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A Narrative Exercise

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1 minute read:

Maybe I saw her six months ago, I can’t remember, but she was standing on the subway platform in the stifling heat. She looked attractive in her short, black dress. Her mien was flustered because of the train delay. Normally, I don’t talk with strangers, but something about the heat and the dress and the delay caused me to smile at her and make a joke. Her response was enthusiastic. When the train arrived we were still engaged in conversation. At my stop, I gave her my business card. Thirty minutes later she texted, “Hello.” We arranged to meet up on the weekend. A few days later I was waiting for her at a bar. An hour passed by and she didn’t show up. I left and thought, “Well, that was a waste of time.”

In the middle of January I received a text from a woman named “Miah” while I was reporting in Moravian Cemetery and shadowing a funeral. While I observed strangers sobbing over a beautiful casket with Michelangelo ‘Pieta’ engravings, I felt my phone buzz and saw, “Heyy happy new year !!” For twenty minutes I wracked my memory for who this “Miah,” could be. Very rarely do I put someone’s name in my phone and forget who they are. So, as the gravediggers lifted the $12,000 casket into the mausoleum slot, I texted back,

“Hey Miah, this is going to sound strange, but how do we know each other?”

“We met on the 1 train last summer on our way home from an outing. I remember we started talking because the train took foreverrr and you were reading a book lol.” Then I remembered. For a moment, I was concerned that my brain was decaying and that I had experienced memory loss. Then I complimented myself for being able to move past rejection so cleanly.

After more texting we arranged to meet that night at a friend’s birthday party near Columbus Circle at 8pm. At 9pm, I was standing in a mall at Columbus Circle waiting for a text back from Miah thinking, “Here we go again.”  I wandered around the mall listening to French on my headphones and riding up and down escalators. Then I left and went home.

The next day Miah apologized and said her friend was vomiting at the party and that it was a disaster. I asked her if she wanted to meet for brunch the next day at 1pm.

At the restaurant the next day it was 2pm and Miah still hadn’t arrived. But I didn’t care because the coffee was good and I was reading a good book (The Razor’s Edge). At 2:30pm, I saw Miah at the front of the restaurant and waved her towards my table. She looked stunning. The brunch went well.  When we finished eating I invited her to my apartment nearby. She accepted and, a few hours later, left. And every now and then, for the following few months until things changed, she’d come over to watch a movie.

 


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A Dog Walk Encounter

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Flash Nonfiction: 1 minute read:

 

This morning at 7:45am while walking my bulldog, Hank, I saw a young man playing with his puppy in an open field. The puppy was teasing the man, running away with that awkward puppy gait. I smiled to myself, remembering Hank doing the same thing five years ago.

When the man caught up to the puppy he grabbed its collar, shoved it to the ground, and began smacking the puppy across the face.

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” I yelled. “YOU MOTHERFUCKER! DON’T HIT YOUR DOG YOU-“

“FUCK YOU ASSHOLE. LEAVE ME ALONE. THIS DOG IS GONNA BE A FIGHTER.” He scooped up his puppy and started to walk out of the field. I ran after him, blind with rage and yelling, uncertain of how to handle the situation. The man climbed some stairs, and while we shouted back and forth I heard him yell, “I’M TIRED OF WHITE PEOPLE TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!”

“IT’S NOT ABOUT RACE. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU AND ME. IT’S ABOUT YOUR DOG.”

“FUCK YOU. I’M GONNA RAISE MY DOG HOW I-” Then something inside of me cracked. I realized the situation at this moment was futile. My anger was for myself. Even if I could get this puppy away from this man, he’d find another one to beat. And the more I lashed out at this man, the more he would hurt his dog.

“Please. It’s not about you and me. It’s about your dog.”

“I WILL DO WHATEVER I FUCKING-” I started to beg with him.

“Please. Beat the shit out of me. Come over here and punch me in the face. I won’t fight back. I don’t care. Just don’t hurt your dog. Please. Don’t hurt your dog.” The man was at the top of the stairs.

