0nce Upon a Time

Storage San Francisco | Sep 27, 2010 | 3:26pm

The walls of my storage unit are tan corrugated aluminum. Sometimes I stare at them so long it’s like they disappear and I see emptiness going on forever. I live in a metal stall. My privacy ends ten feet from the ground where the walls open to an empty space. The building has a roof in the darkness somewhere above that, but it’s hard to see because of the dangling fluorescent bulb just above head level that never turns off.

When Harry tracked me down, I was getting rid of my last memories. I raised my glass. “I’m glad you’re here to share this, man. End of an era.” After hiding in there alone for six months, talking hurt my throat, but the wine helped.

“You miss it, right? Punk rock was your life.” Our former bass player sat on the other side of the cardboard box I rigged up as a table. My sleeping bag was shoved in the corner.

I shook my head. “Casimir said it wouldn’t last. I finally really understood that when I sold my drums to get a few more of these.” I waved at what was left of my wine collection. My 15 by 10 foot unit had hella expensive labels I bought with the wallets we took off distracted audiences in the day, hundreds of bottles at least, all now empty except one.

Harry had it in his hand. “You stopped posting on Facebook. I went to your girl’s place, but I didn’t know she kicked you out.”

I shrugged, trying not to ask how Alli was doing. “I have this place now.” I sipped from my glass. There was no sink to wash it between bottles, and part of me liked to imagine that each wine left behind a tiny layer of residue and every flavor of the former collection was concentrated in that one backwash soaked glass.

“What are you doing in here?”

“You remember that ’82 Bordeaux I was so proud of, classier shit than I deserved, and as old as us. It can’t be stored like this for long, so I came here and drank it. It aged better than we did. Then I stayed and drank what I had from ’83. I made my way forward a bottle at a time, drinking through the years of my life, the way I should have done it the first time.” Talking that much really hurt my throat.

Harry held up the bottle we were sharing. “I thought you were gonna save this one for something.”

I took the bottle from Harry, refilled my glass and set it on the table/box between us. It forced me to think of our front man’s funeral, when our guitarist gave it to me. “I was saving it for last.”

Harry grunted. Fishing in the pocket of his sweatshirt, he pulled out a lighter and a thick joint.

I shook my head. “You can’t smoke in here.”

“When did you become the Man? Fuckin’ tell me what I can’t–“

“If they find me, they’ll kick me out.” My heart sped up a notch at the thought.

“You have anything left to sell, any resources at all?” Harry stared at the joint like a fat man at a sandwich, but I saw his bloodshot eyes. He probably hot boxed on the way over, and he already needed another fix.

“I screwed with the paperwork, so I’m in here free until they notice the fake account isn’t actually being charged.” I drank more. If he wanted me to ask him for money, then fuck him.

Harry looked me up and down then took a small swig from the bottle. “So basically, you’re homeless.”

“I’m not homeless.” That came out as a shout, a tiny piece left of my old self. I went quiet, felt my heart racing. “I’ve got a roof over my head.” It was up there somewhere. “And food stamps.”

“Well, food stamps don’t pay for alcohol. What about money? What’cha gonna do without wine?” He was teasing me. “You even tried to get out and do something?”

I did sneak out every few days to empty my bathroom buckets and get food, but that’s not what he meant. I shook my head.

Harry shook his head along with me. “I thought Casimir taught us better than that.”

“Fuck you. You didn’t learn shit from him.” I mimed slapping a bass, my eyes squinting in worthless stoned concentration. “Hey, you guys. You’re going too fast. What — uh, what song is this?” I smiled and leaned back against a case of empty bottles.

Harry shrugged off my teasing. “You’ll see what I learned. I’ve been busy since the band.”

“Me too.” I raised my glass, looking at the empty bottles. “To happier days.” I drained the glass in one long chug.

Harry held up the bottle but didn’t drink. “How about a job?”

“Yeah, right. What’s next, brushing my teeth? That’s the whole reason we toured and stole and scammed, to keep from having to find a job again.” I took the bottle back, pouring the last drops into my glass. “Why’d you track me down anyway?”

Harry had the confused expression I knew from every gig. “I just said, I came to give you a job.”

He pulled out a cheap plastic cell phone. “I’ll text this when I work everything out. Then you go where it tells you.”

“I guess you forgot, we’re not the kind of people who follow instructions.”

“You will be.” His bloodshot eyes gave a serious stare. “You will be.”

“Time for you to go, Harry.” I stood up.

He left the phone on my cardboard table. “Call me Hans. That’s what I do.”

I shook my head again and handed him a box of empty wine bottles. “Take these, like that’s what you came for. There’s cameras in the halls.”

He squinted. “Who’s watching them?”

I raised the rolling metal gate that was almost a quarter of my world. “Just don’t be a dick and give me away.”

Harry was frozen, lost in sadness. “You haven’t… heard from Casimir, have you?”

I shoved him to the door before he made me start thinking about that shit again. “He didn’t fake his death.” The dreams of Casimir coming back to save me were finally gone. “He was too still at the viewing.” I didn’t think anymore about sticking his body with a pin, just to be sure. “He wouldn’t pull that on us.”

Harry stepped into the hallway outside my metal box. “What do we do without him?”

“Nothing. He went out like a rock star, 27, nothing to lose. We missed our shot. 28’s just a bad year.” I pulled the gate down.

Harry’s voice came through while I worked my makeshift lock from the inside. “We have to think about us now, doing things without him.” He didn’t sound too sure of himself.

“Forget it. We’re nothing now.” I took the last sip of my last bottle of wine. “Punk is dead.”

2 references to 0nce Upon a Time

  1. F1rst Contact

  2. Run Sil3nt, Run Sandwiches