“ When Dreams Go To Die is a raw narrative about irreparable mistakes. A familiar story of tentacles growing where desperate measures fail; money, sex and drunkenness. “
Joelcy Kay | Editor | Edge of Humanity Magazine
Written by George Gad Economou
“You alright, man?” Jim poured me a lowball of gin; some bathtub variation that only speakeasy frequenters would consider drinkable.
“Same old shit,” I shrugged, downed the neat fucker, and tapped the glass.
It was half-past twelve—“play some Alan Jackson,” I said. Jim, entertaining my country fancies, did; five o’clock somewhere and God damn it I wished I was in a country where it was five o’clock, sipping margaritas on some remote, exotic beach with not a soul around for miles.
The dive was an isolated island in a roaring sea of nothingness. It was the reason it had become home, especially after Christine left for Copenhagen, packing in her bags my dreams, hopes, future, and the small piece of my heart that still beat. Another refill arrived, gin got to me.
Gin does me quick and good, though sometimes it turns me crazy drunk—thus I try to avoid it when I can’t afford insanity. It’s probably because it tastes like those good days when my life contained love, peace of mind, hope, and aspirations.
“You know, sitting here all day and night long won’t get you very far,” he said and poured himself a drink.
“It does help you, though. Keeps the business flourishing.”
“Sure, if you ever cover your entire tab.”
“Probably why I’m always here. Where else could I nourish a tab of phonebook proportions?”
He sniggered and we both had a sip. The other barflies were missing. Perhaps, they were drinking in another joint, maybe they were sleeping the day (or eternity) off under some low bridge or in a street corner. Peace and quiet; good music; a bartender that pours long and strong—these are the foundations of a true home.
“Hullo, hullo!” A thunderous voice overshadowed Jackson’s singing and the peace was ruined.
“Hello, Mr. Omega,” Jim waved at the suited-up man with a reluctant smile. I raised my glass at the guy on whose tab I drank a couple of weeks earlier.
“How are you holding up?” He patted me on the shoulder and climbed on the stool.
“Building my tab,” I drained the gin, and ordered a draft beer. Something cold, refreshing, and weak to keep the mind alert. When you’re all alone, you can afford insanity. When you sit next to a nefarious loan shark, getting petrified drunk equals suicide—not that I lack the tendency, I’ve just always wanted to do it my way. “Where are your gorillas?” I asked after peering about to ensure the two behemoths weren’t around to hear my characterization.
“Gave them a couple of hours off,” he shrugged. “I’m meeting someone…and don’t want to scare them.”
“So, no bloodbath this time?” Jim interjected, with a glimmer of hope in his squinting eyes.
“Hopefully not,” Omega smirked. “They made quite the mess last time, huh?”
“Took me an hour to make it look presentable, even for this place’s standards.”
“Sometimes, lessons can be hard.”
“So, you’re meeting a new client?” I lifted my eyebrow and tilted the sweating glass in my mouth.
“No, not really,” he sighed. “Just…the daughter of a hopeless deadbeat.”
“Oh, shit,” Jim groaned.
“Relax,” Omega reassured him. “She’s coming to talk.”
“You know, people tend to attribute different meanings to words. I’m not sure talk means the same to you as it does to us,” I intervened.
“You do make a valid point, but I mean it the way you do, this time. She just wants to find a way to…make a very unpleasant situation a little more bearable.”
“‘Cause you’re this great philanthropist that gives a shit about the trouble of others.”
Jim gaped at me—he exhaled only when Omega cackled.
“As I’ve said, I don’t like torturing people. I didn’t get in this line of work to satisfy sadistic needs. It’s just…”
“Shit needs to get done,” I completed his sentence.
“You’d be great at this job,” he clapped me on the back and with a nod bought me a beer—he drank fucking soda. “You speak your mind and, quite frankly, I think you care even less about others than I. It actually hurts me having to order someone’s knees to be broken.”
“How humane of you.” I clinked my glass on his and swilled half of the beer down. It’s a fine art maintaining some semblance of sobriety while trying to drink the pointlessness away. Welcome to my fucking nightmare.
“I’m not half as bad as you think.”
