I have a new job. It’s better than my old one, and the one before that and before that, back to time immemorial, infinity-mirrored. Better than all of them, though they’re all really the same aren’t they, a series of times and tasks and more or less logical parameters, more or less sensible expectations, day-framed? This one is killing me already—or they all are, cumulatively. I tell people—including myself—that this one is a good one and then I make all the careerish grunts and hand gestures and brow furrowings for earnestness and everyone goes that’s good to hear, that’s good news and they mean it. It’s nice of them. But I live in the fragile world of my dreams, and when that world is in my pocket and I’m at work, I don’t find it so nice. But of course I don’t tell them that because, again, they mean it.
A few months shy of four years, that’s how long the last job lasted, and that was a record, by about two. Where will I be in a few months shy of four more? I wish they’d asked me that in my interviews. Where, sir, do you see yourself in 1,308 days? I would’ve appreciated that. That’s another thing about me.
My friend’s dog is dead, and so are both of mine. They died within sixteen months of one another, ages nearly 12 and nearly 13, respectively. The second was last year. I was devastated, crushed like a little boy because I crush easily. And we’d been through so much together, those pups and I. He’s devastated too, my friend, I think, has to be. His made it for 15 years—15 years. Got him when we were in college. An ex-girlfriend of his who became a love of mine, she got him the dog. When he was a puppy he (dog) apparently objected to beer because he would bark and lunge at open cans on the floor like they were snakes or badgers or something generally dangerous and unfamiliar. Maybe it was just the shit beer we drank back then. Maybe I should’ve barked at it too. Anyway, once this was discovered, we’d occasionally put an open can in the middle of the room at my friend’s apartment, five or six of us sitting around doing all the important stuff college guys do, and laugh our asses off while the dog would go nuts, circling and barking his stupid puppy bark, and we’d open more cans of our own and pass bong and/or blunt and laugh some more.
I got my dogs less than a year later, also through the same girl, who by then I was dating. Living with, in fact. Seems quick, yes? Especially for college kids—I was twenty-one, so was she. A week apart, our birthdays were, and of course we took that as another bit of evidence of our sublime soulmatedness. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we were wrong about that. It just didn’t last; our souls wearied, and we drifted into strange patterns and habituations that became louder than we were, overtaking and drowning us out, leaving love for the person known and days shared but flame extinguished. We were a moment in time, in life, a seven-year blink, when it comes down to it. And I will never forget. Us against the world, just us, and no one knew what we knew or felt what we felt. Funny how a link forged (at least in part) by a powerful and powerfully shared sense of dissatisfaction can later break because of it.
I am divorced, so I have an ex-wife too, along with my dead dogs and ex-soulmate. Three years we were married, and she loved me like crazy, like you couldn’t even imagine, like I was everything, but I was unhappy and lost and I freaked out about myself and my life and all its routines and closing doors and fell some kind of madly in love with someone else, with whom I eventually and abruptly cut off all contact because “what we had” was borne within discontentment and secrecy and pain and heartbreak and it had to stop because nothing truly good could ever come of that. I’m tired of explaining it, tired of rehashing, so I’ll leave it there. For now.
My friend—that same friend—also has an ex-wife. Not sure how long his lasted—maybe five years? My ex-wife and I were at his wedding, before she was wife or ex, and he was the best man at mine. We’ve known each other since we were eight or nine years old, this friend and I; we’re both only children, although I have a half sister who’s a good deal less than half my age. We just round up so we can call her a half. I consider him my brother, and consider her my sister, naturally, regardless of the fact that he and I have different parents and she and I different mothers.
At length my friend and I have discussed how bad we are at the game of life because we can’t stop thinking about it, obsessing over it, marveling at and distressed by what’s so strange and terrible about it, this life thing with all its uncertainties, vagaries, deceptions, beauties, confusions, transformations, mysteries, pains. The best either of us can ever really do is distract ourselves and put on a good—or good enough—show. I think we both feel duped, like we signed up for a trip to Benidorm and ended up in Delaware. And we’re starting to wonder if Benidorm was ever any more real than Santa Claus. Delaware, on the other hand, is actual and factual, all too.
Which brings to mind: I’m quite possibly one of the slowest people you’ll probably never meet. Not slow as in dim—usually—but slow as in dawdling, ponderous, and very nearly always late. Late to show, late to see, late to figure. I don’t hurry, or don’t hurry well, unless it’s into love, or some other impassioned circumstance or notion. Things don’t typically go well when I hurry—I make a mess, and feel like one too. My friend shared an article recently about how unpunctuality is a sign of an optimistic nature, hopefulness. I believe that, but only if it means we’re hopeful that if we wait long enough and go slow enough things will finally be different and we’ll get the fuck out of Delaware.
