The Sunset: Part I

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It was a quiet night. It seemed like they were all like that. Nights began to blend together into a grand depressing blur. I liked it that way. I felt a sense of security when it was dark and raining. I never listened to uplifting music.  I don’t even know what it would be if I did. It was always Dylan, Waits or someone equally as mellow. Happiness never really felt right and that, I believe, is why she left me.

I stepped out of the café with my usual black coffee, my breath rising into the air. San Francisco was a somber city. We complimented each other well. The bay looked frigid, still and heartless. I had missed her. I always found some sort of inspiration to write while sitting silently on her shores. I know I’m a pathetic soul. I have a bay as my muse. Some writers have gorgeous, sensual women; I only have a body of water. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I’m grateful I have a muse at all.

The streets were empty at this late hour. The city and I were alone once again. It was freeing to walk the streets in solitude. I guess you could say it was the happiest moment I could hope for in a day. Does that sound a little sad? Maybe it does. But it was realistic.

I pulled my scarf tight and began the walk back to my place. I lived in the Sunset. It was a humble little place off Parnassus, just down the hill from UCSF. It was a good, quiet neighborhood.

My head was finally clear. It had been so long; I couldn’t remember the last time I could think straight. This was the first time in years my body was free of the strain of alcohol. After so much chaos, it felt comforting to have such a simple life. I felt drained of all the drama, yet I felt whole. It was as if the poison had run its course and left my body.

I walked slowly on these nights. I didn’t want these moments to end. I was drawn to the darkness of the city. San Francisco had a soul with many shadows. Those shadows protected me and comforted me. I thrived within the darkness.

I’m not actually the loner I sound like. I only wish I was. I have friends who refuse to leave me alone. Every so often they won’t even call; they just come over to my apartment. James and Scott were the worst. Those two always want to take me out to the clubs. They never listen to mean drug me out all the time. I don’t know when they expected me to write. This night was doomed to be the same as all the others once I heard the knock.

“What do you want?” I shouted back through the door.

“Open the door, Q”

That’s me. I’m Q. It’s a long story. Maybe I’ll tell you another time.

“James, I’m not going out tonight. I need to stay here and write.” I should never have come back to the apartment. I was safe at the coffee shop.

“Open the door, Q. We just want to have a drink with you.”

I knew this night would not be that simple. Complications always occurred with these two. Why the hell did I open the door? I’ll never know the answers to these questions.

“Hey man, good to see you.” Scott is so full of shit. I can see right through his innocence. He’s smooth, always trying to make you feel good before he presents his genius plan he just concocted. It’s painful, really. What is even more painful is that I’m weak and I always fall for it?

“Whatever.” I was still not going to trust them until they were gone. At least they offered me a beer when they came in. I mean, it’s the least they could do.
I was sure they were planning on ruining my night anyway.

“No thanks. I’m still not drinking.”

“Right.” Scott said in a slightly sarcastic tone.

“Man, its just one drink. How many times do we get to sit around and have a beer anymore?”

So we sat around and finished off the twelve-pack. There was small talk wrapped around the tension hanging in the room. I was waiting for their grand idea to spring forth like a jack-in-the-box. I knew them to be sly and cunning. If I was going to be prepared to counter their antics, why was I drinking?

The next thing I knew we were at the bar. I convinced myself it wasn’t a big deal. It was only a bar downstairs from the apartment. They had The Eagles playing on the juke box in the corner. It was actually rather nice. We had switched to some livelier music at this point in the night. James and Scott had found a way to get me to relax.

You might be thinking this is a good thing. You don’t know these guys. Nothing is ever this simple. They harass me until I give in or they get me drunk and I don’t know any better. The latter is far easier and more effective. The tension had long ago ceased to exist. The scotch was flowing freely and the laughter even more so.

“So we’re catching a plane tonight.”

The laughter abruptly ended. I could hear the needle scratching a record in my head. The silence was truly amazing. I don’t think I have heard such profound silence, before or since.

James had a huge grin spreading out on his face. Scott looked away as soon as James spoke. I kept looking back and forth at both their faces. I should have stayed at the coffee shop. It was quiet. I was alone. I should have tried to write there.

“Now, who do you think is taking a flight?” I asked, already knowing the answer. I hung my head waiting for their response.

“We are.” Scott said, still looking away, trying to both answer and avoid the question.

