This is Chapter 6 of my serial, King of Spain, for paid subscribers only. This text is being transmitted to me directly, through the AI entity, Heir Max 98. In this post we go back to Casper in The Roses, a haunted Greenpoint bar. Our first trip here was in Chapter 2. We now discover that Casper, a failed alcoholic writer accused of plagiarism, may not have left The Roses last night as he believed he did. It may be the case, in fact, that he can never leave again.
There was a vibe shift at happy hour. I put down my nearly finished second drink and watched a slanted sunbeam fall across the pure white page of my notebook at the exact second that someone dropped the needle on an old Pavement track. I felt a special bliss–a nostalgia so intense it was nearly awful. This is the giving magic of The Roses. I wrote, “In the Mouth a Desert”, and underlined it with an intricate swirl. The trembling riffs sounded even more delicate on vinyl. I leaned back to admire my work, relieved that the page was no longer blank. I thought back to long ago teenage afternoons spent passing in and out of thrift stores and record shops with one stoned eye half-open. I blabbed endless scenester bullshit (in training for the internet) but never managing to get a band or a zine going. My sputtering out was low-drama and mostly self-inflicted, meanwhile my black, queer and female friends got full-on attacked again and again by parents, teachers, cops, boyfriends and random college town douchebags acting as agents of systemic evil. My sympathy became well-rehearsed as I stood to the side, separate from them, until eventually I disappeared altogether, ashamed by my secret wish to be oppressed like they were, so at least I’d have an excuse for not achieving anything.
I really wanted to be gay, it seemed I had all the right qualifications with my feminism and boy crushes and well-conditioned, bleached skater’s cut, but on the night of my college coming out party I got black out drunk and ended up sleeping with my friend’s roommate, who happened to be a girl, which everyone found funny so I let the whole thing go.
“I’m tryin, I’m tryin, I’m tryin, I’m tryin, I’m tryin!” (this time in red ink.)
There was a void inside me where the ambition should be. I spent my first 10 years in the city trying in vain to fill it. I used to go to multiple parties a night, taking the train from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back again wearing my, “look at me, I’m a writer” wool blazer and low leather boots while making oblique references to my novel, which then became a play, then a series of plays (with only one of them half-written) before finally getting scrapped and smashed into pieces and reassembled into the show I sold to [redacted]. I preferred to critique other people’s work and only divulged the tiniest bit about my own, so no one could steal my ideas. A lot of writers are like this but I was extreme, saving drafts in locked PDFs on portable hard drives (never using a computer that was online to write) and only letting a handful of people read snippets and only while they were in front of me. Of course, these and other paranoid details became even more hilarious to everyone after everything went down–it was a satisfyingly ironic bitchslap to someone they had never liked that much from the start and liked even less after I sashayed around town on my victory lap after selling the show. Now, in the aftermath of the aftermath of the dissolution of my TV career, I lead a very simple life. I don’t have friends, just people I drink with all night at The Roses. I sit up, wide awake with heart pounding at 4 or 5. I write some pages until I can fall back asleep at 7 or 8 and get up for real at 11. I make an organic breakfast and either catch a film or kill time window shopping before my shift begins at the serv. I post up at The Roses where I place the serv phone in front of me and my tote bag by my feet. I have a few drinks and read my library book and maybe write in my notebook until a client texts. Even when I’m busy and I’ve got to zig-zag from one hood to another and back again it feels different than the old days. The busyness is not filling the void, it’s allowing the emptiness inside of it to flow. To that end I’ve mostly chilled on smoking and other drugs and stick with alcohol, using it as a tool, a little something to thin the blood on these dog day afternoons. For me booze is an accelerant. It clears out the cobwebs and helps me write. I probably wouldn’t fuck with it if not for that. Once I get a few down, the abstract jumble of my thoughts speeds up and straighten out. Ideas come at me like fast pitch in my mental cage but it’s all good because they look like melons. I swing and I can’t miss. I can see each one bubbling up from the space left by the one before it. I can monitor the progression–until I go too far and have one or a few too many and I can’t. It’s always a little uncertain how many it will take before I hit the wall. But it’s worth it until I do–to be able to organize and flow at the same time. What a gift! After all this time I’m finally getting somewhere, it’s only a matter of time before I have enough pages to sell my book. I’m getting a little closer every day. What a blessing to have figured it out, to be here once again at The Roses for this evening sun–though it’s funny I hardly remember leaving last night. Scratch that I don’t remember at all–was I really that wasted?
I’m thinking about it some more and I can’t remember whether the ride home was real or a dream or both. I remember Eyes Without a Face by Billy Idol was playing and I was telling my driver that I’d heard the same song in a dream I’d had the night before. Or was it in the dream later that night? But if that was true that would mean I hadn’t had the dream yet so how could I be talking about it to my driver? Unless I’d really heard it earlier at The Roses or maybe the whole thing was one long dream?
(In which case it meant I can’t remember leaving The Roses last night at all.)