Princess Copenhagen

There is a tax on gasoline. That’s what Peter reasoned. An excise tax was imposed on the purchase of fuel. Some things can be purchased without tax. There is no tax on caskets. Everyone will know this. Some items are exempt from tax: this was a tax fact Peter knew to be true. There was a flat tax on marijuana but it was bundled in the retail price. Some taxes are inconspicuous but they are present nonetheless. A tax is different than a toll. That’s what Peter knew.

This situation, the tax situation: it could never be resolved. That’s what Peter reasoned. That’s what he told himself to justify the sequence of events that had led him to this day: afraid, alone, without shave or shower, without sleep, behind the wheel of a borrowed car, in the trunk two buttery bricks of Granddaddy Purple, indica euphoria. His passenger in the front seat was a 9mm pistol, cold and coiled. Peter wasn't thinking weapons, he was pondering the tax code, listening to the music on the radio. He was wondering if he would survive the exchange. And that’s when it happened. That’s when he saw her.

He saw her, alive and for the first time, at the side of the highway, her long hair flowing down the curve of her back. He saw her turn and see him, he saw her smile, in her gown of rich purple, in her violet so deep that it grew. He forgot about the delivery. He forgot all of his fears. He looked at her and tasted the sweet as his body went numb. He didn't have to ask her name: it was Princess Copenhagen.

 *                                *                               *

A broiling day in deep Summer, and Maggie lay back on the tile to feel the sun dripping out of her skin. Sweating actual sweat, hot heat & fear and the taste of non-existence even as she opened herself to give new life. The paramedic squeezed her hand harder and told her to push.

The pain had become more intense, interrupting coherent thought, leaving Maggie in a state of only physical awareness. Her face was wound and unfurling and she pushed, could feel the baby move down towards out- the force of life half a mile away. Maggie saw the crowd gathered around her in the diner, customers in shock, their mouths tiny lines, eyes wide and alive. She could hear Nixon on the radio and had a sudden, absurd thought: every word out of that man’s mouth is a lie.

A contraction reaching a crescendo and another thunderbolt of pain. Maggie said, “Fuck.” Her four year-old daughter Tina stepped back, watching the birth of her baby brother, aware that this was alright, this was how it happened, but still in fear of the force that had taken hold of her Mother’s body and mind. The paramedic squeezed Maggie’s tiny hand. “Mommy’s okay, honey,” Maggie said, and the little girl smiled a little, but only because she was supposed to. The customers had formed a solid wall around Maggie, a wall of protection and of pride. The waitress had brought over two dozen of dishtowels to wipe up the puddles of sweat and fluid pooling on the tile floor, and just as Maggie caught her breath the paramedic told her to push again.

She did, her body on fire, her teeth clenching as she roared, outrageous ache in her skin in her bones in her soul. She knew that she was crowning, and that’s when Maggie saw her.

She was sitting at the bar on a stool, a diamond necklace around her neck. She was all alone, sipping from a strawberry milkshake. She was looking out the window, the light from behind her sublime. She swallowed and turned to look at Maggie, and in her eyes an open doorway. Maggie laughed aloud: it was Princess Copenhagen.

*                              *                               *

I was drunk on tequila and beer, too drunk to stand on my own, and I needed to take a piss. I leaned up against the wall of the hotel corridor for balance and I unzipped just in time because a minute later I was pissing on the rug, saying a prayer for the chambermaid who would find it in the morning.

How long had I been out here in the hall trying to find my way back to my room? Ten minutes? Half an hour? The numbers all looked the same, the hotel an endless maze of identical industrial carpet and light wood doors, a maze for tourists and travellers fool enough to leave home.

I came out for ice. I think. Or maybe I was going to get something to eat. My Editor will want to see pages tomorrow and I have nothing. Fuck. I have nothing.

I am nothing.

I zipped up and I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to be back in my room with my tequila and beer, to drink up and push myself even farther down, to take that goddamn laptop with the blinking blank screen and throw it off the fucking balcony.

Yes. If I get back in I will throw the goddamn thing off the balcony. I’ve been looking at the blinking blank screen for too long.

A woman stepped off the elevator and saw me, gave me foul eyes, and that's when I realized I wasn’t wearing a shirt. I'm so fucking sorry... I’m sorry that my nipples ruined your perfect day.

The wench walked off and went into her room- one door I can rule out as not mine. I'm walking in circles, the balcony view revealing floor after floor of paralyzing hotel symmetry, an impossible mathematical constant, and the height of it makes me dizzy. I focus on the floorways and the room numbers. I turn a corner and I’m back at the beginning again. Fuck. What's the point? I can’t write anymore. I can’t do anything anymore. I can’t find my goddamn room. Not a word. Not a word from my finger in months.

I am lost and getting loster. Do they build hotels this way on purpose? If I ever find my room that laptop is dead, mark my words. I need a drink or two. Or nine. I can’t even find the piss stain to use as a landmark. I am out of control. My Editor is going to ask some interesting questions.

Let him ask.

I will throw the laptop off the balcony and drink until I’m dead or happy. I’ll just cancel the meeting tomorrow. Tell my Editor I'm sick and try to postpone it again.

Wait- is this my room? Card slides in.... and light goes green! Fuck yes. Oh, I’m never leaving this room again. The bottle of tequila on the counter makes me smile, but first there is a job to be done.

Fucking laptop at my workstation, patiently waiting, the cursor cursing my life, grinning at me in empty mirror, mocking my lack of potency. Let's see the goddamn thing smile with a smashed motherboard. Let's see you smile with broken circuits and spiderweb screen. Fuck you! I grabbed for the laptop, and that’s when I saw it. Something I had written something before I went out, something to come back to, two simple words on a page: Princess Copenhagen.

And I smiled.

And I started to cry.

Because I knew I’d be okay.

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