deadbeat summer

The Dogs That Lost Their Noses

 

 

i

 

It was a glorious mid summer. The streets were aglow with a humid August love, the sunsets were bountiful and beauteously new. The women wore sundresses on the sides of the yards and all things seemed to scream 'life' with wet, youthful lungs, a moonbeam on pink, supple lips now forgotten as age takes my good health.

 

I sat with Vincent, a lover of moons, the sun standing there like an unwanted beacon of hope scorching the petunias that laid behind the impossibly black aluminum gate and binding the faded yellow trafficways to arrow-true roads in the noon.

 

He was a Catholic. We spoke of God and glory, the fallen saints and martyrs of the world before us, in between drunken lies and youthful mistruths.

 

I believed in the Christ, but my faith had wavered thin like a flag too afraid of the treacherous nighttime to hold its holy rags and tatters from a life spent on pride. I had gone to the Catholic Church for grammar school, Our Lady of Herkimer. It was tall and white and it's steeple poked teethmarks in the alabaster clouds of morning that would drift like nightmares above my head as the children played robbers in the schoolyard pen. I had never been confirmed but the power of Christ led me closer to the hearts of my fathers, who had passed away in accidents of circumstance well before I was born.

 

Vincent was a Hannity, a teller of tall tales, Irish-Italian fabrications that were never lies but unabsolved truth. Upon his chest was a dark-stained t-shirt that hid his well-muscled frame and a golden cross which hung around his the way daydreams linger at the tops of craniums: they are never quite forgotten like the gleam that hung in between his masoleum arched collar bones. The relic swung like a ripe apple with every sway of his monstrous shoulders.

 

I, on the other hand was youthful and frail, stunted by 3$ menthols and a disdainful lack of care. Though I sought an appearance of all American normalcy, I was wasted and wearied by a demon called life. At 18 years of age we were still saplings, almost newborns but from the beaten path we had strayed: we had met in a group home situated lightyears from our steady pumping hearts, away in the suburbs of Rockland where our lives fit well in a grainy box behind a graffiti painted desk.

 

My grandfather was a barman, he owned his own saloon past 125 that had glittering letters that read “the mercy of ale”. In yellowing polaroids I could see a man that looked like me, one of the few people in the world that shared my face. It made me weep tears of joy and tears of shame. He was the strongest man on earth who carried his women on his shoulders and who men bended below. I, sickly and without love of life would cringe between the comparison of our faces, my skin greying with the cerulean smoke that whistled from my white painted loosies.

 

Hannity stood firm and fortunate, his back straight and true. It seemed he was seven feet tall and bred of Gods; the way the wind rippled his midnight hair was like a virtue in a den of theives. The wind was rising and God had promised a storm.

 

“Pass that,” he said, aiming for a grease stained brown paper bag which held a barely concealed bottle, it's contents so foul that they sent a towering inferno to the unsuspecting nostrils of a novice. We, the seasoned professionals treated it's acrid musk as a delicacy taken well with malicious laughter and a well dressed lie.

 

“I got you, bro.”

 

“What's good with Jackie,” he asked. “She was supposed to be here. It's been about a minute.”

 

“She'll come or she won't. She's a fiend. We can cop now or later. First we gotta catch a good drunk, not like that last one.”

 

“Aye,” he grunted, his brow a knot of drunken confusion and wonder. His agreement was no less than a wonder, I thought. All of his words were a marvel of life to me, a boundless miracle that whispered long after he walked away with a powerful strut and an upright spine.

 

The world was in bloom and all were in love but the clouds were greying and the wind began to ripple stronger through the leaves.. It seemed that even the pigeons could sing: the men-birds pranced strong, their chests puffed and unafraid, tricolored and beautiful, as the songbirds became pipers of the beautiful game, where no matter what, all players were victorious.

 

The girls were out, too; they wore their hair in curls, gleefully waltzing the asphalt to catch an eye. I refused to lend mine as my world was dredged in black, a nighttime curtain falling from the Giraux.

