“Been here before / though there’s something in the air this time…”

I don’t know if your high school experience was like mine, but I often felt unloved, misunderstood, and alien to those around me. I felt like some anomaly in the halls. I wasn’t conventionally attractive, not particularly sharp or acute, and most certainly devoid of athletic ability. I was a picture perfect assemblage of mediocrity. Not ugly enough to be a circus wonder, not quiet enough to be a wallflower, not loud enough to stand out from the throng. I was there. I occupied space.

I waited for it to be over.

I had fantasies, and they varied as I grew. I’d assimilate new information and imagine some new fantasy for myself. I’d be a poet; no, a rock star; no, a novelist; no, a screenwriter; no, a restaurant manager, far away from the rural background of my uninteresting upbringing. I’d be something else, and if not that, I’d be elsewhere. My fantasies were myriad.

But I had one that I kept returning to, and it made no sense. Not to me, for certain, and if I ever shared it I believe it’d have been lost on anyone else, though I never dared. Yes, if I had one fantasy that I could tell you kept bubbling up in my subconscious it would be this:

I wanted to sneak into the high school football field on a random night and take a shit on the fifty yard line.

It’s a mystery even to me: I didn’t care for high school sports, nor did I care for its near inescapable hold on my small Texas town. People loved it, and I felt no animosity towards their attraction to it. I, literally, didn’t want to shit on their dreams. But something in me did.

I didn’t want this fantasy, but I couldn’t rid myself of it. I knew if I did it, it would anger soooooo many people. It would be inconvenient, messy, disappointing, and would likely scar anyone who saw it or heard about it. It would end whatever life I’d eked out for myself, as no one would ever remember me as anything other than “the kid that shit on the 50 yard line.” I’d close myself and try to will it away but it’d keep coming back, often larger than ever.

I kept it to myself, obviously. You can’t bring this sort of thing up in anything resembling casual conversation, and certainly not polite company. I sat with my family and friends, smiling and nodding, and never letting them know that I wanted to shit on the 50 yard line. There were times I even convinced myself I didn’t want it. But, when it got quiet, and the platitudes of camaraderie faded away, I knew it was there, taunting me as my little dark secret.

Then, towards the beginning of my junior year, 28 years ago today, my brother, 13 months older than me, took a shit on the 50 yard line of the football field. The news spread like wildfire, and his life was over. He would always be known as the boy who took a shit on the 50 yard line of the high school football field.

Well, shit. Literally.

Now, even if I wanted to follow through on the disgusting fantasy that I swore up and down that I didn’t want, I couldn’t. Because let’s be honest, you can’t be the second guy in your town to take a shit on the fifty yard line of the high school football field. And to be the second guy in your family to do that? Forget about it! That option is off the table. The shame he brought my family; my mother, my father. I could never revisit that on them.

Now, this fantasy, that I will repeat I never wanted, was stripped from me. This disgusting act that had permeated my fantasies for years was suddenly voided. Return to sender, address unknown. I couldn’t do it. I had to carry on knowing I’d had this demon on my shoulders for so long and could never feed it.

I woke up one morning and realized that the fantasy that had followed me for so long would remain that: a fantasy. I hung it up, and tried to move on as though it had never entered my mind. I’m not the gut who ever entertained the idea of shitting on the 50 yard line of the high school football field. I mean, look at the guy who did! I’m not him, and I would never want to be. That guy was insensitive, and didn’t think of the larger consequences of his actions. What a dick! Fuck that guy.

But can I tell you that sometimes I am secretly jealous of him? That he did the unthinkable thing? And that I hate him for it? It was supposed to be me.

It was supposed to be me.

It’s been 28 years since I first realized I couldn’t ever shit on the 50 yard line of the high school football field. I’ve since become a restaurant manager, far away from the rural background of my uninteresting upbringing. I’m something else, or at least, I’m elsewhere.

But I feel like I can tell you: I still occasionally think about taking that shit on the 50 yard line of the high school football field*.

*This story is completely true, except that whenever I say “take a shit on the 50 yard line of the high school football field” what I really mean is “kill myself”. This is what it’s like to live with depression in the wake of a suicide.

It was supposed to be me.

