The bar smelled of Pabst and moth-eaten tweed jackets. Some god forsaken hipster bar east of Sunset. A trendy spot, hopping with the horrible mix of LA’s nightlife creatures. Armies of thick black framed glasses, fedoras and steely irony. The mixologists dressed in flannel with parted hair and handlebar mustaches like Kurt Cobain fucked Rollie Fingers. These fucks mastered the art of ignoring patrons like some kind of awful night-time baristas. Trading ethereal screenplays for bad ephemeral slam poems written on soiled cock tail napkins. All I wanted was a stiff drink, but since leaving Queens, I traded bad whiskey for passion fruit flavored vodka and molecular gastronomy. What I wouldn’t give for a fucking steak and some Jim Beam.
The night was a bust, especially when this dudebro approached me smelling of Axe body spray and date rape swaddled in a button-up Ambercrombie shirt with the collar popped up. Oozing with about as much charisma as a botched pap smear, he tried to tell me he never did it with a big girl and if I’d like to be his first. My old partner told me pant suits were more professional, but all I wanted to do was wear leggings as pants with obnoxiously colored dresses. I suppose the professional thing was a lie because this noxious fuck figured he could approach me with swimming in liquor, a languid tongue and some weak pick-up, that I’d be happy for any type of dick. Not that the line would work, but looking back at his gaggle of frat fucks giggling sent me in the red. The one thing a hard shoe is good for except blisters on my big toe is crunching the nuts of some douchebag trying to make me his first fat fuck.
In his mind he is an armadillo, tucked away and impervious, but she sees the truth of it all, he’s just curled up in the fetal position. Trying to fight off bear attacks with a spinal column exposed. In actuality, she knew he was a piece of glass that the blower breathed a little too hard into and the last person to have him let him tendrils and spider webs. So, she handled him with kid’s gloves, even when all she wanted to do was shake him and tell him to stop being so… Crazy, maybe. Idiosyncratic is the more accurate word, but again, she was tired of contributing to his delusions and mania. Almost a few years away from trying to invent a wooden plain and pissing in mason jars, she tried to keep him from the brink. Sometimes, she didn’t know why she bothered. There had to be normal guys to date. Ones that weren’t bottling everything, closed off and ready to explode. It was in this moment of doubt that she remembered their first date, when he sung Elliot Smith songs to her for the first time and made her ruin her floral summah dress.
Dying in the Back of an El Dorado
She asked me about my first kiss. Typical third/fourth date question, should be no problem to answer. Yet I pause. I’ve always paused at this question. Doesn’t matter who asks, but it is worse when it is a woman that I want to rip her panties off and fuck her crazy against broken co-op dryer in the laundromat two blocks down the street from this overpriced Italian restaurant It is not a location where I am family, no here I am in enemy territory and she is the occupying force. The topic of the first kiss is akin to hooking up jumper cables to your testicles that are attached to a battery where a sluggish mouse runs on a wheel to charge it. The slow torture is the worst. No, scratch that. The vulnerability is the worst.
Do I bother to tell her the truth? Reveal the depth of how pathetic I am. Come on, do it. It’ll totally get her wet and she’ll likely blow you outside of a ColdStones. She might even throw some fixins on that D. Yeah, god damn right. Never mind that my first kiss was unremarkable, but you won’t dare tell her that it happened when you were damn near twenty. That there were stalker tendencies in how you asked the girl out when you were depressed out your mind that second week in New York? The awkwardness in asking if she wanted to see a movie and the dread that she’d turn you down. How you couldn’t contain your throbbing erecting the entire night and that your boxers by the end of the night had shimmery films of precum staining them. You say none of that, and definitely that when you went in for the kiss at the end of the night she had chilli breath and faint onion overtones. Or how you used too much tongue nearly shoving it down her esophagus. Those are the details you leave out.
Instead, I lie. It isn’t the first time I’ve lied to her and certainly won’t be the last. Certainly, might be one where she won’t get hurt, but maybe that isn’t true either. Relationships are built on a steady foundation of white lies, lies of omission and where the truth would hurt too much. So, I make something up. Something less sad, more in line with what a first kiss should be. Sometime in the summer…back in my youth.
Dear white girl with blonde dreadlocks and the smell of shit and petrulli oil, you should stop buying this TV. Then take the money you’d have spent on a new Samsung LED 40” and go give it to all the Rastafarians that you’ve culturally appropriated in such a trendy way. Sell your iPhone 4S with its Rasta flag case and give it to the poor women who clean your McMansion every week, who you give nothing more than ironic derision and sixty bucks. Then portion out 5% of your trust fund to donate to a charity for each of the people’s whose cultures you so vulturistically have stolen and will steal. When you wear that Headdress because you think it is so hip and in style, and then start saying, ‘I can do this because I’m 1/32 Cherokee’, as if anyone believes you; just go hand every last thing in your bank account and jewelry over to the residents of the closest reservation where you go every weekend to get drunk and gamble because Las Vegas is too far. I want to say this, scream in your face and then possible slam your privilege head against the fucking counter, but instead… “Would you like to save 5% by signing up for a Target REDCard today?”