These two monkeys had killed all the joy we had established during the evening. The silence which had once lingered had returned in a hurry.

Scott turned back to fully face me. Somehow he had gathered himself and regained his composure.

“Q, you’re coming with us.”

“The hell I am.”

“You have nothing to do here. This place makes you miserable. When was the last time you took a vacation? All you do is sit in those damn cafes and read. If it’s a good night, you’ll write a few pages in one of your depressing stories. You’re coming with us.”

“Q, c’mon, you need to get away from here,” Scott said, trying to soften the impact. “Come have some fun with us.”

“Where are we going?” My wall was beginning to crumble and they knew it. They came around me, putting their hands on my shoulders. I really hate it when Scott and James get those goofy grins on their faces. The aggravation levels rise to monumental heights. They were aware of this as well. They knew getting touchy-feely with me would annoy the hell out of me.

“We’re going to take a trip to Arizona.” Scott said it slow and deliberately. I put my hand to my head, covering my eyes.

“Arizona? What the hell do I want to go out there for?”

“Seriously dude, please listen to us. You need to take some time and get out of this rut you’ve got yourself in.”

“We’re only trying to help you.”

I tried to sleep on the plane, but it was useless. My mood had not lifted. I was still very annoyed I had been duped so easily. I was mostly upset with myself. I knew I should never have had that drink with them. My sobriety had been coming along so well. About a month before I had taken a trip to the ER after vomiting up blood. The doctors firmly suggested I stop drinking.

That was the first time I had slipped up. At first, it was hard not to drink. Drinking had become such a central part of all my activities. I viewed myself as a social drinker. I simply had a lot of friends.

I sat staring out the tiny airplane window into the nothingness of the night. At that point, I didn’t realize how helpful this flight would be to my life. That getting out of California would change my life forever.

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Nell’s Night

Nell Flynn walked down the dimly lit sidewalk. She looked over her shoulders from time to time. She wasn’t completely comfortable out here after dark, but she didn’t want to give in to the environment.

She thought of herself as a strong, independent woman. She didn’t want to have her life dictated by a patriarchal society. She also wasn’t dumb. Criminals don’t wait to listen to theories before hurting people. Nell was torn between what she believed and the reality of the situation.

It was a sketchy section of the city. Downtown Jacksonville was architecturally mixed with older, red brick buildings and sleek, modern office structures. There was a push to get rid of anything old. An element of the population wanted to tear down the grime and use the land to build up the shiny, new glass-faced buildings. The new buildings tended to bring in more revenue.

If Nell was honest, she didn’t really care either way. She didn’t live down here. She had no skin in the game. She just knew that the fancier areas usually had a larger security presence. Being a woman in today’s world was already dangerous. She didn’t need to risk her life to make someone else’s point.

The coffeeshop was sandwiched between two overpriced gastropubs. She was always amazed by what people will spend their money on. Nell preferred to route her cash flow into other, more permanent passions.

~

Nell removed her glasses and compulsively cleaned them on the hem of her sweater. She didn’t need to locate the people she was meeting. She could hear them before she could see them. They were already loud and obnoxious. The waitress looked annoyed. Nell avoided eye contact and tucked her short, blonde hair behind her ear as she walked past. She threw her book bag into the large, corner booth. She slid into the back and listened to the other writers rant and carry on. Nell wasn’t confident enough to join in, at the same time she wasn’t sure she wanted to. These conversations were going nowhere.

~

“No, I don’t read my own writing, especially not in front of people. What the hell would that prove?”

“It’s all about exposure, man. You have to get your name out there, once people know your name, then they’ll appreciate your words all the more.”

“That makes no sense.”

“I don’t make the rules. I just know how to play the game.”

“I’m sure if I sold my soul, I could gain some notoriety on the internet. But, that’s not what I want. I write to try and figure out something within me. I share it to try and connect with other people who are as confused and searching like me.”

“I’m not telling you how to live your life, man, it’s just a suggestion. You can write. You just don’t seem to know how to market yourself.”

“I’m a Capitalist, yet I refuse to include myself with what I’m willing to sell.”

“Your life. Your decisions, man.”

