Buried deep in the Pacific Northwest, under Pearl Jam albums and Randy Johnson jerseys, Ballerball was able to uncover a vast number of writings from Shawn Kemp’s old diary. There are his words.*
May 7, 2012
I sat with tacos in front of me and off to the right was the river and it ran along slowly in the night and made no sound. The lights of the bridge shone in the black water and the yellow-white dots blurred as boats made their way. The waiter brought with him on his tray my beer, a Roughtail, and sat it down in front of me and I thanked him. On the patio of Adelita’s to my left was a group of people around my age, mid to late twenties I’d guess, and they were all laughing and loud. One in a bright Polo the color of Native American jewelry was telling a story of a fight he was in. His hair stood up on the front of his head and laid flat in the back and it looked to be wet as it shined under the patio lights. I think he was lying about the fight.
From inside came music and as I strained to hear the song the breeze hit and a napkin flew to the ground and I picked it up. I took my time finishing the food and ate some chips and sipped my beer slowly while I watched the rest of the Thunder game — thieves. It was the playoffs and they were playing the Mavericks. They closed the game well and Durant was efficient with 32 points on 14 shots to go with 11 rebounds and 6 assists. At one point he dunked on Nowitzki and the German fell down and a person standing along the rail of the patio shouted “bitch”.
When the Thunder won I finished the beer and laid $35 on the table under the beer glass so it didn’t fly away. I grabbed my hat and left Adelita’s and began to walk along the river and it was now a loud night and somewhere above the walk a woman sang. She sounded like Bonnie Rait. I lit a cigarette and smoked it slowly and the smoke curled up off the end and I saw Lada’s up ahead of me. The sign in front was shining a royal kind of blue and behind my glasses it seemed clear and sharp and sure of itself. Inside it was dark, aside from the blue lights strung above the bar and a man in a black Stetson sat on a stool and picked on a guitar from a small stage in the corner of the room. I enjoyed his playing and ordered a beer and sat there at a table for two and was in no hurry to leave. Work was a bore and my I had nowhere to be. I’d not need to be in for a meeting until 10 tomorrow.
I drank my beer and ordered one more and spoke with the waitress some. She was plain looking but there was a softness to her and she spoke well and with great liveliness in her voice. She had a thicker drawl than most and her cheeks had tiny dimples. The man in the Stetson closed out his set and I applauded with the ten or so others that were spread about the bar. The waitress continued smiling and told me of a party in an art space downtown that she was going to visit and asked me to come along. I declined the invitation and she brought me the beer and I sat in the room and listened to the jukebox wake up.
Around one Aidy came in and she was with a tall man — not as tall as me, but still tall — who wore red shorts. They fell to his mid thigh and I thought that funny but didn’t say anything.
Look at you, she said.
Look at me.
Going with a mustache now?
It’s nice. This is Don. He’s going to take pictures of me tomorrow.
It’s for the Night Leaves catalogue.
She’ll have them turning pages.
What time tomorrow, Donny?
Eleven. At the dock off Valiant.
The waitress approached.
Don, I asked, What’ll it be?
Oh, I was just walking her here. It’s beyond my bedtime.
Please. Have one. I’m buying.
I have to be an ass and turn you down this once. Next time. See you tomorrow, Aido. And it was good to meet you…
Yes. Good to meet you.
We shook hands and he left out the door and through the window I could see him get in a cab and head south on Wheeler. Aidy looked at me from across the table and she smiled and we didn’t speak for a bit. When her drink came we touched glasses and she smiled at me and the jukebox played a slowish something I found out later was Stoney LaRue’s “Dresses”.
Outside Lada’s we leaned against the brick wall and smoked cigarettes and talked about going to see a movie together, the street lamps glowing above us, bugs dancing around in the light. Across the street was Antlers and inside I could see people dancing.
My back was wet with drops of sweat and in the dim lighting she seemed sad. On the sidewalk a man passed. He was wearing old Sperry’s and talking on the phone. He smiled and said he was on his way home. To my left were two girls in short skirts with sequins and one was crying and the other was giving advice.
He’s no good, Cali. He’s a bum and he doesn’t treat you well, girl.
You’re not there when it’s just us. He’s so sweet when it’s just us.
They went back inside and I ashed my cigarette on the ground and looked at Aidy and she was staring at her reflection in the front window of a Toyota.
We set a date today, she said.
I said nothing.
March. Spring weddings are nice.
I’m sure it’ll be a great wedding.
Are you sad?
Sad? Nah. Why?
You’re making that face.
That dead one.
I’m good. I’m happy for you.
She went back inside and I followed her. We sat at a table and ordered some Mustangs and the waitress brought them back and we drank them and talked about unimportant things.
The next day after work I had dinner at Conno and then went to The Short Room and sat on the patio. The air was warm and it felt good to sit by myself. The shade underneath the umbrella above the wood table I sat at was nice and I watched the cars go by and would listen to the conversations around me. I looked out to the street with unfocused eyes and the view blurred before me and I imagined things.
*These were not his words.