jason_cookby Jason Cook

That Don Henley song is playing and all the guys at the bar in their navy pea coats with collars popped high up are cheering and ordering beer in bottles not on tap and the girls at their shoulders look like vampires showing their white teeth behind candy red lips. They chant over synthesizer layers in a funny kind of unison about boys and summer and age and loss and no one here has aged or lost much and I’m thinking I agree. I’m just thinking I agree when they shout, Don’t Look Back, You Can Never Look Back.

They all sneer when I don’t sing along and I mouth the words and I order a beer. You’re getting Pabstized, one says. Pabst Blue Ribbon, he shouts and he spits when he talks and his eyes have veins like bolts of bad weather.

I get it, I say, Blue Velvet. David Lynch, I get it.

Fuck Heineken, he says again.

And I know he’s drunk because he just isn’t listening and it’s loud in here on account of the screaming and the sound of them all. The people I know are friends or the reason I’m here. They’re standing near the restroom with wide grins on their faces like moons, like big white shining lights, big smiles, big eyes, and big grins. Everyone has a haircut like they don’t really have a haircut so you think they just got out of bed or cut their hair in the shower where they can feel around with their fists and snip stray pieces into the drain. Shots, they say, let’s do a shot together. I nod or I smile and I’m at the bar again. I’m doing a shot. Relaxing or blending in or just moving through motions. And our throats burn while we say something congratulatory but I’m not sure what for and everyone is so alive when they’re here, they’re lying. A girl I once dated is sending pictures to my cell phone and asking me if I miss her. Her face is almost sneering and she’s holding the camera above her head and her shirt is cut so low that her tits are almost spilling out. I see her and she isn’t unlike any other girl here with pixie cut black and blond hair and her face pierced with rings and sparrows on her chest.

You can stay in for only so long because it’s like a closet of coats full of people and it gets hot and it gets vapid. The bar door is a lot of things: a hospital curtain; insulation; a mirror; the mouth of an abandoned well. And outside in the snow it’s like dust blowing over the city. You think of a great cyclone being here like God has come to the Midwest. Like he’s sweeping and pushing and sucking and blowing and everywhere are lights pale yellow or ocher. Lampposts are totem poles and headlights are pairs of wisps gliding shifting blinking.

A police car stops at the crosswalk and turns on the side street and everyone is now standing with me outside the door to the bar. Behind their beards and lipstick and fashionable glasses they scoff. I’ve never seen one of them twice and they must live in holes on planets past the sun or the edges of maps or maybe in apartments like me with radiators and futons and thrift store furniture that’s hip because it’s vintage.

It’s cold now. It’s so cold that it’s bullshit. You walk outside and you feel the frigidness and you say aloud, Bullshit, this is bullshit. And you don’t notice it in your veins because you’re almost drunk but they still throb like trains of blood and alcohol. They’re shuttling over rickety tracks warming the rails and careening into the skin like great bodies of chunked ice.

A guy with no coat only a hat and a shirt stained with red spots like constellations walks out of the bar with his hands on his nose. He mumbles to himself and his face is so fat and his eyes are like he was crying. He yells at us to go away and stop looking, stop talking, stop staring. No one wants to go back in the bar now not after someone made a scene after we did shots and chanted Don’t Look Back, You Can Never Look Back. The Blue Velvet guy leaves next with handcuffs around his wrists. Fuck Heineken, he says. And he looks at me and cuts into my eyes. Everyone around laughs and no one here was old enough to see Blue Velvet when it first came out. No one here knows what that movie is even about. I don’t even know. And everyone drives away and no one talks about his bloody nose and I’m in the car with the guys I know. We’re sliding on the slush and salt and someone’s drunk and someone else isn’t but I don’t remember who’s who anymore.

I’m in the back seat looking out and looking at the street at all the bars and the clubs and the other guys and girls are like children just wanting to play. Just wanting someone to touch them a little if only for a night and in the morning they’ll all forget and try again and again and again until someone loves someone or someone hates someone else just enough to stick around to spite the other. The guy driving is checking his mail on his phone and he’s talking about all the things he can do on his phone like change songs on the stereo and get directions home and organize his life. I say, Our culture is over stimulated so much that we have to constantly re-over stimulate ourselves like masturbating to pictures of ourselves masturbating to ourselves. All this just so we can cope enough to stay alert and on time and well informed. Someone says, Look, look at this. And he says his buddy in the desert overseas just sent him a picture of a man with no legs not even knee caps. The phone is passed around and we all see it in high resolution with millions and millions of colors.