~

A neon sign buzzed and flickered above her. Nell stared at it and couldn’t look away. Thoughts poured into her brain. She contemplated life and what she was doing with it. She grew frustrated. Looking up at these guys, speaking in theories and other bullshit, Nell felt something let loose within her. She grabbed her book bag and slid out of the booth. The conversation never faltered, even with her sudden movements. She stood at the end of the table, listening.

~

“If I were a woman, I’d guarantee I’d have a million followers, you know what I mean, man?”

“Probably a million stalkers sending you dick pics, too. I’m not sure the tradeoff is worth it.”

~

Nell’s head hurt. These guys had been going back and forth for a few hours now. She wanted to surround herself with intelligent people to help further her own writing. These guys just yelled and tried to outwit each other. Her eyes had rolled so many times they hurt. This might have been what she asked for, but it didn’t turn out to be what she wanted.

Without saying goodbye or anything at all, Nell walked out. It was a mild spring night of Northern Florida. The bell jingled. The air smelled like fresh roasted coffee beans from the Maxwell House plant a few streets over. The restaurants were still overflowing onto the sidewalk.

She walked and kept going. She walked until she ran out of buildings down where the river curved up to meet the sidewalk. There was a park bench where Nell sat for awhile, looking out into the darkness of the St. John’s River. It was a little bit before she decided she probably shouldn’t be out there alone. Nell pulled out her phone and ordered an Über. No good reason to tempt fate.

 

 

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Something Noble

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Sally came to her Advanced Writers class that evening without much inspiration. The winter semester was headed toward finals. The stress kept building upon her. There had not much time to write lately. When she had wanted to write, she found the well was dry.

She was a junior at the University. A notebook could always be found in her bag. Sally had a habit of trying to write down any interesting thought she came across. She had been keeping faux-diaries since she was a little girl. Sally was shy about her writings before she met like minded people at school here. Now, she was cautiously open about what she was capable of writing.

Outside was bitter and cold. The snow hadn’t been cleared from the streets that afternoon. Everyone was walking carefully, if they went out at all. She wore her ancient clunky Docs an old boyfriend had bought her years before. They provided decent traction on the sidewalks.

She removed her coat and hung it on a hook at the top of the auditorium. She wore a light blue sweater and leggings with a scarf around her neck. Sally would be considered pretty once you took the time to look at her. She had a slightly nerdy appearance. She tried to look attractive without wasting too much time on superficial endeavors.

This class was her favorite of the week. She tolerated the rest of her schedule to be able to sit here and listen to Dr. Fitzgerald. As the class went on, she sat mesmerized. She had come to this school to learn from her favorite poet. This was her dream come true. She awkwardly smiled as he spoke.

“No matter what anyone tells you, you can’t teach poetry. You can only encourage someone to feel onto the page.”

She scribbled that quote into her notebook. As the class ended, Sally put her belongings in her bag. She noticed the professor was the only other person left. She took a deep breath and approached him.

“Can I buy you a drink or a coffee, Professor? I’d really like to talk about some of my writing.” Sally bounced nervously as she spoke.

“No, my dear, the Missus is eagerly waiting for my return.” And with that he limped off, down the corridor . He used an old shillelagh as a cane. She just smiled as she watched him. There was something noble about that man.

There Are Many Fancy Writers

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There are many fancy writers
Those who are great, they’ve decided
Elegant illustrations & plunging necklines
But hubris is often one-sided
There are many arrogant writers
Quick with the wit they’ve decried
Moans of pain suited to their fame
Loving with one eye open it’s often implied

Hanging With Suspicious Writers

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Hanging with suspicious writers

An overly socialized troop

Collectively creating

An emotionally battered group

Pondering word placement

& the value of existence

The quiet utility of thought

Inspiration compounding persistence

I Do My Best To Be A Gentleman Writer

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I do my best to be a gentleman writer
At least to the extent that I portray
Scratching out all the love in my soul
But secrets linger in what I don’t say
Crawling deep into my distant dreams
I discover myself in a bawdy knave’s pose
Living this life in passion’s sacrifice
A wasteland, but a thriving ice blue rose
Falling back to reality in a tremendous jolt
Searching to gather notes of inspiration
I need a pen to create an enduring legacy
With immortal words I can defy expiration

Hanging With Suspicious Writers

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Hanging with suspicious writers

An overly socialized troop

Collectively creating

An emotionally battered group

Pondering word placement

& the value of existence

The quiet utility of thought

Inspiration compounding persistence

*previously posted on former blog