(I’ve kept this one stashed back like a pair of brass knuckles. I’m not going to count it as my first for 2010 but damn if it’s not a precursor. This is a multiple-personality year. This is the year of schizophrenia… late nights, ultra-violence and pouring gasoline on wounds. This is my year to let go. One more thing… after today the titles of these essays will not be so damn 90’s indie-rock cryptic. Scout’s honor.)
I knew her from somewhere and she knew me right back, I think that’s why she spoke up. I couldn’t place her, she didn’t place me, the two of us standing in her doorway, three turns deep inside a women’s shelter buried on the forgotten side of downtown. She may have once been a hostess at some restaurant I’d go to every weekday for months, the whole city knows I’m a creature of habit, a disciple of repetition. She may have been a dress maker I would pass by in storefront windows of Homewood, me running away demons, her with a tape measure and a mouthful of pins.
Or she may have been homeless and dirty and asked me for cigarettes in a parking deck at 3:00 am and I told her to fuck off cause I don’t smoke and my back was wrecked from work and I don’t share well with others after midnight.
She just wanted to help now. Her glasses were chipped and taped and her clothes were mismatched and her teeth were crooked and she was younger than me and it was after midnight and I turned around and spoke back because she just wanted to help. There was a row of lockers in the barracks. There was a different bible verse taped to each one.
So you help me, Doctor.
That girl, I can’t get her out of my head.
Seeing her made me want to smash mirrors.
Seeing her made me want to burn American flags and paper money, vomit blood on televisions, throw away family photographs.
Run away to Portland, land of the runaways, strip clubs, and heroin. (in that order)
Sadly though, I don’t think she was ever really there.
So tell me who I was talking to and, more importantly, who was talking back.
My parents told me, and tell me to this day, very matter of fact, that I can do anything in life that I put my heart to, put an effort to, give a fuck about doing. And I’m trying Doctor, I’m trying with fading strength, and bitten lip stress, heavy metal soundtracks at sunrise. The poisoned bastard on the shrink’s couch wants to follow the rabbit, the pen, the paper… the writer.
I could morph Chuck Palahniuk, easy. Watch this:
The piss smell met us at the door. So did the entire family in the living room, handfuls of children pre-school to high school. 8am and the adults are drinking beer. 8am and no one goes to school on a school day. She.
She locked up in the bathroom with the pills that kept her sane, her pills that kept her unlocked. We banged for a few, she opened. Sat down in the living room naked. Her body was beat up by gravity and crazy, she put on a robe full of moth holes, vomit stained. Her hair was picked apart by small rodents, her nails were pieces of melted plastic.
“Ok, I’ll take my pills.”
Her son said “fuck this” out the door, the nakedness that was his mom went to the kitchen and got two beers and poured them in a dirty cup.
The flies buzzing were unaccommodating. The urine smell was a good host, it stayed close by.
Or Henry Rollins? He has tattoos and muscles, I have tattoos and muscles. No problem, he would finish this fun memory strong:
The things I remember most are all insignificant. The hundreds of figurines piling off of an end table, all of them black except for two. Her wild-haired-son stormed in and out of the front door, opening a screen door with no screen. Just a hollow frame on front of a home. There were rows and rows of flowers leading up the walkway, or down to a Crown Victoria on the street with the windshield bashed in.
Robe open, she washed down a handful of sane-pills with the two beers. A black and white copy of a news article was taped to the wall. The headline said “Evans to be put to death.” A quote, highlighted in yellow, read “I don’t wish harm to his family, just him.”
In pen it was written over “He does wish harm to his family too.” Black Jesus paintings surrounded all of us- the family, the firefighters and the flies.
But Doctor, I just don’t feel a thing anymore inside this continuing pursuit of defining identity. The corpses no longer leave me numb, no longer leave the sweet-sad taste of loss and regret. A girl with chipped glasses three hallway turns into the shelter, now that’s another story. But the dead? The dead leave nothing. I’ve crushed ribs in before many many times to bring back life, and I have had some success, but the failures, the dead, I shrug away.
No Doc, I don’t want the pills, twice a day. I don’t want shots every Wednesday in my stomach and I certainly don’t want to sit in on group therapy. Other people’s problems are something I absorb every day, my job choice has me hunting for them. When my lips are bitten in holes of skin, chewed for rat food (Palahniuk would say) and my muscles ache for the last time forever (Rollins coffee table stuff).
When you find me left for dead,
but still breathing in a public park,
stick the IV in my carotid and I’ll turn my head and watch the fluid push under my skin, into my neck, into my blood veins. Any more intravenous medicine please push through my cheek, just under my eye, I can’t stand to see my shoulders bleed.
I don’t want pain killers Doc, I want pain reminders. Mace and a tazer, bullets and batons.
Are you still there? Doctor? Are we still discussing my kingdom of rust and dust, broken glass scattered in the parking lots of my childhood, which is, honestly, not too far of a walk from your office.
Only you can’t.
I'm sitting here shaking, pen in hand, furious hurrying to jot down the details of suffering, of struggle, mine and others, before I forget. I know what this is.
The girl in the shelter, and the happy endings to stories that I am re-writing daily… and YOU.
None of you are really there, are you?
“You don’t get to keep the parts of the country you like, ignore the rest, and call what you’ve got America.” - Warren Ellis