Category Archives: who is sean?

Strays, or, “Every Little Memory Has A Song”

The first night I was on the streets I was pretty terrified. I had been able to coast by for the first little bit of almost-homelessness because friends of mine would offer up a couch or a section of floor. As soon as those offers ran out, that’s when shit got sideways for me. An ex-girlfriend of mine who was in the process of moving had allowed me to stay the last few days she had left on her lease in her vacant apartment. Those few days were spent in complete silence. Well — other than me laying around in a puddle of sweat on the floor, listening to the creaks and groans of the apartments surrounding it. Not to mention the middle of the night screaming and weirdness going on. She left me a couple of days worth of non-perishable goods and was kind enough to buy me a couple of packs of cigarettes.

I ran out of food and smokes pretty quickly. Probably the second night.

I remember being completely fucking ravenous and rummaging around in the dumpster behind the grocery store near the apartment at three in the morning. In one trash bag I found a goldmine of just expired yogurts that still had the chill of the refrigerators on them. I also found loaves of bread that had been baked in the bakery, some dented cans of pork and beans, and a couple of smashed cans of a coffee drink. There was also a Burger King in the parking lot, and the next night when I was just as starving as I was the night before, I waited until I saw the last of the employees leave and then popped open their dumpster and did the same disgusting thing. I found a few burgers that had been cooked but were still in their wrappers and took off my shirt, filling it with whatever edible remnants I could carry.

When I got back to the apartment, I emptied out my findings on the kitchen floor. I sat and opened up each burger, looking for creepy-crawly critters or anything that would give off tell-tale signs of food borne disasters waiting to happen to me. I remember crying when I took a bite out of one of the burgers, because it tasted so dry and felt awful in my mouth — like a mouthful of meat-flavored sand and grit. I really had no idea what the hell I was doing — most of my life up to this point I had somehow managed to take care of myself and my business enough to not be in this type of situation.

*****

I must have been around five or six years old the first time I really saw a homeless person. I was with my mother, and we were headed from Bensonhurst into Manhattan to see my father at work. I remember walking with her, and seeing a man who was wearing ratty and torn clothing, shoeless and really disoriented-looking. He was standing just outside of the entrance to the subway, and was drinking out of a paper bag. This was in the mid 1970s, and New York City was definitely a much different place then. My mother wasn’t really good with dealing with shit that frightened/upset her, so I remember being led away pretty briskly by the hand.

Something inside of me, even in that fleeting and foggy moment, always knew that whatever that man was experiencing — I would know that place at some point in my life.

*****

Like most red-blooded American teens, I had done the typical running-away-from-home shit that we all do at some point — basically camping out in a park for a night or two and then knocking on the door, tail tucked firmly between the legs. I remember an extremely heated argument with my mother when I pierced my ears that resulted in me going and staying with my friend and his father for a long weekend where we ended up going to a lake and doing fun shit I never did with my own family. Then when we got back, my friend and I went out for a few hours, came back, and then we caught his father in the back office with a street hooker.

*****

One of my earliest memories ever is of me waking up in the darkest part of the morning before the rest of my family. I wandered around the house in my feetsie pajamas exploring everything in the dark. I even went down into the basement by myself. I couldn’t have been older than four or five, but I might be wrong — parts of the memory are really clear, and other parts are really kind of foggy. I do, however, remember being down in the basement and going through the cabinets underneath the bar that was down there. I picked up something that was in a purple velvet bag — it looked like some sort of treasure that I would find in one of my comic books or something. Inside of the velvet bag was a little bottle. I remember opening the bottle and smelling what was inside of it. It smelled hot to me, and the vapors that wafted up and into my nose had me curious, so I took a long drink from it. I still remember licking my burning lips afterward, and how my stomach felt like it was on fire.

That was probably the first drink.

After that I went back upstairs and looked in on my parents sleeping. They weren’t stirring — my father was snoring like a bear. I then went into the room I shared with my little sister and watched her sleeping for a minute. These moments, even when I think about them now — there is something about the way I observed everyone in those tiny moments, something that has never gone away, this curiosity that I have inside of me to see people when they do not know they are being seen — these moments alone in the house before the sunrise were the beginnings of the me I have turned out to be.

I remember quietly pulling myself up and onto the counter where the sink was, and then watching as the sky changed colors outside. From the darkest sky to a slow bruise to a low simmer to rays coming through the blinds. I waited until I couldn’t really sit on the counter anymore because it was starting to hurt, and then I went and got back into bed, falling fast asleep.

I still love the stillness and solitude of watching the sun rise. It might be my favorite part of the day.

*****

The first girl I ever kissed was a friend of my sister’s, Suzanne Lewis. It was her birthday, and she cornered me and told me I wasn’t allowed to leave without giving her a birthday kiss.

I never saw her again, but I used to walk by her house all the time, wondering how many other boys at the party she did that to.

*****

I think it was probably the second or third week I was using the bathroom at the Starbucks on 16th Street and Camelback as my personal shower/get-yourself-cleaned-the-fuck-on-up-so-nobody-knows-you’re-homeless center of operations when one the girls that worked there knocked on the door. It was maybe ten minutes after six in the morning.

“Hey — when you come out we need to talk to you, okay?”

I was stripped all the way down, scrubbing out my white t-shirt in the sink with a bar of Dr. Bronner’s while my socks and underwear were hanging off of the safety railing for the toilet, dripping onto the floor. I had already washed myself down and brushed my teeth and all of that. I figured that they would eventually get wise to my routine and ask me not to come back.

This was the routine I was doing to keep me from losing my mind: I would get there right as they opened, order a coffee with a bunch of change, and then go into the bathroom. Once inside, I would strip down, wash out my underwear, socks, and t-shirt — being sure to wring them out as best as I could before putting them into a large ziplock baggie to put into my satchel. I had the clothing I had washed the previous morning, and swapped them out. Then I would go back out into the Starbucks, grab my coffee from the girls and then go sit outside on the patio, drinking coffee and reading the paper while I rolled a bunch of cigarettes from the halfsies I pulled out of the sand ashtrays at all of the grocery stores in the neighborhood.

The moment I walked out of the bathroom, one of the girls was standing outside of the door, holding out an envelope toward me.

“We know that you’re homeless. We also know you probably won’t take anything for free from us, so we’ve been pooling our tips together for the last couple of days and want you to have this. Please take it — we can’t keep watching you roll all of those cigarettes.”

Not really knowing what to say, I just shook my head at her, smiled, and went about my regular routine. As I was sitting at the table rolling up all the smokes, the other girl came outside, put her hand on my shoulder, and then shoved the envelope in my satchel. The moment I started to make even the slightest sound of protest, she shot me a really awful look and said —

“Fuck you, man. You know what really sucks about this? We actually feel safe here in the mornings with you here now. Before? There were always these creepy fucking joggers and suits making gross eyes at us and shit. Take the fucking money and don’t be a dick about it.”

I quietly thanked her, and as she went back inside I couldn’t hold back the tears that were welling up as soon as I came out of the bathroom.

*****

I was working at the Swensen’s Ice Cream Parlor at the Paradise Valley Mall the first time anyone ever put a loaded gun to my head. It was a Friday night, and we had been pretty busy. I was making my last rounds through the restaurant while the other busboy/dishwasher was finishing up the last of the dishes so we could split. I was concentrating on finding all of the shit that kids typically threw on the floor underneath the booths, so the sounds I heard coming from the kitchen area were pretty garbled and didn’t register at first.

It totally registered when I looked up and saw the crazed-looking guy with the gun pointing at me while he had one of the waiters in a chokehold.

“ARE YOU FUCKING DEAF? GET YOUR ASS IN THE BACK OF THIS MOTHERFUCKER RIGHT NOW, BEFORE I FUCKING SHOOT YOU!”

He stood there at the double-doors leading into the kitchen and waited for me to walk by him until he followed, kicking me full-on in the ass and knocking me to the ground. This guy was out of his mind — he told everybody to lay down on the floor and not to look at him, all while he was screaming at the manager to open up the safe. I was sitting on an empty pickle bucket when he realized I was watching him and studying his face.

“MOTHERFUCKER — WHAT IS IT WITH YOU AND NOT LISTENING? I AM GOING TO SHOOT YOU IN THE FUCKING FACE. GET OFF THAT BUCKET ON YOUR BELLY ON THIS MOTHERFUCKING FLOOR, NOW!”

For a really brief second I actually thought I might be able to knock the gun out of his hand with a sheet pan or something, but then realized if I was wrong he was going to shoot at least a few people. As I was getting down onto my belly on the floor, he threw an empty glass jar that shattered on the ground right next to my face, some of the glass hitting one of the waitresses in the face.

“Asshole, stop fucking throwing shit — you cut her face, and you‘re scaring everyone.”

As soon as I said it, he leapt over the top of everyone who was laying on the floor between us, shoving the barrel of the gun into the back of my head so hard that my teeth crunched into the tile floor. I saw stars and heard nothing but a torrent of screaming and yelling about how fucking stupid I was for messing with him, and about how he “FEELS LIKE KILLING A WHITEBOY TONIGHT,” and about how I “JUST MIGHT BE THAT MOTHERFUCKING WHITEBOY.” Then he hit me across the top of my head with the gun, and I do not remember anything until I heard one of the waitresses screaming from outside the back door.

