January 18, 2012

I don’t think Neil Simon started it. Two guys. Bickering. Probably goes back before Chaucer. Two old guys jousting with each other. Over nothing. Except that they are standing on the ledge of a cliff. Which is their existence. I sometimes think of Moses and Abraham that way. How they needed a sidekick. Holmes and Watson. Felix and Oscar. Vladimir and Estragon. Poncho and the Cisco Kid. Laurel and Hardy. 2 people. Brings out their humanity.




Gerald climbed on top of the bicycle. Like it was the world. Held up by Hercules. Sitting on top of that seat. Midnight. Drunk as he was. No small feat for a man. Of his age. That was chained up to the pillar. In front of the bagel shop. Pillars in front of bagel shops. Ionic. They were going for that Greek-Jewish look. David leaned against the door of the shop. Reading the hours when the shop was open. He didn’t have on his glasses. But he like to check out signs. It was a hobby. Helped pass the time. And measured the decline in his system. Everything starts with the eyes. Ask any Republican.

“Never open,” David said. Actually he scoffed. This is what old men do. Scoff. Its the boy in them. “The drug store is open. Maybe you don’t get much service. And there’s a security guard watching your every move. With an itchy finger. Which he could easily solve with salve. But they are open. 24 hours. And doesn’t everyone like those grave yard shifts. Especially after a night of dancing. And the restaurant. Until 2. A.M. Although the kitchen closes at 11. I heard from a very reliable source that the video store was going to be kept open. 24 hours. They had to move those VHS. But, the bagel store. Never open. How do they expect to stay in business. Tell me that. Makes you want to change back to donuts. Tim’s is open to midnight. Though no one really cares.”

Gerald climbed off the bike.

“Fucking seat is uncomfortable.” He looked at the bike. There was a  hole in the middle of the seat.

“What’s that for?”

There was a look of anger in that voice.

“Blowing fart rings. Couldn’t they leave bicycle’s alone? What was wrong with the bikes we drove as a kid. Look at all those gears. 20 gears. Who the hell needs…”

“Tell me about it.” David squinted his eyes and looked at the bike.

“Feels like if you hit a bump the fucking seat would be driven straight up your asshole.”

“Colonoscopy.” David added. “The last time I went. I heard someone laughing. Okay. I screamed a little. It hurt. But I heard laughter. The wife said that would have been  unprofessional. Maybe mine wasn’t that attractive. But, under the conditions, you show me someone whose does look… attractive.”

Gerald looked around.

“They need a suggestion box out here. I got some complaints.”

“You always got complaints,” David responded falling away from the wall and staggering over to the bike. He looked at the seat for a moment then looked at Gerald. Who was getting sentimental. With a cigarette.

“Doctors shouldn’t laugh.” David continued. “And then his nurse. Oh, they had a gay old time. I felt like the movie of the week.”

David took a stick of gum out of his pocket. Stuck it in his mouth. Chewed briskly.

“I gotta quit chewing gum. Going to give me hemorrhoids.”

Gerald did a retake on David. Then stepped off the sidewalk and looked up into the night sky. The parking lot was almost empty now except for the cars that were cluttered near the restaurant and the drug store. Against the sky, tall condominium apartments stood. Like a mirror along the horizon.

“Look at all those fucking stars,” Gerald said raising his arms as if he was going to count them. Which he did.

“Look at all those fucking apartments,” David said pointing across the street at the line of buildings. Like a politician at a political rally. Making the thumb speech. “All those fuckers filled with people looking out at us.”

David puffed out his chest. He stuffed his thumbs in the waistline of his trousers.

Gerald shook his head, still looking up at the sky.

“Shit!” Gerald swore. “You made me lose count.”

David chewed his gum and slapped his knee.

“We must be putting on quite the show.”

“What are you talking about.”

“The folks in the balcony.”

Gerald looked up at the apartment building.

“What the hell are they looking at?” God, Gerald loved questions like that. They made each breath worthwhile.

“At each other,” David responded. His voice settled into a soft revelry. “We are one fucked up species. All the wonders in the world, in the universe, and we spend most of our lives looking at each other. It’s like that guy with the painting.”

Gerald looked at David with a puzzled expression.


“You know the guy,” David said. “Who’s the guy?”

Gerald stared back at David. He climbed back on the sidewalk.

“Well of course I know the guy,” Gerald replied. “I just have this utterly perplexed expression on my face because I’m rehearsing for Hamlet. Who the hell are you talking about?”

“The guy that never got older. But the painting of him ages instead. What was his name?”

Gerald shook his head. “I don’t know.”

David nodded. “Of course you know.”

Gerald looked at David impatiently. He said. “You think I should know because you can’t remember something that you should know. But I don’t know.”

“You know.”

“No. I don’t.”

“You do.”

“Dorian Grey,” Gerald said.

David thought for a moment.

“That’s right.”

“What did I say?”

“Dorian Gray,” David responded, his face lighting up.

“You see, I did know,” Gerald said.

David nodded. “What was your point?”

“My point?”

“Why did you bring up Dorian Grey?”

Gerald shook his head. “I don’t know.”

David put his hands on his hips. “Of course you know. Otherwise you wouldn’t have raised his name.”

Gerald thought for a moment.

“No, I didn’t raise his name. You did.”

David thought for a moment.

“Oh ya. That’s right. We’re like Dorian Grey. Living the good life. But the painting reflects the reality of our lives. It’s like nature. Under the asphalt. Behind the glass and steel. The planet is going to hell.”

“And this has what to do with people watching each other?” Gerald asked.

“We’re old.”

“I’m not that old,” Gerald replied. “60 is the new thirty… four.”

“I mean, humanity is old.” David straightened himself up. “But we think we’re young. We think we have lots of time to fuck around and do what we want. We think we’re immortal. But the end is near. And it’s approaching quickly.”

Gerald, holding on to the pillar, stared at David.

“Who are you? The fucking Pope?”

David started laughing.

“Did you say that I was old?” David asked.

Gerald shook his head. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. It was salty.

“I need another drink.”

“I wanted a bagel,” David said. “I had a yen. But look, the bagel shop is closed.”

“We can get something in the bar,” Gerald responded.

David’s face squirmed into a knot. “I’m not really hungry. I’m just tired. I guess.”


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