I’m sure most people have jobs they hate, but why can they go to it every day with a smile and acceptance while I just piss and moan? Am I really that entitled to a better job? A job that I like that pays me to do what I went to school for? When did I get so fucking naïve as if the American Dream is real? It is a fucking shell game, guess which degree has the pea under it and you could double your money. Except there is no pea and all anyone is left with after getting their BA is debt and a useless piece of paper. No one is going to pay me to write, I’ll be working here or an intern all my life. Failure is the word of the day, week, month and year.
(A short piece for today. I’ve had too much work recently between my dumb job [written about here] and my awesome job to really sit down and write something. So Happy Thanksgiving).
In the midst of the chaos and desolation that befalls and befouls this savage wasteland, we rise from the wreckage. This is the rise of the sad robots, auto tuning our pain and melancholy. Dance to the jagged edges that make up our souls and let us reconstitute everything after the trauma with Ciroc and fake jewelry. The gaudier it is the better. Never am I alone when I’m buying up the bar and handing out shots like a shiny suit Nino Brown. Despite being covered in waves of sweaty humanity that love me for dripping alcohol, I am lonely. Something fierce, a powerful loneliness; just call me Holden Caulfield with a Skrillex haircut.
Then there is the profound realization that it is all camp and masquerade. The masks we wear to hide these simple truths. I’m never sad, I cannot afford to be because I need to get this asshole to buy an extended warranty, screen cover and case for a fucking iPod or they might fire me. Nothing is more dangerous than a man with his back against the wall fighting for a job that makes him feel less than human. Can I help you find something? Most likely I fucking cannot. Why bother asking?
Does God exist? I don’t know, but he ain’t done shit for me since I was ten. So, I guess he is dead to me.
“How many credit cards have you gotten me today?” Not this again…everyday she asks me the same thing. She knows the answer though, so I don’t get why she bothers?
“Not yet, but I’ve tried.” It is a lie for all intents and purposes, I never gave a shit about them, but it has been slow erosion of even the most perfunctory sense of effort.
“That’s not good. I need you to get me five before you leave. What time are you off?” Yes, set the bar so high I cannot possibly help by running into the bottom with my chin. Might as well garrote me as we speak, it’d be quicker and more humane.
“In about an hour.” I can get five if I offer to perform oral sex on the next five customers, but that might involve me working OT.
“You gotta do it. I’m counting on you. Remember to tell them that they can save 5%!” Only if they are approved right away and if they choose to use the card immediately, otherwise it is a big fuck you, Jack.
“Sure thing! I will give it my best effort.”
“Not effort, do it!” She floats away with her angular body like a Japanese Buzzsaw, she is a sharks fin ready to consume whatever dignity I may have left. Yet I try to appease her every time and pledge some sort of effort when all I want to do is go home, get drunk and try to masturbate to old videos of the Mamas and Papas before I pass out.
“No doubt.” I open the drawer next to me and contemplate taking the box cutter to open an artery. I wonder if I did if anyone would notice or they’d think that it was all performance art. A treatise on the way retail devours every last bit of you then asks for seconds.
Why did she do it? It was something that plagued her mind deeply four months after the fact. Normally, nothing fazed her, she let everything just slide right off and enjoyed the flow. In life, she drifted like a sleep walking tai chi trainer taking yoga classes at a Zen Buddist temple. However, this bothered her. Never one to let anything deeply perturb her rosy disposition, it wasn’t a beating heart under a floor board, but due to what happened after the decision, it did get a bit under the skin. A tiny itch was all it was, right? She told herself that every time she saw his face and reveled in his half-scowl and half-smile like some kind of junkyard dog wandered out into a charming bistro in a romantic painting. He inserted himself aggressively and loudly into a world that couldn’t deal with his manically feral sophistication. Yet she read David Sedaris’ “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” and had her own fuck it bucket, so how come the massive candy couldn’t fix this hangnail dragging at the back of her mind?
Why did she do it?
“Just flirt with him a bit.” Chance said as he swirled pomegranate froyo into a medium sized cup. The pink and lime green logo of this particular chain made her sick and she wished he’d have taken her somewhere else.
“What?” They went on one date, years back. When he first started delivering parts to her shop, she didn’t find him unattractive, but he wasn’t her type. Far too boisterous and his hair was too short, and the whole boxy muscular look put her off a bit. It all seemed too planned like he’d spent years cultivating this specific aesthetic to attract women.
“My buddy is a fucking mess. That bitch tore him to shreds and sent his ass packing back home. He is acting like a straight pussy now.” It was the casual way he mixed concern with oddly poignant misogyny, as if he was some sort of performance act working its way back to the premise.
“How will me flirting with him help anything?” In ways he was sweet and in another life she maybe could have seen it working out, but the dubstep and standing meals at Subway meant that it’d never be more than a casual friendship.