When the police came, I found out that after he hit me, he got the manager to open the safe, took the money, and then grabbed one of the waitresses to make sure nobody tried to stop him on his way out. When he got her outside, her took her engagement ring and her other jewelry, and then ran to a waiting car. The police had all of us separated throughout the dining room, but I could overhear everyone saying that I almost got everyone killed by acting like an asshole. The policeman that was asking me questions asked me to describe the guy as best as I could, since I was really the only person other than the now shell-shocked waitress who got a good look at his face.

“He was black. His eyes were black and glossy, like they were filled with gasoline. He was wearing a green baseball hat. The gun was black with a brown handle. He was wearing work boots. He smelled like alcohol.”

The other busboy/dishwasher looked the policeman dead in the eye, and then said “Sean is just being polite — he looked like a typical nigger high on PCP, that’s what he looked like.”

I watched the policeman’s face change when the other busboy/dishwasher said that. It was like seeing my father when he got angry. The policeman then asked us a few more questions, took down all of our information, and asked us if we would be available to pick the robber out of a line-up if the need ever came about.

Later on, I was sitting in Denny’s with the other busboy/dishwasher. We smoked a joint in his car, so we were pretty high, enjoying plates of fries with ranch dressing and bottomless coffees. I asked him why he said that, why he said what he did about the robber.

“I said it because it was the truth. And everyone is right — you could’ve gotten all of us killed.”

He was probably right, I wasn’t thinking about ramifications at that point. What nobody else noticed, was that the robber didn’t touch any of our tips that had been stuck to the order wheel on top of the counter at the ice cream bar. When everyone was still freaking out waiting for the police to show up, I went out front into the dining area to make sure nobody else was around. When I saw that money on that spinner, I just casually walked over and put it all into my pocket.

Fuck it — it’s not like anyone else got hit in the head.

*****

When I ran out of couches to sleep on and people started backing away from me a bit, and after that period of time in the vacant apartment was through, I slept in a city park, Los Olivos Park, on 28th Street and Glenrosa. The park was pretty quiet most of the time — I think the first four or five nights I was there I didn’t see another stray at all, mostly drunks in cars coming to the park to make out or fool around. Every now and then I would see a crew of teens hanging out on the fringe areas of the park, passing bowls back and forth, which made me feel really nostalgic — my friends and I used to do the same shit.

Because it was Summer, the park would sometimes get irrigation — water flowing freely into the park, creating a grassy lake between small berms. I remember one night watching as the water slowly crept its way through the park, almost like time-lapse. I had scrounged up enough change from all of the church fountains to buy myself some granola bars, a bottle of red wine, a hunk of mozzarella and some dried pineapple, so I was enjoying my little feast at a picnic table while I watched everything become submerged. I kept the wine in a paper bag to not draw any attention to myself, and was scribbling in my notebook when a police car drove right through the water in the middle of the park to the bench I was sitting at.

“Please step away from the bench and get down on your stomach with your hands to your sides.”

The police hadn’t even left the car — this was the voice coming out of the speakers. I was already embarrassed enough as it was about being homeless, or a “vagrant,” so I felt really awful that this was happening. It was so loud. I was afraid that the people in the houses and apartments that lined the park had heard them, and I was going to get run out of the safest place I had been able to find for me to sleep.

I stepped back from the picnic table and got down into the grass. The water level was rising, so I was completely soaked. I felt scared and angry at the same time. One of the police officers, the male, came over and was shining his flashlight in my face. He asked me for identification, and I told him my wallet was in my back pocket. As he took it out, the female police officer came over and stood to the side of me, talking into her radio.

“You know this park closes at 10PM, right?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Why are you here, then?”

“I don’t have anywhere else to go — I’m homeless.”

“You could go to a shelter.”

“Have you been to one lately? I don’t think so.”

Her partner called her over to the car and she told me not to move as she walked away. I could hear them talking quietly, and then I could hear them walking back toward me again, their boots sloshing in the water that I was craning my neck to keep out of my face. The male officer told me that I didn’t have any warrants, and then started asking me really personal questions about why I was homeless.

“Are you a drug addict?”

“No.”

“I ran your Social — you’ve never been in jail. Wife kick you out?”

“Not married.”

“Are you a Veteran?”

“Yes.”

As soon as I said that, they changed the way they were dealing with me. They told me to get up and sit at the bench again, and actually the both of them sat down as well. I kept on hoping that neither one of them would be able to sniff out the tiny bits of marijuana I had in my satchel. I realized I had a dry shirt and socks in my bag, but wasn’t about to open it up and change in front of them. The female officer asked me if I had looked into the homeless shelter they had over at the VA Hospital, but again I told her I wasn’t going to go to a shelter — I was better off on my own.

“Well, you can’t stay here in this park. It’s either let us drive you to the VA, or you go to jail. You choose.”

In the car on the way to the VA, the female officer asked me if I had any family I could call, or if there was anyone they could call for me. I told them that I didn’t have any family anymore, and that anyone they would call would probably not know what to do — I had already slept on every couch available.

When they dropped me off at the VA, the female officer asked me again if there was anyone they could call. I just smiled at her, and politely thanked them for being kind enough to drive me to the shelter, and thanked them for not taking me to jail. They seemed pleased with themselves, like they had done something nice for someone, and I wanted them to know that I genuinely appreciated their concern.

I waited a good ten minutes after they drove away to start walking away from the VA.

*****

Sometimes when I am staring off into space, I am not really staring off into space at all. The inside of my head is like my very own movie theater, full of recollections and faded Super-8 footage that spins around with no real purpose. I could be sitting at a table outside of a coffeehouse sipping on a latte, but in my head I might be on the beach in Pattaya, watching the way the sun reflects off of the Gulf of Thailand. I might be sitting on a crowded L Train with a book in my lap, but in my head I am crawling into some Oleander bushes to try and go to sleep during the hottest part of a Summer day in Phoenix. I could be waiting for the guy at the deli counter to take my order, but in my head I am standing in my parents’ walk-in closet, taking money out of the secret place they stashed it, so I could go buy a bag of pot.

I know a lot of people who tell me that my memory, or my ability to remember details of my life is something they wish they had. I’m not so sure if that’s what I would wish for if a genie popped out of a bottle in front of me. Sometimes it can drive you closer to the edge of what you would call sane. I think that my memory is why I tried to destroy myself with drugs and alcohol for so many years — to try and use the chemicals to blast myself free of the ghosts of who I used to be, of the things I had seen.

Now that I am clean, I embrace these memories. They make me who I am. I’m no longer afraid of who I have been, because without being that person, I would not be the person that I am right now.

I don’t know if this is how it works for anyone else.

I just know that this is how it works for me.

*****

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Excitable Boy, or, “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others”

You wake up to a strange voice asking you if you’d like to take a shower before breakfast. As much as you want to open your eyes, the fluorescent canopy overhead stings them, making it hard to make out the blurred form that is speaking to you. Mumbling incoherently, you say something about a cigarette, and the strange voice clucks in disapproval.

“You need to get some food in your belly so we can give you your first round of meds, buddy.”

You sit up a bit and try to focus on your surroundings — two bed room, other bed currently unoccupied. The room has dorm furniture. Your right wrist has one of those plastic hospital bands wrapped around it, name, date of birth and allergies listed in smudged black ink. Looking toward the disembodied voice that is now telling you where you are, you realize where you are.

“West Valley Camelback Hospital. You and your mother admitted you last night, saying you were going to hurt yourself. You did the right thing, buddy. We’re going to help you get well, don’t you worry.”

You worry.

You worry when you head toward the bathroom, and the voice that now belongs to a six foot seven inch black man informs you that he has to shadow your every move.

“I know it seems awkward, but we have to take precautions, buddy. You’re here because you felt like you were going to hurt yourself, so I have to shadow you for the first seventy-two hours to make sure that you don’t.”

You put some toothpaste onto a brush that you’ve just pulled out of a plastic wrapper. You run some cold water over the brush, and then step into the bathroom to piss — your shadow leaning against the door jamb. Your shadow hands you a plastic reservoir to piss into, because they need to run a tox-screen, even though they have already taken pints of blood from you after they sedated you the night before.

“They just want to be sure, buddy. No need getting your meds all messed up and having it interact poorly if you’re already on something.”

You remember the look on your mother’s face again, the look she gave you as they were taking your blood. You remember holding her hand and telling her everything was going to be okay, that this was the right thing to do.

*****

Your shadow is sitting with you while you eat your breakfast. There is nobody else in the cafeteria, because everyone else is off doing their thing. Your shadow has a name, Darrell. Your shadow used to play basketball at Wake Forest. You tell him that you watched him play on television once, against Ralph Sampson. Your shadow laughs at you.

“You like basketball, buddy? I’d have picked you for one of those skateboarding types.”

This will not be the first time something you say surprises people in this place.

*****

You are sitting in a plush leather chair in the office of the psychiatrist assigned to you. The plastic cup in your hand had just held within it three pills. You asked your shadow what they were, and he just told you to take them because they will help you relax so you can talk to the doctor. You try to figure out a way to keep your sneakers from flopping around, as they have taken away your shoelaces. To protect you from yourself. They have also taken away your belt. Your shadow was kind enough to take you outside to smoke half of a cigarette before bringing you in to see this doctor who is running late.

You look at the framed diplomas on his walls. There is an American flag stuck into a little plastic replica of Plymouth Rock on his desk. There is a painting that depicts a tiger being brought down by savages in loin cloths. There is the slightest musky smell in the room — almost like pipe smoke or cloves. The door opens.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting, I’m Dr. D’Javadi, I’ll be your primary physician here.”

