Dreamers By Judah Quintana

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Cigarette smoke and soul thickened notes; joyous praise, of the long time coming, pissing away of the bubble gum craze—the band played like those days.

Submitted: October 31, 2011

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Submitted: October 31, 2011

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 “The fact to which we have to cling, as to a lifebelt, is that it’s possible to be a normal decent person, and yet be fully alive.” - Allen Ginsberg.

#

The bar still held some of the old glory of San Francisco.  All the memories of her patrons came flooding back to Neal and me.  The music from the jazz band playing in the corner flew sharply through the air.  This wasn't the music they used to put your time on hold.  This was the sweat smeared anticipation of rebellious suburbaknights, coming to revel in the melodic spirit of holy souls trapped in fleshy capsules; whose only escape is on piercing notes through shining brass. 

It was the type of music that brought up historic memories, even inside the youngest of drinkers.  Sweet young women giving it up to mad poets, and mileage prophets.  Both spoke of unworldly things.  Ungodly to the dust crested, matrimonial minds, of judicial slumberers; holy to the righteous impugn rages of the conflicted heart tugged Scat ramblers.  Cigarette smoke and soul thickened notes; joyous praise, of the long time coming, pissing away of the bubble gum craze—the band played like those days.

“Victoria doesn't want to get married in August.  She wants to wait a year.”  Neil said.  His blue eyes never left the pool balls in front of him.

I took a sip of my beer and stared at Neal while he knocked another ball in.  Neal was winning.  I’m terrible at pool. 

“ Why not?”  I asked.

“She says everything happened too fast.  It would be

better to wait a year.”  He replied matter-of-factly.

“Is it because you’re consistently stoned?”

Neal hit another ball into a corner pocket.  He looked up at me grinning sheepishly.  “Ya. Probably.”  He laughed.

“Well, how do you feel about waiting?”

“I think it's a good idea.”

An older gentleman in an aged tweed coat, and stylish horn-rimmed glasses, walked in.  A young man, whose hair and clothes defined him as an art school student, trailed closely behind.  They grabbed some drinks and took a table near Neal and me.

 “We’re gonna finish out the set with a little ditty, reminiscently called, Bitches Brew.”  The piano player for the band announced.

“You decide on what you’re getting your bachelors in?” Neal asked.

“Eh, my sleeping troubles are too great for nine to five.”  I replied.

 

 “ Just study something you like.  What degree you get doesn’t matter.  Just having it’s what people care about.”

 “I like writing, philosophy, and religion.”

“Politics?”

“Hate politics.”

“You’re fucked.”

Neal knocked a few more balls in.  He called his shot and hit the Eight ball into a side pocket.  I shamefully went and bought the next round.  The band slowed its bullet train rhythm, coming to the final stop of the set.  Everyone clapped politely. 

Neal gave the pool table to a pair of couples on a double date.  I brought the beers to a table next to the professor looking man and art school student.  Neal sat down and just stared off into the nothingness he had numbed himself into.

“You alright?”  I asked.  He didn’t respond.  “Hey. Neal, its Sal.  You there?”  

“Huh, what?”  He asked smiling.

 “It hit you?  I’m not feeling anything.”

“You never do.  That, or you puke.  I, on the other hand, need something while listening to some cat filter me through his PhD.”

We clinked our glasses and muddied our dirty souls.  I went and got another round.

“Let’s finish these and get out of here.”  I suggested.

“Ite.”  Neal agreed. 

“You know I'm a slave to my craft; I'm writing something in my head right now!”  The professor looking man ejaculated.

Such a gluttonously vocal and ambiguous statement.  You cannot trust a man who so prominently declares himself a slave.  I peered back over to the mental masturbator and his lubrication.  The only thing I noticed, however, was the revelry on the boy's face.  He had the expression of someone staring at a painting seen in movies.  For the first time he was seeing it in natural light.  He was anticipating beauty. 

I downed my beer in one and said to Neal, “Let's get fucked up.”Neal downed his, and smacked his hand on the table,  “Too late!”

#

I sat, staring out of Neal's apartment window; eyes trying to bare down the sounds and sights of Pine street.  The black street and gray sidewalk, seemed to meld with the rest of Pine's features.  The colors and stains lost their importance.  Just as each molecule has an equation, every facet of life has a description.  The words, however, elude even the greatest at times.

Smoke lingered about.  It eventually found its way out the open window, as we passed a blunt between the two of us.

