Used to be I’d lay in bed all day if I didn’t have to go to work or school. Now I’m up immediately. I mean my days off ARE work days now. What kind of an asshole figures his own time, the time he controls, is the best time to do nothing? The asshole I was.
What a fucking jerk off.
And don’t think these tendencies I degrade myself about are gone, vanquished, by the way. They’re still there, oh yes. That’s why I denounce them so strongly. They’re there, just wondering what the problem is, and why this particular glitch in the program is taking so long to get corrected.
So now I’m up right away. Day off, so I do take a super long shower. I love long showers. Then I’m out of the house immediately. Sometimes I’m halfway to the bus stop before I realize I don’t even know where I want to go, but that’s cool, as long as I’m out of the house.
This was one of those days. I’m sitting by the bus stop that takes me downtown, wondering what the hell to do once I get downtown. I dig window shopping and all, but it isn’t exactly productive.
I think about going to the 24 hour fitness in West Seattle. I like that gym a lot, and they have these tanning coffins that are real good to think in, but I don’t want tot work out. It is my day off. Working out is too much like work.
Eventually I just jumped on the bus. Fuck it.
And I go to the back just out of habit. There was nobody on the bus except the driver and this guy in the back I’m going to talk about.
There’s one of these wild-looking big white dudes back there. The short, unwashed hair. The crazy-huge night-black curly beard. The eyes that, even when the guy’s not pissed, show the whites all the way around the pupils. These guys freak me out way more than scary black dudes.
Scary black dudes know white dudes just want to be left alone. Scary white dudes think, because you’re white, maybe you want to talk with them. And I’m one of these people, weird-ass funkheads ALWAYS want to talk to me. And I get a lot of good out of that, usually.
But I hate it when these huge crackers want to talk to me. I didn’t look up and see him until it was too late to take a seat nearer the front without being obvious, so I just sat. Sometimes if you act all gigged out the fragged-heads will leave you alone. I was going to bust out with some gibberish, just in case, just as a preventive measure, and then this guys busts out:
“You know why Shawn Kemp didn’t go to the Olympics?”
And I sit there and don’t reply until it is ridiculous. I mean he knows I know he’s talking to me, and he knows I know that. The tension is causing my stomach to hurt and I’m getting this little flood of adrenaline so I look up, smile, and shake my head.
“‘Cause he’s an Oaktown n------.”
Motherfucker. That’s all I need to hear, you know? You get on the bus, minding your own business, and some asshole busts out that random shit for no particular reason.
And what am I supposed to do, here? I can’t do anything to him, even if I was the kind of guy who would. But my generation isn’t really supposed to tolerate that shit. This dude’s like 40, I guess.
If he was 70 it wouldn’t bother me. He’s 70. Who am I to judge some 70 year old who never even knew what a fucking computer was until he was 50? I mean a 70 year old is like a pilgrim who time just surrounds so that he’s in a new, strange world every 10 years or so.
But this fuck’s 40. He knows what’s going on. By using that word around me he’s saying I’m an ass like him or that I’m an ass for NOT being like him and so he’ll fuck with me. I’m not the kind of person who just pretends shit doesn’t bother me.
I know when something bothers me. I know when someone’s fucking with me. I don’t duck my head into the sand and pretend something’s no big deal because that would make things easier. But I don’t know what to do with this greasy dude and his diction.
Then he goes: “I’m from Oakland. Born and raised.”
And now I’m wondering if my planet and Superman’s Bizarro world planet are colliding and me or this guy got knocked off one and over to the other.
What in the FUCK does that signify???
And then I had one of the great moments in my life. Steve Martin flashed into my head, wearing brown baggy cast-off clothes and sitting on the porch of a Mississippi shack, and I stand up and go:
“Sir, I AM A N------!!!” Which I think is the right quote. I’m just quoting from The Jerk, in case you don’t get it. It was classic. This dude’s jaw drops.
And the bus driver goes: “What’s going on back there?”
