Patrick McDonough

Angel liked the sound of the word. She liked the weight of it in her mouth, the power of it on her tongue. She liked the images it conjured, the feelings it conveyed. She spoke it like ten thousand feet marching in the street to the sound of bullhorns, she spoke it like an oath, like a battle cry, like a promise. She kept it ready, like a high powered rifle polished and cleaned for use in a book depository or a campus tower. She kept it ready like a lugee that might be spat high into the light of a cold November sky to arc gloriously in a moment of cinematic glory to land upon the face of an unsuspecting and deserving fascist pig on a podium. She liked to march to the word, pamphlet the word, preach it in the street. She liked to irritate, infuriate, instigate and educate with the word.

And she was ready for it, the revolution. She was ready to see the corporate power structure crumble and to see that power turned over into the hands of the masses as the leaders of greed and subterfuge were marched through the streets in shackles to a waiting gallows. She was ready for the sweet change of power, the new world too long in coming. She was ready to raise her fist high in solidarity and freedom, she was ready.

But until the revolution happened she liked to come by my apartment late at night and drag me out to the bars. She would pound savagely on my door with her fist, launching an occasional kick to the metal plate at the bottom and shout out something like “Love doll delivery” or “ Mom, I found Dad and he’s out of prison”

I would open the door and she would be standing there beneath the flickering forty-watt bulb smirking, and smoking one of her ubiquitous long ashed and lipsticked clove cigarettes. Her hair would be a different toxic and cyber electric color from the last time I had seen her and spiked like an alien porcupine going through some kind of Ponfar ritual. She was fond of hopelessly out of style leather jackets and 40’s dresses, union pins and big cheap vintage jewelry, all arranged to accentuate her tattoos and her piercings and her long pale legs in her highly polished combat boots.

And she was sexy, just under six feet tall, dark lipstick and eyeliner, clothespins strategically arranged to reveal just enough pale flesh to lead your eye to the next, her dark hyper observant eyes looking crazed, like Nietzsche’s soul peering from a models headshot. I would step aside and she would come into the living room and collapse onto the couch throwing her boots onto the coffee table. “What a dump” she would say invariably as she looked around. And then she would look me up and down like I was a piece of meat on a stick and she had me.

I would grab my leather jacket, which I really only wore when we went out, and we would head downtown to the bars. She looked right under the streetlights as though she were being professionally lighted for the apocalypse and I couldn’t help but falling behind her a little, following her, to see the Bai Qing tattoo on the back of her neck and to watch her move. I liked the sound of her boots on the pavement, her reflection vanishing and reappearing in the shop windows.

And the walks were always a didactic opportunity with her. She would try to bring me up to speed on the latest information appertaining to the cause, the latest loss of civil liberty or corporate atrocity. There was always someone losing a child due to a decision by a greedy insurance company or a mass layoff that the media had barely covered. There was always the disenfranchised and forgotten, the defenseless and the damned. And I would listen, thinking about the way she walked, the shape of her mouth and wondering what it would be like.

The first place we always stopped was a working class bar not far from city hall. It was the quintessential American dive bar, with torn black button vinyl on the wall and smoked stained mirrors almost everywhere else. It was decorated with regulars who had achieved some kind of fantastic molecular bond with their barstools and guys in short sleeved collared shirts of varying blue with nametags on the pocket. I liked to watch as every head turned as she entered, as we entered. I liked being with her, being a part of her radical ennui, her intentional dispossession. She drew attention, she drew ridicule, she drew jealousy and envy. She was the strange fruit in the garden, the one that repulsed or compelled. She was the edge of the blade you had to test for sharpness.

We would make our way through the smoke and eyes and sit at the same two seats near the end of the bar and order shots and beers. The bartenders always knew her name and always over poured for her. She would take a shot and then take her beer to the jukebox. She had great taste in music and it seemed like there was a secret page on the machine that only she knew about. Soon the shadows of the bar would be infiltrated with Dylan or The Fugs, Peggy Lee, Zen Guerilla, Le Tigre.

As the music swirled slowly with the smoke into darkness, she would come back to the bar take her seat and just listen for awhile smoking and watching the drift and I would watch her drift in the mirror and smoke one her cloves. A lot of people knew her and soon she would be talking to them about any subject. She was well informed and witty and outgoing, all of the things I was not. She would talk about family or work or cars or the latest news and she always managed to bring it around to how the man, the machinery, the dark and greedy substructure of world government was fucking them over. She seemed to know all about everything. Whether it was their mother’s Medicaid or Latin American economic policy or the latest recall not performed by a major auto company, she knew about it. And they would listen because she was often right. She was able to get the respect of the steelworkers and the union men, the homeless and the streetwalkers.

She would get them angry, console them, cajole them, enrage and frighten them and after awhile I believe she could have marched some of them out into the streets in search of a beaurecrat in need of a lynching. She even had me ready to march after a few drinks. She would sit beneath the taxidermy high on the wall and proselytize. A little piece of her time soothed and enraged their disenfranchisement at the same time. She was that that unspoken voice that came to them when they looked at their pay stubs on Friday or paid their insurance premiums, that unspoken voice on the front page of the paper or on the evening news

We would stay at the first place for an hour or two and then head out of the back door to the next. I would watch in the mirrors as they watched us leave and make sure I put my arm around her as they did.