You shake his hand, which feels calloused and dry. You introduce yourself, and the doctor then goes through a rambling mess of treatment plans. All of this is happening as he reads your intake folder without asking you a single question about your current state of mind or feelings. Twice you ask him about the medication you have been given. Twice he raised his hand up off of the folder he is holding to give you the stop sign.

You begin to feel furious.

When the doctor finally engages you about your feelings, you take your time with the opportunity to speak. You explain to him that you do not, under any circumstances, want to see your father. You tell him that as a voluntary patient, you understand you have rights, even as a minor. You express to him repeatedly that the crux of your depression and desire to hurt yourself is due to the fact that you feel like you have driven a wedge between the members of your family with your bullshit, and that by allowing your father to visit you, you will do nothing but submarine any progress you might be able to make.

His fingers are tented from the tip of his nose across his mouth. The doctor takes a moment, and then tells you that he will do the best he possibly can to honor your request. He then asks you if there are certain people that you would be willing to see, so you tell him that your mother and sister, your personal psychologist — whom you have known since you are fourteen — and your English teacher are the only people you want to see. He scribbles into the manilla folder. He asks you questions about your relationship with your psychologist and your English teacher and scribbles some more.

You ask him again about the medications they are giving you, because you do not want to take Prozac. The doctor laughs audibly at this, and then finally relents.

“I have prescribed Imipramine, which is a mild anti-depressant. I have also prescribed you, for the first few days that you are here, with Lorazepam, a benzodiazepine that will help you with the anxieties of adjusting to being in a new place. These medications will also help you to adjust to the intensive talk therapy that you will be participating in. There is no smoking in the building, and because some of the other patients do not have parental permission to smoke, your cigarettes will be kept by the nurses and rationed out to you throughout the day.”

You shake his hand and go back out into the hallway, where your shadow is waiting for you.

*****

That whole first week is now a dull blur. Your shadow is gone, replaced by a nurse named Sarah. Sarah works the night shift and took a shine to you the night you were admitted. She was charged with going through your personal belongings, and tells you repeatedly that she had to fight really hard to get the administration to let you keep your tattered copy of The Hotel New Hampshire. She tells you that John Irving is her favorite writer, and that you have excellent taste.

You have asked multiple administrators repeatedly if it would be okay if your mother brought you your guitar. You have expressed to them all that it would be therapeutic for you to be able to play, and have explained that if it is a distraction to other patients, you have a headphone amplifier you can play through.

The administrators say no.

Sarah tells you that they had to lock up a lot of the cassette tapes you brought with you to listen to on your Walkman, because as they listened to them, the music felt violent — not to mention the lyrical content. Sarah also explains to you that the reason why they would not let you keep your Jimi Hendrix tapes or shirt was because he “died of a drug overdose, and that is not what we’re all about here.” You calmly try to explain to her that Hendrix died because the woman who was with him at the time was an idiot and watched him choke on his own vomit instead of doing anything to help him, but Sarah isn’t buying it.

“We’re all a little bit older than you — I think we know what really happened.”

You wonder to yourself why it is they will let you keep a book that has incest in it, but won’t let you play your guitar or listen to Jimi Hendrix. You look in the plastic bag that has your approved items, and find an unmarked cassette tape. You smile, because if they had really listened to everything, they would know what was on this tape. You realize that you now possess something they would not want you to have, and you fill up with warm blood for the first time in over a week.

Sarah asks you a series of questions about your current mental state while she takes your vitals. Her hands feel warm and kind, unlike your psychiatrist. She seems to genuinely care about your well-being. Sarah tells you that she speaks to your mother every night, letting her know how you are doing. Sarah also tells you that tomorrow, you will be switching rooms and will now have a roommate.

After Sarah has turned out the lights and left, you masturbate, thinking about how soft her hands are, and about how you will have to share a room with some other fucked up kid.

*****

You are sitting in a room with twelve other patients. They have seated you boy/girl in a big circle. There is a counselor speaking about the rules of the group. Nobody is allowed to talk over anyone else. If someone feels as though they cannot participate, that is fine, but you must not become a distraction to the people who do choose to participate. You feel uneasy, because the girl on your left is attractive. You also feel uneasy because your new roommate, Raymond, is making faces at you from across the circle.

The counselor asks you if you would like to tell everyone why you are there with them.

Instead of just speaking up, you look down at your feet for a moment. The counselor takes this as a sign, and starts to speak again. You put up your hand to stop him, and he, like so many other adults in your life up to this point, exhales forcefully.

“I’m here because I felt like I was going to hurt myself. I bought a gun, and was planning on killing myself.”

One of the other guys in the circle coughs. A girl sighs. The counselor, his name is Richard, asks you to continue. You then spend a few moments explaining the reasons why you wanted to hurt yourself. You realize, as you are speaking, that these reasons are no different than anyone else’s, that this thing you have felt afflicted with is the same thing that each one of these children are afflicted with — a lack of self-understanding. A lack of self-love. A hole in the heart where joy should live.

This was the moment that you realized you did not belong in this place.

You finish speaking, going through the motions. Richard thanks you for sharing why you are there, and then asks the group if they have any questions for you. The girl to your left, the cute one, raises her hand slightly. Richard acknowledges her, and then she beings to speak.

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

Everyone bursts into laughter. Well, not everyone — you feel paralyzed by the question. Richard gets red-faced and angry. Raymond shouts from across the circle that he thinks you are a faggot. Another girl asks if you are a faggot. Richard’s face reddens, and he starts to raise his voice to quiet everyone down. The girl next to you who asked the question slyly grazes your shoe with her own, causing you to start to get an erection.

“Do you have a drinking problem? Do you use drugs every day? Are you violent? Do you cut yourself? Have you ever hurt an animal?”

All of those questions come flying out of Richard, spitting venom as he asks. You respond to each question calmly. You shrug your shoulders about the drugs and alcohol questions, because you’ve already witnessed how they march all of the other kids off to twelve-step meetings three times per day, and you’d rather not do all of that talking — this group session was more than hard enough as it was. You explain to the group that you grew up with violence, and that you yourself were only violent if you felt the need to protect yourself. You explained to them that you had a bad habit of bullying your little sister, because your father bullied you. You make it perfectly clear that you value the lives of animals over those of other humans.

Richard moves on to the rest of the group, but throughout the session he makes sure that you see him watching you.

*****

Richard corners you after the group is over. He has red hair, and resembles Cousin Oliver from “The Brady Bunch.” He makes you feel uneasy even though he is supposedly there to help you. Your palms start to sweat and your tongue feels fat in your mouth.

“Let’s go outside and smoke and talk, okay?”

Richard goes over to the nurse’s station and gets your cigarettes for you as you wait for him by the door to the patio area. As he walks back toward you, you see that he has a slight limp and that he tries to conceal it. He puts his key into the lock for the door, and you hold it open for him to go outside before you.

You are sitting at a picnic bench with Richard, smoking, as he tells you how much you remind him of himself when he was a kid. You’ve heard this rap before from plenty of people — each one of them more sincere than the next. You try to act as though you are truly listening, but each word he utters distorts and becomes a part of the previous stream of words now echoing in your head.

“I’m here to help you. If you ever need anything, just ask, okay?”

*****

Raymond will not stop. He does the same thing over and over again, and each time he does it he howls like a wolf at the top of his lungs.

The windows in this place are three inches thick. Unbreakable. Raymond will back all the way up to the door of the room, plant one foot on the back of the door like a sprinter, and then he takes off — full speed, head lowered like a ram, right into the window.

BANG.

“If you weren’t such a faggot, you’d be trying to break this glass, too.”

*****

The Imipramine causes you to have dreams that scare you. You keep on picturing that last night, when you were sitting outside in the gravel with the gun. The clouds are scattered and the moon is bright. You can smell the sulfur and gunpowder. You are slumped against the wall outside of your window, blood streaming from the wound on your head. You should be dead, but you are still alive, slowly bleeding out. Your hands are numb and you feel cold. You can hear your mother calling your name from inside the house, behind your locked bedroom door.

You wake up calling her name, but the only thing you hear is Raymond calling you a faggot and telling you to go back to sleep.

*****

You are sitting in Dr. D’Javadi’s office, waiting for your mother to arrive to talk about how you’ve been doing. You feel anxious. Your head feels muddy from the medications they have been giving you. You’ve felt for a while like you should be able to go home, because you’ve been playing the game in Richard’s group sessions and he’s been telling you that you’re getting better.

You worry about the incident, though.

There was an incident with Raymond that caused you to get put into a solitary room for twenty-four hours. You’d had more than enough of being called a faggot, so you purposely low-bridged him on the basketball court, causing him to fall and hit his head. When Raymond tried to get back up and in your face, you punched him in the face repeatedly until your former shadow pulled you off of him, muttering “Goddamn, son. Goddamn” as he did so.

You felt like your mother would understand. There was only so much someone could call you a faggot before you retaliated in some way.

Dr. D’Javadi comes in and sits at his desk, smiling. You still feel anxious, but make small talk with him about how things have been going. He appears to be proud of you for your progress, and his tone of voice seems warmer than before. He mentions that Richard is very fond of you, and that a lot of the staff is very impressed with your demeanor.

As the door opens, you immediately feel betrayed.

