There’s No Such Thing As Grown Up Goths or Hipsters (Only Adults Who Can’t Afford Nice Clothes)

Whenever a job begins to harp about how well they treat their employees, my first recommendation is to check and see if they’ve bolted shut the door. If not, then turn around immediately and run.

But if it is, because of some misplaced hope or your own financial obligations, then absolutely leap through the nearest open window as soon as you get the chance- regardless of what floor you were on. Any company that needs take the time and explain why it’s such a benefit to work there is because it isn’t, and you should be obvious to such a glaring and immediate red flag. Like a stranger you’ve only just met, who won’t shut up about what a good person they are. 

Although such a hyperbole should be taken with a grain of discount salt. I’ve never given that thought much weight and never follow it anyhow. To me a job is just a job- a place to go and waste some odd 10 or 11 hours if the traffic is good. Shoot the shit with Bill or Karen every time you pass by them to use the bathroom, cash a paycheck every other week and call it a day. And Who says something so immaterial as money has to be derived by what you think is meaningful or fulfilling? Maybe the reason they’re paying you is to do a thing nobody else wants to do? 

That kind of philosophy sounds more like a modern way of coping, a self-bargaining to not feel trapped by the lives we know we have to lead. It’s no coal mine or shoe shop in an unnamed third world country, but if you don’t justify it by the time you’re thirty, that nine-to-five will kill ya. 

And I’m no communist, so pour another spoon of salt if you have any left. Because a man’s got to make a living, the Dark Ages had God, and now Karen in accounting’s got a sense of accomplishment.

Please Guide Me Joe Exotic

Life is a series of constant nuisances for the type of person who only likes to do everything once.

The simplest habit, regiment or routine is a repeated agony and practice in self flagellation. A daily masochism where the tools of torture are by means of showers, dress, dinner and breakfast. Relentless punishments in exercise, texting to friends, grooming or washing hands. Having to talk to strangers on the subway is the new solitary confinement, and the very basic comforts of modern living, designed to ease the grim and harsher realities of life, become the guillotine by which the human spirit is executed every day.      

So it doesn’t bother me that I know my baby’s leaving me. She took me to her room where there were mason jars lined along her window sill and dresser, fig leaves and lean stems lovingly decorating each wide glass about the size of a basketball. A closer look and I saw petite cocoons and moths encased in every falsetto museum, sitting still as the hot Summer day. Or maybe they were just still like death. When I asked if it was true that they only lived for a few months she said yes, and suddenly hobbies were the most depressing thing in the world. I got to thinking about my own, how maybe everything was so short and fleeting, stuck in glass jars for the majority of the time and when you’re finally let free it’s all over before you know it. 

What is the difference between a hundred days or years anyway? Perspective, mostly. Mayfly’s are born, grow, mate and die in under forty-eight hours. A full life; bred, sewn, and unmade by Tuesday, before I can even get started on yesterday, or wrap my head around what to do with myself  for all the years yawning ahead of me.

Then I felt better about myself when the inevitable arrived. She said she wasn’t ready for something so serious, and that it wasn’t someone else when I didn’t ask, so I knew it was someone else. And I could tell she thought it through, what to say, because there was something rehearsed in how her tongue massaged the words out so flawlessly.  

I gave her a hug and the No-Hard-Feelings riff. Dropped off the birthday gift I was saving and wished her the best with a smile, and as I walked out the door I could tell she was bothered by how well I took it. It’s selfish, I suppose, to break a persons heart and expect the pieces to still be yours. But I can understand, loving it when people leave but hating to watch them walk away so casually.

And I would probably miss her more down the line, maybe, but at that moment I simply didn’t. The only feeling that I could register was autonomy, freedom. Not having to listen about her dads problems or pretending to be interested in political science ever-a-fucking-gain. No more death by routine, the suicide of increments. It was finally just me and my whims again. 

The prospect of being an individual again felt exciting but a corner of my heart would not succumb, a tiny portion of my soul winced and braced for impact. At the time this felt right, but a part of me knew that I always confuse what feels right with what feels familiar.

