But, I have been stuck before. I have been stuck in strange countries. I have been stuck in toxically bad relationships and their constricting borders of familiar addictive entanglements endured. I have been stuck in good relationships, too, burdened with the accompanying responsibilities of unbalanced compromises and the one-sided sacrifices made to support the rotting foundations of a well-intentioned mistake that collapsed anyway, despite the best of my efforts.
It feels like the rest of the world is stuck right along with me tonight. Everywhere there is pressing, palpable hesitation. There are the lingering unanswered questions regarding who is essential and who might be considered sacrificial in the grand scheming of an economy’s restart. There are concerns about the hours, seldom accurately posted, but still somehow always ticking away. There are doubts about the taped-out margins of scientifically measured safety, doubts about exactly how far apart we must be before we are standing together in order for this distancing thing to work out.
Through it all I’ve been waiting impatiently for my world to return. And not this socially isolated, stir-crazy collapsing in a little blue house near the unpredictable heartbeat of the City of Wayne masked world, but the ungloved comforting familiar rhythm of anticipated days and nights spent in the company of a more compatible and healthier world that I used to know.
And no one can give me a definitive answer.
It is nearly eleven o’clock on a relatively decent Midwestern spring Saturday night. Normally at this checkpoint of the weekly madness, I would most likely be at the third bar by now. Sometimes choosing the little hole-in-the-hood pub, decked out in miniaturized wooden glory under the shadow of that looming bridge dividing the tracks and riding higher than most of the patrons at last call. Other Saturday nights, it’s the postage stamp little box of a bar that despite its size and clientele, projects a heavy biker vibe. It keeps you on guard- one eye on the door and the counted footsteps to the nearest conveniently located emergency exit memorized- for any unexpected leather clad demons rolling in hard on a wave of speed-freak fueled two wheeled debauchery, looking for a fight.
One offers a quieter atmosphere, with the occasional accidental impromptu editing session with a pretty girl behind the taps, pouring out perfect pints while reading me pouring my heart out all over her empty bar. The other offers music, live and loud and always seemingly out of tune due to the struggling acoustics and shoddy, cobbled together systems. But still tantalizingly alive and sweaty, an intimately grimy night of poorly-covered songs and gyrating bodies swaying in time to the communal beat of a mid- weekend loneliness shared.
But they both offer sanctuary to the weary writer, blocked rigid and struggling. A writer not yet ready to give up on his story, but still in desperate need of a resuscitative human connection, even if it comes on the back of bar tab that he can just barely afford. A writer still hoping hard for that happy ending and still out on the crawl for a good story. Or a new experience. Or a closing-time smile and the half-hearted handshake for an upcoming literary reunion tentatively scheduled, but ultimately blocked by a virulently inconvenient global pandemic interrupting.
Tonight, on this dreary, lingering Saturday that has now nearly expired, I am instead here. Stuck and alone, inside this empty blue house that is starting to reek of regret from the constant inventory taken of questionable decisions made back when the sun was still shining and the promises of a happier tomorrow were still thriving and shimmering through the gloom. Even though they remained just out of reach, they were still out there comfortingly on the horizon, glowing beacons to a tantalizingly better tomorrow that gave me hope knowing that all I had to do was reach out for them.
But now those hopes have evaporated behind a contagious cough clouding up the internets and the informally spawned grapevines of group texts sent, a new pandemic of constantly morphing misinformation. And there is no ventilator in existence capable of breathing new life into old dreams, despite the combined clever talents of a whole world struggling universally in isolated desperation.
It just won’t work.
There are no promises left that really mean anything. Not now. Not at the end of an old world caught coughing out its death throes. All that is left when the day finally dies away, bleeding unashamedly into another cookie-cutter night of pseudo-isolation, is me. Alone and scared. Alone and waiting for that conversation that might never happen, even though my soul is starving for it. Alone and wondering what is going to happen next, despite the fact that I barely have the energy to face the next day dawning.
I sit, and I wait impatiently in front of my typewriter, caught in the endless fog of another alcohol-fueled numbness and the lingering tobacco smoke stained yearnings of a ridiculous man abandoned to his fate. I wait and I ride an ocean of thought polluted by predictably potent little helpers, legally prescribed and regularly ingested, taking hold and making a determined chemically-induced stand to try and keep the loneliness at bay and the damning, critical voices inside my head relatively quiet. For a few hours, anyway.
And tonight, at the first tickles of a new midnight finally come calling, I still cannot seem to find the words. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, or how diligently I look, they just aren’t there.
They weren’t in that first bottle of whiskey, mid-tier and Irish, though it was the best that I could afford at the time. And they weren’t in that neatly rolled package of youthful indiscretion, ironically purchased with stimulus money just for the joke of it all, that money spent choosing to illegally stimulate a market black in its origins rather than the blue-collared one intended. They weren’t in that late 80s punk music cover of Herman’s Hermits, the rousing and angry soundtrack played to fill the gaps of silence screaming hard inside my head and in an earnestly genuine attempt at keeping the sad, introspective music at bay.
I just can’t find the words tonight. Not when my soul is so busy dying. Not when the knowledge of a promised tomorrow never arriving rears its ugly head and interjects itself into my every thought and every damn song on the playlist played here in this claustrophobic, isolated introspective hell.
I am just too tired, and too drunk, to keep looking. The songs do not matter. Neither do the words, really. It was all just literary masturbation anyway, ugly words jerked out for the sake of passing the time and to try and fill the gap left in the absence of someone who wasn’t what she said that she was.
My words were always true. Her words were always lies. Together, we balanced each other out into a great nothingness.
And it leaves me here, stuck.