"Ey what the **** you doing in here?"
"Hey man we're just using the facilities! Relax a bit yeah?"
"No! I no relax! You geda**** outta my place now! Or I call cops!"
"Jesus Christ man fine. You got my pay at least?"
"**** you Dook. You no get pay. You taint my bathroom and I keep yo money."
"You filthy pig. I'll burn your whole goddamned place down if I don't get my money."
"Oh really? I have you shot on sight fag-boy."
"You know what, **** you. No wonder people hate this place. It's full of goddamn crazy immigrants like you."
"Get out now Dook before this ends like last time."
"Yeah yeah I'm gettin'. Just let me put my pants on."
What a filthy swine I thought. He makes me play by his rules, no cussing on stage, no drinking on stage, no girls backstage, blah blah blah. And I get screwed over. The man is a broken record. He was a pretty nice guy when I first started playing here about a year ago but a few months later his wife passed away and after that, well you get this bitter old man who bitches and complains every chance he gets. God did him so wrong and yet he prays six times a day wherever he is during prayer time. God has a plan, he works in divine and mysterious ways. That's what all the preachers say. The same forty-something virgins who hold the hands of old women and promise them eternity. And what makes you think if I confess to you I'm forgiven? You don't look like my God to me so I'm gonna have to pass on that one. I came out of the bathroom, messy, disheveled and still buttoning my pants to find Mikel sitting there bored and lonely, still fiddling with his belt buckle. It just wasn't right. He looked like a child with a new bike on Christmas that got stolen the same day. Well that gave me an idea.
"What do you think of pissing in the butter for the popcorn? And shitting in the chocolate for the pretzels?"
His eyes brightened up at the thought of that immigrant **** chowing down on piss-soaked popcorn with a shit-infused pretzel.
"I'm down man. I was gonna go while I was in there but that always kills my hard-on."
"Then everything works out perfectly."
I smiled and we snuck back behind the counter while Mr. Alguin was out mingling with guests and harassing the janitors about their less than satisfactory job. Mikel squatted over the chocolate while I unzipped and relieved myself into the popcorn butter. Revenge was sweet. Anyone who says otherwise has never experienced it.You know once I sat in church listening to this preacher go on and on about how sin doesn't feel good. It's disgusting and revolting and all I could think was "well he aint doin' it right." We finished our work and took the backdoor out. This alley was familiar. We'd stumbled down it a million times in a drunken stupor, screaming, cursing, and groping any passerby's. This time though we were sober, but like any drunken stupor the bad memories still came to mind.
"Hey man, so do you still hear from Angela?"
I knew where this was going before it even started.
"Yeah, she calls me every couple days. Keeps talkin' 'bout how she's gonna move out here with me and we're gonna get married."
"Really? You know man I'm still...well I've still got a thing for her."
"Yeah I'm aware. But what do you want me to say Mikel? That I'm sorry? I'm not. I'm really not."
"Kinda harsh bro don't you think?"
"I don't actually. I've known her since the first grade. My 'thing' for her has been around a lot longer than yours has."
"But I'm the one who actually dated her."
"Mikel I hate to break this to you, but a 6-month relationship in 8th grade doesn't count. You know why? Because you barely saw each other in that whole time and it ended because you wanted to get some pussy."
"You jealous muther****er. You just can't accept that she still ****in' loves me."
I slung my arm around his shoulder and took a friendlier tone in my voice.
"C'mon now. Let's get a drink. It'll calm your nerves."
"No **** you. I don't need to calm my nerves, you need to back off my woman!"
He pushed me off and I felt myself forming tight fists, knuckles white, veins pulsing out.
"Mikel she's not your woman. She's not my woman. She's just a woman. For god's sake pull yourself together man."
"Yeah I guess your right. Just do me a favor and don't talk about it in front of me."
"Will do my man."