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Riding the Dragon

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“Somebody leaves, someone arrives/Something is gone, and I’m still alive”

A colleague has passed away. Our contemporaries said someone should write something about it; about him. I didn’t actually like him. We had only one interaction and it wasn’t pleasant. By no means am I glad he’s gone; far from it.

But I don’t mourn him. I don‘t have anything negative to say about him but I can’t say anything nice, either.

He was forty-five years old. He leaves behind an autistic son. He was a filmmaker, a musician, a scholar, and a windbag. He could go on for pages and pages about his passions. As a passionate person he was a firecracker and was quick to temper. He could be difficult. He loved his son, advocated for the autistic community, and supported fellow filmmakers. By all accounts and tributes, he was a good dude.

He killed himself.

I have a strange relationship with suicide: I see it as an unforgivable act; selfish and cruel, immeasurably misguided and worthy of all the derision it invites. At the same time, I find it completely understandable and I’m constantly surprised more people aren’t doing it.

I didn’t particularly like him when he was alive, but now that he’s gone… I hate him. Not for the arrogance or anger he showed while he walked this world; A person alive is always in a position to be better. No, I hate the arrogance and anger that killed him, that guided him to kill himself. Now he can’t be better. Now he can’t prove me wrong, be the better man, show me to be the asshole as he moves through time improving the lives he touches while I bitterly writhe in jealousy.

No, we can’t change our relationship now. He’s gone and I’m here with my anger and unpleasant memories. Why? Why am I still here?

I was in awe of his productivity. I honestly didn’t think his work was particularly good but there was a lot of it. I was jealous that he could push himself to make so much content when I would go days without showering or eating; when the only thing I could care about was having another drink, actively working towards finding the one that would bury me. I was so jealous.

I once reached out to him to ask if he’d give some editing feedback for something I’d written. He never replied. I took it as a snub.

But maybe it wasn’t. Maybe he couldn’t. Maybe what I saw was the tip of his iceberg, and his voluminous works that plagued me so were but a fraction of his heart’s intent. That he, too, found himself frequently arrested by doubt and jealousy.

But I’ll never know. Because he’s gone and I’m still here. I’m still writing, and I’m still walking this earth.

I don’t know his particular “why” but I can understand it. I can’t forgive it, however. I understand wanting to go, but we just can’t. It’s just not what good people do.

As I reflect upon him with judgement and disapproval, I know unequivocally that I am not a good person. But I’m still here, so I can still be better.

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“Years have proved / to offer nothing since you’ve moved”

I’ve been depressed for the past week or two. Often I sit in my depression and look outwards but this time I’ve been looking in.

I was driving to work one morning on one of the worst days of it. Mornings are not ideal. The commitment of preparing myself for the day and subsequently propelling myself through it is tentative in those early hours. Anything can derail it. It’s easy to lose interest in a day you never wanted to begin with.

While thinking these thoughts I considered medication. Should I medicate my depression? What would be the benefits? Drawbacks? Is it worth it at this point in my life?

I thought about this because I didn’t want to sit in the thoughts I was having, and considered maybe there was a pill that would make them go away. But then I looked back inside at the thoughts that I’d tried to escape; that I’d planned to erase.

That’s when it hit me: my depression isn’t delusional. I’m not thinking things that aren’t real, manufacturing issues that don’t exist, or even peering through the half-empty glass darkly. I’m a pragmatist, though with a slightly defeatist lean. Let’s face it: defeatism isn’t negativity if it’s true. Bad news is still news.

I was thinking about the world; how shitty it’s getting to be. Everything is cheaper and everyone has more and enjoys it less. We’re quick to complain because we know it can be better, so everyone’s out there flapping their gums for a handout. We’re quick to throw away our shit because we can easily get new shit, so everyone’s stomping around the Earth throwing their shit and screaming. All this screaming and no one is saying what they mean:

That someday soon our bodies will quit and we can’t replace that. Someday soon our families will die and we can’t replace that. Someday soon our life will end and no amount of yelling at the manager will give us a do-over. Our time will end and we can’t replace that.

So we get on the Internet and we bitch about our lunch and we bitch about our car and we bitch about our coffeemaker and we bitch about our Internet. We fill the world with all this disappointment and hate then we wonder why we feel so unfulfilled and angry.

