She had a firm grip on Francesca’s boob. Then got right in her tired face and proclaimed, “You just don’t want to breast feed? Do you?”
Oh sweet Jesus.
Son, you need to see this.
And even though Francesca just shat out an 8 lb turkey from her vagina that was mercilessly gobbling her left nipple off, and one of her legs was still frozen from the epidural, I saw that bat shit crazy look in Francesca’s eyes and feared for this woman’s life.
Just step away, dumbass. Just step away. Drop the boob, and go.
But she didn’t. The lactation consultant clamped down on my wife tits and her views on her ability to feed the baby.
It was going to get good. And ugly.
I imagined them toppling out of the hospital bed, the lactation consultant’s hand manipulating Francesca’s pancake areolas, babbling, “the breast is best,” while little man swung like tit tassels on a burlesque dancer, ferociously latched to Francesca’s Nat Geo nips, sucking away at nothing. Francesca would get little man into a football hold, maybe a cradle, or some boob feeding hold she learned about at the pre-natal classes I skipped, then begin to rip this woman’s hair out, bash her head into the linoleum floor, then stand over her triumphantly as her dogmatic ideas about breast feeding and other people’s babies needs, and how to be a mother spilled out onto the maternity ward floor.
Francesca looked around, fresh from the kill, “Don’t tell me I am a bad mom.”
I looked at my son. He had just witnessed, for the first time, his mother’s terrifying power.
“Son, this is why.” We shared a look of understanding and he lolled his head back in awe – a little afraid; a lot in love – just like his dad.
“Trevor. Get the juice. My boobs hurt. He sucks real hard. Fuck this bitch.”
We were “supplementing,” which, of course, is a euphuism for dosing our newborn son with formula. When you go to these pre-natal classes and read the online holier than thou, I am super mom because I went all natural and my baby won’t be all fucked up mommy yenta blogs, they make you feel like giving your baby formula is akin to a night of 151 shots and lines of cocaine.
Well, whatever makes you happy and your choices are your own, but Francesca and I knew, instinctively as parents, that our boy was not going to “get all the nourishment he needs” from a piss drop of colostrum.
And we are breastfeeding and he loves his mom’s milk, but seriously, I think I could warm up a Wendy’s Frostie, put a straw in his face and he wouldn’t get nipple confusion and then he would suck it down. However, a few hours after flying down the birth canal, he was fucking hungry. He wanted to gorge himself with food, take a dump, and pass out.
While the other babies on the ward were getting all jaundiced, dehydrated, and generally pissed at the world, way, way too early in their lives, our little guy was happy and hydrated and Francesca and I could actually enjoy this holy shit, this is fucking awesome, oh my god I am so fucking happy, and nothing else matters, moment. That won’t last. We know.
Hours earlier, there was a silent moment, a calm in the eye of the coming storm of pushing pain, and first screams, and shit filled diapers, and everything else unknown, when I stared into my wife’s eyes, held her hand, and was reminded of the impermanence of everything.
In that moment, surrounded by the expectant joy of bringing a new life into the world, I knew, that one day, if we were lucky, we would again be in a hospital, holding each other’s hands as one us died.
This is how this goes. We wouldn’t be any different. Nor would my son. He would have to learn that moments come and then they go. So does life and learning about this reality would be hard and painful and I wouldn’t be able to fully explain to him that it would be okay. And yet, an acceptance of life as it is warmed me and assured me, that even if life consisted of just this single moment, right here with Francesca, while this baby dove to join us, then the rest is worth it, whatever it brings.
An hour later, my son was born. The molecules inside my body magnetically aligned towards a happiness, a genuine sense of contentedness that is with me forever. I know shitty things await. I do. I have seen too many fucked up things in my own life to think that simply because I have a son that the natural ups and downs, the wavelengths of life stop just for me. Nonetheless, literally, as I held a new life in its first few seconds, my own life seemed so manageable, so purposeful, and so fucking worth it.
The wish for more ceased as his life began. And that won’t change.
In the last week, I can’t tell you how many parents have said, “well enjoy it now because it doesn’t last.” And they seem to hint at how it all changes and gets worse. I want to tell them to fuck themselves. Really fuck off. Don’t tell me that getting up in the middle of night, a sick baby, the talking back, choosing the right school, paying for university, etc, is soo fucking hard that it makes life miserable. You are miserable. Not life. And for sure, life is difficult, but, really…
They don’t know that I operate on a sense of relativity that is much different than theirs. The only “worse” that could possibly await me is that if either Francesca or my child left me before it was time. That would break me. I know. But why worry about that until it happens.
The rest is life and totally doable and off the charts the fun. If you let it be that way. I have been educated enough in the worse of life to know that it isn’t that bad.
The Beaver, my good friend from New Hampshire, famously proclaimed, “we aren’t here for a long time; we are here for a good time.”
He is right.
So get your formula, or whatever it is that makes you happy, and enjoy it. Take a big, satisfying, pamper filling shit on the lactation consultants and anyone else who thinks they know best, and smile gleefully, as you fall asleep, nestled up in the warmth this world has to offer.
Fat people – I am talking morbidly obese, legs like stacks of glazed donuts, holy shit don’t eat within a 100 yards of me because your contagious chicken wing gobbling sadness will ruin my meal – scramble my brain. They make me really sad, nearly on par with people who maniacally play slot machines, live in Connecticut, or collect miniature figurines then incarcerate their porcelain spirits in glass cabinets. Fat people confound my moral compass, which I built myself out of esoteric trinkets and doodads, some woven dryer lint, and a proprietary blend of faith and distrust in the human spirit.
Instinctually, I want to make fun of fat people because they fall, heavily, (get it? Because they are fat, they fall harder than those with normal BMI’s) into that broad category of everything that should be viciously lampooned. And yet, I don’t, or, I try not to because making fun of fat people seems like excessive piling on. (get it? Piling on? You know they way fat people pile on the pounds and the gravy and cheese curds on a hot steaming plate of poutine.) Making fun of fat people is too easy and therefore, not that funny or creative, and all the jokes end with the “you are fat” punch line that points out the obvious. And so the creative energy falls fat, I mean flat, and simply hurts people in the silent way that feels like emotional cholesterol clogging up their self-esteem.
This is why I avert my eyes, stare at the ground, and push the cart past the feeding trough at the local Costco. I’d rather not witness the sad. As if navigating through Costco on a Saturday morning doesn’t fray my fragile nervous system enough, Costco insidiously serves up a gauntlet of fried grease and high fructose depression on paper trays to top off the Costco experience. There are only a few things more horrifying to me than watching a triple gulleted family have “a little treat” after an exhausting trek through Costco, where they blocked the traveling lanes like snowplows during a storm. And yet, every fucking time, some fat mom is teaching her fat daughter how to go down on hot-dogs as I push my fucking enormous cart of enormous shit through that enormous building full of enormous hot dog blowing fat fucks.
I swallow the vomit in my mouth, hand the fatty receipt guardian my receipt, and roll my cart into the freedom of the Costco parking lot, then drive away from that horror house of basic human necessities that I will write about in greater detail when the nausea subsides. I came here to write about my conflicted attitude towards fat people, so I can’t let Costco do what it does best, and distract me from my purpose so much so that this piece of writing is teeming with a bunch of industrial sized descriptions of shit I never intended to explain.
