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Twisting all the bad things into good

Dec 24, 2012

Last Words. CHAPT 30




Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right.

Scarlet Begonias, Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter


         "Go on – get out. 
         Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”
         Last words of Karl Marx.


       MONDAY. 9/13/10

     The words get harder as the end gets nearer.

     When the only person standing does not have to say another word, then you know it's over.

     The word is "acknowledgement".

     I knew what it meant.
       
     1. The act of admitting or owning to something: confession
     2. Recognition of another's existence, validity, authority, or right
     3. an expression of gratitude
     4. a statement, especially at the beginning of a book, in which the writer expresses thanks to the people who have helped

     I knew how to use it in a sentence.

     "Acknowledgement.
     The whole class cheered when he beat out the "smart" girl to win the 5th grade spelling bee, but when he stood on stage in front of the whole school, he became more concerned with what they were seeing than seeing his word in his head, so he did not take his time spelling "A-C-H-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E-M-E-N-T" before being told to sit and watch the "smartest" kid in the school, an 8th grader, receive the applause of every teacher and every kid in every grade, none of them aware that the "smartest kid" in the school was really the kid who finished 2nd, a 5th grader, a self conscious coward who would avoid the stage from that day on.
     Acknowledgement."

     I just couldn't spell it.

     "H", as in "hell".

     It's "AC".
     Then it's "knowledge", with a "k".
     After that, it's easy.
     It should have all been easy.

     But nothing is easy when you're so self conscious. You feel like there is always somebody looking, and you begin to live like they are. You avoid taking risks. If you don't try, you can't fail. You don't ask, because rejection would be harder to take than the sword from the stone.
     Then one day, you can't even take the bus.


        
    "James," someone called from the tech counter.

     Sounds like my driver has arrived.

     Time to say goodbye and good luck to everyone.

     Time to acknowledge my supporting cast in my LifeTime Movie of the last week. I'd call it I Know My First Name Is James if I knew that a guy who knows his first name is Steven would not sue me for copyright infringement. 
      It doesn't matter what it was called.

      It was big speech time.

      Someone was on the verge of a breakthrough.


     "I'd like to thank my fellow patients, as well as the staff, for making these last few days easier than they should have been. It seemed like it had been forever since I smiled, laughed, and wiped from my eyes tears not of sadness or regret.
     Before I leave, I'd like to apologize. I should have talked less, and listened more. As far back as I can remember, it was all about me. This was my first delusion. Now I get it. This did not all start with the ants. I know that now. It all started long before the ants. The line of ants was the finish line. If you've ever run track, if you've ever watched a race where the drivers never make a right turn, then you already know. The starting line, the finish line, they're the same line. The exit. The entrance. Same door.
     As sure as I am that I could outspell the hell out of everyone in South County, staff included, I was still wrong for thinking I was better than you, for assuming I was the only one who did not belong in a place like this. Nobody's better than anyone, we're all just different. We're all special, not just me. The world does not revolve around me. It revolves around all of us. I've got no delusions left, just a few words. I hope I get them right. It's been a long time since I did anything right. It's been a long time since I did anything. I'm gonna stop wasting our time now."

     If it weren't about a guy who'd rather take Trazadone than the bus, The Humbling might be a fitting title.
     Too bad Lifetime producers would say it was too short. They'd make some corny suggestion, something overly melodramatic, I don't know, maybe like The Patron Saint of ....whatever. 

    
     "Excuse me."
     
     With the group's eyes turned on me and the television turned off, an absence of drama left a void in the rec room, and it filled fast with silence.

     "I'm sorry to interrupt."

     I looked around the table.
     Monica. 
     Loretta. 
     Mikale.
     Filip.
     Alex.
     Ken.
     Jesus AKA Reggie.
     Viv AKA The Voice.

     DJ was already gone.
     Earlier in the day, a spot opened up for her at a sober living home for women. 
     She did not say goodbye or good luck.
     No last words.
     She just passed away. 

    As for everyone else, staff included, they had a life expectancy of however long it would be until the door closed behind me. As soon as it locked, they would all turn to ghosts, and they'll remain here forever, haunting this room until the day I die.

     "Are you leaving us now, James?" asked Maria.
   
     None of them will ever get any older than they are right now, and I'll never be younger.
     That's the downside of making it out alive.
     And I hope it's the only one.
     But I doubt it.

     There are worse things to take than the bus. 
    
     "Yeah, my ride's here, and, I didn't wanna just get up and walk out without saying anything, so..."

     I knew all the words.
     I knew what they all meant.
     I even knew how to spell them.
     I just didn't know how to use them in a sentence.

     It didn't matter. 
     They're just words.
     25 years from now, they won't be remembered.
     Stop thinking so much.
     It's not big speech time.
     Nobody's looking.
     Get it right this time.
     It's only a word.
       
     Acknowledgement.

     A.
     C.

     This is the part that matters most.

     K.
       
     All that fear.
     All that stage fright. 
     All because of one letter.
     All that it might have cost me.
     Maybe. I. Could. Have. Been. A. Movie. Star. If.

