The Reality of My Situation
Friday, March 13, 2009, 12 a.m.
What am I?
Tonight, I take a ride to the Dive Bar in Newark, New Jersey, to get my mind off a couple of things. My girlfriend moved to North Carolina to open her own bake shop, and I lost my job at K-Rock. So I visit the one person who can make me feel better and put a smile on my face. The only one who can take my sadness away …
Crazy as it sounds, her smile is like a drug. Just one look, and you’re quickly removed from reality and all its problems. Her smile takes me to an exotic world I never want to leave. It makes me feel good, a feeling I rarely get. And that’s all I care about now, feeling good.
Two in the morning, and I’m sitting on the cold, wet ground outside the Dive. A light drizzle soaks my jeans and sweatshirt. She’s sitting on an ancient iron and wood bench propped against the building, smoking her flavored cigarette and staring at her watch. The bench makes an ominous cracking sound with every movement she makes. Behind her head, two neon beer signs inside the bar glow through the window. The Miller Lite sign flickers weakly. She doesn’t have much time to hang with me because she needs to get back inside and clean up. Sitting with her privately for two minutes is pleasant, despite the raindrops trickling down my scalp; inside, she has no time for me.
In three or four more drags, she will have to go inside. She blinks at me with an exhausted expression on her face, takes a drag, and reluctantly says, “It will always be difficult for me, having to work here three nights a week till four o’clock, just to wake up at six, get the boys ready for school, drop them off, and be at school myself at nine.” Pausing to take a second drag, she flicks the cigarette. A few ashes fall on me, and I enjoy the benefits of secondhand smoke. “I don’t know how to keep goin’ some days.”
“Babe, if you ever need help, call me,” I tell her instantly. “You only live seven blocks away. If there’s something I can do to make your life easier, don’t hesitate — just call.”
She taps off the ashes against the bench’s rusted armrest and takes another drag. “I need to find a man.”
I smile jokingly. “What about me? What am I, chopped liver?”
She takes one last inhale and crushes the cigarette in the ashtray under the bench. “No,” she says without thought. “You’re just a boy.”
So here I am, sitting in the rain, wet hair, wet clothes, while she is sitting on a dry bench smoking her cigarette. I come here to get my mind off a couple of things, and she tells me, “You’re just a boy.” Gets up, and goes inside like nothing happened.
I feel like I just got bitch-slapped, kicked to the curb, and left outside in the rain. Let me rephrase that. I just got bitch-slapped, kicked to the curb, and left outside in the rain.
Excerpt Two :
I jerk awake, my eyes springing open. I find myself lying on the couch outside the studio inside the WHGT building. Slowly I position myself upright. A massive migraine headache hits me as soon as both feet hit the floor.
Applying pressure to the side of my face doesn’t relieve the headache. I definitely need aspirin. I wonder, How did I get here? I remember waiting outside the door, and everything after that is a blank.
My bag leans against the couch. I stare at it. I came here to record a demo tape. Maybe I did record my tape, got tired, and lay on the couch for a while. But I don’t remember feeling tired, nor do I remember recording the tape. All this pondering makes me feel disoriented. I need aspirin …
I hear someone walking toward me from across the hall. I force myself awake, not wanting to cause concern. A man takes a step toward the studio before stopping and checking his watch. He turns around, hands me a cup of water and aspirin, and says, “Take this. It will make you feel better.” Quickly walking into the studio, he puts his headphones on as I watch him through the window. There’s a small radio on the table beside the couch. I turn the volume low, take the aspirin, and listen …
(Voice-over with passion and strong baritone voice)
“That’s Jonny Lang on Jersey’s Rock Station one-oh-three point five WHGT.
He’s got a show comin’ up at the Crystal Club next weekend and WHGT has
your tickets for that. Just make sure you listen to Tracy Foxx on Monday during
the twelve o’clock request zone for your chance to win. Another twenty-minute
rock block comin’ your way with Def Leppard, Ozzy, and STP coming up – next.”
(Microphone off / Start commercial set)
I’m amazed how good he sounds. His execution, his timing, his voice — he must have been doing this for years. He sounds like Davy in a way, using similar styles. He even dances around while talking. Talk about confidence. That’s what I need …
Grabbing something off the console, he exits the studio and comes toward me. He’s much older than me, probably in his mid-forties; long, shaggy hair, well-trimmed beard, and toned body. His face looks familiar. He’s wearing jeans, T-shirt, and boots. Not much of a fashion statement, but I can tell he doesn’t care. He’s his own person. The world could come to an end and he’ll be standing there with that “whatever” look on his face, knowing this could happen. He’s got a pair of dog tags around his neck, but I can’t read the engraving from here. Maybe he’s a military guy.