I came here to write about fat people; I am going home with fat people. Barf. I mean, how does sex even work? Are there gunt jacks available for intercourse? Do these systems run on hydraulics or pneumatics? Are some integrated into lingerie? Are there environmentally friendly models that run on expended cooking grease? Should I create one? Trevor Charles, inventor of the gunt-jack. So many questions and possibilities. Barf. Stay focused.
The truth is that everyone is fat to varying degrees of personal displeasure depending on your circumstance, genes, self-control, and degree of vanity. If you are psychotically fit, then you are just as much of a lunatic as the fat shit who has to be craned out of his house. And if you are naturally trim and attractive, then everyone fucking hates you and fuck your “oh I just run a little” self. But if you are like me, and sometimes get fatter than you would like because you love to eat and drink and have fun and not give a flying fuck about consequences until its too late and your waistline is bubbling over your belt like melted cheese on a bowl of French onion soup, then please don’t get offended by the shit I write. Or fuck off, take a joke like a big boy. Or perhaps that ugly, “hey I understand” feeling of empathy and personal disgust will motivate you to lose a little or a lot of chub, the way it did when one of my good friends complimented me on my man boobs and asked if was planning on helping with the breastfeeding.
Outwardly I laughed, “ha, ha, very funny” and then cried inside, big cholesterol filled tears of shame.
I turned to my wife, “Do I have man-boobs?”
“Yes, honey,” she said with such empathy, as if she were telling me that the doctor called and I have the ball or ass cancer.
In an incredible act delusional body dysmorphia, I thought, “I couldn’t possibly be that bad” and sincerely believed that three months of boxed wined, inertia, and not giving a fuck would lead to a moderately physically fit and fuckable body that would be easily transformable with a touch of work. During that three month stretch of “fuck yeah, I’ll have another beer,” and “my homemade strawberry jams taste so good with gobs of peanut butter,” and “a bag of Cool-Ranch Doritos will take the edge of this hangover” and, the most pride crushing of all, waking up to the shame of an empty ice cream containers, I genuinely thought, “I’ll be fine, I’m fine…”
I wasn’t fine.
I ignored the warning signs. For instance, simply bending over to tie my shoes became problematic. And yet, I brushed it off as merely being inflexible, not the bulbous growth of belly fat that made it hard to reach my toes in a sitting position.
I started heaving myself off the couch, using momentum rather than muscle. I passed this off as getting older. In photos, the double chin was merely a bad angle. I went “casual” – khakis from a previous fat stage, un-tucked shirt, sandals – to a summer wedding because it was going to be hot out, not because I needed to be lubed up with Crisco and shoehorned into my suit pants. I even rationalized away the multiple trips to return a trunk full of empty bottles of beer and wine, thinking, well, it had been a while since I had done this and I should be more diligent in my recycling habits.
The man-booby incident pulled my head out of fat ass of excuses, so I stepped on the scale and had my “this is fucking impossible” meltdown. Two hundred and fifty-five fucking pounds. I started doing some conversions. I could be measured in tons. 1/8 ton to be exact. Then I realized I only had 45 lbs to go before I outweighed the scale’s own usefulness. It was a private moment of total humiliation that stung infinitely more than any man boob comment from friends.
And then it got worse. I did the “am I an un-fuckable middle aged fat fuck test?” in which a man holds his head straight, then measures the angle of how far from a perpendicular axis he must tilt his spine in order to see the entirety of his own penis. If the angle degree is greater than your age, then you are disgusting.
I was beyond gross.
Then, I turned around and looked at myself naked in the mirror and for the first time in three months I truly saw myself. 33. Fat. The model of the doughy ex-athlete whose atrophied, unused muscles left over from grabbing rebounds were covered in blubber. And those pecks had, in fact, turned into boobs, succulent and supple titties. I belonged at the Costco feed trough, sucking off a hot dog and washing it down with some frozen chemical white jizz in a sugar cone. Fuck me.
But no one will.
And then came the piling on from the friends. I mercilessly make fun of my friends for everything to the point that I am actually surprised I have any friends at all. But I do, and holy shit, once the man-boob door was kicked open, they all came running through, taking shot after shot of gleeful payback for all those times I blasted them with ridicule, which draws its potency from being rooted in just enough truth to make that shit really hurt. For example, last night I lampooned my best friend and his wife who are thinking of getting pregnant, but are having trouble quitting smoking. I proclaimed that I would not help raise their retarded baby because they couldn’t stop ripping butts, then pantomimed a scene between myself and their future retarded baby who wanted to play catch with me, complete with stereotypical retard voices and all.
Needless to say, I had it coming to me and I knew it. However, they were kicking an already broken man.
I think one of my friend’s wives saw through my “I don’t care,” façade and took in the depth of my shame and sadness. She tried to stop her husband’s attacks, “Oh come on; that’s not nice.”
“Oh fuck him. Besides, I will be in his head and he will go get in shape because of this… this is what he always does. Trevor grows man tits; we make fun of him. He goes and works out, then loses them. So fuck him; I am actually helping him.”
And he was right. For the last five weeks, I have been at the gym, on the elliptical, flopping my man titties around until they won’t flop anymore. And every single one of my friend’s comments are right there in my head, urging me on. I am fueled by pure hate and vanity.
I would love to get all self-righteous and say it is about being healthy and living a sustainable life, blah, bloopity blah.
This is about man tits.
by Trevor Charles
Because he is deaf in one ear, when you talk to Frank, he leans forward, his good ear tuned into the conversation like a satellite dish, creating the effect that what you say matters and that he is desperately trying to sop up all your words as though they were last morsels of his wife’s Mac and Cheese, Hamburg Salsa Casserole, which tastes like America, with subtle hints of illegal alien that are best brought forward in the dish when paired with Sam Adams Summer Ale and 34 bong rips.
It is the truth and it is delicious. And so is any conversation with Frank.
Unsurprisingly, being deaf in one ear has taught Frank to listen in ways that most people never learn. Because he listens so well, talking to Frankie taps me into an intangible sense of being alive and an appreciation for the moment because being there to experience it is good and enough. I am not alone. People come from far and wide to sit in a chair next to Frank and be reminded to go fuck yourself if you can’t revel in the simple gift of being alive. He is that frank.
“Seriously, guy. Fuck off,” Frank say as he exhales a plume Camel Light smoke, and laughs, that Lollipop Guild laugh of his.
I take his words seriously because he is an authority, at least for me, on living and dying. In 34 years, Frankie has done some hard living, died twice, and is around to remind his friends of what matters and what doesn’t.
For example, it doesn’t matter that Frank and I were not friends in high school and I can I barely remember him. I have a vague memory of a short blonde kid in a Grateful Dead tie-dye, hanging out with the other druggies near the Vocational Building in between classes at Pinkerton Academy. I had no beef with him or his degenerate friends, but I would walk past, giving them no attention as I hurried off to the next class. I didn’t have time to skip class to analyze an Allman Brothers’ concert nor the intricacies of an acid trip. I was way better than Frank, and everyone else that I had mindlessly three hole punched and snapped shut in a binder that kept high school clean and organized for me.