“Just don’t hurt your dog. Hurt me. Not the dog.” He started to walk away. Then I found myself saying something I had never said before.

“Please. Don’t hurt your dog. God Bless.” The man paused, turned, then yelled back in an awkward, cracking tone, “THANK YOU,” and walked away. At the bottom of the stairs I realized I was shaking. This man would most likely keep beating his dog. There was nothing more I could do. There was such cruelty in the world. I felt fed up and finished with the world. I looked down at Hank, who was licking my leg and looking forward to the rest of his walk. “C’mon Hank, let’s go home.” I burst into tears. I wept for the next fifteen minutes on the walk back, letting Hank leisurely sniff wherever he wanted. In my apartment I wrote down what I remembered. Writing was something I could do.

 


 

Author’s Notes: A 311 service request has been filled out and the N.Y.P.D. has been contacted.

 

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The Woman With Purple Hair

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1 minute read. Exercise for my memoir writing class:

I’m sitting on a stone bench in the Staten Island Ferry Terminal next to a woman with purple hair. We’re both drinking beer and waiting for the boat.

“I’m serious, Sylvia, about working as soon as I arrive at my place,” I say. “You can stay over, but I’ll be writing.”

“Fine,” Sylvia says. “I won’t bother you.” Sylvia and I met through Tinder a week ago. She drove two hours from New Jersey to a bar near my apartment. After the bar, while walking back to my apartment, she confessed that she had been abused by her father, kicked out of her house, and was staying with friends. The next morning, while I was making breakfast, she also confessed that she desperately needed a job. An employee at my bar had recently quit and we needed a cashier for The Beer Corner, so I offered her the position. I knew this was dangerous and would likely crash and burn, but Sylvia was struggling.

 

“Why do you have to work tonight?” Sylvia asks me while on the boat.

“An editor is interested in one of my stories. I have until midnight to revise and submit again.”

“Oh…”

On the other side we walk a mile along the north shore. It’s a cold, clear night. Sylvia is skinny and doesn’t have a jacket, so I give her mine.

“Are you sure?” she asks.

“I don’t mind the cold.”

 

At my apartment I’m greeted by my bulldog, Hank. I pat him on the back, take off my dress clothes, and don my bathrobe. My studio is bare. There’s a bookshelf, a desk, a chair, a doggie bed, stacks of journals against the wall, and a mattress on the floor.

“Why doesn’t Hank say hello to me?” asks Sylvia.

“He doesn’t know you yet.” I sit at my desk.

“I didn’t notice these before,” Sylvia lies as she picks up one of my journals. “There must be over a hundred…” She begins to read.

“Don’t read those.”

“Why not?” She laughs. “You’re like a sixteen year-old girl.”

“I know.”

She walks over to the mattress. I don’t remember how much time passes at this point. It could have been five minutes or an hour. But while typing I hear,

“Jack?” I turn and see Sylvia sitting naked on the mattress. She has a strange smile and does an odd stretch.  I feel the lust flame, but it fades. I realize that sex, like money, gains an exaggerated importance when you don’t have it. But when it’s there, and you’re not in love, it doesn’t mean much. I sigh and know this isn’t going to be good.

“Sylvia, I told you, I have to finish this.” Her eyes widen.

“Are you fucking serious?”

I should have shut up. Justification in these kinds of situations is futile. “I don’t want to work in restaurants for the rest of my life.”

“You gotta be fucking kidding me.” She starts jerkily putting her clothes back on. “I’m leaving.”

“Okay.”

“You’re not even that good at fucking.” She stands up and pushes the bookshelf over. It hits the floor with a crash. Sylvia walks over and thrusts her middle finger in my face. For some reason I feel like I’m at a high school dance.

“Fuck you.” She kicks over a stack of journals, walks out, and slams the door. I sigh, walk over to the entrance, click the dead-bolt, and pick up the scattered books.

The next day the editor would reject the story. I would never hear from the woman with purple hair again.