So then I say to this dude: “Where are all the white women at?”
That’s from Blazing Saddles. And he’s looking like he’s going to knock me. He always looks like he’s going to knock somebody, that’s his look, but now he looks like he’s going to knock ME. It is personal.
Except I’m not really there anymore. I’ve kind of let go. I let loose some steam valve and it isn’t going to stop whistling for a while. I’ve become performer and audience.
I go: “‘Scuse me while I whip this out,” and mime taking a piece of paper out of pants. “By the power vested in me... by the honorable something J., LaPedume...”
And this big block of leather hit me so quick and so hard that I didn’t wake up for like ten minutes. That’s a guess. I didn’t wake up ‘till the cops woke me up. They wanted me to go to the hospital and shit.
The crazy psycho guy was gone. I don’t know if they ever caught him. I don’t know what the bus driver told the cops. All I do know is that, eventually, they let me alone.
I walked for nearly an hour, except at times I ran. I couldn’t outrun it, so I finally went over a parking lot to the back of this building where nobody could see me and bawled like a baby for ten or fifteen minutes.
When you’re bawling, bawling, for ten minutes, that’s like ten years. You have to have a lot of crazy shit inside you to bawl for ten fucking minutes. Part of me knew I was fucked up, really fucked up, way before all that happened. But there was no doubt after that.
I guess it was my body’s way of letting me know. The thing is, so what? Just ‘cause you know, that doesn’t mean you can do anything about it. When it was over, it was over. I felt the way I think a concussion feels... Like my head was full of helium. Thoughts were in there, but they floated in this weird seaweed that lived in the air of my head... airweed?
I was pretty tired. I walked to the nearest bus stop. A bus came. I got on. I waited to feel better. It didn’t happen. When I was a kid crying always made me feel better. It was like each tear physically ripped an hour of sadness out.
I realized that didn’t work anymore and had this little inner dialogue:
-So what’s the point of crying??? So somebody will help? Nobody helps you if you cry when you’re an adult. So why? Because I wanted to be a kid again? Because...
Then this other voice jumps in:
-Shut the fuck up. Who cares why?
-I care why. It might be important.
-The only reason it would be important is if the explanation helped you to stop being so weak. You’re weak because you are fascinated by your weakness so you play these mind games with yourself. Just shut the fuck up and stop being such a bitch.
“Fuck you!” Yeah, I said that aloud.
Not good. Not fucking good. There were eight or nine people on the bus, towards the front, and one of them just glanced back. I was in the back, in the freak section, but I had yelled it too loud, with too much force.
I was really starting to get scared. My theory on the homeless crazy dude you see on the corner is that we’re all just not quite exactly where he is in his life.
Not everybody. Not, like, school teachers. Or, like, union electricians. I mean there are some people who just want to live normal lives. They just get a safe job and a safe spouse and a cheap house and live lives of quiet complacency.
These are the humble, gray people. But the people like me, the quietly desperate ones, the hustlers and artists and owners of their own businesses and stuff, we’re all just barely NOT that dude on the corner explaining to the committee why Plato’s theory about absolute truth does not make an argument for the possibility of a real Utopia.
We’re all that near Nut-Ball. I’m telling you. It isn’t just me. I just know what is going on better than most people. We’re all almost there.
Once, back in Hawaii, I did a double hit of E, Ecstasy, and it wasn’t all MDMA. It was partly speed. And it turned out that each hit was a double hit. So after about thirty minutes in the club my skin started throbbing to the bass.
This girl named Ghia was using her nails to caress my head just right. Ghia looked like Erica Bhadu and she was better at touching somebody on E than anybody I ever met. Except this time it is too much, even though she is just barely barely barely caressing my scalp.
I ask her to stop. She’s kind of bummed ‘cause I was really into her touching me and she was cool like that. Then the couch we’re sitting on starts conducting the bass of the techno we're listening to too strongly, so that my skin is vibrating to the bass. It almost hurts.