It’s The Stars Fault

The moonlight reveals me for what I am and I find it hard to dream, endlessly silent nights spent idling in the darkness of myself. No choice or having a say when Regret decides to visit on you, only a sudden thumping on the chest and lungs surging with anxiety. An avalanche of emotions I am not willing to let back in, but the knocking keeps growing louder the longer I ignore the door. Half-finished sentiments are inconsiderate like that. They never call ahead and show up unexpected, when you’re most vulnerable and, if anything like me, raving mad and stark naked.

“You should text her,” I hear in a whisper.

I know that, but my voice still cracks.

I guess 4am is as good a time as any, better a modest breakdown in my own apartment than in broad daylight when I’m making a clown of myself with the guys on game night.

There’s such a small difference between a living hell and being bored, one degree and direction away from another weekend slamming beers and pretending to give a damn about the Yankees. I-Could-Be-Doing-Something-Else and other lies me and the boys tell ourselves. Like, if you tap a beer twice at just the right angle, it won’t suddenly freeze and spill over. And they do it, and then it does, well that’s just because you didn’t do it right, you dumbass.

My phone hums softly and chest leaps before I can read whatever it says. Do I look and become depressed, or glance and turn the color of the sun? Should I enter this devastating charade we call modern love? Neither, I guess, and in the absence of fact I remain neither and both; like Schrodinger’s text.

One day she could wake up and barely know me, or this may be the start of the end/rest of my life.

I know that, but my voice still cracks.

This Happened Before The Quarantine, So Nobody Can Judge Me Now (aka Cassie, Episode IV; A New Hope)

By 6PM we were getting eighty-six’d down a string of bars on Amsterdam, where I made ends in low places and chased my blues away in short skirts and everything except a positive outlet. Old stomping grounds where I’ve got a reputation worse than Diogenes, pictures of me hanging from The Lions Head on 109th Street all the way down to the Dead Poets Cafe.

NO ADMITTANCE written in thick, bold and black letters like a wanted poster from the old west. After all these years they hadn’t taken it down, and I couldn’t tell if it was because times change and people forget, or if the bounty on my head was worth so much to the bartender I called a thieving crook cunt for stealing tips and the bouncer who cold-cocked me. Don’t bother asking, because I won’t be telling you that story. It’ll be up to you filling in the blanks and decide if I deserved it or not.

“These’re some friends from work,” Cassie briefed me on our way to the table. “So don’t fuckin’ embarrass me.”

She charged ahead and I followed, passed by my college footprint staring back at me with that wide, stupid grin and a smile I can only describe as It-Was-Worth-It–So-Fuck-You-Too. I don’t remember being so reckless, but the look was something I recognized. There was a dog on my walk home from middle school that had it, these solid black eyes that could be so quiet and almost tender, but the stillness is what made him  terrifying. That gave the distinct impression of what they say comes right before a storm.

“Well now that’s all I want to do,” I said. “What’s a touchier subject for them- religion or white guilt?”

Coming back to Amsterdam Avenue was in a ways a sort of homecoming. I might have missed the ceremony but still graduated sorta-come-loudly. And what better venue to revisit my putida alma mater than the bar I met Sheila in before we painted this whole city red with our stupid fights about Facebook and juvenile love. Which, funny enough, had the same name as the guy who taught me how to pop a beer bottle open with a lighter.

“Me pretendin’ I don’t know you and you’re following me around,” Cassie replied.

Jake’s Dilemma, is what they called it; and his was like mine: Do – or – Don’t.  An easy answer when I was young, back when this place was a big deal because the bulldogs those pretty waitresses asked you to try while leaning just a little too close needed a goddamn leash, and they hung a bunch of bras over the bar top for reasons that were none of your fucking business (if you were stupid like me enough to ask why.)

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry.” I said. “Better be safe and just talk about my dead parents.”

