I am not standing.
I am not lying on the ground nor even sitting, properly speaking, but rather collapsed in a sort of lump – as though I’ve gone boneless – at the base of a lamppost. The lamppost, for its part, is standing in its usual place at the corner of Westheimer and Montrose Boulevard.
The light, way up there at the top of the lamppost, refuses to hold still. It continuously zigs up, back, up, back, like an image from a film projector gone bad. Maybe it’s trying to escape my vodka, who knows?
One-thirty in the morning and I’m drinking with a homeless woman called Banta.
Banta, she has green streaks dyed into her hair, her entire right hand is tattooed solid black or maybe dark blue and she is holding the copy of Blood Meridian I lent her. I’ve brought her A Walk on the Wild Side for next time. I always choose books and alcohol for Banta randomly.
“The author shows evil and then it just exists like anything else,” Banta says. “It’s not punished.”
Everything is going along fine like this until another homeless man stumbles by holding a wad of aluminum foil in his hands. He tries selling us “homemade boudin” for five dollars and that’s when everything goes sideways.
“Five dollars?!” Banta says. She leaps to her feet to take a look. “You crook! Crook!”
The confrontation escalates somehow, on both sides, really, until it appears that it might come to actual blows.
I’m having a much harder time standing up, to intervene I mean, than I had sitting down two hours earlier. Before the vodka. From my lumpen position, I say, “Banta, it’s okay. It’s okay. Let him go. I’ll give you something so you can go and eat at Midtown Grill,” but it is as though she doesn’t even hear me.
The shoving and the cursing, they spill over from the parking lot and onto the sidewalk and there are long honks from cars going by.
There exist methods for getting to my feet in this condition – I know this and I have found them before! – and yet I cannot seem to remember any of them at this particular moment. I push up uselessly with my palms while protesting the senseless violence around me.
Banta says, “You don’t understand, Harry. It’s the principle of the thing.”
I say, “How can it possibly be the principle of the thing?”
I have work in a few hours. I believe it’s time for me to leave, boudin prices be damned.