Gesturing with a long, pink spoon he outlined her body while his eyes bugged out slightly, a faded salmon fruit roll-up of a tongue slipped out of his mouth and he was every bit the cartoon wolf. “Come on,” muffled by the spoon now lodged between his cheek and teeth, “You’re a god damn knockout, a regular boner machine. If you tellin’ he looks less like Howard Hughes and more like Howard Hesseman don’t help then he might as well kill hisself.”
“So, wait you want to pimp me out to your friend?”
“If you want to be crude about it.”
“With you is there any other way?”
A chuckle rolled out of his stained lips. “You do know me.”
“How will I know him anyway?”
“He’ll be the sad fuck with a giant beard and delivering car parts. Can’t be too many of them.” It would surprise him; the people who are attracted to cars are an inwardly melancholic bunch. Sound and fury and exhaust fumes the lot of them. If it isn’t ogling buxom babes on car hoods, it is trying to create the car that will attract that old high school sweetheart they lost. A group that is a mix between a Gastby and a Caulfield, but never quite balances the finer qualities of either. They all end up simply being Piggy clutching a rebuilt carburetor vying for attention.
“What do I get out of this?”
“I’m buying you some froyo, right?” A simple wink as if that closed the matter.
Why did she do it? Easy, when she saw the rage behind those mossy brown eyes, she knew. She knew he’d been through something profoundly terrible. A trauma patient that maybe knew what she’d experienced. Call it fate or intuition. Say the lightning bolts struck or the existence of kindred spirits did it. Who is to say rightly? Yet, she knew seeing that dour look and that disposition that said the world want him crushed to a fine paste meant she had to know the story. When he showed up at the bar freshly shaved and with a glimmer, hint and possible beginning of a smile; she knew why she did it.
I relapsed again. It happens slowly and little by little. You sneak a pill under your tongue and then before you know it is six. Swallowing tabs four at a time. It means nothing to you because your back hurts and you want the pain to end. The way the clouds covering up your brain cells feels so perfect and so right that you can’t help but want things to always be like that. Then your prescription runs out and what are your options? The good times need to keep rolling and you need to keep rolling. So, what is a man to do but case the joint?
Everyday on your way to the electronics boat, you take the long way. The florescent lights hurt burn your irises and only intensify your detox sweats. The headache pounds as you pass the cash registers remembering all the extra shifts you had to stand there ringing up long grocery purchases and people’s fussiness with bagging. ‘No, put the meat in one bag and everything in another.’ ‘Can you double bag this Snickers bar for me? I have to walk home.’ ‘Can I pay you in all pennies?’ Veins begin to throb like dubstep baselines and the pressure slowly builds until it feels like your head is 20,000 leagues deep. Blood vessels bursts in your eyeballs like you removed diving googles too early. Your body is betraying you, it needs that sweet candy to function. Atrophied and starving, you’ve made a routine.
As you walk to go grab a sugar-filled energy drink, you pause near the pharmacy. A mirrored orb sits in the corner above the thickly painted white door with the ‘Restricted – Authorized Personal Only’ sign jauntily screwed on it. A long and tall counter facing toward the rest of the store walls the inside of the area and a lounge area boxing it in near the beginning of groceries. The entrance is through the lounge and simply requires sliding over the top. Computers line the inner tabletops of the tall counter while a giant kiosk with khaki faux wood paneling and white countertops creates a small moat for the pharmacists to work in, a tight fit. Bullet-proof glass seals off the prescription area from the outside, the only way in is through that door. Dotted around the area on the ceiling are black orbs that hide the cameras security uses to monitor theft in the store. You count ten in the area and calculate that six are likely focused on the pharmacy. Walking toward Flinstones Chewables, you take note of the keypad on the “Personal Only” door. That’s your way into the vault of your salvation. Now all you need is the combination.
On the sixth day of the shabby reconnaissance, the head pharmacist goes into the back while you’re there scoping it out. As he methodically with long, crooked fingers enters the combination, you duck into women’s health care checking out a box of monistat. Studying the delicate and nimble movements of his fingers, you learned that the combination is only five numbers. One-step closer.
You made rules before all of this began. Things you’d never do and things you couldn’t ever do or think you’d be capable of doing. Yet here you are about to do them. At home, your girlfriend is bundled up in a blanket wearing nothing but one of your graphic tees and a pair of lace panties. The pungent and sweet scent of her body envelopes the sheets making everything smell of faint sweat and jasmine. You cannot get enough of the smell. By now, you’re wondering if she is wet and if her perfume and natural smell is mixing with the scent of her and what that will do to you when you get home. The thought and sense memory turns your dick rock hard, you want to leave this moment, but that gnawing at the back of your head won’t let you. There are daggers in the base of your spine preventing your egress. Eyes on the prize and all that, Occam. You have a mission, motherfucker! We need this, so buy this girl drinks and get what we need to make sure we can get back in the clouds.
