Albie and I were on the
balcony. We were watching the Polish
people below us dance, some to polkas with lots of concertina and clapping but
most to American songs about ass. We
kept dropping our clear plastic cheese plates over the railing and onto the
guests below because we were shitfaced.
Albie had questions. They all pertained to Mieczyslaw, the father
of the bride. What his deal was. Heard he
bootlegged Nikes back in Gdansk, got
roughed up by some dock goons and that’s how he lost it. Heard he wouldn’t trade a Gypsy his touch
lamp for a dance so she smashed it, cut his face real good with the shards and
some got in his eye socket. That sort of thing.
He wanted an explanation I
didn’t have, an answer I’d never
have, on account of my not giving a fuck.
I loved Mitch, as he preferred to be called. I came of age in his rumpus room, celebrated
several Firsts there during junior high and high school (First French, First
Old Style Consumed, First Under-the-Bra Breast Stroke, etc.). I’d eat paczki in
the linoleum kitchen with him while I waited for his daughter Elka to finish
applying concealer upstairs, would listen to him exhaust the then-current list
of NBA Euros, always culminating in Toni Kukoc, the bests of the lots. What
he did in the Old Country to make ends meet and, possibly, sustain an
irreparable eye injury in the process was of no import to me as a resident of
I’d had enough of his CSI: Miami routine, so I grabbed Albie
by the lapels of his cheap-ass sport coat, pulled him an inch from my
face. I could smell the Skittles on his
breath, cover-up for all the Absolut.
I step onto the balcony no bigger than a bathtub where I hope to fit alone for a while and flick cigarette ash on the city below.
Across the street the seagulls settle on the window-flare of the proletarian flats six floors up, but facing west, with approximately the same narrow view of the sparkling ria at the end of the two-lane road.
Inside this hole we’ve claimed as our own for the holidays they’re still smoking homegrown and talking about what didn’t happen last night, thinking that it might tonight, cause you never know, while they listen to the California song, each shiftless son of a Galician seafarer dreaming with Zeppelin of following some dry yet exotic trail halfway around the world, convinced— that it can’t possibly be as hard as it seems.