"Oh the pain-
I ain't seen the sun
since I don't know when,
The freaks come out at nine
and it's twenty to ten" -Skid Row
My last time in a juke joint was without fanfare. In fact, it was kind of unintentional. We had gathered at the Place of the Lennon Moon, sitting amongst all those portraits of musicians as we often did, talking, watching, drinking, and dancing. It was a subdued night, all things considered.
It was an afterward. The end of one part of the story and the beginning of another. A week before, we had all been sitting at Netherworld trying to come to grips with the fact Jibril had just died. I'd just returned form burying my father's mother in North Carolina. Apparently, I'd hurt the gypsy's feelings by insinuating she had no further reason to be in the greater metroplex what with Jibril gone, but she had hurt my feelings not long before that. Tit for tat, call it whim, unintentional as that all was. It seemed something was starting between Sabina and I that was far different than the close friendship we'd cultivated over the previous few years.
Madam Lung noticed that something was different between Sabina and I. She even spoke to that point. To a degree, we were attempting to exercise some decorum. After all, her ten year relationship with the musician had only ended a little over a month before, and my was-not-was with the gypsy and the curb-kicking had been two weeks prior. There seemed to be something about respect for the dead. Or at least avoiding whisper games.
How the dragon woman spotted on, I no longer recall. It wasn't like Sabina and I were making out in the vampire den shadows. I'd done that sort of thing the past, and it wasn't without its amusements. But, I knew from experience such acts were of fleeting desperation. Something that started intensely and burned brightly, but than faded into something colder than the airless void between the stars.
"Look, I'm not going to lecture you," Madam Lung, one of the gypsy's best friends, said. "Did this happen before or after you left for North Carolina?"
"Somewhere around there," I said with a shrug. "This has been a strange time. I reckon we'll just see what happens."
Years and lifetimes later, with Sabina still putting up with my quirky paradoxically misanthropic ass, I think the answer to how that part of the story goes is obvious...
I had been avoiding the juke joints by and large. Avoiding the vampire cast. For a few years, I'd off and on been trying to work up my escape velocity. Wanting to go do other things and not be obligated to just one thing. When something becomes an obligation to me, it is excruciatingly difficult to find even the slightest bits of enjoyment in it. There had been nearly a year, in which I'd broken up with the jewel-eyed girl and all the Machiavelli that went along with that, the was-not-was with the gypsy, and the whisper games of the death throes of Sabina's relationship with the musician, that the vampire cast had gotten increasing like that, and there was not enough intoxicants in the whole of creation to make bearable again.
After all, I watch. I like to watch. But being within fallout, let alone shrapnel, distance of those bits of Machiavellian intrigue can get me to become just plumb indignant. I turn rather quickly when one tries to either get me to pick a metaphoric side other than my own, treat me as property, or drag me into a soap opera. Like a phantasm, I'm gone in the general direction of away.
Almost a week after that subdued night, some of the cats I still ran with spoke of smacking the Place of the Lennon Moon again. There was even offers of spotting me a cocktail or cover if I didn't have the paper. I'd been talking about taking a sabbatical. That I might be having a last hurrah amongst the vampires rather soon.
"Why don't we make last week our last hurrah?" Sabina suggested.
And just like that, over and done with. We've not gone to vampire den since. Although we still went to Netherworld now and again to hang out with the likes of Madam Lung and the gypsy, we dropped out of the vampire cast. Neither one of us felt particularly bad about it.
And boy, did I talk some shit after the fact. I would wax venomous about how I could walk into any of the juke joints and see the same five tossers dancing to the same five songs and the same soap operas still going on. Perhaps it was like being in a breakup and being in the I-hate-you-mutherfuckering phase, much like I was with the greater metroplex for quite awhile after I decided I was done with it and moved into the mountains.
But, like my feelings toward the metroplex, I find myself establishing an equilibrium with my time amongst the vampires. Being able to inspect those memories with reptilian objectivity, instead of rose-tint or traumatized venom.
There was a period roughly from about a month after my grandmother died to about thirty-third birthday, when the jewel-eyed girl stood me up, and our relationship began to really hit the downward spiral, that is filled with fondest memories. I think of times with Lee, Jibril, the bruja, Ophelia, the rattlesnake, the gypsy, Madam Lung, and Fu Jen Felis, and can catch a bit of a smile now and again. That was when I self-published. There were some good times.
Even though I was with the jewel-eyed girl then, my recollections of her hardly equate into those of my time in the vampire caste. Sure, that's where I met her, but it seems incidental. Something that happened as an aside and on a different level than the adventures I had on my own or with my friends. When she did show up, I might get lucky enough that she had enough gin and tonics along with the cocktails of prescription poison pharmaceuticals that she might act kind of like my girlfriend, only to vomit or cry after we copulated, which did wonders for my self-esteem, but that's another story. One, which should most likely be given its peace.
Yeh. As the wise man from South Africa once proclaimed over shots of whiskey; we're all messy. Indeed we are. We're all messy and we all have scars. Although, I am of the mind that the lucky ones are those whose scars are marks upon the flesh, and not the psyche, which lunges from the shadows late at night when the demons come for tea like a an ambush predator along some nameless African river or Rawhead and Bloody Bones from under beds and stairwells or in closets.
I have my scars from my time amongst the vampires, just as I have from other situations. Scars of pleasure and scars of pain. It's all part of how the story goes. I do my best to make peace with it and establish equilibrium, for I am a big believer in maintaining one's sense of balance. Late at night, when those demons come for tea, I pour a cup and own up.
Although, like the cliche, I know better than to never say never, I find it unlikely I could be talked into setting foot in a juke joint again. Years in the mountains have made me even worse around crowds than I used to be. Depending upon who you ask, Netherworld has all but become a bloody fucking sport's bar, which is just sad, because that was just a funky place. Still, things grow and change, such is the way. I know I have.
I find after so many years of gallivanting amongst the never-never nowheres of the pointy lands, I am establishing more accepting equilibrium with my ten years of being within the borders of the greater metroplex and the five of those I spent with the vampire caste. There is no further need for venom. It is no longer such a bugaboo within my psyche, and that's a good feeling. Cathartic. One that brings a sense of peace, which, I find language would do insult in trying to describe.