Charlie’s Place sat isolated on a side street. Next to a train track which is traveled rarely by anything resembling a train, generally it’s used as a path by smokers heading over to the Smoke Haven Cigarette Store, 2 packs for eight bucks. For some crazy reason I thought I would enjoy a Saturday night at Charlie Patton’s bar. It turned out to be a futile trip.
The bar was small, smoky, and crowded. The stools sitting at the bar were full of old men wishing they were somewhere else, somewhere over the rainbow maybe. The tables were gray with red stools perched on each side. Each of those stools was occupied by a young hoper. Youthful tavern goers were hopers, hoping they could leave with someone. Each one wanted someone to hold, to love, and carry them away to utopia, a place none of them ever visited. It was just a place to be hoped for. Utopia lies in the mind and nowhere else.
I didn’t cross the threshold of Charlie’s Place. Instead I shuffled my way to my old truck. The night was not good to me. Since Mandy’s death the night became my enemy. Alcohol was always available to help me drown in my own misery. There was no reason to keep the charade going. I just wasn’t interested in moving on with my life. I preferred the muck.
I mentioned Mandy’s death. It was years ago when pancreatic cancer stole her away. My dog Fred was flattened by a car and our elusive cat Bagles simply died of old age. My drinking increased after those tragedies and all the tragedies preceding them. I couldn’t stop drinking and my former employer told me I must stop working. My last paycheck lasted three days.
Perhaps the biggest tragedy in this bizarre life was me. I was a tragedy waiting to happen and happen it did. My old Pontiac long ago died and was buried in our local junkyard. My mobility, my self esteem was buried along with that old rusty pile of metal. None of it matters now. You see I have written my destiny in cheap whisky and in foreclosed houses mostly filled with the homeless and the forgotten. I say without the need for compassion that I am one of them.
If something can be learned from my story it is that the world has always been a mystery. Along with the world the possibility of an afterlife is more of a mystery. No one knows what lies beyond our graveyards, perhaps just more graveyards a thousand lifetimes of graveyards. Is there a dimension beyond the three or four we have? I saw what I saw but who’s to say I am not crazy. Who is to say that the things I saw were nightmarish hallucinations. I know that I lost a battle with myself and that comes from my own weakness and only mine. It is what experts call the internal locus.
The struggle to live is your struggle. You own it. I hope with what’s left of my mind that your struggle leads to better results than mine. Humankind can be humane but that my friends is up to you, you hold the injured bird in your hand, let it live or crush it to death. Let it live.