Brown evaporative cooler swill seeps from a crack in the ceiling into a bucket placed strategically on the floor. The trickle becomes hypnotic, and for a moment, you imagine that you are sitting alone, streamside at some mountain retreat, armed with a fishing pole and an ice-cold sixer of beer. You imagine yourself to be what you've always wanted to be, just a normal guy in a cocoon of satisfaction.
Your fantasy borders on hallucination. Then it hits you.
The clamor of toppling furniture and shrill sobs shatter your dreamlike stupor. Your neighbor, a mouth-breather who wears a cut-off Pantera tee shirt, is attacking his girlfriend -- again. The physical battery and verbal condemnations create a discord that rattles your soul, a sound so horrific and ugly, so diseased, that you begin to believe that true evil has finally enveloped you.
In a civilized society, calm is a tacit understanding. Where you live, calm is the Fuck You preceding a fight.
Memorial Day. A day of remembrances.
The surprising certainty of the fray next door drones like a monsoon storm. You lift yourself out of this haze of physical sensation and try to piece together the night before.
It started sometime around noon. You hit the bar with the self-promise that you would stick only to beer.
The shots started at sunset, and by midnight, the tequila had you by the throat. You remember the deceptive faces that moved in circles, pinkish blotches like drunken blemishes.
You found yourself in some rock club. You remember lines of conversation exiting your mouth and becoming clipped-in-half insects, gliding in the air hideously, and leaving a trail of translucent sludge:
"What's your problem, mook?"
"I'll take your head and smash it!"
You told a gypsy-eyed girl -- who looked to you like the perfect union of Gene Tierney and Geri Halliwell -- that you were in love with her. She was appalled. When you asked her to marry you, she bolted.
You remember the live band committing countless Crimes Against Music in the name of rock 'n' roll. A wretched mess of Staind and Sabbath; all the hideousness of the former minus any of the latter's specious humor. The guitarist's Brillo-pad receder and fabulous beer gut had you cheering. Of course you would cheer; what else would you do? You positioned yourself on the otherwise deserted dance floor directly in front of the band. You bopped your head up and down and unzipped your pants. You took out your dick and waved it madly at the group. You jacked your free hand into the air, middle fingers down, outside fingers up, Texas Longhorn style.
The arch of piss was long and luxurious. The stage lighting gave it a lovely peach-colored sparkle.
From that point, you can barely connect the dots. The night became a collision of abstract moments, pieces of a bloody battle in a lifelong war that you have no chance of winning. There were the slow, deliberate movements of a bouncer. You decorated his hands with burns from your cigarette. You recall the words of the arresting cop. He told you of his dreams to one day attend seminary school. The words preceded the billy-club blows to your cheekbone.
They shoved you through an open steel door, which slammed in a big metallic thud behind you, punctuated by clasping latches. You remember reaching for a doorknob that wasn't there.
Laughter from multicolored faces swirled over your head. Anxiety attacks gave way to unsettled darkness. You remember coming to surrounded by 40 or so frumpy-dressed downers in a chamber the size of a tract-house bedroom. The first thing you noticed was separation; scab-chinned tweakers on the right, drunks, cutthroats and women-beaters on the left.
A line drawn, another battle set. Caught in the middle, you chose the left side.
You remember the guy next to you, his skillet-sized hands, his hair freeze-dried in blood. The domestic dispute charge written in the horrible scratches that ran the length of his cheeks. His wife's new circle of dykey friends, he explained, and the fact that she stopped wearing lingerie, were the circumstances that allowed him to beat the living crap out her. Twenty hours later a judge cuts you loose.