“Five Fucking G, my ass…”

Consider a restaurant with value option price points that are very appealing to the average consumer. It drives them in by the truckload, and they order the cheapest thing and then whine if it’s not perfectly aligned with their expectations. It took too long or the portion is too small or the air is too cold. They give so little and take so much. Everyday the people are spilling out of the entrances and exits like pins in a cushion and you’d think that one would take pride in working somewhere that everyone is clamoring to be, but that’s just it: None of them want to be there! If it were thirty cents cheaper they’d eat at a restaurant called Dogshit On A Plate.

We live in a strange nexus of economic affluence and cultural bankruptcy. More people have more money to buy more shit but it’s all cheap shit and rather than make them happy it beats them down and they run screaming into the streets to cry about their first-world problems and I just can’t deal with it anymore.

The Average American Consumer is arguably the Worst Person on Planet Earth on any given day.

Just because that’s defeatist doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

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“I rarely see you when you’re smiling / it really gets under my skin”

I am a man consumed. A passenger in a speeding cab on the Information Superhighway. In the cab the radio is tuned to a podcast; four or five excited voices vie for airtime. The driver is on his own diatribe, stabbing the air with a lit cigarette that never gets back to his mouth while he delivers a slam poem to the windshield. It’s all talk, talk, talk and I want out.

I have to talk to you today about love; what it might be, what it should be, and what it often is to those with depression and anxiety. i.e. – what it is to me.

“I’m working on a new song” is what I tell myself and others when there is a set of lyrics occupying all the space in my brain, but I think it’s really more of me trying to make sense of the words that I conjure. That’s certainly the case this go ’round.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Stars and Sarah McLachlan, which makes for a very specific headspace in which to explore the concept of love, and what I found is both beautiful and tremendously upsetting.

In the mornings lying next to you there should be someone
Who’ll kill themselves to make you happy; they’ll kill anyone.
In the winter they will keep you warm, in the summer keep you wet
They’ll rip out their own beating heart for your Last Christmas gift.

If I could I’d thank god that you’re here
And if I could I’d wish upon a star
If I could I’d whisper in your ear
“You should be happier than you are”

I don’t know how we failed you. Perhaps we didn’t try.
But we can make it up to you; we’ll set fire to the sky.
We’ll drain the oceans so your feet can take you where you see fit
And if you find a place you can do without we’ll scrub the Earth of it.
I’ll tear out my own tongue if I say something that makes you cry
and I’ll blacken both your eyes if you see something that you don’t like.

“You should be happier than you are.”

The concept is essentially the POV of a depressed person, A, looking at someone they claim to love, B, and needing them to be happy because that’s what A thinks love should be, and if B isn’t happy then what is A doing wrong? What more can A do, or in what way can A shape the world around B so that B is happy? If B’s loved, B’s happy, right? Otherwise, what is the purpose of love?

B’s happiness isn’t actually the goal for A, however, because A doesn’t intend for B to happy independent of A. A needs to be a catalyst for that happiness, because A needs to see B happy to believe in love, or validate A’s belief in what love means.

What I’m saying is, as a depressive, I have to see the people that I love happy, because i have to believe that love can make them happy, because I have to believe that love can make me happy. It’s unfair, it’s untenable, and it’s not the truth. But sometimes it’s what my mind makes me believe.

What love should be is the force that brings light to the world. It’s not a smile, or a laugh, or a content face resting without worry. It’s light. It’s belonging. It’s comfort in times of stress, safety in times of fear, strength in bouts of fragility.

What it is actually is often messy, often tearful, and often imperfect. And even then, in those instances, it is the force that brings light to the world.

I don’t know if the song will go darker or dip out towards the end. I hope to finish this song some time this year. I’ll keep you posted.

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“Shame you left my life so soon, you should have told me, hey, but you left me Far Behind”

I am constantly, actively trying to be a better person. Better than what I revile, better than I’ve been, better than I am. It is an active and constant effort that I put forth every day.

Let me clarify: I am not saying that I am a good person. I am not. I know this. I am acutely aware of this, which is why I can say with genuine earnest that I am constantly, actively trying to be a better person.