I don’t go out, and I disappear. I am reclusive, and somewhat known for it, by the handful of people who’ve gotten close enough to find out. Ok, maybe more than a handful—baker’s dozen? Facebook says I have more friends than that but I’m pretty sure facebook takes everyone’s actual number of friends and multiplies that by approximately 700 so we all end up looking (and surely feeling) loved and important. I don’t ever really go on facebook, though, so I guess it’s a fairly accurate representation of my connectedness to the world most everyone else seems to live in, even people I respect. The world of the concrete, of accumulations, of ideologies defended, of mysteries debunked and strategies employed, of cat pics and real-time updates about whatever has clogged the sink, of the same same same.
The other day at the gym after work, after a week of work and work’s bombardments, I was likewise bombarded by some vague acquaintance who wanted to shoot the breeze. About work. After work. In the gym. On a Friday. About his water treatment business, so I came to learn, the business he inherited from his mom and revamped (what is vamping and how does one re it?). And he was one of those engage-with-you-so-they-can-talk types. He studied rock collecting or something at a top-tier school, and isn’t it funny how we end up doing something completely different, like water treatment. Yes, it’s funny. It’s funny how I was an English-turned-anthro major with designs on an academic life because I wanted (still want) nothing more than to read and converse and ask questions and consider answers and read some more and then maybe go sit a in a pub and talk theory with pretty, smart girls, funny how that was me but now I work in an office—a new one, that is—from nine to five and go to the gym afterward and talk to people I don’t know about the water treatment business and how sales are made. I think that’s funny.
That world is why I stay away, stay home, keep to myself. As much as possible, and still not enough. And because I write, or want to write, considering I am as yet unpublished and have not even submitted a manuscript or essay or story or parchment or scroll or post-it note for publication. Maybe I should tweet that I’m a writer and it will come true. But I don’t have a twitter account so there goes that. I’ll just ask Santa Claus. Maybe he’ll know why I write best when I feel near crazy, but not quite, just near.
So, what about love? I’m over it—that’s what I tell myself, sometimes, stubbornly, when I’m tired of feeling numb to it, like I’ve lost an understanding of it, broken something in myself or maybe just exhausted what I had always assumed was a renewable resource. Yes, yes, woe is me, I know, isn’t it all so sad. Actually it is, or I am, and often. It’s sad to be without love, worse to think you’ve lost it, and worse still to feel your love box is broken.
I remember sitting in the basement of my friend’s house—another friend—when we were probably seventeen or eighteen. His basement—his parents’ basement—was a hangout spot, unfinished, with old, comfortable furniture, a tv, turntables and stereo and computer. We’d listen to music down there, watch movies, play video games, drink (if we could sneak some booze in), get high (if we were careful), and joke and talk and shoot the shit. But this time we had girls, one a friend of his and the other his friend’s friend, and she was gorgeous, I mean drop dead. And interested in me. So we sat down there watching tv, she to my left, a good person-width away on the couch, my friend off to my right somewhere in a chair, his friend next to him. I was frozen, silent, playing it cool, but without a notion in the world of how to talk to this girl. It was because of her beauty, like she was some rare or mythical creature that might evaporate into thin air if approached improperly. Or she’d just not like you, which in my opinion then and probably still now, was worse. She was without a doubt the most beautifulest girl to show an interest in me by that point in my life—not that I was some ugly dork with no personality who girls avoided because he smelled funny and muttered to himself, she was just that beautiful. And I don’t even remember saying hello to her, although I must’ve. Beyond that, though, it was silence, all silence and stupidly feigned disinterest, and I hoped and hoped and hoped she’d speak first but she didn’t. Of course. Because beautiful girls don’t have to, I thought. And because she knows, she knows I’m dying inside, knows I’m clammed up, knows I’m being weird. Or so I imagined, probably rightly. And that was the end of that. She vanished into thin air and probably didn’t like me anymore.
It bothers me when the alone time I require, no, the solitude, even loneliness I need is seen as odd, or, worse, a manifestation of moodiness, grouchitude, difficulticity. I didn’t study anthropology because I love people. I studied it because I’m a watcher—from a distance—and I think so much of what we do without thinking twice is what’s strange, stupid, and/or troubling. Funny, too, and interesting, yes. But I’m a dreamer and I need to be away for that, need some peace and quiet to let my head settle and do its drifting, to practice my misanthropology.
I suppose I should get better at being ok with being on the strange end of the personality spectrum. I wish it meant I’m a genius, this strangeness, and to tell you the truth, I sometimes still entertain specks of hope that it does. But I have yet to do or accomplish anything genius-y. And I’m pretty sure geniuses don’t write things like this or sit silently next to their dream girl or break the hearts of people who love them and then dwell on all of the above. Well maybe they do that, the dream girl-fearing or heart-breaking, but in such a brilliant and tremendous manner that everyone thinks it’s a great breakthrough or a work of art.