 

Giraux was the love of my life, the love of all, my truest love of Christ. She bought me closer to the heaven of the all mighty, the seat of the righteous, the stronghold of the pure. Annie, the great Giraux was all and she was none. Those days had begun to feel like less than that.

 

We had met in the seventh grade, when I still loved Christ. We passed notes with curling hearts that gated our new handed scribbles of names on ruffled line paper, hiding from the suspicious glare of a white mouthed instructor.

 

She had red cheeks and dark brown hair, small for her age. She was thin and pure and perfect as a early morning sunrise above a crystal frozen bay; her smile illuminated the darkness that rested in my eyes and filled them with a damning light that exposed my shortcomings as a man.

 

I couldn't have sex. The taste of lips was a sour want and the touch of a woman was excruciating. I would fall to my knees and weep for my mother at the slightest brush and a caress was like broken glass to a naked back. I didn't know what could be done to remedy this dysfunction, so I shunned the glare of the opposite sex and kept my circle closed but to the affection of my brethren.

 

“What're we doing here, man,” Vincent laughed. “It's been 15 minutes and we're standing here like a mob without a rope.”

 

“She'll be here.”

 

“No she won't. We're getting played. Let's get out of here, man.'

 

I shrugged.

 

We walked down the gap mouthed street along 5th and 9th and I wanted to cry. It had rained the night before and silver droplets marked the leaves of the shubbery that lined the avenue. The roadway looked almost luminescent as the rain met the shine and the twilight tinted twinkles bore precious diamonds in the steeples that resided in my slowly shrinking soul.

 

'Love is impossible,' I thought as Hannity's shoulders led the way. 'I'm doomed to be alone.'

 

 

 

ii

 

We walked along the crooked pavement that jutted epileptically like the spine of an old liar, a lawyer or a fthief. The avenue was painted with smiling faces, the young children with their cocker spaniels and blue eyed irish setters. They were beautiful with long blood hued locks that fell to their knees upon the hottest day of the year. Hannity walked like an automated daydream, his arms following his hips that were tightly bound by a brown leather belt, high-waisted and jeans, a deep black, slim-fitted and svelte.

 

“Let's walk to Prospect?” I suggested. “There's always some trouble to be found there.”

 

He nodded.

 

They called me the Villain. Any nefarious scheme that could be dreamed seemed to ooze from my pores; I thrived of chaos, but also of love. For every broken bottle smashed in the filling station lot, for every swastika on the courthouse wall there was another far away dream that sustained me. I wanted for a better life, one far away from the eyes of my kinfolk where I could live as I pleased without the shadows of my mother's glare and the haunting spectre of my grandfather's soul boring down on me on nights when all eyes seem to be closed. Not every sleeping dog dreams and not every shut eye is asleep.

 

In my hand was our bottle of the filthiest of whiskeys, which we traded for tall tales. I began:

 

'So I was at Mary's the other night, right? You know Mary, the Damned Mary? The little white one with the tits that never wears a bra. I was over there the other night, her moms was in Poughkeepsie for tuesday to sunday.'

 

'What of it?'

 

'So I trying, you know me, handling my business. We get to fooling around drinking a little bit, I'd been drinking a little bit, I'm nice, you know? I'm having a grand old time, doing swell, dressed to the nines looking like a nickle on your worst day and I get her into bed now, right? The Pogues are playing on Pandora, switched it to Bieber for the bitches, you know. Get to taking her shirt off and like I said, she never wears a bra so it came right off, her hair looking like a russian porno. Her nips are real pink-like, real tiny, like oddly so.'

 

'I bet you like that, right? Her titties look like eclipse glasses.'