I have misogynistic thoughts. They form in my brain, and I am the only one driving that thing, so I know they are mine. A part of me thinks these things, and then this active agent in my conscience recognizes them as wrong and shuts them down. I do not act on them, I do not own them, and I do not give them any credence. I eliminate them as soon as they form like an antibody taking out a virus.

I have racist thoughts. Classist thoughts. Elitist thoughts. Unconscious biases. Snap judgements. Thoughts of self-harm. Frequent, frequent thoughts of self-harm. There are things that appear in my head that I wish didn’t. Things that I wish I didn’t have to admit come from me. But they do, and I have to be brave enough to recognize that they are so that I can actively fight them, erase them, and reprogram that part of my head where they found life until they won’t anymore.

It is a constant, active effort that I put forth every day.

This active compassion has me taking stock of my expectations of others, as I would hope they would of me. We’re all struggling, particularly in this current version of existence. The year may have turned but the time has not. We’re still ostracized, fearful, angry, and fitful. 2020 has affected each of us differently, but it has undoubtedly affected each of us. As such, I try not to view others’ actions through the lens of my own experience. Some thrust themselves at their support circle, some minimize their presence, some disappear entirely. No one course is irrefutably right or wrong. We’re all doing our best.

So when a dear friend disappears from me entirely, I have to respect that they’re probably taking time to themselves, or their situation has changed to the point that they can’t be avaiable to me, or any other reason they’re distant that has nothing to do with me.

“It’s not always about me,” I tell myself.

“But what if it is?” I ask myself.

I think I may have been cancelled. I don’t know why. This raises a lot of questions, both about me and about my view of the interloper and the affected. First, as always, there is me.

What did I do? Or not do? I’ve combed through my social media output over the past year with a critical eye on what I may have said or admitted to or remained silent and therefor complicit towards. I am questioning every sentence I’ve ever uttered, every thought I’ve ever heard, every little thing that could have caused another discomfort or to feel marginalized in any way.

If you asked me if an accuser owes their attacker an explanation as to why they’re being punished or ostracized, I would shout “absolutely not!” If what makes you safe is removing yourself from the situation, do so and do so immediately. You don’t owe anyone an explanation; why even put yourself through that? Why assign words to their wrongdoing? Just cut ties and walk away. Cleanse yourself of it all. I support you.

But now I feel like I’m the attacker, and of course I want a fucking explanation. I want to be a better person, but I can’t do that if I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. The truth is, as much as I want to be a compassionate and considerate citizen of the world, I know in my heart that I am unpure and broken. As such, I am aware that I may be fucking up without being aware of it, because I know that I am not perfect and haven’t eyes to see or cognizance to know what is empirically right and wrong. I am not perfect, and would never be arrogant enough to assume that I know how to be. Therefor, I need to be told when I am wrong.

This of course is in direct conflict with my belief that the injured are obligated to any dialogue with their attackers. So, what now do I do with my injuries? Have I been cancelled?

Or is this, like most of the mechanics of the world I inhabit, not about me at all? Am I just viewing this through the lens of my own experience? It’s difficult not to when the only set of eyes I have are mine, and clouded by Depression and feelings of worthlessness. As a major depressive, I am almost always consumed by guilt that I’m doing everything wrong, so when I’m called out for such (or not called out, only punished) it stings that much deeper.

“I did not mean to treat you oh so bad, oh but I did it anyway.”

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I apologize for breathing your air…

I found this in my drafts, from God-Knows-When, but it looks like it got too heavy so I abandoned it.

Here it is finished in a cold and detached rush. Enjoy a choppy timeline of love, unlove, death, and rebirth.

I had a lovely impromptu date night with the wife tonight. I had the day off work so I slept in, wrote a couple of articles for the site, then took a shower and asked her what she’d like to do. To this, of course, she had no answer. She intimated at being hungry, though I wasn’t, so I suggested we have a cocktail while we decide what to do. We went to a bar, then a pizza joint, then another bar that offered karaoke. If you’re reading this, you know I love karaoke. We sang a song each to start the night, then it got a bit dense, lengthening the rotation. Not the Meredith and Eric Show we’d become accustomed to. Fatigue set in and we closed our tab, but before we could make it to the door, our names were called for a second round. Mer responded with Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” and I felt like I needed to scream a little and answered with Papa Roach’s “Broken Home“.