“So,” Jim chimed in with a quivering voice, “you’re just gonna talk with that woman, right?”
“Yes. I am curious to hear what she has to say.”
“And if you don’t like what she has to say?” I whirled my finger to order a refill while I stared at Omega with an arched eyebrow.
“Well…it’s her deadbeat father that’ll pay the price. After all, I do not agree with the notion of paying for a father’s sins.”
“So, if the father dies…”
“I might have to go after her. The deadbeat owes me a boatload of money. When the debt is small, I don’t usually go after wives and children. I’m not a heartless monster.
“But, the money this guy owes me… I can’t afford to let it slide. I’d chase down his great-grandchildren if I had to.”
“How much are we talking about?”
“Close to five million (danish krones); without the accumulated interest.”
“Jesus fuck,” both Jim and I exclaimed in perfect sync. “How on earth does one man amass such a debt?” I added in befuddlement—if only I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.
“Well,” he cleared his throat and his face glimmered, “guy took a loan to buy his house. Then, he mortgaged the house to get another loan. From banks, mind you, all perfectly legal, pristine contracts, yadda yadda yadda.
“That was back in the good days, before the recession. Even in Denmark banks existed within the bubble, man. Greece’s not the only fucked country in the world,” he gave me a wink that sent a shiver down my hunched spine. “Anyway, back then the man had a good enough job, could make the payments.
“Guess it was why the bank issued him a couple more loans. Now, the first loan he took, to buy a house, was reasonable enough. But putting two mortgages on it, just because he wanted lavish vacations and to buy all kinds of shit—cars, computers, furniture, what have you—was stupid.
“His wage covered the payments for the first loan and allowed him to have enough for a decent life for his family. But the motherfucker didn’t want a decent life; he wanted the good life. That’s why he bought a house up in Egå (northern suburb of Aarhus, upper class), instead of opting for a neat little apartment in Viby or something (western suburb, not working-class neighborhood, but lower-middle-class).
“So, he mortgaged the house to pay for expensive trips, long, lavish vacations, luxury cars…he wanted to fit in with his surroundings. I guess, he took the loans back when banks weren’t vigorously checking one’s background.
“Besides, his wage could still cover the payments. Problem is, it reached the point where he worked to pay the banks and was left with nothing to get by. He didn’t even bother using the money he loaned to cover the basic needs of his family.
“He spent it all to feed his need for luxury, to live a life that wasn’t his to live. Recession hits. First, his wage gets cut. Then, he’s fired. The banks want his house. He wants to keep the house—so, he comes to me. I loan him the money he needs to pay the banks.
“After all, I can’t repossess his house; legally, at any rate. Moron saved his house. Moron works two jobs and still can’t pay me back. So, I have to take severe measures.
“He spilled the whole story out to his kids and wife—who lived in blissful ignorance up until recently—and his daughter called me, asking whether we could negotiate a solution.
“She said the whole ordeal has taken a serious toll on his health, got him all nervous and fearful, his health deteriorates, he’s a wreck. To be fair, moron was a wreck long before I came into his life, but having me asking for the money, instead of a bank that is regulated by laws that might allow for a settlement or whatnot, did a number on the moron.”
“How do you ask for your money back? Before you resort to violence, that is,” Jim asked—I squinted at him and my heart leaped in my throat. The idea of my favorite bartender owing money to a nefarious loan shark horrified me—what if Omega took over the bar and turned it into a hipster place?
“I do operate, give or take, like any other collection agency…you know, persistent phone calls and all that. I even go as far as to offer payment plans, some sort of alleviation. Naturally, smaller monthly installments mean higher interest rates, so…
“Look,” he addressed both of us—deep down, he viewed himself as a legitimate businessman and tried to operate like one— “I don’t claim that what I do is legal. But, I’m not a crook asking for monstrous interest. When I loan someone money, I often come up with a monthly payment that entails a rather fair interest rate—granted, much higher than any bank would give.
“If they don’t like it, they can refuse. I’m not shoving money down their pockets. But, if they do take it and can’t pay me back, I have to take measures. At first, it’s adding up interest for the money owed. Then…well, that’s the difference between myself and a bank.