Graffiti covered every inch of those back alley walls and rats could be seen scurrying through the trash heaps. Bums pissed and masturbated behind the dumpsters while prostitutes leaned against the wall of every intersecting street. I could hear flies buzzing loudly, followed by the occasional swat. People here were dirty and grimy and it reminded me of my early childhood. I'd lived in a trailer court off of Hollister Avenue in Imperial Beach and every once in a while I go back just to remind myself where I come from. I come back to find the same people, aged, but relatively unchanged, and they haven't accomplished anything; they've just wasted away from the day-by-day grind of a dead-end job or a directionless education. Most of the kids became drug dealers or gang members and the middle-aged became elderly while the elderly became deceased and the whole thing is just one big cycle of empty life and forgotten death.
I could smell the sweat of the hookers as we passed them by and it made me want a cigarette so I took one out and lit up.
"Hey man let me get a cigarette."
"I give you enough cigarettes. Buy your own."
"Haha, seriously man give me a cig'."
"You heard me. Don't act like you think I'm joking. I can tell when you do. Believe me, it's unbecoming of you."
Mikel grew quiet and sighed with the resignation that maybe I wouldn't always be around to support him and all his habits. He was right too to think it. I couldn't afford it and even if I could I'm not entirely sure I would. I could rarely turn the guy down though, he's like a helpless puppy; he just has no self-reliance. He's gotta learn to take care of himself because let's face it, without me he's a beggar. We made it to a small coffee shop and stepped inside. They were holding poetry readings and it wasn't half-bad but some of the guys in there you could tell were real wannabe's; the kinda guys who read some Emerson and think they're philosophers of the common man. They wore tight jeans, designer shoes, designer glasses, Armani cologne, and carried man-bags. I've got no problem with a satchel but when it's a tiny little leather bag that resembles a purse I begin to wonder if they're holding their make-up and tampons in there. We decided to take a seat outside so we could smoke, I had given in and let Mikel have a cigarette, and we ordered two cups of coffee. I took mine black while Mikel took his with two teaspoons of sugar and 3 creams.
"Man I don't understand how you can drink it that way."
"I like coffee as it is. It'd be a crime to ruin such an amazing smelling beverage with cream and sugar."
"But it tastes so damn bitter. Coffee smell is really misleading."
"I beg to differ. When you drown it in all those condiments you're not even drinking coffee anymore. You're drinking milk and sugar with a bit of coffee in it. Just seems to defeat the purpose of it to me."
"Well I 'beg to differ'."
"Don't mock me. You fiend like a child, I give you a cigarette, and you repay me with mockery. Way to be a ****."
"Say it again. Once more, please. I ****ing dare you."
"You're a ****."
"**** you asshole!"
And before I know it we've thrown our hot coffee at each other (mug and all) and are rolling around on the sidewalk scratching and scrapin' in the mud. I felt him hammer into my rib cage repeatedly but it was a dull, weak pain. He had no idea that most of the left side of my body was partially numb. I finally pinned him down and struck him in the face, but when I did it some sort of primal, animal instinct in me just took over and I kept beating on him. Punch after punch collided with his jaw, his cheekbones, his nose, and his eyes. When that cop finally pulled me off we were both bloody but Mikel had taken the bulk of it. I felt guilty watching that cop throw him against a wall, handcuff him, and really subdue him with a few jabs to the stomach. They detained us in the back of a squad car for questioning but both of us refused. None of that "I plead the fifth!" crap that every guilty con in America knows, but silence. We let our heads hang low, all through the screaming and the cussing and the spit flyin' from that officer's mouth. Just silence. They got a hold of our parents after taking our ID's and decided we wouldn't be off to Juvenile hall, just a long ride home with a brief stop to teach us how what we'd done was wrong. As we rode I couldn't hear anything, just the sound of my deep sighs and Mikel's quick, angry breaths. Low, a mumble almost, caught in the drunken aftermath haze of a bad fight I began to sing.
"Don't bury me, when I die. Don't bury me when I die. Let my ashes fall into the wind and I'll come back a stallion again...
When I die, don't you cry It's only temporary. It's just so hard to see those eyes The same eyes that have loved me oh so well
Don't bury me, when I die. Don't bury me when I die. Let my ashes fall into the wind and I'll come back a stallion again..."
Silence, and we rode on.