The problem with spell check is I never learn my lesson. Never feel regret or remorse for butchering the spelling of esential
. And when I stop and think about it, my whole life has become about a misplaced vowel or missing consonant.
Tradition is a word you see a lot on the back of wrestling t-shirts. Words like tradition. Or bravery. Or commitment. Persistence. Perseverance. Never a word like party, always a word like potential. And I think the way I got into this whole mess was by not living life like the back of a wrestling t-shirt, not living life like a brave all-american boy. Using spell check too much. Never actually picking up a dictionary for myself, falling in love with the quick way out.
So when I stop and think about it now, it is not all that hard to understand why it feels like I’m on the ground with a boot in my mouth. Not that I actually am. The boot is everything I ignored for so long, here to pay me a visit in a bad way. The boot is the guest in my little undisturbed house of comfort. Pride, power, the will to fight, all staying in the guest room. Next to the bathroom. Down the hall from the kitchen. Steel toe removing my teeth two at a time.
Maybe if I had earned my bullshit instead of being lucky. That’s why people used to hate me. People like Nick Ferris, a guy I used to know in high school. Hated that I was happy, had a girlfriend and smiled a lot. He knew like me that I didn’t really deserve it. People hate me for different reasons. Now I can’t even remember what happened to Nick.
It all started before I was in high school. For a long time, people didn’t know I was an asshole. Didn’t know the things that went on in my head. They thought I was just the kid I had always told them I was. For years only a few people knew, but that number grew slowly at first and picked up speed like a revolution.
It all came undone when I shaved my head. Ever notice how an extreme change in physical appearance can make you feel like a different person? That’s why about that time, about 3 months ago now, I was wondering who I would be without my face. That sounds strange to say, but saying “there lies a thin line between genius and insanity” sounds just as strange. To me, anyway. So there I was in the winter wind, no hair on my head and a seed of revolt in my pocket.
It was a flask of Southern Comfort. The seed of revolt, I mean. Being drunk all the time really made people start to think differently about me. They don’t really see the guy I tell them to see anymore. The funny thing about being drunk is how it doesn’t really matter what people think about me. Everything gets left for later, for the next hangover that’s sure to come.
My girlfriend is on the phone telling me that she is going to call me later, so don’t do anything crazy like go to sleep or take anymore shots. I attempt humor and hang up the phone. I’m alone again without her, and I can start to get nervous when I’m alone, so I pick up this book. A Catcher in the Rye it’s called. I read half of it a few weeks ago but haven’t been able to finish it. I can’t get past the part where the guy in the book doesn’t have sex with this hooker, but offers to pay her anyway. That’s not what gets me, though. The pimp comes up to his hotel room later and beats another $5 out of him. That pissed me off so much I swore I could have gotten in another fight. Right then and there, if I hadn’t been alone.
The truth is when I get mad like this I don’t feel so alone. Same with drinking, for that matter. Those two things. They seem to make it all better and they go hand in hand. Alcohol and anger. I like to think I’m not like every other muscle-bound 19 year old who gets drunk and beats people up, though. I like to think I get madder. And drunker. But most of all I like to think the things I get really pissed off about are more important than things they do.
I’m always seeing guys getting in fights over the same old shit like girls and money. It’s funny how that stuff won’t get me into a brawl. Except for the $5 that the pimp stole in the that book. Let’s just say I get mad about more important stuff. Like TV. When I’m drunk and start to think about all the millions of people controlled by that little box I get so mad I feel like I could punch a hole right through Rosie O’Donnell’s face. With all her happy fake bullshit.
Original thoughts I have always start out great but the longer I think about them the more unoriginal they seem. It’s like an idea comes to me and then gets dragged down by TV and pop culture. That’s exactly what happened when I shaved my head. I had an original idea to reinvent myself into someone who just didn’t care about the small stuff anymore. But the more I thought about it, I decided I needed to cuss a lot and wear tight black muscle shirts. Where did that come from? The society view of macho.