     N.
     O.
     W.

     I've got nothing to lose, nothing to be afraid of.
 
     L.
     E.
     D.
     G.
     E.
        
     The rest is easy.

     M. 
     E. 
     N.
     T. 


     I was the only person in the room standing.

         
     "I just wanted to say goodbye and....I really do wish everyone the best of luck with everything."

     The names I knew and voices I'd heard all spoke their last words at the same time.
     They either said goodbye or good luck, nothing deserving of the last line in someone else's story.
      
     I turned to Brian.

     One of the rules was no contact of any kind permitted between patients.
     So I shook his hand.
     If he were not still sitting on the couch, I would have hugged him. 
     I wonder how long it had been since someone hugged him.
     Probably a long time.
 
     I wonder when was the last time someone told him he made their life better just by being there. 
     Probably never. 
     And they probably never will.
    
     Without Brian, South County would not have felt like being away at summer camp.
     It probably would have felt more like being locked away in a mental health facility.

     I would have stayed miserable. Maybe even silent.
    
     It felt wrong saying goodbye to someone I cared about so much without at least promising to keep in touch. 
     I just didn't know how to make it feel right. 

     You don't ask a man in his fifties who lives in a tent, even if he owns it, if he is on FaceBook. I was not going to embarrass him by asking for the number to a phone he didn't have. 

     I knew I would never see him again. 

     As sincere as my goodbye and good luck to the group had been, Brian deserved more than the sentimental equivalent of an autoresponder.
     I wanted him to know how glad I was that we became friends, and that I would never forget him.
     I just couldn't find the words. 
     I wanted to say something before I let go of his hand, so that if he could not hear it in my voice, maybe he'd feel in my handshake, and see in my eyes, what my words would not express, but that whatever I was going to say, I meant it.

     "Brian, God bless, bro."

     I'm not sure why I said that. 
     Maybe it was because if I still prayed, I would pray for Brian.
     It was not a conscious decision.
     We talked about a lot of things, personal things, things we did not talk about when the girls were around, things we made sure nobody else heard us discuss.
     God was never mentioned.
     
    
     Brian said, "We had fun, didn't we?"
     "Yeah, we did. How crazy is that?"
     "Take care of yourself, James."  
     
     This time, when I heard my father's name, the same name he and my mother gave me back when I could've become anything, I knew there was nothing left to say, so I turned and walked to the door. I heard it unlock.

     "Hey, James", Brian called out.
     I turned and saw him lounging back on the couch with his arms outstretched. He gave me an ornery look.
     Whatever he was gonna say, I was going to let him have the last line. It was all I had to give him. And after he said what he was going to say, with a nod and a smile, I'd show him the sincerity my blessing lacked, and then I would turn and walk out the door, and I would not forget.
 

     When I think about him now, it's not in a "Man, I wonder how Ol' Sparky's doing?" kind of way.
     It's in a "Man, I wonder if Brian is still alive" kind of way.
     I like to think he is.
     But I doubt it.

      
     "When you're a famous writer someday, don't forget about Old Sparky", were Brian's last words.

      The next thing I heard was a door lock behind me.

      And a rec room became a ghost town. 
    
        

Dec 13, 2012

Top That!



        I'm hot...
        and you're not.
        But if you wanna get with me I'll give it one shot
        TOP THAT!
          - Rhett, Teen Witch









  

        As far as I know, as far as I wanna know, he's never had sex with a dude.
        He's still a "topper".
        That's what I call that guy always topping your story with a more extreme version.

        If you're as well versed in the way of the topper as I am, there is an incognito way to make their presence in a conversation known to another listener who is in the know about such people, but might be too many beers deep to recognize them.
        In mid-conversation, and without segue, you make a reference to a Harley Davidson, which the topper will have at least 2 of, both top of the line. If you tell him you also have a pair of top choppers, he'll suddenly remember he forgot to mention his third, because it's in the shop, getting worked on, so it will be faster than both of yours.....combined.

        "Harley" is a clever reference to the main character played by Charlie Sheen in the 1991 film Hot Shots! and it's 1993 sequel Hot Shots! Part Deux.
        Part Deux was not a topper, but it was still 70% bullshit.
        In Hollywood, Charlie Sheen is known as one of the top toppers in film/tv industry.
        In both films in the Hot Shots trilogy, he is known as "Topper Harley".

        Topper Harley was a slapstick version of  Maverick in Top Gun, the top grossing film of 1986.
        The Top Gun soundtrack also went to number 1, topping the Billboard charts for five nonconsecutive weeks. Everywhere you went that summer, Kenny Loggins' Danger Zone was playing, usually louder than necessary.
        The following year, Kenny Loggins found himself on the charts again with another soundtrack hit, this time with Meet Me Halfway, the theme song from the Sylvester Stallone film, Over the Top, the Rocky 5 of arm-wrestling movies.

        Toppers never listen.
        When someone like myself, or anyone else who is not a pathological liar, tells a story sans embellishment about something that actually happened, that's when their wheels are turning faster than the 2 on a juiced up Lance Armstrong's bicycle.
         And the 4 on his Lamborghini.
         Combined.

