Literature In Los Angeles

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

ROCKERS

In LITERARY FICTION on February 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Mi casa es tu casa brought him here.

Three o’clock in the morning.
His face pale and lips dried. He is hungry and thirsty. His long hair uncombed.
In his right hand the black case with his axe and an expensive leather bag over his shoulder.
 
Damiron. He named the band that.
Damiron. He doesn’t remember that the last syllable of his name is accentuated.
He came to this country before the triumph of the revolution. He had just turned five. So he was too young to have ever known it. I am wrong. He never learned to use it. Here his parents never taught him. The schools never would. I knew it was supposed to carry one but only by intuition.

Now he’s here at my door.
Mi casa es tu casa.
Yeah, man, but that was a formality. Like “I hope you’re doing well” and “Have a wonderful Christmas.”

His disappointed face. But, I am the powerless one.
His long artistic fingers are searching the pockets of his blue “work shirt.”
Nervous. A cigarette and a lighter.
He offers me one and we smoke.

He has traveled long hours. “It had to be now,” he tells me.
It was the quickest flight he could get. The plane had made a stop in Chicago and a stop in Albuquerque and he had to wait hours sitting in those boring airports.

But, I am the powerless one. And it’s three o’clock in the morning and it’s my brother-in-law’s apartment.

“I sleep on the couch right here in the living room. There’s absolutely no space for you.”

I own nothing. I have no property. Only labor power which I’m selling real cheap now to UCLA Hospital.

“I’ll sleep on the floor.”

I would have said the same thing. But Damiron is not desperate. He is shocked. That is all.

“No, man, things don’t work that way.”

Many times back in New York he had made me feel inferior. No pleasure now telling him the truth of my situation. Now I live a “conventional” life with my wife and our baby.

“I’m working as a janitor at UCLA Hospital.”

He looks at me like I have lost my mind. Like I have given up. Like I’m now part of the system.

I ask him to sit on the couch.
There are apples and water in the refrigerator.
“But, I have to go to work in a few hours, by 7 a.m.” I tell him. “I take the bus and it’s a long ride to the hospital.”

He sets his expensive guitar on his lap, devours the apple and drum rolls with his long fingers on the case. And suddenly he seems happy.
The guitar is a Gibson which he got from his parents as a graduation gift. In New York he was in an elite school.

“I need a place to stay.” He’s not worried. He lights another cigarette but I refuse one.

“Let’s go out for a walk,” he says.

I knew I’d have no time to feel guilty. All he needed was just a little time to think.

*

The cool California night.

“L.A. smells nice,” he says.

He’s right. It does smell different than New York.

“Kerouac said something about this smell in On the Road, I think. I forget exactly what.”

He doesn’t respond.
When we met years ago he was already a reader. I was just beginning.
Jewish Juliet introduced us; she was his girlfriend and then mine. She was a “Beat poet.”
And Damiron talked of cross-country travel for kicks. San Fran. LA. Places that would welcome guys like us.
What kind of guy was I? A poor half-ass musician? And what about him? He was middle class. But he meant romantic, sensitive, bohemian, intelligent, hip. Simply, “Rockers.”

Now I see what I have changed back into. Things he cannot see. But senses.

“From the cab I saw a motel and I think it’s over there. There it is.” He looks at the signs as we walk. Just as I did a while ago when I arrived. “Let’s go back and get my stuff.”

*

“Have you been to the Whiskey yet?” He doesn’t wait for an answer. “I’m thinking of going there tomorrow. Shit, I mean tonight. You want to come?”

“I don’t own a guitar anymore.” He doesn’t say anything to this.

We walk in and he throws himself on the bed and his slim body bounces.
He unpacks nothing. From the window I can see the pool and the reflection of the red and blue lights on the water.

“I have to work,” I tell him. “Besides, we don’t have a car. This isn’t New York.”

“That’s the first thing I’m going to do. Buy a car.”

He paid the motel clerk with travelers checks.
His father, president of a bank in Midtown Manhattan. What was he in Cuba? Damiron never knew.
His mother was beautiful. A Hollywood actress named Eleanor Parker – that is who she looks like.
The father handsome also. Soft-spoken.
A funereal feeling in their apartment in Queens. Long dark hallway. Damiron’s black cat “Devil.”

He takes off his shoes, lays back and falls asleep. As if I am not here.
I would never do that. I’d be self-conscious. I would think “My friend is in the room and I’ve just waken him up at three in the morning.”

*

But, Damiron is different.
The L.A. air does seem different.

It was rhetorical.
It was formality.
He took it literally.
Mi casa es tu casa.

Story by Miguel Gardel.

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