All Those Tired Questions

Dennis went into the kitchen to get orange juice, his slippers shuffling along the linoleum.  “Do you want some?” he’d barely called.  Dawn was coming in through the windows with additional tired questions.  You and he had been up all night smoking and talking about music and movies.  You liked him, you really did.  Earlier you and Dennis, along with a bunch of other art types, had watched a movie with an opening shot of a young man sitting on a balcony looking upon the courtyard of a sanitarium for soldiers with PTSD.  The shot was a profile and it seemed it was your face and everyone assumed it was you and so you went along with it telling them you’d been in LA a few years ago and answered a call for extras since you were dating an actress who had an under-five in the same movie.  Most of the people knew her and she was now selling Ferraris over on Melrose.  “Was that really you?” Dennis had asked.  “Well it sure looked like me, didn’t it and if it was me, I don’t remember. Is that possible?”  Dennis had taken a swig of orange juice and said, “Yes, it is…it certainly is.”

You’d met Dennis at a party of actors and musicians just barely hanging on.  He was gay and a composer who mostly did commercials, but he’d also done a few B-movie scores.  He’d wanted to make friends and you thought why not.  He was pleasant enough, but you came to realize he was something of a wax figure, ready to scare you when he unexpectedly shifted his body.  There was dryness about him, like hot sidewalks with unmoving lines, everything waiting in the stillness of his countenance.  He always seemed fragile, impatient and your main memory was of him playing the keyboard and his songs were always sad.

In the beginning, your interest in him was the roommate.  She was a backup singer to some of the big names and mostly did studio work.  She referred to herself as “Dime a Dozen” or DAD and she had long blond hair and was very good looking.  While you were talking to her, Dennis had come over and begun to ask questions about Africa.  He was interested in tribal music.  This group meeting started a short, failed attempt on your part to go to bed with the singer.  You ended up becoming friends with Dennis since the girl was a nonstarter.  She claimed frigidity and “it isn’t your fault, but I just can’t stand the touch of anyone, male or female.”  She slept alone with ear plugs and a mask.  She was an advocate of sensory deprivation tanks and the best you ever got out of her was a cut-rate appointment at the health spa and one hour in the tank.  When you got out, you wondered if people ever masturbated in the tanks and you found out later yes they did.  Evidently it was part of the attraction for some in the sensory deprivation crowd.

A few years later you got a letter from DAD, the backup singer.  Dennis had your US mailing address and she must have found it.

“Hi XXX,

You probably don’t know, so I’m writing.  Please allow me to unburden a few things on you.  Dennis died three weeks ago.  I loved him so much.  I wanted you to know that he wrote a few songs about you.  You probably are unaware of this, but he had a terrible crush on you.  He was unable to express himself, but told me.  He came from an abusive family and was afraid of relationships, particularly if the person appeared to be hetero like you.  Dennis died of AIDS after a short illness.  It was very hard.  I just wanted you to know.  DAD”

You kept this letter, along with the one from the girl with a brain tumor, and the hundred or so from survivors of Nazi and Soviet concentration camps.  You hid them in Kosinski’s bag and you knew someday, somebody was going to throw the bag out and the sun was going to come up once again and ask all those tired questions that no one could answer and then you visualized Dennis kissing you with orange juice on his lips.


4 thoughts on “All Those Tired Questions

    1. Hi A.,

      Yes. I’m looking down at Kosinski’s bag now. It is so old, so scuffed up and the letters inside are meaningless to all save me. Writing Jan and telling her about reading Under the Volcano again and how the characters dribble along in their thoughts and how actions are really secondary to the thinking through of life. I guess that is what makes the book so great. He was able to pull it off and yet he was savaged by some of the critics when it first came out. Depression, anxiety, and alcoholism are so devastating. I wrote once that cancer and AIDs have nothing on depression and anxiety and I very much believe that. The stress of life is killing us and I ended up with Jan by writing, “Evil political actions are the acid bath of humans.” Jesus Fucking Christ. Duke


  1. This one makes me cry. I guess we all have a Kosinski’s bag and sometimes wonder why we open it knowing there’ll be a reminder of why we hate orange juice. In my case, sour cream with cucumbers and roast turkeys. Another haunting piece of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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