Me: (To a table) Would you like anything else tonight?
Old Man: Just answer me one thing.
Me: What's that?
Old Man: Are you an actor?
Me: (Pause) ...How did you know?
Old Man: Well are you?
Me: Yes, I am. I have not been onstage in a year, but yes. That is my passion. That is what I was born to do. I have been in this shithole of a town for four months and no one had noticed that. ...How did you?
Old Man: I could just tell. My daughter is an actor, and a director. I am a writer. I just knew.
As I stood in the shitty parking lot by the dumpsters, leaning against a car with my fellow exhausted, food-splattered restaurant coworkers to have one last smoke before closing the bar, a bang the volume of a thunderclap startled us. Then there was another, and another, and another. Suddenly the sky was filled with brilliant lights. Fireworks were going off in the park next to the police station; whether it was an official celebration or some punks with 4th of July leftovers didn't matter. I looked around and workers from all the bars on the block, the 5 star restaurant and the sketchy dive alike, had come out to watch the spectacle.
Everyone was silent, wide-eyed, in sacred awe. There is something about fireworks that turns everyone back into an eight-year-old, that captivates us with fire, color, and power, that, for a few minutes, makes all the problems in your head and in the world seem surmountable... Because what can't be overcome if fucking fireworks exist??
The writer is stuck.
Her phrases come out like blood clots, repeated and dull. A bruise gets a little darker the deeper it is pressed. Like a carefully choreographed ballet for the paralyzed, like an articulately arranged aria for the deaf... We are all searching for the sound, the vibration, that will motivate movement, manipulate regeneration, a defibrilliator for the vocabulary. Pressing and pushing, wrestling the vowels into submission, seducing the consonants into cautiously coaxed embraces...
Plead to Abraxas, the demon of chaos; with her mercy you will abuse your self-destruction into a Pollock-inspired interpretation of your regurgitated, inky shame. Pray on your sex-scarred scabby knees to Legion, the demon of many: with his permission you can revisit those restricted, rotting wooden doors. They crumble with crooked mold, whispering in the creaks of tug and give:
"You're not you, and you're not them. You're no writer or artist, you're a tweaking drunk biting your swollen lip at the ashy bar top."
Sorrowful lovers watch you unravel in dismay as you attempt to purge the miscalculated serotonin from your booze-soaked brain.
Mad genius? Mental case. Self-pitying victim, martyr to the arts. A blood sacrifice to the stupid altar of wasted paint.
Once upon a time, I accidentally lived in Indiana for two years. I waited tables at a corporate chain restaurant, the kind of place where the Sunday brunch crowd were almost entirely fresh out of church. On one particularly relentless weekend, the oldest and most conservative guests seemed to be exclusively sat in my section. I could actually hear them audibly sigh as I approached them; they might as well have just said out loud, "Oh no, HER? Why do we have to be stuck with that one?" As if the piercings, eyeliner, and shaved head warranted some kind of threat, like I might bite their jugulars and suck their blood if they made eye contact. But I was friendly, attentive, kind, and professional. If anything, I used their loathing as fuel to try that much harder to prove them wrong… though it rarely worked. They looked at me through sideways glances, tipped atrociously, and treated me with excessive disdain.