Kentucky Pain


“We can’t go on together.” I was mumbling. Idiotically. Though somewhat melodically. My eyes were sealed shut. Sealed shut for quite some time. I was swaying, back and forth, much like a pendulum. I swung, with my right hand, from down at my side and up to my face; a clinking sound rebounded, as the rock glass’s lip hit with a knock on the front doors of my teeth; Hpnotiq and Hennessy flooded my mouth and rivered my throat. I guess I forgot to lock. I had no idea she was there, standing in front of me.

It was karaoke night at the bar. There was a large fat man standing on a small wooden stagebox. He was by himself, seemed sad and it showed on his face. He’d made no effort to hide it. Frowning boldly for all to see. And it seemed like he had just finished crying. His face was strawberry red, but not with anger, or embarrassment. This got my attention. I was intrigued. I’ve seen a lot of things in this world, but to see a grown man crying, especially in public, is to my experience supremely rare. I looked around the bar. Nobody in the crowd had seemed like they knew him. Most minded the man no attention whatsoever. Which was normal, I thought, as that, after all this was karaoke, not a concert. But still, the fat man’s demeanor was exceptionally offbeat; I’d’ve thought at least a few heads would be turned. Then began the song: Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley.

Such a superb choice was this for the fat man to sing, I thought. I was starting to get into it. An orange incandescent spotlight was aimed from above the fat man’s head. He was glowing beneath its ray. He was standing akimbo, on top the little wooden stagebox, with a microphone gripped inside his left hand. His eyes were closed. His frown remained noticeable. Slowly he began rocking his head, in rhythm with the opening notes. Were this not karaoke in a dive bar I’d swear it was choreographed. I readjusted my bar stool. I slurped away my remaining Hennessy with a straw. I lifted the empty rocks glass and shook it in front of me, and gave the bartender a nod, to let him know I was in need of a refill. He understood this request in no time at all, nodding me, assuringly; I nodded him once more, graciously, and returned my focus to the fat man’s karaoke.

The fat man was belting it. He was hitting every note with such intensity, I was absolutely floored by him. His voice was nothing special. Extremely average, was his voice. But not in the slightest was it pedestrian. People had finally turned their heads. It was like a candid peek into the sounds of someone’s shower; a recording of someone’s drive to their work. It was a beautiful thing. And some people were laughing, but I was not one of them. I had felt the fat man’s vibe. He’d brought me to his level. “You can’t see these tears are real, I’m crying,” I was singing, punching in tune with the fat man’s performance. Then, just as I’d sung these lines, everything changed–for me, that was. The room went dark. The music stopped. My head felt like it weighed a hundred pounds. Then came back the swaying. I was standing on a rowboat in the middle of the ocean, for all that I knew.

When she saw me, or, rather when I saw her, or when I realized she was talking to me, I was already gone. Intoxicated. Severely drunk. I’m not sure how long she was waiting, but if I had to guess, probably not extraordinarily long. My immediate reaction upon seeing her was that I had done something wrong; in even just that blink of an eye’s moment in time, I knew enough at least to realize I’d gone unconscious. “Sorry about that,” spilled out from my mouth, like an automated response. By pure chance of luck my answer was situationally relevant. “That’s OK, don’t worry about it,” is what she’d said, smiling, and seemingly amused.

She’d meant by this that I had took a long time to respond. Which was fine by me, as that it was far better than if I’d spilt my drink on her, or else ashed her with a cigarette, or bumped into her with all my full weight, or whatever else I could do of equal or greater stupidity; so much of course was I relieved to hear her say otherwise. It had become a real problem for me with going out, as I had developed a real knack for being sloppy.

I straightened up my posture. I was trying to think of something to tell her, but my mind was drawing blanks. She was looking behind her, but turned back to me only moments thereafter. She smiled. She was losing interest, I thought. I couldn’t blame her. I wanted to say: you made a mistake to approach me, you should have never come over to this barstool, you should have let me be, what the Hell were you thinking. I looked around for the fat man, but he was nowhere to be seen. She looked behind her shoulder–this time for a bit longer.

