This is something I may know a thing or two about.
It immediately jolts a memory from when I was younger of the strange mailman/Tasmanian Devil that delivered his route speeding in a converted jeep with a US Mail Service sticker slapped on the side. The man himself:
Who knows if that was his actual name, but you knew Cha-Chee was en route from the black smoke that would plume out from behind his makeshift jeep. The kids loved him. How could you not?
Wild grin, streaming curls of his black hair spouted out from under his worn blue mailman cap. His brown skin, tanned by the sun and his Panamanian DNA, he was a force. A smiling, wide toothed force. Always those cop glasses gleamed behind the windshield. He’d pull the truck to a stop and yell out: “Stay outta trouble keedz!!!”
By far, the greatest mail man to have ever lived. Our friends knew when he was near, and we’d run up just to collect the mail from this man. He was always blaring rock and roll music out of the rolled down window, and some other kind of smoke could be smelled from the interior of his unruly mail truck.
One day when my best friend and I were playing out and about in the docile suburban track we grew up in, we saw Cha-Chee sitting in his jeep from down the road. No music. Silence. An eerie and frightening silence - all except for the subtle purr of the engine in neutral.
My friend and I snuck up to the mail jeep. We were thrown off, a little scared. None of us had seen the jeep not racing around corners, not with Cha-Chee’s hair wildly flowing out his window less mail carrier.
We came to the corner. Cha-Chee was there all right. But gone was the hyper excitement that usually came in his presence. There he was, slumped in the drivers seat, hat still lodge over his skull, hair less wildly curled, down his shoulders, his mouth slightly open. In his hands, the half filled bottle swirling with the brown liquid from the shake of the engine.
We looked at each other with disbelief. Cha-Chee! What happened? We snuck away with devious smiles.
I flashed back to several moments; adults laughing, holding bottles in their hands high. Fourth Of July fireworks exploded behind them in the black sky of Cranston, Rhode Island.
There were the strange, dirt covered men behind the super market winking at me as my mother rushed me into her car. White teeth smiled at me through the dust smeared face.
“Who were they?” I asked, trying to get a good look through the back windshield. My mother, not taking her eyes of the street, said: “Those are drunks, Matthew.” But I immediately was intrigued. Who were these people? They were obviously oafish, to be sure, but the way they smiled. I was a convert. There was some strange freedom in the drinker.
Flash forward, Williamsburg, 2013.
“You’re a motherfucker.”
That’s what I heard from the kid, built like Kate Moss, not a God’s year over 21, lanky and cocky, eyes angry, ready to fight. The time, 3:30 a.m. He was definitely drinking heavily. The day, Saturday Night, probably the worst night in the history of bar shifts. The money is good, but it’s blood money mainly. You lose a part of yourself every shift.
I smile. This guy has no idea what is about to happen to him. My bouncer, a man who certainly should be immortalized in literature, is already behind him. This does not stop the skinny kids vitriol.
I have to laugh. The kid takes it even worse. The whole bar is walking out, but the young man decides to continue with his aggressive defense.
“You’re a fucking pussy!’
“You are what eat,” I tell him.
I am a world of indifference. Then my bouncer lays his hands on dude’s shoulders, whispering in his ear, “Time to go.”
The kid is strong. He tries to be bad-ass against my bouncer. Half of me is annoyed, I’ve seen wasted people before - but there’s a shaky empathy to those who can’t even walk. But the other half of me is almost impressed. This kid being a young drunk, standing up against a supposed enemy (the bartender. Always a wrong move), shit, it’s so cute. His sad, doomed arrogance made my heart quiver.
He steams at the bouncer, least to say a large man from Bed-Stuy, with aggression. My third feeling now is pity.
Everything thing he probably learned in his life about masculinity is now challenged. The look on his face is like an icicle melting on fast forward. He looks back at me once the bouncer’s hands are placed on his shoulders, almost with an urge for help. But I don’t have any. It’s almost four in the morning and the last thing you said to me is that I’m an asshole. No, wait, pussy. No, wait, who gives a fuck. The kid was removed through the crowd fast like some devil’s whip had him around the waist. He was gone in seconds. It’s true. Some of these drunks can get buck in all the wrong ways. But like my favorite prostitute, eh-hem, ‘call girl’, Alabama from the film True Romance once said:
“Sometimes it goes the other way too.”
Stay tuned for the next installment of DRINKING HEAVILY (Part 2).
FROM CHA-CHEE'S HANDS TO YOURS!