“I can’t go to court. It’s like loaning money to a friend. You won’t sign a binding contract, will you? No, you’ll shake hands—granted, maybe you won’t ask for interest. If that friend disappears with your money, what do you do? You’ve got nothing to show to the court or the cops.
“So, I have to make sure I either get my money back or punish those that don’t pay; otherwise, everyone’s gonna see me like a piggy bank handing out money. If no one ever paid for drinks, would you still be open, man?”
Jim tossed a glance at me and snickered. I downed my beer and he refilled it, putting emphasis—probably for the first, and last, time during my long tenure on that barstool—on his “on the house”.
Omega shrugged and sniggered. I lifted my glass to a toast and drained half of it in a magnificent sip that refreshed my mind and vivified my withering soul. I eyeballed the bourbon bottles on the shelf and wished for the whole ordeal to be over soon, eager to go back to swilling rotgut without a lecture on the shadow economy.
“Besides,” Omega continued unfazed, actually asking for a refill of his club soda, “society needs a man like me. You see,” he mistook my faint arching of the eyebrows as an encouragement to elaborate, “some people have great ideas, but can’t get a loan from a bank to realize it.
“Especially nowadays, where banks have to be more cautious. So, these people come to me. I loan them the money and they develop their idea—if it goes well, they have their business and I make some money. If it doesn’t…”
“They see their kidneys repossessed,” I retorted. Jim gasped. Omega clacked his tongue.
“Something like that. I do what I do for profit, not out of philanthropy or a sense of duty towards society.”
“So, what’s your plan for today? I mean, with the daughter of…” Jim mumbled.
“I’m just gonna hear her out,” he shrugged, sporting an innocent look on his face. “See if she’s coming here with an actual proposition, or just to cry her way into my heart.”
“Has it ever worked? Crying, I mean.”
“Almost did, once or twice. Back when I first started. I was still unprepared, you see, for the wide array of tricks people use to squirm out of their debt. Came close to forgiving a debt or two; never did.
“I always reminded myself that I couldn’t be seen as a pushover. I had to be feared if I was to be taken seriously.”
I shifted from beer to rotgut. If I was gonna be an unwitting witness to whatever was gonna happen, I needed to get inebriated before that—perhaps, if I was intoxicated, I wouldn’t be held liable in the eye of the law if (when) things went down the drain.
The effulgent sunlight penetrated our tiny, dark island and I glanced away, rubbing the sharp jolt of pain off of my eyes. Thankfully, the door was shut quickly and I peered back at the newcomer—in all honesty, I’d had hoped for a noir beauty to enter, in high heels and a high-slit dress, all mesmerizing and tantalizing. The kind of beauty that would melt the heart of even the most hardened private eye.
Or, at the very least, a completely broken down woman, sleepless, famished, with bloodshot eyes and ragged clothes. Sexual allure and pity—was there a third option, a third game sheet?
“Mr. Omega?” The plain young woman approached the counter, her arms crossed over her chest. In sneakers, ripped jeans, and a t-shirt, the only thing that stood out was her shimmering blue eyes.
“Let’s take it over there, shall we?” He leaped to his feet and, all too gentlemanly, took her arm and led her to the corner booth.
“Is it still worth it?” I leaned over the counter and whispered, peering at them through the mirror.
“Him?” Jim sighed. “I don’t know. He pays well enough so I don’t have to pressure you to cover your damn tab.”
“Totally worth it,” I leaned back, keeping tabs on the mirror with the corner of my eye.
The nameless woman (more of a girl, actually, in both age and demeanor) kept her distance from Omega, who sat stoically with his crossed hands on the table and stared holes into her soul.
I sank another lowball and wondered how the girl felt about being in the dirty, empty dive, so close to a loan shark, negotiating her father’s livelihood. Unless she’d won the lotto or something, she didn’t have the cash to pay up. I hadn’t seen the kind of money her father owed even during my brief stint as ice- and rock-cooker for rich kids (though that took place after the Omega story; in short, at the time, I hardly knew how ten thousand krones looked like, let alone the millions the man owed).
“Might want to take it slow,” Jim whispered as he poured two lowballs of rotgut. “Don’t go all crazy drunk with him around.”