As we were leaving she asked me how old I was when my parents divorced. I realized that perhaps, at some point in our fourteen years together, I’d mentioned it, but there was still so much she didn’t know about me. It’s not that I’m not forthcoming; this blog should be a prime example of that. But, as it takes place in medias res, you’re privy to all of my current exploits but the past can often go unvisited. In this vein, I have decided to construct a crude (and I mean, crude; my memory sucks) timeline. Bear with me.

  • August, 1958: My father is born to Mary [Maiden Name Unknown], a MENSA-level intellect, and [First Name Unknown] McClanahan, an unknown anomaly of (assumedly) Human DNA.
  • October, 1959: My mother is born to Bonnie Sue Johnson and Bill Ray Johnson.
  • Sometime, 1960: Mary and [First Name Unknown] McClanahan separate.
    Mary and Charles Loftis Wed. They go on to have three girls: Connie, then a few years later, a set of twins: Rachel and Robin.
  • Sometime, in the 60s: Bill and Bonnie divorce; beforehand, they birth Judy Sue Johnson and Robin Ray Johnson, chronologically.
  • Early/mid-70s, that era: Bill weds Virginia Hawkins.
  • February 22. 1976: Bill and Virginia give birth to their son, Jeffery Ray Johnson.
  • 1976: My father is engaged to a young woman; after an unavoidable automobile accident, she is hospitalized and he retreats into himself.
  • Mid-1976: My mother is dating [Name Unknown], and they like one another’s genitalia.
  • Late 1976/Early 1977: Rupert McClanahan meets Janet Johnson. Sparks!!!!!
  • February 1977: Rupert and Janet marry; Yay! Neither complete high school.
  • July 21, 1977: Rupert and Janet welcome a son, Damen Cory McClanahan. The math doesn’t add up, does it? This is not Rupert’s son. Undaunted, he agrees to raise him as his own.
  • August 19, 1978: Rupert and Janet welcome a son, Eric Macy McClanahan, who is so wrought with emotional incongruence that he weeps at the sight of his own name, but that’s neither here nor there. What is significant is that Eric is unplanned; an idea was formed that they’d wait several years before having a child so that the older existing one can help raise the new one. Burgeoning chemical contraceptives and their youthful inefficiencies result in a differing eventuality.
  • The 80s: the Family moves about, for better or worse. There are times spent in apartments with family friends; time spent in one-room shacks that my father literally built around us as we foraged for a home. At one point, we stayed in a one-room shack where we boiled water in a five-quart convection chafing pan then shared baths while we also housed a deaf cousin. I discover what government cheese tastes like and drink powdered milk. We share love and gifts and cherish our extended family. It was quite surreal. Dad joins the Army Reserve for career training and salary. I break my arm quickly after he finishes his three-year stint. I was ambidextrous, then. (I am not now.)
  • IMG_0160
  • Winter; 1992: Cory proves too difficult for Janet and Rupert to raise and is placed in the care of Bonnie and her husband, Lewis. He works a small job as a porter, cleaning repurposed household appliances, while staying with his grandparents.
  • Spring/Summer, 1993: Cory is brought home but it is quickly apparent that both boys are incorrigible. They are exiled to a pop-up camper in the backyard of their estate. They are allowed to enter the house at night for a shower and dinner, only. They work the land for a meager pay that they remand as “rent.” They’re responsible for getting themselves up and to school. If they miss the bus they can pay their father to take them to school if he’s available.
  • Late 1993: Rupert and Janet announce they are divorcing. They assure their shitty kids (who are so rotten they had to be moved into a tarp in the front yard) that it’s not their fault. The kids don’t believe them. Rupert is “immediately” seeing a new woman, Cindy. Mom moves into an apartment near the high-school. The boys are moved back into the house to stay with Dad, who regrets the time he hadn’t spent with them.
  • Early 1994: Dad and Cindy marry. His children are not invited to attend the ceremony, and are only told about it after the fact.
  • Summer 1994: Cory is given use of the family truck so that he may work at Whataburger, given the condition that he keep his grades up when school resumes.
  • Late Summer 1994: Mom moves into a house in Conroe. Her last memory of Cory is a random day in September when he comes by to mow her lawn. They pass like ships in harbor, and she doesn’t even get to say “Thank you.”
  • September 29, 1994: After receiving progress reports for the first semester of his senior year with grades in the 30s and 40s, Cory sends a few messages to classmates, then goes to Taco Bell to enjoy a meal. He goes home and writes a letter to his mother, father, and brother. He places the note in a bible near a psalm about Deliverance. He searches our father’s room and loads his shotgun with a slug. He goes into the backyard and puts the shotgun in his mouth and blows the back of his skull out rather than disappoint our father. I find his body in the backyard.
  • The rest of 1994 to about mid-2000: I graduate high school, and immediately go to work doing shit jobs for shit pay. I apply to a college and am accepted but forget the $15 application fee. I never reapply. I make poor decisions, eat shit, let my teeth rot out of my face, drink too much, sleep with everything. My mother remarries, and at the ceremony, I give her away. I stare into the bottom of a bottle and cry more often than not. I am directionless and apathetic.
  • August 2002: I receive an invitation from my friend to move to San Diego, crash on her couch, and start a new life. I take it, and tell only a few people that I will, most of whom don’t believe me.
  • January 2003: Much to the surprise of many people, some of whom were my roommates at the time, I leave early one morning to drive to San Diego. I arrive two days later. I stay for fourteen years, meet my eventual wife, and do ALL THE THINGS.

