The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes : Life of a
does he keep putting himself in this position? Lush Life asks
himself that question every day
a little unsteadily (he was off in his head just a little too much,
and suddenly is brought back dizzily), almost falling onto the dirty
sidewalk (last nights paper scraps, drink and piss stains, cans,
the dirty drains) as he plunges ahead in the early morning, feeling
the hollowness in his gut; feeling light, insubstantial, carried on
the breeze, mentally as well as physically. Lush Life is out of control
and has no connection to anything, but he must carry on, the day is
too bright and busy for sleep. The city work force is already hitting
the street. The street sweepers in their colorful, light blue uniforms
indifferent to the sight of him and the other lushes staggering around
with no particular point fixed in their sights (glancing at discarded
bottles to see if any juice is left).
Nothing in his pockets to weigh him down (no ID even), no bag over his
shoulder like some of these guys who carry it wherever they go, no,
Lush Life has just the stained, baggy clothes on his skinny (and getting
skinnier) frame, the clothes hell get a couple more days use of
before shedding them. Nothing holding him down physically, and nothing
but the morning breeze to sustain him, it seems.
It has been reduced to this, he thinks: a man alone, with nothing but
his barely clad form, in his little place on the planet, with all he
really needs at the moment, the air. The coastal air here: the gulls
are already active too, feasting on the human garbage before it gets
swept and hauled away. The all too loud rumbling, whining and racing
of city vehicles and machinery as they launch their daily attack on
the streets. Some coffee cranked worker bellowing to one of his mates;
a big, well-fed piece of cockiness Lush Life wouldnt mind stinging
in the mouth as they pass on the dirty walk. The beefy hardhat loses
his smile when he sees Lushie, whose drink heated face, scraggly beard
and well-stained clothes dont speak at all of his kind. It brings
the street and his job back to him in all of its dirty immediacy, an
unwanted (at least this early) morning settler, turning the taste of
coffee sour in his mouth.
Yes, they both have reason to be angry at the sight of each other, Lush
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Past the big fountain in front of the mall, and the little park and
benches. A prime panhandlers gathering place in the afternoons,
but now just a few people up off the cardboard and trying to shake off
the previous nights madness, muttering to themselves; a couple
old drunks still drunk and cackling; one guy gesturing at the air. Pigeons
taking it easy, waiting for the passing traffic to pick up (like the
panhandlers these city birds).
Lush Life keeps moving, thankful that there is no throbbing of a hangover,
yet. It is too early and cool now. That head problem would descend on
him in late morning, when the sun started to make its presence felt.
He sees someone step out of a restaurant with a cup of coffee, smelling
fresh bread from the open door. The smell grabs him, pleasantly, and
his stomach makes noises. It will be hours before the lunch food line.
Best to get away from these food places and get near the water and the
Find a seat in the sun and watch the boats in the bay. Take his time
and try to come up with an idea of what to do today, a plan of action
on how to get a little drink money anyway. The ol' Thirst isnt
going to let him off easy today, no, you may as well brace up to that,
He doesnt mind it down here in the waterfront parks this early,
before all the tourists start showing up in their new cars and bright
new clothes, with yelling kids in tow. No, this is the time of day for
drunks and tramps to wake up and wash up in the public lavs, when there
is still toilet paper in there.
Some mornings, Lush Life had already started collecting cans by then,
but this morning he doesnt have the energy. He feels lightheaded
if anything, still dizzy. Wiped out and drifting on the breeze.
What a night it had been (a little laugh rose in his throat). Purple
wine, whisky, malt liquor; hed come into a small windfall and
made quick use of it (although he is kicking himself now for not saving
a little). He had felt good enough to share his drink with others; he
had sought out company, which was unusual for him. Just other drunks
on the street like him. He felt almost compelled to do it sometimes
because drink came his way once in a while when he really needed it.
Lush Life recognized certain faces on the street and they recognized
him, though he kept to himself as much as possible.
He passes several construction sites - big buildings going up all over
the downtown area. More hardhats gabbing and drinking coffee; the supervisors
with clipboards. The huge cranes that havent swung into motion
yet. He doesnt know how these guys can work so high up on those
beams. Hed get dizzy and weak in the knees just standing up there.
One thing Lush Life never tires of seeing is the green grassy hills
in the parks, the big old trees with orange and pink blossoms and the
thick, gnarled roots somewhat exposed. There were always kids climbing
them, or families having their picture taken in front of them. Along
the sidewalks were young trees that had only been planted within the
last couple of years. And beyond that, the dark blue of the bay.
He goes into the bathroom to wash and sees the dirty backpack against
the wall, some tramp purging last nights poison from one end or
the other. Have to get here mighty early to sit yourself on the throne.
He walks to the far end of the park where there are some benches in
the sun. The wind here is always strong and he shivers a little. He
stretches himself out full on one bench and listens to some shouts from
a passing boat. A day of fun in the sun for some, he thinks. Plenty
of yachts around. Party boats. How hed like to get at some of
Lush Life pulls his sweatshirt up over his head to keep the wind off,
lying there with his eyes closed, hearing gull cries and boat motors.
He knows he wont sleep; his pulse is too rapid. Yet he is content
to be off his feet. The lightheaded feeling and dizziness are gone for
the moment. It is going to be a rough one later on though when he has
to move, and it gets warmer. Yet another test for the drunk.
Why does he keep putting himself in this position? Lush Life asks himself
that question every day, at different times of the day: like now in
the early morning, when still drunk from the night before, but without
booze; at midday, when he is hurting and searching for more; and in
the evening when he is starting on a bottle. He has no answer for himself
other than that he has no idea of what else to do with himself. It seems
that he cant think further than the next few hours. Beyond that,
the future holds no interest for him. He feels like a leashed dog, with
the line extended to its full length; he has run it out as far as it
will go. His territory has been covered, and now Lush Life is just letting
things be. He just wants his little something - his medicine - to help
him get through the day. Not much. Nothing expensive. Five bucks a day
maybe. And when he feels good, it makes things bearable. He can look
at life around him with a relaxed benevolence. It is the only time he
feels in harmony with his surroundings. Without it, the misery can be
so bad that he will be thinking that he doesnt want to go on.
He wants to shut his eyes on everything.
Some peace perhaps. So again, this morning, looking at some uncomfortable
hours ahead, Lush Life knows that he had what he considered good
reason to drink the night before. Though he is upset at himself
now for not saving something, he knows he would have done the same
thing again if he had it to do over. Dont dwell on it, he
tells himself. The days young. You can always collect a few
cans to get you by. Yes, the recycling place is open seven days
a weeks, and it is a good thing for him. Hell bring a bag
down to Rico, the Hispanic guy who runs the place. The guy who calls
him buddy and moans about the long hours he puts in.
I cant drink like some of you guys, he says. I
have a family. Kids.
He shakes his head wearily and shrugs. Better you than me, Lush
Life thinks, and he probably isnt the only drunk to think
that. He likes getting what little money he earns, and then stepping
out to the street and looking both ways (taking his time in deciding
which way to go), knowing in a short time he will have what it takes
to get him through the night. No places to go, no deadlines to meet,
no schedules to follow.
Authur Blake Feb 2004
Authur Blake on the streets
about people in Dreamscapes
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