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Tech-No-Eulogy #2

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This fucking phone I connect

To the back of my neck

To feel the Winds of Cutting

Edge and Social Discourse

Gotta stay on the top deck

But the attention span

And periphery are

Becoming a wreck

Gotta keep these fluctuating waves

Of expectations and cravings

In check

Having fantasies of throwing away

Into the ocean of increasing con-tent

This tech

And going off into the land locked

Quiet Dark Backwoods

Becoming an

Old-fashioned

Redneck.

 


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What is a Beer Shit?

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Collaboration with my friend and esteemed colleague: Cal K. Check out his writing website on food and adventure: www.thejoyofeating.org

“There is nothing more glorious than a hot beer shit.” 

-Charles Bukowksi

Whether you call them the D.A.D.S. (day after drinking shits), rum bum, the after-grog-bog, or the Trumpity Dumpities, we’ve all experienced that bodily emergency of needing to empty our bowels, IMMEDIATELY, NOW, PRONTO, STAT, post heavy night of drinking. Why does the body spur us on to such desperate fecal-evacuations? How come their stench is so potent, rivaling skunks and causing pedestrians nearby to gag? Why do they frequently entail multiple trips and multiple toilet-paper rolls over the course of a stressful, sweaty day? And what makes them, overall, so fucking nasty?

Of course it all has to do with how our body breaks down booze. Alcohol is a dense substance (beer = liquid bread, shot of vodka = 110 calories) which bypasses the mouth, unlike food which is chewed and broken down by saliva before it reaches the stomach.

Once alcohol reaches the stomach about 20% of the booze is broken down (mostly through the stomach lining). Then the alcohol moves to the small intestine which absorbs the leftover booze and sends it to the liver to metabolize. The liver processes about 1 drink/hour. The excess alcohol, which isn’t being processed, is sent to the bloodstream and the rest of the body. That’s when everybody in the bar starts smiling at you.

The western, American bias when looking at food/drink is like gas for a car. We need energy to survive, and food gives us energy so we can go, talk, dance the mambo, and streak naked at professional soccer games. But the reality is far more mysterious and complex. Food is not only what we build our body with, but each time we eat something it subtly and immediately affects our entire system. Our mood, thoughts, muscles, third testicle, and organs are all impacted by what we just consumed. This lesson is evident when we become aware of the effects of alcohol, beyond feeling hammered:

Six pina coladas depresses the secretion of an anti-diuretic hormone in the posterior pituitary gland. This means the kidney can’t balance the amount of water in your body, just like you can’t balance on your feet.

Shot-gunning Four Loko also affects sections of the kidney that absorb water and sodium. While your kidney struggles to absorb H2O and NaHCO3, your mind has difficulty absorbing time, language, social cues, and the value of legal tender.

Sipping malt liquor at your nephew’s 2nd birthday party negatively affects the G.I. tract as well. The muscles surrounding the stomach and intestines become loose, just like your conversation. And the contractions in your rectum are reduced, just like your standards.

Inside Story/J.W. Kash:

The worst beer shit morning of my life happened in college. The night before taking the LSAT test I went out drinking heavily with Cal and company. As was the habit, I crushed some late night food somewhere, then passed out. I remember waking up early on a futon next to my girlfriend and being convinced she had just gut-punched me as a joke. I ran to the nearest bathroom and a swamp came shooting out of my ass. I wondered, vainly, if I had gone dumpster diving the night before and been ingesting trash and dead mice all night. Thirty minutes later, after shoveling down a breakfast of 4 eggs and 2 red bulls, I was once again breathing laboriously in stall. While flipping through an LSAT practice book, attempting to figure out why Dan was sitting behind Laura if Jim was sitting in front of Greg, I was spawning Satan out of my butt-crack. Some guy taking a piss even said, “Hey buddy, are you gonna be alright?”

So why do beer shits smell so bad? Alcohol increases the bacteria count in your small intestines, reducing the nutrient absorption in your digestion system. This means the bacteria in both your large and small intestines have more nutrients to consume (which haven’t been absorbed in the body), which produce the potent, “sour” stink when you have a beer shit. Also, the liver produces a bile to help break down alcohol, and this bile is added to the pungent mixture that is flushed out.

