I spent the majority of my adult life either toiling around to get my head on straight or hiding in the shadows from the truth.
A backlog of taxes and overdue books.
Pull up a little bit farther at the red light because I don’t want to look at the dude next to me. It’s not that I didn’t wanna go to college. It’s just that my ship was listing and the captain was drunk in his cabin.
You hurt my feelings. I didn’t hurt your feelings. I’m just not gonna do what you want. If a crime involves another person, the real offense is hurting the person on the other end.
Saying I’m sorry often does not let me off the hook. And that’s all fine and good but what’s not fine is not doing something because we’re afraid. That’s bullshit.
An ass full of laxatives and tangled fishing hooks.
Half of what goes on in my head I don’t want. And when ill behaviors no longer feel comfortable that’s a sign that we’ve grown.
I haven’t been writing as much because I’ve been struggling with my nicotine addiction. All sorts of things happen and don’t happen when I try to quit.
Sometimes I’ll spout off something about quitting on social media or whatever but lately I’ve just been keeping my struggles to myself. Because unless somebody was a daily smoker for over 30 years, they don’t really get it. I know people are trying to help but move along. Sometimes we just need to vent.
This is another story from the book I was writing a few years back. Again, the book was mostly bullshit but I do enjoy some of the one-off stories.
Now that another workday was done and he lay in bed, his thought trains were his own again. Frank enjoyed the comfort, the disconnection that “bed” brought. Indeed, his midday siestas were spiritually divine. He could roam the countryside of his mind and drift in random thoughts.
One of the last times he’d seen his mighty friend, Gibson the Brave, was on a Sunday, late morning, maybe two years ago. Gibson had just finished painting his kitchen while his wife was away visiting family and he was trying to look confident and put together. It was only window dressing though, morning-after jitters refused to hide behind the blinds.
Gibson recalled to Frank how his wife had seriously said, “Don’t drink both bottles of wine this weekend” and he smiled ashamed. There was some relief in Gibson’s implied confessional but they both knew his wife would bring the fury upon him that night.
They moved to the dining room and Gibson sat Indian style on the floor, steadying himself. He looked like he’d just as soon lie down right where he was. He soldiered on though, dipping and wiping his brush in the white paint as he prepared to engage the formal dining room. His hand started to shake as he attempted to physically will his brush to glide just above the base board.
Two dollars said the empty wine bottles were hidden at the bottom of the recycling bin and too bad their dining room would end up looking like a drunk painter had cut the trim.
He felt sorry for Gibson the Brave and wondered how much hangover pain he was in. He could see the agony on his face, and knew the weight of being an under-performing drunk in the eyes of the Missus.
Diagonal across the dock from where Frank lived, Gibson’s struggle was close to home and way too familiar.
Honestly, Frank was more than glad that none of the brush strokes were on his shoulders. This was Gibson’s time to dance in the hungover spotlight.
While he watched Gibson’s artistic handy work, he himself felt the guiltiness of getting away with alcoholism. He’d been in Gibson’s house two weekends past feeding their dog. But mostly he’d been sneaking shots from the kitchen counter’s bottle of rum while the dog was out pee’ing — he had had his own shakes to tend to that particular day. In the there and then, he smiled to himself as he wondered if Gibson had taken the wrath for that drop in fluid as well.
As the final memory domino fell, his mind unwittingly wandered back to the there and then, came away from Gibson’s kitchen twice removed.
Frank thought to himself, “I wish I could loose myself in that for a little longer. Gibson was a good man.”
It all faded though and there he was laying in bed again. He tried to snatch it back one more time but barely remembered what else he and Gibson talked about that day. Frank could only recall the “don’t drink all the wine” conversation even though he’d visited Gibson for a good hour or two.
He only had pockets of feelings left from that day, only remembered how he knew Gibson must’ve felt. And how he had felt those times in the presence of a kindred spirit, bonding on motorcycles and cheap wine and marital bliss.
Gibson and wife and dog were long gone these days, having returned to the heartland to be closer to their kin.
Frank thought to himself some more, “Maybe life isn’t so much about our adventures but maybe it’s about the people we share our adventures with.”
A few years back I started writing a book. Well, I don’t know if you could call a book but it was similar to how I write now with one-off stories and the like. It did have a somewhat linear flow between the stories though.
