My Words, My World

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Archive for the tag “Bukowski”

Bukowski: the morning after the night before

I got up. I couldn’t sleep, I just lay there sweating, tossing and flapping like a freshly-caught fish. Booze does that to you. You think it’ll knock you out; that you’ll sleep like a kitten for the night but then you awake on a sweat-wet pillow, and then it’s finished.

I lay in bed an hour or so, unable to shut my head up. The room was dark but in my head someone had flipped a switch. Transitory thoughts, each following the other down the fuddled highway of my mind, flickered on and off, on and off. What I had to do today. What I had to to this week. What? Whatever.

I got up, grabbed my book, made a coffee and made myself comfortable on the cold leather sofa, and lost myself in story.

I had a heavy chest and a cough that wouldn’t come, my airways blocked by too many cigarettes accompanying too many drinks throughout a drunken evening with drunker friends and a happy barman. My mouth was layered from beer, from wine, from gin, from the back shelf where no one sober goes.

The coffee steamed on the coffee-table (what if I drunk tea?) but I drank it, hoping to change the thick, stale, toothpaste-on-alcohol taste in my mouth. My throat burned but something moved. My chest moved. I coughed: it sounded like Tom Waits singing. That was an improvement.

Early morning coffee with Bukowski. I finished the first short story and stared at the page a while before closing the book and closing my eyes.

The Most Beautiful Woman in Town had just died.

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No going back

‘So, who do you write like?’

‘Bukowski.’

‘Bukowski? You write like Bukowski? Ha!’

‘No, I drink like Bukowski.’

‘That’s why I’m here. So who do you write like?’

The doctor unzipped his black bag and raked around inside.

‘Why do I have to write like anyone? Why can’t I write like me?’

‘Everyone has influences. I aspire to attain the heights of some notable surgeons, in time.’

‘Hemingway.’

‘Hemingway? You write like Hemingway? Don’t kid yourself.’

‘No, I drink and fight like Hemingway.’

I coughed as the stethoscope was placed at various points around my back. I looked at the cigarettes on the table.

‘What about your poetry?’

‘Rimbaud.’

‘Rimbaud? You …’

‘No, I drink like Rimbaud but I’m not French or gay.’

‘You’re going to die like Rimbaud.’

‘There is a heaven after all.’

‘No, seriously. The alcohol is killing you. You’ll have to stop.’

‘No going back.’

‘I can’t make you but as your doctor I’m telling you, you’re going to die, and soon if you don’t stop.’

‘How long?’

‘If you don’t stop? Weeks, months. I can’t tell unless we open you up.’

‘I’ll stop.’

‘You’ll stop? Really? Just like that?’

‘Do I have a choice?’

‘No, not unless you want to die. However, you still haven’t been published so it wouldn’t even be a very good career move.’

‘Well, I sold a story and one article.’

‘That’s good but you’ll have to do more and to do more you’ll have to stop killing yourself.’

‘Doc, take that bottle of grappa. It’s a good grappa and I don’t want it.’

‘Sure, I’ll take it. Thanks.’

‘Doc, there’s some good wine in the kitchen, take it, give it to your wife or your secretary.’

‘OK, thanks. Remember, there’s no going back. Falling off the wagon is not an option, you’ll die.’

‘No going back. Sure doc.’

He got his things together, wrote out an illegible prescription and told me to get my ass down the pharmacy. I passed him a bag with the bottles as we stepped out and I shaded my eyes from the low winter sun. He clanked his way to his car. I pulled a couple of envelopes from the mailbox.

‘No going back,’ he reminded me as his car coughed blue exhaust smoke into the cold air.

Back in the kitchen I tore open the post. My head swam from the hangover.  For once it wasn’t a bill. It was the agency, they’d found a publisher, a real publisher who wanted to publish me. Me.

I opened the cupboard under the sink, reached behind the bin and pulled out a bottle.

‘No going back,’ I said, to no-one in particular as I toasted myself.

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