Inside Story/Cal K.:

As my colleague J.W. astutely observed, the beer shit is a chemical cocktail – a calamitous mixture brewed up in our bowels and released with a furious vengeance. It is unlikely the stomach of modern man was engineered to successfully pass a dozen malty brews administered over the course of a few short hours – it comes as no surprise that the result is unpleasant.

But as with all things in life, the worst of these events is more than a biological process – it is a social and psychological one, as well.

Let’s examine the larger topic of defecation in general: It is rarely enjoyable to evacuate your bowels in anything but the comfort of your home, or perhaps in a hotel room with a degree of privacy and a separate room for the toilet. There you can set up shop and get to business at a familiar. But in airports, restaurants, outdoor concerts, indoor concerts, friends’ houses, relatives’ houses, foreign countries or anywhere that might become a high-traffic zone, I contend that stress is an additional, negative factor.

When in these strained circumstances, it is impossible to enjoy a leisurely depth charge. You inevitably force the issue.

Now, combine a public shit with a long night of drinking – perhaps a bender – and what results is the worst-case-scenario, the apocalypse now – like, as in, right now.

J.W. asked me to contribute my $0.02 to this piece, which I am happy to do no matter what the topic. But in fecal matters, we happen to share a connection.

During college, J.W. and I were involved in a week-long celebration that fell sometime in late autumn. I won’t go into great detail to avoid incrimination. Suffice to say we consumed, probably, an average of 15 beers per 24 hours, including various other forms of booze presented in everything from glass bottles shaped like mo’ai to gallon jugs that look like they once held battery acid. Our stomachs underwent significant stress during that period – some of it unforgivable.

Toward the end of the week, I awoke in our suite sometime in the wee hours of the morning – maybe 10 a.m. – and walked into J.W.’s room. He and his roommate were asleep. Their quarters were covered, inexplicably, ceiling to wall to floor, in a layer of bleached white flour. I carved out a spot on the desk and proceeded to roll a marijuana cigar.

For the uninitiated, smoking is itself a diuretic – you will need to use the restroom not long after burning one down. Before that happened, I walked toward the campus café, seeking any form of nourishment that might quell the quiver in my liver. It was a sunny day, and that only made matters worse. You never want to be seen in such misery.

As I entered the building, a friend of ours walked out – a girl we’d known throughout college. She stopped me just as I began to realize, too late, that I was soon to undergo a thunderous bowel movement.

“Hey Cal! Wow, you look awful – “

“Hey, I’m really sorry, but I have to go.”

I brushed past her, past the café, past the angelic studying nerds and on to the bathroom. What had occurred was something greater than gas – something far worse. This sort of thing is exceedingly rare: Consider what it would take for you to knowingly poop yourself. How much willpower could you command to break that instinctual seal? Yet my condition was so haggard that my regulatory system failed to recognize the impending catastrophe.

When I reached the stall, the storm had already passed – I merely needed to assess the damage. It was severe: enough for me to abandon the underpants beneath the toilet and waddle back to my dormitory in humiliation so I could properly shower.

But as I removed my boxers, I couldn’t help but laugh. Remember, J.W. and I were roommates, and undergoing a chaotic week of debauchery. I realized, as I looked down at the crumpled, smelly wad of plaid shorts underneath a toilet, that a custodian would eventually find them (for this I am deeply ashamed), and that the custodian might even pick them up and think, “What sort of bastard would rip off his shitty underwear and leave them behind – knowing I would have to clean it up?” And that custodian might then glance at the tag on those boxers that I compromised and think, of course – who else could it possibly be than the student whose name was marked on the inside waistband: J.W. Kash.

So keep in mind, gentle reader, that alcohol is fun, but it is also poison that should be imbibed with awareness and respect. Because the spiritual pleasures of the night must always be paid for by the bathroom agonies of the morning.