It was mostly bullshit, too.
But I was thinking about one of the stories last night, one that was about the Allison Avenue era.
I haven’t felt much like writing anything new this month so here you go.
Frank was thinking of a conversation he and Nine had the night before as she started the kettle boiling for that morning’s coffee.
> FRANK: What’s your password again? > NINE: Crater…regular.
That was such a minor conversation but sometimes something minor was all it took to start his cognitive trains a rolling.
Friends. Family. Total strangers. I don’t consider himself an arrogant person.
One evening, however, when I was running “who do I have to blow” late, I was pulled over. You may have heard this policeman story before. It was many years ago so don’t get too excited.
Anyways, when the officer walked up to my driver’s side window, I flicked my cigarette down toward his lazily shined shoes. I didn’t consciously do this, had no intention of being jerky, no intention of premeditated arrogance. It just happened.
I got a ticket for “disposing of flammable materials from a vehicle” that day. I never paid it.
We all have moments of belligerence I suppose.
And then there was that one time in high school when I was walking home by myself. A guy I was friends with drove past in his little red VW. I gave him the bird as he went by. Again, I don’t know why I did. It just happened.
When I saw him the next day at school he asked me why I had flipped him off. Feeling somewhat on the spot and held accountable for what I’d done, I told him it was because I was walking and he was not.
He then said to me, “you should’ve asked me for a ride” in a gentle, veritable kinda way. Instead of ratcheting the conversation up with more arrogance, he extended his hand in friendship.
Bill was a legitimately good guy. A better person than I was at the time for sure. We weren’t close friends but I still considered him my friend. And knowing Bill made me want to be somebody like him. Helped me realize that it’s okay to not only ask for what I need but also for what I want, what I’d like. Because friends do things for each other. Just because they’re friends.
Being a jerk by default never did me any favors. Granted in high school I didn’t really know how to do any better but in the here-and-now I’m grateful for those little interactions that helped me learn.
In that brief conversation before class started, Bill taught me that conflicts can be short circuited with friendly compassion.
I regret not getting to know more people in high school. I was too wrapped up in me and my chaos to make that happen. But looking back now as I drive to work, I’m sure there was a whole lot more Breakfast Club there that I didn’t even know about.
I’m in the math club, uh, the Latin, and the physics club… physics club.
And then there was that one time when one of my brothers called me out of the blue. I hadn’t talked to him in close to three years and we were just catching up, talking about a whole lot of nothing. And then without warning or skipping a beat or barely pausing for a breath, he asked me if, when we all lived together, if I had slept with his girlfriend.
I wasn’t taken completely off guard as I stood in the kitchen with the phone up to my ear. I knew that this day was coming but still, somethings you can never truly prepare for.
I hesitated for a moment and then said “yes” and that I was sorry. Relationships are sacred and I played a part in destroying one of his. I didn’t really want to say anything to him, own that dreadful behavior but I confessed because he deserved an honest answer. He deserved me being accountable to him right then and there. Plus, lying makes me crazy and being honest keeps me sane.
After he heard my confession he kinda acted like it wasn’t a big deal but I could tell that his feelings were hurt. Getting confirmation for something you knew all along was true often doesn’t make you feel any better. Mostly it just makes you feel worse.
You maybe wondering why I hadn’t made my amends to him sooner. I have a fairly simple answer. It had been over 10 years since the three of us had lived together and I had only seen him one time since, maybe in 1999. Just in passing really. There are certain subjects where one needs to wait until the time is right. Carelessly blurting out secrets of this magnitude can be just as reckless and as hurtful as whatever crime has been committed.
And yeah, I could’ve called or written him a letter since we lived in different states but I wanted to talk with him face-to-face. I felt he deserve that, that physical closeness. I wanted him to see the real remorse and regret in my eyes, the pain in my heart for what I had done to him, the pain I had caused. So when he called in 2002 and asked me point blank, I knew it was time.
After I came clean my brother and I’s conversation didn’t last much longer. Hanging up the phone I was filled with sadness, didn’t feel I had his forgiveness. There had only been an admission.
I had admired and looked up to him for much of my life. When we were kids he had never really treated me as an equal. Older brothers generally don’t, but when he had invited me to come live with them I felt that had all changed. Like I was one of his peers. And then I had let him down. Well, more than that. I had broken his heart.
