Happy Face by Christopher Reel / Chapter 2

The sun, off to my right, was prominent as a field general in command, pleasantly, with arms stretched out into sunshine. The sky, a canvas of infinite blue with white clouds blotted on haphazardly by a thick brush in the hand of a drunken artist. The clouds moved in a motion slow enough one would misinterpret it as still. Insignificant below, dressed in the blue denim shirt and jeans of my uniform, along with the red hat and smock; wet, hanging around my neck, I wondered if I was the only one at that moment in history to find the sky Amazing. Beautiful. Silly. I lit a cigarette, and then slowly crossed the parking lot.
I thought about going to the old neighborhood, instead I wandered the rest of the day thinking, mostly about life and death, and how opposite the two were, and how related they were and, how you couldn’t have one with out the other, and how one makes the other pointless, and how one turns the other one into an unwanted tragedy. It was a good thing that I didn’t have my gun with me. However, I did have dread and cigarettes to keep me company. We walked and walked, eventually ending up at the Underground Bar.
As usual I ordered 2 shots of rum in separate glasses. I sat at one of the tables in the back with the clerk. The bar was an ordinary cemetery where the melancholy went to bury their sorrows. It was dim and smoky, smelling of liquor and burning tobacco. An eclectic selection of songs about love and its many side effects drifted from an unseen speaker. There was a sea of haphazardly rowed round tables. A row ran along the wall below the window, which was lit in a colorful dim by a neon sign. The bar was to the right, the bathroom along with 2 pinball machines were on the opposite wall. Scattered throughout were the regulars.
At the bar were 2 guys with blue collars, one black, and the other white. They always talked about politics, sports, women, and sometimes about their wives. The bartender was a heavy set woman who was overtly friendly and sweet and possessed the weary pain filled and compassionate face of a mother who had recently ate her young, and enjoyed it. 2 tables from where the clerk and I were seated was an old taxi cab driver who never wore a shirt. On the bony ruins of his chest was a tattoo of a naked woman nailed to the cross. ‘In memory of my late wife, I loved her very much.’ He once volunteered. ‘That stinking bitch, may she rest in hell as peacefully as possible.’ With his chin down, he appeared to be asleep, at a table along the wall a couple sat. They were always dressed in business attire. The man would puff on a cigar and sip on a beer. With a thoughtful involved expression on his face he would read a newspaper. The news was always upside down. The woman, nursing a beer of her own, with a news magazine opened in front of her, and sung loud and off key with whatever song that came on. The clerk, who sat across the table from me snug and small in his dingy overcoat with its beaver collar, scribbled into his notebook. As usual, he was drunk. Occasionally he laughed or gave me an angry look. His face was ugly with a failed attempt at lofty and intelligent, but only managed contempt.
As I chain smoked, walking off the job slid back into my conscience. ‘Oh well.’ felt like the best response. However ‘Oh shit.’ would have been the more rational one. I would now have to find a job. I had no regrets. I wish I did, which would of been worthless, but after 5 years in prison it would of made me feel a little normal, like Adam.
I peered around the bar at the others and wondered what their problems were. Why were they always here? What pains were they trying to wash away? I wondered did any of them know that eventually they would die and soon after will be forgotten, because of how the progression of time fades the importance of everything and everyone especially when those that your memory lingered in becomes victims of life’s conclusion as well. I, personally was aware of my inevitable death and aware that I would also be forgotten; probably sooner than others. That was one of my pains. But I wondered was I in pain at that particular moment. I farted, quietly, and realized that pain at that particular moment was only gas.
‘Do you believe leaving your job like that was a rational decision?’ asked the clerk.
I made a weak smile and shrugged.
‘Of course you don’t.’ he continued. Although he was Black, since we first met he had always spoke Russian; which I had always understood as if he spoke nothing more than accented English. ‘It was foolish. Your like a lab mouse in a tunnel with other lab mice all running in the same direction for the cheese, then suddenly you stop and go into one of the dark holes along the tunnel’s wall, leaving the researchers in awe. Especially after you had recently came out of one such hole.’ he paused, and then smiled while shaking his head. ‘You have been out of prison for less than a year and. . .The Department Of Corrections . . . that’s funny. Don’t they know that only a person could correct himself? But you can’t explain anything to the moral and rational; who are the ones who normally makes the rules.’ he smiled. ‘You are not of either. As I told you before you’re a fool, one of humanities court jesters. You don’t wear a cloak; you wear a red and green one piece and a hat with its 3 brass bells. My friend, do you know how to joggle?’ He laughed. ‘In all seriousness, you said that you were going to change your life. That you were going to work and get your stories publish and then write that big literary masterpiece and you would never sell drugs again. I must admit, other than not creating that masterpiece and publishing your existing work, everything else seemed to be going as planned. Well, that’s up until a few hours ago. Out of nowhere you abandoned your job. I’m curious if you are aware that you have also abandoned reason? I’m also curious if you are aware that your reasoning behind it is bullshit? You don’t want to be Adam? Who is it that you want to be? Me?’ he laughed. ‘You want to crawl into a corner like mine? I have been a coward and a slave for years before I found my hole and I’m still a coward and a slave.’ he laughed. ‘You’re a fool.’ He banged his fists against the table, which amused him. He did it two more times. ‘A fool.’ He repeated with each bang. He laughed as he calmed himself. ‘You have rebelled against common sense and logic your whole life, purposely exiling yourself from normality, rebelling against your own goodwill to let everyone know you have your own freewill. You damn creative type, insane. What you’re going to do, next cut your ear off? Or take a shot at a woman with an apple on her head?’ he shook his head, laughing. ‘No regrets, huh?’
I slowly shook my head as I begun to feel the rum.
‘Then your authenticity is still in tact. But how important is it to be real when you ignore logic and your own advantages? Plus you have to be concern with your life regressing into the darkness that has always plagued you. The darkness I speak of is your overwhelming feeling of boredom; though I am uncertain that, that darkness have ever left you. Wasn’t you bored working for a fast food place?’ he paused, and then continued with ‘Whatever, you are still a fool.’ He laughed. ‘Oh yes you are. Plus you think too much and that’s way you’re sick. But we all are sick, we of the conscious. It’s better to be sick rather than to not think at all. But still . . .’ he leaned forward. ‘You are a fool young man. An irrational fool, thus making you nothing less than human.’
He leaned back into his chair and laughed. A moment passed, he remained silent and begun to scribble into his notebook again. I decided to leave and stood up from the chair. As I walked around the table he grabbed my arm.
‘It’s your right to be a fool, but you must ask yourself if you are an intentional fool or an unintentional one.’
I pulled my arm away from his hand. He laughed again. I nodded him a goodbye before continuing out of the bar.


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