Fall 2009, Volume 7

Fiction by Gregory Moore


I'd planned on going out.  Just go out, I said to myself, you want to go out.  I felt like going out when I said it, I wanted to be out right then, I think, or liked the idea of being out, maybe not being alone, out in public, with people.  But it took so much less effort to just stay in, stay there, be alone, not always but right then, not having to be conscious of being seen, that what I looked like was perceived, what I did interpreted.  But I'd planned on going out, Just go out, I said.  I felt good, felt well, wanted to be out, the idea of being out, felt like not being alone (even though it's so much easier).

Shower, shave, choose and put on clothes.  Should I pee before I go?  What do I need to bring?  My coat?  Where are my keys?  Do I have enough cash?  It's a bother.  My energy seemed to fluctuate, my will, the impetus to keep progressing toward an end, just go out.  And I'm going to be seen.  I could just stay in, watch TV, smoke a joint, so easy, I could just wait until the weekend and go out with friends.  The idea of being out, Just go out, I said.

I locked the door, I'm out, on my way out.  I feel okay, up to going out, this is good.  It's nice out, I've got the right coat, I've got my wallet, fine.  I walked to the corner, rounded it, walked by a planter of flowers in front of an apartment complex.  The smell flashed a memory.  "Terry," I said.  The smell brought her to mind.  "Terry," I said without thinking, not to her in apostrophe but in recognition, the Spanish conocer, like That's Terry, that smell.

I reached the mini-mall's parking lot, heading for a bar at the far end.  I looked out beyond the lights to the black above them, the black in between the necks of the overhanging streetlamps.  I thought about feeling the darkness around me, everything going dark right then, a blackout or the death of all technology.  I think it would feel colder, and I could feel it around me, the dark.  The lights were a lie but I viscerally believed it, wanted it and not the dark, not darkness in public, while I'm out, exposed.  I would stand there in the dark, frozen, feeling a little colder, waiting, feeling it around me, my lie not shielding me from the truth, darkness and half a moon.

The lights stayed on, comfortably dishonest, and I reached the bar.  Do I want to go in, I asked myself, feeling less resolved, not wanting to be seen but wanting not to be alone, the idea of being out (the reality a little more problematic, so much easier to be alone).  Just go out, I said, I want to be out.  Just go in, you're already out.  I went in.

The jukebox was playing the Pixies, somebody was singing along:  'I like Lou Reed,' she said, sticking her tongue in my ear.  I was in.  I'm in, I'm out.  It was more crowded than I'd hoped, I wasn't sure where I could sit.  If I have to stand I'm leaving, too conspicuous, I'll feel too self-conscious to just stand there.  At the end of the bar were a couple of empty stools, perfect, I sat.  I looked to the bartender, he was busy and didn't notice me.  I waited, he didn't notice me, I felt conspicuous.  I moved to the middle of the bar, squeezed my way in between two patrons, one looking at me as if I were intruding.  I leaned forward, trying to establish eye contact with the bartender (busy and not noticing me).  Finally he leaned my way, two fingers just resting on a red cushioned ledge on his side of the wooden bar top.  "May I have a gin and tonic, please?"  He nodded (not looking at me) and went to mix the drink.  One of the patrons next to me laughed with this monstrous, disgusting exaggeration and swayed back, bumping me into the other, who glared at me again.  My drink came, I paid for it, the tip too big but I felt some kind of unspoken pressure not to ask for change.  I extricated myself from the bar and made to return to my original spot, but both stools were now occupied.  There was nowhere else to sit.  I sipped my drink, it was not very good.  I'm out, I said.  I didn't want my drink anymore, didn't want to have it or to have paid for it, didn't want to finish it, didn't want to stand there out, exposed, the reality a little more problematic, the reality not the idea.  I looked at the people, so many of them, none of them alone.  I knew it would be like this, what was I thinking?  I swallowed from my bad drink, I looked around, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone.  There was nowhere to sit.  I wished for a power outage, wished for invisibility, wished for an escape.  I was out, this is being out, remember for the next time.  But you won't, I said, you'll want to be out, the idea of being out.  And you'll go, just go out, you will.

The jukebox was playing, the rest of the bar had joined in:  We're chuh-ained, we're chuh-ai-eened. . . .


BIO:  Greggory Moore is a lifelong SoCal resident living in downtown Long Beach. He is copy editor and writer for The District Weekly, columnist for LBPost.com and likes children (well, some of them, anyway).