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danny olea

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by Danny Olea

      Police roll through the street, their siren stirs me out of bed at 7 AM. I open the window, morning haze enters the hotel room. Frosty air tightens my skin. Down below, three cruisers swerve 5th then the corner. Some poor sack at the other end is about to bleed his teeth, next stop: San Quentin. Those who gamble needlessly with their luck receive hard lawful time, but rightly so. Modesty is key to staying afloat in civil society. As hard as is may be: remain humble in your nightly endeavors and relinquish any idea you may have had of your deserved future.

I had an agency interview in Beverly Hills but it didn't seem to take, so I drove around a bit when a Mercedes caught my eye. I tailed it in my old rusted Honda till I came to a two-story house on Doheny. Parked two houses away. The boy: a generic blond-haired hipster, stepped out of his benz, greeted by a girl with firm kisses. A perfume model in million dollar legs, showing every bit of her talent through a mini skirt. They pulled Beverly Center bags from the trunk and waltzed into their den.

Now I hotbox in my Honda listening a broken tape deck. The AC doesn't work, sweat lines my shirt but I like to complain. They'll soon repo my car. I jerk the door open, sober myself. The Hispanic gardeners along the block don't seem to mind blazing heat. They remain fast and chatty with each other, as if hell didn't surround their every orifice. Tenacity always bewildered me. My eye wanders back to the Mercedes and I sigh heavily, feeling the weight of it in my stomach. I could use that car. That house. That girl. Products of a successful America displayed before me, just out of reach, these elements may not offer happiness, they might just be the nails of a coffin but the fact that I have no choice in the matter just won't do for me. So later that night, when fog is thick with the sweetness of dream, I come back, steal his ride just to watch it burn in a fucking train yard.

I am a direct product of the time, manufactured through necessity. Dignity and shame are offerings that no longer concern me. One cannot feel guilt when he is given a spoon in the place of a shovel, a man is obligated to sincerity when he is covered in filth. Every sigh, shout, grunt, frown, whine, stare, and smirk bear more gravity than a CEO's shining grin. Anyone who disputes that notion is completely removed from the working class burrows of LA.

Driving a Lexus, Circle Jerks on the sound system. I ride through Wilshire, till I get on Rodeo. Park and enter the restaurant. Photos of well known actors line the wall. Back behind the counter, I put on the apron. Another day. Clock in. And I wash dishes.

“Hey Sergio.”

“Yeah?” I murmur, pot in hand. I'd been completely still for minutes.

“Don't work too hard, kid.” He says looking down my throat. “I'm gonna swing back to check in. Evaluate your life's success at another time.”

“Ok.” I say, it's all I ever say.

The hotel at Pershing Square runs 80 a night. My old apartment was near, I had grown attached to the sights. Once you claim territory, it is not easily replaceable, you start to feel as a child with his prized broken toy. At least here you avoid guilt. You can't get sore if you're scamming pockets in the financial district, not when everyone's wearing a suit and a decent smile. I'm very ethical in these matters.

Carelessness puts you into uncomfortable corners: I'm in a movie house, watching an intense onscreen kiss between a white guy and white girl who live in an all white suburb. I chew on my hoodie-string, feeling bored. It's the last showing, not too many people, mostly kids getting high-school handies. I seem to get better sleep here than in bed. I lean forth in my seat to tie a lace. And I snatch someone's purse, just cuz it's easy.

I walk before the movie ends, count the money, make my plans. Everything is possible, till reality cuts you off: the victim was a girl I had known around town as a prostitute.

She works the bar on my block, weekly digging for that one lonely soul of the midnight. That one person in desperate need of escape from his own bruised mind. The girl has absolutely no standard of sex, she takes them as they come. I wonder if she remembers me.

400 dollars. Use your hand, you get 30 bucks. Use your mouth, you get 50. Your body goes for 100. Judging by the chap in her lips, and the tired look on her brow, it wasn't easy to collect. After I figure the numbers, guilt gets to me.

I call out in the parking lot.

“Excuse me.”

They both turn around.

“Fell out of your purse. Gotta be careful, people have sticky fingers.” She eyes me with suspicion, high on something strong.

I leave them. And I go down Olympic, still broke, feeling rotten in my stomach. For a lot of women: this is it. No game plan. No end date. I turn around to think about this for a moment. And then I hear the distant squeal of a man in ecstasy from a parked car. You can't save them all. And if you could, would they really want to be?

Some nights are complicated, taking becomes difficult. Catholic guilt tends to elude death like a stain on a perfectly good shirt. I look across the street to the bar and I feel like going in. The urge is routine. Somewhere in my future I become a complete alcoholic, lost in drowning apathy. It may very well be, someday. But I'm not there yet. I look up, it's a calm blue night, you're not hungry. People walk on by. They don't know you: just a guy standing there on the street. No body expects anything more than a passing glance; invisibility providing its riches. My muscles relax. I clear my head. It doesn't matter. A good death is just as good as a bad one. For a few minutes, nothing matters at all. I cherish these nights where: for no particular reason, you feel at ease with where you are.

