WHEN ALL IS DEAD AND SPUN
(Enemies With Benefits, part two)
Or, "POST-DRAMATIC STRESS DISORDER"
Or, "POST-DRAMATIC STRESS DISORDER"
Reality always fucks on the first date; in fact, I'd say it often fucks you up for life.
I was balls deep in the back alley of life. We lay as lovers and lie like parents. I'd taken yet another hit for the team that night. There might not be an "I" in team, but there are certainly a few in "fucking bitch."
Some of us have a special hate for love.
"No sir, liquor is closed."
I never understood why Walgreens—in the 90's—roped their liquor aisles at ten, and neither did the customers—I turned them away in droves night after night.
I was working sixty-something hours there a week just to support us. My girlfriend couldn't keep a job, due to her recreational excesses. There was also a matter of principle, I suppose: "I want to be a 'kept woman,'" she would tell me, "a 'real man' works to make a home for us." By "us," of course, she meant "her." But then, I was pretty fucking gullible at the time.
Sleep was death, and certainly the death of our romance.
I worked so many hours—working against the light, and deep into the night—hoping, needing, praying that she would sleep during my shift, lest she be left bored and alone to make fresh havoc by some fitful whim. Thus, I labored countless hours more to entertain her after work. I couldn't leave her unattended, lest her chaos claim us both. All passion and all pleasure has a price.
I was a puppet on a heartstring, dangling from a tampon of defeat. I was lover, counselor, fool—doomed from the start, enabler in the end, unable to make ends meet, or bring my curse to blessed closure. Riddled with guilt like bullets, I shot down any chance to get away. Maybe it was Virgin Cling, or a static state of mind; but I swore that I would save this girl if I lost my very soul…
I'd never done a drug before, but soon I'd learn to stay awake for days…by hook or by crook until crooked and hooked on whatever I could find. And this is what I found: It's easier losing sleep when you've already lost your dreams.
They said she was a knock-out; indeed, I often felt unconscious when she spoke. Heartbeaten and heartstrung-out, weighted down beneath the chest, I was waiting up and waiting on the call…waiting on God, or cardiac arrest.
Ah yes…the call:
It was the sort of call to arms that left one hanging on the phone. Every other day, I knew it'd come: perhaps a call from jail, or a drunk-dial from a pub—a slurring cry for help from dingy bars, or from behind them. Perhaps it would be the stern voice of Security…a doorman she'd enraged or bouncer she'd bounced off of here and there…some poor off-duty cop she'd begged to cuff her for the thrill. It would be another night I'd have to beg a friend to pick her up, while still unsure how I'd be getting home myself. But I knew that call of the wild-at-heart would—one day—end with something wilder still. Every time I heard the phone ring, my heart sank with both nausea and gnosis: would this call be the one to come identify the corpse?
And when I'd finally see her—wild-eyed, drunken, drenched in filth and sin—my lips muttered relief, while my own wild gaze spoke nothing of the sort. My eyes served but to vivisect the already vilified. I said, "Thank God that you're alright," and "I love you more than anything at all." But "the Look" said only, "Please God, get it over with," and "I love you, but I wish you'd finally die." Death would be my liberator…for though I cherished every day with her, I lived in constant dread of those to come.
My heart lived just to prolong the romance; the Look longed for an end to the suspense.
I've seen it, I've received it, I've dispensed it. In fact, I recall thinking I'd seen that Look a scant few months ago, amid my drunken travels at a club.
Worlds collided on the ground like stars in Velikovsky's sky.
One was long and slender, worth the climb; mostly legs, with boots less made for walking than to trod upon leering voyeurs, drunks and lesser gods. The other was voluptuous, with bewitching eyes, and the sort of tits that conquer nations one smitten leering dictator at a time. At the moment, they were all part of the show; and when the curtain fell, they followed…and it all became a blur…
Low lights and lowlifes, high heels and highlights…camera phones and raging bones, wild eyes and tamed beasts…tongue-kisses and near-misses…dancing, cheers, and choked-back tears: it opened with applause, and ended with a thud. A lover looked on from afar, then rolled his eyes in dread, and turned away…
I could have sworn I saw that Look—that Look I gave so many years ago.
As weeks passed by, I came to change my mind. The night was sloppy with vomit and shame, and a good deal of it mine. Some people are difficult to read; and others are only read for the cartoons.
But even the appearance of those eyes…the simulacra of that special empty desperation…it took me back to times when they were mine—when it was my girl dancing topless, kissing strangers, making wreckage, leaving carnage, or passed out on a barroom floor. Behind the eyes, I swore I loved her; but the weariness beneath them could have put her in the grave with just a glare. If indeed eyes are the windows of the soul, there are some with sniper rifles mounted on the sill; and every unaverted gaze is just someone—somewhere—focusing, positioning their scope. And long ago, 'twas I whose sweaty mental triggerfinger twitched and itched; 'twas I who had a headshot in my heart.