A friend—yes, another, now I’m all the way up to three—once said I joke around when I’m stressed, that’s why you can’t tell I am. But she could. She was right, even though what she really meant was that I use levity and sarcasm, biting or gumming, to cope with upsetedness. And I make words up too, though I suppose that should have two t’s. All this helps when I’m disturbed, which is most all the time, according to yet another friend. Four! Fuck you facebook.
Languid, turgid, turbid, and turquoise. The shapes and colors of me. That doesn’t make any sense, it just popped into my head and I like the sound of it. I find it rather funny, now, that in my younger days older folks would call me an old soul. I loved that. Yes, I’m an old soul in this young man’s carriage, thoughtful, mature, easygoing, and sensible. But I was just a boy, the same boy I’ve always been, and always—seemingly—will be.
Now I’m just a soul, it seems, a boy in his mid-thirties. A boy who drinks scotch and used to be a basketball player, although I still think of myself as one (a basketball player, not a scotch—that would make even less sense than what I said a moment ago). I suspect this is because basketball was a big part of my life for a long time, and, even though I haven’t played regularly in a few years—god has it really been a few years?—I know I can still get it done. We are a cocky lot, us ballers. Funny how that bravado and confidence has never—or rarely—extended beyond the court, or beyond the physical, I should say.
By the way, I’m a country boy at heart and soul, for the most part, though I’ve now lived in the Big City for nigh eight years. For the most part. Everything about me is for the most part. Probably I’ve always hoped that all those most parts would add up to a whole. Or maybe I’ve just never been satisfied with the sum I got.
My grandfather patronymic smoked and drank himself to death because he was never satisfied with his sum. He wrote the family a letter soon before he died—the month I was born, he passed—in which he expressed the remorse he felt at letting everyone down. I’m sorry I let everyone down, he said. I learned of this only a few years ago and I felt even more like him than I had before, like another piece of the puzzle fell into place, just as I would’ve suspected. It broke my heart, but I understood. I just hope I don’t write a letter like that one day. Maybe I’d address it to him: Dear Grandpa, I’m sorry I couldn’t do you one better and at least go out in some blaze of glory, robbing a bank in Benidorm. At least I didn’t smoke. The end. P.S. I wish we’d met.
Mötley Crüe. I remember listening to Kickstart My Heart on cassette in my dad’s room on the little Sony boombox my parents bought me. Rewinding it and rewinding it, hoping I wouldn’t stretch the tape out because how would I get a new one. Money didn’t grow on trees and apparently still does not—I’ve checked. I took the stereo in there because I had a friend staying over and my dad’s room was the room for rumpus and loud music—sparsely furnished, mattress on the floor with no box spring or frame, perfect for wrestling or indoor football, and, well, it was my dad’s and my dad was fucking cool. I thought so, my friends thought so, he just was. And at the time Mötley Crüe was too. That is no longer really the case, but I think it is when that song comes on while I’m out for a run. My dad still thinks he’s pretty cool too. Sometimes he’s right.
Remember that sister o’ mine? Well today’s her birthday, born on the fourth of July, she was. Ironic, I think, because with a mother like hers independence will probably take a fight. And she may never be free of the stuff that woman has done to her, of the dual life she’s led since infancy. The current hope is that my—our—dad will get full custody because of his coolness, sometimes. Then maybe I’ll get to see her more, and maybe she’ll have a better chance at life, and maybe she’ll be better at it than her more than half brother.
Speaking of life, it’s short. So they say, I’d always say. Then a few days ago it hit me, the hard truth of this. Not out of nowhere—I’d felt it coming. But when it arrived, fully, more like a long-watched big wave than a punch in the face, I felt all the previous naïve hopefulness that typically auto-diminished that clichéd statement fall away and leave me standing in the middle of the matter. Life is short—I’ll have to remember to tell my sister. Life is short and I’m doing nothing about it. Nothing will change this. Not a new job, new apartment, new shoes, new city, new couch, new love. New love? Is love ever new? New city might change it, some, but I’ll still be that boy.
Tennessee Williams said “There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.” Well I’m not quite done looking because I don’t quite get what I see there. Maybe the mirror is fucked up. Maybe I look too hard, hoping I’ll see something else one day. But the jig might be up by then, I could be an old man with this boy’s soul, and I’d have two choices left, according to Mr. Williams.
These are my facts, some. And they will be put into a story, well, a book, yes, a book. There, it has been said. A book, inscribed on post-it notes. Not because anyone needs to know my facts, creatively and more or less factually presented, though not without flourishes and complete falsifications. Not because of that but because more than anything I need to say I was here. I cannot paint, cannot draw (anymore—which merely means I never really could), cannot sing, cannot play an instrument, cannot make money, cannot govern, cannot raid and pillage, but I can linguistify, I can enscrivenate, and this is how I will leave my mark, however small, in all its wondrous insignificance. You just watch. Then I promise I’ll stop writing about it so much.