 

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Sources:

http://www.nyp.org/library/134%257C193?l=en

https://www.wired.com/2017/01/science-behind-explosive-hangover-poops/

http://www.scienceclarified.com/everyday/Real-Life-Physics-Vol-3-Biology-Vol-1/Digestion-How-it-works.html

https://greatist.com/grow/day-after-drinking-stool

The Dangerous and Terrifying Night Part 1

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Here’s me speaking broken Japanese like a toddler:

What if all I want is a ridiculous, frenzied, and stressful life?

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“I love those who yearn for the impossible.” -Goethe

What if all I want is a outrageous, chaotic, and complicated life? What if I am most satisfied with self-tortuous extremes? Where painful insanity and public ostracism lives. What if I choose to accept my strange idiosyncrasies and masochistic habits?

My head is a noisy place. Shouting voices lecturing me to hustle, learn, build sand castles, play with leggos, and grasp for more…

IMG_2020

…for bigger and better. Sacrifice health and sleep for accomplishments. Strive for the best! Make the world a better place. Do the best I can before I wither into nothingness.

But the world keeps telling me to settle down, be like everyone else, to be happy, to relax and be calm. Take a break! Watch some television and eat a donut. They say that striving for excellence will leave me sad, worn out, and depleted. Drained of joy. But what if a part of me likes the feeling of never being enough? What if the alternative for me is a dreadful boredom?

I refuse to drift and not amount to anything before I die. I am determined to not only care for my loved ones in the best way possible, but to create beautiful things for the world as well. I will never say “enough” because I can always help people more and in better ways.

Because there is never enough time in the day. Sometimes I brush my teeth, listen to highly intellectual podcasts, and take long dumps all at the same time. The last time I woke up feeling content was June 16, 1999.

I’m almost certain that when I’m on deathbed I will regret everything. Leonardo Da Vinci regretted “never completing a single work.” Guy de Maupassant’s epitaph reads: “I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing.” Hayao Miyazaki says, “I have never been happy in my daily life. Filmmaking is suffering.” Goethe, towards the end of his life, believed he hadn’t accomplished half of what he desired.

I will never keep up with the frantic pace of society, news, Trump tweets, or all of the cutting edge ideas. Does anybody? I will never be fast enough, smart enough, or good enough. I’ll be forever beating myself up for being a restless, hungry dumbass.

Some people have called me obsessed, too intense, wild, and a fucking clown. I’m riddled by doubts and insecurities. But doesn’t that mean I’m alive?

What if I fight against my limitations? Make war with who I am and what I need? Refuse to accept a slow, small, and docile life? A mediocre life. A horrifying, zombie-like, colorless existence…

No, my life will never be enough. I’ll never stop to smell the flowers. I’m lost, sprinting nowhere, intoxicated by a dream.

 

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Miss Tina Tinder, Lessons Learned, and a Horrifying Realization of my Shameful Past as a Boy Toy

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Author’s note: This is a fairly intimate essay that I wrote in a notebook for my own attempt at self-awareness. I did not plan on ever posting this publicly. But the girl in this piece sent me a text not too long ago: When are you going to write about me? So I typed up my scribbles, sent her this essay (half as a joke), and asked her permission to post it. To my surprise, she said yes:

On October 1st, in the year of our lord 2016, I swiped right and had a match, a blinking heart, a glimpse of possibility. She was pretty, pale, and had a dog filter. Our initial conversation went something like this:

JW: Are you a dog or a human being? We have to get that question out of the way if this is going to go anywhere.

Tina: Last time I checked, human. Hahah I definitely need to stop using that stupid filter.

JW: It’s just confusing. I’m not trying to pick up somebody else’s shit on a date.

Tina: Hopefully you won’t need to.

JW: I’ll bring doggy bags just in case. You know how people put on a show on tinder.

Tina: I feel like I need a first aid kit and a can of pepper spray when it comes to tinder.

JW: Don’t forget your taser, blow horn, and portable lie detector.

Tina: Ahhhhh, the lie detector, that one I’d like to use.

Additional witty banter, subtle flirtation, innocuous questions, etc.

