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Twisting all the bad things into good

Oct 10, 2013


"It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him."
Ernest Hemingway, Nobel Prize Speech, December 10, 1954

4:12 AM MONDAY AUGUST 12, 2013

I hadn't slept since Thursday night. I'd barely eaten anything since Friday night. I'd spent most of the weekend at my desk, writing, handwriting, with a pencil, in the dark, torturing myself by the light of three battery operated candles. I hoped four hours of sleep might be enough to allow me to wake up not in love, not insane.
4 hours weren't enough.
I was still in love, still insane. I skipped the gym.

When I woke up at 10:30, my first thought was Lisa. I was eating my breakfast, thinking about her, wondering how long this would last. I was distracted by what sounded like the Tin Man being dragged up the basement stairs.It was my brother's metal crutches banging and rubbing the railing with every lame step he struggled to take. He was recovering well from his knee surgery a few weeks earlier. I heard the crutches getting closer so I got up and dumped my cereal bowl in the sink on my way out the kitchen, up the stairs, through the loft, to my room. This house is larger than it looks from the outside. I closed the door and paced half circles around my bed. I took deep breaths.  I shouldn't have written about her. I looked in the mirror and shook my head.
"Don't you cry. Look at me. Don't you fucking cry. You are such a pussy. A little faggot is what you're acting like. What would Hemingway do? Well, he certainly wouldn't cry. Then he'd be Heminggay and he can't be Heminggay because you already are. Works both ways, Heminggay boy. You so wanna sob right now. All you wanna do is weep. Don't even start. You won't be able to stop. Your dad and your brother will know. You won't be able to hide it. Go fish. Go put an arrow in one of your beloved deer in the backyard. Don't talk about this.  Do not write about this. At least don't let anyone read it when you do. Then stop writing. It hurts. It's emasculating. It's finished. So not worth this. Nobody cares. Just breathe, man. I know it hurts. Hurts bad. Just breathe."

If nobody was home, I would've let it out. I would've cried, wept, whimpered, sobbed, dry heaved.

I didn't cry. I wanted to, I really wanted to, but I didn't. I just teared up a little. I held it together. Then I blew my nose. I washed my face. Somehow I made it through the day.

I crashed at 6PM. I slept through the night.

I woke at 6:45 AM Tuesday morning and the song of the morning was already on repeat in my head. It wasn't even a song. Just one line. From a B side.

Lyrics skipping and sticking in my mind are nothing new. Happens all the time. Song lyrics, or some weird random word of the day or some random weirdo's last name, over and over until it slips away to the lost and found box for all the moments that don't make memories. There always comes along a new last name, another word of another day, another first song of the next morning.

Sometimes it's just one line that you can't shake off.

It's a one-liner this morning.
It's by The Walkmen. It's not even one of their 50 best.
It's not even their song, it's a cover.
It's called Greasy Saint.
It's a terrible name, but it's a really good song.

"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"
"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"
"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"
"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"
"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"
"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"

I went down to the kitchen and popped the tab on a can of Cherry Diet Dr. Pepper and microwaved a coconut pineapple muffin.
It was a good muffin so I had another.
My poor mother came into the kitchen.
"How can you drink that in the morning?"
She said "Anytime is a good time for straight vodka. Want some, Heminggay boy?"
That's not what happened.
My mom was asking me how I can pound Cherry Diet Dr. Pepper so early in the morning.
She has no idea what I've pounded so early in the morning.
"Tryin' to wake up. I'm freakin' exhausted."
"I don't know how you can stay up all night writing like that."
"I know what I'm doing."
She thinks I'm crazy. She called my writing "manic" the other day.
"You got your nights and days all mixed up."
"I didn't even write last night. I went to bed at 6 and slept through the night."
"Why are you so exhausted then?"
"Maybe because it's 6:45, you want me to do a cartwheel?"
She told me not to be miserable.
I told her I was sorry before she could say what she always says on the rare occasion I'm short with her.
"You're gonna feel bad for being mean to me when I'm not around".
Please don't say that. Don't say you won't always be here.
If I can't handle this, how could I handle that?
Don't remind me that nobody in this house is going to live forever.

