I awoke on page 223. The first word I read as my eyes opened was breast. I wanted to fall back asleep. I couldn’t. I already smelled those coffee smells.
I wanted to go back to bed. The sun wasn’t even up yet. I’m not a native to this realm of existence, to this waking daytime style.
Last night my friend who just got back into town gave me some peyote. I’m not sure where he was traveling. He wouldn’t tell me. He only said “down there”. I haven’t taken the peyote yet. I’m scared what will happen, scared what I’ll see.
I asked my friend what would happen,
“No problems man, only Illusions” He said.
I’m looking at the word breast, my eyes are watering, and right away when I saw my friend, after so long, I was grateful.
He said he took some peyote and decided to come back to what he called his “old stomping grounds”.
My friend told me about everything, whatever was on his mind. Together we just walked through the streets laughing. Even though it had been such a long since I hung out with him, everything fell back into place. The only thing that caught me off guard was how long his beard and hair had gotten. The only emotion I felt was happiness. I was grateful that he was still alive.
He kept going on and on and talking about everything, as he said that “there was so much to catch up on”. Four hours we kept walking down every street and alley and sometimes we paused and sat down on a curb. Cloud kept talking.
My friend had so many ideas. His conversation was one long string of words. He told me all about how information just enshrines our beliefs, how everything is just a memorial to our deaths.
I didn’t understand what he was talking about. My head hurt. I was still hangover from the night before. My brother got me a flask for my birthday and a bottle of bourbon. A. H. Hirsch Reserve, supposedly it’s aged for sixteen years.
Felix told me it cost over two thousand dollars. Right after I open any gift that he gives me, he always makes sure to tell me how much he spent. I just tell him thank you. Alcohol is a lot like our American history. Both are dark and blurry. Both are said to get better with time. Both induce fables and tall tales that are loosely connected to actual facts.
Over two thousand dollars. That’s how much the Kentucky bourbon cost. I didn’t care. My small business loan extension got denied. I downed half the bottle and fell asleep in my father’s old yellow chair.
Yeah, I quit smoking, kinda. Every day when martin buys his cigarettes he goes out and smokes one right outside of my shop. He sits on this green bench that faces the court-house. I smoke with him, my only cigarette of the day, and god, how I love it.
As the mayor smokes outside of the supposedly highest of all institutions of the city, of the united states for that matter, people and the citizens pass by in cars and on bikes and even some on foot.
Nobody notices martin. They have no clue who he is, that he’s their mayor. The only times he gets noticed is when a homeless person asks him for a cigarette. He always gives them two cigarettes and says “stay out of trouble”.
The homeless know who the mayor is. The people who live in the houses, for the most part, don’t have a clue. I thought this was weird until one morning he told me the statistics, that in any given city in the united states, almost three out of four people don’t know their local mayors first name. These kind of facts use to shock me. After spending a day for a year with Martin, nothing surprises me anymore.
Yesterday, as I was trying to pull myself together at work, after polishing off a half of a bottle of cheap vodka that I found laying outside on the front wall of the shop, Martin came into the store and bought his Winstons and the local paper. He went outside and sat down, handed out a smoke to jumping Jim, a local celebrity and homeless man, and then looked as the sun started to brighten the day and the morning city buses went down main street after completing their first run.
I staggered out of the store, Martin handed me a smoke, I inhaled, and because of the booze and the lack of sleep I almost vomited. Not wanting to throw up in front of the mayor I put the butt out and placed it behind my ear. Looking at Martin, who was unusually quiet, I asked him what was the shit today?
The shit as we both elegantly call it, is what we use in place of the word problem.
“were going to be in big trouble within the next decade. underneath us, is the shit Blaise. The city’s sewers are caving in. The pipelines are flooding with the shit, into our drinking supply.”
“Cant you fix it? patch it up, like pot holes or something?” I said.
“We’ve done that for almost fifty years. A finger can only plug up the dam for so long.”
“Well can’t you get an emergency fund to pay to fix it?”
“The swear system. Ha. Do you know how much money that would cost?
“Nope.” I said
“About as much as our annual budget. The cities can’t afford that. Hell, the state can’t afford that. Just about every other county seed with over one hundred thousand people is beginning to have to come to terms with the exact same problem.
He finished his smoke and patted me on the shoulder, and just like he does everyday, he waved to all of the local store owners who were seen through the windows. Then off to work he goes. The newest of unreported shit, straight from the mayors mouth, is put simply, that the city is sinking into its own shit. Perfect, just perfect.
Right under us the city is falling apart. Nobody knows this. The papers don’t even report this.
Of course Clouds doesn’t know this. He doesn’t live here, but even if he did, I’m not sure that he would even care, or mind for that matter, if civilization fell back into the center of the planet.
He doesn’t see any of this. He only comes back and high fives me like some air headed and of course stereotypical cartoon surfer dude would. He only smiles and says “aint that something, life is marvelous”, as comes back from out of nowhere standing in the middle of the street, pointing out a star.
Yep. Sure is Cloud. Sure is. So…” I said
“So…” Charles-I mean cloud said back.
“Look” cloud said
“What Man? Oh the stars. Beautiful”
“Not just beautiful, it’s amazing.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” I said
“I feel so peaceful looking at the ocean.” cloud said
“Look.” he said, as he points at the stars again.
“The ocean is up there. We think we’re so safe. We aren’t. We’re just in love.”
“In love?” I said to cloud,
And I’m not sure that there’s much of chance making sense of what he’s talking about. But I’m trying not to dig too much into how he’s feeling, cause I remember how he used to always tell me that I analyzed far too often, when it wasn’t necessary.
This is back when we were about graduate, back before my dad died, before I opened the book store, before Charles-I mean cloud went missing in action. This was before he left and went traveling. Before he went “down there” as he has so vaguely talked about when he went on and on trying to explain where the hell he has been traveling for the past decade and a half.
After Charles graduated he left town, he didn’t tell anyone at all. randomly from an old friend who walked into the book store one day I heard that Cloud went to Europe. Next he was in South America, somewhere in Brazil. After that, well who knew anymore. He Vanished. I grew up. Time went on. I almost forgot that he even existed.
Years went by and all of our friends from college were getting married and having kids. I had to take care of my fathers funeral, handle the intricacies of his straight forward will, which was thereafter made nonsensical by the rest of our immediate family.
Time did what it does, it just kept going, and everyone grew up. It felt strange, and most of the time I never even thought about how long ago everything was, but it still happened.
And cloud, well he was in Brazil and then the last of my friends that still was in contact with him, said that he had sent him an e-mail saying how his adventures were taking him on research vessel to Antarctica. Then he was gone. Then Cloud went off the grid.
Nobody really knew or not if he was telling the truth, but one thing was for sure, nobody had a clue where he was. Nobody really had the time to care. Nobody knew where He was, people stopped looking, but they never stopped talking about the kind of adventures he might be having.
Cloud became a legend to us all. We never stopped telling tales (often drunk) about what he could be up to, what he was doing in Antarctica. I thought he was dead. I thought he had run away because he didn’t want to pay his student loans back.