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I was walking along C Street Downtown, past the Fish Joint, closed now for hours. It was around 11 pm. I was unable to sleep: tossing, turning, thinking of Sartre and my own lingering alienation (decades now) in my converted hotel room -- a kind of real-life imitation of some artful movie-set flophouse, lacking only a bare lightbulb suspended from the middle of the room, maybe a revolver on the cigarette-stained nightstand and a half-full bottle of cheap bourbon. Maybe lacking, as well, a stuttering neon sign just outside the third-floor window: O-T-E-L.

I gave up trying to recall my once-memorized chapters of Sartre's Troubled Sleep, threw my raincoat on, turned my collar to a wind that was not there, thrust my fists deep into the pockets, and followed my nose and the scent of jacaranda along the trolley tracks. Stopping into a pub on Sixth, I stood in the doorway and scoped out the bar-sprouting snap-brimmed hats hunched over shots and beers. A hostess leered wantonly at me (an uncanny resemblance to my mother) and extended a menu, asking me, "How many are you, sir?"

"One," I told her, saying nothing of the legion of warring demons within me. In my trenchcoat pocket, my fingers had closed around the empty prescription jar for my antidepressants. It had been over a week now without them, which might have explained why the O'Doul's she poured me looked like the excrescence of the post-industrial and electronic culture that suffocated me daily.

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