It was raining hard outside.
I could hear it tapping at the kitchen window.
It wasn't letting up.
I told my mother I loved her, that I'd see her tonight, to be careful driving.
My mother hates driving in the rain. I worry about her.
I couldn't imagine her not coming home.
She says I get my worrying from her.
She says I'm neurotic.
She tells me she worries about what would happen to me if something happened to her.
I tell her not to say that.
I tell her hopefully I'll die before she does. She tells me not to say that.
Either way, it all ends in heartache.
What a cheap shot it is, this blessed tragedy of life God's bestowed upon us.

It was that kind of morning. It wasn't even seven yet.

I took a quick shower. I had a dentist appointment. More torture.

I'm always running late, even on beautiful days when the rain wasn't coming down thick and angry as if God returned and wept violently at the sight of paradise in ruins.

It was that kind of weather.

"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"

The world was once a blank page.

My dad was waiting shotgun in the car.
He had a Christian radio station on.
Some pastor was preaching about Acts.
The Apostles. All the greasy saints. All of them maniacs.
A truck in the opposite lane sprayed my window, and I saw nothing in front of me.
I thought 'Goddamn this" but I never curse in front of my parents, and I certainly never blaspheme in front of them, so I said, "This is ridiculous."
My dad thought I meant the weather.

My old man, who I never call "my old man" out of respect, showed his firstborn some mercy by switching Sirius satellite radio from the New Testament to the oldies.
60's on 6.
The DJ showed what a funny God He could be by playing Over You by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap.

Such a good song.

That voice.

Why am I losing sleep over you? 
Reliving precious moments we knew.
So many days have gone by, still I'm so lonely, 
and I guess there's no getting over you.

And there's nothing I can do, 
But spend all of my time, out of my mind over you.

What a beautiful voice.

Then came on a song I never heard before, but I caught the artist and title out of the bottom corner of my right eye.
It's The Walker Brothers with The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore.

It was so hard to see, I missed my turn and had to go back.

My dad said good morning to the receptionist.
I sat down and said nothing.
The waiting room was empty.

My father was taken first.

I had about 13 pages to go in The Sun Also Rises.
I didn't expect a happy ending, I still hoped for a good ending. I was disappointed so far. I wanted and expected and hoped to fawn all over it. But I was not in love with any of the characters, then there's the fishing and the bullfighting. And knowing Jake was in love with Lady Brett but could never get with her was not pretty to think about.

I found little to highlight in my library book, but I admired his style.

I'd like to write so subtly.
Short, strong sentences.
No nonsense. No tangents. No fun.

Meat and potatoes instead of the ham and pineapple on my pizza, please.

 A Total Eclipse of the Heart played on the radio in the waiting room.
Not the original. This was worse.
The guy or girl singing sounded as sped up as the music. Probably just trying to keep up. Too much Dr. Pepper or something.

After the song set, all the ladies were instructed to grab their girlfriends and come see Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody.
August 16th to the 25th at The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.

I knew I couldn't make it.

Life is a goddamn parody.

It seemed the end of summer was the end of the year in the literary world. It must be. I read a few days earlier the most successful writer of 2013, in terms of money, was whatever her initials are, the 50 Shades writer. She earned 90 million dollars.

My writer friend told me the writing in 50 Shades is awful.
"You're a better writer than her" he typed to me.
He meant that as a compliment.
What he was really typing was "And I'm a better writer than you."
Wait until he reads this.

Nobody is gonna read this.
The only person I want to read this never will.
Nothing could be worth this.
90 million wouldn't hurt my net worth though.

Then I could go to Paris.
I could feel alive like my favorite dead writers and rock star.

The dentist asked "Any hospitalizations since your last visit?"
Not yet.
"Any new medications?"
No. Was strongly considering getting back on the oldies though.

