come back

it Mannheim it was always about the same:   start
out with a couple of steam beers at a table off the
avenue, 10 a.m., sitting with a couple of German
friends, nothing else to do; a couple of steam beers
calls for a couple of more steam beers.

something was needed to cure the night before.
the night had been bad, according to Linda:   me
singing and screaming, acting up in the bathroom, a
great sound chamber:   “EVERYTHING DIES!   BLACKBIRDS
DIE!   BYE BYE, BLACKBIRDS!   MAKE MY BED AND LIGHT THE
LIGHT…!”

the night manager rang three times.

now, more steam beer.   now, some white wine. got to
cure the night.   go to bed early.

never anything to eat.   by the time you get up the hotel
kitchen is closed.   in Germany everything keeps closing
down.   all the cafes close down between 2 and 5 p.m.
by 5 you’re too drink to care to eat.   Germany is a
bigger drunk than America.   even the non-alcoholics
drink the wine because you can’t drink the water.
everybody in Germany is rich; the poor die of thirst.

tougher bars in Germany than in east L.A., run through
with gangs of neo-Nazis with battalions of killer dogs.
if you want to go to the crapper you have to smile, wave,
nod, wink at them.

nothing to do but drink and wait for the sun to go down
and for the sun to come up.

or you find yourself in some little cafe up in the hills
just off the vineyards, sometime after one a.m. or two
a.m. or three a.m. where you finally eat snails, sausages
and asparagus at the cost of a week’s salary.
the people with you seem pleased at this find; to you
it’s not all that cultured or endearing:   you finally just
shit it out.

one thing you learn though, you have to learn:   you just
stop thinking:   all the boatrides down the Rhine full of
loud Americans, camera brains loaded with blank film; all
these toy train rides to nowhere–looking out the window
at everything so neat; colorful painted rooftops going by
and under each rooftop a personal hell for each, barely
durable.

you stop thinking because thinking simply isn’t useful
over there.
you only retain a single thought:   that you will leave,
finally, that you’ve done your bit for the publishers and
the editors and the girlfriend.

and finally you do leave, too many suitcases about, most of
them hers, standing in the lobby at the desk, paying off in
thousands and thousands of DM’s, feeling raped and plundered
by the Hun; the night clerk sleeping it off; the day clerk,
genial, bowing, classy and cultured–“I think he owns the place,”
Linda whispers, “and I think he likes us.”

that’s good, that’s good, and the maid rushing up, getting her
tip besides what we’ve left in the room. “oh, give her more than
that, she was so sweet with the orange juice!” so, I give her
more.

we are all hugging, hugging each other, we move toward the exit
of the hotel, dragging overloaded suitcases, hugging, letting
off, waving.   I am ashamed.

and then to the airport.   German boys, stiff, looking terrorized
but ready, standing with their fingers on rifle triggers.   they
are in a panic of alertness.   strange things are occuring in
the world and probably not anybody is always wrong.   or the
other.

waving goodbye now, waving goodbye to the German friends, and
then we are up and away, quickly the space widens to
seat belts
                  OFF
                         now
I ask the stewardess how long for the first drink and the whore
ignores me, moving through the bad dream, showing me her buttocks,
her aft parts.   she’s probably a nice girl at home, pet dog, good
to her mother, goes down on her boyfriend but
flying through a bottom layer of space, she’s
inefficient.

Linda’s on my shoulder, she’s crying, “oh, I hate to leave!
it was so nice!   so nice!”

the worst thing for me, at times, is not having somebody to talk
to when something obvious should be said, but then
if we had that maybe something else would be missing, and
I get the stewardess the next time by and she says, “yes, yes,
I will bring you a drink in a moment!”

winging toward the terribleness of America
my world is returning to normal.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1981