Posted on February 16, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair2.16.2015 Journal Prompt Image from Panic in Needle Park February 16, 2015: It was the only place. Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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I ain’t stupid. Not like people think. I read a lot of books and I been to college and I done my share of thinking. And I reckon I know a thing or two, see. ‘Bout life I mean. I know ‘bout as much as the next man and maybe I know a bit more.
I see ‘em, you know, the people that is ord’nary, and I see the way they look at the likes of me and I know what they’re maybe thinking. But they don’t really know shit ‘bout nothing. They see me and they think I got shit for brains. They think I’m just a waste of time and space and thought, and they think all that on account of the way I look. But, like I said, they don’t know me.
They make up stories in their heads to suit what they see in me. They rubbish my folks and they think I must come from a shit home, broken at least and with a mom that just couldn’t cope. Or they see me at high school and wasn’t it a darned shame when I got in with the wrong crowd and I was drinking at the back of church, drinking till my head was so mussed up I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was doing any guy that came along. That’s what they see.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean any of ’em ill. Some of ‘em feel sorry for me and they want to save me and do me good. It’s like they have a piece of god inside of ‘em and he’s telling ’em to be a good Samaritan and so they stop and talk to me and they drop a dollar in my cup and they say as how they hope I can get back on my feet real soon and they mean it, too. And they just don’t get it.
All of this, all that I am, I thought it through and it’s a choice thing, not something that just happened to me. ‘Course they wouldn’t believe that and they’d say there must have been something that fucked me and they’d ask me about my dad and how he was when I was little, and they’d ask me if there was a teacher as touched me in a way that wasn’t decent or a neighbour.
I want to tell ‘em that really I’m ok. I want to tell ‘em that they is the ones who is fucked up. And I want to tell ‘em that no one with brains these days believes in god. And right there they reckon as how it must have been a minister that did me wrong.
They got their pinwheel jobs and they go round and round and round all the time, day after day, year after year, going round and going nowheres. And their hands is as clean as new gloves and their teeth is steredent white, and they got houses that are too warm in winter and too cool in summer, and three meals a day on the table and beer cooling in the fridge, and like that they can grow fat and tired every day, and that’s supposed to be some sort of accomplishment. And they see me and they pity me.
But they just don’t see what I got. They don’t see me staring at the sky for hours, just watching the clouds drifting by, and feeling every breath like it was my first or my last, and appreciating it all. And they don’t see the small tenderness that is between me and Mikey up on fifth avenue and the gentle he can be with his words and the wise, too. And Mikey should be a god if they anyone was smart enough they could really see. And they don’t just get that if this is all there is, these seventy some years we got, then all they’s doing is wasting time in accumulating throwaway shit.
They stop and talk with me sometimes, but they never say nothing unexpected or different or new, nothing that ain’t already been said. And sometimes I want to say something back and I want ‘em to come and spend a day in my shoes just to see how it is. Cos I been in their shoes and let me tell you that my life right now is way better.
It ain’t really a place. Not really. It’s a nowhere is what it is. Like it could be a thought in someone’s head, in my head. Like heaven is, or hell. Jesus, listen to me waxing lyrical and talking fancy when plain is what’s needed.
I’ll start over: it’s a place, but it’s more than it seems. It’s a bench in a park, somewhere to sit in a green space at the centre of the city. There’s food wrappers and beer bottles laying all around. And used needles, too, and limp condoms like smears of spit or snot, and the air smells of piss and cigarettes and something sweet and foul at the same time. That’s what it is if you was standing there and looking about you.
But it’s something else, too, which is what I’m trying to tell you. It’s not easy to say what I mean exactly. Like if you go into a house that’s for sale and they’ve shifted out the furniture so the place looks bigger, big enough you can imagine all your things fitting into the house and room left over, and it feels empty and nothing; but when you return to your own house and you walk through the door and well, it feels like home and you can’t really say what that is. Even when you’re all packed up and ready to move out, it still holds that feeling.
Well, that’s the same with the bench in the park, so it’s more than a bench and more than what can be seen or touched or breathed in. Like it’s something that exists more in your head than it is in the real world. That’s what I’m trying to say.
And me and Arty, we meet there sometimes, when it’s so late the shelter’s swallowed up all the homeless and the traffic’s smaller than a murmur and the night air smells somehow clean or scoured. We sit on the bench, me and Arty, and he holds my hand and together we look up at the sky and we imagine what it would be if we could see stars. And Arty says my name and I say his back to him.
And we feel our fingers over the back of the bench, looking for the words we cut into the wood once. Years back it was, when we was just kids, and we was something new, and the world was full of possibilities. But the bench has been scarred by a hundred years of knives and glass shards, and other words laid on top of ours, so like we do with the stars we have to imagine what we once wrote.
And if I’m being honest, Arty isn’t really Arty no more, but is something made of air, or thought. And all this sitting and holding his hand and saying his name and looking to the sky for stars, all of this is just memory. And it’s what I’ve been trying to say all along, that a place can feel like home and it’s not the things in the place but something else.
So this place where I’m sitting, this bench littered with rubbish, and the stars don’t reach here, well, it’s not really real. It’s someplace beyond and someplace else, and Arty kisses me there, every night the same, and he says I talk shit sometimes and that’s ok, and his words are all blown and breath on my cheek, and I laugh out loud and that laughter follows me from there to here and that laughter is the most real thing of all.