Eventually, this goes somewhere (I think).
And with a parting shot indeed, let us resume our tale back in those sunken times…
One night, I had that Look again, and deep within, wondered anew if this would finally be the night—the night I'd mourn death and grieve over lost love…but finally taste my freedom, bittersweet. I paced the room as always, and as any night, made room for her in bed. We weren't quite still together, but we scarcely were apart. That night, that day…I slept and woke alone.
Restless evenings passed until I finally got the call. She wasn't dead, but may as well been. That, I fear, is a morbid and ironic tale itself for other times. But she'd never be seen again; it was a little death, with tiny tears and limited surprise. And the freedom that I craved—in secret and in loathing, with guilt to fill vast seas and countless seasons—arrived neither on time nor bearing absolution.
Though the sex was wild, hard, and prolific, it wasn't what I thought of when she ever came to mind. It's not that I don't remember, or recall it fondly…but the memories bare this odd sort of detachment—I remember it like I'd remember any fun thing that we did.
Truthfully, do you know what comes to mind when I recall our time together? I sit and stare, and wonder if I maybe could have saved her…even though I know that nothing could.
Sometimes, the light of your life does nothing to lighten life itself; but then, some light is less forgiving—likewise, some angles only obstruct the greater view…and I'm not angling at forgiveness anymore. I'm not out for blood, or out to see the light. I'm only out to find where I came in, and exit through that door some distant, grateful night.
Boo hoo. Dear God, I need caffeine.
More than a decade's passed, and the shoe has found another foot. I've become much like old bedmates, and everything I once sought to escape. And now that Look directs itself at me.
I wander into work, half-dead, two-thirds distracted, and wholly uninvested; my manager takes one look and rolls his eyes with the sort of disdain one might usually reserve for the crudely transgendered, the drunk and drooling, the semen-encrusted, the lumpiest of hobos—those with trousers splotched by endless molestations and hands swollen from heroin, scarcely able to shake their fists in grief at the cold grey heavens long indifferent to their screams. I tend to get this more on Tuesdays.
My performance is no better or no worse than any other person there, on any other night; but still, The Look prevails. Management knows little—if anything—about me or any aspect of my life, nor would they care; I just look like someone they might—some near or distant day—need to replace…like someone who might—for any reason, or no reason at all—not show up some afternoon. I look like someone whose last paycheck might be claimed by next-of-kin.
My friends don't plan surprises, so much as they plan interventions. It's a curious irony: I've become the life and death of the party, surrounded by many who call me "brother," but are in fact only related to a scene. They are "close friends" from a friendly distance. To them, I'm dead man stumbling, a bomb ticking as fiercely as my tweaking pulse. And everyone wants tickets to the show. They just don't want to get anything on them. It's like some cosmic fatalistic GWAR show: we are voyeurs—each and all—gawking at the spectacle of death, but no one really wants front row, and don't wear your good clothes.
To an extent, I've come to peace with this; I do love to entertain.
When all is dead and spun…"Do what thou wilt…do what thou must."
I have learned a hard-fought lesson: You cannot change those that do not will it. With love must come respect, and one must respect the choices others make. Even when eyes once filled with adoration turn to bloodshot desperation, those eyes must look ahead—never away. Should we grow apart, may it be because we both have simply grown.
Some of us are born merely to burn away. We are grave and wonton wooden matchsticks, alive with furious abandon and flames of angst when lit, destined only to shine a swiftly dimming light that sets blazes to your other smoking ills until burnt out—be it snuffed and cast aside into the ashpit, or a swift blackening simmer, that burns until the fire burns your thumb.
I'm not someone you can save. You can only save your breath, and both our time.
Rather, let us make merry. Don't avoid the ones you care for because you fear the pain of losing them later on; that distance won't protect you once you've lost them. Your coldness grants no amnesty, but instead only accumulates a grievous wealth of unrequited love, and a burden of curiosity forever unresolved. And if you must soften the blow, cut off merely the urge to change those that cannot; alienate merely the notion that they must be some other way. Stop playing God: If you accept that we all have right—in fact, responsibility—to choose our course of life, then why not also our demise?
It's better to be written out than written off; and I prefer to have the final edit. I shall live and die by my own terms; void where prohibited, no purchase required, see inside for details. You may be an instant winner.
But I'm veering. And I seriously need to get laid right now.
In more compact terms, emotionally speaking, we all have known a loved one with a bomb strapped to their back. And we all think we can run, and view those pretty fireworks from afar. But it doesn't really work that way. It doesn't really work at all.
And someone needs to buy me some cigars before I seriously open fire in a crowded fucking restaurant.
Love is blind, but some only turn a blind eye in the end.