Mistaken Perceptions

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  • My quixotic avenger onlyplays Tom Waits and his own ballads. His voice sounds like a rusty nail draggedacross aluminum foil, and his hands resemble the well-worked runs of a dairyfarmer. As he performs, he struts and leaps like a prize fighting cock.

    The fact that nobodyloves him makes him all the more appealing to me. I have been used throughoutthe decades, always considered useful, but never necessary. Nobody has evermourned the loss of me. They shove their shafts of brass into me time and timeagain, rearranging my insides and promising their empty devotion. I have nevercomplained, nor I have squirmed under their might. I simply open myself to themand they extract what they want. They have repainted me, lubed me, turned mycogs again and again. Never a word of thanks. Never a comforting whisper.
    Until my quixoticavenger.

    When he enters mychambers with his magic tool, I shudder with tremors of yes my singer, yes my more! And then he tells me with his liltingvoice: Now come on babe, we’re gonnaknock them cold turkeys into shape just like Diddy gone teach us way back whenin that beat up town o’ Venice Beach, out there with all dem yuppies andpuppies and raggedy divas that wish they knew what it was all about. Let’s showdem dat yellow can be black, and maybe blacker than black. Now there we go,done up and polished, ain’t we? Don’t I treat ya just fine? Gonna keep youpolished ‘til the day I die cuz I ain’t got nothin’ to live for anyhow. Hisdark eyes drill into me: eyes that see nothing and know everything. He gently removesme from my guard position and places me on the handle of his guitar case.Whereupon he extracts his scepter of song and begins the serenade that only Iappreciate. We enact our communion almost every day.

    However, sometimes heleaves me in a dark space with no windows. I have no one to listen to and onlythe mustiness of storage to comfort me. I am very familiar with these times,for I have lived them for decades. But when hedoes this to me, I hate him with a vigor that borders upon the maniacal. I planmy revenge. I envision my arch disconnected and plunged deep into his chest. Isavor the circulation of his blood against my steel. My coldness is calculatingand relentless.

    But then he moves meinto the light and all is forgiven. He takes me to the artificial torches of aplace called Plaça d’Espanya, to a long corridor where those of his kind scurryalong and wear long faces. But nobody listens to him the way I do. An occasionalpasserby stops to appreciate his poetry, then they throw a coin or two belowme. He gives them a nod of thanks and continues his serenade. They move on asif they have committed a saintly deed, their long faces turned into smirks ofsatisfaction. But these are charlatans! They don’t understand him. They don’tknow him. They don’t hear him. Do they tremble in snaps and shifts? Does hegive them grand soliloquies and caress them? No. He doesn’t. They’re satellitesthat revolve around him and don’t even recognize that he is the biggest planetaround.

    Then there are the oneswith heavy boots and broad shoulders and healthy paunches, the one that wearfluorescent and checkered patterns. Sometimes they hassle my quixotic avenger,calling him chino and alwaysrequesting his carnet. This is whenhe deflates. During these moments, I would like to fill him again with thatwondrous pride that characterizes his daily song. But it’s impossible without apump! I would have to inject his chest with whiskey and mule hides just to givehim that essential vigor. Yet I only have admiration. Nothing more. I’mpregnant with his lyrics and his trumpet blues, but I can’t do a fucking thingwhen those hulking boots come by. I just hang from my spot, admiring my lost JapaneseYankee, my man of the Americas that never had a history and never had an end.But the boots, they don’t know anything about him, about the sweet things hesays and the sweet moods he breeds.

    The boots always forcehim to put his guitar away. Then he approaches me, his chin low and hisshoulders slumped, the boots behind him with nasty grins and sticks in theirhands going pap pap pap against theirpalms. He sets the guitar down inside and whispers to me his wounds: dese damn robots don’t know nothin’ aboutthe straight path or the crooked path or any goddamn path, let me tell you.You’re my Maurice, my titillation, my catharsis of lust and ire. I want to playyou for all the heads dat don’t know, dat don’t know there’s something else outthere palpitating and pulsing. I’m gonna take that down and give it to all demout there. These damn boots don’t know nothin’. They don’t know where I’m from,who raised me, who Diddy is. There’s something for everybody and then there’sme. I ain’t no Japanese cookie cutter. I ain’t no black. I definitely ain’tthese ibericos that prancing around all the place. I was born under a haystackand that’s where I’m gonna die. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. I’m everybodyand nobody and the only thing that really matters in this fucked up bread bowlof the occident. I’m gonna give dem some real juice with my oriental shoes. Theway I talk. The way I walk. That ain’t nothin’ compared to the way I feel. Theway we feel. Ain’t that right, beautiful? Ain’t that right?
    And then he closes thecase and snaps me shut, so that I may protect his guitar. And even though hefrequently puts me in the dark place after those boots take away his pride,even though I want to plunge my steel into him for ignoring me after speakingso sweetly in my metallic ears . . . way down, deep inside my innards, I feelthe effect of his adoration. I can survive because I know his words are for me,and only me. I am not lonely anymore. My steel is warm.