Heat Sleep

As I amble a shirtless black man dances on the sidewalk just after midnight. He has no partner beyond those boogying through dance halls of imagination. On the ground he keeps an unkempt pile of possessions. When I pass music emits from a shrunken record player. I don’t know how this works as I see no outlet but still a turntable spins. The sounds brought to life by a needle exist in some liminal slot of soul and electronic. Whatever the genre it keeps him going.

He swigs water then dances more, taking in his reflection from a blackened window. It displays him as he must glimpse his own avatar: hazy and distorted. Street lamps shoot cascades of light that fade between each post. He’s lit in low disco ambiance, perfect for gyrations with unseen entities. I know it’s some bad brain or drug-induced bliss but man I wish I could be so happy for a second.

Later a drag queen in a glitter dress blares their own music as a fire truck scoots down the lane for god knows what. It passes silent but the lights flash in this canyon of commerce. Stores both current and boarded up. Their doorways filled with those who’ve nowhere to go. The ones unseen. Who slip in and out. These streets are dark and dead but still teeming with spiders of life.

Staked on the opposite side of the thoroughfare is a male strip club. Outside its gates a shirtless 50 some hobo, grizzled with a beer gut, dances in front of the bouncer. His stomach looks like a bag of apples sewn under skin.

I think of how once I took an old girlfriend to this establishment, how we were disappointed the dancers showed no more than neck. It’s called The Silverado, colloquially known as The Silver Dildo. Despite the name there is no eponymous toy to lick, kiss, or shove up an orifice.

I return my attention to the beer gut bum and his now murmuring chatter. He crosses the street to his other dancing friend, the black man, then slams a can to the street and adlibs nonsense. My ears turn to towers tuned to Bum Radio. They dial in on the frequency then pick up “gonna fucking get that bitch” among other utterances. To me the target is unclear but still his bud yells for him to turn ’round. To stay put. The beer gut bum fails to heed the call.

A group of young drunks slink the crosswalk as I breathe this all in. They don party hats and fill the street with loud, drunken chatter. Beeline to the slaughterhouse of dancing dick meat. I think of how I have no friends, no one to go out with, how it does me no good to sit in a vat of pity. One that self perpetuates. That fills as I watch the world move on.

I’m still full with pizza I found in its box atop a trash can. With taking in an author reading and film. An artist’s date with myself. The same as almost all nights. And now I’ve gone from sleeping on a floor to back to living in my car. Summer heat testing my will to survive the trunk life.

An hour earlier I trekked the dark streets of downtown. Saw its sadness. The people dying before me. Human sewage spilled to street. Gutters so full there’s no place for overflow. Still, despite the expected it brought no perspective.

As I walked blocks the sights of misery rose to the surface. People with no connection to earth. Those forever fucked up. Flesh wrapped in rags sleeping on cardboard slats. Human feces smeared outside a bar. Littered cans and smashed bottles. Carts and bags full of those not disposed. Tin loot traded for small dollars. Some girl with a cat who looked new to this life, who I gave a nice nod but couldn’t look in the eye.

I amble off from the strip club, looking for garbage to gobble or sight to see. I have no direction, not just for the night, but the day, week, and coming months. Where will summer lead? A season of promise set to fizzle. I use night walks to clear my head but now my brain is gunked. Shoddy construction built on years of bad choices. All I can do is wallow in the misery of those dying on the streets around me.

I pass a trans woman in a wheelchair, her friend with a guitar, the sidewalks populated by three or four tents. Tiny houses they don’t shoot shows for. I smell the familiar flavor of downtown: piss baked into cement. Feces crusted to sides of buildings. Even in darkness the humidity draws out this ever present scent. I don’t need to go but know I’ve done my share to add to it.

A man sleeps in three sided cardboard propped up like walls with no ceiling or door. He speaks to himself and sounds like the intellectually disabled security guard pestering a valet I passed by earlier. I don’t know if he’s awake, asleep, or stuck in some hell between. I don’t even care. All I feel is self pity and sadness. Not sure why. Just doused and drowning in my own world. Despising myself for being so dramatic.

A man who looks like a thinner version of late period Gallagher talks to his shopping cart as sprinklers blow and a shirtless bum wheels by. I look down and see he has no legs below the knee, his nubs taped in bright orange. This is Elephant Park. I don’t know if that’s it’s name but it’s what I’ve called it for damn near a decade. A green elephant statue looms in its middle, its edges and innards populated by people passed out.

I don’t feel sorry for these folks. Don’t despise them but find no empathy. Don’t even know if there’s an ember of it in me. I’m too wrapped up in my own world to care for others. My own wants and losses.

The ones that fade to shoulder shrugs when gestured to the future. Those that mean I sleep in a car on hot summer nights. I can’t help myself, much less another. It takes all my energy just to feel sorry for myself. I should be startled at this indifference but all that fills throughout is apathy.

A fat rat dashes ‘cross the sidewalk. It feels fitting, my last sight for the night. I try take comfort in knowing I’m not as low as those dying before me. That it could be worse. That I could be shirtless and sleeping with rodents. But solace doesn’t come. Doesn’t matter. It’s ephemeral. As are these thoughts.

I know that nights like these are rare but sharp. Brief but ever returning. Who knows what morning will bring. No crystal ball for me to see. ‘Til then I crawl to the trunk for another night of heat sleep. Just waiting out the hours. The weeks. The months. The years.


This is a snapshot of one night of my life and the real feelings from it. It does not reflect my current or overall existence. No need to worry!

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