I’m slowly waking up, with a headache from hell. The room is the same as ever, dirty and rotten, with old wallpaper flaking and revealing the brick wall beneath. And on the floor, old butts and empty bottles. I need something to repair on, so I stumble myself out of bed and somehow get myself to the sink in order to wash myself clean and puke the rest of the preceding night out.
After a quick shower I, slowly but dimly, to resemble something akin to a man again, and not the wreck of a shell people say I am. The daylight stings my eyes, but I dare myself outside and go toward my local watering hole. «Wendy’s», a ramshackle establishment a few quarters down the street. The owner is an old war buddy of mine, we went through shit and hell in ’Nam together. Sawed each other from the blood and guts that was spilled and was sent home like slaughtered empty shells. I was lucky, got from it in mostly one piece. My friend didn’t fare so well, he lost his legs to mortar fire.
I can still remember it, carrying him through while all hell broke loose all around us, could hardly see through one eye and blind on the other. But somehow we managed to get ourselves to a MASH-unit just out of Hue, where we were patched together by meatball-surgeons before being shipped to a military-hospital in Saigon. I stayed there long after I was released, just couldn’t leave Johnny behind. So in the end we were both discharged with a medal of valor and a war pension.
Pushing the door at «Wendy’s» in, I see Johnny standing behind the bar. «Hey, Johnny, how’s it hanging»; I say with a friendly smile and a hoarse voice while I plop my ass in my usual seat. He smiles while pouring me a pitcher of beer; «I’m good, you?». I do not return his question, he already knows how i am . Drinking to forget the pain, but the pain always returns the next day. I’m down on my luck, I know that much.
Not that I am neither lazy or a slob, but I just haven’t been able to hold on to a job for any length of time. The nightmares are just too strong, they always botched it for me. So now I just try to get by on my war pension. And that’s not easy, especially when I tend to drink at least half of it up before a week has gone by.
Lately I have at least tried to make something of myself, So I have started writing. Bought myself an old rust bucket of a typewriter, and got me a nice deal on writing paper. Each night I try to get some words down on paper, writing about ’Nam and the nightmares, the dreams. About broads I can never get and about the nights I spend drinking at «Wendy’s» and other places till I get so hammered that they throw me out, and throw me into a waiting cell to dry out. Fishing out a cigarette and lighting it up I take a look around the bar. People, very much like me, sitting there trying to drown their sorrows in cheap booze. Sometimes I reminisce with Johnny about our tour, and remembering the girls down there. I remember a hooker who fucked me ten ways till Sunday once, for just 20 bucks. No frigging way the hookers here would even give you a decent blowjob for that kind of money, they’re too «high-class». We laugh and clink glasses, thanking God that we made it out of that shithole after all.
The evening goes by, and faces chances, slowly like waves of tar on an unknown shore. The music drones on, an old blues-song sung by Howlin’ Wolf. His voice is like a foghorn, even thought the speaker long since has busted. Johnny has long wanted to repair that old Wurlitzer, but has never gotten around to do anything about it. I keep asking him if he’s not meaning to sell it, but he always says «No.. I love that old box»
Can’t say that I blame him, he’s grown so attached to that jukebox. The Wurlitzer was the very first thing he bought, even before buying and installing the beer taps and the bar-cabinets. Crazy, right? You should think that the very first things to buy would be the necessary things, but not him. He bought the Wurlitzer. It has been there ever since, droning and droning like an old Buick.
Someone says something to me, and I turn my head. The most beautiful woman I have ever seen smiles at me. Deep green eyes, ruby red lips, long blonde hair and a body that would make Raquel Welch weep. A bombshell of a woman. «Got a light»; she’s still smiling holding up a long cigarette. King size.
I fish out my lighter and light it up.. «Thank you» she says. Incredibly enough, she sits down just beside me and orders a glass of martini. Like a dummy I sit there, not believing that I have gotten such lovely company. Can’t even believe that a beautiful broad like that would even ask me anything. «Are you gaping, or just happy to see me?» she asks while putting a finger under my chin. Laughing like a teenage schoolboy; «Guilty on both counts»,taking another puff.
A long while goes by, and I am drowning in her emerald eyes. I ask what a gorgeous babe like her is doing in a dump like this, with a low voice so that Johnny won’t hear. «Drinking, what about you?». «The Same, trying to forget»; smiling back at her. Taking another puff and blowing out the bitterness in the acrid smoke we sit there a long, long while just enjoying each others closeness. Two lonely ships meeting in the night, A wonderful Lady with capital L and a major Loser with a capital L. Telling her what I am she says to me; «Even losers deserves some warmth in their lives»; while putting her elegant hand on my big hard one.
The smile she has burns into my head, it’s as if I see God for the very first time in her pearly white teeth and ruby lips. Her face comes close to mine, I put my hand behind her neck and pull her towards me. We meet in a burning hot embracing kiss, lasting just for a few seconds. But it feels like forever. Looking at me, looking deep into my eyes she finishes her martini and leaves out the door.
The chair seems emptier now than ever, knowing that she never will return. I turn my attention back to the bar, and let the night move on