Thursday, March 24, 2011


I went to see Ray. He was down on all fours crawling toward the door, which wasn’t locked so I opened it before he got there. I said, Drunk again? It was not a question. He rolled over on his back and raised his hands and feet up making them look like four paws. I got him off the floor and he offered me a drink. I asked him if he had gone by John Biggs’s tomb lately. He slurred something that sounded like I don’t haunt cemeteries . . . I laughed. He poured himself a drink, clumsily, splashing over the edge of the glass. I sat on a chair and watched, tensely. I asked him if he wanted me to take him to detox. He waved me away, almost falling. I was there fifteen, twenty minutes; luckily, I had promised to help Roosevelt close up. Ray slurred in reply something that sounded like How’s he doing . . . I told Ray why I had to leave now. I promised to drop by later to see how he was. He waved me away once more. This time I left.

The ordinary is rare, I thought, walking to Bourbon after taking the cab back to Canal, where I bought a pack of smokes, for old-time’s sake–hadn’t had a cigarette in over twenty years. I had stopped drinking again, and I wanted to be suitably miserable when I looked in on Ray. I chuckled at such a thought.

Roosevelt was happy with the night’s take. Virgil and Savannah were eager to leave. I asked if they were going to have some ice cream and Savannah replied, We get a milkshake! Roosevelt said he’d had some trouble with "these three young men who said they knew you, one of them said he’s your son, they were drunk when they came in and could hardly walk when they left. I asked if they needed help and they started calling me nigger this and nigger that, I said they better get out or I’d call the cops, and when they kept on I had to follow through, and I guess they wound up in the Tombs." I didn’t tell Roosevelt anything but "I’m nobody’s father," and was happy the kid and his buddies File and The Driver were out of commission for at least the rest of the night, and I told Roosevelt he had handled it all the same way I would have . . . He was too polite to remind me I was a white man. He knew I was well aware of the fact in spite of my Spanish name, which didn’t mean either that I was Latin American.

I was going to take the cashbox home with me but I realized I’d told Ray I’d be back, so I asked Roosevelt to look after it. He hesitated, then said, "Well, all right, Mr. Flores . . . " The two kids were pulling on him, one on each arm, and when he assured them they were going, I put the box in a bag, drew the drawstrings tight and handed it over. They went one way, I went the other, and because The Saloon was locked up by now I walked back to Canal to call a cab from the drugstore where I’d bought the cigs.

That night I delivered Ray to detox. That would take a while, I was told by two people at the center. The man looked like he’d been an inmate here himself. The woman was a little used up too. I looked in on Ray before I left and he was passed out.

I went to Adore’s house. She was there. I asked why she was home tonight. She looked at me and said, "None of your business, lover." We had a fight then. She wouldn’t tell me what she’d been doing and because I hadn’t seen her in over a week I was angry. She didn’t give in. I kept on and she told me, "Get the hell out if you need to be so disrespectful to me." I snapped out of it then. I went over to her and tried to embrace her, she resisted, I shouldered my way in and she relented, we embraced, and soon we were in her bed.

I learned when it was light outside that she had broken up with the man I called Questionmark, which name she found hilarious, even reminding me that he wasn’t as old as he looked, smiling wryly as though to say something more without words. I asked why, and she said again it was none of my business, omitting "lover" this time. She looked happy enough. I still wondered if I was as good with her as he was. I didn’t ask, though. I learned long ago to keep my mouth shut about other men when I was around a lover with a long line of predecessors in her memory banks, however well remembered they might be . . .

(24 March 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander 

No comments:

Post a Comment