Your mother comes through the door with your father in tow. Everyone sees you shift awkwardly in your seat. You ask the doctor if you can smoke in his office, and he hands you an ashtray, a lighter and a pack of Winstons from a desk drawer. You refuse to look at your father, who is sitting on the small couch with your mother who will not meet your eyes. You hear a lot of words coming out of the mouths of adults who you felt had your best interests at heart. You hear tell of your father moving back home. You hear your mother telling you that she is proud of you. You hear the doctor expressing to your father your concerns about him being able to visit you, and watch as your father looks shocked.

Everyone sounds like they are underwater to you. Every syllable is muffled, garbled. Your hands start to shake. You fidget in your seat. You can hear your heartbeat in your ears and the light in the room feels dimmer.

*****

You wake up in a very bright room, strapped down on a gurney. Your cheeks are raw from chewing holes in them, and your tongue feels rug-burned. You can barely lift your head to see the heavy door, but you know it is there. You try to speak, to cry out — but you are too sluggish to make your voice work. You can crane your neck and see that you have been injected with something, because of the cotton and the band-aid on your arm.

“You really did a number on Dr. D’Javadi, buddy.”

Your former shadow, now your shadow in this room, slowly tells you the tale. You flipped out, launching yourself across the desk at the doctor, grabbing him with both hands around his throat. Your father tried to pull you off of him, but you were determined to take care of each one of them at your own pace. Dr. D’Javadi hit the panic button as you grabbed him, and your mother ran out into the hallway screaming for help. Your shadow and four other staff members rushed in to try and pry you off of the doctor, but you put up a pretty good fight.

“You broke Richard’s nose, buddy. Pretty badly, too — he’s going to need to have surgery.”

Your shadow tries not to laugh when he sees the smirk come across your face.

*****

Your new doctor, Dr. Phillips, meets with you openly in the cafeteria. Dr. Phillips is asking you about your aftercare program, because you are going home at the end of the week. You tell Dr. Phillips that you would like for your personal psychologist to administer your aftercare, and he agrees to that. Dr. Phillips then tells you that Dr. D’Javadi will be coming back to work the next day, and that it would be best for everyone on the staff if you apologized to him in front of the staff and the other patients.

You agree.

*****

You are packing your belongings in a room you have all to yourself again. Sarah is sitting on a chair talking to you about the things that have happened with the rest of the patients that you have been kept from. She tells you that Richard explained to the group that his getting hurt was not your fault, as he was dumb enough to try and grab you forcefully in the middle of the violence. Sarah also tells you that the cute girl, Maureen, has been passing her notes for the past ten days that were meant for you.

“That girl has it bad for you, kiddo. Real bad.”

You don’t really have much to say, so you give Sarah the same smirk you gave to your shadow in the lock-down room. Sarah laughs and reaches into her pocket, taking out a fistful of notes and shoving them into your bag of stuff. She hugs you, warmly, and kisses you on the cheek.

“You be good to you, okay?”

*****

You are in a car with your mother, on the way home. Your mother keeps asking you about school, and about what your plans are. You’ve missed almost ninety days, and you have a lot of catching up to do. You tell her that you will work something out with the school, and that you did plenty of work there in the facility that should apply in some way.

Your mother apologizes for blind-siding you with your father, and you tell her how sorry you are for everything. You tell her how you realized very quickly that you did not belong in this place — that this place was for kids who were far more fucked up than you were, and that you feel like you wasted everyone’s time. You tell her how sorry you are that your depression and your inability to get along with your father has ruined the family. You cry. Your mother begins to cry.

The both of you spend the rest of the ride in silence.

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Filed under i used to be an angry motherfucker, i used to be stupid, who is sean?

Here Comes The Fat Controller, or, "Swingin’ Shiva"

Leviticus 19:28 “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”

“Jesus Christ, man – do you ever drink any water?”

My skin is taut. So taut, that it is almost impossible for someone to grab a handful of the flesh across my back, to pinch a chunk of it together. This is a problem, because this is a necessary part of the process. This is an even bigger problem, because in order for me to be able to follow through on what I have set out to do this evening, my flesh has to have some give in it.

There is no other way.

The date is May 12th, 2001. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. This evening marks five years to the day that my own mother passed away – May 12th, 1996 – which just so happened to be Mother’s Day of that year. Me being the always-suffering and mourning son, I’ve decided that instead of my usual routine of getting plowed on as many illegal substances as possible at one time and making blubbering, incoherent long distance phone calls to members of my family and ex-girlfriends in the middle of the night, I’m going to try something different this year.

Very different.

*****

For the last few months, I have been working with some very interesting people. I stumbled into this weird little world right as my latest attempt at fitting in in The Straight World had flamed-the-fuck-on-out. I had just lost my last gig working as the manager of some chain restaurant because I was so fucking irresponsible and fucked-up in the head that I couldn‘t even get to work on time anymore. My truck had also recently been repossessed – right in front of my boss, which I think helped lead him into making the decision to can my ass, which he did at four-thirty in the morning on a Sunday.

Like I said – I had by then somehow drifted into this very weird and alternate universe type of world. I had become friendly with some people in Phoenix who were pushing the envelope on a lot of fronts – “artists,” if you will. I was a member of an Internet community that was geared toward people who were into body modification, and through that site I was able to connect with some people locally. After spending some time with them, I was asked to help them with their businesses.

Anyway – that part doesn’t matter so much. What matters is that through these people, there were things that I once thought impossible now being shown to be not only possible, but suddenly plausible. I have always been one to sort of let The Universe guide me to wherever it was that I needed to be, and being around these people had shown me that there were plenty of people out there in the world who were doing something akin to what I had always done, albeit in very different manifestations.

I have always, from a very young age, wanted to separate mind and body. Whether it was through meditation, drugs, sleep deprivation, exercise, or even fasting – I was apt to give it a shot. I’d followed seers, shamans, medicine men, and every other type of charlatan out there in the world who had promises of being able to complete, or even come close to this type of separation.

Some of my new friends achieved this goal before my very eyes. I had witnessed some very intense things, and came to the realization as the anniversary of my mother’s death was inching closer on the calendar, that I was going to use this opportunity that The Universe was putting before me for something new and powerful. I was not going to waste this. I was not going to do as I mentioned earlier on in this Ramble and get loaded on whatever I could get my hands on. No, I was going to take this to a whole different level of mourning.

I was going to fly.

[This is the part of the Ramble where I warn you that if you are in any way a squeamish person, you might want to go on ahead and read someone else’s site and forget I ever posted this entry.]

So, after witnessing many flesh suspensions, I came to the conclusion that I was going to do one my damn self. My new friends did this type of thing almost every night, weather permitting. If you wanted to be hung in Phoenix, these were the people that were doing it. I had seen a few suspensions done as performances before I met these people, but they were always run by my new friends anyway. And now that I was amongst them on a daily basis, I was also able to witness private suspensions that happened.

I knew that this was what I wanted to do, and in my meditation earlier in the week, I was able to reach a place of clarity I had not been able to reach before – which was a good sign for me. After speaking with my friend who ran the suspension group, and explaining the circumstances behind my decision, it was decided that we would do this on Saturday night, in the privacy of his back yard. When he asked me how I wanted to “go up,” I asked him which method would constrict my breathing the most, as I was pretty convinced that in order to achieve the state of mind/body separation I was looking for, a lack of oxygen was imperative.

It was then decided that I was going to go up “suicide” style – with four large hooks through the flesh of my upper back. The four hooks would support all of my weight, and also lift my shoulders up and back, which would change the way that oxygen was flowing into my body. I had seen another friend do this very type of suspension about a month earlier, so I knew what to expect to a degree.

*****

The day I was to be hung, my then-girlfriend was acting up something fierce. She was young, and also someone who at that time in her life was struggling very much with being accepted by this crew of people. At one point during the day, she actually said out loud –

I don’t understand why you get to be the only one to suspend tonight? It isn’t fair. Your mother has been dead for five years. Get over it.

Obviously, my blood began to boil immediately. I tried very hard to stay within myself and let the words just slide away, because I wasn’t about to let her childish petulance get in the way of something that was very important to me – especially something that I was taking on in such a spiritual manner. She then asked me if she could call some of her friends, so that they could come and watch. I shot that idea down very quickly, and watched her go stumble over to the computer to pout about it.

I honestly didn’t care so much in the moment. I had much more important things on my mind.

*****

I am now sitting backward on a metal folding chair, as two of my friends are trying to grab up enough of a handful of my flesh to push a hook through it. They are struggling, because my flesh will not cooperate with them. Standing in front of me is the girlfriend of my friend who is in charge of everything. She is currently running the show, since The Universe struck him down with a terrible bout of food poisoning.

I took that as a sign.

She is holding my hands as the first hook pushes through. There is an audible pop as the hook comes through the other side of the lump of skin that my friends managed to grab hold of. I feel a little light-headed, so she shoves a handful of Skittles into my mouth, and wipes my face down with a paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol. My then-girlfriend is standing in the corner, still pouting and acting petulant.

“One down, three to go – you hangin’ in there, buddy?”

I nod, and go back to chewing on the candy in my mouth, trying to focus on what I am about to do. In my lifetime I have already walked on hot coals and broken glass. In my lifetime I have already fasted for ten days. In my lifetime I have already taken peyote with a Navajo medicine man.

I understand that this will be different, but somehow similar.