Frank didn’t keep a binder in high school. It is awfully hard to keep everything straight when classes and people melt and morph into one another during a kaleidoscopic trip through 6 periods and a lunch. Nonetheless, he categorized me the same way I did to him. In his mind, you could me find in the file folder labeled, “phony piece of shit” because from time to time, I would change out of my prep/jock gear and wear Birkenstocks and a Grateful Dead t-shirt to school to let it be known that I listened to “Uncle John’s Band” and that made me electric and interesting.
Frank didn’t think so.
He later told me how pissed he was that I wore a Grateful Dead shirt. Bear in mind, we were in high school, so most of our thinking was as irrational as the importance we placed on what to wear to school that day. Nonetheless, he felt like I was a preppie jock, falsely masquerading in a music and drug culture that was his and I was trampling on the one identity he hung onto. After all, Frank was really into music, and really into drugs. I owned a shirt and a few CD’s.
Because he hated me and I never acknowledged his existence, we never spoke in high school. I learned all this later, when, by some karmic quarter-life crisis clusterfuck we became friends during that early twenties rite of passage when you circle back to living in your childhood room because, despite being absolutely sure are you an adult; you aren’t. It is too expensive to be an adult, and besides, it is hard to be something you don’t really want to be. To escape my parent’s house and looming adulthood, I spent most of my post-work afternoons getting stoned and listening to the Grateful Dead in Frank’s apartment. In this way, I earned some credibility in Frank’s eyes, and we made up for all the conversations we never had in high school.
I began to understand what I couldn’t in high school. He taught me why a normal kid burns away a life, or tries to at least. I learned that Frank’s sister had brain tumors and for years was in and out of hospitals, trying not to die and that his parents had no choice but to dump all of their attention, money, and love into his sister during Frank’s formative years when all kids, brain tumors or not, need to know they matter.
“Yeah guy, I was like a 90’s student up until that shit happened. I loved school.” Frank says, as he exhales, and leans back into his throne, the right hand slot on the green sofa in his living room where you can find him 94% of the time.
He starts to break up weed into a little dish, and he continues on, “Well, what the fuck? Who was going to take me to baseball? What could my parents do? They were always at the hospital. Or sleeping. Or trying to make money to keep us afloat. Fuck college; I knew my parents had spent everything on my sister. They were thrilled I wasn’t dying and not causing too much trouble, ya know? They didn’t have time for me. I don’t blame them; it just was. But I can’t say I felt like anything I did mattered, because, to me, it didn’t, so I stopped caring.”
And so Frank drifted through high school, without a care in the world beyond getting a bag of weed, or whatever was available, and burning out the school day, and all days, until it was over. Unlike me, he didn’t believe that life would be different than what he had seen, or that there would be more if you got A’s. But during high school my parents weren’t trying to stave off my sister’s death. They had time to convince me I was right and proofread all my papers and give me the attention every high school kid – fuck it – person, craves.
Frank wanted some attention too. Because he is smart and observant, he quickly figured out what he needed to do in order to get his parents to look his way. So he tried to die, just like his sister. Back then, he was no different than he is now, if he puts his mind to something, it happens.
I see Franks walking like doped-up zombies through every high school I have taught in. I spend a lot of time talking to them, but more time listening, the way Frank taught me how. And when I listen, I hear Frank’s story replayed, with subtle plot differentiations here and there, but the Frank story sticks to its basic narrative trajectory, as if governed by gravity.
Here is how it goes. After 1.2 high school classes, a smart kid like Frank figures out that most of high school is total bullshit. A bunch of well-intentioned teachers try to convince him otherwise, but he has a 15 year old’s thick skull and the truth working against those pleas, so why not roast a fat one before it starts to make the whole experience a little funny while he sits in those uncomfortable chairs, trying to learn Geometry. And his apathy towards school, and life really, is boxed in by high walls built out of fucked up shit way beyond a 15 year old’s control, like a sister with tumors, or an abusive father, or a mother in jail, or whatever mind-bogglingly tragic shit kids have told me about over the years.
And when the Franks finish telling me what their walls are made out of, then I have to tell them, “it is not your fault” over and over again, like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, god-willing, without the hugging and the crying and the weird, but what the fuck else is there to tell the Franks other than you did nothing to deserve this role of fate’s dice.
“So why I do I have to pay the price?” They ask.
“Fuck me if I know. I am not Jesus.”
I’ve found a good f-bomb and a weird joke go a long way in diffusing tragic moments when the truth is fixed and there is no good advice to give.
“Na, really, I don’t know.” And after telling the kid the truth – that I have no fucking idea why shit happens, sometimes I have a moment of recognition of just how fucked the kid is, and I look at him, and see that he realizes it too. In these moments, saying nothing is better than saying something stupid like, “well, things happen for reason.”
Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. Life has taught me that they do. But it has also taught me that in those moments of despair and helplessness, hearing “shit happens for reason,” from a person who can’t possibly experience the shit that is happening to you, right fucking now, is the last thing you want to hear.
More than anything, a Frank wants someone to lean in, turn a good ear, and listen. Maybe that’s the reason Frank is deaf in one ear.
So I shut up, or mutter some shits and fucks of solidarity. But I don’t, like I stupidly used to do, say “I get it,” to a Frank because it is impossible to understand, precisely, what another human being is going through at any given point, no matter how much you want to wrap them in your heart. You don’t get it. You can’t. So don’t say you do.
The conversation with a high school Frank ends with something completely lofty and useless for the kid, like, “Well this sucks. It isn’t your fault. But you can control what happens next.” An idea I would like to believe, but is too often undermined by the existence of random shitty things that happen to anyone, at anytime for no fucking reason at all.
Sometimes conversations with Franks end on horribly depressing and unfulfilling notes because we both understand that no matter was said, no matter what the repercussions, or how much help is offered to him, Frank’s life is his own and he will have to learn his lesson by living them.
Frank, like most intelligent people, is a stubborn fuck who has to learn everything for himself. And If I had pulled him aside after a class in which his eyes balls were rolling in his sockets like the Price is Right wheel for 45 minutes, and desperately tried to explain to him that “dropping acid at 7:00 am before high school starts is going to fuck you up, like today, and the rest of your life.” He wouldn’t believe me until he fucked it up for himself.
And that is what Frank did. He got fucked up. Bad.
After Frank stumbled his way to a high school diploma, he took the job that is available to every next to unemployable 17-year old in New Hampshire. He started roofing. Without having to waste his time in high school, he could work a 60-hour week, humping shingles up and down ladders. Those paychecks made the hyperbolic stashes of drugs Frank daydreamed about in high school, a reality that he could buy on the streets of Lawrence.
Way lead onto way, and Frank was blowing bags of heroin, until the number of bags he needed to get off outweighed his paycheck, and he walked, dope-sick, into a darkness only a junkie could describe.
From time to time he does. And when Frank reaches into his darkness and pulls out a tale from his past, I sit, spellbound by the humility and eloquence with which he tells a story that is only believable because he is telling it. Frank has no reason to lie, or exaggerate for effect. The truth is haunting beyond plausibility.
I am not sure which is more horrifying.