“I think I'm good.”  I stated and threw my feet onto the other side of my arm chair.  Neal took another drag and set it in an ash tray on the window sill.

“Do you remember, camping that one time?  When we were kids?  We took those pictures.  With the ketchup and the ax, and we pretended to beat and mangle each other; Remember? 

With the ketchup?”  Neal asked.  

I sat up.  “I remember.  We were like ten.”

 

The ax had a chip in the bottom of the handle.  The ketchup left an orange stain on our skin, so we cleaned ourselves in the river.

“That was so long ago.  Like a helluva long time ago.” Neal droned on.  

“Each detail, every second from that moment, led to this one right now.  Like there’s a string of events from when we were washing the ketchup off in the river, to drinking beer and smoking weed in your apartment.”  I responded.

We were both looking up at the white ceiling.  “Fuck. I'm high.”  Neal took all this in. 

“You're right!”  He sat up in his chair with a huge grin on his face and snapped his fingers. 

“About which part?”  I asked.

He just laughed freely.  I reveled in it.  Still, the

lacquered and polished hands of repetition clung to the back

of my tongue.  “Is this just gonna be the same old shit?”

“Nah.”  He muttered assuredly.  “Too much has changed. We’ve grown.”

“Into what? I can’t stop trying to think of ways to take what I love and turn it into cash.”

 “I just don’t want you to be here two years from now.”

Neal's voice had softened.  It was the voice he had when fathering someone.  “You can’t still be here when I’ve graduated and gotten married.  Moved on from this stage in life.  I’m someone who needs good company.”

“No ya, I hear yuh.  But school tuition has increased six hundred and fifty points above inflation, and we are the most indebted generation, with the least amount of jobs, in seventy years.  The result of a business major and an art degree has been muddied.”

 

Neal slouched back into his chair.  Legs over one side of his seat, he put his hand on his head and ran his fingers

through his hair.  I leaned forward.  My feet on the ground, forearms resting on my knees.  I stared at the smoke coming from the ash tray.  The wind from the open window picked it up and carried it off.

“We’ve seen a lot of crazy shit.  9/11, the Iraq war, the first black President, global warming, the biggest bank heist in history, social networking, file sharing, reality T.V. stars, Fox News, Michele Bachmann!”

I paused to catch my breath.

“How many politicians have been caught doing shady shit over the past five years?  We’ve grown up in the craziest time in the history of the United States.”

“Or at least it feels that way.”

The weed carried a weight with it.  All this heavy thought, and we found ourselves lost between history text books and TMZ gossip.  “What the fuck are we doing?”

“I don’t know.  Just livin' I guess.”

 He continued to run his fingers through his hair, looking off into somewhere else.  I could tell though, he was

mulling over the thought in his mind.  That, or he was thinking of Victoria.

 “We need music.”  I said.

I opened Neal's laptop and put on Jay Electronica's The Announcement.  The first minute of the song contains JFK's 1962 speech about the Apollo space program:

“Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. . .”

 

It was illuminating; hearkening a realization that came galloping from the caverns of my mind.  The forthcoming years would be the result of what has been.  Musical numbers danced through my head.  It seized up the formalities I had trained my thoughts to walk upon.  Taking them, it embarked on an estranged adventure towards the foreign and unknown.  Behind it the dawn began to burn; star gazing was done.  Jay began spitting—every word inspired and celestial.

I felt the brutality of it; my senses quivered beneath it.  Relief lingered behind a curtain of uncertainty.  Orchestrating all the emotions that turn upon each other in a mystifying natural phenomenon that occurs, only in the most holy of moments.  It wasn’t the discovery of who I was as I

sat and observed, but who I am as I move.  There was complete inebriation in absolution.  Not because I controlled it, or even held it.  My nature of self, was revealing an absurd temptation.  To completely stop giving a shit, and evolve.

The song ended and I lay in thought for a few more moments, before falling asleep.

#

As the first morning light began to glow behind a thick layer of clouds, the seedy underbelly rolled over to reveal the archaic, ridged back of San Francisco.  It was hardly a sunrise, though: no persistent pouring of brick-house red and Halloween orange.  It started as a swelling glow behind the insulating gray.  While the morning hours waned, the sunlight burnt up the dilapidating clouds.  Until it revealed the blood flow of the city.

I woke up feeling curiously secure.  First things first; I needed something to eat. 

