Poet earned his name reciting light slight ironic laconic toxic paradoxic verse, dig deep in your purse, you got a hungry mouth to feed here. His real name was of no consequence though it was rumored his great grand-uncle had a street named after him... a large street too, mutha-jigger.
"I choose to live like this. Shit, my family wants me to take over the business, do the responsible trip, marry the girl next door 'n have two-point-two children," says Poet to anyone who'll listen. You can smell the cheap blackberry brandy ten feet from his face so no one listens most of the time. "Anyone can do that. But how many people can get up on a stage and hold an audience spellbound for two fuck-ing hours, reciting free, and I mean fuck-ing free verse?"
He swallows more sugary death from a half-pint bottle. If you have a good nose you might smell formaldehyde, the special ingredient that keeps 'em comin back for more.
Sometimes Poet begs for meal money, takes himself to a fast food chain and actually eats. When the scarce nutrients have washed away enough poison to clear his head, he feels good enough to get angry. First he starts laughing. He responds to the heads that turn toward him.
"What the fuck are you looking at? You think I'm funny, motherfucker? Come on! Let's take it outside!" he says to a gay couple on the other side of the dining area. They can't hear him but turn their faces back to their food and each other. "No one knows what I got here," he says to himself. "What am I talking to you for?" Now he really laughs.
An old man at a table nearby starts laughing with him. He leans toward Poet and says, "I have had the exact same dialogue and many times too. When you live alone this is what happens." The man pauses to look into Poet's eyes.
Poet takes all of two seconds to determine the old guy's entire life. He puts his face close to the old man's. "I don't live alone. I live with the whole fuck-ing world." Poet takes a breath and laughter pours out of him in bellows. He stops suddenly, listening to the background sound coming out of the store's speakers. "Muzac," he mutters. "Musical Prozac." The song is a barely recognizable version of Greensleeves. "Delighting in your own company," Poet sings. "Live alone."
He turns away from the old man to look at the gay couple again. They are older women, one short, one tall. The short one holds a fan for shade against the sun.
Poet approaches them gently. He chants, "December in Miami Beach, breezes and heat spells, sneezes and love-smells, intermittent passion is the fashion here." The women smile as Poet takes off his hat and bows, wisps of his matted hair painting the table. "Please forgive the outburst, ladies. I am a sick and suffering alky who doesn't know his place at times."
The nutrition works its magic on his brain. By the time he is out on the street again, his engine is running full blast. He just rounds the corner of Lenox and Lincoln when he sees the air shimmer in front of him. He stops to rub his eyes, probe his mind for references, finds none. He walks up to the shimmer and sticks an arm through it almost knowing it will disappear, which it does. Without a backward glance he jumps through the portal. No one sees him disappear.
On the other side, life looks pretty much the same but Poet detects a sweetness to the air, maybe. Maybe there are fewer store signs on Lincoln Road... no, there are no signs on Lincoln Road... no advertisements of any kind anywhere, Poet determines by spinning around in place.
Passersby smile at him but their smiles are different. They don't have teeth, only upper and lower white things. They look like what would happen if all the teeth were joined together. The effect is not unpleasant to look at, Poet notes.
But there's something else, a different feel to these people, something clean and unassuming. They're smiling with him not at him, Poet realizes. He walks to a nearby rest area, with chairs and tables made out of what? A cross between plastic and wood? As he sits, a woman catches his eye. She is looking into a storefront window, oblivious to everything else. She has the same color hair as Poet. When she turns around their eyes meet. A shiver goes through them both. They have the exact same face. As she walks to him slowly, he sees she moves like a man. No, she moves like he does! When she speaks, he hears his own voice, a bit softened and slightly higher pitched. They sit and talk for hours.
She is a poetess, well published and famous as a painter as well. Her works are displayed in her own gallery on Lincoln Road, in Coconut Grove, London, Calcutta, Haifa, Tai Pei, Sidney, and Moscow. Her multi-media creations are world-renowned, especially the sculpture of the Venus D'Milo that grows back her arms, first in hologram then in a cleverly designed inflation of a material that instantly hardens to marble-like form. The whole process takes fifteen minutes, to the music of Rossini's second concerto in C minor.
Imperceptibly, Poet slides into an entirely new state of mind where life and metaphor are one. This woman is himself, what he might have been. She is achieving all that he's striven for, all that he knows he can accomplish but has yielded to King Alcohol.
"Hey, I've still got time," he says aloud.
"What?" says Poetess, as she is known in this world.
"I've got no time left," says Poet. He jumps up and begins walking toward where the portal was. "It's been... I really must go home now."
"Where can I reach you? We must talk more. I'm sure we are related..."
"Closer than you'll ever know," he says waving.
When he gets to the exact spot, there is no portal. He looks around for a comfortable spot to sit and wait. Finding none, he sits cross-legged on the sidewalk. He thinks about the last time he was drunk. His mind is clear in a way that could only happen from the rarified air on this side. He remembers everything in streams that wash over him. Why, when did he quit trying? What did his mother say and do to him that made him doubt the value of his life? The questions he'd asked himself so many times were now being answered, one by one. It all seemed so obvious now and the solution to all his problems was so simple. Stop drinking. Face everything. Deal with it and accept it all.
After two days he is dehydrated and hallucinating. People have stopped smiling at him. Poetess finds him and takes him home. She has her servants feed him and two days later her doctor checks him out. There's nothing wrong with him except for his mutated chewplates. The next day Poetess comes into his room with fresh melon, ginger toast and chamomile tea, with clockbird eggs and salmon on the side for breakfast. Poet is awake, his face a cyclone.
"I hope you're hungry, my friend." She is as gentle as a snowflake but shakes inside like an autumn leaf.
"I'm trapped here," he says, his blue eyes staring at invisible scenery. His hair is matted in an unattractive way but there is a bright red aura encircling his face. "I'll never get home. This isn't my fault... I can't do a fuck-ing thing about it either." Poetess tries to reposition him to place the tray in his lap but it is useless. He grabs her by the arms, boosting the intensity of his stare and focusing it two inches behind her eyeballs. "It isn't my fault this time. Do you understand?"
"No, and you're hurting me," she answers. His lucidity fades as he releases her. She collects her dignity and leaves the room filled with echoes.
That night, Poetess hears singing in the wine cellar.
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