Shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day
It’s too hot to sleep, time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal
There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
– Bob Dylan – Copyright © 1997 by Special Rider Music
It was getting dark. I turned on the bed-side lamp and hit the bed a dead weight. Closed my tired desparate eyes. Or that’s how they looked in the fly-specked-mirror in the fetid washroom down the hall. I had splashed water on my face, but I was still bothered by the heat, which hung over me like a sordid blanket. Is this what death is like, or a cold clammy fog in which you are forever lost?
I must have slept or did I? The slatted light from the flashing red neon sign outside was making crazy patterns on the ceiling. Discordant jazz notes drifted in through the open window from a bar down in the street. A woman was wailing now. Somewhere in this flophouse. Her no-doubt bloated weeping eyes blackened by fear and habitual abuse. A door slammed and not long after heavy footfalls lumbered down the stairs outside. She stopped her lament. The band was no longer playing. It got quiet. The silence broken occasionally by car-tyres swishing on the wet asphalt.
The bed was stale and hard, but it was kind of bracing, a distraction from the heat. It was dark now and the room flashed in and out of a red glow adrift in some parallel universe. Where was I? Who was I? Who cared? I switched on the radio. A long dead Jim Morrison was singing. “When the music’s over, turn out the light”. Dead 40 long years? How old was I then? How alive? How real? Don’t ask where the years have gone.
I was scared. Always had been. What’s it like to be comfortable in your skin? To never see the chaos and the terror just beyond. As empty and lost as I feel? Who cares? Another futility to add to the deck.
I had drifted somewhere and woke with a start. The pillow was soaked and my shirt collar awash with a cold sweat. I needed a drink. I grabbed the half-empty Tequila bottle and took a shot. It burned with a fragrance sweet as my mother’s smile. I was tired of waiting. Why didn’t they come now and put an end to it. My hands shook as I lit a cigarette. My last? I watched the lingering smoke snake towards the window. Is this how your soul finally escapes? Slowly and reluctantly before it dissolves into the big night? I turned off the lamp. “Cancel my subscription to the resurrection.”
“The night was all around, soft and quiet.
The white moonlight was cold and clear,
like the justice we dream of but don’t find.”
Another hard luck story
Everyone’s heard them
Not many know them
Stories trodden deep down in the cracks of pavements filled with humanity’s grime
Along with the indifference and neglect that clog the dark arteries of the city’s lost soul
Dark streets cursed havens for ghostly apparitions in the shadows cast by baleful stars
High atop lamp-posts
“more die of heartache”
We had a life – once
Before they took it and sold it for a quick buck
Those who own the day and make the night hell
Those who make the “hard” decisions – hard for us not for them
Those who hold all life cheap but their own
Like death – thieves in the night they steal your dreams and hock them for a fountain pen
All that glitters is gold
Down city streets at night looking for love, or something like it. A squalid chance for momentary bliss.
Love or something like it.
Under the lurid glow of neon planets, in a firmament of gasolean fumes and hard luck. The pavement meets my empty gaze and tiny stars of mica shine in an inverted gray sky. My shoes shuffle and drag me on to nowhere. This is my universe. All the shadows are mine. Not strangers nor intimate friends, but sordid extensions of my damned to hell soul.
The soft laughter of a woman somewhere off in another universe a stab to the heart. Whispers and intimacy I ache for and never have. For others. Not for me the easy familiarity of a life worth living. Somewhere not alone, not broken, not sad beyond sadness.
My shoes sill shuffle dragging me nowhere.
Those dames on the Avenue. Wrapped and decorated exotic empresses. Ice-cold blondes and raven-haired goddesses loping from privileged canopies to long black limousines purring at the road-side. Glimpses of the dream. Full breasts dark hidden valleys of lush abandon. Ivory skin and golden tans. Long languid legs. Heaven between their thighs and a come-on swank to their hips. Curves sublime sheathed in gossamer. Perfumed gardens of blissful delight. Soft caresses and sweet moans. Eyes deep as emeralds and as hard.
The dreams are theirs. Those with the easy laughter and healthy complexions. They are comfortable in their designer skins. Making the ‘hard’ decisions for us. You have your anger. You hold it tight lest they take that too. Easy to nurture and never absent, it goes where you go – “uptown, downtown, all around”. You know anger, you know pain, like Jack knew time. Dead now, his sodden soul awash in the lees of a bottle of rye glistening in the gutter, the peeling label his epitaph. The night is cool and the streets of perdition are sweetly rank with rotting garbage and dead hopes. You grew up in these streets by the light of day, and the street-lamp. Streets alive with palpable energy and unbounded love. The old man with his beer on the stoop on a balmy summer night. Your mother old before her time holding your angelic little sister by the hand recalling faded dreams of a new start and a better life. The cacophony of kids playing mad games on the pavement and the idle gossip of adults that had you enthralled. Day by day it all slipped away into that dark place where time and happiness go, along with your dreams. Gone forever.
“These city streets are poison. You walk and walk and they take you down. Down and out, a scrap of yesterday’s news swept into and out of the gutter by malevolent fate a dirty wind. You had all the angles tight. All settled. But that suitcase breaks open and those pretty dreams are strewn on the pavement just rags defiled by the grime under your shoes. She said she was with you. When was it? Yesterday or a thousand dead years gone? Stilettos as sharp as a flick-knife and as dangerous. Those eyes were not mysterious only jade cunning. She lied as she connived as she made love. You sap! You bought it and retail! My last cigarette. Inhale the smoke and numb the pain. Prove that you are still breathing. It’s dark and it’s cold, the streets slick with the last shower. Pull down your hat, turn up your coat collar, no-one knows you behind a week’s growth of beard. The concrete is jarring, every sorry bone in your body aches, your stomach growls, and your head spins. I need a shot. Down to my last dollar. The fur in your mouth is choking you. Bad times. Old times. Is it now or yesterday, or is it forever? A dead man walking.”
Electric nightmares in dark empty warehouses. Dank with the ocean’s chill and the blood of vengeance.
The rotting planks of a pier are suddenly shaken by a heavy thud and then by pounding footfalls. A running figure traverses the dull cone of light from a fog lamp affixed high on a post where the deck meets the shoreline.
The bent outline of a fugitive runs along a wharf in the macabre shadow of a looming gray hulk a brooding inert sentinel under an empty sky. A car door slams. The glimmering ebony saloon roars away, tires sliding atop the wet asphalt, and the headlights raucously stabbing the squalid shadows grown onto the mercantile mausoleums that hover at the perimeter.
Too late the sirens’ screeching cacophony cleaves the silence the careening car has left behind. More car doors slam. The harsh fevered intersecting headlights of the squad cars survey the scene revealing nothing.