Friday, November 30, 2007

Shadows and Dust

It is a frigid day, and as the sun sets behind the hills I feel the temperature drop another ten degrees. It is days like this that I truly like working outside; the Christmas trees are stacked six feet high, and the contrast between the warm green laying against the hardened redstone ground as the snow begins to fall makes me think of the opening scene in Gladiator. It lets you know that you're alive, makes you feel like your spine is made of stone and you will never die.

Out of the lads I work with, I am most certainly the alpha male. Though not the oldest and far from the largest physically, my personality overwhelms theirs consistently. I am more garrulous than the other fellas that are around my age, many of whom can only hold a conversation when it comes to things like fuel injection and link kits and all the other things that I know nothing about. The younger kids look up to me for some odd reason, probably because I give lectures on History in between drinking stories. I can't tell you how many have said to me, "Man, I wish you were my teacher, I'd have learned the shit." It's amazing how much some guys will absorb when you take them out of a classroom, let them light a cigarette, and swear a couple dozen times while you're talking... I should teach seminars.

I won't lie, I'm not easy to get along with. I am extremely confrontational, (a product of being 5'7") and very physical. I swear too much, and bluntness is my only virtue. I am either OK or pissed off, there are few in betweens. I have a terrible tendency to make a mess of my life consistently, and this can put me in some pretty foul moods. However, for some reason, these fuckers like me. I guess I'm entertaining with my tales of fights, strip clubs, drinking, and whatever other misguided adventures me and my compatriots have embarked on. Besides that, though, I think that they can sense that I'm not a bad guy- I don't have stories about heroin or jail or any of the other really bad things- just dumb drunken ramblings that always have a punch line that everyone can laugh at. I mean no harm.. I'm just completely wild at heart, and appreciate good roaring stories that never let the truth get in the way. I always tell my bosses that after I leave there, things will likely go alot smoother, but it won't be half as fun.

"You ever gonna get married?" one asks me.

I grin. "I suspect one day some poor girl will sucker me into that. Not soon though. I'm not looking forward to it... and fuck me, forget kids!"

"Why?"

"Man, because it's already been declared by my mother and all of my exes that I'm having all daughters."

"Why do they say that?"

"Because I don't know how to handle women. I can't smack them around when they fuck up like I could with a son... and plus, they'd be like me, good looking as fucking hell, and then I'd really be in trouble. I already see it. The first one, she'll be the decent one, the one with a conscience, a good heart, all that. She will most likely take after whomever her mother is, because she's likely to be a far better person than me. So #1 will be fine. It's #2 that I'm scared of. She will be like me, dark and Italian looking and a knockout. And she will have my fucking attitude, my hatred of authority, my smartass wit, my Irish heart. And she will be the trouble maker. When she is born, I'm going to buy many guns. I'll grow a beard, grow my hair to my ass like the old guy in Blade, and when her first boyfriend comes over she will say, "I'd let you meet my father, but he's busy downstairs cleaning his shotguns." I'll work my fucking forearms the hardest in the gym, just so when I meet the cocksucker I can crush his knuckles in my grip and smile."

I see myself, some day, looking into the dark and undoubtedly devilish eyes of something that came from me, and I know in my heart that that will be the only thing to truly reign me in. I will hold her one day and sing the Irish ballads about Botany Bay and the Famine, and about how each kiss is a cry we all lost. I used to dread this.

Now... not so much.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

With her killer graces and her secret places that no boy can fill
With her hands on her hips, oh, and that smile on her lips because she knows that it kills me
With her soft French cream, standing in that doorway like a dream, I wish she'd just leave me alone
Because French cream won't soften them boots and French kisses will not break that heart of stone
With her long hair falling and her eyes that shine like a midnight sun
she's the one

That thunder in your heart at night when you're kneeling in the dark, it say's you're never gonna leave her
But there's this angel in her eyes that tells such desperate lies, and all you want to do is believe her
And tonight you'll try just one more time to leave it all behind and to break on through
Oh, she can take you, but if she wants to break you, she's gonna find out that ain't so easy to do
And no matter where you sleep tonight or how far you run
She's the one

Oh oh, and just one kiss, she's fill them long summer nights with her tenderness
That secret pact you made, back when her love could save you from the bitterness

Monday, November 26, 2007

Free

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve

We are sitting on the grass field drinking tallboys of Coors Light after the annual Thanksgiving Day football game. I am smoking a cigarette and lying flat on my back, having taken a mighty beating in the hour's worth of my being there.

"I slept outside last night. It seems to be the thing to do when I'm drunk."

"Again?" I'm not terribly surprised anymore.

"Yea. I got my sleeping bag and my mat, took them outside, put my shoes nice and neat next to the bag, and went to sleep. I think I might have jumped off the deck. But then I fucking rolled down the hill at one point and woke up on that wall, and I kept trying to roll back over and go to sleep, and then I fell off it. I fucked myself up." He shows me the bruises that decorate his elbow and hands.

"Dumbass."

"I always wonder what the neighbors must think, the people on the left are new. I thought I woke up at like 8, but it was really noon."

"Oh yea. They're probably getting home from Church or something and they see you sleeping drunk half in the street with a sleeping bag twisted around you."

"We're the salt of the Earth dude."

"Indeed."

Happy Thanksgiving

I sit in and dwell on faces past
Like memories seem to fade
No colour left but black and white
And soon will all turn grey
But may these shadows rise to walk again
With lessons truly learnt
When the blossom flowers in each our hearts
Shall beat a new found flame

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday Ryer. You'd have been 25 today had you lived. There is not one of us motherfuckers that doesn't think about you every day.


I slap my buddy on the back of the head. "We got everyone here. Let's get everyone to do a shot of Jagermeister."

"You buying?"

"It's for Ryer's birthday dickhead. Get your money out."

He looks at me, then looks down. "Yea. Good call. Let's get a collection."

Ten minutes later I'm standing on the barstool, handing back fifteen shots of Jagermeister. "Alright lads. For the barroom hero who is no longer with us. We'll see you in hell brother."

Slainte' brother.

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To An Athlete Dying Young

THE time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come, 5
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay, 10
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers 15
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man. 20

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head 25
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Idealism at it's Finest

Thank God for the martial arts. It is the one thing that brings some kind of serenity to my otherwise turbulent life.

I have come to the conclusion that there are just three things that a man should revil in:

Number One is winning a fight. It doesn't particularly matter what type of fight it is, as long as it's a physical one, and not the guys who think that getting a promotion over someone else makes them a warrior. I mean a fistfight, a boxing match, a wrestling tournament, a bullfight, whatever. "Mundis Ex Igne Factus Est"- the world is made of fire. When you're exhausted and your muscles hurt and your inhaling gasoline and blowing out fire, but you push ahead and win anyway, nothing makes you feel more absolutely alive.

