“If you close the door the night could last forever”
It’s okay to do nice things, Blair explained. She had made a reservation for the afternoon at a winery operating on a working beef farm. Anything pretentious would be tempered by a kind of rustic authenticity. They’ll have cows, she told me.
Although it can be managed, it’s impossible to entirely diminish feelings of hesitancy in a struggle that I can only assume is similar to the misnomer of the recovering drug addict– the same wishful thinking involved- that one can ever, successfully, erase the footprint- bust the ghost… thoughts wander; compulsions linger restlessly. There is no recovery for true addiction.
You’ve been around too long to think it’s a good idea. You’ve seen too much. Instincts adopted and ingrained, that trigger semi-automatically; the lunging of the rattlesnake; fight or flight, and most times it’s a combination of the two. Survival: running for your life from Blinky and Clyde, always looking for your next power pellet to turn the tables and devour them all. Quick and bloodless. Get them before they get you.
Just be normal, okay? Bright eyes pleading with the urgency of a death row inmate waiting on a morning execution. You can tell a lot by the way a woman looks at you- her wants and needs; the vulnerabilities she thinks she’s hiding. She thought she was lucky to meet you and you seem intent on proving her wrong.
Just be normal. Holding hands at the Strawberry Festival doesn’t signal weakness- that you’re easy prey, that you’re entirely unlike the guy who’d treat her like shit. The one she’d idolize- that even in hell, sometimes you can sit back and turn your brain off like you’re watching the Incredible Hulk save a busload of trans kids from right wing terrorists. You can forget what you know and enjoy the moment. Holding hands while tasting an eclectic variety of artisan wines. It’s okay to do nice things.
Blair bought me a gratitude journal for Christmas. It’s best to focus on the positive, she explained. Careful to read every word I write and tell me that I’m great, even when I don’t see it. Blair likes to make me feel good about myself. She’s thoughtful like that. Her biggest concern is whether I’ll like the pot roast on a Saturday night. I’ve never made one before, she’ll remind me.
As if I’d know the difference- living like a ghoul for so long, you lose sight of these things. Meals with more than one ingredient. Showers without mold in the grout. Toilet seats attached to their namesake. The little things, which Blair has perfected.
Our waitress is a pretty, salt of the Earth ginger. The type of girl who doesn’t exist in any location where she’d actually be able to be your girlfriend. The mask she’s wearing engenders the fantasy that she’s a doppelganger for every ginger you’ve ever wanted- the fuckin’ D-girl that Chrissy gets a taste of in Season 2 of The Sopranos (2000), a scene which you carefully utilized what was then emerging technology– the clarity and frame-by-frame precision of digital video- to jack off to the glimpse of her breasts when gifted the season box set twenty years prior.
She takes you into the meat freezer and apologizes that organ meat is temporarily unavailable- an experimental recipe she’s working on. This is how she spends her weekends, she says, embarrassed. I feel no obvious chemistry between us, but I wonder. What would be the right words to say? The right order? Nintendo passwords and missile launch codes. How would you open?
I wonder what it would have been like if we knew each other as college freshmen, Blair said aloud- not exactly as a question that necessarily required an answer; not a genuine inquiry but rather wistful romanticism, meant to hang in the air as the opposite of a tragic missed opportunity– an adorable what if. I told her that we wouldn’t have known each other, her as a hopeful sorority pledge- sure of nothing but enjoyable experiences on the horizon for the next decade, a certainty she’d bet the house on- and me, in my black jeans and Misfits t-shirt; smoking clove cigarettes around the time I realized that life only gets a little bit worse with each passing year. Explaining to Blair that women exist and men are made; that women are gifted their value upfront, that as a college freshman she was living a lifestyle equivalent to that of a millionaire playboy at a beach resort- the world at her knees; only good vibes on the agenda. She wouldn’t be caught dead talking to a ghoul whose invite to the party must’ve gotten lost in the mail.
So why cash out now? Finally clawed my way into what’s left- mostly empties and spilled beer. Vomit caked into the carpet, stinking of acid and sulfur. Why settle now that I can revel in the shit heap- the King of Hell- aging women at my knees like the cover of Love Gun (1977). My line on the graph infinitely heading toward the top- with another month at the gym; ten thousand Twitter followers; a million dollar bitcoin, I’ll get there eventually. Why should I settle- the God of thunder, taking what’s left and using every last bit- the Ed Gein of dating. You don’t cash your chips in ten minutes after learning to count cards, but how much blood needs to be spilled, Vlad?
Revolt against the modern world or revel in its destruction? You feel owed this for every bit of shit you had to eat. For every disappointment you’ve suffered; for the promises broken; for the deliberate subterfuge in the form of memes embedded in a pop-culture that you still consider warm and nostalgic- you’re the institutionalized prisoner, the slave finding comfort in his chains, Patty Hearst with a machine gun. So far off course, buried under relentless waves, carried out to nowhere. You were wronged by a world encouraging exploration and experience, and now that you finally got your ticket punched and your hiking boots on, you’re not turning the ship around and heading home. Everyday is Halloween and you’re going as a coked up sorority girl- Tyler Hadley with a hammer- you’re going to push things until they explode. You’re a fucking rock star, with your sideways cap and reasonably ageless face, and if they try to throw you out now, you’ll kill to party. This is what you wanted, and you’ll get what you deserve. Just be normal, okay? Welcome to fucking hell.
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