The gruesome tale of the when he drank himself to death and hit a .36 blood alcohol level before his heart stopped, and he had to be zapped with a defibrillator to get his heart beating again.
Or the morning Frank woke up with blood dried like a frozen stream, running from his nose to his belly button and a one inch hole that he had burned in his own thigh by the lit cigarette he was holding in his hands when slipped into the coma of a heroin overdose and had a stroke at the age of 20.
Whenever Frankie finishes a story, I say, “No really, dude, how the fuck are you alive? You should be dead.”
“Well technically, I died twice already. But I was the one dying, so I don’t remember. My parents had to tell me about it.” He says with smirk.
His stories are terrifying, but nothing is scarier than how easily he slipped from a high school kid with a load of brains, but a heavier load of family burden, to a junkie, dancing recklessly to the Grateful Dead, on a ledge of life and death.
Not enough, I say what everyone who loves Frank feels when we talk to him.
“I am glad you didn’t die.”
“No shit guy,” with an exhale of smoke, “no shit.”
And Because Frank isn’t dead, and neither are we, every July, our rag-tag family of friends, make the pilgrimage to the banks of the Androscoggin River in Mollidgewock State Park, a full two hours deeper into the New Hampshire woods than any Connecticut tourist would ever dare go, beyond cell phone towers and the comfort of flushing toilets. It anchors our summers and we try to schedule weddings and births around it.
It is called, “Frank Fest.”
It is a down and dirty, pure “oh yeah guy” New Hampshire celebration of living free and not being dead. At least, not yet. While we are all there for Frank, in reality, we are there to enjoy the lessons about friendship, simplicity, and redemption that Frank’s life symbolizes. That’s why we keep coming back.
It is a tradition Frank’s family began when he was a boy, before all the random shitty things happened, at a time when life was as tranquil as the water in the morning. Over the years, Frank Fest has taken a life of its own, and each year 30 or more of Frank’s friends assemble to be alive together, talking and listening to each other’s stories because, really, they remind us of how wonderful it is to just be there to hear them.
I could on and on, and show you how Frank emerges from the bottom of his life relatively clean with just enough grit in his soul to make him real. I could tell you how he makes himself into the man I know, and love, and the man I know all of you would respect.
There is so much about his life that is interesting and useful for others to hear, but it is his life and he should tell it.
He recently started writing, trying to capture his stories, and maybe, in the process rid himself of some of the weight of his past. I am not sure what motivated him to do this, but I don’t care because I think it is pretty fucking cool, inspiring really, that a 34 year old man, who barely passed his English classes in high school, and never went to college, has the courage to put his past out there, and own it, without excuse, or the fear of shame.
But he is Frank like that.
He has a hell of a story to tell and the natural ability to tell it.
We hope you enjoy.
The Top of the Slide
by Frank William Naylor
Levon Helm, the recently deceased drummer for The Band, wasn’t kidding when he said, “If God made a better drug than heroin, then he kept it for himself.”
I would know because the day I first experimented with heroin is etched in my mind like the grooves in a rock caused by running water.
Growing up, I was your average middle class, white kid, whose parents strived to give him everything they didn’t have. Believe me when I say, they gave me more than I deserved. School was never a problem for me. I got straight A’s, was liked by peers and whatever else the reports cards said about me. The world was whatever I wanted it to be, until doubt crept in when I reached high school.
This period was tough for me to figure out who I was. All I knew was that I was a midget compared to everybody else. I didn’t break 5 feet until my junior year. I spoke with a lisp and I was left to deal with a not so pleasant legacy that my sister left behind. (Not her fault, but that is a story for another time) The feeling of not being enough began to make me overcompensate in other areas. It seemed to bring my Napoleon complex to the surface. If you could do it, then I could do it better. Unfortunately, the area I chose to surpass every one in was drug use.
Flash-forward to the summer after my high school graduation. I am 17 year old narcotics dumpster. I use anything I can get my hands on - weed, cocaine, opium, special K, (a horse tranquilizer) ecstasy, LSD, Mushrooms, any prescription I found to be worth my time, booze, crystal meth, crack, nitrous – fuck it. It was all fun to me. Sadly, I took pleasure in being able to consume more of anything, than anyone. Oddly enough, heroin still scared me.
That summer I took a job as a roofer with a friend of mine’s husband. I showed up on my first day and my boss told me, “Willie, follow in your car and Burnah is gonna ride with you!”
Burnah happened to be a schoolmate’s older brother who I had only heard about, but never met. As he sat in the passenger seat of my newly leased 1995 Ford Probe, the entire car sank to the left like a see saw you rode with an overweight relative as a child. This kid was intimidating, 6’ 2”, 250 pounds.
The next thing I noticed was Burnah’s “track marks.” Each arm, from shoulder to wrist, had hardened veins, scars and scabs. They looked like road maps with cigarette burns, and tears all over them. It wasn’t hard to figure out why they called this kid “Burnah.” Back then, I didn’t know that, minus the size and track marks, I was riding next to a picture of myself in 2 years.
We started out of the parking lot and headed for the job in Methuen, MA. Burnah wasn’t shy about his drug abuse, and neither was I. I had already been to rehab, had my stomach pumped twice, and put in the hospital on a bad LSD trip. Not even 10 minutes into the ride, Burnah informed me that my lunch-break would be spent taking him to Lawrence, to score some cocaine and smack.
For the next month or so, these trips to Lawrence to buy drugs become routine. Depending on his cash flow, he would score drugs before and after work. Despite having my nose rubbed in it, my fear of dope held strong but I frequently had him grab me some rock or blow because at least it wasn’t heroin. And I had rationalized that I wasn’t fucking crazy like him, so a little coke or crack would be fine.
We would pull into back alleys and walk into houses that in any respectable neighborhood would be condemned or lit on fire by hardworking people who were sick of seeing their property value having its blood sucked by these whore housing, junky feeding, shitholes created by Beelzebub himself. Take what you see in the movies and make it worse and real.
All of them were just a flophouse – two to three bedroom apartments with shit-stained, vomit smelling, puss covered mattresses covered in herpes riddled skanks and scab covered junkies.
These nasty places always had the best shit. If we were in a rush, we could always get equally good stuff from a “drive through.” I’m not talking about Wendy’s or McDonald’s. Drug dealing is a business and the people who do it, do it well. If you knew the area, and Burnah did, you could drive down certain streets, look for the Puerto Rican or black kid, wallpapered in his FUBU clothing, wearing his fence climbers, standing in front of his pathetically supped up, primer gray, 1981 Toyota Supra, or Honda Civic. While passing by him, you roll down your window, politely tell the immigrant, what you wanted and then make a slow swoop around the block. Upon your return, standing in his place would be completely new, overdressed minority with your package. You barely had to slow down to make the exchange. It was genius enough for the cops to never catch up with the deals.
If you’ve never been to Lawrence, the streets look like the face of the moon. There are potholes the size of craters that would swallow up a car like a tramp stamped junky swallowing a load for her fix. We couldn’t get 3 blocks down these streets without Burnah starting to fix-up.
I watched him.
Seeing Burnah trying to spike his hardened veins on these bumpy roads was like watching a rescue worker at ground zero trying to jack hammer through the rubble for survivors. It was tough to watch and you couldn’t imagine it was possible, but he always succeeded. This should have re-instilled my fear of the Dragon, but for some reason, coupled with the everyday wallet draining field trips, I was beginning to wonder what felt so good that it would pull him back here every day like the earth’s orbit of the sun.
