“You are all a lost generation” – Gertrude Stein in conversation and epigraph to Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

I wipe at the hot showers fog of soapy mist on the mirror of the medicine cabinet in the steamed bathroom that’s made my reflection almost invisible. It’s the same each morning; after having cleared that miasma vapor away it reveals my ripening. My skins as white as a cuttlefish bone from an epic long winter. The lack of sun has made my image nearly translucent. The medical term is seasonal affective disorder or SAD and maybe that’s the source of the depression that has the sink holding me up.

The tip of my index finger depresses the plastic nozzle atop the cylindrical can of Aramis; releasing a mist that doses my moist flesh; masking the pheromones that will later escape when my secreted fluids diffuse and mingle with whoever it might be tonight; coating our slippery tangled bodies locked in the frenzied obsession of a passionate lovers embrace.

I thought but didn’t much care that the toxic torrent unleashed, according to the latest scientific peer-reviewed report on global climate change, planetary warming that both arctic systems and coral reefs were already experiencing, the irreversible regime shifts from among other things, the atomizer’s chlorofluorocarbons propelling the liquid that covered my scent; or that my thoughtless gesture would, with a hundred other modern conveniences, be responsible for worldwide ecological collapse, famine, flooding and pestilence. I sent a silent apology to the remaining polar bears.

I gave the day away; dressed to attract and met the milky sky. Firing up my chariot I headed for the Kaffeeklatsch, downed a stab and kill and sped to the gym for an angry workout. I stopped off at the library to absorb a few more chapters of the manic rants and musings of Hunter Thompson’s canon and then uploaded some sustenance from the days blue plate special at the diner. The pool room closed at midnight. I was folding up my winnings when I realized the sips of Crown Royal from my secreted flask and the many rounds of Guinness had done their job.

Escaping the cool breath of wind from the street I passed into the local meat market; a hothouse of pheromones, testosterone and estrogen. Feeling the beast inside coiling as I pushed through the door of the roadhouse; floating as high as a monkey in a tree and content as a hog on ice; feeling holy. Stepping over the threshold breach gave way to an invisible curtain between two worlds; the outside, a Netherlands of normalcy with flocks of work-a-day sheep and herders bustling about; the inside a Fellini circus atmosphere that captivated my senses. The air reeked lust.

I felt that weird kind of adrenaline instinct that feeds on tension and high pressure as I clocked the strum and drang of the environs. I don’t know any of these actors so the image they are projecting back to me must be their favorite. The men fell about the place seemingly coördinated with the din of sound that passed for music; impersonating jokers, thieves, minstrels and madmen; their voices more brass than iron; a testosterone physicality overlaying the fervent messages they were broadcasting. The women wafted a scent with undertones of desperation, loneliness, uncertainly and mostly want, desire sharp enough to cut falling silk like a samurai sword. They were covered like an M&M in a thin candy coating of hope and optimism.

I sensed a desperate last call pre-dawn chaos enveloping the inhabitants; every soul recklessly humping the American dream as the jute box howled a bad noise mating call; the drugs kicked in. The Stones blasted Sympathy for the Devil with a fiendish intensity and the lights gave off a strange glow and vibration, the smell of stale beer provided the buzz kill. I was searching for the Holy Grail, a woman to share the secrets of my shattered soul, held together by scars and truth, to help me through the night and beat the devil in my head with a prosaic everlasting kiss.

She sat at the bar with a panther’s grace; her legs like pins encased in skinny jeans that appeared sprayed on; they jackknife provocatively on the bar stool like swizzle sticks. Her face could not hide the need to be taken and it made me fantasize a roaring wood fire in a dark night on some black sand beach fronting a lush green forest in Borneo where I took her like a Viking. She carried the scars of ancient wounds and instead of projecting defenses, sat reposed, like she’d already given in, like a mortally wounded lion that draws a circle around itself with its own blood waiting for a pack of hyena to catch the scent.

