I stepped naked from the Columbia River, shook dry, then redressed. Dusk had settled across the island. Along with it came low rolling waves that slapped the shadowed sand. Though my skin turned cold I’d swam this churn ’til all drops of light dipped below the treeline. When I crawled back to land all of me erupted in goosebumps. I thawed my dick then prepared for polite society. Now no longer nude I set off for a free bar comedy show. For $2 malt liquor to sip in my car on a street outside the venue.
I stopped at 7-Eleven and plucked the best fourth-rate swill on hand. Steel Reserve in the silo-shaped can. A 24 ounce ocean of alcohol. Ten pungent gulps of fun. I trawled ‘long the Columbia past factories and shipyards. Past vessels bound for the mouth where Oregon spits into the Pacific. Lit in the soft glow of my dash I came to the dark northeast of Portland. I scanned for an anonymous spot then parked on an empty street of old homes.
I popped an aluminum top then fed the tatters of my soul. Let bitter spirits sizzle through me. I thought of all the first dates I brought to this same bar for this same show. Of how those never turned to a second encounter. Of how many times I sat in this same spot doing this same thing: sucking fumes of booze to flip the switch from slow-boiled angst to fog-headed fun. It was one way to encounter the earth, even if its effect only ephemeral.
I slow walked to the show then bought a beer for good measure. With blunt force the Steel Reserve ate its way through my brain. This liquid trepanation induced a timeless state. A chance to step from my head and enjoy that before me. To appreciate the present by phasing outside of it. Mind tucked safe in a liminal space. I forgot all else then laughed for an hour with twenty drunks in this creative furnace.
The three square windows behind the black stage peeked out to the thoroughfare. A city bus stopped in view, its interior lights illuminating each person within. Later a drunk on the sidewalk spied through an uncovered porthole as a comedian performed. I knew the outer earth waited but for now we sat separate. As the booze dipped from its apex this thought of returning to life took over. No more timeless drift. No more disconnect from both inner and outer world. The show came to its end and soon I slipped off to lamplit streets.
Patrons of other bars sipped drinks on sidewalk tables. I passed one and thought it to be where I met a Craigslist hookup. We talked about The Aquabats then went to an unfinished basement for me to finger her on a floor mattress. After twenty minutes her roomie turned irate and ejected me. I didn’t mind but felt bummed as we almost fucked. As I knew we’d never meet again. Never possess another chance to please her on a musty mattress.
I looked at the bar’s bolted on title. Its name didn’t align with my memory. Maybe this wasn’t it after all. These one-off encounters accrue rust. Turn into vague recollection. Into booze soddened thought. My Craigslist years. That era just a circuit of my brain pinging a dead bulb. Within the glass an echo of remembrance that part of my life occurred here. That someone I almost fucked traipsed this same space.
I thought of how this string of bars and sex spots have turned shapeless as I drift from their origin. From the impulse that carried me to them in the first place. The barren quest to find myself within others now over. I thought of how from that I dove inward, still unearthing few answers. Still splashing booze against it all to step outside the search. To achieve reprieve.
The buzz in me quieted but I didn’t want to wake hungover. I knew I needed to throw a finger down my throat. To yack back my beverage. An industrial front end loader sat parked at an intersection. I kneeled to warm asphalt then fingered booze into its bucket. Made my throat squirt time and time again. I thought of choices made, erased, repeated. Of this cycle of stagnation.
I hadn’t eaten all day so it spit up smooth. Translucent. I could taste unsubtle notes. Malt liquor and bile hitting the buds of my tongue from back to front. A sharp scent of alcohol erupted in the evening air. Emanated from the shimmering film of lamplit puke before me. Oil on water painted with a faded palate.
I mined my stomach with volcanic power ’til it held as little as a rung out sponge. ‘Til it cramped when fingers demanded more tribute. I emitted no sounds of horror. No low-throated barks nor wheezing gurgles of an engine on empty. Just quiet as can be. Inner layer to outer air. It didn’t burn but my eyes turned blurry with tears. Nose wet with a viscous river of snot. I wiped with plucked grass then ambled back to my origin.
Despite sifting into peak summer I needed to sleep in my car. The earth felt hot and humid. Heavy with air that turned burnt skin to sweat. I drove to the industrial stretch then bedded down outside McDonald’s. I fumbled batteries into a fan then made it whirl across my bare chest. This cheap machine chipped the hell vent with a dull blade.
The next day I swam naked once more. Just me in cool water. Under hot sun. Dick bobbing in the wake of ships en route to unknown places. No need for alteration when cradled in the soft palm of nature. When both eyes closed and all drifted away. I was surrounded by others but still alone in my own world. My mind enshrined in solitude.
Within that inner plane I found my being swirling in a current of restless impulse. The old and ever present itch. I knew that force to be a slipstream. One to other oceans of fun. Of experience. Of escape. One whose wake induced unease in the present. Who drew from the past but proffered no thoughts for the future. Who pounded me into riptides of isolation from which I rarely escaped.
These deep seated roots generated a force with few ebbs. Few moments to examine myself objectively. To view what life needs instead of what the mind screams for. For all the time spent swimming through my innards their secrets remained a mystery. I didn’t know whether to step ashore or let the current carry me where it may. For now I’d float, bobbing in place, each act of indecision tumbling me to nowhere.
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