YOU TELL ME
Somehow I grew up to be a man. All the girls I fell in love with, fell in love with other men. That’s ok, I never expected it any other way. Girls are very practical in the way they love. They’ve got to have their reasons before they smile at you. And these reasons, as far as I can tell are: 1. Money 2. Fame3. Or of course, if the guy is just an asshole. I don’t know why this last one works the way it does, but it just does. Lucille was a girl I knew from a foster home. I was in love with her for ten straight years, and she almost loved me too, but she chose this asshole she met at an insurance agency instead, and they’re married now and have a kid. I’ve seen this happen often enough to know it isn’t unusual.
I’m twenty-three now. I’m not any of those points above. I’ve always wanted to become a philosopher, but there’s no money in philosophy these days. Also, modern people don’t have the attention span for it. No one cares about the meaning of life much anymore. I work at a laundry place. I got a criminal record at fourteen for something that happened with a stapler. I never caught my footing properly again after that.
It’s hard to say if I’ve given up and come to terms with being a failure. I know that no matter how shit-logged things are, there’s always that option of never giving up – you know, always trying, always refusing to take what life is trying to force feed you. It sounds romantic, but it means no peace ever – always living with a struggle – and I think that can start to look ludicrous at some point. I don’t like the idea of being an old man, with dreams still alive and moving around, taking up space in my head. I don’t find that a classy way to die. The other choice, of course, is to finally give in and follow the instructions that dictate you should be the scum that you are. I couldn’t come to terms with either one of those, so I live in a twilight of discomfort. I have no expectations, but somehow I’m still chewing on my dream. The idea of stopping scares me shitless. You tell me what to do.
The day that I got engaged to Norton Little I was six-years-old. It happened behind a dumpster and romance had nothing to do with it. It was an emergency decision made in much the same way a war general would decide to drop an H bomb.
Sometimes it’s hard to find the true beginning of something. I mean, that exact detail that upset the weight of a moment and triggering the events that result in the rest of one’s life. And when you search hard, you might come up with something, and you might think that you found the pilot light – the culprit and the foundation of your current cementation in life– but who knows? Most likely you're blaming the wrong moment altogether.
And so, you see, I can say maybe it all started the day that Norton rang our doorbell as a naked four-year-old and made my mom scream. But it could have been something much smaller. Maybe just the color of our house, or the last owner of the house who painted it that way, or the small feeling the past owner had one morning that made him want to repaint the house. I guess if you really were a big enough nerd, you could trace Norton and me all the way back to day that amoebas got together and tried to be something radical like seaweed. Or the day that God had a particularly weird night of sleep and was inspired to create the whole world and put two naked people into it and a tree with an apple and a snake that would end up talking to one of them.
I don’t care if you believe in evolution or religion. I’m just saying, I don’t know how it all started – how Norton and I ended up living in houses next to each other as four-year-olds. Or why one day we were locked up into each other’s lives without a key or even a credit card to pick the lock with. If anything had happened differently, maybe I’d never have known he even existed. Maybe as grown-ups we would have stood next to each other in some supermarket line without ever knowing that we were supposed to have grown up together.
But as fate would have it, everything worked out so that Norton and I found each other early on. At age six we had already known each other for an eternity. We had lived next to each other for two years and you could have counted on one hand the number of days we were not together.
Damn good address for a rat.
The time could not have been better. I was living down south somewhere at the bottom of the barrel. Days went by just like they always had, but the sun crawled into my sockets and made itself at home in my brain, like an unwanted cousin taking over your living-room couch indefinitely.
I had a hunch that things had stopped moving a long time ago, and no matter what I did, nothing would ever move again. But, then again, one can get sorta cozy in stagnant waters. You start growing onto a routine, and this routine grows onto you. It’s easier to give in than to struggle, after all. And even there I had discovered a sort of idealism. An idealism of having fallen apart completely and wasting away with class. Minutes trickling by like black strap molasses.
Mediocrity in all its glory. You’d be surprised how mediocre mediocrity actually gets.