The Grape Esc4pe

Storage San Francisco | Oct 23 | 9:07am

Some part of me was conscious, and there was a light inside my sleeping bag.

I couldn’t see with the sleeping bag over my head, but being in it meant my storage space was out there, even if I didn’t remember coming in. I rolled over. The floor rotated farther than I did, and my brain took a second to catch up with the rest of my skull. The alcohol in my stomach swirled. A belch brought a little taste of vomit into my mouth and I hated everything. It was just like the good old days.

The light was still in the bag with me. I tried to reach for it, but I found a wine bottle in my hand. Things started to piece together, but I could stop that. I tilted the bottle up, tenting the material of the sleeping bag with a grating friction sound, and the last drops of wine trickled onto my lips.

The weeks without wine were like the feeling early this year when my girlfriend threw me out on the street, right when I most needed something to count on. I closed my eyes and thought about the times we shared when the band was alive, felt her body lying with me under the covers where we passed out drunk until the afternoon, totally free, together. In the storage space, I held the wine bottle close, but the feeling was gone. The cold empty glass just reminded me what I didn’t have anymore — wine, girl, freedom. The job was still out there, whether I pulled up the covers or not. I moaned in frustration for remembering.

In my other hand was the pay stub Harry made me wait for. Automatic deductions for gas and all the bullshit fees by the company to drive their shitty-ass car left me almost nothing to get drunk on. Harry mighta forgot to warn me about all the fees and shit, but somehow he remembered to subtract the 10 bucks he advanced me on my first day.

What can I do? I can’t bus it, and I’m never gonna be in the kind of shape to take the hills like those bike messengers. If I don’t cooperate, I might turn into a real bum.

No, I might have sunk low, but I’m better than those guys. I’m not pissing and shitting in the street. In the storage space, I have a system. I drink a lot, but I’m no crackhead. I don’t want to sleep in some doorway someplace. I never liked camping, and I don’t want to get stabbed in my sleep for whatever I have on me.

But my way of life is in danger. Somehow, my food stamp claim got cancelled, so out of the tiny check I had to work so hard for, I need to choose between eating and drinking. Was that the company too, part of some epic plan to keep me broke? They have me where they want me. If I don’t keep working for them, I will be a fucking bum.

The light was still there inside my sleeping bag. I groped with my free hand and figured out it was the company phone. The screen was a blur, so I held it near my eye and squinted.

HANS:
Order for Truman. 1 Egg Bagel w/ Peanut Butter & Jelly. Goto 5030 Geary Boulevard.

I saw the time and moaned again. Harry should have known better. We never used to wake up before noon. I’m not a machine.

I missed our band. Between the two of us, we were half of Effective Disorder. We should have been out there again doing whatever we could get away with, heckling at Gilman, bailing on gigs if we didn’t approve of the crowd, living every night like there was no tomorrow. Casimir never backed down from that, all the way to the end.

Fuck. The funeral.

I tried to drink again from the empty bottle. I needed a full one. I wanted to be a punk again, but Harry’s orders had me on a short leash. Time to tell him what I thought of that.

I put a hand down to keep the floor steady. There wasn’t brain power to send a detailed message, so I pressed the 6 button twice then three more times and sent my reply.

winston:
no

I collapsed. That was all I had energy for.

Growing up, I was the only child of a poor single mother. There weren’t hella opportunities presented to me, but I saw trucks pull up and hire grownups the same color as us to work for the day. At 16, that seemed better than school, so I traded up.

But it got old after a few years. The day laborers waited on street corners like prostitutes. Worse, we did it in the hot sun, and we got fucked without getting laid, but there wasn’t an easy way out from there, so I kept doing it, going through life angry.

My frustration didn’t have a goal, but sometimes it felt good to break shit, piss off the boss, lose a job. The next day, pull my hat down, get in another truck.

I met Harry because he was kicked out of some other life, started showing up on the same corners, un gringo puto in a cloud of cannabis he never shared, always one of the last guys waiting to get picked up.

Casimir and the band changed everything. Punk taught me it wasn’t worthless to fight, called me a hero for the one thing I was ever good at, getting drunk and breaking things.

Harry heard about it and wanted to be our manager. Casimir knew what the band needed. He slapped a bass on Harry’s shoulder, and we laughed about how terrible he was at playing it while we let him do all that manager stuff he wanted so bad.

The phone lit up again, Harry’s manager training coming back to bite me in the ass.

HANS:
He told me to fire you if you don’t go.

Harry was a sellout. For that job he was so into, he was stuck in an office. Somebody was using him for their own purposes, and they owned him. I chuckled, and my head spun.

winston:
who says

HANS:
Get the bagel, please?

That was my friend. For all the shit between us, he was the only person in the world who’d fight to keep me employed.

Food stamps were gone. The economy was in recession, but a true punk would fight anyway, figure out some scheme and keep from selling out. I tried the bottle again, but it was still empty.

“Goddamn it!” I staggered onto my feet. The company thought they owned me too, but they didn’t know it was a punk they were dealing with.

I wasn’t in some prison cell of an office. I conned my way into this storage space, and I could con my way out of a job. All the people on their computers let me into their nice houses, and the hatchback had a trunk. They probably wouldn’t notice if I just start taking things.

My stomach grumbled. That bagel sounded tasty, but I had to manage my resources a bit. Food would soak up the alcohol in my system and end up costing me more for the same amount of drunk.

I put on my sneakers, pulled my hoodie over my head and listened to make sure the coast was clear. With enough valuables, I could disappear. I used the wire hanger to unlock my door from the inside.

The hallways of Storage San Francisco are a maze of corrugated metal, lit by evenly spaced florescent lights dangling from the ceiling somewhere up in the darkness. Harry knows where to find me, so I might have to find something else soon, but I keep living here illegally by keeping out of sight.

Out of habit, I must have sneaked in with that wine after cashing my paycheck. I didn’t remember it, but if I wasn’t kicked out already, the Storage San Francisco staff must have still not known about me.

I slipped under the camera at the main T-junction. If I kept against the wall, the camera would only pick up my outline when I went for the exit, and the footage wouldn’t show which direction I came from.

I slipped around two more corners and pressed the elevator button. On the stairs, there was nowhere to hide from the cameras. I made that mistake during my first month in the place and spent three days sleeping on the train before I could sneak back in. I just had to hope it was the elevator on the right that came first. Some punk got drunk and broke the camera in that one, and the management company hasn’t gotten around to replacing it.

The right hand door opened. I got in, licking the last drops of wine off my lips.

I have a focus again. I have an escape plan. Things are going to change.