Monthly Archives: April 2010

What We Do Is Secret, or, "I Ain’t Got Time For Any More Of My Own Monkey Business."

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

See, as a kid, when you’re first learning to bathe yourself, you just do whatever the bottles tell you to do. You’re still learning to comprehend written words, and why would you question what the people who make the shampoo put on the bottle? Why would you even think beyond the directions?

Plus – your mother told you to make sure you’re clean. Nobody wants to be friends with The Stinky Kid. Girls certainly aren’t going to talk to the boy with the greasy hair. Well – not yet, at least, but who the fuck is a soothsayer at age six or seven? You just follow directions, and try to take a decent approach to whatever those directions are telling you to do. Obviously, if you’re supposed to repeat something, it must be for your own general good. Why would someone want you to waste your time?

Time is a motherfucker.

You don’t realize what a motherfucker time is until you’re much further along in your timeline of events. Your teens rocket by before you realize how many mouths you’ve forced your tongue into. Your twenties? Shit, man – they go by just as quickly, but with a side-helping of responsibility scattered up in there. Some of those responsibilities are probably things you could have/should have learned to deal with in your teens, but you were too busy at desert keg parties, or stuffed into the back seat of a Nova making out with a girl who had mono, high as fuck on PCP and trying to get your mouth around a nipple through a bra.

You don’t realize what a motherfucker time is until you’re standing outside the door to your apartment, and you know the girl you’ve been living with has moved all of her shit the fuck on out, just by the way the front door looks to you from standing out there. Sure – you tried to call her a few times while you were at work, and then phone rang and rang. But she’s gone, daddy-o. She took everything – even the cats. But that’s cool, because now you can stay up until the small hours, smoking pot and playing your guitar as much as you want. Sure, you have a job to go to and all of that, but it’s a family-run joint – why would they fire you for oversleeping three out of every five shifts?

And then they do. Over the phone. Because you’re such a piece of shit to them that they cannot even stand to see your face around them anymore. On the phone, the owner’s son rattles off your litany of indiscretions. You’d been showing up to work high. Showing up hung over. Calling out sick every third shift, too. Hanging out with “undesirable” people on the clock. Disappearing for an extra hour when you were supposed to be out making a delivery. Pocketing tips that belonged to other people.

They even found the stash of empty and half-empty wine bottles you had out back by the dumpster that you’d been glad-handing off of them the entire time you worked for them.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

At that point, the only thing you can do is try and keep your chin up. Keep moving. Stick and move, stick and move. That’s what you think you’re supposed to do. That’s what all of the movies about being in your twenties tell you to do. Again with the instructions. Why would they be telling you to waste your time?

For a little while after that, you kind of coast on by. No paying gig – your rent is still really cheap, and you can make that by moving small amounts of weed and coke on the side. Plus, every now and then your father feels shitty enough to pay your electric bill for you. You just hang out in your apartment all night long, calling phone sex lines to talk to the faceless girls on the other end for some meaningful human-type contact. The problem with that, is that the phone isn’t in your goddamn name – it’s still under her name – and you’re racking that shit up. It takes a little while for it to catch up to you, but just like everything else – it does.

You don’t realize what a motherfucker time is until you’re at your next gig, working in a goddamn call center. You sit there all goddamn day, working as a directory assistance operator. People call you up, and then they breathe all heavy into the phone. Different regional dialects. Different look-ups. You master it pretty quickly somehow – even banging out a center record seven second listing response time. Once, a guy on a call was threatening to commit suicide. One of the people working there in the center raised their hand for help, and you walked on over and plugged in to the call. You traced his number back on the next screen, and told someone to call the local police to get over there. Somehow, through the magical gift of bullshit you were bestowed, you managed to calm the guy down enough that when the police kicked in his door he just dropped the gun. They promote your monkey ass. You think you’re the shit. You start sleeping with some of the women who work there, making your rounds.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

You no longer have a phone in your apartment, because she had that shit turned off. You’re not mad about it, because it actually makes your life easier. People can just hit you up on your pager, and you can decide if they are worth the time for you to walk down to the Mobil station at the end of the block to call them back from the payphone or not. You take the bus back and forth to work, and when it’s really nice out, you like to walk the thirty blocks home. One night, a car with a couple of good-looking girls rolls on by, and one of them leans out the window and asks you if you need a ride. They pull into the parking lot, and off you go into the night.

You don’t realize what a motherfucker time is until two days later, when the three of you are still laying around in your smoke-filled apartment, and one of the girls starts talking to her friend about her not wanting to get kicked out of school so close to graduation. High School graduation.