Once out of the back door she would lead me down a series of alleys continuing to talk and I would listen and walk as closely to her as I could. I had to sometimes wonder why she spent these evenings with me. I was a geek, a pencil pusher with an almost nowhere lower mid-management job just waiting to be downsized in a fairly large conglomerate. I was as much the antithesis to her as I could be. She was wild and provocative and strange and I was boring and non-confrontational, main stream to a fault. But she seemed to like me and I felt as though I somehow belonged with her, though only vaguely. I felt sometimes as though she wanted to save me and at other times as though she wanted me to save her.

Or maybe it was because I bought the drinks.

The second bar was up a flight of stairs in an old office building that had been converted to shops. The stairs were covered in red Astroturf, broken glass, teeth, and cigarette butts. You worked your way up the stairs moving in and out of the people on the stairs as they got progressively weirder and closer together until you came to the top and hit the grand hall of the living dead. Nothing but rejects, the weird and the wild. She fit in there and I looked like I was her closeted cousin visiting from the Midwest.

Everything was post-post-modern, post apocalyptic in this bar. Industrial dance beats came at you from every angle until you submitted, began contemplating a poetic death, the purchase of a vampire cape or a love tryst suicide pact. Black lights highlighted graffiti on the wall, some that after further inspection seemed to be written in human blood, and strobes hit long fingerprinted mirrors in rhythm to the music.

We would drink multi colored phosphorescent concoctions in oddly shaped glasses and watch the scene from black round tables on a second floor balcony with a stainless steel railing that overlooked the mass of vampires and dealers and dressed to impress living dead. She knew a lot of people here and they all seemed to speak her language, to be part of her world. We would always sit with a group that looked at me as though I were a narcotics agent or an extremely misplaced Jehovah’s witness until they saw that I was with her. We would sit and talk and occasionally a joint or a small vial would be passed a few times as we continued to drink. There was always a young man and a young woman dancing in glass cages suspended across from us and above the dance floor. There were plastic arms from mannequins attached to the wall above the bar, all of them reaching blindly toward something in the darkness. There were older guys gathered at tables near the rear offering state of the art chemicals and money to young men with pale complexions and eyes that managed to be wise and lost at the same time. There were always couples making out in the one bathroom when I went to take a piss. They would stop to look at me as though I had no business being in the bathroom to use it and then continue.

The bar stayed open late, but at 4 am the lights would come on and we would all spill out into the waiting night drunk and laughing.


On the night that angel kissed me she was loud and she kept stumbling against me. I kept my arm around her waist and tried to hold her up without falling myself. She was shouting the lyrics to a Ramone’s song, I think, and I tried to sing a long but did not know the words.

The mass of wasted, sweaty flesh oozed from the bar and into the street, into the shadows of the buildings downtown. A small vial had made its way around the table multiple times and the lights from the streetlights shot long white needles deep into he darkness and I could feel my hair growing.

Angel looked up at me. Her pupils were wide and wild. To me they seemed like black movie screens. I could see myself clearly in them. I watched myself for a moment and then I moved closer to myself-as she moved closer to me.

Angel kissed me there in the street and I felt her tongue search deeply inside of my mouth as I tasted clove and vodka.

We continued kissing as I pulled her tight against me. I could feel the pins on her shirt drag across me, feel the silver ball on her tongue. We stood there kissing until a police cruiser crawled by, shining a light into the crowd and onto our kiss. Everyone tried to disperse, to act normal as they got the hell out of there. I lost my reflection in Angel’s eyes as she turned to look also. I turned and watched the car as it went by, angry that they had broken our moment together. I was thinking how they had no right when I heard someone behind me shout “Fuck the man!”

I turned to look and it was Angel. She had pulled away from me as I watched them. She had a full bottle of beer that she had managed to get out of the bar in her hand and I watched as it left her hand and soared end to end into the air and onto the windshield of the cruiser. It shattered on the glass, spraying foam and dark liquid across it.

The cruiser stopped immediately with a short and sharp squealing of tires and the red and blue lights were suddenly on and burning into my eyes. Two extremely large and very mustached officers came out of the car and headed towards her. I saw this and for some reason I shouted “run” to her and turned to block the police with my body.

I watched her break into the crowd as the police brought me down to the ground in a crunch of bone on concrete. I was the smallest piece of meat in the equation and I felt punches to my face and kicks to my ribs as they smothered me with their weight. I could see loose change and cigarette butts on the sidewalk as my head bounced on the concrete.

I smelled their breath and tasted their sweat and wondered if I was going to die. Once they had beaten me into a drunken submission they picked me up between them without my feet touching the ground and threw me hard against the trunk of the car. One of them leaned into me as he handcuffed me and I swear he had a hard on.

I looked up from the reflection of the lights in my blood on the trunk of the cruiser and tried to see Angel. There were a few people milling along the street in my blurred vision, watching the show, but I didn’t see her anywhere. I was alone. Angel was gone.

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