam dunk that silences the other.

I wondered if the MAGAs really believed their bullshit to this degree. If half their purpose wasn’t just to provoke those who knew them and their politics to be disgusting, destructive, and inhumane. A child’s ploy constructed from hate and human misery. It didn’t matter. Nothing would be solved here. Here among the thousands of drunks filling this streets with slurred, over-amplified chatter. Each ignoring the dumb drama played out before me.

The MAGAs dipped into a bar and with that I was back to my mission: the last third of a three mile walk to go dancing. To sluice fermented bleach through brain and blood. To dance with cute girls, shit in an alley, drink more, then dance again. The penultimate enactment of my favorite routine.

I had just one more night in Austin after this. Wanted to make the best of it. Collect these handfuls of human experience. Blink between spaces. See all I could see before it all turned to memory. Before rotted vodka stole even that away. Deleted the pieces ’til only fragments remained. I swigged from my jug, stowed it away, then stepped to the dance floor.


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