There is a little flophouse motel between North Birch and North Ft. Lauderdale Beach Blvd, which is also known as A1A.
Just beyond the edge of the better hotels and resorts like The Ritz Carlton and other pricey names of well polished accommodations, The Seville Hotel and Apartments was tucked inside a mid-block location.
The rooms were small and the walls were terribly thin. The floor was covered in cheap linoleum and from the look of it; the small pink-tiled bathroom with a stall shower and pink toilet had not been updated for quite some time.
The air-conditioner hung poorly in the wall and vibrated throughout the night. I had been there for several days and no one but me had taken the time to clean the room or make the bed. The Seville was far from anything fancy—but the room was cheap and available upon my arrival.To me, that was good enough.
I was in town to see my mother. She had recently been placed in an assisted living establishment in Pompano Beach. She was not well, but she was not terribly ill at this point. My mother was getting on in age and coming close to the evening of her life.
It was clear to me that at some point, my mother would eventually pass. And when she passed, it would not be the five painful diseases in her spine that took my mother from us. In the end, it would be the treatment and pain management that took my mother. I knew this would be the case, and worse, I knew this was just a matter of time.
It was morning and the Florida sun was coming up above ocean. I stood on the beach and watched the waves roll in and crash upon the sand. The sky took on a beautiful orange glow as light spread out across the horizon.
I was slightly north of the better end of town. My hotel was at the line between the better end and the less fortunate side. Nearby, homeless men and women sat in the sand to watch the sunrise as if they were family. And I suppose they were family. After all, they had nothing and no one else but each other.
Meanwhile, I watched the sun come up and began to walk my way southbound along the Boulevard with the ocean at my left and land on my right. As I began walking, I saw Tom. His blue eyes were crackled with the red bloodshot eyes of a drunk after a long night.
I only knew Tom for a few days. And yes, Tom was certainly a drunk.
Tom was the kind of drunk who at one point, I would have hated with all my might. He was the lucky kind of drunk. Tom was wealthy. He had a wealthy man’s tan, a balding head with gray hair shaved down to stubble at the sides of his head. Tom was somewhat unshaven to somewhat of an even stubble about his face and dimpled chin. He was well dressed too. If I had to guess, I would have pegged Tom as a retiree who wished to become a golf pro or a captain on a yacht. He wore a green polo shirt and khaki shorts. Tom wore gold rings and a gold watch around his wrist.
I met Tom on my first night at The Seville. He was sitting in the doorway of his room with a paper cup filled with Dewar’s and playing guitar. Tom invited me to drink with him and discuss the great musicians like Hendrix and Morrison. I respectfully declined Tom’s offer to drink with him. I said, “I don’t drink, but we can still talk about Hendrix if you want to.”
“Well that’s good,” said Tom. “I don’t have much left in the bottle anyways.”
There was little for me to do on my visit to Florida. My mother was not well enough to go very far. She was asleep early and her medication took a toll on my mother’s digestive system. After leaving my mother’s place, I had little else to do but walk the beach and listen to the blue waves pound against the soft white sand.
After a few days of this process, I began my own routine. I woke when the sun woke and found myself walking down the beach before the rest of the tourist crowd woke and infiltrated the sands.
This day in particular, I did the same thing. And there he was. Tom walked over with a paper cup in hand. He called me “Young Kerouac,” because of my writing. He told me, “I may not know much, but I know you have something.”
Tom smelled from the bottle he drank out of and had a fresh scrape on the top of his tanned balding head. Excusing himself, Tom explained, “I had a little bit of an accident last night,” and pointed at the scrape on top of his head.
“What happened,” I asked.
“I had a little bit of an argument with the wife on the telephone,” explained Tom.
Tom was only partially homeless. After years of drinking, fooling around, and verbally abusing his wife; Tom was removed from his home by the Ft. Lauderdale police Department.
“She called the cops on me again,” said Tom.
“Can you believe she did that to me?”
Tom asked, “Where are you off to so early in the morning?”
“I’m just walking,” I said.
“Want some company?”
“Sure,” I agreed.
Tom and I headed south together. He was a man that I would have never liked in my time of addiction. I would have hated Tom. I would have hated his rich life and wealthy clothes. I would have hated that Tom always had someone there to buy him out of trouble. And more, I would have hated that anything and everything to someone like Tom was only as valuable as a price-tag.
In all honesty; I was envious of Tom. Same as I was envious of the homeless men and women that sat together as family on the beach to see the sunrise; I was envious of Tom because he had something I did not. Tom had the ability to wipe away his concerns and fall deeply into the bottom of a Dewar’s bottle. I did not have anything to absorb the blow of seeing my mother in such a sad condition. I had no way to escape. I only had Tom and his paper cup to keep me entertained.
As we began our walk, Tom introduced the conversation which followed.
“Let me ask you something.”
Then Tom put his hand on my shoulder with an expression of curiosity on his face. We paused beneath the growing Florida sun. In the background beyond the tall palm trees near the sidewalk, the sound of waves came rolling in against the shore. Overhead, the seagulls cried their high-pitched scream. And for the moment, Florida was simply a warm and quiet place to be.