My ex-wife was in the next room and she had heard most of our phone call. She could tell that I was rattled when she came into the kitchen. I told her what the scoop was, what I had done. She was supportive and understanding, said all the things one should say…but I always wondered how much of those few moments had changed her perception of me.
Anyways, another decade and more have passed and I’ve let most of my guilt go. I pray that god heals him in time just as god has healed me as well. I hope he finds his peace but also know he has his own share of demons in the basement to deal with. And most of them have nothing to do with me.
I’ve only talked to him one other time since that particular phone call, sometime in 2011 I think. He called me from a payphone drunk and obnoxious, yelling at people passing him by on the street. I was embarrassed for him. And it’s hard for me to admire him anymore. Even more so when between rants he angrily said to me, “What, are you too good to talk to me anymore?”
I ended that conversation by hanging up on him. Part of being restored to sanity means realizing I don’t have to tolerate abuse from someone in the present just because I hurt them in the past.
Mostly, I do feel as if I have peace with my brother now. I’ve came to terms with my part in all of it. And I did the only thing I could do in a grim situation like that: be direct, honest, and sincere.
In the mid 2000s I made and hung this sign in our kitchen. Because I’m an asshole.
I never really think (or have thought) about anybody else.
Like if I have four hours of no responsibility I will sit and play video games for four hours. I won’t call anybody, I won’t go see anybody. I’ll just do my own thing. And it’s not like that hate people or whatever. I honestly just don’t think about them when I’m full of me.
Sure, when I was a kid, teenager, 20 something I would call people and wander over to their houses because I wanted to see them. But everything was just based around what I wanted to do. It wasn’t up until a few years ago when I started thinking outside of just “my box.” And trust me I still don’t always think outside of me all the time or by default.
Isolating from other people really kicked in when I got married. I would just hang out with my ex-wife and the girls. My life’s dynamic changed from being single and stealing wheelchairs to being a homebody.
But still even being a husband and a dad, most of what I did at home was centered around me and what I wanted to do. Okay, not all of it but if I didn’t have anything to be responsible for I was off doing my own thing or finding something on TV that I wanted to watch.
Here’s a good example.
After the girls were in bed I never said to my ex-wife, “Let’s watch show X because I know you like that one.” Sure, I would watch her shows but the thing is: it was never my idea. I never said to the girls, “let’s go eat at restaurant X because that’s your mom’s favorite place.”
Fine, it would be my idea if it was Mother’s Day but that’s a bunch of shit. It’s the days that aren’t holidays, the days that aren’t special — those are the ones count.
It was even more horrible when I was drinking. “I’m gonna go get donuts for us this morning.” That was really code for “I’m hungover and going to the liquor store. And after I’ve took 2-3 healthy shots just to mute the fires of hell, I’ll bring back a box of random donuts.”
Spiritual? Humble? Me? You’d be humble if you were me, too. If you wanted to make breakfast for your family, because you’d changed, because you realized sitting by yourself in “your box” was kinda lonely — and then nobody was home.
No, I’m not coming down on myself or feeling like I fucked everything up. I’ve came to terms with falling down in life. It’s more like after reading Mark Manson’s article on loss I was doing some self-evaluation. It’s good for me to do spot checks on my behaviors lest I go down to the basement in the morning and then come back up when it’s dark. And didn’t even know the sun had came and went.
Maybe it’s just how men are wired, too. Hunting, gathering, and gaming in the basement while the women are nesting and making dinner for the family. I never made dinner for the family when I was married. Well, I used to make pies every Sunday night but it wasn’t because I was making banana cream for us as a family to enjoy. I was making it because I like pies, like making pies, and like eating said pies.
But seriously though.
Sometimes Maggie’s with her mom for the weekend and I’m home alone and then because I’m real good at thinking, I think about stuff. A lot. And again, not in the self-deprecating kinda way but more in the “here’s my part in a series of blundering events and moving forward I’d rather not repeat ye blunderings.”
And yes, life can still be all about me. It’s my life and I have things I want to do, shows I want to watch, ad nauseam but my takeaway after my last great loss is that other people are what counts. Messaging someone, asking if I can come over just to see them, just to hang out, well that gives me a good feeling that finishing the next level in my video game never did. Because I know I’m doing it for them and not for me. Because I want to. Because fellow humans are sacred.