Number two is loving a woman passionately and purely. Not just for the sex (which kicks ass, of course), but also just for her, for her mind and soul. These don't come around too often, and there may be but a couple in all the years of living. But when they are around, they are worth holding onto, worth fighting for.

Number three is pissing in the leaves when you're drunk. There's something wonderfully primal about it, especially if it's in your own yard.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Can't You Hear Me Knockin Part III

I'm driving on Route 80 towards the sunset, and I see the green sign that says, “Allamuchy Exit” right above the highway. I'm almost to Pennsylvania. I hate this state, but right now I just have to get away from that damn strip club, because I’ll be damned if that guy isn’t dead, and the cops will soon be looking for me.

This state is tough on me, brings back a lot of memories. When I was young, my grandparents had a house where I would be every weekend, going to swap meets in the burning sun, visiting whatever old Pennsylvania Dutch town they made into a museum. Day after day I smelled the scent of horse shit that permeates the streets there, some of which are still made of that swirling brown dust that exists only in the country. I got used to noticing when we crossed a river, and would imagine in my child's mind Yankees and Rebels fighting on the banks, charging next to the car, bounding through the woods like dear in their pursuits of each other. The rebels always won.

They are both gone now; one dead and in the ground, the other's heart as stony as those bottom of the Delaware that I was passing over. Memories still haunt me; there are always ghosts standing guard, eyes burning a special brand of red when they see me coming. When I smell horse shit now, it no longer smells like home... it smells like fucking Judas-in-the-ice-Satan’s-wings-burning-for-eternity hell, and if I inhale too much of it will suffocate me and I will drown slowly.

I always wondered why Pennsylvania has a toll getting into their state; there's nothing there, so why do I have to pay seventy five cents to see it? The Delaware is low and wide, as it normally is during these massively hot days in August, and I can see the bottom of the river shake through water so clear that it shimmers like a piece of ceran wrap. This bridge is maybe fifty or a hundred feet up... if I jumped, would I live? Or would I crash upon those old rocks and break myself into pieces, and have my teeth float down and end up in Delaware Bay? See here I go, getting all philosophical and shit. It is a curse, one that I’ve just attributed to having an overactive mind. But see, again, I know what you’re thinking already. This guy, this fucking guy, can think like that?

Sometimes you regular folks mistake “not caring” for “not understanding.” People like me, we can appreciate stupid, cornily beautiful things just as much as you, be it an auburn sunset over the mountains to a single green stalk of life raging it’s way through the concrete. We just look at it differently is all. We see the hope, we see the great fight for life- don‘t underestimate us. It’s just that at the same time we see the world for what it is- a cruel, vicious place that will kick you in the teeth when you are down. We see the beauty and all that, of course, but we also refuse to be the ones who’s teeth get kicked in.

I’m am awfully articulate for being such a piece of shit. Don’t let the movies fool you; there’s plenty of smart people out there that never went to college but still read books once in a while, and some of us can even sound educated when we want to. But don’t let that make you think that we’re not still lowlifes. Reciting Shakespeare while you kill isn’t any more noble than reciting Roadhouse.

I know you’re wondering if I feel bad about the guy at the strip club. The honest answer is that it depends on whether he’s dead or not. If he’s not dead, then no, I don’t feel bad. He was a sucker who got caught in the middle of me trying to stay alive and that stripper trying to make some extra dough. That’s capitalism baby- knock out who you can and take what you need. It’s the American way.

Now, if he’s dead, then the story might change. Then, I just killed some mother’s son, and maybe some poor wife’s unfaithful husband. Some kid is going to wake up tomorrow with a dead father, and it’s likely that this kid will end up as fucked up as his old man just because of the two seconds that I saw a knife flash in the dark night. If nothing else, this doesn’t help me sleep at night. These are the things that I can’t think about, the things that I have to push out of my head and attribute to my war for survival. One day, God will come for me. I know this. But I hope it ain’t today.

I pull off of 80 and into the blackness that blankets the countryside. In five minutes I’m on some backwoods road that no one has seen since 1916 and I grab the bag from underneath the seat. The white powder cascades down the sides of the clear plastic like a Guinness when it‘s poured right. I cut a little line out on the center console, and though the plastic makes it a pain in the ass, I snort it and my head shoots up and my eyes are huge and ready and I’ve already forgotten what I did and how I got here.



I've been driving all night into the sunrise, and my eyes are beginning to shut involuntarily even as the light pounds their lids. I pull over at the nearest hotel, which is about ten minutes south of 80. The haggard woman at the counter gives me my key, and the room is 222. Second floor, left hand side. I drag my sorry ass in there and collapse onto the maroon comforter of the twin bed that hasn’t been washed since Pearl Harbor. I sleep soundly for thirteen hours.

I awake with a jump, startled by some dream that I can’t remember. For a second I am entirely disorientated, like when you wake up staring at a ceiling that isn’t yours after a night of hard drinking. I shake my head quickly while falling back onto the pillow, my hands wiping my eyes clear of the fog. I glance at the alarm clock. 10:00. I need food. I get up, a mess of coughing lungs and heavy conscience. Why can’t I sweep this under the rug? I’ve killed before. My conscience always hits hardest when I’m hungover. When I’m sober, I can rationalize things, take life one shot at a time and roll with it. When I’ve been drinking, I forget all my problems. When I’m hungover, I just feel guilty. There’s been times that I felt like offing myself after a night of drinking even though I know nothing bad happened last night. The sins of the past, though, they crowd upon me and hold my head under the water, there lithe fingers strengthened with hatred and anger.

I wander down the staircase with it’s white paint chipping and flaking off and head to the front desk.

“Where’s the nearest diner?”

“About three miles west. You’ll see signs.” The haggard broad has her perennially annoyed face on. I hate her immediately.

“Alright. What about a bar?”

“Same road, another mile at the intersection. Ask the people at the diner.”

“Thank you kindly.” I fake like I’m tipping my hat to her, and, while I really want to give her the finger, I bite my tongue and my wit and walk out the glass doors and into the cool night.

I light a cigarette, and am caught off guard by the amount of stars out here. It’s not something you would think about, especially coming from where I come from in Jersey. But it’s kind of like how some city people can’t sleep when it’s too quiet out- I can’t walk when there’s too many stars. Sometimes, amongst the city lights and sirens, I forget all that’s out there.

