Hey Big Guy, Sun’s Gettin’ Real Low (aka I’d Take A Bullet For You. Like, The Sex Toy)

Success makes me uncomfortable. I’m more likely to go on a bender bragging about mistakes I’ve done than stand tall on the soapbox of Facebook, letting the people who barely care know just where I spent my weekend pretending to have a good time or volunteering.

“This weekend? Got back from teaching English in Honduras,” He said, casually. “So sad, what’s going on out there.”

“This weekend I took a shower and put on pants when I went outside,” I said, proudly. “Twice.

There’s humility in defeat, a shared lesson or dick joke we could all learn a thing or two from. But success is suffocating, smothers conversation no matter how much it’s ignored, and stifles words in your throat like hot air in a stuffy room. An uncontrollable instinct to brag upward or retreat into yourself is inevitable because winning doesn’t have a gag or wisecrack. Only a line, and a dare.

“Next is Cuba,” Robby said, and some woman awww’d from the corner of the circle. “Maybe India if I get the raise I’m waiting on.”

“I don’t think I’ve left the country since Bush was President.” I replied, half-assed.

“You should come,” He said. And his eyes made an emphasis on certain words.

I hadn’t seen Robby since what he stole from me last Summer – roughly seventy two dollars in cab fare and whatever was left of my belief in human decency. He has a habit of dragging me into problems I should know better and avoid, gets too drunk too function and sticks me with the tab and social bill. I never want to go, but it’s hard to deny him. He’s got a way with words that makes words feel uncomfortable, in a fun way. Un-clever and gorgeous enough to barely pass for charming. Confident without compliments, because beauty doesn’t need validation.

“Oh yeah? When are you going?” I asked.
“June maybe. Definitely next Summer.”

Last time Robby made plans we were four hours away from New York in his bosses housewarming party, inebriated out of our minds on Jefferson’s and a bunch of whiskey way out of my pay grade. Close to midnight our ride up disappeared into the night with a brunette stacked like textbooks in a college bookstore. And when I asked him what the hell we were supposed to do he gave me a look that said Tough-Shit-Buddy and God-Be-With-You all at once.

“Pilot might meet a brown haired girl he likes. I don’t know.”

“Are you still on that?” Robby said, laughing. “I told you it was an accident.”

Fifth of July was a wild morning of trying to convince taxi drivers to let us in while Robby kept throwing up on the curbside. And when we finally managed to hit the long black road home, and I complained about his friend ditching us, Robby admitted, between barfs, in a pure drunken state where all the fucks are lost and never to be given- that he knew we’d be ride-less back home the whole time.

“He said he’d give us a ride back home then Nate met that girl. What did you want me to do?”

And a rage built inside of me I never felt before. Being deceived in some way is a given with humanity, but what a rodeo, staring at a liar shrugging at you with his red hands. Like ‘Yeah-I’ve-Done-It. And?’ I couldn’t believe a friend would do such a thing willingly. I thought misunderstandings happened because we miss the chance at assuming best intentions. Not like that, not so much mean on purpose. Then to be made out as crazy for fact checking is about as hair pulling as fake news.

“More, I guess.” I said.

“I’m sorry I always let you down.”

But it isn’t all his fault, I think. In those three hours I battled the very real and un-exaggerated urge to smother Robby with my fist or a pillow, I learned something. About him, and myself. Liquor might make a man low, but never more capable. Whatever violence boiled in my blood against him was just as real sober, only more buried. And all the times Robby bragged about his life and job when he dragged me out with him were only misplaced moments of inadequacy. He was trying to overlap me in a race he was the only one having, winning in a game I had no idea we were playing.

“So are you coming? To Cuba?” He asked. And I laughed.

“I wouldn’t be caught dead in public with you.”

But we went.

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous: Felice (Episode IV, A New Hope)

“Tell me something.” I said.

“Like what?”

“Anything, even if it’s something I already know, even if something you already said. Everything sounds better when it comes from you.”

Her eyes rolled, drastically, then fell on the crowd. Searching, as if somewhere in the sea of strangers she could have found what she meant to say. What are you wondering at, you beautiful wonder. But that’s just the way she was- with a hell in her heart and heaven in the eyes, storm in her thighs that consumed you by degrees.

“I don’t want to end up alone,” She said, a bit too honestly.

“You just haven’t met the right person yet.” I parroted, not thinking, just responding in the way some blood cells are supposed to.