“How long has it been since you’ve had a drink?” asked Tom
“More than 20 years,” I said with a smile.
Then Tom asked, “Is that the reason why you call your novels The Written Addiction?”
“Something like that,” I told him.
“It’s not an easy thing to quit drinking,” Tom said while shaking his head. Then he said the one sincere thing that I remember most.
“Drinking is like being in love with the wrong woman. It’s like being in a bad relationship with great sex.”
After his analogy, Tom sipped from his paper cup.
“Only, I don’t know if the sex part is so great anymore.”
We started walking again. Heading passed the tall resorts along the boulevard; we found a place with outside tables. We sat and the waitress came right over.
“Can I get you a menu,” she asked.
The waitress was pretty. She had very tanned skin and green eyes with brown, highlighted hair. She wore a little white skirt with a small peach-colored apron around her waist and a black, short-sleeved, pocket t-shirt.
The waitress was not young, by any means. However, she certainly tried to look young. Her skin was slightly wrinkled and her face had certainly aged. She was pleasant though and well aware that perhaps I was the sober one between Tom and me.
“May I please have the steak with eggs? And some hot sauce too, if you have it.”
“Not a problem,” agreed the middle-aged waitress.
Looking at Tom, she asked, “And for you sir?”
“Can you serve me anything to drink?”
The waitress stalled for a slightly disapproving second. Then quickly, her smile returned as she caught herself. “I’m sure we can find you something,” said the waitress. “Would you like anything to eat?”
Tom was not in an eating mood. His paper cup was nearly empty, and with that came the anxious feeling of, “What now?”
“I read what you write last night,” mentioned Tom.
He asked, “Was that real?”
“it’s real to me,” I answered.
Tom laughed, “I swear, you’re a young Kerouac.”
“Someday, I’m gonna be walking through a bookstore and there I’ll find it, a book written by you!”
He told me, “You got the stuff, kid. Now you just have to do something with it.”
We talked for a short while. Slowly, life began to come to the quiet street. The hotels began to empty as eager tourists took to the beach, which was directly across from us.
I ate my food and Tom drank his drink. We were not friends, but perhaps, we were two people filling a lonely time slot in each other’s lives, which would otherwise be filled with something quite terrifying.
After breakfast, Tom went his way and I went mine. I returned to my small hotel room, which smelled from the food I ate the night before. I could hear the sound of my neighbors through the wall.It was still early, but I suppose it’s never too early for sex.
I tried to ignore the loud moans that came through the wall. I had to keep my head on straight and think clearly. So in order to stay focused, I quickly changed my clothes and then jumped into my small rental car.
My mother was waiting for me. She was not well this morning. She was heavily medicated and slightly nodding off from the strong dosage of an opiate answer to her pain management.
“I don’t feel like myself,” my mother said.
I suppose she didn’t. When I arrived at the doorway to her room, I could see my mother was sitting facing away from me. She was undressed and unsure why.
I asked her, “Ma, are you okay?”
She was mumbling to herself.
“MA!” I shouted.
“What?” she asked as she came back to consciousness.
“Why are you undressed and sitting on your bed?”
“I don’t know,” replied my mother.
“Maybe because I was hot,” she attempted to figure.
I quickly addressed the nurse’s station down toward the beginning of the corridor. I explained who I was and my mother’s condition. They quickly sent someone down to my mother’s room.
“I just don’t feel like myself,” My mother repeated.
“Don’t worry about it, Ma. I’ll come back later.”
I left the home and drove for a while. I went back to have lunch with my mother—only she was sick with bronchitis and coughing up too much phlegm.
“I’m so sorry,” said my mother. She apologized for having me come all the way down to see her sick this way.
“It’s okay, Ma. Don’t worry about it.”
“You get some sleep,” I told her, “And I’ll come back in the morning.”
It was sundown that day. The sky was red at night. I decided to take a walk down the boulevard and stroll along the beach. The street was lively. Mostly filled with tourists, the hookah bars were overflowing with guests sitting in lounges outside the front to the establishments, puffing on hookahs, and listening to soft versions of jazz.
And there he was, Tom, arguing with three women in front of one of the bars about the relevance of blues and the horrible talent of today’s musicians.
Tom had a new scrape on his face. I assumed it was because he fell again. As I approached, Tom’s eyes opened up with excitement.
He pointed at me and bragged to the three women, “See that guy? That’s my friend the author!”
Tom pointed in the face of each woman. “You don’t know him, but I do!”
Then Tom remarked to me while facing the three young women with a strict air of snobbish contempt. “Come on, Kerouac! Let’s get out of here!”
I met Tom’s wife later the next evening. She told me how he abused her. She mentioned how he beat her. With all I had, I addressed Tom to learn his side of the story. He was uncomfortable. Perhaps it was my tone of voice that made Tom uncomfortable. Maybe it was my face pressed up against his that made Tom uncertain of his actions.
Or perhaps it was the fact that I reached down and grabbed Tom by the balls, squeezing them tightly while asking Tom, “Does that make you feel like a man?”
Tom . . .
He was a drunken man who I would have hated in any other circumstances. But the night before this . . . Tom was my friend . . .