“Let’s go back to beer,” I concurred and drained the crude rotgut that glided down my intestines, scorching all emotions. I extinguished the fire with a beer and lit a cigarette.
Omega leaned closer to the girl, whispering in her ear. Even in the graveyard silence—Jim had turned the music off—we couldn’t hear them. Only incomprehensible murmuring reached my ears and the faint movements of their lips were discernible through the mirror behind the counter. It was perhaps the only time I liked that mirror—usually, I loathed it, for I could see myself getting drunk(er) and that’s often a discouraging sight.
The girl slithered out of the booth and shambled to the door without throwing us a glare. I got another beer and Omega, sporting an earlobe-to-earlobe grin, resumed his seat next to me.
“Get me your best scotch, man!” He slapped the counter. “Get one for my friend here and one for yourself, too!”
Top-shelf scotch and it still tasted like kerosene gone bad; couldn’t the man have ordered top-shelf bourbon? A free drink (let alone top-shelf) is a free drink and I washed its horrid taste away with beer.
“I’ve got a job for you, man,” Omega clapped me on the back.
“I told you,” I cleared my throat and exhaled a plume of grey smoke, “I’m not interested in cracking people’s knees with baseball bats. That’s reserved for angry daydreams.
“If you want me to write something for you, that’s the one thing I can do.”
“It’s precisely what I want from you,” he announced and I had to swallow down my heart—and words. “She agreed to take over her father’s debt. She doesn’t have the money, obviously, but is willing to work for it.”
“And what in the hell do you want me to do?” I barked—drawing yet another flabbergasted glance from Jim.
“Well,” Omega straightened his back and a prideful gleam shone in his eyes, “I’ve always wanted to become a movie producer. When I was a kid, I dreamt of conquering Hollywood. Now…well, I’m far more grounded than that cloud-soaring kid. I’ve considered dipping my toes in the world of pornography.
“And that girl’s gonna be my first star.”
“Good for you. What does that have to do with me?”
“I need you to write some scripts.”
“All right,” I scoffed. “Here’s your first one; girl orders pizza—pizza boy arrives—girl is short on money—pizza boy goes to leave with the pizza—girl offers to gobble down his cock—pizza boy concurs—girl eats the dick and some cum—pizza boy leaves, girl gets her pizza. Credits, thank you for watching and wanking.
“Where pizza boy, insert any other similar profession—plumber, electrician, private tutor, etc.—and you’ve got a whole fucking series.”
“I’m serious. I don’t want simplistic shit. I want to make art. Something that’ll blow people’s minds.”
“Make a real movie, then; some artsy shit liberal art students would jerk off to.”
“There’s no money in that.”
“And you think porn with an elaborate plot will? Do you honestly think someone’s gonna watch a two-hour porn film for the story? They’ll skim through it, get to the good parts, wank, and move on to other stuff.”
“Well, if it doesn’t work, I’ll just film pure sex films. The girl agreed to be in my employment till she earns enough to pay off her father’s debt.
“And, in a showcase of my generosity and kindness, I agreed to freeze interest—so, as soon as she makes me twelve million, she’ll be free to pursue whatever she wants to do with her life.”
“How much?” Jim picked his jaw from the floor.
“Interest’s a nasty bitch and a loaner’s best friend.”
“Especially when there are no laws to regulate them?”
“Pre-fucking-sicely.” He clapped me on the back, pushing all the air out of my lungs. “So, are you in?”
“What exactly do you want? And what’s in it for me?”
“It should include at least four sex scenes. But they have to make sense within the overall plot, you know? Give the girl a character. Don’t overdo it with secondary characters. No need to go all Hollywood budget-wise.
“Toss in some tension, maybe a mystery. Something to keep the viewers glued to their screen, make them keep watching even after they soiled their boxers—maybe even panties.”
“Right,” I rubbed my forehead. “Rotgut,” I addressed Jim after I sank both the beer and the top-shelf kerosene. “So, what’s in it for me? You skipped that part.”
“Come again?” I arched my eyebrows, rubbed my ear, and spun on the stool to face him. That was three months’ worth of the study aid I received from the state for attending university—more money than I ever, till that point, had on me (and only the aforementioned brief drug-cooking stint allowed me to break the record).
