The morning began with me feeling more twisted than fresh cornbread in the river. I read it on the Internet, that place where one gets rewired to be like everyone else who spends too much time online. I should know. I go back to the prehistoric times before the Swiss came up with the world wide web and some techs in the Midwest designed Mosaic.
Those were fun times, I guess. Writing a novel and college essays on a six-inch Macintosh SE screen, while playing a one-dimensional game fleeing a mummy deep in a pyramid.
Now living through a pandemic wired to talking fish repeating phrases while blowing up stuff to win coins and diamonds to move on to the next round. I ended up spending way too much money on that. When it finally occurred to me that I spent more than two grand in six weeks, I realized I was like my damned rounder father. He who failed to be a parent, a husband, and left behind a box of checks to Vegas gamblers. Several were to a then-legendary poker player Nicholas Dandolos, named “Nick the Greek.”
I looked Nick up on Wikipedia. He was a good guy to lose to. Won and lost perhaps 500 million dollars in his gambling career. Once had Einstein at the poker table.
My father was stupid. No wonder he was constantly broke, stole cars to cover his losses and abandoned the family, with the FBI, of all people, on his heels.
I never met him, but in reading the biography, Nick was quoted as saying “Never bet on anyone who could talk.” My father should have listened. But, didn’t. There was nothing left of him but a box of cancelled checks I found in mom’s bureau drawer when I was nineteen. She later threw them out.
My half-sister, who was a teenager at the time, told me after the Feds visited the house, my mother burned everything of his, including all of the photographs. Therefore, I do not know what he looked like, except he had sandy hair. I am gray now, so, it doesn’t apply.
But I wasted a lot of money on an Internet game for six weeks.
My girlfriend called between clients. In our conversation, she asked what my longest train ride was. I said when I was a baby. That was when we took a Santa Fe from Los Angeles, where I was born, to East Texas to live with my grandparents.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, I considered taking an Amtrak to see her. She’s 1900 miles away in Austin, and I have two weeks off at the beginning of next month. Might be safer that way.
She panicked a bit about the idea. I understood and talked about something else, such as mopping the floor or how my daughter was doing.
This meant two weeks in New York, alone. Alone, again. A lonely two, we have become.
I got through the day of working from home. When doing so time stretches out so far you lose track of time until sundown. It is Midsummer. Therefore, this is a very long day, and unhealthy this sure is.
I wrote a feature, edited some copy, posted a blog, and ran a social media campaign on Twitter and Instagram. Answered emails and texts from neurotics. The paychecks come weekly, so I count myself lucky. I know people living on unemployment, and a close friend was just laid off a second time from the retail store that just reopened because there was not enough business.
Of course. There are no tourists in New York, and the well-heeled have fled since the lockdown began in March.
My girlfriend was tired when she called at bedtime. Too tired to Skype. She put in 14 hours, too.
Amid the boom of firecrackers, I fell asleep, assisted by Xanax. It is very stressful here.
I dreamed. I am on a train, passing through Mississippi. I sat with Nick the Greek and a man with sandy hair, his face turned away from me. My father, obviously.
Nick put his hand gently on my shoulder.
“The crystals cannot reach you,” he said, reassuringly. “Sleep well. They can still see you.”
“They watch over you like the diamonds I promised your mother,” said my father.
I opened my eyes at the gloaming sky through the window.
All will be well.
Yes, will be well, and slept a bit more before waking to begin another 14-hour day, starting with exploding coins and diamonds.
Mike Lee is an editor, photographer and reporter for a trade union magazine in New York City. His fiction is published in Soft Cartel, Bending Genres, Ghost Parachute, Reservoir, The Opiate and others. Website: www.mleephotoart.com. He also blogs for the photography website Focus on the Story. https://focusonthestory.org/stories/