“Cheap or good?”  Neal asked.

“ Cheap.”  I replied.

It was already noon on a Saturday.  Tang's wasn't too crowded, so we got a table easily.  We watched as the angel headed hipsters came in.  Hallow-eyed and high, they took food and returned to the mechanic dynamo of supernatural darkness of the art school dorms.  All can be found on lookbook.nu.

“Showing your independence has become the same as reading GQ magazine, you know what I mean?”  I asked.

 Neal looked at me over his coffee.  I continued. “American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, Pitchfork magazine, fucking Art school, we’re buying and selling the starving artist's lifestyle.”

“Nothing’s ever as new as you think it is though. Still, we know it's all bullshit.  We even had Brad Pitt telling us it was, over ten years ago.”  He retorted not even looking at me.

“I fucking love that movie.”

“Me too.”

Our food arrived and we began devouring the eggs and hash browns.  We were on our third cup of coffee, and the world was

awakening around us.

“I just got this book by Howard Zinn called Artists in Times of War”.

“Ya?  What’s it about?”

“What some artists have done in times of war.”

 “Oh right.  That makes sense.  Is it good?”

“It has this amazing quote by this playwright, um, fuck, what’s his name?  Hold on I wrote it down.”

I pulled out my phone and went through my many, many, notes.

“Here it is.  Eugene O’Neill. He said: ‘It is like acid burning in my brain that the stupid butchering of the last war taught men nothing at all, that they sank back listlessly on the warm manure pile of the dead and went to sleep, indifferently bestowing custody of their future, their fate, into the hands of the State departments, whose members are trained to be conspirators, card sharps, double-crossers and secret betrayers of their own people; into the hands of greedy capitalist ruling classes so stupid they could not even

see when their own greed began devouring itself; into the hands of that most debased type of pimp, the politician, and that most craven of all lice and job-worshippers, the bureaucrats.’  Isn’t that fucking dope!”

“Ya.  Wow.  That’s crazy.  Who said it?”

“Eugene O’Neill, some playwright from the 1940’s.” 

“The quote’s about World War two?  That’s kind of fucked up,”  Neil murmured. 

“Well if you’d seen the effects of world war one, I’d say it was pretty logical.  The scariest part is how timelessly relevant it is.”

“Ya.  All this technological and cultural change.  We still make the same mistakes.  Kind of makes you wish you were on drugs.”

“We are.”

“Well this shit doesn’t work.”

We paused and ate.  I asked the waitress for more ketchup for my hash browns.  She had a phosphorescent beauty about her.  As if an emulsion existed between her and the diner

lights. 

“I don’t know.  I can’t even tell if the world is being serious anymore.  Donald Trump running for president, and being the runner up for the GOP.  A publicity stunt, ahead of actual politicians!  Sarah Palin quits being governor, gets her own reality show, becomes a reality TV star, and people are going to vote for her?”

“Snooki and The Situation were bestselling authors.”

“Our vampires glitter in the sun.”

“Gwyneth Paltrow is singing country music.”

“We can’t even make a decent car anymore.  What

 the hell man?”

“Nothing is the new something.” 

“ Four-point-seven-trillion-dollars’ worth of nothing?”

“Yes!”  Neal sighed. 

“Damn.”  I stopped and took some time to think, and eat the rest of my food.  “We’ve lost It.”

It was never defined.”

 “Well It’s gone now!”

“Now here we are.”

“Nowhere.”

A few sips of coffee and a deep breath later, I could still only taste my six ninety-five.

“Shit man.  I’m getting married in a year!”  Neal exclaimed.

“I know man, it’s crazy.”

“I know.”

Neal swallowed his last bite.  He let out a belch that was both raucous and kind.  The cooks would be pleased.  “What the fuck?”  Neal exasperated, under his breath.

“What?”  I innocently questioned, following Neal’s gaze.

 

 “Don't make it so obvious!”  Neal whispered fiercely.  I learned why, once I saw the man sitting alone, staring at a table of girls, and clutching his hardened cock under the table.

 “Holy shit!”  I whispered turning back suddenly. 

“What should we do?”  Neal asked.

 I looked back over through the corner of my eye.  The man was wearing a Down vest unzipped with no shirt.  Fatigue shorts, and running shoes with no socks.  His face had the look of smooth brown leather, and was clean shaven.

“I don't know, he looks kind of, off.  Not just because he's pulling a Pee Wee in a diner either.”  I said.  The waitress came by and dropped off the check.  