“If it goes well, you’ll write more—make more money, too. So, make it good.”
“What if it’s a flop?” I drained the rotgut—my kidneys are worthless, years of drinking and no exercising does that, and I didn’t care about a broken kneecap, never had been much of a walker, anyway. What if, however, he decided to break my hands? I wouldn’t be able to write, smoke, or (oh, the horror) drink without a straw.
“It fails,” he shrugged and my drumming heart somewhat settled down. “You’ll still get your money. You just won’t write a second screenplay. If the artsy porn fails, I’ll find other ways to make her work for the money she now owes me.”
“Humor me,” I swirled my finger while keeping my other hand glued around the lowball.
“It’ll be plain porn; no plot, no dialogue, nothing. And because she’s not particularly stunning or anything…think bestiality has money?”
“Keep me out of that,” I shook my head and sank the rotgut. Another was poured and I puffed on my cigarette.
“Do a good job on the screenplay, she won’t have to go through with that,” he winked. Being responsible for whether a poor girl ended up getting plowed by a dog or whatever did not help with getting the ideas flowing. If anything, I was even less inclined to sit in front of the keyboard.
“Here, on the house,” Jim broke the ensued silence by pouring shots of top-shelf scotch.
“One more won’t hurt, I guess,” Omega stared at it with some horror—a good reason to dislike the guy. I clinked glasses with Jim, Omega joined in, somehow fascinated by the culture, and we drained the overpriced kerosene. “Well, I better get going.
“When will the script be ready?”
“In a week?” I shrugged. I could have told him tomorrow, in a month, next year, or even never, and they’d all have been far more honest answers.
“Sounds good; guess I’ll find you here, huh? Here; his, too. That’s a bonus; the fifteen grand stands.”
More prepared this time around, Jim procured the POS terminal. Another morning, and early afternoon, of free drinking. It made everything else insignificant.
“You’re really gonna do it?” Jim asked when Omega walked out and it was just the two of us in the barroom.
“Why the fuck not? Fifteen thousand to write some bullshit porn flick?”
“He wants art, he wants…”
“He can’t tell between surrealism and a baby hurling his feces on the wall. He can’t distinguish Henry Miller from the hack that wrote Twilight. He’d probably like the sparkling vampires more.”
“What if it’s a fizzle? You really think he’ll let you off the hook?”
“Worst case scenario, he demands another script for free. I’ll scribble some half-polished turds.”
“You’re actually happy for the job,” he remarked. I frowned at the contempt that painted his voice coarse.
“First time anyone offers to pay me to write something.”
“There’s just something I don’t like about this.”
“I hear that. There are a lot of things not to like about the whole ordeal. But fifteen grand do have a soothing effect. So will some more of that delicious medicine,” I tapped the empty lowball.
“Just be careful, all right? He’s not the kind of guy to fuck around with.”
“If he was, he wouldn’t be doing what he does.”
After a few more lowballs and glasses of draft beer, I left. A crowd had flooded the barroom looking for cheap beer and thrills, making Jim busy and I couldn’t stand the buzzing cacophony of voices and laughter.
With my head spinning and a lightened heart, I didn’t get crazy or mean drunk. I was a relatively cheerful drunk and I had almost forgotten how that felt like.
I smiled at the woman standing next to me at the bus stop. She smiled back, perhaps out of pity. I don’t know. The drink had brought the memory of those gone back up to the surface and I wondered what Emily and Christine would think about my writing a porn script for a loan shark.
It didn’t matter. It’d earn me some booze money. I just had to come up with some ideas of how to turn it artsy and satisfy my customer. Whether anyone else would be satisfied by it wasn’t very high on my list of priorities.
It was a writing gig; it was all that mattered. And it was the reason I was a happy drunk. I walked home without punching any ad boards, without yelling at and flipping off any drivers, without trying to pick up fights with random strangers. I just sang (rather loudly) along with Hank blaring in my ears, covering my glistening eyes under my shades despite the crepuscular night.
I got home and let out a deep sigh because neither Emily nor Christine was there. An empty, dank apartment was all that waited for me. Right now, I can say those dark days of an empty apartment were the best years of my life; back then, I wished for something more.
