Aquarius, and My Name Is Ralph

Photograph by Jose Padua
I’m sitting at a table in a nightclub during
the disco 70s with my friend Paul and his
older friend who’s also named Paul who’s about
five feet tall and is out with a woman in a tight
pink sweater who’s about a foot taller than he is.
Paul No. 2 is probably the smoothest person
I’d ever been in the presence of, or at least he’s

in possession of that cheap kind of smoothness that can
impress an twenty-year-old like me who has no idea
how to be smooth or cool or even just competent
in a place where drinks are served. I’d just finished reading
Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and only then
had I figured out that in most situations saying,
“I just finished reading Crime and Punishment. What do

you think of Raskolnikov?” is not a good pick up
line. Of course, one might say that I’m just not hanging out
with the right sort of crowd for me, and though my mind is
still overwhelmed thinking about the novel and how
Raskolnikov advances from his terrible crime
to develop an awareness of the world outside
of his perhaps self-indulgent sense of alienation,

I’m still incredibly impressed by how Short Paul gets
to have this tall, beautiful woman hanging onto
every smooth and suave utterance of his—things like
“another gin and tonic, please,” and “this song reminds
me of last summer at Myrtle Beach.” I mean, it’s far
short of brilliant and it’s far short of charming and
interesting yet he’s the one controlling the table

like he’s dealing blackjack in Vegas, and he’s the one
with the incredible date, and if he didn’t have
a date when he came in, he was the kind of guy who,
without the tiniest iota of existential doubt,
knew he would have one by the time he left, and I wondered
if I could ever say something like, “Aquarius, and
my name is Ralph,” which for me came out as “Sagittarius,

and my name is Jose,” which when I said it in my head
did nothing but reaffirm my certainty that I
would be spending my life alone, in a prison
of my own making even though I’d never done anything
as horrible as what Raskolnikov did, and who
by the end of the novel somehow ended up
with the virtuous Sonya, but that was where you woke up

while reading the book. That was when you were reminded
that it was fiction. And the song that was playing that night
at the club was by the Floaters, and “Float On” was their
one big hit. And though so many people laugh at the label,
at the idea of a one-hit wonder, as if that’s some
horrible badge of shame, or, if not that, an indication
that someone falls squarely on the pathetic side

of things, I’d always maintained that one hit was more than
most people ever had. What on Earth was wrong with having
just one hit? Not everyone can be like Dostoyevsky
who not only wrote Crime and Punishment but The Idiot
and The Brothers Karamazov among about a dozen other books,
and The Floaters came out of the projects in Detroit to get this
big hit, “Float On,” and I thought that, yeah, it’s hard to get

cooler than that, to keep going takes a lot of work, and
sometimes you had to go so hard you could feel the pain
in every curved surface of your bones, and sometimes you
needed a little bit of luck, and sometimes, when I got older I’d go
through periods when I thought that luck was the only thing,
that like the saying goes it’s better to be lucky than to be good,
and when I was young I never had a moment like that when

I thought that luck might be everything, that it could trump
talent, brains, or even love. But when I was young I was young
for so long, until the world made me learn, made me believe
that one day I had to know it, that I had to feel it, that like
a man who’s let the world beat him down for so long, I had to be
like everyone else, I had to search everywhere, from green earth
to blue sky, to find the things in this world worth killing for.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua. First published in Vox Populi.

4 responses to “Aquarius, and My Name Is Ralph

  1. Haha! ‘So honey what do you think of Raskolnikov?’ Depends on whom you ask if it works.

  2. Jessie Martinovic

    peace, brother

Leave a Reply to shenandoahbreakdown Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s