Archie had some gin beside him and took a long drink from the bottle. Then he closed his eyes and sat doing controlled breathing, long breath in, beat, three seconds blowing out, like a beached whale struggling to breathe. When he opened his eyes again he said, ‘You know… I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate…’
Archie used a lot of therapeutic LSD in the 50s and he actually believed these memories to be real. If pressed he would tell you that the Tannhäuser Gate is a place in ‘Nam.
‘But never… never… never have I met a woman like Nancy,’ he finished, squeezing his little pig eyes tight shut again so tears shot over the crow’s feet and darted down either cheek.
‘Sure pop,’ said I. ‘You might want to think about saving some of that gin for later…’
‘Nancy!’ he said with rapture. Then, ‘Nancy…’ with a downcast look and plaintive sigh. The word hung in the air with his cigarette smoke and vaporous gin breath.
The clock ticked. The walls dripped. ‘You’ll love again,’ I said vaguely.
I looked at the fishtank wall.
‘There are plenty of fish in the sea, old man.’
‘Not like Nancy.’
‘All women are the same,’ I offered.
‘Nancy had such a cute little ass.’
‘You’ll find some other ass.’
‘And those boots.’
‘A purely superficial attraction, I assure you, pa. Any fool can buy a pair of boots and wiggle around in them.’
But he was not receptive to these rational facts. He had his eyes closed again, squeezing tears down his cheeks at a pace to match the dripping walls, dreaming no doubt of a dance on top of the Tannhäuser Gate beneath a sky shot with stars (or dying suns) while the winedark sea sang ‘Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful…’ in the slow, luscious style of Dean Martin on his second quart.
Continued next post: Stars fading but I linger on, dear / Still craving your kiss