“But I hate that idea. Of fucking…presupposing. Like meeting someone is really so inevitable. If people can find happiness in different things, in like, songs, or traveling, or a really good book, why should mine have to come from some other person?”

“They write songs about people who fall in love the way you do.” I said. “But that’s all they are. Just songs.”

My lies are noble. I didn’t think that was necessarily true, but what she needed to hear. Misleading is a treason I’m likely to commit, even if those were never my intentions. Then again, what consequences are? She looked back to the crowd a little angrily, ran her knuckles on the counter in a way that made me hungry, and Felice smiled like she had just said her own name.

We sat there, loud, but empty.  Like glass bottles clinking. Humanity is a strange enigma, toasting to his or her own empty fantasia- specific instances of precise happiness undefinable by sobriety. An escape endlessly clouded by the myriad of errors that got you there. Forgotten, wasted, and inexplicable. Taken for granted like keys you swore you lost but show up at your bedside.

Her pupils stuttered and whatever emotion that almost revealed itself winced back to the chasm from where it came. No one’s ever been able to meet my eye. Some chalk it up to shyness, others have said there’s too much honesty in them, while my self conscious worries I may secretly be hideous. But logic tells me, whatever the real reason may be, I would not be able to change it anyway. And so whatever flaw or warning my stare carried became an overlooked quality I simply accepted in me. Like height, or never holding doors open for the elderly.

“You’re a good guy,” She said.

“I’m no hero.”

“No,” She replied with a smile. “Heroes don’t look like you.”

I’m Going Nowhere and I’m In A Rush (aka Felice, Episode II)

Feelings are cute but can be turned monstrous and should never be fed after midnight like Mogwais. It only leads to breaking nights and promises. But I waited for Felice in Mulligans at 1:00AM none the less, cradling a whiskey neat and giving names to the little gremlins that spawned from the one desire that got me there.

A north wind swept between getting out of work and having to go back again, and that familiar urge crept upon me. Sensitive instances when I’m compelled to spend those empty hours huddled in dark bars, glaring at the world through the rose colored lens of glass bottles with someone pretty standing beside me. Something simultaneously new but old, like a hand-me-down, or having a second child. Losing myself in another so I don’t have to deal with myself is an emotional shortcut, like skipping to the best part of your favorite song when you’re drunk; a cheap high without the buildup and only as good as the whiskey is.

And I needed to feel a little needed, even if it was from somebody I didn’t give a damn about. But I don’t tempt the devil unless I’m ready to dance, and that night, I made sure to put on my most comfortable shoes.

Those great passions burn terribly and I am a city of ash. I should be able to resist such an annoying calling, but eventually I let the poor thing in. I feel sorry for it, like a cat scratching at your door, even though I know he’s just going to stare at me and not bother coming in. Indulgence makes me undone, and the moonlight moves something terrible and primal in me. An impetus only nature can divine and nurture urges to snuff out, the way dogs wander into the woods to die. But before that gentle good night I’m raging in the machine- on the hunt, for what, I never know until it finds me. Because at midnight you’re either climbing to the top of the world, or on the verge of being crushed by it.

There is no in between.

DJ Got Me Falling In Retrograde

Music has never held me. Instead of instigating a feeling, I think it becomes a substitute for one. An emotional crutch we latch on to, and use to limp through new experiences with phantom limbs that aren’t missing. Injuries and cuts opened on a stereo or dance floor, lyrics hummed along because they are remembered, and what masochist doesn’t like a little salt in their wounds?

“Ohhhhhhh my God! Remember Justin!? This was Justin’s song,” She said, fumbling a Malibu between her fingers and awkward dance moves.

A lull goes over the eyes and her head hangs while the rest of her body doesn’t, a one way trip down misery lane to whoever this Justin is or was.

And I can’t relate. There can be a song playing in the bar or my car radio, but it doesn’t ever remind me of someone specifically. Instead, I’m flung back to that narrow stretch from when I first heard it, fully equipped with all the baggage of that era. Mr. Jones and me danced silence down to the morning, counting pigeons from my window sill and wondering what strange and amazing people my young heart had yet to meet. Swiped left on the wrong people and my twenties stumbled me into a Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Haunting delis and libraries for any beer or book that might be a means of escape. So brash and full of myself, but empty, like a silhouette. Trying to find who I was, not realizing I’d always been him.

“I hope he’s alright,” She said. “I haven’t seen in him since February.”