I follow the directions she gave me, and they lead me to a low brown building that lies on the side of the road with a lit up sign that says, "Food, Coffee, Cigarettes" written in red script. There's a line of bikes outside, along with maybe three or four other cars, two of which are minivans, both of them a maroon color. One has a "Baby on Board" sign in the window.

Taking a seat inside, I light another cigarette, silently thanking God that the Democrats haven’t made Pennsylvania into a pussy state yet by banning smoking indoors. My mind rolls like a gyre as I stare out the window into the lot that is lit by a few small bulbs. Is that motherfucker dead? How far do I have to run? If he isn’t dead, I get assault, possibly assault with a deadly weapon or attempted murder, depending on which way the broad goes. If I she says she never saw me, then I’m good. If she already rolled, then I’m fucked and I’ve just got to roll with it. Fuck, there’s not any fucking money for an attorney, I’m damn near dead broke except for the little that’s in my account, and that-

“SIR!”

She scares the shit out of me. Whoops. A scowl decorates her face, like she has been standing there for a while and has something better to do besides wait on me. I know she doesn't.

“Coffee," I say.

“No food?” she asks. I look at her. She is ugly, with matted brown hair and fucked up teeth. I don't know how these rednecks get so damn ugly... although I bet it's probably the same process that makes most rich families beautiful- they breed the ugly out. It's kind of Aryan, if you think about it, just in reverse.

“No. No food. If I want food, though, you’ll be the first person I tell.”

I know she’s going to spit in my coffee now, but fuck her. I look out the window again, and see the bikers smoking cigarettes by the line of Harleys. I don't know how they got out there without me seeing them, but they look like hell, most of them just wearing the colors and no shirt, which gives them that rugged look of guys who haven’t showered in a couple weeks and don’t give two shits. Most of them are smoking cigarettes, and half of them are drinking beer in open view of the road.

I see man walk towards the door, leading the way for his wife and kid. She is wearing black pants and a pink tank top, and she has a perfect ass and I can just see the trouble lining up right here. As soon as they enter the night, it becomes abundantly clear that the wife has made the mistake of being gorgeous and blonde, and this has attracted the wrong kind of attention.

The bikers swagger over towards her, and I can see their mouths moving. The husband is getting nervous, and he should be. As the bikers talk, they begin to circle the couple, and now these poor folks are caught in something that is going to get very out of hand very quickly. One of them grabs the husband firmly with a hand on his shoulder, and begins snaking between him and his wife. The man's eyes remind me of my golden retriever’s when she knew she was about to get a bath.

There’s too many of them, and he’s getting pulled away and the rest quickly close in on her. The little kid is starting to cry, and the wife is getting extremely upset, and all I can think about is how I wish I had a fucking shotgun and how I’d blow every one of their heads apart for screwing with this woman like that. I’ve always had a soft spot for women even though I hate them, and right now I feel like I’m watching one of those old horror movies where too many girls die in too many gruesome ways and that sick feeling wells up inside of me. How much of a hypocrite am I, huh? I can’t watch this shit, but I can pull the crap I’ve done. I guess it’s like my mother always said about me having a heart… it will be your worst strength and your greatest downfall.

The kid is wailing now, and the guy is either too smart or too cowardly to really put up much of a fight. I’m considering getting up and going outside to try and break this shit up, but I’m not in the mood to get the shit kicked out of me.

I put the cigarette out, and there is a war going on inside me, because I cannot watch whatever is about to happen happen, but I am powerless against twenty of them. My eyes tear involuntarily as they always do, but as I'm about to stand up, I see a man intently walking from the end of the parking lot. He's a big man who walks with his head down, and he's got on a black cowboy hat that makes him look like a riverboat gambler. He’s got his hands in the pockets of his jacket, this man is somehow dangerous.

He nears one the bikers, and I see a badge flash from his left hand while he pulls a gun out with his right. He’s pointing at the guy, not overtly aggressive but firmly. He motions to the gun with his head, and points between the outlaw’s eyes. There is a moment of tension as they stare at each other, and I back away from the window.

Suddenly the biker laughs, and waves his hand in the air. He puts his arm around this... cop, and starts yelling to the other bikers. They release the guy, and the woman and child are left alone long enough to get the hell out of there and into their car. The minivan speeds off with screeching tires, and the cop turns and begins walking towards the road where he came from. His head is low again, and he’s not nearly as proud of himself as I would be if I just faced down a bunch of bikers. For a second I wonder if he’s thinking about what would have happened if he hadn't been there, and why such terrible things happen in this world that good men like him have to stop... but then I think that he's just thanking god nothing happened, because they'd have killed him too, as soon as look at him.

I look down. My coffee is cold.

I walk out and look at the strips on the pavement from where the bikers burned out when they left the diner empty handed and mighty pissed. I hope a trailer jackknifes in front of them and they all die in a gas fire, burning slowly in flaming puddles.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No One Gets My Sense of Humor

"She's in my phone as "Eleanor" now."

"Eleanor?"

"Yea man. You ever see Gone in Sixty Seconds?"

"Yea... Ohhhhhhh... I get it... she's your unicorn, huh?"

"Yup. Everything starts out fine, then before you know it shit blows up and goes down and the next thing you know I pull in the lot with a beat down beauty missing a side view mirror. Something always fucking goes wrong."

"Give me her phone number," he says.

"What? No. Why?"

"So I can get all drunk and yell at her. I'll be like, "Goddamnit, do you KNOW all the shit I have to hear at work because of you? Do you understand this? Do I have Doctor Phil written on my fucking forehead? Will you just fucking go out with him finally?". That should do the job and settle all of this."

"Oh yea. That's foolproof."

"Yup. And get this, so now my girlfriend wants me to shave my chest. I told her that I don't want to, I hate even shaving my face, you know?"

"I hear you. I did that once, but I'm way too hairy to even try to keep up."

"Yea, really, with that fucking wool rug on your chest."

"It's manly as hell. You know it. Don't be jealous."

Shortly after this an annoying cashier broad walks over and starts yapping to us about absolutely nothing as women so often do.

I look at him and smile. He knows what I'm thinking. I ignore her, and say to him, "Yea dude, so the next time your girlfriend says something about you shaving your chest again like that to you, just hit her."

"You mean like a donkey punch?"

"No, no, I mean like wail her one," I say, swinging my arm in the air in an exagerrated punch. "Give'er another black eye to explain to the neighbors. Show her who's boss."

His eyes light up. "Yea, yea, and then, and then, I could tell her... that she's not hairy enough."

"Exactly."

The cashier looks at me with wide eyes, turns around and hurries away.

I glance at him. He has a shit eating grin on his face that I could never explain to you.

