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The International Writers Magazine
: Dreamscapes : Life of a lush

Dry Morning Lush
Authur Blake
Why does he keep putting himself in this position? Lush Life asks himself that question every day

Life sways 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 night’s 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 he’ll 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 wouldn’t 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 don’t 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 Life thinks.
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 night’s 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 bracing air.

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 isn’t going to let him off easy today, no, you may as well brace up to that, lad.

He doesn’t 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 doesn’t 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; he’d 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 haven’t swung into motion yet. He doesn’t know how these guys can work so high up on those beams. He’d 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 night’s 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 he’d like to get at some of those bars.

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 won’t 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 can’t 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 doesn’t want to go on. He wants to shut his eyes on everything.

Darkness. 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. Don’t dwell on it, he tells himself. The day’s 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. He’ll 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 can’t 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 isn’t 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

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