And I’m so fucking tired all of a sudden. And I don’t know what is going on. And the lights are painful to my eyes, and my eardrums have swelled and they’re too tight for my ear holes.
I told Ghia I had to get out of the club for a second. Standing up kind of helped me catch my breath. I didn’t want to ruin everyone’s party. If I was going to vomit or die I wanted to do it alone where nobody would notice, instead.
Outside, I felt a little better. The streetlights were bright as little suns, and the sidewalk cracks weren’t bigger, but they seemed very important. Very real. I leaned up against the wall of the club and chilled. It wasn’t a busy night, there was noone outside except for me and this huge Samoan bouncer.
He eyed me a little. I could tell he knew I was on E and hurting. You never know with bouncers. This dude might have been eyeing me to help me if I needed it, or to fuck with me ‘cause I was so vulnerable. Bouncers can be like Nazis. They start thinking they’re so superior to all the drunk or drugged up customers that they forget they’re human beings and start enjoying hurting people. So I slunk off.
I turned the corner and went into an alley and slid down the wall until I was sitting. My breathing grew labored from trying to get my wind. It was like running up stairs.
I put my hand to my chest and realized my heart hurt. It was beating three or four times every second.. The blood didn’t have time to go through any of the heart valves before the next beat. It hit me I was probably going to die.
That didn’t matter for a few seconds, but then I realized it might be important so I should concentrate on that idea. But I wasn’t sure if I should concentrate on it or not. In the end I decided I would, but it could have gone either way.
Once I started thinking about it it was easy to keep thinking about it. After a bit I realized it was definitely important, then I realized death was permanent, then I realized I was alone, then I finally got very scared. Once I was scared enough, I was able to calm myself down. So I didn’t die.
The next day I told a friend who’s a dealer, Mike, about it, and he says:
“That’s what happens to people some times. Mostly they’re able to control their bodies once they’re scared enough. Otherwise somebody’s got to smoke them out, or they die.”
‘Smoke them out’ mean give them marijuana, to calm them down chemically.
Nobody was there to calm me down because I’d slunk off to hide my shame. When you read about somebody overdosing in the paper or see it on the news, there’s always a part of you that thinks the guy who O.D.’ed is a whole other animal from you. You could never be that kind of junkie/loser/cursed person.
But we are all almost there. We are all that it-can-go-either-way-almost-casual-decision-to-concentrate-moment away from an over dose. If not an overdose than a D.U.I. charge. Or a back flip off the diving board that ends up with pieces of brain floating down through the chlorinated blue.
(You know what I mean unless you’re one of the gray people. To be honest, I don’t know if the gray people really exist. Maybe they’re just really great actors and their smugness and complacency is an act. I hope so. If you’re one of the gray people you’re reading this with a smug smile on your face or a feeling of superiority. You’re a fucking asshole. Fuck you.
Yeah, I might be jealous, but I still wouldn’t trade with you.)
We are all that close to that kind of tragedy even though we all usually believe we’re not. And we’re all closer to being that homeless dude than we think, too. So when I said “Fuck you!” it kind of made me scared and I sort of woke up. I got off at the next stop, because I was ashamed, and waited for another bus. Because I was ashamed.
Back when I slept all the time it was usually because I didn’t have anything better to do, or else because I was depressed. Sometimes the feeling that you are a complete loser and useful to nobody and nothing is so strong and deep and pervading that sleep is all that can make you stop feeling it. Sometimes you feel like the air you breathe is accusing you.
That’s how I felt. I felt tired and used up. I crossed the street to wait for a bus that would take me back home. While I waited I realized it had been a while since I’d been so low that I had to sleep it away. It actually cheered me up a bit, so that I thought maybe I could push this depression away. I tried, I thought really hard about crossing the street again. But I was just too tired. I was going to try again but the bus came.
On the bus I ended up with my head down in my hands and my elbows on my knees. Tears just kept falling out onto my palms. I didn’t even feel that sad. I was mostly scared somebody would ask me if I was okay. Nobody did, thank God.