She showed me some x-rays
I assumed the skull with the teeth was me.
She said I grind my teeth.
I'm sure I do. Top or bottom?
She said probably while sleeping, that's why I never notice.
It's probably while not sleeping, when I'm writing, that's why I never notice.
She said I needed a filling.
Fulfill me up, buttercup. Fill me up.
Because writing just ain't doing it anymore.
It's making it worse.
Before Friday night, it always helped and was never hell.
But nothing lasts forever.

She said one of my wisdom teeth had to go, so might as well have all of them pulled, because they're so far back it makes cleaning them too difficult.
Take 'em. Take 'em all. I can't eat anyway.
She'd refer me to an oral surgeon for a later date.
August 16th to the 25th works.
Unless this teeth pulling will be at The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.

She pulled the light over my chair down inches away from my face.
I closed my mouth and opened my eyes.
She told me I was doing it wrong.
Now try doing everything the opposite.

She must have numbed me. I felt nothing. It hurt so bad to write about her.

I was a bad patient. I couldn't help it. I had to swallow. I was a bad person. I bit her finger. Not hard. I couldn't help myself. I had to swallow.

 On the radio, Johnny from The Goo Goo Dolls was singing how everything's made to be broken.  He just wanted me to know who he is. And I did. Just not his last name.
Hemingway wrote "the world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills."

The world will have to kill me. I'm not gonna do it myself.

The dental assistant tried making small talk.
She asked if I was in school.
I told her I was too old for school.
Do I like my work?
I said it's alright, but at least I get to do it from home. And I get do it for nothing.
She said I was all done.

The dentist gave me a card for an oral surgeon. She said she'd see me next time.
I said okay.
There won't be a next time.

  I was glad John wasn't there. He was the dental assistant last time. Super cool guy. I just didn't want him to ask me what happened to my Paris plans. He said I was going to love it. I told him I was rerereading my favorite book, Hemingway's A Moveable Feast , and I've wanted to go since 13 July's ago.
He had to admit he was jealous.
He told me about about his fiance, a six foot,  volleyball player. He said she was smoking hot, which is exactly how I pictured her. They met when they were young. They lost touch. He said they "miraculously" found each other again years later.
He was making his fiance's ring for her.
I imagined his tall smoking hot volleyballer thinks that's pretty romantic.
I agreed.
My turn to admit I'm jealous.

I wasn't romantic. I wanted to be, but I wasn't. 

On every Hallmark occasion, my ex- girlfriend before and after Lisa used to bitch at me "You always say how you wanna be a writer and all you write in my card is 'Love, Jim'."

How about I write "Fuck, You"?
Is that romantic?
Because I always used to say "I wanna be a writer" and now that I am, I'm saying "I wanna be a romantic writer", and I'm trying, but I just ain't got what it takes. Not sure I ever did. There was one night, on the beach. Somebody cut my heart out. My back teeth are next. They won't be missed.

Love, Jim

On the way home, I saw the light. I had to stop the car.
It was about to turn green when the exterminator in my rear view honked.
I cursed him.
My father said "You seem out of it today."
Strange, because I'd barely said a word all morning before the exterminator rolled up.
"I'm just exhausted. My mind's in overdrive."
"From writing?" he asked.
Yes. From writing. About a girl.

Every letter of her name stings to type.
And writing it with pencil hasn't helped.

When I got home, I had to look for my birth certificate and my passport so I could go get my Pennsylvania drivers license. My passport was in the first place I looked. I was convinced my father had my birth certificate somewhere in his office, but I looked through a few folders I had. I rifled through the closest thing I have to a junk drawer. I found my unread copy of Charles Bukowski's Ham On Rye that my mother got me for Christmas. I thought I'd lost it. I had several expired identification cards from over the years, a few brochures from last October's trip to Italy and Switzerland. I had a few postcards that had been sent to me over the years.

There was one I didn't remember ever seeing or receiving but I knew could have only been from one person. Nobody else I know has been to Machu Picchu. I turned it over to read her message.

It wasn't written to me.

Dad, Mom, and Lori
Super, we're in Cusco

Her handwriting still hurt my heart.

There was nothing about her that I did not miss.

I turned it back to front.
All I could do was watch as the sacred ruins quaked in my trembling hand.

"It's nice to know the things you lost were real"

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