 

'Shut up. Anyway we get halfway to heaven, her hand's where I want it to be and there's a knock on the door. She's mortified. She's already white but she looked like the little faggot from Home Alone, swear down. So I'm like 'what's up' and she's like its Domingo. I'm like 'who the fuck is Domingo?' She says all stupid, 'he's my boyfriend, I gave him the key. You have to get out. Now.' I'm like, fuck me, where the fuck am I going to go. The second I thought it, she said 'in the closet. Now.' She was kicking and punching and putting her shirt on and I was trying to grab my shoes and shirt, mind you I'm hard enough to blind a dwarf, all the while the doors knocking harder. Pass that, you're getting greedy.' Snatched it, took a swig of the bottle.

 

'What happened next, did you lose your virginity?'

 

'Yo, watch your mouth. Domingo comes in the house like a hellhound on fire, he's sniffing around like a German sheperd with shrapnel in it's nose from the goddamn arabs in the war, he's breathing so loud I can hear him. She's talking to him like nothing even happened, like my black ass isn't stuck in a closet the size of Minnie Mouse's clitoris. She's like 'Let me make you a sandwich, my love' and I'm going to be sick. I'm really feeling for a beer evil. Then I hear them coming down the hall and into the bedroom. He starts taking off her pants and I'm sweating like hell in the hot ass cupboard next to the boiler. I wish I had my phone, I could have sent you the pictures. But then I'm realizing I've been in there about 15 minutes and I'm like fuck that. I'm a grown man and I don't have time for this. So I bust up out the closet on some old G.I. Joe shit like 'what's good'. He's just standing there butt ass naked looking at me like I was his father. He tries to flex with his dick all out like 'who the fuck are you?'. I look him back dead in the eye like 'who the fuck are you?' He's struck like a prophet of the Bible. Couldn't say shit, not a damned thing. I walked right out as he looked her in a face full of evil, you wouldn't believe.

 

'What'd you do next?'

 

'I went down to the Blarney, had a beer, jacked off in the bathroom.'

 

'Good man.'

tempest rising

 

iii

 

 

We entered the park like a storm on a quiet bay. We were drunk and stupid: our tongues lagged furiously and in the horror of our inebrieated prose we felt an everlasting love that echoed off the drying branches, the whiskeybums howling their sorrows. The dog park was on fire with brays and laughter, young lovers waltzing their poodles and labrodors. We were grease stained and lined with pock marks from acne, we hadn't any woes but for want of drug.

 

We followed the path along the green deeper into the park, where it became more forest than city and where loud things happened quietly where no one would ever know, but a thousand questions and memories would linger.

 

'Where are we going?'

 

'Quiet down, I know a spot.'

 

The trees captured the light of the sun that shone through only with the dimmest gleam that faded from white to a deep sepia like a secret to deep to be forgotten. Their branches grew wild and without care as if someone had neglected to return to this land for ages long passed but in the summer heat, these were the places for me. Where no one thought to look and it was too quiet to speak; where all the lively things came to die in the sweetest peace unknown to man.

 

There was a white stone stairway that followed into nothing: it led the way to ruined cobblestone with cracked and vined effigies to the Holy Mother lining the weed strewn floor. It was as if the Father said 'no more' to the finishing of this monument and his will was done.

 

Beside the platform of naught was a small gate that fenced an unseen waterfall that could be heard over all but dreams; it was impossibly loud and spoke of nothing but downfall and ruin. Hannity and I looked both ways for the suspicious glare of an officer, but there were none around so we hopped and sauntered into the forest.

 

The floor on the side of the waterfall was damp and full of life. I had no fear of slipping but I walked hastily and carefully, fearful that the mud would cake upon my shoes and I would no longer have the style that I desperately fought for. I did not have much money and as my parents would hardly allow me in the house, I was very kind to my clothing.

 

The air was alive, there were many old spirits drifting through the bank. Some were of woe, some were of death but none were of love. As we came beside the waterfall our eyes wide with awe and wonder, the crickets played a choir of braided wings. We thought of nothing but each other; the world was forgotten, as were our mothers and our friends. We were together at the end of the world, the geysers of lust shooting into an endless pool.