*****

Three hooks later, and I am now standing outside in the back yard. One friend is on top of the roof, waiting for the signal to start cranking me up into the air from the two friends who are standing next to me. The hooks in my back are attached to ropes that are attached to an apparatus that is attached to a winch. I am smoking.

“You have to lean yourself forward a little bit, try and get a good stretch going so that the hooks loosen you up a bit. If you don’t do that, you’ll probably pass out as soon as you go up. Okay?”


I follow the advice given, and start to lean myself as far forward as I can. My friend’s girlfriend asked me if there was any music that I wanted to listen to, so I had her throw on Adam And Eve, by The Catherine Wheel. I loved that album. Perfect little songs. I imagined myself floating to them as I stretched myself out further and further, pulling the lines as tight as they would go. I was bouncing on the balls of my feet.

“I’m ready to go up, guys. I’m ready to go now.”

I can hear the winch cranking. I can feel the pressure in my flesh as the lines start to get tension in them. I can feel myself being pulled back and up. My two friends are standing on either side of me now, each one of them holding onto my hands as they inspect the lines and the hooks – to make sure nothing will go wrong.


*****

When you are weightless, nothing around you makes any sense. I can still hear the music, but it sounds like it is under water. I know that my breathing has changed, because the lights out here have dimmed. My feet are no longer on the ground, and nobody is holding my hands. The illusion of being held up is gone – I am hanging from hooks in my flesh.

Closing my eyes, I try to navigate the millions of thoughts that are being processed by my mind. There is no pain. All I feel is the pressure of my flesh holding my weight. For a brief second, my mind flashes to the possibility of one of the hooks popping through my skin, but I quickly squash that thought – my friends would not let that happen to me. They are taking this as seriously as I am. They all know how important this moment is for me.


When you are weightless, there is no time. A minute can be an hour. An hour can be a minute. What happens outside of your body is inconsequential. What happens inside of your mind is all that matters. In my mind, I am trying to find her. I know she is in here with me. I can feel her. I can almost smell her.

*****

When I open my eyes, everyone is staring at me. I am still hanging in the sky. It is raining, but none of the drops are hitting me. The rain is light. The ground below me is wet with it, but none of it is on my body. The air feels warm. Someone is talking in hushed tones, but I cannot make out the words. Looking up into the night, I can see a clear patch in the clouds, and I can see the stars.

“I’m ready to come down now. Thank you.”

When you are weightless, and your feet touch the ground again, it is a very awkward feeling. Almost like having sea legs – you just do not trust that the earth will stand still for you. When the initial contact is made, and the sole of your shoe touches the pavement for the first time, you feel something that I cannot even begin to describe with language.

Everything feels like it happened so quickly, but you realize you must have been up in the air for a while when you hear that the album is on the last track. Your friends have huddled around you quietly, offering you sips of water and another handful of candy to go with the cigarette you’ve asked for. You do not feel faint, even though they have all told you that you might.

If anything, you feel just right. As if you actually were able to accomplish what you set out to do.

*****

In retrospect, I am thankful that I took this journey. Would I do it again? I don’t think so. There is no need for me to revisit something that might cheapen the experience that I had with it – which was my main reason for doing it in the first place, to experience something powerful. Over the years, I’ve talked to some people about the experience, but mostly, I never really felt any reason to talk about it at great length. It was my experience. I am thankful that I was able to do this in a safe and emotionally supportive place – the people that were there with me will always have a little nook that belongs to them in my timeline.

If you find yourself ever wanting to take a journey like this, please do seek out someone who knows what the fuck they are doing. If you need to be pointed in their direction, let me know – I’ll get you to the proper people.

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Filed under nuggets of infinite wisdom, the spiritual misadventures of sean, who is sean?

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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Filed under "whatever happened to...", jealous insecurities, laziness, nuggets of infinite wisdom, who is sean?

Fortunate Son, or, "An Open Letter To My Late Father, On His Birthday"

Dear Pop,

First of all – Happy Birthday!

I know there were plenty of times in the past when your birthday rolled around, and I didn’t call or anything. I know, I was an angry asshole of a kid. I’m sorry for all of that. I find myself wishing someone would build a time machine, so I could roll on back and spend more time with you, and show more love/affection toward you – especially after everything we went through together at the end of 2005.

Secondly – I really miss you, man. Like, a lot.

Nobody busts my balls like you did. Plenty of people try, but it’s just not the same. Maybe it’s because of the shared DNA, but you always had this magically precise manner and a kind of craftsmanship that can never be replicated. Whenever I do something really stupid, I still hear your voice in my head – cracking wise, but with that tone that always said “you’re an idiot, but I love you.”

I can honestly say that there hasn’t been anyone in my life that has had as much of an influence over the kind of motherfucker that I am right now than you. You taught me so much – some of it without even realizing you’d done so, I’m sure. In a lot of ways, you taught me who I wanted to be, and who I didn’t want to be. Sometimes within a ten second span.

Remember how when you were sick you had said to me that the book you’d really love to read would be the one about all the “crazy women” I had dated?

Well, that’s not exactly the book I’ve been writing, Pop.

Instead, I’ve been working on something a little different. I’ve been working on this thing about us, and about what we went through together when you got sick. A memoir-type of thing. It’s really hard to do, to be honest – I‘m trying to balance all of these other memories with the memories of the period of time when you were sick and I was helping to take care of you. Not to mention trying to tell the story without any bitterness attached to it (which is really hard at times, but not as hard as I thought it would be, considering all of the circumstances), and trying to be as emotionally honest as I can be about the things going on inside of me during that period of time.

My friend Melissa just wrote a memoir, and in an interview she said something that really struck me deep and hard –

People don’t imagine memoirists doing much research, but that’s a misconception. I did a lot of research for this book, and some of it was internal.

That part is really fucking hard for me, Pop. The data mining in my innermost places. The stuff buried in the code in the back of my head, the stuff that only you and I really know about. There are times I find myself sitting here at this computer, and as I uncoil a sentence or a string of them, I have to get up and walk away from everything. Sometimes I have to go and lock myself in the bathroom, running the tub to hide the sounds that come out of me as I am laying curled up on the floor.

I realize that sounds dramatic, and you would probably laugh at me for it if you saw me sprawled out on the floor – it isn’t a very big bathroom to begin with – but it really hurts that you’re not around anymore.


I know that I wasn’t always The Good Son. I know that there were things that I did throughout my life that aggravated you to no end. I get that. And the same goes for you, Pop. We had many a terrible clash, didn’t we? Whenever I read something about Irish fathers and their sons, I suddenly find myself nodding my head in agreement – the constant struggle for supremacy within the household, the never-ending battle for upper hand, whether it was physical, emotional, or mental.

It was all just a part of the cycle, you know?

As I’ve gotten older, and as a lot of things about you (and myself, for that matter) have been revealed, I’ve begun to feel like the enigma I once saw you as has almost turned into my looking into a mirror at my True Self. We’re just so fucking similar in so many ways that nobody else would ever understand. Kids today like to joke around about so-and-so being their “Spirit Animal,” and things like that.

I think you’re my Spirit Animal, Pop.


I catch myself – almost daily – having some of your well-worn catch phrases rolling off of my own tongue. I find myself yelling at the television when I am watching a hockey game. Like you, I use being boisterous as a way to cover up my almost-sickening level of sensitivity. It has been pointed out to me that I intimidate people with my silence. I brood like you did. I try not to hold grudges, but when I’ve had enough and feel like someone has wronged me in a way that is unforgivable, I hold fast to banishing them from my world much like you would – even when a part of me doesn’t really want to.

But back to the monstrosity that I’m working on for a minute – the time between your death and now has been a really amazing journey. I’m not sure if I can express the right amount of gratitude and respect for you through language. Like I said – I’m trying really hard, Pop. I am. It isn’t easy to cram thirty-five years of interpersonal dynamics into a book that really only spans a period of roughly ninety days or so. Every time I start to write out something that happened in the immediate timeline of events, other buried memories that interconnect come hissing out of me like a slow leak.

There is a lot of chatter out there in the big Literary World, about how memoir isn’t “art,” or “real writing.” Some people out there prefer made-up stories to things that really happened. And you know me, Pop – I’m cool with everyone for the most part. Just dig what you dig, and love it with all your heart. A lot of people also think that writing a memoir is a selfish act, as if by doing so one is doing nothing more than cramming their ego down everyone’s throat.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this. And for me, I’m not sure that my motivation has anything to do with any of that egocentric shit. If it does, it certainly hasn’t reared up and shown itself to me in that type of light. If anything, I am writing the only story I know I can truly write. At least for right now. The story about how you and I were somehow able to forgive one another for everything without even saying a word about any of it. About how we were able to communicate with each other through our eyes and our movements.


This story burns inside of me, Pop. Our story.

For a while, I was really concerned about the effect this story would have on other, unnamed people. After speaking with some friends who have written memoirs, it became clear to me that it doesn’t matter how the story effects anyone else if I tell the truth. The only people who will be upset are the people who weren’t paying attention to what was really happening. You cannot sue someone for being honest. And if there is one thing I have learned over the years, my Truth is all I really have that belongs to me. If I tell the story as it unfolded, and hold nothing back, there is nothing to be worried about.

And that’s all I really have to say about that.

I haven’t done a very good job of staying in touch with your siblings. I’m probably going to try and call your twin brother tonight to wish him a happy birthday as well, but I’m nervous about that. I haven’t spoken to him for a couple of years now, and well, you know how I get, Pop. Sometimes it’s a little bit easier to just lurk in the shadows of someone’s mind than to actually participate in their life. Maybe that’s something I can work on, you know? Something to shoot for.

