Thursday, May 26, 2005

Time to Spare

All the smokers are packed behind the glass of the only smoker-friendly restaurant in St. Louis’ Lambert airport. There is a cloud that hovers in the entranceway. I am in a well-lit, non-smoking bar across the concourse. I am sitting on my barstool with by carry-on bag at my feet staring into a giant mug of beer. I am the single patron seated in the middle of a long row of well-used barstools. If I look straight ahead, there is a mirror behind the hanging glasses and the waiting bottles. If I look straight ahead, I can see the stubble on my face, and red in my eyes, and cloud that must be hanging above me. If I look straight ahead I can see a picture of him, but I look down.

I wait for a flight I would rather not take.

On the other side of that flight there is family and tears and a funeral. There is a casket in some dark back room of a funeral home with a body that used to be a man that is my father.

For now, I run my fingers along the base of the beer mug. The water condensation from the cold beer is making a mess of the napkin underneath the mug. I make a wet ball from the napkin and roll it towards the back of the bar where it stops just short of the edge and quivers and stops. I study the moisture on my fingers. I rub my right thumb and right index finger together to create friction and I hear a faint squeaking sound.

I think of a Sunday afternoon two weeks ago when I dialed his number for last time. I didn’t really know what to say to make him feel better. I think he knew it was the last time to say something special, but his condition would not allow him to make much sense at all.

The bartender lures me out of my own head and back to the present when he asks if I need another beer. I say, “Definitely.” A luxurious cacophony swirls around me: kids screaming, workers laughing, couples fighting, and couples reconciling. There is a basketball game on the TV above the bar. There is a smell of beer and bad airport food. “Why are airport bars so bright?” I wonder to myself. At that moment, the lights dim slightly and a neon Bacardi sign casts an orange glow across my face. I scoot my barstool closer so my chest presses against the bar. The clock on my cellphone says I have thirty-five minutes to go.

The bartender is a wrinkled man with gray thinning hair. With a slow gait, he approaches with another beverage for me. I dig in my pocket for a wadded collection of ones and fives. I give him cash, he gives me beer, and we make our exchange silently. He knocks twice on the bar to signal his thanks and walks away with the same slow amble.

I think of flying in low over the water with the lights of Norfolk shining in my eyes. I imagine the silent drive that will follow and walking into a house haunted by the echoes of his voice still reverberating, his hands still hovering there.

I am joined at my left by an older woman with a bad blonde wig, shiny leather skin, and aqua-blue eye shadow that looks like it was applied with a roller. She smells of gingerbread cookies and whiskey. She orders a double Jack Daniels on the rocks. She catches me sizing her up and says, “I can’t fly without a little drink. I’ll be a nervous wreck once I get up in the air.” When it arrives, she puts it to her glittered lips and snaps her head back violently, dumping the contents down her waiting throat. In awe, I turn my attention towards my beer and sip quickly.

Friday, May 13, 2005

David Day article

I struggled with writing this article. I didn't know if I wanted to tackle a personal and sensitive issue such as this, but then I realized that nobody reads this paper anyway. I am glad I decided to write it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Will you still love me when I'm 64?

Time to wake up and take my pills. This one for the heart, this one for my head, this one for my eyes, this one for my leg. I peek outside and the snow is coming down hard. I am thankful I no longer have to commute in this mess every morning. I have a different routine now that I have retired. My wife is heading out to have brunch with her ladies. I turn on the television to check the score of the Wolves game from the previous night. ESPN 37 usually has the baseball news in the morning and ESPN 58 has basketball highlights. I don’t know what we did before there were 6000 channels to choose from.

I set my creaking bones on my faded lazy boy and enjoy the morning alone. The snow lets up around noon so I head to the garage to retrieve the snowblower. Most people have automated snow removers they can turn on at the flip of a switch and it cleans their driveway in five minutes. I, on the other hand, have nothing else to do all day and it gives me something to complain about.

Monday, May 02, 2005