        Once they hear the silence that comes between mid-sentence words, that's when they pounce, saying, "That's nothing, this one time I ..." or "You wanna hear something even more fucked up than that?"

        Toppers are ubiquitous.
        Nowhere are they found more per capita than inside circles where hard liquor is consumed by the bottle, and beer by the keg.
        Every topper who drinks is a raging alcoholic.
        In most cases, their low self esteem is what drives them to drink, to top, and to drug.
        Nobody does more drugs than toppers.
        If you snorted a gram of coke in one line, something that is not outlandish enough to warrant lying, then topper snorted an 8ball in one line, something outlandish enough to warrant dying. This specific claim is also a clear indicator to anyone who knows anything about cocaine or basic mathematics that the topper in question is multiplying 3.5 x  (their truth/your story), an equation most applicable to pot and powder.
        This equation is not in play when boasting about the dozens of perfect girls who have lost their virginity to him.

       
        You can't win with a topper.
        They will always multiply the details of your story and their life.
        x2 is considered amateur.
        x3 is most consistent, reason being it is not that far of a stretch.
        x4 is hit and miss, depending on the intelligence of the listener.
        x5 is no longer in use.
        It got played out due to the convenience it lent to lying under pressure. It became clear to the bottom feeders that a guy who struggles to kill a 6 pack, or even a 12 pack, always puts down no less than exactly 30 or 60 beers.
       
        Despite all toppers having an IQ score higher than you or I, you'll rarely come across one who works in multiples of 6.
        Conspiracy theorists will tell you the non use of 6 comes from a superstition that has trickled down from "The Top".
        The Top is very much like The Illuminati, except 4 times better.
        Multiples of 7 are rarely more than the result of bad math.
   
        
        A topper who multiplies by 8, or maybe even 9, is a genius.
        There's no arguing that.


        Any number ending with "0" is too easy, but still a valued topping tool when speaking of money matters, such as income and the money won on the Super Bowl.
        No topper has ever lost a bet.
        Most have broken their bookie.
        All are financial wizards who make more money than you and have never made a bad investment.
       
       I'd need a calculator to figure out what kind of numbers were being run through the mind of a topper who spoke at me recently. When I told him (a true story) about a friend of a friend's sister getting busted with a hundred pounds of weed, he immediately schooled me about how a nonexistent sister of his imaginary friend's totally made up sister and her brother got busted with ten thousand pounds.
       I was more confused by the family factor than the factor of ten being utilized in the logic behind his lie.

        Any odd number over 10 is off the charts.
       
       If there is a difference between a topper and a liar, it is that at least the topper's nonsense was at one time rooted in.... truth, I guess, for lack of a better word.
       Call them what you will, toppers, story tellers, perjurers, politicians, prevaricators, fablers, false witnesses, fibbers, fiction writers, fucking liars, embellishers, exaggerators, ex-girlfriends, bullshitters, bloggers, it really doesn't matter.
       Because they all have one thing in common.
       They can be entertaining, but after a while, their shit just gets old and you start to resent them for wasting your precious time.
       This is true no matter what, even if whatever it was they were talking or writing about is 8, or maybe even 9, times better than every one of Hemingway's short stories......combined. 
        
     

About the author:   Jimmy Mac


He was born in Philadelphia exactly one year before his first birthday.
The nurses had never seen a baby boy so beautiful and well read.
The doctor had never even heard of a baby born with a Black Belt.                                                        
Was the youngest person to ever run the Philadelphia Marathon.
He was 3 years old.
And he won.

Lost his virginity to his babysitter, a Swedish model.
He was 7. 
She had   4 orgasms.

Ran a 3 minute mile in 5th grade.

The only person who ever scored over 2000 on his SAT's. 

He also graduated top of his class.
Every year.



His unfinished book has already made every critic's and reader's 
Top 10 Books of 2013 list, and is on pace to outsell The Bible by 2014.

It was the first thing he ever wrote.

 He currently lives in a big house in Worcester, Pennsylvania.
With his parents.
And he's never been married.
Because nobody's perfect.

 "See you at the top"
  Zig Ziglar

     
        

Dec 12, 2012

The Screwloose Letters: The Apology





     My Dearest Wormwood,

     You've probably never read C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, a book made up of letters written from one demon to another who discuss how to tempt humans into sin.
     It's a bit darker and more disturbing than The Lion, The Witch, and The Whatever.
     The Screwtape Letters have nothing to do with this, so I'll start over.


     Hey JJ,

     Lat time I addressed you directly was on June 9th, in the introductory paragraph to the criminally underrated Chapter 22, Preoccupations With and Preconceptions of Death and Dying.
     I said something I shouldn't have.
     I referred to your son as "Whateverett".
     I can understand someone taking offense to their greatest (pro)creation  being referred to as an interjecting expression of indifference and scorn.
     Whateverett.
    
     I didn't forget his name.
     I never forget anything.