"Goddamn, is that all I gotta do to get her away from me?" I ask.

"I guess so. Shit man, I wish we'd known this like two months ago."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Can't You Hear Me Knockin Part II

She looks at me with wide eyes, and shrieks, “What the hell happened?” There’s blood all over my left forearm, and it seeps through my fingers as I try to wipe the remnants of his brain off of me.

“He fucking moved. I go to swing, and he moved his damn head and I hit him on the shoulder. He had a knife”. I look down and see the 4 inch black folder that cost him his life. I don't fuck around with knives, because if I'm slow on stuff like that it would have been me laying there.

I look down at his motionless body, and the massive amount of blood that’s pouring from his head. This is still bad. Very bad.

As I crept up behind him, the dumb broad let him catch her looking over his shoulder. Being the perceptive type he apparently was, he must have sensed what was going on and moved at the last second, causing me to strike him in the back of the right shoulder. He must have fished a knife out of one of his pockets and slashed at my forearm just as I caught him flat against the side of the head with the pipe on my second swing.

“Christ, oh Christ, is he fucking dead?”

I look down. Lifeless isn’t the word for what he is.

“Probably. If the pipe didn’t kill the bastard, then his head hitting the pavement did.”

“Oh God, the cops, oh fuck I gotta get out of here!” She is beginning to lose it, her eyes are wide and those white fingernails are flailing.

I look at her. A knife in the back.

I leap at her, grabbing her by the throat and slamming her against the brick wall. “You fucking listen here, say a fucking word about any of this shit, and I will fucking end you. You hear me? I will kill you soon as look at you. The cops are going to come, and ask you a shitload of questions, and you’re going to tell them you have no fucking idea who hit him or what happened. If you narc me out, I will kill you. I swear to Christ.”

The fear grinds out of her eyes as I tighten my grip on her windpipe. I will blow your throat out the back of your neck. It’s the same look. She knows I mean business… Christ I hope she knows.

My mouth is an inch from her face. “You never saw me, you hear me?”

“Y-Y-yes.”

In seconds I bound around the building and am at my truck, throwing the now dripping pipe in the bed at the same time as starting the car at the same time as hitting drive. My tires sear the pavement as I pull out onto Route 80, and though I'm unsure whether to choose East or West, the exit for West is closer so that's the way I go.




The phone has been ringing incessantly all morning. He knows exactly who it is and what he wants, but is enjoying making him sweat it out a bit. I t is, one could say, his privilege to keep his old acquaintance at arm’s length for now.

He lights a cigarette, looks in the mirror, sees the reflection of an middle aged African American man whose black curly hair has stayed in exactly the same spot for quite a while, although he’s getting a bit of gray throughout his beard. Not bad for such an old fucker, he thinks, fixing his tie. He has been old for a long time, but you would never know that. He walks out of the bathroom and over to the table, picks the phone up before it rings.

“Yes?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Where?”

“That diner on Route 3.”

“If you want.”

The phone clicks off. He smiles as he blows the smoke out and looks out his window onto New York harbor.


It's beginning to snow as he pulls into the parking lot.mo Another damn cold Jersey day. I should really move South. It truly is depressing here in the winter. He walks up the stone stairs, sees his compatriot at the table inside. He waves off the waitress as he approaches the man he has not seen in quite a while. The man is a muscular man with thick forearms, his dark brown skin covered in a blood red Hawaiian shirt with dark blue flowers cascading around the sides.

“That’s quite a shirt.”

“Sexy, ain’t it?”

They don’t shake hands as he pulls the chair out, sits down at the table while now waving the waitress over now. “Miss? Irish coffee please?”

She nods. The man looks at him. “This early?”

He shrugs. “What do I have to lose? So… what do you want? Why’d you call me here?”

“You know why.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a fresh newspaper clipping, carefully unfolds it, places it on the table and slides it across.”

“Hmmm…. Man Murdered outside Strip Club.” He puts the paper down, looks up at him. "So?"

“He’s mine.”

“And what makes you think you I don’t want him?”

“He killed this guy with a fuckin pipe. That’s some brutal shit.”

“It is. But you have a problem.”

“And that is?”

“That he ain’t all bad. I did my research. Purple heart, ex-cop,-”

“Awwww bullshit. You’re really gonna play that hippie ass, pussy liberal “product of his environment crap” right now?”

“It’s not crap,” he says coldly. “And yea, I’m going to. He’s not all gone yet. I don’t think he did it on purpose. And until we figure that out, until we know which way the motherfucker really goes, he’s on the table.”

“You knew I was calling about him?”

“Of course I did.”

“He could be a big asset if… you know…things were to get rough with you and me again.”

“I know that too.”

The man eyes him up and down, his eyes settling momentarily on the suit jacket. “That an Armani suit?”

“Just bought it yesterday.”

“Aww shit. When did you start getting all classy?”

“I figured… what the hell. Might be time to upgrade.”

Monday, November 12, 2007

Can't You Hear Me Knockin' Part 1

I am a bad man. I wasn’t always, mind you. But I am now.

See, I could tell you all the things that have made me this way, I could tell you where the scars came from... but you don’t care. You probably wouldn’t believe me anyway. You all live in your happy worlds, your violence free, trouble-less enclaves where the birds are always chirping and the leaves are always green and it's always Friday. I don’t live there. Hell, I’ve never even seen the signs for it.

I could tell you. I could tell you what it’s like to believe all the lies. I could tell you what it’s like to be a little God fearing Catholic who is brought to Church every Sunday and put down on a knee to beg for forgiveness for things that you can't comprehend. I could tell you what it’s like to be told over and over by sickened, twisted priests that we are sinners, all of us, even me, and how you end up walking around as a twelve year old burdened by some great guilt that transcends the centuries. I could tell you, but you don’t care.

I could tell you what it’s like to have believed the greatest of lies, the lie that all nations purvey, that serving your country is glorious and honorable. I could tell you what it’s like to be 18 and invincible, to be charging hard across the Iraqi desert in a chopper going a hundred miles an hour looking down the barrel of an M-16. I could also tell you what it feels like when that chopper flips over because some asshole at the Pentagon never realized that the fine Muslim sands would burrow into the edges of the propellers, causing an imbalance that’s guaranteed to send the thing ass over tea kettle after a few missions. I could tell you what it looks like to have your buddy from boot camp sprayed all over you as he’s chopped in two, and the torso falls neatly away from the legs still crouched next to you. I could tell you how those guys feel about their purple hearts, walking around on fake legs with diced up forearms. I could tell you what the nightmares are like.

