I’ll Stray My Time – Mick Hugh
Louisville. I recognize these city streets. I lived here once for several years. This is the corner the bus drops off the grifters who collect $20 a day from college freshmen. Over here is the coffee shop called The Night House by the sleep-deprived who drink black coffee at 2am, and then again at 3 and 4am: It is sometimes settling to wait and see if the sun does actually rise. You can sleep in the morning at the public library, where the chairs in the back are soiled by grime of the homeless who part-time live there.
These boarded front doors are my neighbors. I live in the part of town where the crack-epidemic had hollowed things out; gentrification here is hesitant. The old landlady is nearing eighty and almost nearly senile; she forgets to deposit my checks and has several of mine that haven’t bounced yet. This worries me, as I’ve only really just moved in.
Here at the coffee shop they hang art work on the walls, nice touch of local appreciation but none of it is very good. In the mornings is the usual insomniac crowd, still with sensitive noses and reverberating heads, and the older man here who once married a stripper because he played guitar and still drinks too much whiskey – he cane hobbles the sidewalk home every morning and I don’t think this is sad at all.
I had a job interview yesterday that somewhat rattled me. At a hardware store, and the man there sat me down for questioning in uncomfortably warm quarters, and I don’t think he realized it was the heat drying me out – I’d begun to sweat and couldn’t find answers and felt a bit sick that this man could sit here and interrogate. He called his associate in to assist him. They drive cars and pay taxes and have kids and found every reason to judge me. Functioning members of society un-nerve me.
I found a couch in the alley I dragged into my little apartment. After a heavy coating of Lysol I covered it in blankets so visitors can sit on it without catching HIV. We usually just sit on the floor, taking turns taking hits while listening to ethereal records I bought with another credit card. It helps to remain closer to the Earth, is why we sit on the floor.
I had a car this time last year before I hitchhiked for breath in California. It was a Mazda with good mileage and I’d forgot to get it licensed – or myself licensed, I’m not sure how that works. The car was repo’d with everything I kept in my friend’s apartment, I think because I owe the state for time I spent in court. And so I left, then, and spent a few months visiting friends out on America’s Golden Coast. I slept in the hills, and helped farm marijuana, and spent weekends exploring beneath the boardwalks and piers. Nothing is as peaceful as a Venice Beach sunset, drunk and alone with nowhere to be.
The baristas at the coffee shop know me by name. The owner knows my brew of choice. I’m a regular, here, and for the seventh or eighth time in my life have found somewhere comfortable to live. But I know I’ll soon disappear, the transient who’s moved on from the scene. Because after a few more weeks I’m sure the police will realize I’m living 5 blocks north of their fourth precinct: I’ll begin to receive notices in the mail, warrants and bills and debt-collectors from hospital stays in half-a-dozen states, and if I wait too long the cops will begin to knock, and the city sidewalks will have already closed in.
[Mick Hugh is the creator of Mick’s Neon Fog. And an all-around bad ass.]