     I can't remember if you've returned any of my calls or texts since I turned your son's name into a punchline, but what do you expect from someone whose greatest contribution to the world is an unfinished book full of "I" and "Me" and "What the fucks", read by you and 4 girls from our Honors English Class.
      I can't count Joe because he's my therapist, and I can't count Glenn because he's my cousin.
      Shit.
      Now I'm hesitant to even include you, considering you're my best friend and if this were a movie, you'd be in the credits just below me, and  if you don't like being...
      Damn.
      I was gonna tell you that if you didn't like being the P-Diddy to my Biggie Smalls, then you could "just below me"...which I thought was kind of Big Papa of me until it dawned on me that I'm the dead, and even worse, obese, one whose been dead since '95, and you're the one 6 feet above me pouring magnum sized bottles of Crystal out on my grave on my birthday before you head back to the White Party in the Hamptons to pour some more Crystal all over the tits of some models without ever removing your sunglasses while you direct them to go down on...well, maybe that's not exactly or anywhere even close to how it is or how it would be if your best friend was a dead rapper gone before his time with only 2 albums as a legacy, or if I was a dead writer who took too long to finish his 2 books (or 1 really long book) he'd be leaving behind.

       Besides the fact that I'd be buried in the suburbs of Philly and my birthday would come and go without even a 40 (which in PA, is actually only 32oz, but still referred to as a 40) of Miller Lite being poured,  the biggest difference would be that I left nothing behind that you could use to exploit the tragic death of your best friend, unless you've already dumped me after the "Whateverret" thing, negating our Batman (me) and Robin (you) type of relationship.
       Unlike Puffy Sean Diddy, you won't be chillaxing in a private jet telling my kids how much paper their dad made, you'd be showing your kids my unfinished book before showing them how to make paper airplanes out of it.

       I lied to you too.
       Sorry.
       Maybe it wasn't a lie.
       Maybe it was my naivete.
       You don't have to google, it means I was being naive (pronounced like "wave").
      
       I said that writing is easy.
       It's not.
       Not even a little.
       Not even at all.
       Do you have any idea how long it takes to write something that takes longer to read than an apology letter?
       Long. Time. Dude.
       Not as long as we've been friends, but I'd say approximately one hour per word.
       Well, I was just thinking I should say that I'm sorry for being such an asshole.
       I'm sorry for being such an asshole.

       Well, gotta get back to finishing my book.
       Hopefully you'll like it, and won't be too emotionally drained after the heart wrenching finale in the South County parking lot. You remember, you fell to your knees, with your arms wide open like you were the lead singer of Creed, weeping and sobbing until you hyperventilated, then finally got your breath back and started calling yourself "JJJ", the extra "J" being for "Judas", then begged me to absolve your mortal sin of 21 JumpStreeting me to my parents and the nonnarcotic cops in an attempt to intervene just in time to save me from whatever tragedy was lurking about a 3 minute drive away, and then you wouldn't stop hugging me, kissing my cheek after  you betrayed me, too shaken up to remember the other Judas did both at the same time while still having consideration enough not to use Jesus's t-shirt to soak up his tears and blow his nose with,  until I finally told myself this had already gone on too long and then told you "It's all good, dude. I forgive you. Now can we please get out of here before someone sees us?" And then I let you drive us off into the sunset in the middle of the afternoon. I know I don't need to remind you, I'm just prepping you so after reliving such a shameful moment, you'll still have strength enough to click on the "Like" button.
       I know I'd like to read something that someone other that myself wrote about myself.
       So, yeah, since I can't start fictionalizing things at the end, like it or not, you'll make an appearance in the last chapter.
       You're always there in the end.
       Because you've never been one of The Whoevers.
       You're the better half of  The Jimi Mac Experience.

       Still friends?

       Because if not, there are plenty of other guys who would love to have me for a bff.

       I lied again.
       There's nobody else.
       I'll never again lie to you or blaspheme your son's name.
       Hell, I'll even let you be Batman if you want.
       I think we both know already, you've always been Batman.

       Great Gatsby, Batman! I gotta finish my masterpiece.

       Please say "Hello" to Catwoman and the kids.
      
       Sincerely,
       Superman
      

       "Are we going to be friends forever?" asked Piglet
     "Even longer" Pooh answered.
          - A.A. Milne 





Dec 9, 2012

I Dreamed of Julie



and wherever you've gone
and wherever we might go
it don't seem fair...

you seem to like it here
Light Years, lyrics by Eddie Vedder



        I woke up around 9:30 this morning.
        My only day to sleep in.
        I wasn't ready to start my day, so I turned on some music and went back to sleep.
     
        Then I went back to high school.
        Pope John Paul II.
        Senior year.

        It wasn't a common "back to high school dream", but I was still unprepared for the final.
        This wasn't my recurring dream about arriving late, then roaming the empty breezeway with no idea which classroom I've already been marked absent from.
        I never had this dream before.
 
        It was lunchtime.

        I was leaning on a windowsill, my gaze fixed upon a group of girls outside, sitting at a picnic table I've been told is no longer there. I don't remember at which table or in which lunch period these girls could have been found back then, but today, they were all sitting together.

        There were lots of girls at lots of tables, but none were like the girls at this table.

