Sleeping with Bukowski

10 months ago Shaili Desai 0

A one night stand – It was supposed to be just that, I swear! I swear it upon the first book that I ever read (a hardcover copy of Nancy Drew and The Mystery of the Old Clock), the fresh smell of earth when it rains and the not–really-red-but-crimson lipstick that I love.  But then I remember what I tell myself after each breakup – love is complicated.

It was the end of summer when I first saw him in a big shiny mall in the heart of the snobbish part of town, many many years ago. I was hanging around a bookstore with the hope of picking up somebody. Yes, I do that – I am what you call a bookstore slut. Bookstores excite me, turn me on. My preferences vary according to my mood. I eyed many a guy that day (in no mood for women) but they all seemed boring. I wanted some passion, a mind-gasm.

Bukowski was sitting simply near a pile of Classics and a shelf with 90’s fiction. Although the whole setting was quite nondescript, he shone amidst the others. He was an unassuming fellow and looked and smelled of Las Vegas – he had that air around him. To put things into perspective, he also seemed adequately stacked to interest me further. 

Casually I strode in to the section and tried to catch his attention. Somehow I had the instinct to run a slow hand through his spine. He must have heard my whispers – carefully perfected to sound sexy instead of creepy. Of course, I was soon walking out of the store with Charles Bukowski. Obviously, we went straight to my home.

He was a talker, that one. I soon came to know he worked as a mail carrier in Post Office. He spent some days and some nights with a lot of whiskey. On some occasions, it was beer or wine. On most occasions though, it was a hazy mix of all three, and sometimes more – depending on what he could find. For some strange reason, he was more comfortable calling himself Henry Chinaski.

Going to bed with Bukowski was messy and complicated. The first time, he was uncouth and brutal in his love making. He was easy to read but difficult to swallow, if you get what I mean. Bukowski disgusted me. I hated him – hated him for his misogynist ways. There was nothing charming about this guy. At the same time, he was intelligent and said the damnest things (when they weren’t misogynist). I could not make out – did I love him or hate him – somehow, I had realized that there would never be in-betweens.

And then I saw him again, in another book store. He was there with Ham on Rye, and looking the same, almost. There were subtle differences that somebody who knew him could only understand. There was an air of vulnerability around him and he looked younger. In his mind, he seemed to have gone back in time. He talked more about how he grew up but he was still pretending to be Chinaski. He was looking for an ideal man but found none in real life. All he had was himself and the heroes in his books. I started understanding him more but still did not internalize why he needed to be such an arse. While that was interesting, he’d started to bore me.

Now, he’s come back into my life with Women. I am not sure why I let him in. Perhaps I wanted closure – to finish what I’d started. Or foolishly, I thought he was redeemable. Perhaps I wanted to be done with this Henry Chinaski and wait for the real Bukowski. Maybe, I wanted to move on – I really do not know. But he hadn’t changed, although he had become a poet now.  

When I said back with Women, it wasn’t a joke. He was all about women now. I was angry with all the women who subjected themselves to the abuse. It seemed as if they didn’t expect anything better in life. I guess Bukowski does that to you. He makes you relish the life of the lowly and the decrepit, the immoral and the shameless, the bohemian and the drunk – at the cost of glamorizing the perversion and the debauchery. He makes you abhor a good life, probably because we are all so tired of trying to be good. His honesty is refreshing and his books are existentialist, albeit not your regular kind of existentialism.

I still take Bukowski to my bed on and off. I cannot decide whether I love him or hate him, yet. I have a feeling, I never will.