It wasn’t long before curiosity killed my cat. One day after a brutal 10 hours of roofing, we made our usual trek to Lawrence. On the way, I decided I would grab a half-ounce of blow for myself to get me through the weekend. An 1/8-ounce can be split between 3-6 guys in an evening, so evidently I was planning on having myself quite the party. We stopped at one of our usual flophouses to see one of our more dependable hook-ups, named “Goyo.” Goyo was a user/dealer and not like the strictly business oriented pimps you would meet at the drive throughs. However, Goyo’s mind set was the same. He knew that his livelihood depended on his ability to provide a quality product on a professional and convenient level.
For some reason, on the ride over, I had calculated the cash left over after splurging for the nose candy. I decided to finally to find out what “chasing the dragon” was all about. The “dragon” is your first heroin high. You chase it because your tolerance builds so quickly and you will never achieve that original feeling again, something I wish I knew then, but doubt the knowledge would have stopped me.
I bought my first 5 dime bags then. My intent was to wait for the privacy of my own home and experiment with speed balling. This is when you piggy back the use of cocaine or speed with heroin or morphine.
On the ride home, the procedure took its natural course of me watching Burnah’s syringe filled with 90% pure dope, kaleidoscope with the tan colored cooked dope, water, and blood. This happens because, when you inject such high quality smack into your veins, you should always back feed a little of your own blood into the syringe before compressing the plunger and pounding the sweet Jesus Juice into your body to help ease the shock to your cardiovascular and nervous system. After watching his eyes roll back in his head and his body look like it was about to seizure, he emerged from his coma, looking like the hand of God had just reached down from the sky and given him a hand-job.
When he was able to speak again he turned to me and said, “Go ahead, take her for a ride and let me know what you think.” In my mind I was saying, “Wait til you get home. You are driving down an interstate.”
Burnah cut me a straw, and handed me 1 of my bags.
I said, “I am driving.”
“So, I’ll Hold the wheel!”
I remember feeling like a child on a playground. I was standing at the top of a slide for the first time and weighing the feeling of being on top of the world against my fear of the slide down.
Should I do it? Is it safer to climb back down?
Fuck it. I’m gonna do it.
I tore into the bag with my teeth, buried the straw in the bag, plunged the straw up my nose, blocked the other nostril, and then inhaled like a child in the throws of an asthma attack who thought he was breathing his last breath. Within seconds I felt the heroin take hold. My body went numb, my mind left my body, and my toes curled up like a Danish.
Next thing I knew, my entire upper body was out the driver’s side window on 93 North and I was retching violently all over the side of my own car while in the slow lane in rush hour traffic. I’m not really sure how long it lasted but when it was all over and I sat back in my seat, grabbed the wheel, and I was sure that having my first born, or playing a round of golf with Jesus, would never match euphoric cocktail of emotion of feeling, I experienced in that moment.
My fear of heroin was gone and I plunged down the slide, falling weightlessly away from the life I had known.
Real me, not Trevor, is giving the commencement speech for the graduating seniors at the high school where I teach grade 11 and 12 English. Contrary to what Trevor writes, I really like the kids I teach and want to do right by them on their graduation day.
The class of 2012 proves that the 2008, MIT study, entitled, “Mental Retardation and the Common High School Student,” conducted by former Asian high school valedictorians in their 18th year of a Psych/Education double-doctorate at Harvard, was totally wrong in its conclusion that all high school students are functionally useless in modern society.
There are two, maybe three students in this class capable of making meaningful contributions to the improvement of the human condition. The rest got high C’s because we needed to pass them and “slightly better than average” is a nice way of saying fucking lazy, or fucking stupid, without offending the parents, and triggering a parent-teacher interview.
I struggled for a long time with writing the speech because I had to get past the question of whether or not a high school graduation matters. I am still not sure, but, at the very least a high school graduation is signpost of time passing. A cairn on the hike up Mt. Washington, if you will, or some cheesy “journey/quest” metaphor that gets tossed around graduations like the class blow-job Queen at the after party.
Anyway fuck it. For a bunch of young people who I really care about, high school is over, and that is sad and euphoric all at once. So here’s to those drafts of ourselves we drew in high school and the men and women we became.
I really hope this doesn’t suck.
Commencement, July 15, 2012
Let’s get to it. Hasn’t high school dragged on long enough?
Writing this speech forced me to think about what I was like in high school. So, for all the people not graduating today, try to remember yourself at your high school graduation, what you were like, what you cared about, how much you have changed, and how much you are exactly the same.
Here is what I remember most about high school – it was all about me. I wanted to do this. I wanted to do that. Every sentence of my inner monologue began with, “I.”
I was selfish. And even now, I struggle with selfishness, and so do you, and so does everyone in this room. If they don’t admit that then they are lying to you.
It doesn’t mean we are terrible self-centered people – some of us are – but what I want to suggest to you is that it is fundamentally important to recognize the monster of selfishness that lives within us and figure out what that monster looks like and how it acts. And most importantly, how it affects other people and ourselves.
That is what I want to talk you about today, and I am talking to you guys graduating today, not your parents, or anyone else looking on.
I want to talk to you about living outside yourself and taming that selfish monster, so you can clearly see all the good that lies beyond you.
So, while I speak here, I know that the selfish monster inside you is saying, we got places to be, Wasaga Beach (Hampton Beach of Ontario, fyi), let’s get out of here; Mr. Charles, shut it.”
I get it. I do.
But listen because one of the first steps first towards taming the monster is learning how to listen. Learning how to be present in life, focusing your ears and eyes on what is happening now. Not looking forward or backward, but looking at the moment, right here, and learning to appreciate how beautiful it is.
I’ve had a few experiences that helped me learn about being present and listening.
Mind you, I didn’t “get” these lessons as they were happening. It was kind of like that moment in class you are like “oh that is a cool idea, I should totally do that!” And then you walk out and do the exact opposite of whatever lesson you thought was so great.
The first lesson happened in the summer after 9thgrade. My parents saved their money and to take my sister and me on a trip to Europe. It was a huge deal because our family was not the type of family who went, “yachting and then maybe a little jaunt over to Europe, I don’t know, hhahaahaha (rich people laugh).”
We weren’t those people.
Early in the summer, my parents, bursting with pride and excitement, surprised my sister and me and told us, “We are going to Europe in August!”
And instead of jumping with appreciative joy, I responded, “well when?”
“The middle of August.”
“No. That doesn’t work for me.”
You see, I was playing in a summer league and that would be play-off time and heaven forbid I miss a summer league play-off game in favor of going to London, Paris, and Rome with my family. My team needed me. I was important.
But because I was 15, and didn’t have a choice, by mid-August, I was sulking around the streets of London, saying, “yeah whatever, London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Shakespeare’s grave, who cares?” The selfish monster in me wanted to be back home, playing basketball in the most important summer league games imaginable. By the time we left London, my parents were ready to stick my severed head on London Bridge as warning to all selfish little brats.
