So there was this writing gala at Ball State University, and the first three places won some nice books.
So I read some stuff. So did Jeremy Bauer and Shaun Gannon.
I won these books:
Jeremy and Shaun won some books too. Here's the stuff that I read:
BEER. WINE. FOOD. Three words in fifty-six point Helvetica on the window of a bar that hangs on the corner of unremarkable downtown streets, flashing a neon red OPEN from three to three most of the week. Tonight, a Tuesday, begins after three hours of a fast-food job and an endless five minutes attempting to knock some sense into a group of English undergraduates. I’m three beers to one over Annie, my hands gesturing in schizophrenic waves, ranting about a Buddhism-drenched poem that, artistically, is surely equal to Blonde on Blonde and far better than everything after the Joshua Tree.
My antics start a fire in my belly making the alcohol crawl up my spine, and there’s a college football game on the television above the fake fireplace, and Annie manages to make sense of all this for five minutes while I talk myself crazy and she’s on just that one beer. She’s got resolve, and I’m not exactly sure what that means but I have a notion, and Annie gets my notions. And a great smile. But not too often – it must be earned. That’s nice. Because I don’t have resolve. I need the challenge to prove to myself that I am myself and that proves I am: challenging.
Crowd noise flares up from the television. Tulane is playing a team in awful maroon jerseys. Annie’s wearing a yellow hat and sweatshirt under a leather jacket adorned with what could be entirely fake zippers, that is to say real zippers without pockets. It’s the kind of fashion statement that might say “I can carry a lot of shit in my giant purse” or “I want to annoy you by pretending to be a DJ, aren’t I hilarious?” She glances into her beer and then at the television during the few moments I’m not exasperating. I breathe, and keep going:
“Listen, Annie, I know you haven’t read it but I wish you could, you’d see how the poem gets hectic as you creep down the page, how the couplets collapse on each other like punctured lungs, the whole time making noise on the page by colliding consonants over and over again like linebackers. I mean, I resent anyone who does not like this poem. I would be horrified to learn that someone who hates this poem holds any major public office. Revolution will come and those who do not love this poem will grease the wheels of poetic justice with their blood.”
Annie and I take our longest gulps of the night. Tulane is down by three points.
“Sounds like a pretty fuckin’ cool poem”
-and I almost do a spit take down Annie’s leather jacket
“Yeah Annie, it’s pretty fuckin’ cool poem.”
The bartender swoops and grabs our empty mugs with her thumb and middle finger. “You want another beer, Ryan?" she asks.
Now, I’ve been asked this question three times tonight and at least three hundred times since this bar opened only four months ago. My answer is always casual, predictable, full of appreciation and always accompanied by a modest tip that reflects my current socio-economic status and total lack of fiscal responsibility. I look at Annie.
“Do you want another beer?”
She nods. “No. You can have one if you want.”
It takes seven to ten seconds for me to make a decision. Annie and the bartender wait in fantastic anticipation.
“I’ll just close out my tab, Miles”
I end my Tuesday night on 36 ounces of beer and five mozzarella sticks. Six dollars. Two-dollar tip. Tulane kicks a field-goal from forty yards out but wind knocks it wide left. The ugly maroon bastards win. Can’t win ‘em all, Tulane. I never could play football. Too small, too smart to get tackled endlessly for no reason. I wave goodbye to Jesse, the heavily tattooed cook and nod to guy who’s name I’m pretty sure is Bill and walk with Annie out the door.
“Do you know where Tulane is?”
She pauses, grinning “I have no clue. Alabama?”
My right hand finds the small of her back and she presses her face against my shoulder to shield herself from the cold, bending her knees slightly to come down to my level.