LIKE STREAMS IN SANDBoyd Danaher
LIKE STREAMS IN SAND
BY G. MIKE DANAHER
Every soul is bound to have the taste of death.
Come so we may speak to each other from spirit to spirit,
talk to each other in a way hidden from eyes and ears.
Jalal al-Din Rumi
Under a gray layer of cigarette smoke over the dark wood bar long as the pub. Unnoticed by the bartender drinking more than the patrons. By the patrons, men and women, crowding the green leather chairs and knee-high oak tables with dim lamps of brass and green glass, and brushing against each other, leaning, shouting into ears, laughing and gesturing, thumping, spilling drinks and fag end ashes on one another as the din of drunk conversation defeats a rumor of music.
With all those eyes in motion none fix on the two manning the corner of the bar at the back of the pub with their forearms on the cool wood and the pint glasses in their fists. One of them is shorter than the other and has a blue eye and a brown eye and is breaking off a filter of another cigarette and smoking it down to his yellowed fingertips, his weight almost full now on the bar and grinding his right hand into a heavy workers fist with chewed nails stained black lifting the pint of brown to his mouth that releases smoke when he curses into the froth in low rageful tones about immigrants and parliament.
And the fokkin police have teh die, they have teh and jews too, fokkin kike bastards ownin everythin and givin nuthin back, nuthin fokkin back, it’s all readied mate nah one can stop it if dey tried its gawt fokkin nails and ball bearins and shit and will right do the fokkin job on these English mate it will right do the fokkin job alright.
And the shorter one whispering now and raising his glass, closes his eyes and says to the air, Ireland Ireland, his thick fist working like a bloodless heart atop the bar.
The taller one, who isn’t really tall just taller and thinner than the one next to him with the working fist and odd colored eyes, is nodding while he listens and fingerpainting scallop shells in the sweat his glass leaves on the shellacked wood. Raising his empty pint glass, he curses its emptiness and makes a big point to step away, and the shorter one, the Irish, saying jeeesus you pissin again mate you need teh get that fokkin checked out mate.
But no one else notices how the taller staggers one last time across the back of the pub, and it’s now shoulders and elbows through clumps of the men and women drinkers on his way to the wash room where his hand presses open a wooden door thickly painted green and he thumbs the tarnished metal latch shut behind him and steps to the sink and uses his hand as a cup to force down thrice as much water as he ingests alcohol and looks in the mirror briefly at a wide nose and wider mouth with flat lips and a tangle of black curls and dred locks, and looks longer into the dark brown eyes, and then stitches his way through the people to the Irish and gestures to him. And still no one pays much mind how without a word they stagger out of the pub or how the taller catches the Irish from falling or how the Irish’s arm reaches into the air for support or how the door closes behind them.
In the middle of the street now. Only the two of them, moonlit. The Irish stops, sways. He digs into the frayed opening of his front jean pockets and pulls out a crooked cigarette. Tears off the filter and tries to light it but fails, and the taller man curses and strokes his lighter and helps, the Irish’s thick hands reaching up and cupping the taller man’s hands that are around the cigarette and the flame, and the blackened pluggy fingers tap lightly when the end is lit.
You’re a good listener. For a Yank. You’re alright for a Yank you are. You get it, don’t’chya. You get what we’re doin. You get it. Don’t’chya.
That’s my job.
The Irish digs out a cigarette and gives it to the American who lights it, and the Irish belches and bends over then stands tall as he can and belches up to the sky and holds his right hand out to the American, and they shake and move on into the cool night of London pavement past low brick buildings and eventually to a neighborhood of neat white homes and they step through a black iron swinging gate and up several white marble steps worn smooth and drooping at the middle then through a large red unlocked door and into the foyer of their squat. Rooms to the left and right, their entrances barred by blankets of various designs and colors hanging from thin nylon ropes knotted at nails driven deep and high into opposing walls. Across from the door a wide staircase with ballustrade curving up into darkness. The American listens to the house and hears nothing, and he breathes in deep the smells of hashish tar and of the unwashed and, faintly, of cumin. Without a pause or a gesture they plod up the staircase, its wood making small creaks in places, and in the meager moonlight the house would allow they come to what once was a large salon but is now a warren of blankets of differing shades and patterns like banners of a dozen armies stretched slipshod over a high web of thin rope clinging from wall to wall, corner to corner. The American no longer staggers, he is all but carrying in one arm the smaller one who at this moment has no anger just a breath and a pulse and a dead meaty weight like a fallen child soldier fetched across a ruined field. Brushing with purpose past the hanging blankets, the American’s boots carefully search for floor amid a gypsy nightmare of paperback books and newspapers and clothes and shoes and backpacks and pots and pans and water pipes and empty bottles. The American’s nostrils taking from all around the sweet acrid hashish tar odor and from somewhere the flashing scent of a clean woman, he lays the Irish on a cot with his workbooted feet on the floor. The American steps gently away through the clutter and the blankets to the other side of the great salon where his bed roll and belongings lay on the floor. From a backpack he pulls out a small flashlight and uses it to search under the pallet and retrieve a book-sized leather shaving kit and from it carefully pulls black latex gloves and puts them on. He arranges atop the pallet a piece of white cloth and on it empties from the kit a syringe and spoon and lighter and a plastic bag with white powder inside. He rolls up the items into the white cloth, turns off the flashlight and pa uses to let his eyes adjust to the dimness, and returns quietly through the dark salon to the cot behind the blanket where the Irish is snoring with his booted feet yet on the floor, his breath a fume of stale beer and cigarettes. The American places his kit beside the Irish, then pulls the Irish’s belt from his waist and wraps it tight above the Irish’s elbow, placing one end in the Irish’s mouth. Using the lighter to liquefy a small heap of white powder in the spoon, he fills the syringe with the liquid, finds the median cubital above the thick hairy forearm and plunges the plunger down into it. He then wipes everything with the white cloth. He smears and presses the thick Irish worker fingers on all and places the syringe in the hand and raising it slightly from the cot, lets it drop. The needle sticks in the cloth of the cot. The hand, lifeless already, dangles toward the floor. Two latexed fingers now at the neck. The American waits for the pulse to quicken and slow and disappear and for the breathing to quicken and subside and finally for the long exhale, the quivering and the urine.