I miss you a lot. Happy Birthday. Thank you for being my father, warts and all.

Love,

Sean

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Busload Of Faith, or, "Be Careful What You Wish For, You Just Might Get It"


This is just going to be a brief little update, followed by something that I had posted on my old site, back in August of 2006. I’m posting it, because I was reminded of it today when a couple of good friends of mine revealed that they were going through some really rough shit – and it immediately caused my mind to flash back to one of the lowest and most desperate times in my own life.

I’ve been having a rough time with some things lately as well. I’m holding fast to the health thing, and working really hard to maintain the emotionally healthy ideas I set for myself for 2010. The health thing has actually been way easier than I thought it would. Once I established the patterns of eating healthier, my body now craves that healthier food. I’m still chugging down lakes of water daily, and I have yet to have a single soda or a cup of coffee since I began doing this back in January.

Physically, I feel pretty fucking good.

Emotionally, on the other hand…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my sobriety, and about the effect it has on my relationships with people.

I stopped imbibing almost three years ago. It was something I had wanted to do for a while, and had tried to do many times in the past. In the past, I was usually only able to quit for a little while, but it was very hard to suppress my innermost Hank Chinaski (also referenced in the letter posted at the end of this here Ramble) – the allure of a dimly lit speakeasy (and the cast of characters commonly found within it) coupled with the tractor beam of a well-balanced glass of whiskey was a constant niggling, pulling me into those magical and darkened corners. Most of the time that I was in the process of quitting, I was choosing which vice would get to live on – if I was going to stop drinking – I kept on smoking pot and eating bars of Xanax like candy, or if I was planning on giving up the reefer – I would start drinking more red wine and popping Valiums. I was a fucking mess.

Obviously, this wasn’t a very good pattern for me – choosing between one vice or the other.

This time it was much easier, and very different. I didn’t seek anyone else’s help, I just made a decision and stopped. Everything. No more pills, booze, reefer. I gave it all up, and have honestly never looked at the road behind me – I just keep pushing forward. I do not question, at all, my choice to no longer “get fucked up.” If anything, it was a long time coming – and not just for the reasons that would seem easy enough for anyone to suss out.

It was just time.

In the beginning stages of cleaning myself up, I was very nervous about how my friends were going to take it – most of the time that we all spent together involved me drinking brutish volumes of liquor. I was the guy that someone could call at three in the morning and meet up for a drink. I just didn’t give a fuck. And now, here I was, cutting that part right the fuck on out of me. How were my friends going to take it? Were they going to shun me? I really was kind of terrified – I had just been through a lot of really heavy shit in a short period of time (which the letter below spells out), and the few friends I had – I really wanted to keep them, and keep them close.

They actually adjusted pretty well. In fact – quite a few of them confessed that they had hoped I was going to make such a change, because they were worried that I was going to drink myself to death.

In the rightfuckingnow, I’m definitely happy with my decision to clean my life up – I would never go back to being that Sean. But, and this is serious now, at times I feel as though new people that I meet figure out or find out that I am sober (it’s not like I walk around rocking a Youth Of Today shirt and talking about the evils of poisoning oneself with drugs and hooch), and they immediately get fucking weird. Am I an alcoholic? Yeah. Am I a junkie? Yeah. I’ll always be those things – it’s not like I can just erase the memory banks completely – all I have done is change my behaviors and made a decision to no longer “get fucked up.” I appreciate being clearheaded now, and I appreciate the fact that when there is a problem, my first instinct is no longer to drown my sorrows and try to erase the problem – I deal with shit now. For real.

Much like everything else – this might all be in my head – but sometimes it feels like people have a harder time with my sobriety than I do with their imbibing. When people get that wonky look in their eye and feel the need to ask for my permission to have a drink in my presence, that’s when I start to realize that I need to step back a bit, really look at that relationship, and try to figure out how much value there is in it. Is this judgmental of me? Yeah, a little bit. But that’s unfortunately how I have to do things. I’m not concerned with me suddenly changing my mind and running to the nearest liquor store and guzzling down a bottle of Maker’s Mark outside on the sidewalk – the decision to be sober has been made, and I am more than cool with it. What I’m not cool with, is when people who I am emotionally investing in (and let’s get on motherfucking Front Street, people – a friendship is an emotional investment) treat me like a fucking leper or a lesser-than because I’m not rolling the way they roll. If you’re in my presence, and feel self-conscious about your habits, then that is something broken inside of you, not me. Believe that.

ANYWAYS…

So – that’s what has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s funny in a way – there is a lot of truth to all of the koans written about the nature of water. One ripple creates so many more.

Below is this goddamn letter I keep on referencing. I wrote it, funnily enough, in an opiate/alcohol haze back in the summer of 2006. I got clean for good almost three years to the day from today – my last drink was on March 16, 2007 – a shot of Jameson’s for my old man. Not one drop has hit these lips since.

Take care of yourselves, and be good to each other. Life is too fucking short not to.

————————

Dear Universe,

I don’t really know how we’ve ended up in this predicament, but it seems as though we’re at an impasse in our relationship. I feel really awkward writing about our relationship out here on the interweb, but I’m not sure you’ve been hearing me in my attempts at daily commiseration with you.

It feels like this cry for help could be my last shot at some kind of open dialogue/reconciliation with you.

Lately it seems as though every time I reach for your hand, you pull away from me. I’m not sure what it is that I did to offend you, but it hurts. Our relationship used to be so much stronger than this, and I feel very disconnected. This feeling of disconnection from you is leading me into a deeper well of depression, and I am starting to become concerned that the damage is not only irreparable, but also permanently scarring.

My psyche is a wee bit too fragile for this shit from you, Universe, and I honestly expected a little bit more from you than this.

Maybe you think I’ve been taking our relationship for granted, or something along those lines? It seems so cliché, but that’s not about you, it’s about me. I certainly haven’t been blaming you for all of these trials and tribulations that have been tossed my way over the last 36 months or so, have I? I felt as though I was handling things pretty well, taking responsibility for my own complicity in the events that have transpired around me. For some otherworldly reason, I’ve yet to point my finger at you out of anger for the multitude of humbling and soul-shattering moments you’ve laid at my feet.

Is that what you want me to do?

If blaming you is what you want from me, I am going to have to disappoint you some more. I’m not in the blame business, and at this point in our relationship – you should already know that I have outgrown that kind of behavior. Hell…you taught me to love, not hate. So why would you want me to blame you, for things that were/are/will be beyond my control? I can’t do that, and you know it.

Fuck it. Hold up.

Okay. Fine. You know what, Universe? I am a little bit pissed off at you, okay? Maybe I do need to scream at you a bit; to get this shit out of my chest and out into the ether.

Why, oh Grand Universe, have you decided that consistently testing my ability to keep from becoming some fucking mess of a man is so important to you? Was it necessary to take both of my fucking parents from me, before I had the chance to ever feel as though I actually made them proud of me for anything other than mundane bullshit that any mouth-breather on this rock could pull off? Was it totally necessary to take from me a friend that I felt like I had known my entire life, and was motherfucking sure I would end up knowing for the rest of my time here on terra firma? Does it continue to be necessary to have The Holy Rollers judging me and fucking stealing from me what was left for me by my grandmother (whom you also took from me much too fucking quickly, you fucking sadist, you)? Do you think it’s fucking funny that my sister can’t return my calls? Why do I have to be so fucking tested all the time? Putting obstacles in my path seems to be your sick and twisted manner of showing me affection, Universe.

Right now I am screaming the safe word at you, yet you continue to flog away.

I’m not totally sure what it is that I have done to hurt you so deeply that you would act this way, but whatever it is I am sorry. It’s also unnecessary for you to continue to fuck with my friends as well. This isn’t high school – it’s life. My friends are for the most part all goodly people, and I think whatever it is that you have out for me is more than enough. Leave them alone, okay?

The only times I even feel remotely connected to you anymore are during the smallest hours. When I am walking and wandering in the night, headphones set to stun, with the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop. There are fleeting moments during these meanderings where it feels like old times; memories flooding into my subconscious mind like the connection is wide open again. Remembering my ability to rise above and overcome. Feeling invincible, yet remaining humble within your womb. During these moments, I am almost always close to tears, because I miss the intimacy and closeness of our relationship much more than you could ever realize.

This is having a major impact on my other relationships, Universe. Because we’re so distant, I cannot seem to allow myself to get close to anyone or anything lately. Maybe it’s the usual fear of abandonment shit I drag behind me like Linus (can you fucking blame me, after all the rugs that have been yanked out from under my feet?), I don’t know for sure. But I do know that it’s becoming more and more likely that I will turn into some drier and much more celibate version of Henry Chinaski if things keep rolling this way. Nobody wants to be friends, or “intimate”(do I need to spell that out for you?) with the guy who cannot connect. Nobody wants to hang out with the guy who can’t make any kind of commitment to anything other than the unknown.

I’m not sure if or even how we’re going to be able to reconcile this mess we’re in, Universe. I know that there’s a part of me that’s hollow now; a space that you used to occupy is empty and in need of filling. I used to believe in you without the smallest shadow of doubt, yet here I am writing you an open letter on the interweb like a jilted teenager. Placing not only blame at your feet, but also my disdain. You broke my fucking heart, and you continue to do so on an almost daily basis. You’ve taken away from me almost as much as you’ve given me over the years, and you’ve done it all very quickly and methodically.