 

From there we traversed the wet rocks which were met with cragged stone slabs that created a canopy above the raucous laughter of the fallen stream that rang into the depths of the pond which we now stood above. As we walked deeper into the wood, the smell of weed and vanilla dutches grew strong until it overpowered us and crept into our t shirts and our pores.

 

'What's goodie?' said a young Asian boy, about 16. It was Panda. He was dressed in a Ralph Lauren Polo of the most excruciating periwinkle known to man. His hair was perfectly coiffed, and somehow, through all the mud, his off white Nike Sbs had stayed off white.

 

'Same old, man.' I said. 'You?'

 

'You know, doing my thing. Smoking this motherfucking weed, not giving a fuck. A day's work.' We laughed. Vincent was silent.

 

'You wanna hit this?' said Panda, offering the most lipped blunt I had ever seen in my life. It was rolled by a passerby in this life, one for whom life was still an option. I looked to Hannity. He did not approve of marijuana.

 

'We're good,' Vincent said for the both of us. He had a look of disdain on his face that couldn't be shaken by even the most skilled bartender.

 

'What's happening with you, though? Haven't seen you in a minute.'

 

'We're good,' again said Hannity. 'Why'd you even bring me here?' His question was directed to me.

 

'You said you wanted to get high.' I shrugged. He looked away.

 

Suddenly my attention was turned beside Panda to a lump on the floor covered with a garbage bag, sticks and leaves. It was rough strewn and grass stained, the force flex stretched exposing it's wide white pores. It looked like a stack of sticks ready to be burned in the praise of a heathen diety.

 

'What's that?' I asked.

 

'It's Jackie, look,' he said to me, pulling up the tarp and revealing an unconscious girl of 20, maybe 21. Her legs were bruised and she was very pale, the blue of her veins showing through her white washed skin. Her shirt was halfway up her breast and you could see a grime bemarked crescent upon her mauve brassiere. My heart raced and as Panda snickered, Vincent's face grew grim and pensive.

 

'What happened to her?' I stammered, too afraid to choose words but letting them fall as a jetisson of angst.

 

'No idea. She was here when I got here. But look.' He shoved his hand down her undergarments through the holes of one of the torn sleeves that braced her thin arms. He pulled out a wad of cash, about three hundred dollars, maybe more, mostly fives and tens. 'You want some?'

 

I looked at Hannity. I was afraid to do something foolish.

 

'You needed to cop, right? You both look broke as fuck to me.'

 

'Give us fifty.' said Hannity and Panda produced fifty in fives from the stack. He quickly tried to shove the money into his pocket but Hannity grabbed his arm. 'You take fifty. Give me the rest.' Vincent's arms bulged and his eyes were on fire. Panda recoiled counting five ten dollar bills and returning the rest with a shakey hand.

 

'What are you going to do with the rest?'

 

Vincent looked down for a second in thought. Then with an arching wave of a Sicilian arm, he tossed the money with all of his might into the murky pool, which caught the dollars, burbling as if with shame. Panda screamed.

 

'What the fuck did you do that for?'

 

'For all the ones the park has destroyed. Let's get out of here.'

 

We once again walked through the mud, once again around the pond. We hopped the fence and walked the path, but this time, it didn't seem as filled with wonder but with stillness. The trees were calling in the evening and we were tired. The carousel was losing it's light and all was becoming silent as rain clouds gathered in the west. As we were once promised a storm, once again.

 

As we walked toward the entrance to the park, a ridgeback ran off its leash and approach us. It was fat and brown, wide around it's ribs and with maple brown eyes that looked longingly for love and affection. Jack was on my mind, I couldn't bear to look into eyes so full of life. If I could, I would have loved the dog and spoke in the tongue of its master, but my heart would not allow. With it's tail wagging, it jumped upon Hannity's leg, who quickly swatted it's nose.

