My Heart is in Havana...
...as any sane person's would be. My brain, too. Good heat all day. Cuba Libres in a shaded bar. Fine, earthy, thigh-rolled Coronas to smoke on. Maybe even some dirty exotic sex in a cheap hotel room - the ceiling fan going, the blinds drawn, music down in the street, chilled beer in the mini-bar. Anonymous. The best kind. The only kind, really.
The reality is something else. The body is here, where it's always been. Coldwater rooms. Low income jobs. Sometimes a woman. Usually those on the tail end of things, like me. The ones who've stopped trying to find something special. Who'll settle for what's left. The mad, bad, embittered, diseased, lost. They don't care any more about the varicose veins, the cellulite, a few extra pounds here. Neither do I. I'll take hair in places it shouldn't naturally be. I won't turn them away. There's always drink, too. It's universal. It's easy to come by. It doesn't let you down like people do.
But you can always dream. And you take your cues from wherever you can in life. Even if it's the words of a lousy pop song.
The thing is, at my age, I'm settled with it. It doesn't get easier as you go along - things give out on you - but it's gets less messy in other ways. There are fewer choices that need making. You don't get hung up on the stuff you used to. You can take it as it comes. People are still a pain in the fucking arse, but that's always been the case. They tend not to notice you anyway, fixed as they are on their screens, like they're staring into the portal of their own annihilation. Therein all secrets lie hid. All of life, and death as well. In the end, what you know, you know, and is probably all you need to know. What you don't know isn't worth knowing any more. Same with people. You accept it. You get by. On a wing and prayer, maybe - but that's good enough. Let those with the years still ahead of them worry about looks, money, ambition. I just want to die in my sleep after a good session. Preferably after a good screw, too.
It's the same with Ed in the flat two floors down. We're in that waiting room together. He's a couple of years behind me - but it doesn't make much difference at our age. We're both waiting for the same train. Which station comes first: Retirement or Death? When he's had enough of those four walls and 100 mindless channels, he taps on the radiator pipe with a spanner. Two to see if I'm in. Three to see if I want to go to the pub. One for yes, two for no in reply. One's usually all that's needed. I meet him on the stairs on the way down. The usual exchange.
"Have you got any money?"
"No. Have you?"
"We'll figure it out somehow."
We walk along the darkening front, heads down against the wind and spray off the sea. The pier stretches out across the thundering waves like a runway for suicides. Rubbish and shit clog the gutters. This isn't anywhere close to Havana.
The North Pole is quiet, and there's a blues tune playing low. We perch at the bar and our pints are there, with whisky chasers. No need to ask. We're old enough to be predictable.
We sit quietly as we drink. I'm not a big one for people, and like my own company. Ed's on a level, though. Sometimes it's okay to be alone with someone else (some marriages are like that, I've heard). He's heavier than I am, and it isn't muscle. He looks older, too - jowly, dark-eyed, hair greyer than ash under his cap. He's an educated man. Philosophy degree. He works for the council, on the street-clean team. The seafront is his beat.
He rolls himself a cigarette - his eyes fixed on the task, like he's inspecting a diamond for flaws.
"What's the answer then, Harry?"
I throw back the scotch.
"Depends on the question. What's the question?"
He puts the number behind his ear, ready.
Even so, we sit and ponder it.
Meantime, the song changes. Pool balls click together softly in the next bar. Outside, the elements keep up the fight.
Elsewhere in the world, other things were happening. Tigers were hunting. Trees were sprouting buds or shedding leaves. Dead bodies were mouldering in their graves. Fires were burning. Dung beetles were pushing lumps of dung around. Grass was growing. People were fucking. The stars were moving overhead - their ancient lights scattered across the firmament like coke on a blackboard. The universe was expanding. Clocks were ticking. Time was moving on, as it always had.
Sooner or later, it would catch up with us all.
It was okay. I was ready for it.
Meantime, there was always this.
Whatever it was.
It wasn't Havana. But after a few drinks, it would do.