We exchanged numbers. Before we met a week later, we must have sent 10,000 text messages back and forth. They became quite raunchy and explicit (See James Joyce’s letters to Nora Barnacles). In my search for a serious relationship I deluded myself with this girl and wasted A TON of time. But through it all, I came to 3 realizations:

1.) I need to get the fuck off tinder (which I eventually did). And if you’re also hoping for a serious relationship, you should too. It’s an addicting, silly game. I’ve met married couples who met on tinder, but this outcome is extremely rare. The pool of people on this app has become too large, especially in NYC, and it’s infested with lust-hungry men who don’t have the balls to meet women in other ways, so they harass them out of weakness, and most decent women refrain from taking it seriously. Was I one of these men? Perhaps, in some sense. But I stupidly had the hope of meeting someone promising through this app. My excuse to myself was that I was too busy with working and writing that I didn’t have time to meet women in other, more organic ways. Tinder was so convenient, so easy. I could develop a fast, superficial relationship via texts while taking dumps in my apartment, or whenever I felt like it, then on my 1 day off a week meet up. On top of this, I’ve always been arrogantly proud of my texting skills. I can play with words and ideas all day. I’m better with words than I am at life. But all in all, it’s a waste of time.

2.) BEWARE: If you are above the age of 27, you are probably like me and have very little idea just how good the next generation is at texting. This is especially applicable for people with babies or young children. BE PREPARED. Tina has had a cell phone her entire life. She grew up playing this message game. I’ve never seen anything like it. Her speed and wit were incredible, seemingly beyond her years. A couple times I wondered, am I being cat-fished?

catfish on tinder

Because texting is its own language. How much you say, your ability to read and respond to sarcasm, how much to say, timing, balancing edge and lightheartedness, insult and compliment. This girl was on another level. My bias aside, the girl wielded her phone like a god.

3.) So why did I waste so much time texting this girl when I understood the superficiality of tinder? She wasn’t THAT special looking. Perhaps it was her nerdy-glasses look contrasting with her seductive, pant-less, mirror selfie? Perhaps it was her Midwest childhood combining with new girl in the big city persona? Perhaps it was her silly, youthful energy? I thought and thought and thought…then it hit me:

No, it wasn’t all that…

I’m just an egomaniac.

When Tina first started texting me she did something which I thought was natural at the time, but now I understand the insinuation in which she gripped and throttled my being:

She was J.W. Kash’s first, #1 fan. She read my blog posts and ASKED me about them in detail. She liked my writing. She wanted me to sign a book and send it to her. Right in the beginning of our conversation she stroked my ego like I was a cute, little kitten and it felt so…damn…good. In my arrogant, oblivious mind I unconsciously thought this was natural, DESPITE her being the first person in the past 6 years to give serious attention to my writing. I’ve received a compliment here and there, but nothing like this. Oh no, this flattery was unprecedented. And not only was she my first fan, she was an attractive young woman who liked to read novels! My Achilles heel! Days after texting, she was referencing my posts. So of course we must be compatible. Of course we want the same things. Of course she must be genuine and intelligent, because only genuine and intelligent people will ever enjoy my genuine and intelligent writing. Very sick and sad, but the bitter truth.

It was me who first crossed the bridge from texting to sexting. She was telling me about all the Netflix shows she liked. I replied,

“If you’re trying to Netflix and chill, just tell me.” Then I made some stupid joke about wrestling during breaks between shows. She asked about the nature of this wrestling. Etc.

I even downloaded Snapchat for the first time so we could send each other saucy snaps. Could my degradation have sunk any lower?

We picked a day to have lunch. I organized my schedule to make this happen. The night before our expected rendezvous she got drunk (I wish you were here right now so we could, etc.) and was hung-over the next day. For 8 hours she kept postponing out meet up, until she eventually canceled. This unreliability is a deal breaker for me, but the claws of fandom were already in. I willfully ignored it.

Tina even openly discussed how she wasn’t right for me, that she didn’t want anything serious while I seemed like a serious guy. “I just got out of a long term relationship a month ago, I just want to have fun. I just want to get high, party, and do stupid things. Why do you even like me? I’m such a mess. You’re gonna hate me.” This frivolous outlook on life has always struck me as foreign and odd. But I respected her honesty and, again, I couldn’t get over that she was my first, #1 fan. I even had silly visions of me rolling blunts and us going on a picnic in Central Park. I don’t even smoke weed anymore.