Then I met May in June, and my Springsteen started in July. Nothing but a Hungry Heart living out his Glory Days, champagne out of wine glasses and half-assed attempts at the adult version of being romantic on a college budget. Ten dollar bottles of wine and Save Tonight on repeat. Lost my virginity to Buddy Holly in Sara’s basement that one Summer, the same one You Give Love A Bad Name became an anthem and self explanatory. Learned about lust and the sweet pangs of loving someone from a distance, so the rest of that year I took a incredible joy in destroying myself with drugs and sex over and over again.

“You know he sang this to me at Crissy’s birthday party, right?”

So music doesn’t do it for me. It’s terrible, a conceited self reflection we’ve all decided to be alright with. Regrets made public with a chorus you can scream in a room full of strangers without appearing all too crazy. Much better than the alternative, having to face and put to words the way someone once made you feel. Skip the song, put away the salt and show your wounds and bruises. Explain just how you got them, even if they aren’t finished healing.

“Do you miss him?” I asked, opening the subject.

“Fuck that asshole,” She said flatly.

And kept dancing along to the music.

 

I Give ‘Calling-In-Sick’ A Whole Other Meaning (aka If You Don’t Like What You Do, That’s Why They Pay You For It)

To: Margaret.Steeler@theacademyschool.gov
Cc: HR; Jack Stiller;
Bcc: YourMom; WhyHaventIQuitThisJob
Subject: RE: Security Staffing Issues Update

Good morning Margaret.

As per our discussion, I’ve reached out to the upper management of Secure Staffing Inc. I had a lengthy discussion with their senior manager Greg Philmoore, who voiced some concerns regarding our decision to relocate one security guard from our secondary school location. He divulged feelings that this was done out of spite, and referenced what I can only describe as a ‘vague friction’ between The Academy School and Secure Staffing Inc.

In addition, he said this was very much a bitch move, which went directly against an earlier conversation I was not a part of. In fact, I wasn’t a part of any of the conversations until now, as I stumble to pick up the pieces to a mess you’ve left behind to attend your daughters recital concert. While I smoked a cigarette and listened to Greg’s incessant whining our employee-client relation, a part of me kept wondering how the hell this was my problem. There was a circle tar of gum pasted onto the sidewalk, and for a moment I felt a terrible connection between myself and that black blotch on the floor. You see, that glued and trampled dot was once something pristine- sitting neatly in a wrapper, complete and minding it’s business on some shelf or deli counter in upper west side Manhattan. Perfectly made. Whole. Un-bothered by the world and all it’s problems. Just as I was, before this job.  I used to go to the gym on Wednesdays and call my friends to see how they were doing. Occasionally I would even have sex. And now I’m  melded into this 9 to 9 job, endlessly answering e-mails that keep popping up like weeds or your mistakes. Marooned in Microsoft Outlook, stranded in half assed meetings about meetings that amount to nothing. Sealed in necessity and welded to the sun.

I explained to Greg this was not the case, and that this decision was in no way done to go around his authority, but rather, was in collusion with our ideals of “School First.” Management came together to assess how we can best support our vision, and after careful deliberation, this was decided to be the best alternative.

Which is some cult shit, really. Why would I ever possibly put you strangers above myself? I’ve got a family, friends and growing nephews that need me, and I need them, much more than this false-family-narrative you’re trying to spin. Why does a job even have to be more than a paycheck? When did being good at a job not become enough? What kind of lunatic doesn’t work for his pay, but because he wants to be there? We aren’t artist, we’re talking deskjobs and dealing with other peoples gross children. It’s a brand of psychological slavery I can pretend to go along with, but laugh tragically over as I’m getting plastered in my condo Monday through Thursday. The stupid, arrogant naivety of it all. Trying to force a man to forsake himself  for the sake of establishing a “job culture.” You’re tools, all of you, trying to make a wrench out of me. But I’ve been sharpening my resume along with every fake smile.

In conclusion, I believe a best practice would be to be more honest as to why we’re here; understand that what we’re asking for is unreasonable. The Academy School and Secure Staffing are not places we should aspire to, just names and LLC’s trying to make us think we owe them something.  We should do our best to be better people, and a better person doesn’t succumb to cultural brainwashing. He or she should work hard because that’s what they’re paid to, and working hard doesn’t require the buy-in of pretending their job is a family. It only needs a decent pay, sincerity, and you handling your own damn problems so that I don’t have to.

Also, your daughters shit at the flute.

Always,

Noel Edwards
District Manager
The Academy Schools
8042 Netherland Boulevard
New York, NY 10033

PS – I quit.