I could tell you what it’s like to be hopeful of a better life when you get out of the military, to go through the cop exams and do well and be proud. I could also tell you what it’s like to cradle your partner’s head in your lap as he spits up blood because of the bullet hole in his back from some scumbag nigger with a vendetta against cops in the slums of Newark. You watch his life drip down his blonde goatee, red, runny, and terrible, and it mixes with the tears falling from your eyes as he tells you to, “Please, please tell my daughter I love her.” That blood never comes off your hands, it sits there and burns like acid, it burns in your heart. I could tell you.

I could tell you what it’s like to walk into your home, the house you had built, and walk right in on your wife, your sweet angel of a girl who you loved since the first time you saw her, and see her riding the dick of that Jew she works with. I could tell you what it’s like to slam him against the wall, to make him eat the barrel of a glock, and tell him that if you ever see him again you will blow his throat out the back of his neck. I could tell you about the fear in his eyes when he pisses all over his half raised black suit pants, all over the carpet that I fucking put down. Motherfucker, I could tell you.

But you don’t care. I know you don’t. No, you never told me you don’t care. But I know. I know you don’t care because if you knew what I was about to do, if you were on the jury if I get caught, all you would read is, “Ex-cop with Mafia ties beats man with pipe.“ And then you’d vote guilty, cause you don’t give a shit where I came from or what I’ve been through, all you know is that you sure as hell would never do something like that, even if you had no other options after you got thrown off the Force for getting drunk and shooting up the bathroom at some shithole bar in Elizabeth. You know why? Cause you don’t understand what it’s like to know that no one gives a shit. You watch them kill each other in another country, cutting each other’s throats and strapping their kids with bombs, all over which imaginary friend is real. Then, you get back here after “serving your country“, and they’re blowing each other away under the streetlights over heroin. You never saw what happens when the stray bullet kills a baby’s single mother, or what happens when some drunk asshole lights his old lady’s house on fire cause she banged his brother. You never see the shit that’s left over. I have. Man, I could tell you.

You don’t know what it’s like to lose all your faith in humanity, to watch everyone die or ditch you. Oh, you might know what it’s like to lose everything. But you have no idea how if feels to stop caring if you get it back. It’s like getting to that point of dehydration where you stop sweating- it’s past the breaking point, and things are going downhill from here. Because if you realize that the world don’t care… then you stop caring back. And that’s how we get to where I am right now. That’s how we make a bad, bad fucking man.

The bar is a long rectangle with raised platforms inside it for the girls to dance on. You know the type- they only have this setup at places where room is scarce and the girls don’t speak English. I am sipping a rocks glass of Jack Daniels’. A little knockout with raven hair is dancing up there now with her back to me, rubbing her chest against the brass pole while "Last Dance with Mary Jane" plays over the speakers. She has hair like Jess. Just like Jess… it even moves the same way when she shakes her head, each hair flails individually-

She walks up behind me, wraps her arms around my chest with her long, fake white fingernails

I tighten my back. “Get the fuck off of me. You know what you’re doing tonight. Go get on it.”

I hear her sneer as she rolls her eyes. “Fine.” She saunters away, her black skin wrapped up in a blue dress and white fishnets, teetering on those ridiculous high heels.

I down some more whiskey, trying to stay somewhere near sober so I can do what I have to. My eyes are locked on her as she works her magic. She’s not a bad looking broad, with long, curly black hair framing her face. It’s not a face that looks like the rest of these women, with the wrinkles and lines and the hard shell of makeup, their futile attempt to make the years go away. I daresay she’s beautiful in the sad way that only strippers can be; you would do anything to get them out of there if you could trust them, but they’d put a knife in your back as soon as anyone else’s. The suckers that don’t realize this are the ones that get burned, and that ain’t me.

She told me once, “Give me a break. I hate doing this shit. I’m just down on my luck right now. ” I rolled my eyes.

“Fuck. Aren’t we all, honey?”

She’s flirting with a guy back by the pool tables. He’s a tall, blonde guy with a toothy grin wearing a pair of torn up jeans, a disgusting yellowed white t-shirt, and a green mesh hat. These hillbilly’s never cease to amaze me. How the hell can you walk out of the house looking like these guys do? At least put some gel in your hair if you’re trying to get laid tonight.

I can tell he’s putting on his game face, trying to work his Appalachian smoothness on this poor unsuspecting girl. He whispers in her ear, and she giggles and smacks him playfully. She makes the offer. He smiles. Bingo.

Ten minutes after they disappear out the back door, I order a double of Jameson and put it down, then drop a twenty on the bar and walk out. My truck is backed into a spot right near the highway, and I drop my hand in the bed as I walk by and take out the gunmetal gray pipe that was once on the bottom of a fencepost. I almost feel bad, I think, as the gleaming light from the illuminated yellowing sign reflects off the metal. I light a cigarette as I look up at it. “Centerstage: A Gentleman’s Club.” Right.

I turn the corner, and stop for a second and see the action going on against the building. It’s like clockwork. Her back is pressed up against wall, and she‘s standing like I told her to, keeping his attention on her while he lets her hands are working lower and lower. This guy is getting a good time out of this. I hope it’s worth it. She looks at me in the shadows, must know I‘m here. She’s impatient. I stomp out the cigarette.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

In the Streets of Newark

My phone vibrates at 9 in the morning. I pick it up and the first thing I hear is, "Yes, I have your wallet."

"Fuck man, screw my wallet, what the fuck did you do to me?" I say.

"What the fuck did I do to YOU? You deserved it!"

"I can't move my arm and I got a black eye. What the fuck did we do?"

"Well, we got outside that strip club and you decided you wanted to bareknuckle box outside. So we went at it, and I took you down, and you had me in the guard and we were just hitting each other. Then that bouncer came out and started yelling at us going, "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TWO DOING? What's WRONG with YOU?" and then Prushka came running out yelling at me. Alex was dancing around us while we were fighting, doing that Mick Jagger chickenwalk shit."

"Who's Prushka?"

"The stripper I'm going to marry."

"Oh."

But anyway, we ran to the truck cause we... well, didn't know what else to do. You were a violent little fucker last night- when we were on the turnpike going home you kept slapping me, and I told you that if you did it again I was going to pull over and beat your ass. So then you caught me with a good one right in the ear, so I pulled over and went after you. That's when Alex decided he was going to learn to drive stick shift and jumped in the driver's seat and ran the curb and hit that guardrail."

"Christ."

"Yea. The funny thing was two cops passed us and left us alone. I still can't believe we're not in jail."

"They must have had something really fucking important to do if they passed up arresting us. They would have been doing us a favor if they locked us up... "Christ guys, Save us from ourselves".