My girlfriend calls back and it takes me by surprise. Getting myself all worked up again I ripped my copy of that book in half. I might never finish it now. She tells me she wants to spend time together, and she decides I’ll meet her at her house at 10:30. I know what she wants. “Quality time.” I’m not really in the mood tonight, but I got an hour to kill so I’ll murder it with alcohol.
Glass bottle, floating in my hand and drifting to my lips. Getting drunk to me now is second nature, like a boxer fighting or a cop lying. What is it tonight? Cheap vodka, Popov. The kind of discount hard alcohol they sell in Circle K’s. Ever noticed that? Behind the counter those tiny bottles of every type hard alcohol. Your 5oz of whiskey. Your 5oz of peppermint sissy drink. Tonight it’s 64oz of Popov, the giant plastic jugs that only come from supermarkets. Or maybe straight from hell if you believe my old church. Another shot shoots down my throat and I get this mental picture of satan himself rolling whiskey barrels into trucks. Next stop earth. Temptation to all the underage girls and boys. Crutch to old homeless guys with a sob story.
It still hurts when I drink, the first few shots make me bleary eyed and broken. But then the buzz (and the rest is well known to man).
I walk out the door and down the stairs tripping and spinning, cussing and laughing. No notion of time or direction and I decide it is time to meet my girlfriend. I also decide that to get there, I am going to hitchhike across the city. That idea came from reading too many books, I want to be On The Road. And so here I am, thumb up on a city block, the lone self-righteous Sal Paradise against the night. A car passing, blurry tail lights, rear end red mess. Brighter color as they stop and I jog to catch up.
“Where are you going?” voice from black interior, window rolled down.
“Washington and 5th.”
And then I am in the car, sitting shotgun in a shitty white Ford Tempo, the most generic car in a world of generic things. The smell of cigarettes and funk, someone had spilled bong water on the floorboards under my boots. We pull away and it’s Downward Spiral playing softly. Two in the backseat and one to my left, no attempts and idle conversation, although looking back that probably would have been a good idea.
The music took me away and it wasn’t until I felt the knife at my ribs from the backseat did I realize this wasn’t the best idea I had ever had. They want the wallet and who knows what else they’ll take, I’m numb. Passing under the lamp posts, flashes of light, I look at them: the driver, baseball cap pulled low not revealing the eyes. Between posts, darkness, the high pitched voice from behind holding the knife screaming something about wallet and death. My head turns to the other in the back seat, in the second of light I notice his pupils, wide and dark like sin, a smooth voice cooing about something, he’s candy flipping. Fucking junkies with their pock marked arms and weak chemical controlled minds.
More screaming, I’m confused. They won’t understand I have no wallet and they won’t accept karma. I have no time to explain to them about shaving my head and leaving it all behind but the bottle. The screaming starts to hurt all over and I feel warm. It’s a protective liquid pooling, comforting me. I smile, it all doesn’t seem as important. Everything stops.
No more alternating light and dark from the lamp posts, I sit in the passenger seat and nothing moves. The nintendo generation would say it was like pausing the game. My beautiful thoughts continue to flow.
It suddenly becomes clear that everything in the past few months had been bullshit. “Fuck the world” had been a cop out and I was just a scared kid in a muscle bound body. I had thought that shaving my head would change who I was and would absolve me of responsibility, but it hadn’t. I no longer felt like being drunk, I felt like I wanted to go home. To thank my mother for my childhood. To run. To swim. To live. It all started to fade to white and I knew every last thing I had done wrong with my life. Hindsight is 20/20, it was all over now, taken away by a drink and a knife. Life had been an opportunity lost.
about this story:
I wrote parts one and two on 1/21/01 during the same frenzy that produced I never thought I would node this. I wrote part three 3 months later. I don’t know what to think of this. It is scatter brained and shitty, but has potential. It needs an editor (in the literary sense, not an e2 editor) and a better title, if you want to hack it up, drop me a line.