I was living inside my selfish little world, not present in the beautiful world as it was happening, and therefore missing the entire point. In Paris, my parents dragged me to Saint-Chappelle. Saint-Chapelle is this medieval church in the middle of Paris, with amazing stained glass windows. I remember standing in the middle of it, the light twinkling in blues and reds, and something happened.
I had this AH-HA moment, but no understanding of it. I knew it was meaningful, but couldn’t figure out why. I could feel it. I felt, small, but not vulnerable, humbled because I recognized I was part of a world that created something as beautiful as that moment.
I didn’t get it then, but later on I began to figure it out. Those stained glass windows and the soaring spires of the church took time to build. And normal men and women built it. And that is what I focused on. I imagined these normal working people pulling rocks out of the earth, chiseling each stone into a workable form, then building this huge church in the name of a God, or whatever motivated them. I could feel the triumph of what happens when people get beyond themselves and work for greater purposes than their own selfish desires.
There is real beauty out there, breathtaking beauty, when you look at the world, and all things in it, with eyes that aren’t your own. There is something beautiful about feeling small, particularly in the presence of this massive collaborative effort that is life.
It took getting bonked over the head by the beauty of this church to begin to see what mattered. That it was about finding your own cause, finding your own church to build and then doing the work, doing the work that isn’t sexy or glamorous. And that the work isn’t an individual pursuit, but a mosaic of mutual effort. No single person builds a church. It takes an army of people – artists, masons, ditch diggers, architects, pursuing their passions, doing work together, to build something inspiring and so beautiful that its light pierces through hard walls of adolescent selfishness.
And so that’s what you do. You get up and go to work and start building a life that contributes to a much larger monument to the people you love and things you care about. You find out what inspires you and get involved, like really involved, remembering everything is bigger than you, but your contribution is important.
Maybe you do it for your kids, your wife, your best friend, your God, your brothers, or strangers you’ll never meet. But do it. And do it well.
Once that selfish monster isn’t yanking you around from place to place, then you can see you aren’t above or beneath any task, because it isn’t about you. Chiseling rocks isn’t glamorous, but look what it led to… that church and for me that important realization that it doesn’t matter whether your life is spent welcoming people to Wal-Mart or playing in the NHL because work, when done in the service of others, becomes beautiful and worthy of admiration.
So try, as best you can to do that, and this world, this life becomes beautiful.
Including, your own.
Now, that’s what is meaningful to me. That’s the way I see it. But, that was my experience, not yours. And those were my lessons and not yours.
And it is your experience and your learning that matters to you right now. I get it.
And so, in the twilight of high school, I want to address the struggle you might face as move forward and seek out your own experiences and try to find answers to the questions you have. I want to do this because very little of my school experience taught me about the struggle to find meaning and purpose.
I remember being 23, just graduated from Middlebury, had a great job, but was totally depressed because I did all that for what? For this? To go to a job? Get a car? Buy a house? Get married? Have some kids? Then die.
Back then it didn’t seem like enough. There had to be more.
I had been riding on that educational escalator, you know, the one you have been riding along from grade 1 to 12, form class to class, from game to game, and your moving up, but not really walking with your two feet. And all of the sudden, you get dumped off. You were moving the whole time, but were you really walking on your own? For me it happened after college. I was totally lost, like a 6 year old in Mall of America or something. I had done everything right, but was lost, and actually weak, when it came time to walk on my own.
My high school teachers didn’t talk to me about this. My professors skirted the issue of living. It was like hey, write this essay, read this book, do this, do that and magically everything will add up. But it didn’t. No one really wants to talk about uncertainty because it makes a person, well, seem weak and uncertain.
I had all this education but no real understanding of how to actually live. I grasped at phantoms of the person I wanted to be, but struggled to actually hold onto myself.
I was confused.
Life wasn’t like school at all. You could do all your homework, show up everyday, ask a lot questions, but still not get it. It makes you feel pretty stupid sometimes. And so I was stuck, but when I went to look in the back of the book for the answers, it only gave the odds and I had to figure out the rest on my own.
I read a bunch of books, trying to piece it together. And these books, many of you have read, so unknowingly, you have had a glimpse into this time in my life when I was really trying to sort myself out.
I can go down the list of fictional characters that I held my life up against. R.P McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I like that guy. He lived life fully – enjoyed a beer, told authority figures to go screw, inspired people. But he had his brain cut out and died in a looney bin. I don’t want that.
I turned to Santiago, from the Old Man in the Sea. I was jealous of him because he cared so much. All of that effort. To catch a fish? Then he doesn’t get anything for it? Back then, I wish I cared about something so much that I would sacrifice everything for it, even if no one was watching, even if I would get nothing to show for it. But back then the only thing I cared about that much was myself, so it was self-defeating guest that missed the point of living. It turns out I had to come all the way to Canada to find catch my marlin.
Then I looked to Winston Smith and his battle with Big Brother in 1984. The guy figures out, “hey, maybe not everything in this world is what it appears to be. Maybe I should pay more attention to how things work, maybe I should do something.” But when Winston tries, he completely fails. Big Brother beats Winston into loving everything he hates. It seems the consequence of caring is disappointment. That is depressing.
So let’s try not caring about anything.
Enter Merseault, The Stranger, and French Existentialism, which is basically YOLO, screw it. You are gonna die, so live it up. Tell everyone the truth right to their faces. Say and do exactly as you please. Hunt down freedom like it was your last meal. Oh wait, Merseault gets his head cut off in front of a screaming crowd for doing that.
And so. I read this stuff and tried on these characters and their ideas and philosophies like I was kid playing dress up, covering myself in clothes and trying to make them fit so I looked cooler than I felt.
But nothing fit. Underneath all the clothes, I was me and uncertain about everything, except my desire to find myself. I didn’t want to be any of these characters. I wanted to be me and it turns out being myself was the hardest thing in the world to be.
It still is.
And so many times, you guys have asked me, well, what do you believe?
And my honest answer is that every time I think I know something, I live another day, and things change, which is why when you guys asked me to speak, I got worried.
I know the responsibility of commencement speeches, and how I am supposed to get up here and tell you all this meaningful stuff about life as though I had something figured out, like I had had the answers to the evens in back pocket this whole time.
I worried because how could I possible do that for you? Who I am I to tell you what to do, or what to care about, or how to feel? Sure experience has given everyone in the room some insights, but whose to say that those insights are valuable to you?
Those insights aren’t your own.
Here is what I know. The only way I figured out what was important and meaningful in my life was by living my life.
And so you have all had these greats teachers and coaches and there are shelves of book out there, helping you learn, but my argument is that your life is your best teacher. There is no substitute for all the lessons you can learn from your own life.
So learn from your life, but also know that life is a hard teacher and we are often bad students. That selfish monster convinces us that we know all the material, we are always right so why study? You have to study so you can tame that monster. You have to study so you can really enjoy life.
And see beautiful.
Or else when the test comes, you are going to get humiliated. And being humiliated is never fun and always frustrating.
So go learn about life for yourself. Let your life be a classroom. Be a student. Let all sorts of guest speakers in. Learn from the people around you. Go on a bunch of field trips. But get up and go to class and be present in your own life.