I would get mean drunk because I wanted out. Now, I get mean drunk because I want back in. Perhaps, that psychiatrist I once saw was right; I should be heavily medicated, prohibited from even walking by a dive (or a shooting gallery, but that’s a whole other story). Bipolar (Type II, so I don’t even get the good mania), borderline personality disorder, substance-abuse personality disorder…too many disorders, nothing’s orderly in my fucking brain. Too many wires gone astray, too many loose screws.
Booze’s the only medication I need, even if at times it leads to bad decisions and terrifies those around me. For a while, I defeated depression with illegal and probably dangerous means no one would prescribe but they sure helped me way more than lithium or whatever they nowadays give ever could.
If you think the disorders make me special, you ought to visit a psychiatrist. If you think I should seek help…well, reread the previous line.
I cranked some 38. Special on the computer and lit a cigarette, setting a bottle of Kentucky Beau on the desk. I took a swig out of the bottle and turned the volume up, the headphones shaking in my ears and assaulting my brain with the strong rhythm.
I flung the window open and swayed on the leather desk chair as the cool breeze swarmed the room. I peered at my bookcases; I’m sure Buk would be proud of my taking the porn flick gig. Henry too, I’ve no doubt. He’d have a lot more to write, too, and with far more details (and it’d be significantly better, but that’s a fucking given).
While stealing glimpses of the blue foldout couch—and seeing Emily’s ghost sitting there, the spike in the arm and her bright eyes shimmering in the darkness broken only by the half-moon bathing the room—I let my fingers hover over the keyboard. A blank Word file dominated the screen, the flickering line demanded the first sentence, word, letter.
Nothing; why had I said a week? Wishful thinking. Was it some sort of cruel self-imposed deadline meant to force my dead fingers to press the damn keys and sire something?
I leaned back on the chair, which let out a thundering creaking, with the bottle in my lap. I just puffed on the cigarette, rocking my head to the rhythm of Honky Tonk Dancer. Life revolves around sex, everything revolves around sex. Why was it so damn hard to come up with a semi-coherent story meant to lead to sex in every twist and turn?
Write what you know, the sage advises. A girl with a massive debt; why? Does it matter? Bad choices. She’s in debt; that was the point. Meta-porn; a porn film about a girl doing porn to repay her debts starring a girl doing porn to repay her debts.
I’d leave the sex scenes to Omega; to whatever nincompoop director he hired. Not many characters. Well, then: you have the loan shark, a couple of his goons. A couple of sex scenes were already set.
Intrigue? Well, is she going to pay the debt off? Will the loan shark exploit her further? Will she escape his grip? Too relatable for porn? Too many people in the same situation? The recession saw many people lose their homes. Many people around chased down by loan sharks.
A hero; a nice guy. Another sex scene right there. And someone to save her. Give the coveted happy ending (in more than one way). A cast of four, maybe five. Three sex scenes, squeeze a fourth somewhere. There you have it.
Dialogue. For fuck’s sake, like anyone’s gonna pay attention to the dialogue. The bulk of the script; no long lines, no complicated words. Make it easy for both actors and viewers.
Simple shit. Loan shark and goons make threats, the girl is terrified. Hero is undaunted. Stereotypes, clichés, tropes; what sells. Recycle the same story, you’re golden.
I spent two days locked inside in a crazy binge that dried up my apartment. Two bottles of rotgut, a bottle of well vodka, a bottle of well tequila, two cases of Royal beer, and even a bottle of vermouth gave their lives for it—some coffee breaks were thrown in the mix to take the edge off and keep the momentum going.
The script was done; didn’t bother with polishing and proofreading. They’d fix any slippage of verbiage on the go.
I printed it out, stacked it up in a nice pile, and flung myself on the couch, with the final bottle of the apartment on my lap. It was Baileys and the milky thing did the job. I passed out and slept for about twenty hours straight.
It wasn’t exactly with a hangover I woke up—though, there was some light headache, the distinct dryness of the mouth that has been stuffed with a wet sock, and a soft twirling of the stomach—as the heavy daze of a dreamless slumber.