        They were more beautiful than I remembered, their inner beauty so radiant, it could make a pretty face shine brighter than any supermodel's ever could.
        The airbrushed faces of every Playmate of every year would run with makeup and tears of envy if they saw the au naturale PJP girls of '94 the way I saw them this morning.
       
        Although we were back in high school, I felt the same way about them that I would nearly 20 years later, a way a teenage boy is not capable of loving or even looking at girls his age, his own insecurities and self perceptions always the most influential factor in his perceptions of others.      
        Even if none of them would look back and call high school the best days of their lives, today seemed an exception. It was like they knew what they know now, that very soon, they'd never be together again, not like this.
        They looked so happy.
        They only stopped smiling when they'd start laughing.

        I didn't realize this was a dream, but I suddenly knew this wouldn't last.

        Something wasn't right.
        I hoped it was me.

        I wanted them to keep smiling, even if that meant I had lost my mind.

        I would have done that for them.
        I didn't want any of them to stop laughing.

        Especially her.
        She was the one with the biggest smile.
        I couldn't hear her, but she was laughing the loudest.

        As perfect as they all were, she was the one I couldn't take my eyes off.       
        The first girl I ever bought flowers.
        The first girl I ever took on a date.
        The girl I took to my Senior Prom.

        Julie.

        She was the only girl at the table not sitting.
        When I saw her standing behind Candice, I prayed I was temporarily insane.
        I could deal with the humiliation of being taken away in front of the whole school.
        They could lock me away if it meant Julie could continue laughing, even if it was at me.

        I would do that for her.

        It would be my pleasure to be lead away in handcuffs or a straitjacket while her and the other girls, along with my friends, the rest of our Senior Class, the Juniors, the Sophomores, the Freshman, my teachers, and whoever else was around to point and laugh at me.
        I might even be laughing too.
        I would not be laughing with them though.
        I'd be laughing at them.
        Because I know something they don't know.

        I may have gone temporarily insane, but I'll stay forever enlightened.

        They can take me away, but they can't take that away.
     
        I can play Jesus for an afternoon.

        And the priests and nuns would have no idea what they had witnessed.

        A miracle, performed by a martyr, disguised as a madman.

        I'd make that sacrifice for them today.
        Especially her.
       
        She was the one who needed to be saved.

        I hoped it was not too late.
        I hoped it was me, not the world, that wasn't making sense.
     
        Fearing she'd disappear, I only looked away from her long enough to take quick glances behind me, trying to find a friend before lunch came to an abrupt end with the sound of a bell.
        Johan was the first friend I saw. I called him over so I could ask if he could see what I'm seeing, but Brad interrupted our conversation before it started. Whatever he was talking about, it didn't matter. I wasn't listening. I scanned the room until I saw Jeff coming down the stairs, and without excusing myself, walked towards the furthest window from the conversation I just bailed on, called out to Jeff, pointing him in the same direction.
        
        Jeff came over and stood shoulder to shoulder with me at the window. I never looked at Jeff. I kept watching Julie.
        "She's dead, isn't she?"
        "Huh? Who's dead?"
        "Julie. She's dead, isn't she?"
        I could feel Jeff looking at me.
        "Yeah", he said. "She died last Summer. Everyone knows that."
     
        Outside my dream, in nightmare reality, Julie Bryant was murdered on November 2nd, 2010.
        She wished me a Happy Birthday 6 days earlier.
     
        Julie was still standing at the picnic table, smiling, laughing, shining.
        "Do you ever see her?" I asked.
        "Not since before she died. What's..."
        "I still see her sometimes, and I wanted to know if I'm the only one."
        "I don't get it."
        "I've been watching her over at the table with the other girls for the last five minutes." I pointed at the girls' table. "Right there. It's Julie. She's right there. Tell me you don't see her standing there, right behind Candice."
        I looked at Jeff.
        Jeff looked for Julie.
        He couldn't see her.
        When I looked out the window again, I didn't see her either.
        Julie was gone.
        This was the worst case scenario, Julie's dead and I'm crazy.
        I couldn't face Jeff, so I just kept looking out the window.
        The other girls were still smiling, still laughing, still shining.
        Jeff must have been able to see them, but I asked anyway.

        "My God, they're beautiful, aren't they? I never realized until today...just how beautiful they are. I hope they're gonna be okay. I love them. I think I would die for any one of them. They're all amazing, inside and out. Don't ya think?" 
        "Yeah, they're the best. What's up with you?"
        "They're daughters. That's it. They haven't even left home yet. Someday they're gonna be wives and moms. I just hope nobody will hurt them. They're good girls. I don't want anything bad to happen to any of them. That's all I want for them. For them to be safe." 
       
        I turned my back to the window, and when I did, I saw her again.
        "Turn around. She's right there."
        Jeff turned.
        "Where?"
        "She's right there. Sitting across from Walker, clear as day. How can you not see her?"
        "All I see is Walker sitting at an empty table."

        Walker stood up and walked away.
        Jeff said, "Walker's not even there anymore."
        Julie was now sitting there alone.

        "Yeah, but Julie is. I can see her sitting there by herself."
        "Go talk to her then. What do you want me to say? Go ask her what happened."

