I Remember

By Tony Nesca

 

Right here on couch hand on head I’m 30 years old hot sun coming through windows with no blinds feeling like hangover-shit going through grey fog blue grey memory ahh yes yes last night there were people here I see them hanging around in kitchen of my old dirty apartment yes there they are just 4 feet from where I lay, well the empty beer cans and cigarette packs might say something were I to listen but through the siren-soaked and kinda fun-loving empty of yesterday my mind goes – and I remember –

– a kid in Northern Italy with mountains up high and wide looming over downtown terracotta rooftops and rainy winter making everything beautiful sounds from street of authority losing its grip people younger by the minute and oh no the fight must continue cafes on cloudy corner car exhaust music digging deep-bloody-deep inside of you, it was downtown Italy, it was all those years long gone where artists lost everything, it was my hangout at age 14, and looking down at the sidewalk and broken glass and discarded Spiderman comic-book with innocent rage, I remember – I remember tomorrow –

– On couch hungover again and again where went my Italy, knock on door, jesus fuck, who the hell –

“Hey Ziggy” He says at door waiting for me to let him in ”

“Yeah, Leo…come in…”

“What the fuck happened here? Why didn’t you invite me?”

“What’s up?”

Grab a glass of water sit on edge of couch nervous tired, Leo looking wired himself big gut Batman T-shirt he got short black hair parted in the middle front teeth missing small beard dark and lonely, just looking at me for a while –

“So….” I said,

“I think Anna may have left me…”

“Well, what can you do…”

“I don’t know, she’s fucked in the head…”

“Listen, let’s smoke a joint, just forget it…”

Got bomber from back of cig. pack inhale and feel burn blue smoke curling up top filling room with something beautiful, Leo follows suit he’s smiling but not really,

“Shit, I’m getting too old for this” He says “You should see the painting I’m working on, Ziggy, it’s 6 by 4, acrylic, I’m doing something abstract this time…it’s got a HUGE eyeball right in the middle, all bloodshot and rimmed with red, and all around it there is the universe unwinding in a kind of spiral – here take this, man – wow, this is good shit – planets, suns, moons, but it also has small faces of people – you have to look real close to see them, but they’re of all races, black, white, indian – and the colors are vivid, red, purple, yellow, blue, black around the edges”

“Sounds wild”

“Yeah, man, you’re gonna dig it – finished your book yet?”

“On the last story, then a few poems and I’m done – was thinking about the cover – why don’t you paint me a back-alley scene of a cat, you know, leaning up against some garbage cans with a bottle in hand – you know, a filthy alley with shit everywhere – but a cartoon cat, not a real one, two legs, a ragged sweater of some kind -”

“Like a Freddy Kruger turtleneck with those stripes -”

“Yeah, man, that’s it…but paint it in black and white – ”

“Thinking maybe an ink drawing might be better -”

“True, even better – want anymore of this?”

He shakes his head but I continue and finish the whole damn thing, smoke thick in the room we’re smiling now  –

“What about the prints, Leo?”

“The prints?”

“Yeah, your art prints, what the fuck? Sell our work on the street, all that shit, remember?”

“Well how many chapbooks are you printing?”

“I think 100, maybe 200, first run -”

“Yeah, right, like there’s going to be a second run – ”

We laugh, sure, with all the bullshit going down in our lives, we laugh –

“Okay” He says “I’ll print up the same amount of prints, we’ll trade half, you sell mine, I sell yours, what do you think?”

“It’s cool -”

“So you wanna go drink?”

“Too early for me, man, I’ll see ya later”

“Next time you have a party, invite me, asshole – ”

“If you’re lucky – now get the fuck out – ”

Lay back down glass of ice water in my hand down throat then on coffee table covered in empty beer bottles full ashtrays I’m looking at pockmarked ceiling sun bursting into room like the face of God can hear voices from 5 stories down, sounds of things breaking, sounds of everything violent and jagged, I’m two months behind on rent, no money, no nothing, fucking hell, my mind begins its far-out wandering again remembering backwards, then forwards as all time happens at the same time, and –

– here I am today 53 years old hungover couch far behind Leo gone with it, my wife Izzy holds my hand 2 inches taller than me walking down Corydon Avenue with cafes and pubs and tired rock and roll survivors of all races looking happy and gaunt Izzy she’s smiling that pure sound of sunshine and dirty water and we are in love as we talk about our writing and publishing and how cool things have been lately but the sadness she’s always there, ain’t she, always there ready to wave hello and spit unholy sacrament in your mug, sun hangs high in pitch-blue sky and busy streets smell of car exhaust with hope all gone and heavy laughter in our minds middle-age hangovers making us happy and true our shoes sounding that rhythm on sidewalk busted up long ago us going with it and following without resistance or regret carving out our own personal adventure, lookit that, says Izzy, lookit, yeah man we’re making time, we’re driving on 9, we’re cooling our heels, we’re singing loud laughing – it’s last night now, Jumping Jack Flash on stereo our heads banging to that crossfire hurricane, Izzy smoking like end of the world is nigh her whiskey glass always rattling,

“Want another” She says Rye bottle in hand,

“You bet” I say

“Don’t ya dig the Stones?”

“You know I do”

“I can’t really stand today’s music – or books – or anything, really -”

“When did it all start to suck?”

“Sometime in the 90’s -”

“I hear ya”

“So what the fuck am I supposed to write for this Antholoy thing?”

