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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Portage and Main - 2

When Ryan got up that morning, he knew before his eyes were open that the math was against him. He didn’t have the cash. He had to walk. It wasn’t that far. He had done it dozens of times.

Tick tick. Tick tick.

He could smell fresh cigarette smoke rising up through the century old floor from the room below. Rooney was smoking. If he was awake, the man was smoking. He would smoke until he died.That was taking a lot longer than Ryan had thought it would. It’s weird about some people. It’s as though smoking helps them live longer. He talked to the guy once since he had moved into the unit..

His accent was English in the way that must have been very identifiable but Ryan couldn’t figure it out. It wasn’t My Fair Lady. It would be like trying  to tell the difference between a Scottish and an Irish brogue or Australian and New Zealand based on movies. Maybe he was Welsh. Ryan was sure the second hand smoke was taking two days from his life for every day he stayed at the place. It was like living above an old dragon that no longer killed with violence but breathed out poisonous fire, smoke and brimstone all day long while waiting to pass away. He had the voice for it.

His eyes popped open and it felt like he had been slapped on the back of the head. 

He didn’t know why he had become such a poisonous thinker; the kind of person who looked at life with such bitterness. He shook that from his mind. 

It’s because you’re an asshole and you’re too fucking old to do anything about it.

That’s why Rooney smoked all the time. It wasn’t that he had lost his fair maiden to a prince. He just didn’t give a shit anymore. The poison became thicker.

Tick tick. Tick tick.

Who was he kidding? He had smoked far worse in this unit than old Rooney did down below.  At least as far as he knew; who knew anything about anyone these days? A chill ran through his body and he could feel the cold sweats soaked deep into the mattress lurking like a gelatinous ghost, biological and phantasm. 

His body shivered and his memory was cast into darkness. It was the days of suicide and Ryan had smoked and drank with the intention of that night being the last one. He changed his mind but when he came to his senses he had lost the sun. He would be passed out all day long until he would awaken to see the last rays of light sink away with cruelty. 

He desperately wanted to stay awake to meet the day, but he could not get through the night sober and nearly drowned in darkness. The memory roared through his body with more purpose and settled with a clammy grip in his shoulders. He shook his head as the hair on his arms rose and he felt the twinge in the broken rib that never healed properly.  

Drinking. Drinking. Drinking.  

He flashed to his brother Laurence. His face was right into his face and back into his face. He was him in that smile. And they laughed. “A man who drinks like that….He’s going to die.” Big gulp of water. “When?” 

His brother could quote all of Blazing Saddles to him it was hilarious, to Ryan it was the most honest history of the United States on film. The line, “We will take the Chinks and Niggers…but we won’t take the Irish” really had an impact on him. He recalls being offended when he first heard it. It was shocking that a White Man was put in category lower than a Man of Colour. It made him think about himself.

He smiles in the dark and shifts the blankets squeezing out whatever comfort they offer. He pulls his arms into his body and rubs his legs together until the chill of the memory retreats.

The wind picked up outside with a sharpened scream and reclaimed his attention. It was going to be wicked cold but once he got to Portage and Main he would take the underground maze into the warmth. It made the walk farther but it would be out of the wind.  

Tick tick. Tick tick.

He rolled on his side and reached for his device. It was 8:47. He had almost two hours. He rolled into a sitting position but did not touch his bare feet to the hardwood floor which would be cold as concrete. In the murk, he sighted his moccasins and reached outward delicately with his left foot. The tips of his toes felt the fur lining. He slipped in his foot pressing against the floor with the ball to secure the slipper.

The soft leather was cold but was beginning to warm as his heat connected to the life force that remained in the moose hide. The drum on the wall made a ping in affirmative and Ryan nodded his head in reflexive acknowledgement. With his right foot he hooked into the other moccasin and lifted it up and across his knee and snugged it tight with his left hand taking time to feel the comfort of the rabbit fur between his fingers.

He crossed his left foot up and snugged the other moccasin with his right hand. This time he held the fur between his fingers longer and he tried to find a memory. He spun the silk of the fur and then traveled deeper to the supple strength of the moose hide.  He ran his hand over the sheen of the moccasin bottom. It was worn smooth and thinner from the wear and weight but somehow seemed stronger and more impenetrable.

He ran his hands up onto the beadwork. The flower beadwork people. He could see his Grandmother smile. He brought his hand back to the fur trim and with practiced delicacy he grasped as much of the fur trim as possible with all five fingertips. And with gentle and determined pressure he ran his fingers back and forth along the fur trim. His thumb and middle finger rubbed and pulled upon each other on the edge of the moose hide and then were brought up to his nose and breathed in with deep hunger.

It was still there. The smoke of the hide and the life and sweat and the prayers and the dreams and the life of all and the feeling that sometime somewhere ago it was all the way it was supposed to be. He tried to reach out towards Grandpa and find that story about the days gone by that would help him get up and get on with the day. He could feel a warm hand at the base of his neck gently pushing him forward. He could picture the smile and he could smell the smoke. It was the moosehide and the smoke and something else. Something burning.

Cigarette.
“Shit.”
Ryan put his foot on the floor with a bang and then pulled his quilt around his shoulders and stood up.
“Fuck you, Rooney.” He muttered.
A long fit of coughing and hacking greeted upwards.
It was going to be a long day. 

Tick tick. Tick tick.

He could hear the monkey dancing.
There would be no sunshine on this day but the solar powered monkey on the window sill was swinging side to side.

Tick tick. Tick tick.
It danced with its little brown arms stretched upwards and reaching to an invisible sun. 

***

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