         I could feel Jeff watching me as I walked over to the table.
         Julie smiled as I sat across from her.
         "Hey, what's up, stranger?" she asked
         I tried to smile back, but instead looked down at the table in case she wasn't there.
         The eyes of the whole cafeteria were on me, I could feel them.
         I didn't want to be humiliated, but I wanted less to hurt her feelings.
         My lips barely moved, and without looking up, I spoke as lightly as I could.
         "Hey, Julie." I raised my eyes to see her smiling. "Are you alright?"
         She replies with the pep expected of the captain of the cheerleaders.
         "I'm great. How's it going with you?"
         I'm nervous, and I'm watching my fingers tap the table.
         "Okay. I guess. So, everything's really alright?"
         "Everything's great."
         "Yeah. You said that. I saw you outside. You looked really happy."
         "Why won't you look at me? Did you get another fever blister?"
         I shake my head, and smile at my fidgeting fingers.
         "No. That's funny though. You're funny, Julie. I always thought so."
         "You're the funny one, embarassed about your lip, like I care. I told you why you get them, but you never listen to me."
         "Yeah, I know."
         "And what do I always tell you?"
         "Don't stress."
         "And what do you always do?"
         "I stress."
         "Don't stress!" she orders with a laugh.
         "I know, I just can't help it. But, I need to ask you something."
         "Ok" she says with excited anticipation, like how she said "Ok" when I asked her to prom.
         "I don't know, Jules. This is not easy. I'm sorry."
       
         This was nothing like when I asked her to prom.

         "What?' she said. "Just ask."

         The lunch bell rang.

         And then I woke up.

         I wanted to go back to sleep.
         It was Saturday.
         My only day to sleep in.
         I decided my face could wait to be washed, my teeth to be brushed, my book to be edited.
         So, instead of getting out of bed to start my day, I started writing.
        
         I know how quickly dreams can fade away.
         If I wrote it down, if I could finish before it faded away, I wouldn't forget this one.

         And that way, if I ever see one of those girls, I might remember to tell her she has never been more beautiful, and she has never shined brighter than she did today.

        

        
 

 Julie Bryant Mitchell    
                                       February 18, 1976 - November 2, 2010
  

Dec 1, 2012

Dude, Interrupted. CHAPT 29



These novels will give way, by and by, to diaries or autobiographies -captivating books, if only a man knew how to choose among what he calls his experiences that which is really his experience, and how to record truth truly.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

          
     


      I wondered how it made the group feel to know I was leaving. The silent majority were probably glad that my voice would be one less echoing in their heads. Unfortunately for their ears, Vivian, who arrived the same "deesgusting" night I did, was not "ready" to go home. I never figured out what her problem was, then again, I never figured out what my own was. 
      As for the "talkers", even though the only drugs we never discussed were inhalants, I still felt like I had been the sniffing glue that held our little group together.  

     Like anytime I say good bye and good luck, I wanted to think that after the door closed behind me, I hoped whoever I left behind would feel the lack when I was gone. Maybe everyone feels that way, that they'd like to be missed when they're gone, not because they want to leave a void, but to feel like they made things a little bit better by having been there. 

     This was one of the few times in my life, I recognized that this chapter of my life would close with the door behind me.
       
     I knew when I arrived at South County on Wednesday, my life would never be the same. When I woke up Thursday morning, I realized the same thing, but for different reasons.  I fell asleep as one person, and I woke up as another. That's what I really wanted when I hoped to fall asleep and not wake up. I just knew that things like that do not happen. Maybe in the movies, maybe in fiction books, but not in real life, not in the non-fiction section.  

     
    

     Sparky got up from the table in the middle of Filip talking about how his father used to have him go get his cocaine from the kitchen for him, and how his dad would send him to deliver it. 
     Filip was 8 at the time.
     "Brian? Where are you going?" asked Maria.
     "I'm goin' to say goodbye to James," Brian said as if she asked him a stupid question.
     Sparky came over and sat down next to me.
     "So, you're leaving, James?"
     I could tell was sorry to see me go.
     "Yeah. My friend's gonna be here anytime now."
     "Alright."
     Neither of us knew what to say, so we just sat there.
        

     It really is the little things that people do that show they care. Too often for me to take comfort in, these little things go unrecognized until it's too late to thank them. Besides my  "English table manners", Brian also noticed something that drove one of my ex-girlfriends crazier than anything I ever did with my tongue. I like to have a lot of napkins when I eat, paper towels are even better. In South County we only received the one napkin that came with our spork. I thought it was only because he wasn't as concerned as I was with keeping his hands clean and wiping his mouth after every bite that he started to give me his napkin at every meal. It went unsaid that Sparky and I were glad to have unexpectedly found a friend in the other.
     He was the only one I would miss. He was the first person who spoke to me. He was the first person who called me by name before I ever knew his.
     For those five days, Brian hid his pain well with his jokes and his unapologetic attitude, but I knew, hearing it in his voice and seeing it in his eyes, he was sorry to see me go.