On a Wednesday night she was high in a bar in Midtown (she gets high every day.)
“Can I come over?” she asked
“Yes.”
“Well, I don’t know, I don’t feel like it anymore.”
“Why not?”
“Do you really want me to come over?”
“Yes.”
“I’m so high. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Okay.”
“You’re not going to like me in person.”
“You’ll be fine.”
“I’m so nervous. I shouldn’t come.”
“Alright, don’t come. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.
“No, I want to come.”
“Alright, come.”
“What’s going to happen when we meet? I’m on my period, so we can’t fuck yet.”
“Okay. That’s fine.”

Eventually, I screen-shotted bus routes, texted the directions, and she took a bus at 2am to Staten Island. No surprise she got lost and ended up in the middle of the island, miles away from my apartment, at 3am. Her 360 rotating snaps had the captions: “I’m living in a horror film. Help.” I paid for a cab to pick her up.

When she arrived I went downstairs in my bathrobe, glasses, and flip flops to make a good first impression. No doubt I resembled a nerdy version of “The Dude,” from The Big Lebowski:

Dude 3

It was a strange experience. There had been so much build up for the past week that we both knew (and discussed) the inevitable let down of meeting in person. Both of our expectations had been wildly out of control.

In the elevator I looked more closely at her face. Her nose seemed restructured and the edge of her eyes were peculiar. Ah, yes, that would explain the frequent use of the dog filter. She did tell me that she was born with deformities and had experienced many surgeries (+25) growing up. I still thought she was pretty. In fact, I liked her MORE now that I saw her facial scars in person. I tend to be attracted to girls with scars, both inside and out.

 


In my apartment we sat on my bed and talked. I felt relaxed, but as usual spoke too much. I could tell she was disappointed in the dull reality of JW Kash. In person, I’m scatterbrained and boring. My writing and texting conveys a much more direct, confident, and interesting person. “Who’s this guy?” she seemed to be thinking. Despite her obvious disinterest, after 30 minutes I felt the urge to kiss her. The old mental battle: “You never know if you don’t try,” bombarded my thoughts. I made a move and she turned her head to the side.
“No, not yet.”
“Alright.” I sat back and we talked some more.

Then it hit me: what did I just I do? What am I doing? We can’t date. She’s told me already that she doesn’t even want to date! And if hooking up isn’t my main priority, why am I wasting so much time?

Tina talked about her crazy friends, getting high, her mean boss, her desire to become a groupie, the fact that her ex-boyfriend looked just like a famous rapper. She was a nice girl, but fairly self-absorbed. I refuse to ever judge someone quickly or harshly because of their age: people develop in different ways at different rates, progressing and regressing in turns. But I realized with Tina that we were on two, different planes. These planes were exasperated by the inherent inadequacy of conversation and the inability to express 1/100 of what we feel (opposed to brooding, reflecting texting). So much of real conversation is what you DON’T say. It struck me that she perhaps hadn’t lived enough “life” or had enough “experience” to really judge the superfluous vs. essential in a conversation. And I don’t mean “life-changing,” wild experiences, I don’t mean traveling the world, meeting the Dalai Lama, or seeing a family member die. I mean years of taking out the trash, years of mean bosses, years of being late and feeling anxious, years of waking up hung-over, years of washing dishes, years of paying bills, years of forgetting things, years of mundane, dreary shit. You can’t teach those years to anyone, they just happen. They shove your ego into a little corner and say, “Shhhh, quiet little one, the world is a lot bigger than you and your feelings.” Many people, like myself, resist this humbling, this deflation. Many people never experience it.

Tina and I hugged and she left around 5am. We would never see each other again, although she would text me sporadically over the next couple of months.