I guess back then I had a hard on for experiences I would now consider in-genuine. Chasing highs in low places with my dick leading the way like a diving rod. My first memories of hunger surfacing in a language I couldn’t speak, but understood. I craved, wanted, needed and surrendered to these wordless demands my body exhausted me with. Cocaine might be a hell of a drug, but have you ever tried it on sex? Rolling down a hill of physical inclinations every single fucking night, waking up and not remembering where or how you got the bruise. Life lessons that I lost to whiskey sours, Sheila, Cassie, myself, and the infinite desires of the body.

“Is that really how you wanna go down t’night? The weirdo, then,” Cassie said grinning, eyes propped up so high they almost became a part of her hairline.

Madness may be doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, but to ruin yourself on a nightly basis for the fuck of it doesn’t have a name yet. For me it was an instinct, a deep and natural longing that watched over and laughed at me as I tried to not swear and give a damn about starving kids in Africa. An impulse that was impossible to ignore, and the nights I tried to was when I learned why lions pace around their cage.  And I was happy, to be honest, letting Jesus take the wheel while I didn’t believe in God. Wounded, really, although I couldn’t say from what.

“I guess not,” I said, trying to look like I wasn’t trying to smile.

And now, much like then, I think, when I look at it from a distance, it seemed to be happening to someone else. And through that lens, unhealthy as it was, or is, it also happens to hurt a lot less.

“How do you want to be remembered, then?” She asked, tugging on the strings of her sideways eight pendant dangling from her collar bone.

“Vividly,”  I said, infinitely wondering what the fuck I was doing.

Cassie, Episode III (aka Baby It’s Cold Outside- So I Hope You Called An Uber)

Most people are barely people and I’ve met everyone twice. Personalities copy and pasted from recycled memes you can find on Reddit, who pretend to exhibit behaviors they borrow from social disorders on Wikipedia. Give a hungry man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day, but give him the internet, and he’ll probably spend it anonymously calling other fish faggots right before his 10AM Sociology class.

“Gotta light?” She asked me outside, with peach mixed moscato on her breath and the feint scent of burning incense lingering in her hair.

She had a way with people- even in my heightened state of over compassion I could tell as much. There was a manner she looked your way that was so notable, that felt like suddenly hearing your name in public, but with eyes. Disarming and little captivating; how being noticed always is. And yes, it helped that she was beautiful. An all-American vee’d chin with an uncle named Chip, that mythical half they must be talking about when they mention two point five kids and a picket fence.

“Brighter than you know,” I replied, and struck a fire for her.

“You’re funny,” She said grinning, smoke and hair billowing from her nose. “You look unmade, and a little dangerous. But I can’t believe you smoke this menthol crap.”

She played it loose and hated slow songs, always kept a 20 hidden in her bra because mama didn’t raise a sucker, and she’d herded her own fair share of douchebags. Ink resembling May 2nd with a year I can’t remember occasionally trailing from out her sleeves.

“If I’m going to slowly kill myself, I’m going to do it right.” I said.

Her name was Cassie, not with a y, and it was short for Cassandra but don’t you fuckin’ dare ever call her that.  Stacked to a low 5’4″ on her tippy toes- beautiful skin tinted in a blushed red, lips curved like a sunset or rose tinted Cupid’s bow. She had it going on, beautiful, but basic at best, eye shadow of a modern fashionista, but not the kind daft enough enough to romanticize vogue models or an eating disorder.

“I can’t handle it, I’ve got a VSD.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s like a hole in your heart,”

“I’m so sorry,” I replied. “What was his name?”

She was not a miserable person, nowhere near delicate- only threaded, maybe. Overexposed like an electric wire in the rain. A victim to the elements and boys who swear they’re different. With a hot heart for the coldest matters and a gentleness that feels more earned than inherent, she cried when she missed her train for work just like any body else. That bitter and hardened exterior only a New York experience can make.

“Who you here with?” She asked, squinting at something other than the smoke in her face.

But I’ve been wrong before.