“Excuse me,” Neal asked “can we talk to your manager?  Not about you, you're a diamond.”

 

“Um, sure. One moment,”  she replied.

 

The masturbating man put some money on the table and left.  The manager picked up his check on the way over.

“Yes, can I help you?”  the manager asked.  

“Uh ya, that guy who just left, was uh, pleasuring

himself, underneath the table while he was eating.”  Neal reported.

The manager looked appalled.  He looked back at the now empty table.  

 “Oh yes, I kicked him out.”  He lied matter-of-factly.  He put the man's check in his apron and asked Neal and me “Is there anything else I can get you two?  More coffee maybe?”  

“No thanks.  We just paid.”  Neal replied adamantly.  

“OK, thank you gentlemen.”  The manager walked back into

the kitchen.  I sat, waiting for him to come back out and wipe down the man's table.

We tipped the waitress a fair amount, considering the circumstances.  Outside I looked at Neal and asked, “What the fuck?” 

Neal smiled a wide eyed smile and snapped his fingers “Welcome to tha city motha fucka!”

#

Seahorse by Devendra Banhart played through the speakers.

Neal rolled a spliff and I sat listening.  Tobacco spilled out on the glass table in the kitchen of his apartment.  Fragments of crumbled Lambs Bread lingered next to the plastic bag.  The night air gently spilled through the open windows, curtaining down onto our laps and cooling our bare feet.  I refilled our glasses with wine. 

The stars don’t shine very well near the top of Nob Hill, but it’s surprisingly quiet.  Neal and I sat talking about all the facets of life that made everything beautiful.  Musicians, artists, and poets.  Writers, sculptors, philosophers, and eternally mad ones.  Some with purpose, some with meaning. Some still speak, some have been talked about so much, the fingerprints have melded together.  All forever revolving in the infinite information thrust into the hands of this age. Lights are always lingering within the palms of the all-knowing.  And the glorious reverse-dynamo carries us all in its memory. 

Victoria showed up with a paper bag filled with goodies. Smiling her sparkling smile, contrasting with sunny skin, shimmering ringlets of summer light, and cloudless blue eyes.

Out of the bag came fruit, meats, cheeses, wine, and morsels sweet and delicate.  We talked more about all the things we thought mattered.  We rolled cigarettes and drank more wine. Ate to our fill, and then smoked and drank some more.

As the night came closer to a silence, Neal and Victoria went into the other room to sit on the couch and watch a movie.  In each other’s arms, they didn’t speak a word.  Instead, both stared ahead, calmly content, at whatever was put in front of them. They were nothing but aware of the moment, and satisfied that it was to continue.

Dylan’s song One Too Many Mornings came on.  I rolled one more cigarette, and poked my head out the window.  I missed the drowsy sunrise, after restless euphoric moonlight.  The tapping of keys, mechanical and electric, was my only means of honesty and communication.  Hearing the wailing epiphanies of Beats through ink, and the encumbered ramblin’ of Dylan against the crackling needle.  Trying so hard to speak freely around plastic shimmering propaganda, and hollow toned auto-symphonic melodies.  I’d bled so hard into pages, on lives that weren’t mine.  I’d seen the leaping flames of justice, peace, and beauty, but nothing ever changed around me.  Meaningless!  Meaningless!  Says the teacher.  Everything is meaningless!

Then I thought of the tenement lights of Vegas, and the price of oil.  Of the failing liberal ideology, and the mindless conservatives.  To the truly malformed, forked tongued ensuant speakers, who looked me straight in the eye, I gave forgiveness.  It was all at once beautiful and collapsing.

I did not feel tired because I was old.  I was tired because they had lived.  Lived through the last golden-headed California wilderness.  On surf boards, on motorcycles, on speeding rubber against spark shimmering asphalt.  So fast, so strong, and everlasting.

I felt each drag of the cigarette, and every clear tug of the strings Dylan played.  It let me see my world pressed up against them.  All the way from the boxcar spirits, and Cadillac souls of America.  To the ghetto built, truth filled, sartorial rhymers of the United States.  In it, I found the separation of heartbeats, and the clarity with which my voice seemed to meld with my own life.  Within the smoke covered, wine filled, starless night, I saw myself clearly through the haze.  All that can be said, was I was at peace.

 


© Copyright 2017 Judah Quintana. All rights reserved.

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