Lying on that couch with my leg elevated in a cast, my mind had felt like a dull knife.
Friday afternoon and my ankle had just started working again. Business professionals were just beginning to vacate their desks; people who define themselves on the hours between Friday afternoon and Monday morning. I sauntered to the closest bar I could find.
My beer began to sweat as soon as it hit the table, I drank it quickly. The man at the table next to me was drinking a whiskey on the rocks. He was playing with his daughter; she was drinking an orange juice. Two big open windows let fading sunlight into the dive bar. The smell of beer and spicy mustard was circulated by the cool summer air. 3rd grade level paintings of snakes looked like they were tossed up on the wall. Two bartenders alternated between disdain and cordiality under a sign that read “Snake Pit”. I slithered through another beer. Derek walked in and asked “Where is your whiskey?” Before I had a chance to decline he walked over to the table with two glasses of Jameson and his own perspiring beer.
The darkness that overtook the elongating shadows of the snake pit crept inside my head. I said goodbye to Derek. I stomped back home. I sat on my couch. Through the clustered black holes of my front gate I could hear the rats that infested the bamboo shoots in my neighbors yard. I listened to them as they climbed and made the leaves rub against each other. My mind tumbled in a wave of breaking anticipation. I undulated between contentment and grief.
For some context this story is about an injury that I sustained recently. It forced me to go on leave from work for a few weeks. It left me with a decision when to go back. I also had a prompt for my writing class that was to write a story about a character going somewhere and coming back.
I decided to walk to the library yesterday instead of driving. It was cold outside or at least I thought it was . I decided to wear a pair of old Adidas soccer gloves that I had purchased in a different part of my life. I enjoy walking but the convenience of driving has trumped my urges to walk. My main motivation was driven by an introduction I was reading to the book Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes. I didn’t get to the actual book because the introduction was a fucking novel in itself. It said during the three year period in which Hobbes was writing Leviathan he had a very strict routine. He would wake up every morning at 7:00 am, he would eat his bread and butter. Then he would walk through the streets of Paris for three hours and write down his notes in the afternoon. I can’t speak to the inspirational qualities of 17th century Paris compared to present day West Hollywood. I’m sure he had more to work with. Even though my walk was motivated by meditation it was manifested by the need to get somewhere. I tried to concentrate and be mindful during my walk but I just found myself rushing through the cold. I walked down Gardner towards Melrose as the sun fell beyond the horizon creating a pale blue in the sky. I stopped at a juice bar on the corner of Melrose and Gardner to get a shot of ginger and lemon juice. When I continued my walk down Gardner the hue of the blue sky had changed into a midnight-ish feel. I petted a curious dog on the corner of Beverly and Gardner and smiled at his owner. He was nice, I don’t know about the owner. I got to the library as the sky turned from blue to black. The library was just as cold on the inside as it was outside. It could be the reason why there was no one in there, or it could be because no one goes to the fucking library anymore. After skimming through the atrocious selection of literature I decided to check out a Fitzgerald book that I had previously read. I left and walked west on Beverly towards Fairfax because I knew there was a mailbox on the corner there and I had to drop off some letters. Right now you’re probably thinking “Library? Letters? Who the fuck is this old lame ass thinking that hes cool because he writes letter and goes to the library? I think he’s an asshole.” Honestly you’d be right. Anyways I saw my friend Franco on the corner of Beverly and Fairfax. He was riding a fixie and he told me that he was heading home from reading at Barnes and Noble (another asshole). I dropped off the letter and walked north up Fairfax. I had a slice of pie that burned the roof of my mouth even though it was slathered in ranch. Afterwards I went to The Dime for a Jameson with Ice. The bartender gave me a heavy pour probably because I was the only poor bastard drinking by myself. I found my reflection in the mirror behind the bar and said “cheers shithead” as I took a gulp. The cold Jameson felt good on the roof of my mouth. I watched the first quarter of the Laker game but left because I figured I wasn’t missing anything. North up Fairfax then East on Willoughby and I was walking back into my apartment with a buzzed smile. I didn’t get any meditating done and I didn’t have my gloves on anymore.
It sat on the table droll and beckoning them like any other empty bowl. It was white and round with three notches spaced equidistant around it to place a still burning stogie. There was only one small burn in the middle of it. The ash tray was emptied out routinely without thought, a reflex, like when the doctor hits your patella with that small rubber hammer. The way it was filled up was more enigmatic
Large deposits are made on nights when they arrived home late, and still from nightly festivities. Other times they would sit and inebriate themselves with neat whiskey and no intention of departure from the home or the table at which they sat with the ash tray. These nights were also similar to reflexes, just reactions from stress at work and being in their twenties. But on certain nights there was a different kind of ash filling the little bowl. An experience, a palpable memory of the departed. There were times when they needed to use it, even if it was only once.
The Cigarette rested between his middle finger and index as smoke idly rose to the ceiling. A puff, an inhale, a release, and then a flick which broke off the ash and with it sadness and longing. Heartache followed and eventually anger and despair. The emotions in the ash tray weren’t always spoken and were far from disingenuous. A moment of introspection. The ash in the tray made it heavier with no change in weight, made it deeper with no change in dimension.
It was drunken nights with others or sometimes it was the dark nights alone. It was always filled with some sort of emotion. If you looked in the ash tray on one of the days before they emptied the contents, you wouldn’t see them, you would see the ones who had abandoned them.
The main inspiration that produced this story was actually letting my emotions and feelings get the best of me until I felt the urge to smoke. The cigarettes were temporary but the ash tray was always there. So i felt like rather than focusing on the cigarettes themselves I would focus on the place where I deposited them. The funny thing is I don’t normally smoke but I do use it as a scapegoat sometimes. Sometimes when I feel longing for a particular someone be it female or family I tend to get down and to get stressed and to think negatively. I’m not saying that smoking is the most positive outlet for these stresses but sometimes I find myself saying “man I could use a smoke”