There are a gaggle of men who sit outside my first-cousin’s gift store. They are drunk.
I’ve been her assistant during my unintentional 365 day sabbatical in the developing world, i.e. Trinidad & Tobago, i.e. Home, i.e. Nooooo.
It’s a sweet little store, and my first-cousin is a shrewd yet kind businesswoman, she likes kids and other humans and is genuinely nice to everyone that walks in. I’m still on the fence, there have been times she’s practically scotch-taped my frown upside down. Without more elaboration, I am the Eeyore to her Pooh.
I ended up as the right hand when she threw me a bone upon my arrival home in total emotional disarray; caused by my decade scouting the globe, making good decisions and very bad ones. It’s the bad ones that ‘getcha every time you know. Holes in all my clothes, jobless, a gallon heavier and bearing un-medicated clinical depression, I sauntered through her doors with shades on as the future employee of the month. Did I mention she was stalwart and courageous too?
The shop is a burst of fanciful above a greasy-spoon Chinese takeout. Toys for big humans and little ones line the shelves, always with a dash of quirk. I swiftly attached myself to the stool at the front counter, punching in the takings during the day while YouTube-ing, Buzzfeeding and writing in the lulls. It’s in that chair that I banged out many a post on this blog. I’d read them out loud to my cousin while she dusted(my job) swept(yup) or made coffee (job, mine). I’m slightly better now, but what I lack in manual labour I make up for in advertising.
At this impasse in my life, it’s really easy for me to complain and I frequently do, in my head and out my mouth. I’m no good at retail, let’s face it. I worked at a milliner in Oxford for two years and was utter crap. I’m a creative; we’re annoying and unreliable. I’m grateful though. I’d still be in my duvet fort commanding my stuff-toy army towards mutiny if not for cousin Pooh.
But, “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun,” – Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way. Chim chimeneeee, chim chim charooooo…ok I’ll stop.
My fun? The drunks. You see this is the magic of Shakespeare, he wrote from life. The elements of a good story always include the fool character; they weight the reality. Sometimes inebriated but never underestimated. I like to see my drunks that way, happy fools but real and heavy. They’re people who’ve lived, why else would they drink? Those bad decisions man. Pour me a glass.
Anyway, they begin the day with White Lightning; no this isn’t a vitamin supplement or a yoga pose. It’s hard liquor, clear and full of promise. They travel in a quartet but make friends quickly, so the posse grows. There are Saturday regulars as well. Rowdy bunch. The drunks have claimed the small junction the store is on; they inadvertently guard us and the hair salon across the way. Blurry eyes and ears are better than none in our parts. They direct traffic and aid in parking cars, many a foot has been run over and not a feel was felt. Alcohol suppresses all pain.
They are enterprising, selling mangoes and avocados during the corresponding seasons. One time, punching a hole through the store banner to hang a basket. They are pirates, let’s just call a spade a spade, they are street pirates. But, I do worry about them at times, about liver cirrhosis and if they’ve eaten, do they have a warm bed at night, are they ever not drunk, etc. The sun-ravaged leader of the syndicate has titled me already; my alias is “glasses” because I wear glasses.
Daily, he calls out to me in gruff, scratchy yelling; “Glasssehssss.” I’ve never heard any of them speak with an inside voice. They come up to the store sometimes, but we worry about such coordination in a place full of breakables. I have a soft spot for this band of fellows and would be sad if they went away. As I was driving out one day, I heard a tap on my window and lowered the glass expecting rum-soaked gibberish but instead heard, “You as beautiful as the Queen.” Yes, they are permanently wearing beer goggles, and yes, I did not brush my hair that day but still, how sweet and sobering.
So, at this interim, in my frustration and when I hate my circumstances too much, there are moments of ridiculous fancy. The fools do that, in Shakespeare and this life. They slap you in the face with the truth of it all. They live day by day without inhibition and worry. They observe. I’m not saying do as they do and drink your problems away, but borrow a few tenets;
Don’t give a shit what people think, be kind to everyone and work for what you want, be it booze or a life you adore.
Or be a pirate.