     I wondered what he was going to do without me there.
     I wonder what I would have done without him there.
     This isn't one of those choose your own adventure books I read as a kid. I'd always mark the pages so I could go back and see what would have happened if... 
  
     Is your book going to be a mystery? A whodunit?
      
     Nah, I dunit.
     Over and over, I dunit.
     No spoiler alert there.
     I'd tell you on the first page and remind you again on every page until the last.

     The only mystery revolves around the main character, a delusional man desperately searching for the right place for his character study lacking any character arch, unwritten by and about a guy with no character.

     Sounds character driven.

       
     But what's it really about?
 
     Really, it's about Jimmy Mac and the Whoevers.

     Who are the "whoevers"?

     Anyone who isn't me.

     Me, myself, and I never shut up long enough to listen to anyone's short stories because I never stopped trying to finish telling my own epic without any interruption.


     Did I mention no editing awards for this one?
      
     As far a critical praise for the writing, I'll include a few early and unbiased reviews to lure readers shopping at the Dollar Store to splurge on my marked down masterpiece instead of donating a dollar to buy a toy for the child of some soldier or inmate.

     "It's like nothing I've ever written"
     -Anonymous

     "This book changed my life!"

     - Jimmy Mac
 

     Sounds inspirational.


     Maybe you can do a Sunday morning book signing at our church bookstore?

     No.

     God no.
     Hell no.
     Absolutely not.
     Don't get it twisted by the title.
     It's nonsense. Absolute nonsense.
     It's true I was known as "The Patron Saint of South County".
     But this was known only to me.
     To everyone else in the South County Congregation, I was known by my real name, my Christian name, the name given to me by my parents, back when I was perfect, back when I could've been anything.
     James.
     Always sounded like a limo driver's name to me.
 
     Prayers go out to you and yours in hopes that neither you nor yours confuse this book about a selfish, self-sabotaging, self-absorbed, self-centered, self-destructive, self-annointed false prophet of a "saint" with any actual saints, like the kind of saints actually canonized by the church, not themselves.

     There are 2 Patron Saints named James.
    
     It is a sin, forgivable and understandable, but still a sin, how easy it is to confuse me with Saint James the Greater, The Patron Saint of Pharmacists and Druggists. 
     And that's where any confusion should cease. 

     James the Greater was the first Apostle to be martyred. 
     As far as his story goes, James the Greater brought an unjustly hung boy back to life. This was before the whole autoerotic .... choking thing. 
     The father of the resurrected boy's was about to eat dinner when he heard the news of this miracle. 

     He called bullshit. 

     He said his dead son was about as alive as the roasted chicken he was trying to eat before being interrupted with the great news.  
     This little story, as well as his dinner plans, ends abruptly when his supper sits up, grows wings, and flys away.

     Truly an unbelievable story.

     The other actual Patron Saint James is known as "the Lesser".
     You might take it as a diss, but it ain't, yo.
     What seems a slight is simply a differentiation between he and the other martyred Apostle, James the Better.
       
     James the Lesser is The Patron Saint of Hatmakers. 
     So....

     As for Aint James the Nothing, he ain't the patron saint of shit.


     He rarely wears hats.

     Definitely never made a hat, or a cheesecake, or anything.
     He can't even make his bed anymore.
     He just lies awake in it.
             
     South County left me wanton when it came to material and a proper mental disorder diagnosis, but maybe I can still write about my hallucinations. Nice to know my best material for a nonfiction book are things that never happened. One could roam Barnes & Nobles for what feels like eternity trying to figure out which section such a book would be fit to be shelved. Unwritten books of any genre are so hard to find, you just stop looking after a while.. Sometimes, you don't even start.

     Never having written anything, I think I deserve my own genre.


     Dick Lit

     Chick Lit, but for dudes.

     Dude, Interrupted.

     I get the reference to the book adapted into the movie where you can catch Best Supporting Actress Winner Angelina Jolie stealing the show from that actress who got caught stealing the makeup, but I don't get the title in either case.


     Does it mean the dude interrupted something or does it mean someone interrupted the


     Dude didn't want to go down again, back down into the darkness, where Dude kept everything Dude thought would make Dude happy. Dude would rather go the next 10 days without changing than descend to a place haunted by the clothes of season's past, because Dude was too much of a sentimental packrat to throw out any unworn clothes Dude's parents bought Dude 10 years earlier, because everything in Dude's God forsaken room had attached itself to a memory, and like Dude's favorite burgundy Doc Marten's Dude's dad bought Dude in Vegas before he went to prison for 8 and a half years, there were even a few things Dude had so long that the distant memories attached to them were actually good ones. It was the best memories that hurt Dude worst. Dude thinks that's why Dude lost Dude's mind. Dude thinks maybe it was Dude's best option. The past, and the pain, and the pictures, they all became too much for Dude to take, but Dude refused to leave them behind. And now, Dude would have to confront all that remained unchanged while Dude came undone. Dude was going to have to look at them, and  Dude would have to remember, so Dude could decide what Dude could take and what Dude could let go down the trash chute. It was something Dude had to do alone. Dude couldn't wait a week for Dude's dad to get there and decide for Dude. Before Dude could make Dude's way up North, Dude would have to take a road trip down South to the unhappiest place on Earth, at the bottom, where Dude been down so goddamn long that it looked like hell to Dude.