It was now or never, I thought. “Are you singing karaoke tonight,” I asked. She laughed. “Um, no. No, can’t say that I am. Are you,” she asked. I shrugged. “Probably not,” I said, “Not really my thing,” I added, pulling my shirt. “I don’t blame you,” she said. She came in closer towards me. My face was turning red–I thought–but I wouldn’t know. I thought about the fat man again. “That big fella. The guy who sang Elvis. I don’t know if you saw him, but he got really into it,” I said. She looked to her left, “Yeah, he was kind of emotional,” she said. I nodded. You should have never come to this barstool, I thought. She was looking over her shoulder again, but for what or whom, I did not know.

“Yeah. He inspired me. I might even sing a song myself,” I said, for lack of composure; I’d not mean what I said, I’d said it merely just to say something, if even anything. I’d felt stupid for this. She was still looking away. Albeit doing so on-and-off. She probably knew someone. She was probably just looking for them, I thought. Still, though, it had bothered me. I shook my head, “Are you here with friends or something,” I asked her, with a tone. I was either losing my patience, or becoming defensive. Finally she turned back, “Yeah, I’m here with my friends,” she said, smiling large. She came in towards me even closer. I glanced down at her jeans.

“I think that you should definitely sing something,” she said. She reached for my wrist, “I bet you have a great voice. I want to hear it,” she said, then let go. That was nearly all the motivation I could ever need. “I need to find my friends. But I hope I’ll hear you later,” she said, and sounded sincere. I nodded. She smiled, then got up. She walked away. I watched her leave. I stood up from my barstool. I was in need of a cigarette, I decided. It should help me think, I thought. I needed to go figure out what song to sing.

When I stepped outside. When I lit my cigarette. When I inhaled the first drag. It had finally dawned on me just how little I wanted to do this. To sing karaoke. It was easily the last thing that I’d wanted to do. To sing in public. I did not want to do it. Maybe I should sing something humorous, a comedic song, I thought, but then decided that such would be a sign of no balls–a cop out–as how I determined this. If only I were like the fat man, I thought. He had no fear of such things, I recalled. I on the other hand did fear such things, I realized. I lit another cigarette and walked over to the far front of the building. It’s now or never, I thought. Bar’s almost closed. I looked down at my watch.

I decided I would tell them to just play me a random. That whatever song it was, then no matter the case, I would sing it. The thought of this made me feel a bit nervous, but I was ready for it. Well, at least almost ready. I needed a little boost first. I pulled out a flask from my back pocket, and emptied its contents down my throat. Five shots of Hennessy. Not so much is that amount, for people like me. But it got me pretty dizzy. Fairly common is that experience, for people like me. But I wasn’t too dizzy. I knew I’d power through it. I was ready to go sing some fucking karaoke. I was gonna blow her away, I told myself. But first I would need to take a piss.

And that’s when I saw her again. I was pissing on the far wall when she came outside. She was rummaging through the contents of her purse, walking quickly and seemed steadfast for the parking lot. Immediately I assumed from this that she was leaving. “Hey, where you going, you’re gonna miss it,” I yelled out to her. She stopped in her tracks. She was looking straight ahead. She was shaking her head. I sighed. “Hey, baby, what’s your name? I’ll write it out on the wall for you,” I said, feeling both annoyed and disappointed. Then, suddenly, there was a hand on my shoulder. I froze. I feared this was a cop behind me. After all, who else but a cop would physically interrupt a man from urinating in public midstream. Well, fuck it, I thought. I’d might as well finish what I started. And I was in the midst of doing exactly just that, when then, she spoke. “Don’t you dare touch him, Tom,” she exclaimed. She was still shaking her head. “Go to the car, you big idiot,” she yelled, again.

This was odd. I didn’t know what was going on. But I was beginning to seriously doubt that this was a cop who was standing behind me. I wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved. This Tom guy, whoever he was, he did not sound too friendly. And though his hand was no longer on my shoulder, I knew he was still there. I could feel his presence. He was standing right behind me. He’d better not have a gun, I thought. Or a knife, I don’t want to get stabbed by this idiot, I thought to myself. I put my shit away and zipped up the fly. I shrugged and, slowly I turned myself around. To my astonishment: it was the fat man.