Look at that fucking sand nigger. Look how fucking dead he is. My buddy, he’s fucking out all the time, he says. Fucking out is like when you just don’t care. You just start fucking out. You don’t care, he says.

And I look at my phone and check my messages because I don’t know what to say about a dead sand nigger and I don’t really want to have to repeat that word. That girl is sending me more half nude pictures and I stare open mouthed at her tits pulled through the top of her tee shirt. A girl can show me her tits and not even be in the same state as me and I look at her tits while the guy in the front of the car talks more about the sand nigger with no legs.

I’m not prepared when we hit something that feels like a trash bag then swerve into a fire hydrant and my head slams on the glass and stings my neck like the bite of the shot from the bar. When my head bounces on the window I look down and make sure I still have knee caps.

Fucking out, man. I just fucking hit a dog, the guy screams. And he did. The front of his car is a punctured universe of golden long hair matted into clumps like wet dryer lint. Where’s the head, I say. I close the tits picture on my phone and I know I’m okay because I didn’t see stars. I’m not spinning, not bleeding. We stare at the wet road that’s now a dog bone cosmos splattered several feet across with the width of the reflecting halogen lights like God looking through clouds.

It doesn’t have one. No head. Not anymore.
And no one knows what to do and they both look at the car and at the steering wheel then at me. The passenger door is wrecked from the hydrant. Everyone is alright and one of them is already back on his cell phone talking about a baseball score. I look out at the lights and at God. How can we notify anyone if it doesn’t have a head? No head, no collar, I say.

Fuck this, I don’t need this. Fucking dog. We’re leaving.

Someone will see us.

Fuck this. I don’t need this. It’s too fucking cold for this. It’s bullshit.

But I can’t leave and I don’t leave. I watch them wipe the dog blood off the hood with someone’s jacket and they roar away with the engine screaming off into abyssal scatters of snow and dim red brake lights. I’m in a half coherent daze and nearby people are walking home and they’re laughing and giggling and dancing on the sidewalks all drunk and still alive. I push the dog together like it’s a bag of wet socks and drag it off the road. A white blue bag of half exposed guts is leaking something black into the water runoff between the sidewalk and the road and in the grass that makes up the divide I find a collar. I touch the pink metal heart and I know the dog’s name was Racket. Racket Racket Racket. I follow the house number on the tag and ring the door bell and leave the tag and its collar on the mat. I don’t want the owner to see me and I hide in the garden against the stucco and look into the window. On a fireplace mantle are pictures of first cars, prom pictures, graduation days. Three men with buzzed heads sit in front of a television heeing and hawing and crashing video game sounds are dampened by the glass. No one hears me and no one hears me no one here.

The people I know call me, Are you still there, dude?

I found the house.

They’ll call the cops.

They don’t even hear me.

Do you want us to come back for you? We cleaned the car at a gas station. Everything’s fine.

The girl in another state asks me what I want to see. I can see anything I want. We hit a dog. Do you want to see it? I ask.

How about I just show you my ass? Would you like that?

In the front of the car they’ve already forgotten about Racket and moved on. Camel spiders, he says. They can jump high as a camel’s belly and they eat flesh not just suck out your juices like a normal spider. He shows me a picture of the thing on a truck tire. They can run twenty five miles per hour, he says. The next picture is a camel spider in the eye hole of a man dead in the sand with his pants pulled to his ass. What do you want to see? How about I just show you my ass? I can see anything I want.

You want to go to another bar? They ask.

Outside the car everything is falling to the ground except the dust that hangs and there is no sound in a vacuum or in outer space. In every house is a home is someone not listening because there is nothing to hear now. Not amongst this cosmos.

Hey, man, you listening? Hey, man, they say.

But I can’t speak because inside my head it’s so loud. It’s so loud but out in the universe the bars are emptying into the streets like Bible floods foaming and spewing. Even while they laugh and dance there is quiet in space and no one hears on this side of the sun.

What do you want to see?

He’s upset over the fucking dog.

Look how fucking dead he is.

What do you want to see?

Hey, man, you listening?