It is whiskey, for you it is always whiskey. The man Jack always helped you throughout your life. Whether it be bad break ups, deaths in the family, too long a line at In-N-Out or a popular sports team lost while you were at the bar. He always had your back before we had your back, but he can never replace us. So, you get as many of these shots into her as you can. There she sits matching your shots like a pro. From the moment you spotted her while pretending to look at Dora the Explorer band-aids, you made her for your means to that code. A short girl, no more than 5’2”, on the plump side, full lips that glistened even in the dim bar light, wore clothes that made her seem like she never grew out of her goth phase. Now you had to get her drunk so she spilled all her secrets. She already gave you one that she always wanted to be fucked in a handicap stall by a guy with a big beard and scars on his shoulders. Use that. Flirt a bit. Tell her that you love her smile, she’ll respond in kind then cover her braces and tell you how she’s self-conscious about them. It just makes her smile all the more gorgeous. Wink at her then tell her that you love how lyrical and poetic her name is. More shots and you start to ply lines from poems you half-remember. These are all scumbag moves, but you’re desperate. You have a hunger and it is eating your stomach.
Say you have to go to the bathroom. Wait, five minutes. You hear the door swing open, she’s standing there staring you down, you positioned yourself in from of the handicapped stall. She tackles you pushing you into the stall, her lips lock on yours. Slowly and gently she worms her tongue into your mouth, she tastes like ash and cloves. Now is the moment, capitalize.
Inception of a Heist.
“The old DeNiro movie with the Vietnam war?” It was rhetorical, I’m cultured and worked in a video store for two years. Of course, I’ve seen the Deer Hunter. I just had to see where this wily motherfucker was going with all of this.
As he broke the seal on his cigar, he gently dragged it under his nose and took a huge waft of the pungent thing. “The very same De Niro Vietnam war movie, you know it is my favorite movie.”
“That is shocking, sir.” I mumbled while surveying the dead eyed looks of stuffed bucks and does around me. This guy was surgical, I’m sure there are entire forests full of orphaned deer ready to inspire children’s movies in the American northwest because of him. Why do I date women with nutbag fathers? Shit, am I subconsciously attracted to the image I’ve created of my absentee Dad?
“I was in Vietnam too, before you time obviously, but I was there.” Did you blow the shins off some Vietcong and stuff them for your basement collection? Or did you just take an ear bandolier like a normal psychopath?
“I’ve heard Charlie doesn’t surf.” What am I doing, that cigar is most likely a blowgun full of neurotoxins ready to pelt me in the neck because I’ve seen his daughter’s knickers and bent her knees over my shoulders in my racecar bed.
Lighting the cigar, his lips start flapping letting a roar of chuckles and smoke roll from his split teeth. In the midst of his gigglefest, coughs started whooping from his lungs and blood rushed to his face. I sauntered over behind him, he smelled of bad cologne and Bolivian tobacco. With two firm thumps to his back, he settled down, the pallor returned to his face and his lungs stopped looking like the engine in a steampunk airship.
“Are you alright?” I try my best to sound concerned even if he keeled over and died would likely help get me out of this awkward conversation.
“Oh, that was a good one. You really tickled my funny bone with that.” He sat down in a chair made of what appeared to be fox fur and puffed on his cigar to emit a faint glow from the tip. “Apocalypse Now is my other favorite movie, it not as good as Conrad’s novella, but it has its own charm. You’ve read Heart of Darkness, correct?”
“I read it again recently for a Gothic literature class.” Was this the trap?
“That is fascinating, I never considered the gothic implications in it, but given the depths of depravity that Kurtz descends into then yes applications of the gothic motif would easily transfer over to it.” What is going on? He didn’t say more than a word or two at dinner that wasn’t about Dancing with the Stars or the Kardashians, but now he is acting like fucking George Plimpton.
“I’m sorry, you seem confused.” He regarded my curious look to him and I felt like this would be when he’d cut my head off, but I wasn’t sure if it’d be to stuff it on his mantle or yammer Shakespearean soliloquies to it as he ponder the slings and arrows of life.
“At dinner…” Time to reveal the cards since he caught you.
“I talk about banal things with my family because they find my more intellectual queries rather boring. Well, my wife and daughters except for Yvonne find it rather tedious.”
My look remained puzzled, but I felt I was getting his drift. “So when Yvonne told you I recently graduated with a BA in Creative Writing…”
“I figured I could take you aside and talk to you as a peer and discuss my first love literature.”
“Yeah, but you own the repair shop that Yvonne works at?”
“Therefore because I enjoy literature that I cannot possible know or love anything nor do I have any business savvy. It is called diversifying, you should look into it.” He took a long drag from the cigar.
“There it is, right? Look, I know it is embarrassing that I work at Target. I get it, but it is not my only plan.” I got up from the chair and slowly walked paces along his bearskin rug. The face of that killing machine looked so artificial like the taxidermist at Yvonne’s father request put in the most poetic of poses.
“That is good because if it was then I’d have to tell you to stop seeing my daughter.”
“Really? Shouldn’t that be her choice?” I whipped around to face the man.