After the encounter I sat on my bed for another hour wondering what the hell just happened. I realized that the only way I could date Tina is if I reconciled myself to mundane conversations about how messy her room was and Chance the Rapper. Perhaps if we were high all the time it wouldn’t matter. Perhaps if we had tons of great sex it wouldn’t matter. I wondered: how many relationships exist out there where one person can barely tolerate the chattering of the opposite sex? Yet through other factors (physical appearance, wealth, comfortable social status, previous obligation, etc.) the person endures an incompatible personality. Tina WAS nice. Tina WAS physically attractive. Tina WAS adventuresome. Maybe I could deal with her self-absorbed, rapper-worshiping, partying-obsessed personality because of her other, positive traits? No, that wouldn’t be fair to her. All relationships involve compromise, but in the beginning there shouldn’t be such cold and ruthless calculation.

It was then I felt a wave of horror. Tina was almost the same number of years YOUNGER than me than my ex-girlfriend was OLDER. I began flipping through my memories, like an investigator scanning old files for an unsolved case, with the questions: “Was I MY ex-girlfriend’s Tina? Did my ex endure my self-absorbed, superfluous babbling for other things (well, he is nice, he is adventuresome, etc.)? Did my ex condescendingly look down on me and my youth like I was doing to Tina? I pictured moments of my ex sighing and rolling her eyes at particular things I said, getting annoyed and frustrated at my hopes and eccentricities. I pictured the end of our relationship and all my mistakes. Meanwhile, there I was in the middle of it all, a selfish waiter with literary dreams of grandeur. Someone who was barely paying his rent. Someone who struggled with restaurant work. Someone who was frequently late, severely sleep-deprived, and an idiot. Why did my ex tolerate such boyish traits and antics? Why did she stay with me for so long? She was a respected, hardworking professional in her field and had a group of loving, caring friends. Her apartment was clean and organized. She had a job that was 100x harder than mine, but rarely complained. And despite her belief to the contrary, she had her shit together. I did not.

I thought about my recent, juvenile criticisms of Tina, about my belief that she was self-absorbed and hadn’t experienced enough “life,” to be conscious of the superfluous. Then I remembered it was ME who was sending 10,000 text messages and saucy snapchats. It was ME who was waiting for a tinder girl at 3am in his bathrobe. It was ME who didn’t know what he wanted. The mirrors of life, with such bitter reflections, were being cruelly thrust in front of my contorted visage.

My god, I thought, as a glimpse of dawn appeared outside of my faded window, Was I once…a useless boy toy? Am I still a boy toy? Fuck. I need to get my shit together, fast, before it’s too late…*

*Author’s Note: It’s a work in progress.

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Bedroom Near Fort Tryon Park

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Fiction

Published in the Spring 2017 issue of
The Vignette Review

Reading Time: 1.5 minutes

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An Awkward Lunch with My Brother Which Ended in Mysterious Circumstances

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In the beginning of the lunch it was a solemn and excruciatingly proper affair. My brother appeared to have decided that TV shows offered a safe subject of conversation, as not leading to startling personal revelations. His manners seemed to indicate a fine nervous dread that something disagreeable might happen if the atmosphere were not purified by vague predictions and blase criticisms of Westworld and Game of Thrones. “What’s he afraid of?” I thought. “Does he think I’m gonna impulsively beat his ass?” I’ve never been a man of strong personal aversions; my nerves have not been at the mercy of the mystical qualities of my neighbors. But towards my brother I’ve always been irresistibly in opposition. He was a man of forms and phrases; a man full of possible impertinences and treacheries. A wily piece of shit, if you will. Halfway through the sumptuous meal he dropped a steak knife and asked me if I would kindly pick it up. I smiled and said, “Sure, brah.” We locked eyes and he quietly accepted the serrated utensil. Next thing I knew I woke up in a hospital in a cold sweat with five, burly policemen fidgeting around a speeding gurney. As the cobwebs of my unconscious were disintegrating, one of the policemen grabbed my shoulder, which was streaked with ribbons of blood, and screamed, “WHERE IS YOUR BROTHER?! TELL US WHERE HE IS!”

 

 

 

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