“We all stand on the sad earth throwing long shadows, breath cut with flesh.”
— Jack Kerouac, Desolation Angels, ch. 22, end of paragraph two.
There are no long shadows in this place though, everything is dark and silhouettes cut the darkness as they writhe and bob back and forth… The songs are bad and the people mere forms, cut-outs with written instructions on finding pleasure in this place, pleasure that has no final resting place, that is fleeting because there is no foundation beyond a mirage of happiness. There are no lanterns in this place, no signposts leading to Truth, because pleasure is all that matters, pleasure that helps forget for a short time…
At least that’s how it appeared to me until I downed half of my second beer, bought for me by C. who had shown up late already buzzing from dollar beers at Juan’s. This band of people covering other people’s songs launched into Blister in the Sun. The delightful and catchy meaninglessness of that song combined with some people to talk with and alcohol to dull my pain (pain, or is this just me, as if there is a normal me separated and complete without this aching depression?), and suddenly I fell into that blissful ignorance that the others in this place had found so long ago… Now I saw these people again in a new light and I can’t really fault them, in fact I feel a bit envious afterwards that “having a good time” is sufficient for them…
“A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil…” Carpenters and welders indulging in libations paid for by their own labor… waitresses in their low-cut tops and their smiles designed to flirt and extort money and pleasure, earning their keep so that they too can go out the next night or perhaps even later that morning to a place even darker and more wild, all to find satisfaction in this self-contained cycle resting on pleasureful vapors.
But this critique was itself meaningless as now I could lose myself in this temporary escape and dance and chat and pose for pictures, all for what? It did not matter at this point, nothing mattered at this point for I felt loose and somewhat happy and that had been hard to come by, manufactured or otherwise.
Looking out past the dance floor, to the four pool tables beyond, I spied a girl all too happy to present her best asset to the man behind her as she took her time on her turn… behind her and to the left was the taller slim girl resembling somewhat of a bird (no it was not Sweet Dee) whom I had been eyeing for most of the evening… she was pretty and seemed too delicate for a place such as this, but nevertheless here she was with a group of friends who all seemed to be regulars… I let my voyeuristic and lazy side carry the night, never talking to her.
Then this cover band started in on some rap song that everyone seemed to know and which seemed familiar to me in the way all semi-above average rap songs are… either way it was an easy wave to ride, and my attention quickly turned from the hawkish girl to a somewhat elderly black man standing by himself to my left and directly past the pool tables… His body was locked-in on this song, poised for some great breakthrough, and suddenly he broke into a perfect three second full-body shimmy in perfect sync with the music… the move complete and apparently needing nothing else, the man then resumed his rigid pose, his countenance serious, before turning slowly and walking back to his table…
But the most important person had yet to be discovered in this den of pleasure, for out of nowhere I realized that, what my subconscious had mistaken for a pillar supporting the rafters in my attempt to track the tall slender girl from pool table to pool table, was in fact a man, a man who upon closer inspection was quite remarkable in his anonymity; for one would think he would not blend in easily to this environment, he was rather tall and rotund from years of nights exactly like this, nursing a beer while staring blankly at this collection of people playing a collection of other people’s songs–staring blankly is not the best way to describe his demeanor though for even staring implies an action, and “blankly” implies another time when there might have been thoughts flowing like wine and forming wondrous words which wooed a lover or spoke movingly at a father’s funeral… but it appeared to me that if they had ever existed, those days were long past, and he seemed eminently comfortable in the state he was occupying, cupping a beer with both hands and leaning against the three foot barrier between dance floor and pool tables. He was hunched forward slightly and what was left of his hair flowed down to his shoulders. There was a slight upturn in his mouth, a smile to assure anyone crazy enough to notice him that he was okay. Not once did he speak, indeed his focus never strayed from the stage despite several couples in their forties or fifties dancing (in an amusing yet sad manner) and seemingly rotating within his zone of consciousness… He was not distracted, as I was, by the myriad people in this place, no pretty girl caught his eye, there was no reflection about the nature of good in a place such as this for my friend the Pillar… No, he had already found the answer to his quest in life and whether that answer brought pleasure or merely a numbness that at least would not let in pain, this quest nevertheless required pouring all of his being into the band on stage. He had surrendered to the void and as “all and all can only fall with a crashing but meaningless blow,” all that was left was to wait for a surreptitious chance to push those pillars down upon himself and the rest of us in there.
But in the meantime, I thought, let us dance and writhe before our doom; the void will accept no other offering.