chapter 4 burning bridges

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Chapter 4

BURNING BRIDGES

I finished my cigarette and stubbed it out.  I sighed and took out my bronze Zippo.

“Well time for me to be moving on.”  I said looking up at the ceiling.  They were watching, they were always watching, always listening, cameras and microphones in my ceiling.  I dont like reality TV, I dont watch reality TV (except for project runway, huge fan of that one.  Does that make me a bad person?) Yet here I am the star of my very own reality show.  The lets murder the whore show.  Me live 24/7.  I tell ya I have killer ratings.  Dealing with assassin paparazzi is a life skill I never had any reason to suspect that I would ever need.

(I just knew I was wasting my time trying to learn geometry)

High school year book photo,  a a girl with lifeless mouse brown hair crooked glassed, ghost white complexion which just serves to highlight each bright red pimple.  Caption, girl least likely to become the fixated obsession of men.

Turning the lighter over in my hands, cool smooth weight in my hands.

( I don’t want to do this.  I really don’t want to do this. )

They were silent now.  For the past three months my irritating fan club has had people howling death at me.  Every moment, night, day, sound, honking horns, screaming howling shouting, a symphony of murder    They were silent now.  All quiet, waiting, watching me turn my lighter over in my hand.

My grandmother had once said to me.  “The trouble with you is you always burn your bridges behind you.”

To which I replied. “Of course I do cause when I cross a bridge I’m not going back.”

I flip the Zippo open and light it.  Some things never change.

I set the flame to the garbage bag I had stuffed with crumpled paper and rages soaked in lighter fluid.  I turn to the curtains, they give themselves to the fire, made to burn.  I turn the gas of the stove on full.  Flames and smoke curling around me I look up to the ceiling and smile.

“Well I’m off now so you all go ahead and call the fire department.  Ohh and one more thing, a small piece of advice.  Never start a war with some one who has a better sense of humor than your own.”  I gave a cheerful little bye bye wave and shut the door behind me.

I walked across the street to paradise doughnuts and bought a peach Snapple with the last two dollars in my pocket.  I sat at the white plastic table on the sidewalk and watched the fire consume my home.  Flames curled out of my open windows most dramatically.  The fire trucks arrived almost as soon as I sat down.  My assassins must have had the fire department on speed dial.  The situation well in hand I picked up my iced tea and walked off the hem of my yellow submarine coat swinging at my knees.

“Idle hands are the devils work.”  My grandmother had always said.  So in between fighting the stay alive I occupied my time embroidering a long denim coat with  beads using the beetles yellow submarine as insperation.,  Yellow submarine, blue meanies, glovey, I had had a lot of time on my hands.

I walked down O’Farrell St. past the Hilton.  I see a couple taking pictures of my fire with their expensive camera.  I smile at them, they dont see me.  Walking on I pass Macy’s and that god awful toy store fao shwartz and hear the horrible tinny music of children being tortured into happiness. ‘It’s a small world after all, it’s a small small world.’  At the end of Market street I reach the embarcadero, I walk along to a spot behind some very nice restaurants and find a park bench with a wonderful view of the bay bridge.  I sit back with a tired sigh and spread my arms along the back of the bench.

An Asian man is fishing off the pier, we smile and wave at each other.  A young street kid approaches, kid well in his twenties wearing the torn and ragged clothes of street punk chic.

“Hey.” He says. “Can I sit down?”

It’s just a law of nature, where ever a woman sits alone, it wont be long before men start to gather.

“Nice day.” I say.

“So whatcha doing?”

“Me?  I’m celebrating, I just torched my apartment.  So I’m taking in the view of this beautiful day and celebrating.”

“Really?  Cool.”

Gutter punks just love tales of wanton destruction.

“Wanta smoke?”  He asks holding out a nicely rolled joint.

“Why thank you sir.”

We sit together on the bench smoking enjoying the day.  A couple of older homeless men approach.  We exchange pleasantries.  They too are impressed with my act of arson.  A friend of theirs had stolen a case of very nice wine from the back of a delivery truck.  Being former boy scouts they came prepared with a bottle opener.  We all passed the bottle around.  All in all a fine celebration.

The afternoon was moving on.  Me being a very fair skinned person with a decided aversion to sunlight, a few hours spent out in the open I could feel my skin crisping.  It was time to be moving on.  I said goodbye to my jolly friends and headed off.

Back up Market street a right on to Hyde, Hyde and Larkin the heart (if there is one) of the tenderloin.  The building on the corner used to be a bank in long days gone by, then it was converted into a police station,closed now an iron grate in front of its doors its wide marble steps serve the homeless now.  They collect here like hermit crabs caught in a tide pool.

Not far from there I arrive at my destination, the public library.  There is a woman standing out front wearing several layers of clothes.  She is tearing at her wild hair screaming at one of the stone lions.  “It’s love verses love ok? OK?  It’s love verses love, so shut up, just shut up!!”  Everyone going into the library gives the woman a wide berth.

I love libraries.  They are my church, my sanctuary and most people seem to feel so, at least on an unconscious level.  People are seldom rude in libraries.  Hushed voices the golden gleam of polished wood, heads bowed, the gentle sound of pages being turned like fall leaves rustling along the ground.

That being said, I hate this library, loath it in fact.

The old library was everything a library should be, but it was old which was sin enough for the city to want it gone.  So the city leaders decided that they absolutely needed a new library.  One wired with all the shiny new toys of the electronic age.

Well the design board of directors apparently went to the architects and told them “We want a building that just screams modern artistic pretension, it’s got to be ugly as hell, impractical to use, and expensive to keep up.  We are going to need it for political fund raisers, parties for foreign dignitaries and high fashion photo shoots.  So the eager architects went to work.  They put it all in there, every thing the board asked for and I guess about 10 minutes before they presented the design to the board some thoughtful person whispered in their ears “Oh by the way it’s supposed to be a library.”

The building is twice the size of the old library and holds half as many books.  The lions out front are relics from the old library.  The design board didn’t want the lions.  They didn’t fit in with the complete soullessness of the building.  They are right the lions look out of place.  The public out cry over the whole lack of books in the public library things was such that the board allowed the lions to be put out front.  Why they thought this would mollify the public outrage over the books debacle I have no idea.  Why it mostly worked I understand even less.

To get into the building you go past the lions and up the stairs to the second floor of the building.  Once inside you walk around in a semi circle to the curving stairs which take you back down to the first floor.  Looking up I feel rather like I am standing at the bottom of a Styrofoam cup.  You walk around the bottom of the cup to another set of curving stairs that’s leads you back up to the second floor.’

By the time I reach the place where they have hidden the book shelves I’m dizzy and grasping at the white walls that seem to cant away from me at odd and uncomfortable angles.  And that’s when I’m stone cold sober.  Now a little high a little drunk, sunburned and every nerve stretched wire tight.

I reached the main book depository and in my best southern bell swoon, I collapsed to the floor.

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