When you confront them about their ages, both of them start to howl with laughter. You sit there and sweat starts to roll off of you. You feel like a monster. Yeah, you might only be all of twenty-four years old, but this shit is serious. You live in a state where this shit is serious as can be. You’ve been giving these girls drugs. You’ve been stupid. You got conned by your own lust for attention/human touch.

You kick the girls out and get on the bus to go to work. On the bus, you see a cop who keeps on eyeballing you. You start to panic, and you get off the bus early and walk the rest of the way to work. By the time you get there, you have soaked through your shirt. You look deranged. The people who work under you – your team – they see something is off. You go about your shift as normal as possible. Outside on a smoke break, you tell a guy you work with that you feel close to what happened to you, and he tells you to shrug it off – “we all do stupid shit, man.”

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

A few months later, and it feels like it never happened. You’ve moved on, because time is a motherfucker. You’ve held it down at this gig for a while now. You’ve got money saved. You still move little bits of shit for side money, but mostly you get by on what you make at your honest living. You’re sitting in your apartment, high as fuck and ready to pass out, when your beeper goes off. It’s your mother, so you walk your way down the block to call her back.

She has cancer. No, she doesn’t want you to come to see her. She wants you to stay where you are and keep working. She says that she cannot deal with you and her illness at the same time, even though you offer to move there and help take care of her. She says no. Repeatedly. She tells you not to tell her mother, whom you are extremely close to. She tells you not to tell your father, whom she is divorced from. She wants you to stay there. Period.

Time is a motherfucker.

You don’t realize what a motherfucker time is until years later down the road. Your mother is long since gone. So is her mother. And your father. Almost everyone you ever craned your neck up at to listen to them – they are all gone, every last one of them. So are your twenties, and most of your thirties. Like a fucking flash. Boom. Gone.

You find yourself standing in line at a goddamn Dunkin Donuts one morning, and you get a whiff of something that rings off of the brass bells inside your head. Olfactory flashback. You’re pushing forty now, and this scent rolls back the clock in your head to that back seat in that Nova. Sarah was her name. You remember the way you could taste, while kissing her, that she was sickly. You can suddenly taste that taste. You remember how soft her skin was. You remember how between kisses, she was mouthing the words to an Alice Cooper song that is now stuck in your head. The woman at the counter hands you your coffee, and you just kind of stare at her for a second. She smiles, and you take the change she is offering you. You step outside into the street, and the sun is shining down on you. It feels warm. It feels good.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

For as long as you can remember – even back to when you were six or seven, and still not questioning the instructions on a bottle of shampoo – whenever people ask you what you wanted to grow up and be, you told them you wanted to be a writer. In your teens you used to scribble into spiral notebooks when you should have been paying attention in class. You used to write love letters to girls who were dating your friends, and shove them in between the slats in their lockers. You used to write poetry on the back of your math tests. You used to sit outside at coffee houses, scribbling in leather-bound books. You used to enter yourself into Slam Poetry contests and lay waste to people with thermonuclear shit that was all guts and all incendiary anger. You used to secretly call them hate poems, because you hated all of the people who would walk up to the microphone and whisper nonsense about their gardens or their pets.

Time is a motherfucker.

You don’t realize what a motherfucker time is until you remember that during your period of homelessness, you used to write papers for people. You knew a lot of college students who would much rather party than write for their classes, so you took it as an opportunity to sleep on their couch and get a little coin in your pocket. You used to tell them to bring you little snippets of conversation that they observed, and then you’d pump out two, three, sometimes four thousand word pieces for them out of thin air. They would sit back in their cozy, parental unit-funded apartments the next morning, drinking their fifty bucks per pound Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and soak in what you’d just done for them. They were always in awe of what you were able to do with nothing. Then they’d get you high and drop you off somewhere as they went on to hand in your work with their name on it.

Years later, you find yourself sitting at your desk in your apartment. Lighting smoke after smoke after smoke, staring at a blank screen in front of you. You still want to write. You still believe you can write. When you do write, and people do read it, they tell you that you can, indeed, write. But you don’t believe them. You think they are just petting you, because deep inside of the secret chambers of you, you know you haven’t even begun to try yet. You’ve been coasting for years. Coasting on the fact that you told yourself over and over again that you could write, and other people ate that shit up.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

You stood there for a good long minute, staring at that bottle on your kitchen counter tonight. You’ve been staring at the screen for weeks. You’ve been sitting in that chair, boiling over inside of yourself, angry as fuck. You know you can do this. You know they put “lather, rinse, repeat” on those goddamn bottles just so people would buy more fucking shampoo. It doesn’t have a fucking thing to do with having healthy hair. And it honestly means fuck-all to you – you are as fucking bald as the day is long, son.

All you got, is time.

Time to get to work.

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