This is me, throwing up my hands and begging you to slow your roll. Begging you to give me some room to breathe and recover who I am underneath all of this rubble. This is me asking you to maybe let up a little bit and allow me to find some answers before the next Big Letdown happens, so that the next one doesn’t push me over the edge into the well of insanity that I’ve been dancing on for a while now. This is me asking you from the tiniest portions of my broken fucking heart…for a reprieve.

After all we’ve been through Universe, it’s the least that you could do for me.

Sorry if there was some anger in this letter, but I can’t hold stuff in all the time – it’ll kill me. I don’t want to be some Emergency Room casualty because I kept all of my anger in until my heart bursts at the seams (that’s just not how this story is supposed to end). I’m also sorry if I gripe too much – I’ll work on that.

I hope this letter finds a good place in you, and we can figure out some way to work through and salvage our relationship, Universe. It’ll be worth it if we can. For both of us.

Be well,

Sean

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Jump Around, or "This One Is About That Time I Was A Chickenshit And I Am Still Repulsed By Myself Fifteen Years Later(And You Will Be, Too)"

I don’t want to go with you – I shouldn’t know where ‘The Jew’ lives.”

In my long and sometimes ridiculous life, I have always managed to somehow put myself into situations that most people never have to deal with. I’m not sure if this is because I have always been a free spirit who was willing to float along with whatever came my way, or if I was just a moron who was incapable of seeing that my inability to say no to things that were going to excite me was going to put my life in jeopardy.

Drugs.

Drugs always put me into these types of situations. Well – drugs and women. But mostly drugs. When I was in High School, my experimentation with marijuana led me into some sketchy situations, but that’s to be expected when your balls haven’t dropped yet. Meeting up with some kid you’ve never met before to buy a dime bag of Mexican dirt weed near some racquetball courts at a school a few miles away was rough at the time – but I had no idea that it was just a precursor to much rougher connects in my future. I once bought around one thousand White Crosses(Benzedrine) off of this guy I was working with at an ice cream parlor – well, I didn’t buy them as much as he fronted the money to get them and then he started showing up at my house at odd hours asking me for “the fucking money,” or he was going to kick my ass. You know – I still feel kind of bad about that whole situation. I mean – dude could have totally whooped my ass, no problem – he was an angry motherfucker who used to smash sheet-pans on his head at work for fun. But the time he showed up and rapped on my window at 3AM with a baseball bat? That was a bit much for a hundred bucks‘ worth of pills.

I rummaged around in my sock drawer for whatever money I had stashed in there, and shoved it all through the screen into his hand – I just didn‘t feel up to going outside and having a bat-fight with anyone at 3AM.

Fast-forward to around late 1994 or so. I had just got out of the military, and was living in an apartment complex that my father was managing(so his rent would be cheaper) with his new wife. I was working at a record store. I was reconnecting with people I hadn’t seen in ages – people I used to party with in High School and all that. A lot of them were in college – milking their parental units for not just tuition money, but rent, food, all of that important shit that people sometimes take for granted when they’re young. And a lot of the kids that I was friends with were kids that came from money – and that‘s no lie. I had met the majority of them through the punk rock scene in Phoenix, which, in the 1980s, was chock full of privileged kids who were acting out. I mean – who the fuck can scream “Kill The Poor” by the Dead Kennedys while driving around in a Mercedes? Kids in Phoenix. In the 1980s. Usually with me in the back seat, stoned out of my mind and wondering why I didn’t get a Mercedes, and then remembering that both of my parents worked their asses of for what little we had.

One night at the record store, an old friend of mine named Michelle* was suddenly standing in front of me with a huge grin on her face. We’d hung out here and then since I got back to Phoenix, but at the end of my High School years we hung out all the time. She was a great girl – full of life and always happy. Back in the day, I never saw her take so much as a sip of alcohol. She was always responsible and hated the fact that the majority of us boys were always getting loaded and ingesting whatever drugs we could get our hands on. She had already told me that she had been smoking pot a bit – which was a little shocking to me – I just never saw that one coming, not from her.

“I met this really awesome boy and I want you to meet him.” – she was practically bouncing like Tigger. It was almost embarrassing.

“Really? Does he like House Of Pain?” I was then holding up a House Of Pain CD, and couldn’t believe what a dipshit I had turned out to be. Really? This is what I say to my lady-friends when they meet a boy and they’re excited about it? Jesus, I am an asshole.

Michelle said that he did, in fact, like House Of Pain. She also told me that I should let her come and pick me up after work to go over to her place in Tempe to hang out, and meet this boy. She then mentioned his name – which struck a bell in my head.

If this was the same dude that I thought it was, another girl I knew had briefly dated him, and this guy was supposedly a White Power Skinhead. And if it was the same guy – I knew he hated me already, because the other girl had brought my name up to him and he went ballistic.

Awesome.

Driving out to Michelle’s place, I asked her if this was indeed the same person. I mean – far be it for me to judge anyone on their taste in love interests – at that time in my life, most of the women I was interested in were completely insane. It was almost as if I was somehow able to sniff out the women who were bi-polar and had decided that going off of their medication was not only a good idea – but the best choice they had ever made.

“He used to be a Nazi, but he grew out of it. Just give him a chance – he’s really sweet and nice. People change, Sean. You know?”

Michelle sounded so earnest and convinced, that muttering “shave a zebra – motherfucker’s still a goddamn zebra” under my breath made me feel like a dick. I had a hard time believing that this dude was anything more than a White Power asshole – in my experiences dealing with this type of person, there was no mystical or redemption-bound Derek Vinyard-type of character in any of them – no capacity to change all the way, with most of them who claimed to have changed switching up the Nazi rhetoric for that of a more Libertarian or Right-wing type of conservatism(bitching about immigration and Gay Rights – which sadly, they’re bitching about even louder in the rightfuckingnow of MMX). Hate is hate, and as much as I want to believe a person has the capacity within them to transform and release themselves from their own ignorance – I had just never seen it.

ANYWAYS…

When we arrived at Michelle’s apartment, homeboy called her and said he was on his way over, but would be a little while. She sounded really excited and happy on the phone with him, exclaiming “Sean came! I can’t wait for you to meet him – he’s one of my best friends in the world.” I watched her face change a little bit while he was obviously saying something to her on the other end of the phone – her expression like one of those magnetized little beard faces when you wipe it clean, and then her heard mumble “He’s not like that. Stop it. You’d better be nice to him.”

I was already wishing I had trusted my initial reaction to his name, and not come along.

No sooner did Michelle hang up the phone when she produced a very large mound of methamphetamine from out of nowhere. It was chalky and pink-ish, and piled high across the jewel case of a copy of Helmet’s Meantime. I watched her as she moved the pile back and forth with the skill set of someone who had been playing with this tricky substance for a while – the way she used her ID to cut lines out of the pile and move them to the tiniest edges of the jewel case without dumping any of the larger pile off the sides and onto the table was pretty impressive. I watched her then pull out a little piece of a straw she had obviously cut down, and then she fucking Hoovered up one of the fattest and most ridiculous lines of bathtub drugs I had ever seen such a tiny woman snort before.

My sweet and innocent little Michelle, was no longer my sweet and innocent little Michelle – so far removed from the little Catholic schoolgirl who used to yell at me for drinking too much coffee.

“You should do a line of this. It’s really good.”

I didn’t argue – I just cut myself out a line, and blasted that thing right into the deepest parts of my brain. I had only done meth a few times before – I was the kind of super-retarded drug user who would say things like “if it occurs naturally in the world – I’m going to do it,” and I had always subscribed to the whole “if a biker can make it in his bathtub it can kill you” ethos of junkiedom – but this stuff? GODDAMN. I could immediately feel it burning holes into my brain. All I wanted to do was run into the bathroom and watch my pupils swell and contract. My ears felt like I had just rapidly descended from thirty-thousand feet, the sound of the room whooshing in and out like the ocean.

I’m pretty sure I was on my third or fourth line when homeboy showed up.

I was sitting on the floor with Michelle’s roommate, Erica, and her boyfriend – a Mexican kid with a huge, jagged scar across his left cheek, named Mark. I heard Mark very quietly mumble “Great – here comes Himmler,” as Michelle’s new dude rolled right on through the front door like he owned the place. I could see Erica’s body language immediately shift, like the way someone curls up in the dentist’s chair as soon as they hear the words “root canal.” For a moment, I was glad that I wasn’t alone in feeling uncomfortable – but only just that moment, as Erica and Mark immediately went and hid themselves away in her room, never to be seen again.

Fuckers.

I was really fucking high. It took me a moment to actually allow myself to really look at this guy – to take him all in. Roughly my size. Scalp-shorn blonde hair. Jeans. Oxblood boots(with the required red laces – so much for him being in the midst of a “transformation,” right?). A black flight jacket with a Confederate Flag patch on the right arm. A Sepultura t-shirt.

Sepultura? They’re Brazilian. They’re not “white.” Dude has himself some identity some issues, obviously.

“Sean – this is Michael. Michael – this is Sean.”

Michael is staring me down. I slowly get up from the floor, and in doing so notice that he has taken a step back, as if I was going to somehow lunge from my position on the carpet to attack him. I extend my hand out to him, the gentleman that I am, to shake hands after the introduction. I want to draw it back the second he speaks.