I could not believe it. On one hand I truly had wanted to congratulate him on doing such a fine job earlier, but on the other I realized of course, that this was clearly not the best time. The fat man was infuriated. And just as before, he was not hiding his emotion. This guy’s a broken faucet, I thought to myself. I didn’t know what I did exactly to have gotten him so pissed off, but I knew it had been something to do with the girl standing behind me, who hopefully was still shaking her head, trying to dissuade him from doing whatever it was he planned to do to me. Suddenly I found the fat man was seeming a lot less fat. He was built like a refrigerator. And about as big as one, too. He was fat, yes, but he was football fat, not La-Z-Boy fat. This fat man would kick my ass.

“You talking to my woman,” he asked. There was a pause. But I would not let it linger; I thought it best to be entirely honest, “Yeah, I was,” I said. I should have elaborated on this, I thought. I didn’t want to show him that I was scared, though. It’s not unlike encountering a bear in the woods: a costly mistake is to let it know you’re scared. I was not willing to let this guy know that he had me frightened. The girl (his girlfriend, fiancé, or wife, I presume) was now screaming. I took this to be a bad sign.

“You’re a fucking idiot,” he said to me. I wasn’t sure how I should respond. “I think this was all just a misunderstanding,” I decided was my answer. Not quite the answer he’d wanted to hear, though, apparently. He pushed me. I almost fell. He could have pushed me much harder. The girl was screaming desperately for him to stop and to get inside her car. But the fat man marched forward, closing in on me. I knew it then things were to only get worse.

It was now or never, I thought. If this guy full on attacks me, I might not even get a shot in, I thought. I should seriously risk a sucker punch, I wondered. He pushed me again. And this time I fell to the ground. I popped right back up. He acknowledged this with a most peculiar smirk and nod. I’d not even a clue what he’d meant by it, but I knew it was on. This fight was officially in action. Fuck my life, I thought. “Time for you to feel some Kentucky Pain,” I said. He’d almost laughed at this. He cocked back his arm, “I love that song,” he said, then swung, smashing his fist against my right temple.

Not unlike my Hennessy, his fist had a certain effect on me. My ears stopped working. All that I could hear was a continual ringing. I wanted so badly to just simply sit down, but I forced myself to keep standing. I could not see where he was. I’ll have to swing for the fences, I thought. Man, had he hit me fucking hard. And then, again, once more. Same exact spot. I coughed out an ugly sound from my throat. For whatever reason the ringing had gone from my ears. It was like he had knocked the ringer right out of me. I could hear things again. But then he struck me again. Same spot again. I heard the ringing again. It had felt like he fractured my skull. That’s the last thought I managed before dropping unconscious. I’d absorbed but only three strikes from the fat man.

~ ~ ~ ~ 

To me it seems amazing. The fact that I’d kept myself standing. All the times I’d blacked-out swaying. But this much always seems amazing to me, at least the morning after; at least until about lunchtime, it seems amazing. And the only reason it ever seems not amazing is because people do this sort of thing every night. There’s really nothing so amazing of being an alcoholic. Lots of people are alcoholics. I’m not so special for being one.

Sometimes I’ll find myself thinking about the olden days; back to when they hadn’t yet known that lead is poisonous; when everything which people had used was made of lead; when people would get severe lead poisoning and yet no one knew why or much less what it was. I remember in high school my history teacher had mentioned this one day; that apparently men would go out drinking–consuming ale after ale from the same lead constructed cups–to then slip into lead induced comas that, had ultimately gotten them buried alive because, doctors back then I guess were not very good. People were declared dead when in fact they were living.

And I think that if I were alive back then, I’d have definitely been one of those people. Buried alive. Grave robbers would unearth me one day, only to find claw marks and bloodstains–my skeleton–of two broken hands and two broken wrists from me trying to bench press my way through six-feet of earth and a locked coffin door. Yeah. Pretty sure that’d be me.







President Richard Nixon meets with Elvis Presley


Elvis Presley in 1977


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