A Man Poem by Charles Bukowski

A Man
Charles Bukowski
George was lying in his trailer, flat on his back, watching a small portable T.V. His dinner dishes were undone, his breakfast dishes were undone, he needed a shave, and ash from his rolled cigarettes dropped onto his undershirt. Some of the ash was still burning. Sometimes the burning ash missed the undershirt and hit his skin, then he cursed, brushing it away. There was a knock on the trailer door. He got slowly to his feet and answered the door. It was Constance. She had a fifth of unopened whiskey in a bag.

“George, I left that son of a bitch, I couldn’t stand that son of a bitch anymore.”

“Sit down.”

George opened the fifth, got two glasses, filled each a third with whiskey, two thirds with water. He sat down on the bed with Constance. She took a cigarette out of her purse and lit it. She was drunk and her hands trembled.

“I took his damn money too. I took his damn money and split while he was at work. You don’t know how I’ve suffered with that son of a bitch.” ”

Lemme have a smoke,” said George. She handed it to him and as she leaned near, George put his arm around her, pulled her over and kissed her.

“You son of a bitch,” she said, “I missed you.”

“I miss those good legs of yours , Connie. I’ve really missed those good legs.”

“You still like ‘em?”

“I get hot just looking.”

“I could never make it with a college guy,” said Connie. “They’re too soft, they’re milktoast. And he kept his house clean. George , it was like having a maid. He did it all. The place was spotless. You could eat beef stew right off the crapper. He was antisceptic, that’s what he was.”

“Drink up, you’ll feel better.”

“And he couldn’t make love.”

“You mean he couldn’t get it up?”

“Oh he got it up, he got it up all the time. But he didn’t know how to make a woman happy, you know. He didn’t know what to do. All that money, all that education, he was useless.”

“I wish I had a college education.”

“You don’t need one. You have everything you need, George.”

“I’m just a flunkey. All the shit jobs.”

“I said you have everything you need, George. You know how to make a woman happy.”

“Yeh?”

“Yes. And you know what else? His mother came around! His mother! Two or three times a week. And she’d sit there looking at me, pretending to like me but all the time she was treating me like I was a whore. Like I was a big bad whore stealing her son away from her! Her precious Wallace! Christ! What a mess!” “He claimed he loved me. And I’d say, ‘Look at my pussy, Walter!’ And he wouldn’t look at my pussy. He said, ‘I don’t want to look at that thing.’ That thing! That’s what he called it! You’re not afraid of my pussy, are you, George?”

“It’s never bit me yet.” “But you’ve bit it, you’ve nibbled it, haven’t you George?”

“I suppose I have.”

“And you’ve licked it , sucked it?”

“I suppose so.”

“You know damn well, George, what you’ve done.”

“How much money did you get?”

“Six hundred dollars.”

“I don’t like people who rob other people, Connie.”

“That’s why you’re a fucking dishwasher. You’re honest. But he’s such an ass, George. And he can afford the money, and I’ve earned it… him and his mother and his love, his mother-love, his clean l;ittle wash bowls and toilets and disposal bags and breath chasers and after shave lotions and his little hard-ons and his precious love-making. All for himself, you understand, all for himself! You know what a woman wants, George.”

“Thanks for the whiskey, Connie. Lemme have another cigarette.”

George filled them up again. “I missed your legs, Connie. I’ve really missed those legs. I like the way you wear those high heels. They drive me crazy. These modern women don’t know what they’re missing. The high heel shapes the calf, the thigh, the ass; it puts rythm into the walk. It really turns me on!”

“You talk like a poet, George. Sometimes you talk like that. You are one hell of a dishwasher.”

“You know what I’d really like to do?”

“What?”

“I’d like to whip you with my belt on the legs, the ass, the thighs. I’d like to make you quiver and cry and then when you’re quivering and crying I’d slam it into you pure love.”

“I don’t want that, George. You’ve never talked like that to me before. You’ve always done right with me.”

“Pull your dress up higher.”

“What?”

“Pull your dress up higher, I want to see more of your legs.”

“You like my legs, don’t you, George?”

“Let the light shine on them!”

Constance hiked her dress.

“God christ shit,” said George.

“You like my legs?”

“I love your legs!” Then george reached across the bed and slapped Constance hard across the face. Her cigarette flipped out of her mouth.

“what’d you do that for?”

“You fucked Walter! You fucked Walter!”

“So what the hell?”

“So pull your dress up higher!”

“No!”

“Do what I say!” George slapped again, harder. Constance hiked her skirt.

“Just up to the panties!” shouted George. “I don’t quite want to see the panties!”

“Christ, george, what’s gone wrong with you?”

“You fucked Walter!”

“George, I swear, you’ve gone crazy. I want to leave. Let me out of here, George!”

“Don’t move or I’ll kill you!”

“You’d kill me?”

“I swear it!” George got up and poured himself a shot of straight whiskey, drank it, and sat down next to Constance. He took the cigarette and held it against her wrist. She screamed. HE held it there, firmly, then pulled it away.

“I’m a man , baby, understand that?”

“I know you’re a man , George.”

“Here, look at my muscles!” george sat up and flexed both of his arms.

“Beautiful, eh ,baby? Look at that muscle! Feel it! Feel it!”

Constance felt one of the arms, then the other.

“Yes, you have a beautiful body, George.”

“I’m a man. I’m a dishwasher but I’m a man, a real man.”

“I know it, George.” “I’m not the milkshit you left.”

“I know it.”

“And I can sing, too. You ought to hear my voice.”

Constance sat there. George began to sing. He sang “Old man River.” Then he sang “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” He sang “The St. Louis Blues.” He sasng “God Bless America,” stopping several times and laughing. Then he sat down next to Constance. He said, “Connie, you have beautiful legs.” He asked for another cigarette. He smoked it, drank two more drinks, then put his head down on Connie’s legs, against the stockings, in her lap, and he said, “Connie, I guess I’m no good, I guess I’m crazy, I’m sorry I hit you, I’m sorry I burned you with that cigarette.”

Constance sat there. She ran her fingers through George’s hair, stroking him, soothing him. Soon he was asleep. She waited a while longer. Then she lifted his head and placed it on the pillow, lifted his legs and straightened them out on the bed. She stood up, walked to the fifth, poured a jolt of good whiskey in to her glass, added a touch of water and drank it sown. She walked to the trailer door, pulled it open, stepped out, closed it. She walked through the backyard, opened the fence gate, walked up the alley under the one o’clock moon. The sky was clear of clouds. The same skyful of clouds was up there. She got out on the boulevard and walked east and reached the entrance of The Blue Mirror. She walked in, and there was Walter sitting alone and drunk at the end of the bar. She walked up and sat down next to him. “Missed me, baby?” she asked. Walter looked up. He recognized her. He didn’t answer. He looked at the bartender and the bartender walked toward them They all knew eachother.

***

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