Thursday, April 6, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Chance of Rain

There was a moment when the light drizzle would finally remove the scent of urine from the sidewalks of San Francisco.  However, right before that moment arrived, it would act as a blooming agent giving the dense skunky odors a last moment of triumph.  It took a learned skill to be able to not only ignore the thick smell, but to also pretend that it wasn’t a human being in filthy rags that you needed to step over on the sidewalk.  The key was to make it abstract, like it was a pile or garbage instead of some guy named “Jim” that used to be a pretty good little second baseman when he was a boy in middle school.  One foot in front of the other and an annual check to a homeless charity was a solid prescription to keep the illusion that he was “giving back” to the community.

He had a meeting at one of those annoying speakeasy places that were popping up all over the city like mushrooms.  Never clearly marked, this one was a real snipe hunt.  He walked into the crummy hotel off Geary St., walked to the plain door in the back corner, ascended a flight of metal fire stairs, through a curtain, and walked into the small space.  Dark wood, little light, and packed to the gills with excited white collar workers sharing the unspeakable dramas that had unfolded across small meeting rooms all over the city that afternoon.  Snippets of conversations washed over him as he walked past scouting for a small parcel of space he could claim as his own.  “…so then she asked me if I wanted to be on the team for the project, when it was me that initiated the PO in the first place...”

It was all very numbing. 

Three bartenders mixed pointlessly complicated cocktails with perfectly manicured facial hair.  They all appeared to be going for some sort of “lumberjack meets Depression era drifter” look with their rolled sleeves, suspenders and high waisted weathered work pants.  He wedged himself into a corner of the bar next to a beam.  He looked for any possible opening to place an order.  The bartenders chopped and shook and poured all the while without making any eye contact with anyone.  A chubby Asian waitress dressed like Gypsy Rose Lee handed an order to one of the bartenders, neither making eye contact with the other.  She looked directly at him expressionlessly from across the bar, chewing gum with her mouth open.  It seemed unlikely he would attract any attention from the bartenders no matter how long he started holes in their backs.  He attempted to find another spot on the bar to attract enough attention to get a drink.

No matter where he stood he was in the way.  There appeared to be no available three foot by three foot spot to stand where he was not nudged by someone.  A guy in a leather jacket turned into him, sending most of the green colored drink from his martini glass onto his shirt.  He felt the cool liquid on his stomach and looked at the stain growing like a gunshot wound on his shirt.  A woman’s cackling laugh exploded in his ear.  It was the proverbial stick that broke the camel’s back.  He turned and walked out down the metal staircase.

He walked towards the Tenderloin sending a text.  “Got caught up at office.  Reschedule tomorrow?”  He shoved the phone in his coat and turned the collar up on his coat in a vain attempt to shield himself from the pissing rain.  A small bodega offered a surprisingly good selection of beer and small bottles of liquor.  A man with no legs in a wheelchair shook a paper cup with change at him as he walked into the store.  A quart of Anchor Steam and a 187ml of Johnny Walker Black was placed in a paper bag after the reassuring beep of the chip credit card reader.  He dug into his pocket and fished out some change to drop into the cup of Wheelchair Man on the way out.  “God bless.”   

He finished the beer while he walked towards the water.  Rain began to seep into his shoes.  He started in on the whiskey.  It was warm and burned in a good way.  He saved the last sip for when he made it to the bay.  His grandfather had once told him that if he ever wanted a wish to come true he should write it down, put it in a bottle and cast it into the sea.  “Don’t believe me?  It’s how I survived WW2.”  The Japanese couldn’t kill his grandfather, but lung cancer did.  He took a pen from his jacket pocket and wrote a message on a shred of the paper bag from the store using his coat as a shield from the rain.  He placed the note in the bottle, the bottom corner of the paper turning dark from the trace liquid collected in the bottom.  He carefully sealed it tight and walked to the edge of the harbor.  He held the bottle in his hands and stared at the water.  The rain fell harder.  He sighed, turned around and tossed the bottle in the garbage.  The walk back to his apartment took 10 minutes.


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