Friday, November 09, 2007

Thursday

Devils Ticket, 5th Row at the Prudential Center: $115

Ten beers at Stadium prices: $85

Brawling with your best friend outside the shittiest strip bar in Newark while the bouncer screams at you and the Russian stripper Prushka runs up in her clear heels yelling, "Frank what are you doing stop!" and when you finally tap out and say I'm done, he looks away and you deck him with a right and it starts all over again while your other friend dances around the madness: FUCKING PRICELESS.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Broken Arrow

I'm strapping the black gloves onto my hands and clenching my fist around the small piece of padding that makes up the center. There is sweat pouring from my face, but after the heavy bad it's time to do targe mits. I love doing them.

"See, that's why I stopped calling that broad back."

"What broad?"

He gives me confused look as he picks up the mitts, slides his fingers through the grooves in the back.

"The new one."

"Oh, you're not going out with her anymore?"

"Nah, I was never going out with her. Just seein' her. But we were approaching zero barrier, and I had to cut it off before it got worse."

"The fuck is zero barrier?"

"The three month mark."

Another quizzical look from him.

I think for a second. "Alright, you ever see Armageddon?"

"Yea."

"You know that there's that certain point very close to the planet where if they don't blow the asteroid in two by then, both chunks will hit the Earth and end all life, making the whole fuckin mission null and void?"

"Yea."

"Well, they called that, "zero barrier". The three month mark, that's the "Zero Barrier." Once you hit that fucking thing, you'd better be able to make a choice as to whether you're going on further or not. That's why I don't blame my buddy for dropping the "L-Bomb". He'd been going out with that broad for four months, and she said, "I love you." Now he's faced with the zero barrier- he either has to go on and say it back, or he's got to end it right there, because you know if you don't say it back after that long, some shit is gonna go down. I was at about the one month mark, and I figured I'd cut it before the tide got any heavier. She was too fucking hyper."

"Yea, I hear you."

I think of the real reason I ended it with her, and cringe inwardly a bit. Sucker. She has you yet again... a siren who lures you too close to the reef.... I'm beginning to do my beginner's version of shadow boxing, which probably looks like a kid with down syndrome having a seizure in front of a mirror.

"See, I said it to J probably three months in or so, but I meant it, so I was cool with it. Al, now she said it really early, scared the fuck out of me, and it was nearly a month before I could say it back. I knew that I did, it was just one of those things where I had to be sure, because those are some heavy words to throw around. Whenever it's happened to me, I haven't been wrong, but then I've been around women enough. Him, he worries me cause it's his first girlfriend. Gotta be careful with them."

"Right."

"Now see I thought about this a little today, and I figured out what you call it when you drop the "L-Bomb" and go past zero barrier, and then you figure out you made a mistake."

He smiles. "And what's that?"

"Ever see We Were Soldiers? That Mel Gibson movie?"

"No."

"Well, it gets to a point in that movie where the American lines are being overrun, they're outgunned, people are dying, and the Viet Cong is pouring out of that mountain like hornets out of a fucking nest. Mel Gibson stands up, looks around, walks around a bit, and then, with a somber look, grabs the radio guy and calls out, "BROKEN ARROW!" The radio guy's eyes widen and begins hollering into the phone, "BROKEN ARROW! I REPEAT, BROKEN ARROW!"

"Ahhhh."

"Yea, so if you make it to months 4-7, have dropped the L-BOMB, and have gone past zero barrier, but figure out you fucked up, then you've gotta call a BROKEN ARROW.

"And what's that mean?"

"It means you call in all available air support, stack planes up at every thousand feet, and start dropping napalm all over the fucking place. It's a desperation move."

"No, I mean with women."

I'm quiet for a second. I hadn't considered this.

"You know, I don't know for sure. But my guess is it involves calling her a cunt."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

When the Fates Flick your String

My phone vibrates in my pocket as I sit in rush hour traffic.

"What's up?"

"Nothing. Your father totalled the Subaru. Can you call work and tell him he's not coming in?"

"Christ. Is he OK?"

"Yea, we're fine, we were just going to vote, and something happened... I'm sore, his shoulder hurts, but we're alive, so it's alright." How about that Irish morbidity? Never fails.

"Fucking Christ, it was both of you?"

"Yea... but my cell phone is about to die, so can you call them?"

"Yea, yea, of course, no problem."

That could have been both of my parents in one fell swoop. It's funny what you think of during the near misses, when you realize that any given night could be the last that you spend with those you love... Especially when it's not just you that you'd have to deal with, but also your little kid brother.

I'd have to take the kid. I'll be damned if I let any of the other fuckers in the family come near him... and I'd couldn't even drink my way through this one, because he'd be depending on me... I'm 23, and there is absolutely no reason that he should go anywhere else, and I would have to take care of every financial thing, funerals, insurance... sorrow and sobriety are terrible bedfellows, that would be tough... it would be like that Dave Eggers' novel... I'd be paranoid about him for the rest of his life, would never let him go out, never go in another car ever again without me driving it. Oh the nightmares that poor kid would have, oh I've been there.

If they had me at the scene, I would kill the other driver. I would kill him in front of his fucking kids, and I wouldn't feel bad for a second, just put my hands around his throat and choke the life out, How dare you make my brother an orphan! No mercy for you tonight, my friend.. The cops would try to hold me down, and I'm sure that I would hit a couple of them, I'm sure I could plead temporary insanity later on. That wouldn't be for me... though I dread the day, I have come to accept that one day my parents will not be around, but my brother, he has no conception of loss, of death, he doesn't know how to handle that..


People laugh at me when I utter the phrase, "There is no tomorrow." I laugh cause I know they have no idea what they're in for.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Girl..

I have to put this back up, because sometimes things just ain't done, even when you thought they were.

It occurred to me tonight that the four or five people in other parts of the country that read this fucking thing might wonder why I have these random posts relating to Johnny Cash, or missing someone, or missing a "certain blonde". I think it's time for me to lay these things on the line for my own peace of mind.

Last year, I had a good thing going for a long time. I was with a good girl for three years, and I thought, "Well, this is it. This is the one. This is the last girl I'm going to sleep with, the last girl I'll ever be with". I was close to settling down and being done. I really did love her, and God bless her for putting up with all my shit over the years, all the drunken mistakes and asshole behavior that I am prone to... but it was not to be.

My life changed one day in early October when, in a writing class of mine, I was forced to do a profile on a subject in the class. I remember the professor sitting at the head of the squared tables, picking who was to interview whom. She said my name first.

"Steve... why don't you interview..." Her eyes searched across the class. "Alexis?" (Name changed to protect the not-so-innocent).

