I keep thinking I'm the reincarnation of Paul Verlaine, and I keep looking for the reincarnation of Rimbaud, but I just can't seem to want to shoot anybody, and haven't, for years; so I guess I don't believe in the reincarnation of anything. But I like that stuff about rain falling on his heart, or shit in the city, or whatever it was. I remember feeling like that and being mad at him for snatching my soul before I had a shot at it.
I bought a barbecue joint in my crappy hometown. It's what I do. I smoke dead pig and sell it to factory workers and former southerners who for some stupid reason have relocated to this speck-on-the-map in northern nowhere, Ohio. And the only thing worse than me being here, living here, doing this, is that. Them. What the fuck are they doing here, doing this? Raising a family? They all have the look, you know. It used to be the thousand-yard stare; now it's the five-inch denial. Their retinas are still pissed, I can tell. "This?" they say (the retinas). "This?"
I sympathize. And despise.
"What's the special today?"
"Got any specials?"
I give them a minute. A minute to get their freaking eye muscles working so that they can train their vision on the "Specials" board that has nothing written under the word "Specials." They rarely get it. And they rarely stop asking. So I put my pen down and act like I'm rearranging soda in the cooler until they figure out just what it is they want to eat.
"Is that barbecued pork?"
"What do you mean?" I say.
"Is it barbecued?"
"So the sauce is in it?"
"...So it's not barbecued?"
"Do you know what 'barbecued' means?"
Nobody knows what "barbecued" means. It means COOKED OVER SMOLDERING COALS OF HARDWOOD. It doesn't mean DRENCHED IN RED SAUCE. Nobody understands.
Nobody understands anything. Here I am waiting for Rimbaud and the only thing these dumb jerks want is food and to display their ignorance and inability to speak in a grammatically correct fashion. I mean, I could easily want to wound one of these people with my gun, but it would be for the wrong reason—I don't want to shoot someone because I hate him; I want to shoot someone because I love him. Sometimes, I don't want to shoot anybody at all. But I would like to want to.
So I changed the name of my shop to Waiting For Rimbaud and now I put acid in my food in hopes it will cause someone to say something so inspiring and offensive to my sense of wellbeing that I will fall in love with him or her in some icky, self-hating manner, thereby causing in me an unrelenting desire to shoot him or her to save my own sanity (which I subconsciously want to lose in the first place, hence the confusion). Yes, my Rimbaud can be a girl if he wants.
At the bottom of my take-out menu are the words "A barbecue aficionado must make himself a seer by a long, prodigious, and rational disordering of all the senses." The only difference is that I am the one who is rationally disordering their senses; they aren't doing it to themselves. Some of them seem to like it. Most don't. "I think I'm going to puke," I often hear from one of my three tables. Or "Marge, I think you need to take me to the hospital." Sometimes, they get up and look at the photographs of Louisiana scenes hanging on my walls, and are transfixed: "I... fucking... WANT to... WANT TO GO THERE."
"Then go," I say. "What's stopping you?" They never know. They ponder the question—what's stopping them? I can tell—the word "NOTHING" ricochets around inside their skulls. They look like droids, shorted out droids, eyes shifting anxiously, brain searching frantically, no answers afoot.
Fear is everything. It will always be everything.
But they don't say anything interesting. They don't make me fall in desperate hate/love with them. And now the health department is coming here today. Coming here to find out why everybody's freaking out when they eat my food. Three weeks. I thought it'd be sooner. Some guy bashed some other guy's head in at a bar uptown. "Said he done ate at Waiting For Rimbaud's fer supper." Like, what, you can't bash somebody's head in without having eaten a cup of red beans? Why should my list of ingredients be constrained to things that aren't scheduled? I'm an artist.
I go and tell my Baby that I've been shut down; that I am under investigation for poisoning my customers; that I will likely be convicted and sent to prison for several years. "It's pretty bad slipping LSD in people's food, I imagine." Likely frowned upon by lawmen.
But my Baby is pale. She's got a stack of papers in her hand. And she doesn't seem to care that I will be going to jail.
"How... could you... write this?" she says.
I usually keep the manuscripts in my backpack. I don't even know which ones she's got, but there's probably something unbearable in every single one. I remember, many years ago, she said to me: "You are the worst thing that's ever happened to me. And I love you." How could anyone forget something like that? I was drunk twelve hours a day and sleeping the other twelve. Playing for tips and business cards at the Neutral Ground. But she always came with me. Clapped. Sang. Hated me. Loved me. Couldn't resist me. Tried to. All the time.
"Who... are these people?" She's heaving up and down with each breath. She sounds like a snake. "Tell me where this 'Courtney' cunt is so I can go FUCK... HER... UP."
My Baby, she drunk. My Baby, she carry a small .22 handgun in her purse; now she carries it in her hand. She's trembling. I'm turgent. I've never "done" any other chicks (or even any dudes I thought might be the reincarnation of Rimbaud—I could never get past "Hey wait, this guy has a cock."). But I can imagine things, and I can write about being mindfucked and falling in desperate hate/love so intensely that all sense of good judgment is rendered inconsequential. And I suppose sometimes I can do it too well for my Baby's sense of wellbeing. I'm going to explain it to her, like I always do—honey, I dream things up; honey, I mine things that are uncomfortable; honey, if it weren't for you I'd probably be dead by now. And that last one's pretty funny, because I look over and see an empty brisket chili container on the kitchen counter. I was saving it for myself. She doesn't even like chili! Chili is red; so is the blood pouring out of my wrist. "Paul!" I scream. "You did it again, you magnificent bastard!" So that's pretty intense. Tying a bandana around your arm really tight and then fucking the unbelievable bitch who just put a wussy slug in you, that's pretty intense too. "You're the worst thing that ever happened to me," she keeps saying, all through the whole thing.
"ME?" I screech like a girl. "What about you?" I rub some blood on her face and then flip her onto her stomach. "You're definitely giving me anal." It's awesome. "I can't believe I've been waiting for myself all these years!" I mean, for God's sake, now I have to go read some shit about the fucker. "Can you believe that?" We should probably get the hell out of here. Soon. Like, before the lab results come back. "Can you?" I don't even know. Can they test for acid? "It's gotta take a while..." Maybe we'll go down south and open a barbecue joint like we've always talked about. "...I'd think." Or maybe we'll just order a bottle of Absinthe King and hope it gets here before they do.
"...Can you hear me? Paul? Can you hear me?"
My eyes feel like they've been glued shut for a month. I can barely make out the form beside the bed. It would seem I am in the hospital.
"Shh shh, don't get—"
"Courtney? Is that—"
"Yes, it's me."
"Shhh... don't strain yourself. It's still in there."
"... what... where... is what."
"The bullet. It's still in your chest."
"You never answered my question."
"You never answered my question, Paul."
"Who is this 'Baby' chick?"