“My daughter is brilliant; she is a savant with cars and has so much going on for herself. With all her potential, she can do amazing things, unfortunately over the years she has made some poor romantic choices. I’d hate for you to be another in that lineage. So, tell me what are your plans?”
“I don’t know, I just graduated. It is not like there are a ton of jobs out there for someone who knows how to spin a yarn or two.”
Those crystal blue eyes rolled slowly around his eyelids and he just kept smoking. “You young people are so lazy with such little foresight. When I was your age, I had finished a tour in Vietnam, used my GI bill to get a business and literature degree from any college that would take me and started my own business after graduating. In that time I married Yvonne’s mother and had my first child. Don’t give me the whole terrible woe is me, I’m trying to find myself excuse.”
“There it is, you used the GI bill and other services that I didn’t have and the 70s aren’t today. It is fucking awful out there for everyone even if they have a college degree, so I took what I could. It isn’t glamorous and I’m doing nothing that I’d actually want to do in life, but it is keeping me from drowning in the debt from my student loans. I’ll be paying for my education until I die and every day I have to hear people tell me how I’m wasting whatever potential I had.”
He was about to interrupt but I glared daggers at him. “Still here you are telling me that I might have to give up the one thing that doesn’t make me want to swallow a hand grenade because I don’t fit into you ideal guy she should be with. Guess fucking what? It isn’t your decision; she is an adult and can bet on this loser if she wants.”
Neither of us spoke after that, I found a chair as far away as possible turning my back to him. I could hear the shallow puffs of his cigar as he stewed there while we waited until both of us could go back out without it seeming odd. He broke the silence. “If you don’t mind me asking, how’d you get such an unusual name?”
“It’s a long story…”
There is something about the women in my life and their comparisons to natural disasters. Something about it is selfish of me to refer to them as unstoppable natural forces. A faint misogynistic gene had not been breed out of me. Maybe it was my father, though I haven’t seen him since I was six. Does his corrosive nature still infect me even though he bounced on my mom and me during my birthday? I didn’t notice his absence until after the candles evaporated into smoke and a petty wish for the Power Rangers to be my best friends. Would I have used that birthday magic to make him stay?
Wildfire, tornados, earthquakes, avalanches, volcanoes, hurricanes and tsunamis each one is a Wilma, Tatiana, Elizabeth, Alexandra, Veronica, Halley and Tori. First love, lustful encounter, hopeless crush, unrequited love and puppy infatuation, they all scared me til my bones looked like a mosaic of tribal tattoos. Once again, it is simply selfishness for me to view myself as the victim in my romantic trysts and relationships. These poor women had to weather the storm of my negativity and detachment. They loved me so much at first and I played it nonchalant until they fell out of love and I got a clue. We never synced up and I blamed them for it. I want it to be different this time. This time I won’t feel so used up and I won’t fight a war of attrition with my feelings against her.
Perfection in the form of a mechanic with oil slicked coveralls and dirty fingernails. Grime in the cuticles and nicotine lingers on her breath. When we make-out it feels like I’m kissing the personification of a noir film. Our dynamic is Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman; it is not hard to tell who is who in this situation. I’m drowning in a torrent of helplessness and retail hell while she has it together and commands any room she saunters into. With curse words and crass jokes, she captured my heart or what was left of it.
“Fuck are you doing?” She pawed at my genitals as I lay on her duvet cover.
“Nothing much, obviously.”
“And we’ll put that on your gravestone, but didn’t you want to check out that movie tonight?” Despite her sense of urgency, she stood in front of my clad only in a lavender bra and panties with puffy ruffles. From her stance, I could tell that was just a warning shot. We had to see Michael Fassbender delve deep into depravity because she had to go to my family’s house for Christmas day. It was my idea to make it up to her even though I wanted to see it and technically all my family did was make sure had a full plate while her Dad made me feel like shit for working in retail. Why did we agree to go to each other’s families for Christmas? What the fuck was I thinking? Last time I met a girlfriend’s family her Mom threatened to cut my balls off if I ever hurt her daughter’s feelings. That just lead me to become so uninteresting that eventually we just stopped talking. Apparently, I never learn my lesson with these things. At least, the abuse was only verbal although I suppose any physical abuse was implied when her Dad took me to his den to show me his hunting trophies.
“Have you ever seen Deer Hunter?” He said as he pulled a cigar out of his humidor. This was a trap.
It is amazing the dept the human soul can plummet when the stark realization that their fancy degree is worthless. Compound that with an economic climate that is more in step with recruiting people to dig the Panama Canal than with a modern America. Those two elements will cause a chain reaction leading one to contemplate suicide by hanging themselves with a rope made of Sallie Mae bills. Alternatively, it could lead them to driving a parts around Orange County for an Auto parts wholesaler and when that ends up going bust because of nepotism, it can even make them seriously contemplate the worst option of them all…retail.