I cringed.

She came to me after class, and we set it up for a Thursday, I think. Oh, how I dreaded this motherfucking interview! It was going to suck, because not only am I terrible at talking to people I don't know, but I'm even worse at talking to girls that I think are attractive and don't know. To compensate, I figured she was a ditz and I would be able to con my way out of it by claiming it was her fault the interview went terribly. I figured the professor would see my point- we were absolutely mismatched. This broad was completely different than me in every way: tall, gorgeous, dressed in expensive clothes, and utterly cheerful in way that normally makes me sick. I remarked to a friend of mine that she was hot, but didn't seem like she was all there, if you know what I mean (It was only later on that I figured out that my professor likely knew how opposite we were, and that's probably why she put us together.)

On that fateful day, I walked up and saw her sitting on a bench by the student center, talking on her cell phone. I passed from a distance, and saw her gaze over at me. She did not look happy about doing this, either. I held my index finger up in the universal sign for, "Gimme a minute" and went down into the building to get myself a drink. I bought a pink lemonade, then went outside and sat down to get this goddamn thing over with.

It started off as any interview with me would likely start- me being difficult. It's a defense mechanism; people have to prove themselves to me before I give them the time of day. Show me you're not an asshole, show me you're not stupid, and then we'll talk. She asked me where I grew up, when my birthday was...standard fair. I gave curt one-word answers. Then, she made the mistake of asking me about my childhood. I did an arrogant half laugh, shook my head... "We're not going to go there." It was at that point that I think she got pissed off, and closed her notebook.

I took over the interviewing, since I was being such a pric and we both knew this would go nowhere if it depended on me. I began asking her questions, and she answered them all with charismatic laughs and giggling answers, frequently flashing a smile that could put any man on his ass. I watched the golden eyeshadow on her eyes as she looked away while talking, flailing her wrists that held a few gold bands... she talked with her hands constantly. Every time she got up to throw something out, I would steal a quick glance at her ass, because... well, that's what I do. She wore a black shirt and silver shoes, and her hair tumbled down her shoulders in a careless way that I knew took hours to achieve.

She was cheery in her answers, and yapped on about anything I would let her. She talked about her family, her father, her friends, her hopes. Begrudgingly, I realized that I couldn't not like her... and I just couldn't be a pric anymore. It was somewhere around then that we began to actually talk. Not interview... just talk. She disarmed me with her prescence, her lack of anxiety or fear. I marveled at her. She was sexy, but classy; she didn't show everything she had, but she still made you want her. She wasn't a girl you just wanted to fuck- she would be far too difficult to deal with for any man just after sex. She was that girl you fell in love with accidentally, the girl that you pined after because she is, unlike so many others, fun. She was the girl that had all the looks but never needed to use them, because she was too busy making you laugh with goofy noises and sound effects for her stories. A glance from her eyes and a smile were enough to make me want to fucking die.

When I asked her what star she thought should play her in a movie, she mentioned Debroah Messing. I had no idea who this was.

"Well, she's on Will and Grace. Have you ever seen that show?"

"Ahh...that's the one with the two queers, right?"

She looked at me in half amazement. "Yea, the two gay guys and the girl..."

"Nah. Never watched it. I'm not much for those shows."

She laughed at my blunt crudeness, and flashed her smile again.

"Well, how about Reese Witherspoon? I've heard people say that about me, too."

She struck a nerve. I was on a Johnny Cash kick at the time because I'd just seen Walk the Line, and I had literally fallen in love with Witherspoon's June Carter.

"Yea... I could see that." She reminded me a lot of her. A tough chick who didn't take any shit, but genuinely could care about people; it was too ironic. She'd never seen it, but she took my word for it.

She had a boyfriend of years. They were set to get married, and she had it in her head that it would be inside of six years; it seemed an odd number to pick, but at least she was aiming for something. I figured that being as she had a boyfriend of that long, she was safe, because I would never get anywhere with her (no matter how hard I tried). She wanted to own a personal relations company one day, but recoiled at the idea of being just a career woman.

"No! I want kids. I want to see something I made grow up... to treat them as well as my parents treated me."

She freely admitted that she was spoiled, and I would later learn of other traits that were not so flattering, such as a tendency to be selfish, or to disregard the feelings of others. Even being aware of this, however, I knew she had a good heart, and good intentions, and was just wary of letting herself get fucked over. The reasoning for this became clear later- her boyfriend had cheated on her once, and it tore her apart. Rarely do I feel sympathy for people, but this time it tore me apart for her, because even though I'd been through all the shit I've been through (that you've read on this here blog), I've never had someone so close to me absolutely betray my trust like that, and I couldn't imagine what it felt like. Count me among the lucky few that have not been cheated on... I hope never to be in that spot, because I would likely react terribly. I could tell she was still bitter about it, no matter how hard she tried to hide it.

Much of the interview is a blur now. She poked fun at my tough guy image, my incessant smoking and black Harley t-shirt. "What kind of tough guy drinks pink lemonade?" The thing lasted nearly two hours, and it ended with me telling drinking stories (of course). When we both decided we should go, a strange feeling hit me that hadn't been there in years: I don't want this to end. Alas, it had to. We got up, I lit a cigarette, and we said our goodbyes.

As I walked away from that thing, I was in stunned silence on the way back to my truck at what had just happened. Over the course of two hours, I had fallen completely in love with a girl that I should, by all means, have completely despised. I broke up with my girlfriend soon after.

It was much later that I would tell I was in love with her, when she pushed me to the edge and I feared losing her so much that I was forced to reveal how I really felt. On our coffee dates on the blistering cold days of November, there was a thick tension that one could slice with their hand if they moved too fast. We first kissed in a parking lot at the college, and it was one of those heart-stopping moments that people dream about and writers put into movies while "Boys of Summer" plays in the background. As I held her white soft white hand in my calloused, sun-raked paw, I realized that something inside of me had changed. My heart melted when I looked at her, and there were times that I could not talk for fear of losing my composure. I'm typically a hardened stoic... but around her I was made of clay.

There were many coincidences, things I used to tell her were "signs from God." Both of us were supposed to be graduated already. We both took that class though neither of us required it to graduate, and both of us were in our last semesters of our college careers. We both had other relationships, and seperate lives to deal with. And, of course... we both thought we would hate each other. It was only later on that I would find out that she figured I would hate her, and so she immediately disliked me- she thought I would think of her as a "dumb blonde with small boobs" being as I had once made a remark about Playboy in class. She figured me for a womanizer and an arrogant bastard (she was right on one, at least.)

