Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Jack is Called Daniel


Shit. Babies ain't got souls, even a little, til they are like seven years old. They have plenty of life force though. But they are soulless.

What was I gunna say?

If the transcribed memory could have been lifted from the page, it might have begun something like this...

The bar sagged around the patrons in aging sheet-rock, uneven floors liked to trip the drunken and disorderly alike, and dingy cobwebbed light dangled a strung-out luminescence. Even the light looked weary, yellowed and old. Regulars lined the bar in a row of slumped shoulders and ragged profiles. At a lone table, a man occupied the only chair for a ten foot radius. The Regulars respected the man's space and were happier to be at a distance from his muttering. No one knew who he was, but a trek to the bathroom was often narrated by an uneasy mixture of truth and delusion.

"Benjamin fucking Franklin..." the lone man growled and drank.

This was not the place for the young. This was a place where old alcoholics went to drown the emptiness and in doing so, hollowed out more of their hearts. When the swing of the door opened, a few heads turned as if the sharp protest of the hinges had already tattled: Stranger!

A young woman walked out of the crisp, clean night and into the stale brown air of the bar, and, despite her dark hair and dark pea-coat, brought something of a brightness with her. Cold air crept in at her heels, seeping into the stuffiness and sweetening it. Shoulders straightened. Eyes lifted and blinked. The Regular's collective gravity stirred the length of the bar visibly, some lethargic lamprey coming awake. The young woman smiled and strolled unhurried to the table with the lone man.

The bartender picked up a glass and wiped the rim with a less-than-sanitary towel and lifted his chin.

Down Regular Row a string of harumphs and hms traveled like a passing thought, beers and whiskeys lifted.

The woman picked up one of the banished chairs, brought it with her to a place roughly ninety degrees around the table from the man already occupying it and took a straddled seat, forearms triangulated on the back. She lowered her chin to the intersection of her arms and looked right at him.

He did not look back.

"Hi, Jack."


"You gunna ignore me all night?"


"C'mon, Jack, you think these fellas care if you talk to someone they can't see?"


"I know you can see me. I can smell it under the booze. The flickering light of consciousness." She lifted her chin and straightened, arms still draped over the back of the chair. "I need your help. It's getting harder and harder for me to find you, even when you're drunk."

He growled a curse, something older than English and ugly, softened only by the slur of alcohol. One of the regulars along the Row coughed. The bartender muttered. Jack shot a glare over the curve of a brown bottle, a dead aim for her sweet blue eyes. She didn't look like a dream. She looked like life and youth poured into porcelain and wrapped in hair dark as mother earth with endless aching skies for eyes.

She wasn't real.

But she had been dogging his heels in and out of dreams for weeks. He had stopped sleeping and started drinking. Well, started drinking more than usual. A man in his line of work did his fair share of holding down a bar. He squeezed shut his glassy eyes and exhaled through his nose.

"Name's not Jack." It was the first time he had ever answered her.

She beamed. The room brightened.

"S'Daniel." He thumped the empty whiskey bottle onto the table and shoved to his feet.

She laughed. And a glass no one had noticed too close to the edge lost to gravity and cashed behind the back-bar.

"My Jack is called Daniel." She slipped to her feet and reached out for his hand, which he'd not offered. "Call me Jill."

Her touch was cold. Like a bucket of ice water to the face.

Sobriety was gunna suck.

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