Her picture in my wallet reminds me a lot of bedtime, of a swath of feathered pillows, happy birthday.
Stupid mistakes. Animation gigs tumble down from shaken cubes sweating through my hands into a jigger of knots and chronic vomit. Wrapped fingers polishing oak sanded to a fine point for the vampires from the crawlspace. Says I need a job. Says the doodles don’t kick my habits or buy the bread. Vomit on the carpet spewed like inkwash webs through wet-on-wet applied to paper already bled through, the stain leaked between the gash of a bundle of matted brown hairs sticking every which way like a sea anemone dried and left to rot in the summer bake.
“What’s gotten into you?” Bartender gags tosses up phlegm calls it lungbutter hacks it into a crispy handkerchief that rains little flakes of dried something out of his pocket.
“I can’t afford,” shot, “anything else but this.”
“Got a kid at home.”
“No, you. Fucking sweltering idiot, you, you’re the one with the…how often you forget about him?”
“About once every mile walked if I can manage it.”
Bartender, never noticed his name never cared to learn it, leans in close to me, spreads his chapped flufflips, smacks them at me in a certain despicable kind of way. “Gotta pull it together.”
“Gotta pull it together.” I mock him. It’s easy, his brain is small and he won’t notice, he’s too dense and dumb, he is absolutely nothing.
“Have it your way,” he says. Pulls his mass body with planets and all into the back room, scratches the chafes in his ass. His pants are down and the rash, all red scabby burnt, yeah, almost burnt, runs from the tip of his crack down down down into the undersea of his grinding shorts.
“You are disgusting,” I tell him to myself shot, shot.
There are lines carving themselves from the center of the napkin into a craggy cliff-side with an end pointed and brute with a car having been flung at it that now rests at the edge, at the corner, there are people in the car, and they are dead and he has a flask in his hand. I draw the skies. The sun is shining. There’s a tumbleweed and I don’t know where it’s going to land. I draw an X on the flask and think this is funny.
What other cliff did this car come from?
Is this the Grand Canyon?
To think I want to do this for a living.
There are other drawings too, little things on scraps of napkins from other bars or pieces of menu paper from restaurants I convinced my mom to take me to or discarded receipts found in the belly of trash cans swarming with gnats and the corpses of mice.
I remember birthing this car accident somewhere down the line, but I’ve put them out of order, drowned in the folds of my laptop bag. Remember the origins of the family in the car on the road careening toward the edge of some invisible end a mile away as they laugh in black and white, everything in my life is in black and white.
Now to flip through the drawings I so painstakingly sketched frame-by-frame is like viewing a movie through broken kaleidoscopes. Everything shudders. Everything is afraid of itself as I watch the sedan flop onto the face of the cliff and then appear back on a desert road like my own work had a bad dream.
Why am I drawing something like this?
Screaming from the corner booth of the bar someone has a birthday. Writhing in my ears the song burrows behind my eyes and grabs hold slams them down on the table rocking me back and forth on my stool, I am some clown, some sad drunk clown. I right myself and reach over to pour myself another shot from the untended handle of spiced rum. When did I start drinking spiced rum?
“You’ve already had half the bottle,” woman sitting beside me, straggler from the festivities housed under the dust light.
“Then I suppose I’ll consider this mine.”
“Think you should stop? Take a break?”
“Whose birthday is it?”
I put the bottle down and stare at it, the undulating brown. Something, a smudgy excretion, rests to the bottom of the drink pale like smegma.
“Why aren’t you at your party?”
“I never really wanted one anyway. Wanted to be here alone. I told them I’d be right back, but I wanted to check on you real quick.”
“I don’t know,” shot, “you.”
Her face is made of wine in broken glasses and her lips are pillows in a Sears catalog.
“You should go back to your party,” I beg.
“And you should go back to your house.”
She leaves and she leaks something that tastes in the air of cinnamon and pine. It’s near Christmas, the smells reminded me of that. This does not mean anything.
“Happy birthday,” I whisper under my breath, curling the exhale forth from between my teeth into the waft of drafting air curdling all of our lungs I hope it reaches her, I hope she hears me. Shot.
I’m attempting to make a new body for myself with this. My outer layer boils around my bones and organs and will soon waste off like a discarded bathrobe in the bathroom before a shower. It will soon rain and my flesh will seep off of the real me and I will let it loose in the dumpster behind a strip club to tell it exactly what it means to be free. It will hurt it will be damaged it will try to forget for years to come and then maybe one day a decade from now we’ll be sitting beside each other in this same bar exchanging horrors and romances like old friends.
We are not friends now.
I finish the series of drawings with a portrait of myself in my current state. I kill the realism that takes hold. My eyes are two empty holes and my face is nothing dimensional or with force or dignity. I draw myself as a puddle stepped on in a storm. Acne scars on my forehead now populate my cheeks my entire face myself and the craters have faces of their own that look a lot like me. I finish and shot take a second to draw around the face I’ve made a mouth of teeth. These teeth belong to my wife.
My world fades into the oak and television pouring out baseball highlights and suddenly it’s all the same I am all the same as it is the same as me shot shot shot shot shot
I go outside with my keys in my hand and then I break down in the snow drifts yellow against streetlamps and piss. Is my son okay home alone? Am I okay out here alone?
I remember and I toss my keys aside, I remember I don’t have a car right now and I remember I walk miles and miles and never go anywhere.
Alec Ivan Fugate is some guy sitting in some swamp in some city in northeastern Indiana. His work is floating at Occulum, Burning House Press, Bending Genres, and other darker, spookier ponds