“I know who Sean is. You used to hang out with all of those SHARP(Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, for those of you who aren’t up to speed on your gang names and their affiliations) faggots, didn’t you? You‘re a Jew, right?” – he sneers that last bit just enough to get the meth in my body a little closer to boiling, atoms firing all over the place.

I’m not really sure how to respond to him. Part of me does want to pummel him. Part of me wants to just move right by him, and walk out the door. I can feel the humming of impending violence rising off of him, a slow and nasty-looking smirk forming across his face.

“Dude? SEAN? What the fuck, man?”

Looking behind Michael, I see Danny. I have known Danny since I moved to Arizona. We played baseball together. We both went to the same “Alternative” High School. Danny hanging out with this fucking guy makes no sense to me at all – Danny might possibly be the most aloof, most kind-heartedly Spiccoli-esque permanently stoned person I have ever met in my entire life. What the fuck is he doing rolling around with this curb-stomping monstrosity?

Drugs. It is always, about The Drugs.

“Dude – I’ve known Sean FOREVER – he’s cool. Don’t sweat him like that, Michael. He’s cool as fuck.”

With Danny’s Testimonial On The Status Of Sean‘s Coolness, Michael reluctantly shakes my hand and smiles, saying “It’s cool, man. I’m just fucking with you” – which, sadly, would be a refrain that I heard tumbling out of his mouth for the rest of the night and into the early hours of the next day.

Sitting around on the floor like a bunch of kids at a drug-fueled slumber party, the methamphetamine pile was being gone through at an alarming rate. It felt like every ten minutes or so I was snorting more of it into me. The jewel case being passed around between us like a canteen, each person cutting out line after line. Conversations ebbed and flowed from recollections of retardery from the past between Danny and myself, to Michael randomly trying to talk to me about his crazed White Power ideals on Christianity – at one point he tried to explain to me that the reason Jesus was sacrificed was because he was a Jew, and that his supposed resurrection was a Jew magic trick that proved Jews were “of the devil, and never to be trusted.”

My heart was pounding.

Every time he made some crack like this, I noticed that Michelle would instantly look over to me – as if I was somehow going to agree with this asshole. Instead, I did my best to try and stay calm, and try to engage Michael in a way that would not upset him or cause him to fly off the handle. As comfortable as I might have been on the inside of myself with taking him outside and beating him bloody – I knew that the ripples from such a beating would be outlandishly dangerous, considering the fact that most racist skins traveled in packs, so as never to be outnumbered or in danger.

Michael knew this as well.

At one point, as the sun was just starting to rise, I wandered through the apartment to go to the bathroom. As I was walking through the living room, Danny was asleep on the couch, and Michael was trying to quietly mumble into the telephone. He didn’t see me, because as he had the phone cradled between his shoulder and his head, he was playing with the gun he had strapped to his ankle. When I realized what he was mumbling – “Yeah, he’s here. He’s a fucking kike motherfucker with a hook-nose. I can give you the address. How soon can you guys get here?“ – I knew it was time for me to get the fuck out of there. Fast.

Mistakenly, I made the decision to ask Michelle to drive me home.

“Totally. Michael can come with us.”

I tried so hard to give her a look that would translate that this was not what I wanted – I did not want this violent pack animal to know where I laid my head at night – and then I realize that Michael didn‘t want to know either.

“I don’t want to go with you – I shouldn’t know where ‘The Jew’ lives.”

Michelle just looked at him after he said it – first a frown, then a smile, because she thought he was going to say that he was fucking with me again.

He wasn’t.

As she was gathering her things for the ride, Michael got back on the phone, and spoke more clearly into it for my benefit, describing Michelle’s car for the person on the other end, and telling them the basic route we’d be taking back to central Phoenix – all while glaring at me, trying to gauge whether or not this was the moment when my instincts would take over, and the violence between us could finally be birthed.

I was petrified, just standing there waiting for him to pounce.

The ride to my apartment took a nasty turn, as Michael started to unleash a torrent of racial epithets at me in the back seat, while Michelle kept on screaming at him to leave me alone. Me? I just sat there, my head on a swivel, looking out the windows to try and see if I could spot a car full of bald heads, to spot the executioners Michael had sent my way.

As we got closer to my apartment, I asked Michelle to just let me off on a random corner, begging her to stop the car so that I could make my way through early morning back yards, and escape the beating that was imminent. Michael told her to let me out of the car, suddenly screaming – “Just let ’The Jew’ out, Michelle! Get him the fuck out of this car!” She refused, and actually locked the doors to the car so that I couldn’t jump out. Michael turned to me, his face flushed and red, and said to me – “You brought this on yourself, you know that, right? We never forget. We never forget who The Jews are, and you will never forget who we, the True and Superior White Race, are.”

Michelle pulled her car into the parking area of the complex, and I looked at her face in the rearview mirror. She was sallow. She looked back at me with eyes that were druggy, confused, and hung like a dog that was just caught shitting on the rug. I said nothing as I jumped out of the car – the small eye contact between us, and the terror that I knew was in my own eyes was enough.

As she backed her car down the driveway to get out, I saw a beat-up Monte Carlo slowly creeping in front of the complex. Somehow, they had found us, and followed Michelle’s car to where I lived. The car looked to have around four or five people in it – each one of them, bald. They were just sitting in the car, watching me as I tried to take my time walking to the back door of my father’s apartment – which was far too close to the position their car was in for my liking.

Inside the kitchen now, I am looking for something – anything I can use to defend myself. The methamphetamine, coursing in my veins, makes everything I hear sound like it’s right in front of me. I hear car doors closing. Footsteps in the gravel. Muttering. Laughter. I am laying on the kitchen floor, with my head and body out of view, wedged between the sink and the oven.

The footsteps stopped at the back door.

I can see the shadowy outline of four people standing outside my back door. I don’t even realize that I have the phone in my hand on the floor until I hear the operator say “911 – what is your emergency?” Quietly, I beg her to send a squad car over to my address, telling her that there are four people outside my back door who want to harm me – telling her that they are driving a maroon Monte Carlo, and are quite possibly armed. I tell her that I know the precinct is close by, and beg her to send a car as quick as she can. I tell her that I am hiding on my kitchen floor with a wooden baseball bat, and that I cannot wait for the police to arrive – I tell her all of this, with the drug-addled tongue that instantly raises a red flag with the Phoenix Police Department. I can hear the shuffling of feet outside as she tells me on the phone that a squad car has arrived, and to just sit tight until the police come and speak to me.

There is a knock on my front door, and through the door I can hear the sounds of the police radio. I can also feel my heart exploding in my chest – because the fuckers that came to hurt me were at the back door. Opening the door, I am greeted by four officers, one of whom is holding what looks like a black-jack in his hand. The policemen all look me up and down, as if they knew in that moment that I was a complete paranoid fueled by bathtub drugs. Quickly, I tell them everything about what happened, other than telling them about the drugs. One of the officers opens the back door and walks around out there, while the youngest one asks me for my identification, which I give to him.

As he is slowly fingering my ID, I realize that it is probably caked in a film of methamphetamine, and in rapid-fire succession, my mind decides that I am probably going to go to jail.

“Well – we did find this black-jack outside, Mr. Doyle. And as we were pulling up, we did see a group of men running away from the Monte Carlo that is still parked outside. Do you have anywhere you can go – it’s probably not safe for you to stay here for a while?”

I tried to call my friend Brian, but I knew he was asleep. I left him a rambling message on his answering machine, and told him to come and get me as soon as he could. As I hung up the phone, I realized that I had the keys to every apartment in the complex, and I could hide out in one of the vacant ones until I saw Brian’s car pull up.

The police asked me multiple times if I was on drugs, and each time I told them that I wasn’t – which they obviously knew was a lie. They told me to call them if there were any more problems, and the young cop handed me back my ID, and gave me a quick squeeze of the arm as if to tell me that everything was going to be okay.

As they left, I saw Helen – the ninety year old mother of the man who owned the apartment complex, as she was gathering up her morning newspaper from her front door. I quickly walked over to her and asked her if she wouldn’t mind my company for a little while – she was a sweet woman who I looked after from time to time for her son, so the request probably wasn’t out of the ordinary for her.

I went back to my father’s apartment and grabbed the cordless phone, and locked the place up.

Back inside of Helen’s apartment, the drugs were still working their way around inside of me. I asked her if she would like for me to make her some coffee, and she said that would be nice – so I did. It wasn’t lost on me in any way that I was in that moment doing what might probably be the most cowardly thing I had ever done in my life – hiding out in the apartment of an elderly woman, while high on drugs and running from a gang of angry racist skinheads who wanted to beat me to death.

I tried so hard to remain in my own body. It took a while for Brian to call, and when he did I could hear him shaking his head at me through the phone – bizarre behavior like this wasn’t so out of the norm for me in those days – my paranoia when using drugs was always the biggest detriment to any friendship. Brian agreed to come and pick me up, but told me that I needed to calm the fuck down.

Hours later, playing darts with Brian in his living room, I felt this wave of disgust wash over me – I was still terrified, and me being terrified was something that was just totally unacceptable to me. I tried to call Michelle and talk to her, but she hung up on me as soon as I started to tell her what her new boyfriend had done.

I never spoke to her again.

*Yes, I changed the names of the parties involved. And yes – it is fifteen years later, and I am still repulsed that I hid out in the apartment of a ninety year old woman. What the fuck would you have done?

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