The next day was shit. I got morning shift.

“Sergio, I need you here, Gabriel couldn't make it.”

“How about: shoot me in the face?” It was 8am.

“Just hand me the bullets. Get here, stat.”

“Well, I'm busy.” I say. But he already hung up. Fucking Gabriel.

So I wash dishes. Clean toilets. Stack supplies. A popstar gets a lecture from his agent:

“Do what you have to kid. Forget your dignity. Just make money off your MTV look. They'll choke on it.”

“Really? Yeah, I'm a great big whore!”

When I pee into dishes I like to think I'm helping my community. And when I have to shake hands with a customer, I stick my right hand down my crotch after a long hot day and I give him a firm welcome. Soft hands? Yes, the sweat off my balls keeps them healthy, thanks for noticing. Enjoy your food ma'am.

I work six hours. Feeling the time burn off my back. Minutes from my lifespan, wasted in sink water. I am no longer human. But Cattle, led to my own slaughter.

“Hey, Sergio.”

“You're late, Gabriel.”

“Woman trouble... How you getting along?”

“Surviving... Only just.”

Gabriel sits next to me on the floor. An enclosed area.

“What's up? You look blue, man.”

“Ever wish for natural catastrophe?”

“Wait, let me think. Am I psychotic? No, I don't think so.”

“I fantasized about earthquakes in high school. Almost sexually. I envisioned: collapsed buildings, broken sidewalks, lost limbs just so I could bail class. I was the kid who pulled the alarm on an extensive basis.” I nod, oddly proud.

“School's out, dude, move on.”

“Yeah.” I glance around. “I can't find the alarm in this building.”

We sat there under the sink, he told me about his girlfriend. She threw him out the apartment. Sheena caught him with her sister. He didn’t have anywhere to go, felt lost and helpless in a shapeless sort of way. The conversation went on and after a while I stopped listening. I kept looking at my hands, noticing how rough they were. I hadn’t slept in a while. My thoughts drifted to: my eviction, the bogus degree, food stamps, bus tokens, getting older, losing control, the impending suicide and the need to exist.

I laid him out. I didn’t give warning. I stood up and smacked him in the face. He just laid there and bled out from his nose. After a few good pops to the chin, I got up. Hung my apron and walked out. It was 2:30. I heard Bradley behind me.

“Sergio! Where the hell are you going!?”

“I’m done for the day.”

I drove back toward downtown and left the Lexus in a lot where I had found it. Dropped a cute little note on the dash:

             Sorry about the fender. You're out of gas. You have two parking tickets.
             Your Car-jacker

At the hotel room I pack my things. I was overdue for 3 nights. I was told that if I didn’t pay that I would have to wash dishes in the banquet hall. I laughed.

I shut my suitcase and got out of there before they could enslave me. I walked. Sat down. Walked some more. Didn’t know where to go. Maybe San Francisco. New York. Anywhere with an ocean. Worst come: I'll go to Guadalajara with my family. But in my experience: family is overrated.

I hear San Quentin is nice this time of year.

That night I slept in the library with 22 dollars in my pocket. When the night-watchman came I hid behind bookcases: Scooby Doo fashion. There stood the stink of piss and liquor from previous sleepers. This library was hotel too. Every night free.

I woke to a phone call.

“Sergio — “

“What! It’s fucking early dude. Who is this?”

“Bradley. You coming in or not? I could use you.”

“You talk to Gabriel?”

“He ran out during shift yesterday, I don’t know where the hell he went. You know what that's about?” I hesitate, mostly out of weariness. “I fired him. Come and wash these dishes.”

The phone slips out of my hand. I have to pick it up again.

“I think... maybe it's time you look for someone else.”

There is a pause. I hear munching sounds. The indifference of potato ships. “Ah, yeah, but I'd feel better if you did it.”

The leash is tight around my neck, dug deep into my spine, squeezing the soul from my flesh. Modesty has provided me a steel trap: cold and insufferable. I am branded for life.


I hung up. Got dressed. Combed my hair. Pissed. Drank from the fountain. And I went out to the bus station. The morning air was frigid. People were drinking their coffee. Having their last minute cigarettes. Shops were opening up. Bums sat in their places. Gray sky shone wide and holy through the rooftops. Ok, here we go.

And I wash dishes.

Daniel Olea. Film school grad, aged 21. Choke on it: his literary introduction to the public, written in Downey, CA. The first novel is underway, set to be called: Sink with California.

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