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On and Off



I've been in shock. Although I knew about Abigail for six months now, it just finally hit me that I was to become an uncle. She was born on Sunday. My mom had called to tell me the news about 10:30 in the morning, she had been born at six. I had spent the last two nights trying to clean Paulina's house and take care of my own son Max, who was sick. Paulina had been sick the week before. While she was sick I spent three nights at work during a virus attack and other coincidental computer failures that effected a few thousand people. I had not been sleeping regular hours. I had just been trying to catch up whenever I could. Fifteen minutes here, twenty minutes there.

That Sunday night I contracted bronchitis as well. The next day I took the BART train to my doctor's office, and a cab to the pharmacy. My mom picked me up there and we went back to her house. I fell asleep for two days.

Tuesday night the phone rang, my mom woke me up.

"It's Paulina, and someone was killed." she said.

Later that night my mom asked; "Was it an animal that was killed? Or..."

"It was a person."

"Who was it?"

"Sanchez, I've decided I don't want to talk about it....."

When I picked up the phone I could hear Paulina crying before I said hello. She told me about the car accident.

I slept until the next afternoon. When I woke I took a shower and washed my three-day dirty sheets and clothes. My mom gave me a ride to BART and I took it into SF where I checked into a hotel room in a daze. It was lucky I wasn't hit by on coming traffic. It was raining all over the place.

I made it to the last three sessions of a security conference, they were handing out umbrellas. I headed back to my room. I called a few answering machines owned by friends and checked my email.

Ah, I noticed that Kevin had mailed pictures of Abigail. Gosh she's cute. I noticed a sound file attached to the message labeled "baby talk" I double clicked it and turned up my speaker. I could hear Abigail "talking" as if she was right there in the room.

I played it again and again.

I haven't drank coffee for three days now. Getting sick is the only way to quit coffee. Sleep off the coffee headache on codeine cough syrup.

Light on, light off. Light off is never seen again.

One of the last things Sanchez ever said to me was; "If I had a job that paid as much as yours.....I'd be in the loin' getting a hooker every night of the week. Well, at least two or three times. With that job....you should be pay'in us a poor friends tax."

I'm sitting alone at a table for two at North Beach pizza. I raise my drink and toast Sanchez to myself and drink from my glass. I can almost see him and hear him say "Coke? Fucker! You can do better then that. I expect you drinking to me and I'm dead that you can at least do whiskey! Nasty shit too..old crow, wild turkey...Johnny Walker Blllaaaaaccckkk!"

I'm gonna pay my bill and find a shot of whiskey.

I had two Johnny black's before I said anything. Dana, the bartender at the Lost and Found Saloon, had a southern accent, she stepped toward me; "Cocktails?"

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"Do you want any cocktails?"

"Oh, do you guys take credit cards?"

She shook her head; "No, but walk around the corner to the big intersection and there are four banks."

"Thanks." I put on my coat and walked out. I had no intention of going back. I was drawn by her beauty, and I thought I saw her smiling at me, but I am aware that barmaids rarely take to cruising from patrons.

I went and got my money and almost took two different walks. I even walked into Cafe Trieste before I turned and went back to her bar.

I took a different seat and she walked over. "What'll it be?"

"I think red label this time."

"You're very agreeable. Mighty fine quality in a patron. That'll be $4.25"

It was open mike night. And strangely, every performer was good. I was watching the sharks lose another match when she walked over again.

"What's goin' on at this end of the bar."

"A friend of mine died."

"Man, are you serious?"

"Yeah, couple days ago." It was actually yesterday, but it seemed like days.

"Man, I'm sorry, you alright? "

"Yeah, I am."

"Was he young?"

"Twenty Seven."

She nodded her head.

"Was he sick? Natural causes?"

"It was a car accident. I don't know the details, I haven't talked to anybody."

"Didn't you go to the funeral?"

"Hasn't happened yet, probably this weekend."

"Well, I'm sorry"

"That's why I'm drinking Johnny Walker."

"Was that his drink?"

"No. I drank a toast to him earlier with a coke and I could hear him saying 'Coke? You fucker, you can do better then that, you can at least drink something nasty like old crow..." She laughed. "Wild turkey, or Johnny Walker Bbblllaccckkkk. Johnny Walker Black is the nastiest thing I could think of."

"I dunno, I think old crow's nastier."

"Thanks for the sympathy, I really appreciate it."

"Well, I been there too, so I have a good idea what your going through. Yeah, life's funny like that."

"On the happy side, I became an uncle this week."

She smiled, "Really? Girl? Boy?"

"A little girl. She's cute too."

She went to the other end of the bar. I finished my drink and walked out.

The rain had stopped. Air was clean.



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