It was noon and I gazed about the wooden floor that had turned into a mass graveyard of dead bottles and cigarette butts. Getting nauseous by the stench oozing out of my pores, I hit the shower.
I stuffed the script in my postman’s bag and headed out.
“Hey, where the fuck you’ve been?” Jim’s eyes beamed when I stepped into the dive and hunkered down on my stool.
Crazy Linda occupied the corner stool, hugging her beer and resting her head on the glass box for tips. A couple of the tables were occupied by talking and laughing university students—thankfully, none I knew.
“Writing this,” I slammed the script on the counter. “Mind if you keep it here somewhere? Don’t want to carry it around until Omega decides to drop by and pick it up.”
“Sure,” he shrugged and the pages went in a little safe. I caught a glimpse of some stacks of money. My favorite dive would not run dry for a good while yet, no matter how hard I tried. “So, is it any good?”
“Fuck if I know,” I lifted my shoulders and took a swig at the rotgut. “Feel free to read it, if you’re so curious.”
“I’ll wait for the movie.”
“You sure about that?”
“Right,” he hung his head. As soon as one of the students came up to the counter, Jim wore that false smiling façade he’d sported the first couple of times I visited the dive—then, he got to know me and didn’t mind joining my brooding.
“No sign of Omega?” I asked after he was done with the student’s order. We both turned when someone kicked the flipper.
“Nope,” he shook his head after barking at the flipper-kicker. “Been pretty quiet these past few days; too quiet.”
“Missed me, huh?”
“Mornings sure were too dull,” he nodded and with robotic movements refilled Crazy Linda’s glass.
“I can imagine,” I nodded and toasted Crazy Linda.
“When are we two gonna hook up?” She asked with beer dripping down her chin, and her crooked smile revealed the three gaps between her brownish teeth.
“One day,” I smirked and swilled the rotgut. It’d take quite a few of those bad boys for me ever to repeat that mistake. “Why don’t you give them students a shot?”
“Snotty little bastards,” she snarled and attacked her beer.
“Already rejected her,” Jim explained in a whisper.
I lit a cigarette and hunched over my rotgut, turning the stool into an isolated island depleted of air, sound, and light; a black hole repelling every single molecule, atom, and quantum that dared approach.
Every sip contained Christine’s kisses; every laugh that penetrated the graphite wall girdling me brought back the days Emily sat on the stool next to mine and reminded me of her soft giggles, her soothing voice, the promising lips, the kisses that were meant to be forever.
I’d had a few days of good drunk, being all joyful and creative. I felt the brooding coming, the harbinger of madness hovered over my head. Once again, I was battling the blue mist that enwreathed me, from within it the glowing sanguine eyes of the rabid wolves looking for an opening became visible.
At first, I hardly stirred from the movements next to me, dead certain Crazy Linda had approached to test my drunkenness and, subsequently, my willingness to go down to the restroom with her.
I almost tripped off the stool, when I glared to my right. The soon-to-be star of the script sitting in the safe occupied the neighboring stool.
“A glass of white wine,” said her angelic voice, far too light and dreamy.
I cleared my throat, she tossed me a glare and dropped her eyes down to her glass. Jim and I exchanged a glance, the same question burning in both our minds: do we say anything?
Had she even paid attention to us the previous time? Probably not, she’d been too busy thinking of ways to seal a functioning deal with Omega. She wouldn’t give a shit for a bartender and a barfly.
“You were here a few days ago, weren’t you?” She answered my mental question.
“Yeah,” I nodded over my half-empty lowball.
“You know, I wasn’t here for…my business, per se, I was…”
“No need to explain,” I sank the rotgut and Jim tilted the bottle over it, pouring till it could hold no more.
I turned my head and eyeballed her: a little on the chubby side; big, round ass engulfing the stool without proportionately big breasts; a faintly protruding gut; thick thighs; round face, too much cheek; tiny, thin lips; big bright eyes; long, ash-blonde hair caught in a high, tight ponytail.
Could work for the script. Would give it a more real feeling. Not like the plastic pornstars with the humongous implants, the luscious lips, the fit bodies.
“I don’t want to…be involved, but…I have no other option.”
“Again,” I sighed, “no need to explain.”
