Thursday, June 09, 2005

midnight escape

Last night, after three consecutive days of cash flow stress and anxiety, I decided to go out for a drink and a massage - after the concern was resolved, of course. I left home at midnight, leaving Nikki to handle the challenges of the Sorceress Edea of Final Fantasy VIII (an invigorating blast from the past, courtesy of K8), and walked a bit in the gentle drizzle, waiting for a cab.

Once in a while, I do this: find a friendly bar, have a couple of beers and just veg out. It’s important that I’m alone. I do not want or need conversation, and I certainly don’t want to think too hard or otherwise be my usual gregarious self. I imagine myself in some Chicago speakeasy during the Prohibition, perhaps some minor gangster low on the totem pole of things, just out to relax.

There are odd times when someone comes over to talk. Sometimes women, sometimes men, who are in the bar for similar or completely different reasons. I respond curtly, not wanting to make friends, not wanting to be my usual self. I left my brains on idle and I am not in the mood for someone else’s story, whether it is as banal as a prostitute with a heart of gold, as artless as a man whose wife has left him, or as half-flattering as some guy who thinks I’m in the market for some hijinks. I wear a mask of stupidity, of being unable to comprehend complicated sentences, and radiate a zone of general antipathy that is a mix of my face set into genial ennui and a cloud of cigarette smoke. Sorry, not interested. Which is a peculiar thing for a writer for whom all these people are walking repositories of stories to mine. But I’m not there as a writer. I’m there as a tired man who just wants to drink in peace, oblivious to anyone’s agenda. Last night was just like that.

After I paid for my drinks, I took a cab to Roxas Boulevard. The dark streets offered no traffic, glistening with the dull sheen left behind by the superficial rain. At the Korean bathhouse I frequent, I checked in, stripped and took a bath while sitting on a small wooden stool. Then I immersed myself in the hot waters of the main pool, oblivious to the amiable argy-bargy of the other men around me, Filipinos and foreigners, simultaneously exposed and cloaked by steaming water. I soaked until I felt the alcohol in my system flushing out as sweat. Then I went for my massage, hoping that the lady I like, the Punisher, was present. She was, and soon her iron fingers wedged themselves in the knots of my aching back, shaking my body’s dalliance with lethargy with delicious pain. It's criminal for pain to be so pleasurable.

Afterwards, I went up to the bar in my robe and had a glass of red wine from Primitivo di Manduria, reasonble and young, and looked beyond the glass walls out into the street below with a sense of Lucullan wellbeing. I thought of nothing, neither work nor business, neither story-writing or comic book creation. I was not none of the descriptors found on the upper right hand corner of this blog. It was just me with a glass of wine. For a while I could pretend to be consumed by nothing, no cares, no worries. Just for a while.

Then I dressed up and rode a swift cab home, to my wife who was just getting ready for bed a couple of hours before dawn. As I got into bed for some sleep, I realized that I was desperately hungry, that everything that went into my system since midnight had been smoke and alcohol. Nikki offered acorn-fed Iberian boar pate and swanky crackers, but I let the Filipino in me take control. I made scrambled eggs the way I like them (heat the skillet and a little oil, dump the eggs, whisk briskly and separate the thickening mass, then quickly out on to a plate – the entire process taking only a few seconds) plus a couple of links of sticky longganisa so I have some protein, and ate them with the remains of the previous evening’s rice, while I learned about The Mysterious Hanging Coffins of China courtesy of the Discovery Channel.

And then, body finally sated, I went to sleep. I dreamt of a new play’s structure, something novel and exciting, but it was all gone by the time I woke up later, with just enough time for a quick shower before my first client meeting and the first of a cascade of text messages and phone calls.

It’s all right to escape, once in a while, for as long as you accept that it is temporary, and that you will come home and be yourself again. It must be a path that leads back to where you came from, back to your context, back to what you have determined matters to you.

Although sometimes I imagine myself walking down the street at midnight and finding myself strangely in a bar in Europe, in different clothes with a different face, and I am consumed by a sad longing that I cannot easily articulate.

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