Anyway…. I am going stop now, because I feel like I am the person telling you what to do, which is the exact opposite of my point. I can’t tell you what do. You have go do it. You have to engage in that important business of figuring out what matters and what doesn’t.
I could go on and on, and tell you all about life lessons, and “Oh All the Places You’ll Go,” but we both know, any real lesson, you learn on your own by living it.
And so while your high school classes have ended, the most important classes haven’t. Class is in session so I hope you are learning and finding all the answers I couldn’t provide.
It has been an honour to teach you. It has been an honour to share my journey with you.
Godspeed. Good luck. And be well.
Congratulations, Class of 2012.
Two years ago, on Good Friday, I left my wife.
I leashed up my dog, slung the orange backpack of clothes over my shoulder, looked her in the eye and told her I needed to go home and think, or whatever I babbled so I could leave. I gave her an empty hug. Her body convulsed. She begged. I am your wife. I turned my back on her and walked out the door.
For the first time in our relationship, I told her what I wanted.
I got in my car and drove away from a marriage I got into because I was too cowardly to be honest with the people who mattered most in my life. If I told anyone the truth – my family, my friends, and my wife, then shit would change. How do you turn to your wife and say, I know I shouldn’t have married you, but I am trying to make to the best of it – then expect your world to say still? How do you tell your intimate friends, I am not happy here then expect them to stand down? I felt like an enormous dam, holding the force of water back, while I looked at my life there on the dry plain, and I knew if I sprung one leak, one call to a friend, one honest conversation with Emma, I would collapse and the water would rush down, washing everything away.
In time, nature asserts itself despite man’s most elaborate efforts to divert its course. I am not sure why I thought my effort was different.
When I met Emma, I was a mess. I had a broken foot, a dead-end job, terrible depression and a lot of charm. I was abusing weed, popping a pain killer now and then, and living on skittles and Cheetos. I was sad. I had recently graduated from college was buckling under the realization that this, this was it? Nonetheless, thirty pounds overweight, on one leg, I got a wonderful woman’s attention.
I have a way with words, particularly when I want them to be true. Through words and action, I constructed the man she could love and hid the rest of me behind my books, right in between my stash of weed and the truth.
The truth is that I wanted out of the miserable life I was floating through so I latched onto Emma and confused my love for her with the security she provided. She was smart, stable, and would save me from myself. She was my parachute against the forces of gravity that pulled me towards an adult life.
This is what you do. You meet a woman, a doctor, no less. You get married. You buy a house. You have a family. It is good enough for everyone else; it will be good enough for you… jump… everyone is watching. Just jump…you’ll land.
I was too embarrassed to tell the pilot and everyone that I was afraid and to land the plane, put me right the fuck down. Instead, I was a coward. I strapped the parachute to my back, mustered a grin to the people around me, jumped, then silently hid the truth for the seven year descent. Unsurprisingly, the parachute never opened and our life together hit the earth with a tragic thud.
Sadly, it took not loving someone for me to understand what love meant, and yet, even now my understanding is incomplete. I do know that love is an action verb, not a noun. You wake up and love. The person next to you. Those kids in the other room. This world. Your life. Waiting around to feel love is futile because if you love something, you are already doing it before you even have time to question whether or not it is love.
And this is how I knew I didn’t love Emma. I had to remember to do it, like taking vitamins or putting out the trash. It required a discipline I didn’t have.
My motivation to write this is not derived from some cathartic public lashing of myself in order to purge away my feelings of guilt. I will always feel that guilt because it is, ironically, very much a source of my current way of life, and subsequently, my happiness. I live a rather straightforward and honest life these days with a deep sense of self that allows me to write about my shortcomings in personal, and often revealing ways that I hope will be useful for someone else. On a more selfish level, I write about my divorce to remind myself how far I strayed from my core in search of a happiness I falsely believed others could provide. In time, I learned that happiness comes from taking a good hard look within myself in search of the phony stuff that gets in the way of the man I am trying to be. For me, writing is the spotlight I use on my journey into the dark places I used to fear.
Writing about my divorce is important to me because I see so many men living in total fear of their innermost thoughts and I know, through personal experience, how dangerous that fear becomes, particularly when it affects other people’s lives and their own. For me, my silence was the most insidious sin and these days, I am not so quiet. My personal cowardice was merely one slice of the deadly pie my ex-wife and I cooked up and ate for seven years. I will write about the other pieces of that pie, but it is hard and exhausting to accurately portray what happened in ways that are honest and fair to Emma, myself, and our marriage.
Each year, Good Friday will remind me of Emma and the importance of honesty.
I also post my writing on Good. Great. Wonderful. A site with my friends that is, well, something.
When I was kid I used to line up all my stuffed animals for imaginary Wrestlemanias, using my bed as the ring. I had an oversized Winnie the Pooh, so naturally he was Andre the Giant/Big John Stud/or the large wrestler du jour. I was the Ultimate Warrior, circa 1990, the zenith of his coked out crazy shit because it seems I have always gravitated towards mentally unstable, yet fascinating people.
I would stand on my desk, (the top rope of my makeshift ring) gorilla pressing Pooh over my head while he tried to reason with me, “hoo, hoo, wouldn’t you rather some honey?”
Before I dropped Pooh, I would work the crowd of Ewoks and Care Bears, showboating a bit, but Harry the Horse, that sneaky bitch always plotting against me, would smash my kneecap with a tire iron he hid under the ring. Pooh and I crashed to the bed, breaking the frame. Though writhing in pain, I had the warrior spirit in me, so immediately I went for the pin, my other arm slamming out, 1, 2, … oh fuck, he got out. He didn’t get far. (How could he?). Pooh had some fight in him, though. hoo hoo, honey! I propped him up with pillows and finished him off with a series of running clotheslines.
That’s it! It is all over! (I had different announcer voices too.)
I ran around my room, shaking invisible ropes and generally being psychotic.
The years of constant defeat took their toll on Pooh. He never won. It explains his self-deprecating sense of humor and the emotional eating.
My parents had to “speak to me” about my wrestling with the stuffed animals and it was awkward for everyone. As I got older, [I did this right up until I left for college, (peel that onion for a moment)] I had to hide my habit and only slathered myself up in body paint when my parents weren’t home.
Slowly it became evident to me that stuffed animals and wrestling were not exactly socially acceptable and my wrestling escapades crawled into a cave and hibernated in my imagination. While they snoozed, I nourished them with a degree in English, experiments with drugs, several readings of the bible and years of ruminating upon the relationship between sexually confused men and evangelism. And when I re-read that sentence, I began asking the same questions about myself that you are right now.
At 3 am, last Tuesday night, that bear woke up and loomed over Francesca, raging with pent up energy.
“Honey, do you know anyone who can get me a shit load of coke?”
For those of you who don’t personally know me, then you have to understand that professional wrestling isn’t that much of a stretch for me. I am 6’6” 235, plus or minus 10-20 lbs of PB&J sandwiches and soft-serve ice cream, depending on my fickle mood and the time of year. In reality, I am two months of solid steroid use and a raging coke habit away from nailing the physical requirements for professional wrestling. Easy enough.
“Huh?” Francesca mutters, trying to rub the sleep and fear out of her tired eyes.
“Coke! Roids, too. Tons of it!”