 

'I hate dogs.' he said.

oblivion

 

iv

 

 

We entered the station on fallen wings. The green tile was not as green as it once was and the rats danced viciously below our feet. We had hopped the turnstile and ran down, caught the first one toward Brighton. We needed to cop and knew that Eddie would come through. Eddie was a tough Puerto Rican from the Bronx, but he had moved out there to be with his baby mother and start a family. He hated it there and took out all of his hatred on his custies, cutting his shit with evil shit and hoping they'd only die on the inside, because a dead custie is a dead sale.

 

It was a new train. The lights were bright and it showed all of our imperfections. Hannity's acne was revolting and my sunken eyes made me look sickly and parasitic. Mud caked our sneakers and we were weary, worn and rotten. We smelled of cheap liquor and cheaper dreams, we were the children of false promises and twisted ambitions. We were the forgotten ones.

 

The young lovers sat happy and unashamed. They kissed with all their hearts and all their love, a raunchy expose of youth and hormones; lipstick stained white cheeks and braids were tossed back, their galoshes met almost in an embrace against the frigid air that was pumped through the subway car like a nerve gas to all love.

 

A couple of faggots sat across from us. They were dressed immaculately with white and button down blazers, tickets on their wrists from the bandshell we could not afford. They seemed so beautifully in love, but reserved and god anointed but I could not approve. Feeling wretched, I damned them to hell with an authority that was not my own, merely borrowed from misread scripture and verse of old.

 

I was exhausted. I was tired of it all; the walking til sundown, the selling of prized possessions. I put my head on Vincent's shoulder.

 

An old lady looked me in the face; she was someone's abuelita with marks beneath her eyes from too many tears. She seemed world worn and old but life shown across her face with a wide gaped smile that seemed to say 'this too shall pass'. She had a golden cross around her neck, tied with a silver string which dangled cautiously, afraid to scream her love too loudly to the world, lest it be stolen. It was a cross of the perfect humility.

 

I had lost my cross years before. It was sterling silver, made in the land of my fathers and brought to me as birthright when I was still burrowed deep in the belly of my mother. It was a mark of my family and of my grandfather who carried it across the sea for protection from the very life he sought. I was naked and ashamed without it's silver shine across my neck but she still looked in my eyes like she knew me. I looked away.

 

In my eyes was my only, the Giraux. If she could see my tattered clothes, what would she say? What could she say? Nothing could whisper from her purest lips but an eternal woe that would dribble from her tongue in tear drops and fallen hope. I love her so much: she is the fiber of my being, the wind that tumbles across my face in the blackness of night when the moon is too afraid to twirl across the midnight sky and the stars have never left their beds, hungover and foolish. There was nothing to do now but cry.

 

I lifted my head and looked to Hannity's face.

 

'Is everything going to be alright?'

 

'Why wouldn't it be?'

 

'I don't know.' I said.

 

He shrugged. 'I don't know either.'

 

 

 

 

v

 

 

We got to the block and heard Eddie got locked. 'Shit,' I thought to myself, but that was unimportant now. The storm was about to fall and I didn't want to be sick and soaked through. We crawled past the Odessa and Vincent walked into the liquor store, got us a cheap fifth of white label and we walked toward the boardwalk.

 

It began to drizzle and we felt it chill our bodies; our clothes were thin and I was frail, too afraid of life to walk but too in love to turn back. As the rain became heavier, you could see the torrential tears leaving pockmarks on the crystal ocean. The air smelled like the sea and the noise of the cars slowly drifted into eternity. We walked up a new set of crags, those that jutted into the icy sea; we walked to the very furthest point. It was almost as if we were standing before a gap of infinity, lightning shattered the clouds and the air alike, its twisted power burrowing into our eyes and leaving an echo of neon darkness for seconds to come.

 

We did the obligatory taps, like any good bums. Opened it and started chugging it right there.