Before I knew her, I thought she was a ditz, a dumb blonde, a high-maintence, unsatisfiable whiner. What I found was a girl that stole my heart from my chest in the first seconds, and has held it in her grasp since then, holding on firmly despite my half-hearted attempts to take it back.

What has blossomed between us is an intense love that is so fucked up and strange, but so real, that neither of us could explain it hard as we try. Never once in those first minutes did I ever think that I would be looking back on this the way I am now. When I looked in her eyes, never did I think that I would still be with her, around her, eight months later. I never dreamed of the passion and despair that could come with loving such a woman, and I never realized that my emotions for someone could run so deep.

In those eight months, it has been up and down, always incredibly passionate but never anywhere near stable. There have been countless dissapointments, moments of absolute joy, and hours of lust. Through all of this, she remains scared of me, somehow. She fears something that I cannot understand, some type of feeling that she has never had before or does not want to deal with. It is tearing me up because I simply don't get it, and I guess I never will. She still keeps me at arms lenth, never quite letting go of her inhibitions, and we go through frequent trauma that is not helped by her tendency to blow things out of proportion... and then there's always my drinking. We go through long periods of not talking, bare bones contact... only always end up back together, if only for a little while.

During those times of tortured silence, this fucking thing, this blog, is the only way I can really communicate with her, because I know she reads it. So, in essence, when you see Johhny Cash references here, they are messages to her, and her alone. When I say I am missing someone, it means that I am missing her... and her alone. And when I say "I love you" , it means that I am loving her... and her alone.

And no matter how much hell she puts me through.... I don't think that will ever change.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Greatest of Loves, the Greatest of Heartbreaks.

I remember the first time I was love sick. It seems like so long ago by now, but in my mind's eye it is a fond memory that only barely seems like it ever happened.

I think I was about 11, most likely in third grade, the age where unrequited love abounded. At that age, you don't know what the fuck you're doing, and the whole school is talking about who each other "likes". It's funny shit to look back on, because I hear my little brother saying the same kind of crap when he talks to his friends. Before I dismiss it as "little kid shit", I remember how seriously we took that kind of stuff when I was that age... it was, of course, a life and death matter.

Her name was Chloe, as I recall. She came to my Catholic school in third grade, and I was immediately enamored by her. I was king shit of fuck mountain back in those days, the only little rebel who grew his hair longer just because the people that ran the school said it couldn't go past your collar. So I rocked a kind of mullet like it was no man's business... cause... well, fuck them.

We had hit it off from the start, this witty raven haired beauty and I. To this day I remember how she used to immitate the accents of people from other parts of the country, and how outgoing and friendly she was. The first day I met her was some unassuming September day, and man was I in love. We didn't sit next to each other, because my name ended in a "J" and hers in "T", so I would do my best to talk to her across the multitudes of seats between us. Sometims you'd get lucky and a teacher would do the rows differently, seating people horizontally instead of vertically, and I would catch a break and sit next to her.

Every quarter semester, our seats would be rearranged, and according to who talked to much or too little, we'd get adjusted accordingly. Every time this happened, it was one of those beautiful young things where every time our seats were changed, I would hope and pray that I sat next to her. The few times that it actually happened, I would dread the passing of time, knowing that the liklihood of sitting next to her two times in a row was about the same as the Red Sox winning the World Series (in those days, it was a rare occurrence).

Being so young, I had no idea what was happening to me. I knew that I "liked" this girl, but had never had that odd feeling before, that warmth inside when she talked to me. It caught me quite off guard...I guess why that age right before teenager-dom is so fucking hard for kids.

By fourth grade, I was a complete sucker for this broad, but never had a chance to really talk to her. But, alas, one day, the day before our Halloween break (Catholic school gave us breaks for everything), our desks were rearranged in a big semicircle, and I was lucky enough to sit by her for the party. Because it was so damn long ago, I don't remember what transpired between us or the words that were said, but it sure as hell left me on cloud nine. We got goody bags that day, filled with candy and all kinds of little chocksky bullshit that only a kid could appreciate, such as plastic rings in the form of creepy stuff and other assorted oddities. My ring was some kind of dark blue skull thing, and hers was something like a hand outstretched in horror movie fashion. I wish I could transcribe what we talked about on that day, because I'm sure it'd be funny as hell, but it escapes me now.

My parents and I went out for dinner later that night to some dark restaurant with wooden I-beams holding the ceiling up and yellowed walls. Christ, I wouldn't see her for another four days because of the vacation... four days! How was I to live? How could I endure? That was longer than God had been alive as far as I was concerned. Hell, by the time I came back, it was assured that I wouldn't be sitting next to her, and my golden oppurtunity was gone! (oppurtunity for what I don't know, but fuck man, I was 12). I already figured that that little Indian kid was trying to edge in on her, and with my luck he'd be sitting next to her on the fateful Monday that I returned to school. I should have whacked that kid, and showed him what's what, goddamnit...

I fingered that little plastic ring as it slid on my finger, and all I could think about was that goddamn girl. When the food came out, something in my stomach flopped over, and the last thing I could think about was eating. Food? Are you kidding? I'm in Loooovveeeeeee! How could I eat at such a time? Life and fucking death, and you people want me to eat french fries? Really? That little fucker is going to be sitting next to my girl Monday and you're asking me about ketchup? No. None of that.

"I'm not hungry." That was my first taste of love. Bittersweet till the end.

We finished out that year, and by fifth grade both of us had left the school. We went to our prospective middle schools, and eventually met each other again in High school. By then though, the "magic" was gone. She was one of the popular girls, and I was one of the fuckups, and never the twain met. But I'm sure she remembers those days just as I did. They were good.

I tell this story because for the first time since then, I am longing for a girl like I did so long ago. The times have changed, of course. I am no longer young and innocent. The skin around my eyes is beginning to show signs of the abuse of the last ten years, and I know exactly where my wrinkles will come on my face. My beard and sideburns grow in thick, and my dark eyes have a sadness that they didn't have in those old heady days. Being a smoker and a drinker has made me look like I'm ten years older... too much life, I guess, both in the good and the bad ways.

But in my heart, that warmth is the same. I am 23, and still here I sit, a 12 year old fingering some old plastic ring, thinking of some girl who I am madly in love with. As old as I get, as tired as I am, I am still that same eager kid, hoping against hope and praying on first sighted stars that my love does not go unrequited this time. This one is the only one who has the wit that my first old love had, that has the beauty and... that feeling. You all know what it is, that intangible something that you fall for before you know what's happening.

It is all so innocent, yet all so heartbreaking, all so devious. It appears that I have been a hopeless Romantic since the beginning... and old habits die hard.