She said her mother had quit the Valium, said it made her too normal, no longer crazed and somehow this robbed her of her power. That was a red flag to be sure but her suppressed sexuality made me sweat like a wheel of cheese. “I didn’t see you there at first” I said. “I’m incognito” she said. “Beautiful things don’t try to be noticed” I said. “Want to get outta here?”  The sky was white haze from the heavens to the lake that bordered the woods. The frozen moisture in the air sparkled like diamonds refracting and made dappled shadows flicker in the silvery half-light.

The all-night diner was right out of 1955 and like sex and pizza it’s hard to find a bad one; it had one of those open kitchen style layouts that hash joints of the era favored; designed for quick communication between the waitresses and the short-order cook. The chrome and neon sign flashed Open 24 Hours. The coffee cups were as thick as flowerpots and the waitress kept them filled to the brim with watery coffee from a plastic flip-top insulated pitcher she left on the table. A couple of hard eyed hooker’s were sprinkled in the drunken randy crowd; decompressing from a long and jangled night.

Maggie, our Moon faced hostess, shouted our orders to Peppy, the half-black half-Chinese madman with a spasmodic face twitch and a twirling metal spatula. “Adam and Eve on a raft for the lady; a cowboy with spurs for the gent” she yelled. For the uninitiated that’s poached eggs on toast for her and a western omelet with French fries for me. Pep nodded his approval and set to the task like he was made of mercury and had a black belt in jujitsu. His head spun about like a boat adrift from its moorings. He had the aggressive chemistry of a connoisseur of sharp knifed edge-work.

He held his hand aloft and towards me; opening it surreptitiously I spied a joint. He motioned me to the back and after excusing myself for a moment I met him at the dumpster that was as rancid smelling as a milk truck. Chatting him up as we passed the dubbin I discovered he was a triple Scorpio; a real character. He dressed like a crusty drifter recently stumbled out of a Hooverville hobo-jungle. “You’ve got the moves Pep” I said. “All energy flows according to the whims of the great magnet” he said.  Christ I thought, on top of everything else this man’s a mad poet.

He had long sinewy arms with a brawler jawbone and looked a burned out caricature of a Mexican Brando. His face had the scars of having been slashed and eyes like jellied fire with long blaze red hair as fine as corn silk. Just then some pals of Peppy roared up on Harley’s; a gang of Pit bull gladiators, muscle-bound weight lifters, cranked up drug enthusiasts that totally meshed with my karma. One humongous rat faced fellow had the look of having been left to snack on paint chips as a toddler; a lout of the first order having made lots of wrong turns and met many dead ends.

He gave me a sneer with angry eyes; a bête noire king hell speed freak as tightly wound as a spring inside the casing of a watch that made the adrenaline in my guts spin like a whirligig. The un-self aware un-self conscious type headed for a hellish descent into drugs, fugitive flight, prisoner status and finally dead man; jail, asylum, morgue; the usual.

Back at the table I found some preppy type vamping my girl who seemed in love with his own voice. He was working on a doctorate of some kind. “The age you are when you go to jail, fall in love or become famous is the age you remain” he said. “Sounds profound” I said. “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom” He said. “Studying William Blake I see” I said.

Her place smelled of incense and scented candles; an angel on a ribbon hung from the armoires door and a fine porcelain Cupid with his feet crossed looked down on the swaying cherub. “I hate everyone who loves me” she said. “They seem to revel in showing me just how ugly they can be”.  I wondered if I’d come home with a rock star; some celebrity I was too old to know about. They say there’s no one cooler in the pocket than me but at that moment I felt like a man without skin.  The drugs were fading as I oriented myself to the moment.  Apparently I’d invited a demon into my belly. We waggled and dangled for hours and hours like we were digging up trees, grass and flowers; finally I rolled over with a moan and a cough and she coiled up next to me dozing off.

Her remembrances come back in the smallest things. This morning it was from the sense memory of how her arm brushed against my torpid remains, still glistening in our sweat as it brushed against the hairs on my chest when she reached for the glass of ice water on the nightstand after we’d become one again, making love in zero gravity for the third time in the wee hours. This afternoon it was her voice hanging in the air in front of me; how she said Ti Amo with that voice that had a bit of a dusty road and a timbre so lush and velvety I could almost rest my head on it. Imagining her in those moments, for now anyway, is my new favorite way of getting lost.