 

'I met a guy last night,' said Vincent.

 

'What was his name?'

 

'His name was Jim. Allegheny Jim. I was standing there on Kings Highway, right down there by where the bus station is, he was just standing there trying to stay standing like a dying dream. He was dressed in hobo rags, like rags, tattering and messaged with ruin and piss. He smelled like the inside of a whorehouse, said his name was Jim. Just looked me up and down, then up and down again, then straight in my eyes with the bluest eyes you'd never believe. He just looked me deep, so deep he could see my grandmother's eyes in my eyes and he was in love. It wasn't a sex thing, it was just love.

 

He asked me if I had any beer, I think he smelled me. Gave him a sip of my baby James, we got to talking. He knew about everything I knew about, about the birds from around where I'm from and the songs they sing and he knew about all the buses that went around where I went. I was so in awe and remarkably in love with the holes in his teeth and his eyes, because they were my eyes and I knew it. Then he said I looked well familiar. 'Do you know Bobby Hannity?' he said. I said, 'yeah he's my father.' He just shut the fuck up like we never said a word. Just asked me for a dollar and dipped.'

 

'You good, Vincent?'

 

'I'm just a little drunk,' he looked down. 'We're halfway in.'

 

'What are you talking about?'

 

'I don't even know. I'm drunk. But we've been fucked, we've been lied to, we've been had. We've lived other men's dreams for our whole lives, we've been sent to group homes where there's nothing waiting for us outside their walls but prison or death. But I've been thinking about it man. What if we're the lucky ones?'

 

'You're drunk. I've never gotten shit.'

 

'I am drunk but listen. We don't have our minds to cage us, we've got no goals to hold us back, all it is is a bottle and a drunk, a bottle and a drunk. What if that's what's meant for us? That doesn't seem so bad. What if we're the ones God loves, his chosen people? The ones unafraid of heaven or hell? We're the unabsolved, the ones on a nonstop run to heaven. If thy will be done, we'll be done and that's alright with us. We're golden. You're golden. You're here with me and with God at the very end of the world and I love you for it.'

 

The rain was beating down and his face had gone white like a shadow that's lost it's feet. His hair was thrown across his face wild and untamed and upon the rocks, he looked like a prophet of rage upon a mound above the earth.

 

I thought of my grandfather. What could he say of his grandson now? I was drunk and washed with a white lap of sea, there was nothing left for me. I was a villain. My cross was gone, I could never return from the sea in which I had plunged and I heard a voice across the sound that said 'Go.'.

 

Down the beach there was a gray figure, it looked lost and afraid. I was so drunk I couldn't see.

 

'What is that?' I stammered.

 

'It's a dog. It's lost.' As it came closer, I saw a gray dog shivering in the rain. It had lost it's fat and it's eyes had lost their shine. Graying fur fallen with mange covered it's body which ruffled around it's tired, homesick eyes like halos of heartbreak and sorrow.

 

'What's it doing on the beach? Doesn't it have anybody?'

 

'They say when dogs run away from home, they can always find their way home up until it rains. When it rains, they lose the scent of everything they love and they're doomed to just wander around til the dog catcher or death.'

 

'Let's try to bring him some place dry,' I said.

 

'Leave him. He'll find his home one day, maybe a lot later than he'd hope.'

 

I was drunk. I was wasted and puking on the edge of infinity, heaving before the face of the Lord. Hannity was just straight backed staring into the icy sea in a deep conversation with his maker. Once more I heard the voice, so I fell back to the beach, then back to the train, wet with the waters of my own cowardice. As I met the tunnel I was chilled with the August air conditioning on the city subway and in my drunkness, I fell asleep. I dreamt of Vincent as a tired, world wearied saint, sent to banish the snakes from schools and churches and call all the lost dogs home. I never saw Vincent again, but sometimes I dream of him, with a Great Dane by his side and a horn to his lips that sang the greatest song of love, if I should fall from grace.