Dolphins and Diamonds
Saturday, August 15, 2009, 9 p.m.
The Bushnell Observatory
After I get home I send Vickie a picture of the ring. Tonight feels like a special occasion. Maybe it’s because I purchased Harley’s engagement ring, a new step in my life. Or maybe I am just happy for Harley and me. Nonetheless, I feel I should look my best for whatever’s out there. After putting on a nice pair of khaki pants and a button-down shirt, I comb my hair and splash aftershave on. I feel ready … I feel like celebrating.
I wonder if Professor Stone still teaches at the observatory. It seems like yesterday that he told me about the grant they were getting for the observatory and how he wanted me to be a part of it. With as little interest as I had back then, it’s astonishing how interested I am now. It’s a great night too. The moon is full and the stars shine bright …
After parking my car in the lot, I grab a bottle of water and follow signs to the observatory. Making my way around the outside of the double-domed building as the sidewalk softly curves towards the back near the baseball field, I see a group of about thirty people — students, families, and kids — hovering around the telescope equipment. Searching the crowd, I notice Professor Stone talking to a student on the far side of where I am. He looks exactly the same as I remember; he hasn’t aged a bit. With his full head of gray hair, his small, round eyeglasses, and his stocky midsection, he resembles a shopping mall Santa.
I introduce myself, reminding him I was a student of his fourteen years ago. Although he doesn’t remember my name, he remembers my face. After exchanging pleasantries, I remind him of his offer to let me be a part of the observatory.
“It’s a shame you weren’t around for the grand opening. I really could have used you. As old as I am, I must say it was the most exciting time for me,” he says with a dry sense of humor, in a jolly sort of way.
“I wish I was around for the opening of the building. Lately, I’ve developed a fond interest in the stars and the planets, and I remembered your offer a long time ago. Hence why I’m here. I wanted to see what the new Bushnell Observatory was all about.” I stare up into the night.
He walks me back to the crowd, his hand on my shoulder. “I’m glad to see you again. You’re in for quite a show.” He notices the time on his watch. “Speaking of which — it’s about to start …”
He and a fellow professor clap their hands for everyone’s attention, then tell us what they will show us this evening. I remember a nightmare I had a long time ago, a nightmare that was as fresh as if I dreamed it yesterday. As the professor talks about the planets, I follow along in my head as I remember the nightmare. I can still point out where the planets revolved above me, including Wormwood.
During the talk, the other visitors and I take turns looking through the telescopes at different star clusters, the moon, and the belt stars of the Orion constellation. As beautiful and warm as the night is, I feel — lonely … I’m dressed for a special occasion and have no one by my side. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, I think. I wish Harley were here. She would enjoy this night with me.
As I’m admiring the sky, I hear a commotion and wonder what is going on. I look up from the telescope to the sky. And that’s when I see her. I can’t believe my eyes. She looks — gorgeous … It’s a big, beautiful, bright star hovering in the middle of the sky. Probably the brightest one out there.
Who would have thought someone as gorgeous as that would show up at a place like this, I think. It’s like she came out of the blue … She’s like a gorgeous woman: dressed in all white, with sensual curves and a smile just like Kim’s, she is an angel without wings.
I stare at her as she moves about. She moves gracefully … Up and down, back and forth, bouncing all around. It’s more like — dancing … I think she’s dancing … Even Professor Stone is distracted from his talk about the solar system. Standing next to me, he leans over. “Now that’s a show! What do you think?”
Gazing at the beauty before me, my response is involuntary. “Yeah — it is …”
He taps his watch. “Wow! Would you look at the time. It sure flew by quick all of a sudden.” As we both gaze upon her, his imagination whispers in my ear, “You know, based on the way she’s bouncin’ around, weaving back and forth, I think she wants to dance with someone.” He taps my arm with his.
Distracted, I give another involuntary response. “Yeah — it is …”
The crowd gathers around her while the professor continues his talk. I find myself entranced by the sight, slowly drifting away from the crowd so I can enjoy it alone. She begins to dance with slow, graceful twists and turns, smooth as clouds floating across the sky. And that twinkle in her eye is her gorgeous smile. A smile just for me … A smile that makes me feel — drawn to her. I want to know who she is. I want to know — her name.