“Baby, I haven’t bartended for a while, but I’m sure… WAIT…no…what is wrong with you…we are supposed to have kids.”
“You know some CFL players. They don’t test for that shit, right? It is fucking Canada!”
[The Canadian Football League only began drug testing – for anything – in 2011. And yet, they are slow, small and shitty at football. Doug Flutie is the Joe Montana of Canada. It makes no sense, like everything about the CFL, but getting really drunk makes it endearing.]
Normally when I have a 3 am epiphany, I go to the couch and beat my overactive imagination into submission because I don’t want to bother my wife. She is impossibly beautiful when she sleeps and waking her with my thoughts would be akin to going shotgun fishing in the middle of a Vermont lake as the sun crests over the mountains and Cat Stevens strums “Morning has Broken” at the of a dock.
“Shit I missed again. Here fishy, fishy, fishy…hmm, ain’t biting.” I stammer to myself while I reload.
And on the shores, the lights to cottages come on and faces dart into the windows.
“God damn it Vern. Is that idiot Trevor out there in his canoe again?”
“Ay-yeut,” in thick a northern New England accent, “dat boy high as a woodpecker.”
“Well, I will put on a pot of coffee and call the sheriff.”
I don’t want to be the idiot in Francesca’s somnolent lakeside village, so typically I try to keep quiet but this was important – a divine revelation of sorts.
“Is everything okay?”
“Never been better. Never… Listen, it is time. I have to wrestle.”
“What… now?… wrestle? Oh god, leave me alone. Go take care of yourself on the couch.”
“No. Wrestle. Professionally. Television.”
“Honey, I have wasted so many of my natural gifts. I should have played hockey, not basketball. I should have been an actor, not a teacher. Too many mistakes, but it is okay now. I know my calling. It can’t wait.”
“But what about teaching? I thought…”
“Oh fuck those kids.”
“I got it all worked out.”
I do. I really do. I have been working my character for years, adding little touches here and there as I matured. Cue the organ playing hymnals in terrifying minor chords and the announcer’s voice:
Ladies and Gentlemen, the intercontinental champion of the world….
Evan the Angel.
I step into an arena, dressed in my witch hunting Puritan Garb complete with hat and huge bible (which I use as a weapon), and I am met with a wall of boos and vicious hatred and the adoring cheers of my flock. Without expression, I take in all the sinners living in their filthy disgusting impurity.
I am Evan the Angel. The only way to describe the genesis of my character is to imagine Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, Jimmy Swaggart, David Koresh, Joel Osteen, Jerry Sandusky, Cardinal Bernie Law, and Mitt Romney tugging away at each other’s dongs in a circle jerk in the bottom of some underground gay club in Toronto, vigorously stroking out their self-loathing and repression into a mop bucket of jizz. Sarah Palin then ritualistically ladles that hateful man-serum over her vagina and nine months later, my alter-ego wrestling character, Evan the Angel, is born.
It is really fucked up. What? I had a lot of years to cook this one up. Evan the Angel makes The Undertaker seem flat and normal.
If you have time, I would love to tell you Evan’s back story and I figure if you read beyond the jizz bucket, then you might as well go balls deep with me into this one.
Because abortion was out of the question as was raising Evan as her own, Evan was orphaned by Palin. Thankfully, an erudite and infertile couple from Greenwich, Connecticut picked him up while antiquing in the Berkshires, doused him in over-parenting, dressed him in sailor suits, and dumped him into a new-age Montessori school where he learned that every idea is acceptable and should be explored. He has zero concept of what “no” means.
There have been several parent meetings about Evan’s proclivity for dry humping male students at recess and his casual rubbing of his crotch against them while standing in line for lunch. Evan’s parents blamed the teacher and her pedagogical methods that stifled Evan’s attempts at self expression.
Just before Evan entered the 6th grade, his parents are killed by a drunk driver on the Merritt Parkway while coming home from a Yanni concert at Mohegan Sun.
Evan is once again a child of the state because none of Evan’s parent’s friends or family want responsibility for Evan, even though they write checks for hundreds of thousand of dollars to help kids in need. That philanthropy is a tax write off, besides who really has time to raise a child when the club championship is two months away.
By an act of Providence or Satan (it depends), Evan is adopted by a fervently evangelical couple in Kansas whose teenage daughter mysteriously disappeared some years back. Evan is homeschooled from the 7th to 12th grade by his mother and Jesus. And by the time he unearths the carcass of his half-sister and her unborn fetus while roto-tilling for a new carrot patch, he agrees with Ma and Pa’s decision to smote her life in the name of God’s wrath for getting knocked up by a local farmhand.
In the farmhouse and under God’s watchful gaze, Evan memorized the bible and all other religious texts, so he could vehemently denounced all paths towards God that don’t take the New Testament literally. By the age of 20, he branched away from the local gay hating youth group that stood outside abortion clinics on Friday mornings to throw rocks at rape victims because that group was not serious enough about Jesus’ teachings and God’s love for all His children. Evan yearned for a more stringent interpretation of the Good Book, so he started his own “boys only” youth group called, “Young Life.”
After worship, he liked to have to have the fellas strip down to their underwear and they would spend the rest of the day “wrastling” with each other. Amongst the sweat and the nipples and the youthful chubbies, Evan felt more at home than he ever had in his life. Wrestling was a blessing from God. As with all things he loved, he excelled in the ring and began entering small time wrestling events at local high schools and VFW halls. It was good fun and he got to preach the God Lord’s message to all the fags, Jews, and blacks, and A-rabs in need of redemption. And he got to touch men in a completely healthy and non-sexual setting.
The audiences swooned over his fire and brimstone hate because half of them were just as bigoted and god-fearing as him, while the others believed his antics to be part of an elaborate act. It wasn’t. Evan was as serious as his belief that AIDS is a plague sent by God to kill gays. Evan barnstormed the Mid-West and Southern markets, spreading a religious fervor reminiscent of the Second Great Awakening.
By 24, he had a full on cult following and had never masturbated. Not once. He was ready to explode onto the world-wide professional wrestling scene with his bevy of signature moves – The Rusty Trombone, The Hot Carl, The Boston Pancake – and several other alarming moves that he seemed blissfully unaware that they share names with utterly horrifying homoerotic sexual acts.
“When I get you down and God’s wrath is upon, you won’t be able to escape God’s Rusty Trombone.” Evan delivers these lines with ecclesiastic earnestness because he is cut-off from reality by his cultish entourage. (For Evan, the Rusty Trombone is leg-lock submission hold of sorts that is really unnerving to watch.)
No one ever really wanted to wrestle him, but everyone has a price, and Evan the Angel is a huge draw. Every match is a spectacle. Like religions, he is a money making machine.
Truth be told, I have his whole career trajectory mapped out in a series of notebooks I hide from my wife. He will undoubtedly undergo several death and rebirth sequences, ultimately he will accept his sexuality and renounce God and become a flamboyant gay wrestling character and then finds God again, etc… anyway the possibilities are endless. There are like 9 Wrestlemanias in those notebooks. But this post is giving away too much.
So, Francesca, what do you think?
I wish you let me sleep.
So do I.
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Post Script: I wrote this while listening exclusively to Cat Stevens songs. Don’t question my methods.
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