“I…just…need to get it off my chest,” she groaned and smacked her lips after a good sip of wine.
“Why here? Why me?” I said in exasperation.
“You’re a stranger. And you saw me here, you saw to whom…you might even know…”
“Right,” I nodded.
During my long boozing career, I’ve spilled my guts to numerous perfect strangers; nothing more liberating than revealing all your burdens to someone that doesn’t even know your goddamn name. Friends and family are gonna pester you about your confession; a stranger at most will shudder and/or dash off.
“I just had to do something, you know? Couldn’t just…I don’t know. It’s just so…the whole thing’s so fucked up!” She banged her forehead on the counter.
“Look, it’s…” I cleared my throat and patted her back. Comforting others had never been my thing. I preferred women (and people in general) that don’t care about compliments and reassurances. “I get it. We all have to do shit we don’t want to. It’s how the world works.”
“Ha, right,” she cackled dryly. “Only in my case…”
“The world’s set out to fuck you; figuratively and literally.”
“So, you know.”
“Yep.” I drank up and Jim poured me another, leaving the bottle next to the glass.
“You come here often, huh?”
“It’s my home, yes.”
“Aren’t you gonna tell me I should try to find a different way to deal with my…situation? Tell me it’s gonna be alright?”
“Why? Would it change anything?”
“You’re in the wrong place—and you talk to the absolutely wrongest person—if you’re looking for some heart-soothing, inspiring advice.”
“Great,” she addressed her fast-emptying glass.
“Another round?” I asked.
“Sure,” she sighed. “I’m gonna need a lot if I’m to…”
“You never buy me a round!” Crazy Linda came to life.
“Not now,” I snapped—she cowered behind her beer and I scowled. I nodded to Jim and he fixed her with a fresh beer. “Why are you doing this?” I asked the girl (let’s call her…Stella).
“Someone’s got to fix the mess.” Her chest heaved. “I mean…it’s not my mess, I know that, it’s just…maybe my dad fucked up big time, but…he had good intentions.”
“Good intentions are often behind the greatest catastrophes.” I poured me a refill.
“Still, I…I can’t blame him too much. I mean, he did want our family to have a good life, you know? Sure, it didn’t work out the way he thought it would, but…I don’t know,” she groaned and threw her head back, letting the wine glide down her throat.
She let out a deep sigh that had her lips trembling and her lungs shuddering.
“I think,” she added, “it’d have been better if he’d just let the bank repossess the house, you know? At least…I don’t know.”
“People do stupid things in their desperation.”
“Yeah,” she nodded and chuckled. “Well, I simply couldn’t watch him wither away. I had to do something!”
“Very noble of you.”
“You’re horrible at this, aren’t you?”
“Did an idiot hang a sign on my back saying ‘knight in a shining armor’? Or that I’m here to comfort damsels in distress? I’m just an asshole boozing my life away.”
“That, you are,” she concurred and ordered another round.
She swilled it and shambled away without uttering a single word.
I leered at her till she slammed the door behind her. There went my chance to be the conquering hero. The secret protagonist of my script arriving from outta nowhere, sweeping her off her feet, and saving the day.
For better or for worse, it’s not how the real world works. It’s fun to add a happy ending to fiction and people do crave conquering heroes in their entertainment because they like to believe in the fairytales they read as kids, but the real world is a different beast.
She walked away not knowing she’d tried to find comfort in the man that’d written the script of the porn film she was going to star in. I emptied the bottle in my lowball and had a powerful swig.
Even the succulent rotgut warmth failed to comfort me. Lost in mental turmoil, I clambered off the stool—slamming some bills on the counter to Jim’s puzzlement—and entered the darkening streets.
I had a liquor shelf back home that demanded replenishment.
Text © George Gad Economou
George Gad Economou holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy of Science and resides in Athens, Greece, doing freelance work whenever he can while searching for a new place to go. His novella, Letters to S., was published in Storylandia Issue 30 and his short stories and poems have appeared in literary magazines, such as Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Chamber Magazine, The Edge of Humanity Magazine, and Modern Drunkard Magazine. His first poetry collection, Bourbon Bottles and Broken Beds, has been published by Adelaide Books.
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