I am barely paying attention to the priest mumbling incantations as I take the flask out of my blazer and take a good hit of warm whiskey. I reach for a cigarette and just before I strike a flame an elderly woman slaps the lighter out of my hand causing it to slide underneath the pew in front of me. I curse at her and raise my hand as if I’m going to hit her, but I don’t. Her nose looks like a beaten tree stump and I have 14 more cigarettes so what do I care. I’ll smash a bottle of chardonnay over her head in the parking lot and watch the blood fall from her scalp; who’ll be there to see it then?
Both of us are parked in the side lot so I let her leave before me and walk 20 steps behind. She walks slowly so I do the same. When she’s about 100 feet away I drop my head and pick up the pace. I reach my car with plenty of time and unlock the back seat. Just as I reach for the empty bottle laying on the floor mat my phone rings loudly. She looks over at me and I cough up a smile and wave hello with an upside down bottle of cheap white. She snarls. Maybe I’ll go to Canter’s for lunch.
I get the corned beef with a side of potato salad and a cup of coffee. It already feels like a long day. The waitress walks away and with each step she bites down on her gum. I couldn’t help but watch her gnaw away as she took my order. The gum looked thin and worn and I half expected it to turn to powder. I had meant to order the pastrami on rye but in my state of fixation could only spit out the words corned beef.
I think about the old lady in the church again, and about Bitches Brew. I’m sure I’ll pull it off the shelf again tonight, I usually do when there’s whiskey in the flask.
The gum enthusiast clears my table and drops off the check. I leave 12% and light up a cigarette as I open the exit door. It feels much hotter outside now. I remove my jacket and hold it over my left forearm, pushed against my chest as I smoke. What is that wretched smell?
Walking to my car I realize I forgot to put change in the meter. I grip my jacket and begin running up Fairfax instinctively. I doubt I can alter my fate but it’s worth a shot, and I hate delaying the inevitable. I must know the results. I breeze past a middle-aged couple holding hands causing them to turn around and fire a disapproving look at my back. I dance around three little girls as they bop their heads a few feet in front of their mother. I start to pant as I approach a stop light. A red hand stares me down but I don’t see any cars coming so I keep running. I’m flying across the pavement and for a moment I forget about the potential ticket and truly enjoy the sudden sense of urgency. It’s as if I suddenly have a purpose. Be it momentary, it feels amazing. I leap off the curb and bolt up the crosswalk only to catch a car taking a hard left turn out of the corner of my right eye. The driver is on his cell phone and accelerates hard to avoid opposing traffic. My heart soars up my chest and into the back of my throat. When he finally sees me his mouth stretches wide open and contorts itself in hideous fashion. He slams on the brakes as I swallow my breath and pump my legs as hard as I can. He manages to stop inches behind my extended right leg, leaving the back half of his car vulnerable to an oncoming truck. The soles of my feet slam the top of the curb as I watch the truck obliterate the car and most certainly the unfortunate soul behind the wheel. I lay on the sidewalk gasping for air, supporting myself with a bent arm. All I can do is stare at the twisted metal and rising smoke. I punch myself hard in the right thigh because I am unable to cry. I just lay there shaking.