Volstead (in the Back Courtyard)

by Tim Gilmore, 5/26/2023

cont’d from Volstead / W.A. Knight Building

Back when I used to drink heavily, I’d sometimes stop back here behind the Volstead for a drink between bouts and I’d sometimes see this younger man up on the fire escape at the back of the abandoned Snyder Memorial Church next door. He had an old-school typewriter and every now and then we’d talk. His hair had grown long, but not in any stylish sense, and though he was a decade or more younger than me, he wore the air of someone who’d just kind of outgrown the world even though he sat right up there on the bright red iron steps, right here at the center of it, surrounded on all sides by the backs of old buildings.

He said he’d seen such things and heard such things too, out here behind the Volstead, with the solitary tree with its reddish bark and the ligustrum strung all year with Christmas lights, said he’d seen clandestine kisses, not always with the labia oris, and that once a young man and woman sat right down here in the wrought iron chairs as she complained about how her male roommates always urinated all over the toilet rim and just then, some young drunk guy in a tie came out and stood right behind them and took a leak against the wall, even nodded his head toward them on his way back in.

I remember I asked him once how often he interacted with people who came out back of the Volstead and he just shook his head. Neither hunter nor hind, he said, he had no problem holding the wind in a net. I recognized the reference and remembered the line: “Noli me tangere.” He nodded, but said he didn’t belong to Caesar either. “I’m my own man.”

“Interactions,” he told me, “are entanglements. I choose to remain unentangled.” I haven’t been back out here in years. I wonder where in the world he’s unentangled himself these days.