     It didn't matter if Dude could look out my bedroom window and see the ocean to the left and the intracoastal to my right. One person's paradise became my purgatory. At the time, I thought it was hell, because if there is a hell, there is no hope there.
     
     No indulgences to purchase.
     No interventions to plan.
     No one is coming to pick you up.
     Sorry, Dude.
     You're not going home.
     You're not going anywhere.
     You're there forever and you're there alone.
     Your friend is not on his way.
     Nobody can ever take you home.


     And that's as about as dramatic as it gets.
     No rising conflict.
     No climax.
     Well, other than when I, you know.

     Look out literary world, here I come.


     And I gots me a thriller.

     And now I needs me an agent.
     Hell, I might needs me a whole agency.


     I wish you could be in the room with me to see me bestselling  the shit outta my book and myself. 

     If there's one thing the world needs now, it's another aspiring writer.
    
     Let me tell you a secret, agent man. What you've been waiting for is waiting outside your door.
    
     I hear this agent looks and acts just like Spiderman's boss.

     Inside the door, the agent hears me knocking. 
     He asks his assistant, "Who the fuck is that? I told you I didn't want to see anybody today."
     "I called. I guess he didn't get the message." 
     "Just tell him when to come back. Maybe he'll luck out and catch me on a day when I'm not pissed at my idiot assistant and the rest of the literary world."

     I'm standing outside the door, repeating the only positive affirmation I've ever had.
     "I'm cool as shit, I'm cool as shit."
     I knock again.
     They're gonna love me.
 
     "I don't like this guy already" the agent grumbles. "What's he written?"
     "I really don't know. He didn't make much sense. He said 'it defies conventional genre' or 'deserves it's own genre' or something. I can't remember."
     "Are you high?'
     "No, but I'm pretty sure he was. Or else psychotic. I don't know, I'm guessing it's another memoir. "
     "I hate memoirs. No more memoirs starting immediately. A memoir? About who? About him?"
     "Yes. By it's very definition, that's what a memoir is."
     "Well, Webster, what did he do? Who gives enough shit about this shmuck they'd wanna read his diary?"
     "I guess he was in an insane asylum for the criminally insane."
     "What good are you? If I don't know the details, I have to tell him the same thing I tell everyone, 'Sorry, kid, memoirs just ain't selling. Drugs and mental illness memoirs aren't hot anymore, these days, everyone's got one. You know who you can blame for the current critical backlash against books like yours? James Frey and his  Million Little Pieces of Bullshit. People don't know what's fiction and what's non anymore, all because..."
     "If you stop talking to yourself, I'd tell you his story is about some idiot who never wrote shit, but said his material is so good, it will write itself.  Then he called back and left a message saying that even though his book will write itself, he still wants to be the one who gets paid for it.  Up front."
     "Jesus Christ in A Christmas Carol, it's not even written? Don't even let this guy in the door until he's actually written...don't let him in ever. No more memoirs."
 
     I walk in after overhearing this exchange.

     "Hi, I know my book's not written yet, but..."
     "You got 2 minutes to tell me about the craziest shit that happens in your book...material. Go."
     "Some chick threw a phone."
     Shit.
     "Yeah, her name was Loretta. And she got real pissed, about something, and, so, she threw the phone...across the room, at the Haitian tech, the one who was bursting through the door, highbeaming his flashlight..."
     "This tech sounds like a bad guy. He rape any of the female patients? How about the male patients? Did he use his flashlight to beat or sodomize any of them?"
     "Did you just ask me if he beat or sodomi...? No. Not...that I...know of. I mean, as far as I witnessed, the only thing he used his flashlight for was when he did his middle of the night room checks to make sure none of the patients were beating or sodomizing each other."
     "I thought this tech was evil personified."
     "Who told you... no, he wasn't evil. Actually, he was real involved with his church. All the techs were good guys...and girls. No beatings or sodomy. Sorry."
     "So, if this insane asylum was void of any assholes or assrapes, I don't know who you expect to read your book."
     "It gets better."
     "It better."
     "The devil made her do it."
     "The devil made her do what? Was she in there for sacrificing her parents to the devil?"
     "No. She was just really emotionally unstable when her friends took her to see The Last Exorcism. I don't know if they did it as a cruel joke or what."
     "Sounds bipolar to me."
     "That's exactly what I..." 
     "So, then what the hell did the devil make her do?"
     "I just told you. He made her throw the phone, and call the tech a 'fuckin' piece of shit'."
     "We're still on the phone?"
     "Yeah, I wasn't done."
     "Well, talk faster, I'm about to hang up."
     "About 2 or 3 minutes later, the devil made her go say she was sorry."
                 
     If you were up all last night reading Stephen King, try to keep your eyes open for Me and the Devil In Ms. Loretta.
     We'll be hanging together, haunting ourselves in your psychological horror section.

     No fear in the writer, no fear in the reader.


     I'm not scared.


*/