“I don’t know, who the hell knows shit in this world? What a great bunch of writers we gathered though – ”

“Yeah, for sure  – ”

“Izzy, you look rock and roll gorgeous tonight!”

“So a short story or two? Maybe a few poems?”

“Sounds good to me – we got no money in the bank and I don’t give a shit, what do you say, whiskey-broad?”

Music on random suddenly The Replacements fill the room and I can already hear things breaking, our lips meet for the thousandth time and for the thousandth time ain’t nothing better and my mind snaps back-forward – back – then forward to Corydon Avenue again we cruise past blokes with full pockets and broads with big hair meaning shit to us hell of a crowd here today decide to turn left down residential street and the trees lining the Avenue bring easy livin’ to our rattled brains as the sun only comes through in shafts and the purple shade means everything, we follow the small houses all painted different colors happy and real, but even as we walk through this rendition of easy-now I feel time slipping around bending and twisting and the booze-rattled struggle of today and forever snaps back – past the hungover couch, past Leo running down alley whiskey-thugs behind him, and Italy looms up my adolescent being leisurely hanging out on patio of villa in foothills of Northern mountains surrounded by forest and trees and rolling fields to my left, line of villas to my right, can see the whole village laid out before me as land falls and heaves making the rooftops and spindly trees and cobblestone shiny and grey snake their way to Neversville I breath in deep cuz even as a kid at 14 the importance of this is not lost to me, far in the distance the tips of the big city can be viewed with justified suspicion as a thick cloud of grey smog hurtles towards the sky blocking out all that’s holy and making you smile, and this still quiet fills the air so fucking loud man it’s deafening above all the birds and rust and blue mountains hanging out in the background, and time rolls up, slows, full stop – then slowly the swirl of tick-tock begins winding its way forward the bright shiny lights red blue yellow give way to that sudden bang of today – right now – where? the hungover couch? no…ah yes, hear we are my beautiful Izzy, right where we left off, The Replacements, yes, The Replacements slam-banging into the room our stereo cranking it out without mercy,

“Hey Izzy, just finished reading that biography on The Replacements -”

“Yeah?”

“Well, do you want to hear about it?”

“Sure – ”

“Okay – to me, Paul Westerberg, and I think most will agree, is sort of the Bob Dylan, John Lennon, of alternative rock, you know?”

“Is he regarded that high?”

“I’m pretty sure…and even if he isn’t, I regard him that high – ”

“Oh well, that’s all that counts then….”

“Funny girl…anyway – that self-destructive shit that he had, man – and I don’t mean the drugs, booze, all that, I mean the deliberate sabotaging of his career, fuck man – ”

“What do you mean?”

“The way they would purposely fuck up their own shows, starting songs they didn’t know, playing them halfway through then stopping, drunk on stage insulting the crowd…showing up too wasted to play for important gigs, passing out on stage. I understand a certain part of rock and roll requires something like that, but fuck man, you gotta grow the fuck up and take your music seriously, play your fucking guts out, put on a great show like your life depends on it, ya dig?”

“Yeah, man – I never liked that punk-rock attitude, fuck things up, spit on the crowd, the clothes, leather jackets, pierced skin, it all looked like a circus to me -”

“That early punk of the 70’s was fucking great – ”

“Sure was”

“But man, I felt like reaching into the book and grabbing Westerberg by the throat, ‘you are the fucking songwriter of today, get your shit together!’ – the whole alternative rock thing owes everything to him – it’s almost like he was more afraid of succeeding than of failing, I don’t know”

“But did you like the book?”

“It was fucking amazing!”

“Do we got any hash?”

“Yeah – let’s have at it – ”

AND HERE IT COMES our rock and roll basement and my favorite band The Replacements as blinding as the sun – and then a blink – and then they’re gone –

Right now, on my inner-city couch 30 year old body already recovering from last night’s debauchery going into early evening move to large windows overlooking the warehouses of downtown brown grey green watching the chiaroscuro of time passing got The Del Fuegos playing on old broken down ghetto blaster streets below are dirty and dangerous if you let them but even the dread-filled sirens heralding the coming night are beautiful and just right, beer in hand cold and easy and perfect down throat like murky water music fills apartment something glorious hairs on head standing straight up smile on face eternal and bulletproof with tragedy right around corner stalking with fangs bared, I am here, 30 years old – I am in Italy 14 and lonely – I am ragged and old taking my last breath – I’m 16 running away from home – I am 53 with Izzy in our basement laughing, drinking, loving, fucking, toking nice and slow with ease and smooooth luck grace – then I move forward just a bit, it’s later, it’s past midnight, Izzy asleep, I am writing this thing right now, this romantic slur of uneasy happiness with a gob of spit for all things sacred, and I’m doing it for you, no secrets, birth death tragedy and the between-moments move past and roll away, our English Rose running like fandango hooker with porcelain-white thighs switchblade-ready skirt hiked up whiskey glass in hand, just like me, I take a sip, pause, then take a longer one, night still young, let’s end this here….

 

Tony Nesca was born in Torino, Italy in 1965 and moved to Canada at the age of three. He was raised in Winnipeg but relocated back to Italy several times until finally settling in Winnipeg in 1980. He has published six chapbooks of stories and poems (which he used to sell straight out of his knapsack at local dives and bookstores), six novels, five books of poetry, one short story collection, and has been an active contributor to the underground lit scene for twenty years, being published in innumerable magazines both online and in print. He currently resides in Winnipeg.

 

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