So here I am, wondering what I did to deserve this and regret every life choice I have ever made. Maybe I can rob a bank. That’d never work though, I don’t have a wheel man or a mask and the red shirt and khaki combo is a dead fucking give-away. Plus, where’d I’d get a gun? That’s probably the easiest part of it all, the gun. This is Amurica! I’m surprised John Boehner didn’t had me a gun when I scrounged out of my mother’s womb. The gun would actually be the easy part; it is assembling the scrappy crew of misfits with nothing to lose that is difficult. Where am I going to find a lapsed Catholic who wants one final score to open a mission out in Cambodia to atone for his crimes in the war? I don’t know any sassy and mousey looking white girls who can drive like a stunt person. Plus, Michael Clarke Duncan is doing too well to be in for such a heist and Carl Weathers is too expensive. Note to self: find items for a stew.
This is not your first day, you dumb fuck. Just get out of the car and go inside, clock in for your shift and try not to kill anyone. That is easier said than done, it is a warzone in there. Packed, crowded and sweaty, the store is slick with sweat and body odor. A smarmy sea of greasy bodies rigged up like consumerist sardines waiting for automatic doors to peel open so they can shuffle to the next retail destination. Each one is dead-eyed, rude and couldn’t care less about your opinion, feelings or degree. They just want a television and an iPod, it is your job to sell it to them and shut the fuck up. Wish them a nice day and dunk your head in a pool of ice water. It is easier for everyone that way.
Don’t forget to mention the credit card, they save 5% with it. You forgot it, you dummy! How could you do that? They looked like a mark, like someone who’d sign up for sixteen credit cards one under each kids name if you asked them. You’re not driving sales, Occam. Step into my office, we need to talk about your performance. Is there something? What, you mean other than the fact that I’m a college graduate slinging Nintendo Wiis and digital cameras like some kind of robot built by Apple? Do they have an app for my crippling sense of self-worth? You have no one to blame but yourself, you know. I know, but I wish I didn’t have to keep telling myself that. That is what I’m here for, just so you don’t forget. Now get back on the floor, that woman threatening to puncture that small child’s lungs wants a television.
The showers don’t wash all the failure off of you, but you can’t use a brillopad to scour off your flesh. So you’ll have to settle until they make bleach that is safe to gargle with. Every night is the same thing: come home, eat leftovers, watch television, search Craigslist for better jobs, when that turns out unsuccessful you watch Top Chef and masturbate. Rinse and repeat.
When you were younger, your mother told you that story about that guy pushing a bolder up a hill. I remember that, he was doomed to do that for eternity and just when he’d get it almost over, it’d roll back. He’d have to start over again only to have the same thing happen. If it wasn’t a godly punishment then he’d be insane. Since the gods willed it, he is a story to tell children and civilize them. Apparently, you didn’t learn anything from it.
“Only twenty more days until Christmas!”
He says that every day, I think it is to torture me, but that is probably narcissistic. Likely it is to torture everyone. Sadism is easy when you’ve resigned to your horrible fate. There isn’t enough caffeine in the world to mainline into my veins that would make me chipper to work here. I grit out perfunctory smiles and make eye contact, but no amount of performance can mask my lack of desire to be here and my gap in knowledge at how to assist people. They tell me it’ll get easier and I’ll get the hang of it. It is depressing to find myself inept at a job that I find so beneath me. Maybe I should stop being ungrateful about it and be happy that I have a job, but then that’d be admitting that there isn’t something better for me out there. There probably isn’t so stop bitching and moaning. Either shove your head in an oven and make curly fries or accept where you are and hope you are asked to stay on after seasonal. I have to watch Maury, so you’re on your own. Remember to smile…
“Dude, we gotta talk.” Chance told me before I headed to work that day. Why does everyone always feel the need to have a “talk” with me? Just be honest and say, ‘Occam, I’m going to fuck your day, week and year up’. I’d respect that more, but whatever he needs to talk to me about, it is going to bum me out.
I pulled up outside his place an hour before I needed to head into work. Before I parked, I noticed him standing outside standing in his driveway. Everything seemed normal, but his eyes looked panicked and his hands laid slacken at his sides. What he needs to tell me has to be bad.
Noticing me getting out of the car, he motions for me to follow him inside his house. Either he is going to shoot me in the back of the head or break-up with me. In any case, he doesn’t want me to make a scene in front of the neighbors. As I walk into his living room, I see his left hand tracing around a slight imprint of something in the pocket of his Dickie’s. Fuck, he is going to kill me.
“Make this quick, man. I have to head to work soon.” I take a seat on the couch in his living room while he sits adjacent to me in an auburn recline with cracked and stressed leather.
“Yeah…” A grimace that seemed more characteristic of having some jungle cat gnaw at your taint crept across his face. “Actually, you don’t.”
“Fuck, dude… I’m sorry.” Each word caused him considerable pain and why the fuck shouldn’t it.
“I’ve only been there a month, why am I getting fired?” I wanted to strangle him, but I knew it wasn’t his fault.
“My asshole boss needs to hire on his brother-in-law, so he decided to fire you and give him that job.” The audacity of it all staggered me. That sweaty motherfucker acting like that job made him king of a worthless kingdom.
