listen, he told me, I wanted to escape the cruelties
which down and murder most of the people in this contemporary hap-
hazardness which we call

tell me about it, I

well, the dogs of the years were after me and the music was bad
and the food was poisoned and the jails were


yes, I needed to find a place, an uninformed place, a place with walls
of quietness, a place with no communication, no priests, no prostitutes,
no politicians, no palaver of any kind…

no women? I

not, he said, if at all possible…

so you had a plan? I

yes, and no, he went on, I swilled countless bottles against the constant
dread of waking up in the morning
chained to nowhere
and helpless to prayer and magic   I
drank enough booze to kill half a dozen healthy
but I still awakened,
my listless life ticking away, no chance for the heart, you

no chance…

yes, forget that or go mad, better to end up in a cheap room in some
city somewhere…

no pity in that.

no, just a rather general and engaging

there’s that…

yes, so I’m hung there,
a voice stuffed with
cotton, meanwhile…


working upon methods to slide the knife
gently home…

…as the sweet girls in gingham dresses suck at the roots
of monsters…

you’ve got it, he
said, but offer me no advice,

advice to the helpless, I suggested, could be the terrifying
invention of sadistic pigs fat in their own dowdy

yes, he said, adding knowledge to knowledge is

that’s why, I said, the paid healers can seldom reach the

meaning, he said, that the patient could be
right and damned properly right within what is termed his

who the hell knows?

nobody, so I was hung there in that room with just the desire to
drink and note the peeling wallpaper, and that rug eaten away
by the footsteps of the trapped who had already passed

those sad and bartered people…

yes, I almost visualized them, one at a time: an old woman with a
grey shawl about her neck, a middle-aged drunk, a repressed child-
rapist with a long yellow nose, a man with one eye, a young girl who
sometimes imagined she was a swan…


I could almost see them, one at a time, walking across that rug, or
opening and closing those dresser drawers.


it was horrible, limited and cloying, as close to zero as could be
what could they do?: not even
what could they do?: the immensity of existence:
it was like being a
roach of nowhere…crawling along…doing what?
opening a drawer
looking for what? a
handkerchief, a
gun, something

who the hell knows?

for me, humanity had failed worse than I had
I was sad for
them…as for me, I only wanted a space to rest
in, a tiny blinking waterfall of

was it there?

not quite, that room connected me with the hateful and
my love for the hateful:   I was like shit in a sewer,
going the way of all waste…

you never laugh much, do you,

oh yes, I laugh, but let me go on:   talk about being nuts, one
gets dumb, let’s go…it’s like a protective covering…
I was on this bed and there were bars in the headboard and
I fumbled around with the bar–the bed must have been half a
century old…how many bodies had it slept?   how many had
my fingers found hardened cakes of gum, I stretched there
on that lumpy mattress and flicked off the hardened cakes of
long-stopped chewing, it was like peeling away the agonizing
indecencies of that space between the birth
of the those bodies and what had finally
become of them…

a flake playing with flakes…

yes, I cleared off the backs of all the bars of the headboard, the
gum was gone and they    were gone.

how true…

then I noticed the paint, yellow paint, some of it cracked away, with
grey beneath, and I began to chip away at the paint, getting
flecks of yellow beneath my fingernails…

not too exciting…

well, it was a dream-state, a manner of being, it was the perfect place,
easy going: without such pauses nothing can go on: a
man, a woman, a flea, a mouse, a

well, I don’t know about that…

so there I was, peeling gum and paint, I    was the hero of a brutal
father and an indifferent mother, I was the aftermath of that, in this
strange room of nowhere I felt and sniffed and peeled at the death of
others as I arranged for my


yes, but meanwhile there were certain proprieties to attend to and
3 or 4 days later I was sitting across from a woman who was very
properly dressed and schooled, cool to my own ultimate

I thought you had quit the

she had this marvelous desk, so long, so wide, so finely varnished
and she smiled at me and said, “There are gaps in your
record of employment. What were you doing

oh oh.

Within the context of your imagination, I told her, nothing.

oh oh…

We will consider your application, she told me and I answered, I
consider it already considered.


I went back to that room, I liked that room although there were only
2 days left on the rent.    the rivers of immensity only
flow one day,  they flow toward you, life doesn’t give it to you and death
can’t take it away…

that’s very nice, I said, but now let me tell you my

oh oh, he said.

and then I proceeded…

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript