Sunday, May 27, 2012

Baby I'm a Rich Man, Part Two

I never learn.  My subtle sleuthing and careful, innocently insinuating queries into last night's stabbing don't stand a chance against against one of the Missions most potent demons, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 

"It was life blood, deep life blood.  Red, black and purple all at once.  Like his deep down soul was pumping out of him."

I'm sitting against the brick facade of the Women and Family Shelter, watching the last of the evening chow line disappear into the dark breezeway of the Men's Rescue Mission across the street, waiting with Lee and a few others for chapel time.   Lee usually sits in complete silence behind tiny round dark lenses, reading the paper and listening to baseball through his ear buds while eating pastry or cake with his own fork.

On the pavement in front of me a purplish black stain spreads from near my outstretched feet to the edge of an empty sidewalk tree socket full of dirt and weeds.

"That's the stain right there.  Right there by your feet, youngster."

This is about the 6th time Lee has pointed out the stain to me in the last 15 minutes.  I've asked him no questions.  I know a couple things for sure.   The first is that Lee will keep pointing out the stain to me at regular intervals in the next 45 minutes until we have join the chapel line.   The second is that if I don't decide to excuse myself from this spot and find something else to do, Lee will batter me with the same account of the stabbing at least 15 more times.  I have to weigh this prospect against the chance that he'll add something new to the gruesome tale.

I like Lee a good bit.  He's great fun with movie trivia, old "Twilight Zone" episodes, and "Planet of the Apes," and he's the only person I've met here whose heard of Stanley Kubrick.  He doesn't seem to read anything but the paper, but if you tried to characterize him by cliche', calling him a wise old black gent, for example, he might sputter out something like "Don't drink from that shallow well, you no-nothing cocksucker.  When you have you a fine metaphor or a proverb come back and we'll do some business."

But he gets stuck, apparently afflicted with OCD rigidity.  I've got a touch of that myself.  It manifests during arguments, and can be quelled completely with Prozac, but I don't like the side effects.   Lee doesn't seem to be frustrated or struggling like many OCD victims.  He's absolutely placid, even languid in his yarning.  His repetitions aren't menacing, just tiring.

"You saw the two guys around here many times," he tells me.  "You just don't remember, probably.   They came and went, always coming back dirty and having to sleep in chapel on them filthy green scabies gonorrhea mats, then when they got bumped upstairs they always had a new bunk.   Like you when you was always leaving to go stay at the Motel 6 wasting your hard-earned cash."

"How do you know I did that?"  It's been an ongoing problem.  I get sick of the Mission, which is mostly mind-numbing tedium and Bible drool, except for incredible jackpot runs of eccentricity and mayhem (more about this below), and when I can't sleep on friends' couches or visit my sister, I go to motels, which can be expensive.  Factor in the occasional beer binge and it piles up.  I've been having trouble saving money from my day job. 

He doesn't answer (This is maddening also, because he's playing out another cliche', the silent inscrutable sage, and I hate fucking cliche's, even though they can be a great shorthand tool.  Last word on this for now: Read Martin Amis's The War Against Cliche').  "They were those short and tall Mexican boys, just like friends out of a comic book.   Or that Mice and Men . . . Steenbeck, Steinbeck, whatever.  One tall, like about six foot five and the other one almost a midget, four foot something."

"I think I know the ones you mean."

"Course you do.  Anyway, they began a slap and tickle fight over some money--I heard one of them mention a hundred dollars--then it went to thumping fists, then so fast! So . . . FUCKING FAST!  that little one had something sharp out.  I think it might have been half of a scissors sharpened real razor sharp and pointed 'cause it went in deep.[Here he pauses; it's exactly the same narrative I heard repeated many times that day and into the night until lights out]  I could hear it go in, just like he was sticking a potato or jabbing a grapefruit.   And every time he jabbed it in his arm would swing back almost to my belly, right where you sitting.  That's your usual spot, book man.  Lemme see something."

He leans toward me and skims his hand over my abdomen, almost touching it, then moves it away slowly, mentally measuring.  "You and me got about the same size pudge pot.  Probably wouldn't have cut you.  Pastries, heh, heh, HEH!"

He sits back.  "I couldn't get up.  And what they always say is true.  Time slows down.  I looked across the street and there about ten Disciples standing in a line right there by the fence.  What was happening there is something I've seen many times.  They've seen so much bullshit and crazy violence on the street and prison and this place is so boring and they're just like a bunch of cows and it looks like a movie.  Just like watching a movie!  So they're all frozen, too.

"That little guy had done it before.  He was a fast devil.  And he was thinking, too.  Went way down low to get the tall guy's legs.  Wanted to cut the tendons and nerves.  Bring him down then stick him in the chest.  And he would have succeeded!  But the big one pushed him away real hard against that fire plug there and they stood looking at each other for a second and the big one just smiled, couldn't believe his good buddy stabbed him or didn't know he'd been stabbed and the pain hadn't started yet . . . just like they say when a shark chomps on someone the victim don't feel no pain first off.   And his pants only looked like somebody splashed them with a soda or something. 

But then the gusher came, a big pump!  It was life blood.  Red, Purple, and Black all at once.  Life blood, from deep.  It came from DEEP!  It was RICH, THICK, RICH BLOOD!"

"Disciples finally got unfrozen and moved their asses.  Everybody was jumping around.  The big guy went down.  He never made a sound, not the whole time from the start until the ambulance left.   The police came.  They jumped around.  Really!  A little policeman was hopping up and down and turning left and right in the air!  You know how people do that when they're scared?

"The midget already ran off.   You saw the cops catch him catch him out in the field, didn't you?"

"Yeah."[Actually, all I saw when I first approached the Mission was a cop car parked next to the NO TRESPASSING sign in the middle of the rock and dirt moonscape, and I thought I was going to be arrested for vagrancy.  It's all about me.]

"Ambulance took close to twenty minutes to get here!  Twenty minutes!  Poor guy's eyes was fluttering and showing white and everybody jumping around like fools.  Chaplain came out and jumped around. Everybody jumped.  Ambulance finally got here, strapped on a pressure band and took him away.  Nobody knows whether he's alive yet.

He pauses, then grins at me.  "And you get to have the bloodstain right there in your spot!  You're a lucky man."

I look from the purple-black bloodstain to the empty tree socket where Connie, the Mission's village idiot, burned a dead Christmas tree a few months ago.  Directly behind me on the wall over my head is a brick cross exactly mirrored by its twin across the street on the facade of the Men's Mission.   This is when the Mission's weirdness squeezes down into reality via something I'll call, for simplicity's sake, because it's really indescribable, Concentrated Compacted Controlled Chaos, or 4C for short.  If you tried to stage this stuff, put it in a novel or screenplay, no one would accept it in a quick minute. 

The entire time Lee has been talking, Connie has been practicing dance moves on the sidewalk, dressed in a black hoodie and and a checkered sport coat, his head and forehead wrapped in a necktie printed with happy farm animals.  His socks are bright orange.  His pants look like baby blue spandex.   He looks like a deranged Fred Astaire Ninja by way of the Muppet workshop. 

I survey the entire scene, and especially my blood stain, with rare satisfaction.  "Baby, I'm a rich man."

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