“How can he fire me though? I’ve done everything well and I’m never late.”
He shook his head. “He’s going to have you do a random drug test today.”
“Fuckin’ a right…”
As if he planned it out this way and he probably did, he took what he was tracing in his pocket during the whole terrible affair. Cylindrical, brown and seemingly stitched together, he held in his hand a blunt that looked like something Mary Shelly would have written a story about. It was fatter than one of refrigerator Perry’s fingers and as long as Hoagie Carmichael’s middle finger. Only a blunt as mythical looking as this one, like the unicorn of blunts, could keep me from murdering my best friend.
With the deft skill of a juggler, Chance lit the blunt and turned on the TV. Taking a massive hit, he started playing Hobo with a Shotgun. Finishing the pull, he choked and coughed, punching his chest and convulsing he passed it to me. It was too much, too quickly and the guilt had to be pulling him down. Rutger Hauer exploding people’s heads like bags of KY jelly is the perfect background for smoking weed that could kill the remaining members of Parliament Funkadelic. If only I was with a prostitute during the middle of winter in Manhattan to tell all my problems too. My luck though, all I had was weed and my best friend.
“Where the fuck am I going to find a job now?”
“I think the Target up the street is looking for seasonal help.” He gestured for me to pass the blunt back as he cracked open a bag of Bugles.
“That is exactly what I want to do with my degree, work at Target for 8 bucks an hour.”
“What else are you going to do? It ain’t like anyone’s going to pay you to write something.”
“Not in this economy, at least.” I rubbed my temples as I mentally bought a pair of khakis.
“You won’t look that stupid in red and khakis. Least not any dumber than you look normally.”
“Thanks…” I threw a Persian throw pillow at his face. “How long ago did you just fire me?”
Tossing the pillow to the side, he held the bag out to me fake seasoning and corn oozed from the lip. I shook my head.
“C’mon, you can make witch fingers.”
KALVOWRIMO - Day 1
“Congratulations to the graduating class of 2011 and may you have a bright future! Oh, and Occam, she doesn’t love you anymore…”
Every night as I’ve finally managed to drift to sleep, it is those same words over again. It is my college’s dean ending the graduation ceremony. There she stands, draped out in the long black robe, goofy motorboard and the golden stole. The look on her face as she wishes all of us naïve and duped graduates good luck on future is so twisted and knowing, it haunts me. She is aware of what is out there for us. Instead of telling us to put off fucking graduating for four more years, she wishes us the best and then kicks out of the academic womb gasping for air. We’ll all choke and atrophy, she knows, but she still does. Then to guild the sadism of it all, she reminds me of what she did.
With a tight purse on the corner of her lips, still fresh with black lipstick from Sephora like some kind of high-fashion vampire, she curls her top lip as she puts the fine point on the fact that my ex-girlfriend ripped my fucking heart out. The sun glistens off that garish middle-aged mouth as she takes succor in my misery like a dessert wine and port cheese. Feeding off the sad outcomes and poor futures of us all, if she was wearing thigh highs with a leather whip, the fucking costume would be complete.
I wake screaming in a cold sweat, only to find myself in the driver’s seat with my car packed to bursting. The remnants of my shitty and shattered life piled high into a 2001 Honda Accord with dried out windshield wipes and a second-hand transmission. In the days before I graduated, I gave so much of myself away. Everything must go and mainly it did. Posters and affectations along with whatever clothes I wouldn’t wear ever again, but for whatever reason couldn’t let go of until then. It takes having to drive 432 miles south to Orange County to force you into jettisoning those affectations and signifiers of a personality. Half went to good will and the other half went to her friends just to spite her.
Somewhere between Watsonville and Bakersfield, the sun faded into tiny streams of crimsons and topaz, which gave way to blistered purples and tortured seas. The night hides all the scars and obfuscates the dangers lurking out there. It is 2AM and still the tractors are running trying to sheer the corn before the June sun can dry the husks out completely. In the darkness, a tractor almost swerves out of the cornfields into traffic. Horns blare into the void. Luckily, the two cans of Monster and adderall kept me alert and pumped my breaks to avoid a collision. What the fuck, night tractor?
No matter how blindingly dark and black it gets, it cannot hide the oppressive smell of cow shit and depression that typifies Central California, someway the area never really managed to make it out of the Great Depression. No amount of recycled air and middle-of-nowhere gas station air refresheners could mask that god-awful stench. New car smell, cherry and lemonade just give way to fecal matter and broken dreams. It is a giant tract of paradise covered in weathered grass and dead crops. No matter how fast, I drive I cannot outrun this waking nightmare quick enough.
At least when I drive, I can forget. The urge to slit my wrists with a butter knife are dulled except the real thought of driving into on-coming traffic presents itself. I dull these urges with obnoxiously loud 90s hip-hop. Today was a good day because momma cooked the breakfast with no hog, but then the iPod shuffles on Bigge’s “Suicidal Thoughts” and what the fuck can I do now? Fatalistic and trapped by circumstances, what the fuck am I doing to myself? I should play some Bobby McFerrin. Then dropped acid and soak my cells up in whiskey til I cannot feel the back of my teeth much less the weight my innumerable failures as a human being. Yet I don’t drink and drive because of that assembly back in high school where they simulated a drunk driving accident. That shit works, done scared my ass straight.
The gas runs low at some point in Santa Barbara, the ocean loomed terrifying as my car trudged along a narrow perch. Even with the windows rolled up, the salt invaded my skin follicles and singed my nose hairs. I guess that’s the world’s way to telling me I’ll only be a cracker despite my desire to be coated in sugar and deep-fried. As I watch my dwindling finances pump into my gas tank, a Jeep with sorority girls pulls up next to me. All of them young, white and blonde except for the driver, she is brunette and unlike her companions she is neither happy nor thin. Even in the chilly morning they’re dressed like their destination is the beach even with the baggy hoodys. Three go into buy coffee and snacks while one stays to pump the gas, she regards me. Not unkindly, but also as if she is afraid that I’ll try to talk to her. I won’t, but I didn’t have to, she prowls over to me like a wind-up toy coiled too tightly.
“Where ya going with all that stuff?” She smiles faintly and crosses her arms. If it weren’t for her approaching me, it would seem like she couldn’t care less.
“Back down to Southern California.” I try to give her my attention while keeping my eye on the total for my gas.
“Oh! What area? I’m from down there!” That slanted half-smile grows stronger, still crooked but has more sincerity.
“Tustin, down in Orange County.”
“Fuck outta here! That’s where I’m from! What high school did ya go to?” The arms uncross and she snakes her hands in her hoody’s pocket. Through the thin material I can tell she resting them on her tummy.
“Tustin High originally, but then I transferred to Foothill where I graduated from.” I brush a long strand of greasy hair out of my eyes.
“Stop fucking with me!”
“I went to Foothill, I just graduated last year. I just ended my first year here. Me and my girlfriends’ leases isn’t up til mid-July, so we’re just hanging around here until then.” Her girlfriend’s walk out of the gas station mini-mart loaded up with packages of donuts and Red Bulls. If they sold it, I imagine they’d have bought some vodka to spike them. “It is kind of lame now that everyone is gone, but…”
“Hey, come on…stop talkin’ to that bum and let’s get out of here!” One yelled from the passenger’s side.
“Yeah, I gotta fucking pee real bad and the toilet in the smelled like old tacos and canned tunafish.” Another in the back chimed in.
“Gimme a fuckin’ second!” She twisted her head to yell. “You got a phone?”
“Sure.” I pulled my phone out of my pocket. “Why?”
She rolled her eyes. “Just hand it over.” With the dexterity that only a nineteen year-old girl has, she swiped at the screen like a world-class ballroom dancer then shoved the phone back into my jean pocket. Then quick as she appeared, she was in the car and driving off with her friends giggling at some joke that I didn’t get. I pulled the pump out of my car and look at my phone.
Brie XOXO, 714-243-533
There is nothing that will break your heart more than someone you love dumping you…or graduating from college. Sometimes, you hit the jackpot though and they happen at the same time. Who says there isn’t a just God?
November is National Novel Writing Month and while I have no designs whatsoever to write a novel. I haven’t lived enough or experienced the things that make for great novels, not at 25. Sure, plenty of people have written great novels at my age and younger, but I’m not in competition with anyone especially not outliers because there are plenty people my age and younger who have written novels that are complete fucking garbage. This is not about novels or even writing more, I write every week now and frequently. Even though it’s generally about video games, there are still small pieces of me that I feel slip through or they’re funny enough that it covers up what parts of me they lack. So, November will not be a novel writing month for me. No, it will be me dedicating an hour each day, even when I’m tired or busy or doing any number of other things I need to do, I will write maybe nothing much and maybe a bunch. I don’t know, but I need to spill some of this crazy that is piling up in my head dealing with my life. The overall goal is to finish the story I wrote as a sort of throwaway during my senior year. It will not be short nor should it be overly long. No longer will it deal with a directionless kid with a broken heart, at least not completely. The broken heart will remain because the pieces slowly mend, but they surely do. However, there are two broken hearts and the mending is glacial. What do you do when you have your heart curb stomped and graduate with a useless degree in the worst fucking economic time since the Great Depression? I don’t know, but moving back in with your Mom and working a shit job is part of it. The rest, hopefully, we can figure out by the end of November.
The Last Memories of a Part-time Wolf
It’s funny, I spend most of my days discovering the lies in strangers yet I was blind to the lies right in front of me. I’m always detecting the subtleties and nuances that give away people, but I couldn’t see them in her. It wasn’t until it was too late that I notice she grew cold, her I love yous stopped coming as frequently or as intensely as they used to, how she went to bed earlier and earlier and just how deeply she hated me. I was a detective and I couldn’t even solve the simple mystery of her detachment.