From there you know the rest. One of these days I’ll write a book; in the meantime, you get this.

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On Witnessing What May or May Not Have Been Chuck Norris

I left work the other day to visit one of the other restaurants to pick up some product. I parked in a small parking lot behind the restaurant, which had about five other cars parked there. One cannot easily assume that the owners of these vehicles are in the restaurant as there are many businesses nearby and the positioning of the lot allows for access to any number of places. So, no, I don’t think Chuck Norris was going to the restaurant.

I say that because after I parked my car but before I stepped out, I saw a man sitting in the SUV in the spot in front of me to my right. The man looked like Chuck Norris. This isn’t too much of a stretch as I was in Texas, in a shopping center not too far from Lake Conroe, where Chuck is rumored to have a home. There is actually a likelihood that this man in this truck was none other than Chuck Norris.

But here’s the thing: the man was sitting in his car. I didn’t stare, so I can’t say much about what he was actually doing, but one is left to wonder. What was Chuck doing in his car? Was he finishing a text before starting it up to drive, like a responsible Texas motorist? Was he reading some quick headlines, maybe checking his IMDb ranking? Was he trolling BLM supporters and sending the RNC and NRA white thumbs-ups?

What was he doing? Why was he alone? What are you doing in your car alone, Chuck? Are you on your phone reaching out for human connection? Are you harnessing your Chi before placing a complex order at Five Guys or Jersey Mike’s? Are you squeezing the steering wheel, listening to the squeaking sound of your skin catching along its surface while you contemplate life in other galaxies, wondering if they’d ever brave the orbital detritus to knock on our door and introduce themselves? Are you ranking your personal top 5 Chuck Norris superlatives?

I’ll never know if it was Chuck in that truck, as I couldn’t imagine a scenario wherein I could rap on his window and say hello. Nevermind that we’re in a pandemic; it just doesn’t seem feasible. Yeah, I would walk up to a guy who looked like Chuck Norris in an H-E-B and say “Excuse me, are you Chuck Norris?” But to knock on his window while he’s sitting in his parked vehicle? Absolutely not. What if it wasn’t him? What do I say? “Oh, I’m sorry; I thought you were Chuck Norris.” Moreover, what if it was him? That’s a deeply personal moment, and I would be mortified if I intruded on it.

So, yeah, I may or may not have seen Chuck Norris the other day.

The End

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Improv Exercises

A dream I had the other night:

I was waiting outside a friend’s apartment for her the to get home, even though I didn’t recognize this particular apartment complex at all. The only reason I knew it was hers is that I tried the handle and it was unlocked, which I thought was weird because she’d had some recent unpleasantries and I didn’t think she’d leave her apartment unlocked like that.

A man I identified as her boyfriend was there, too, waiting outside. At one point I saw he had a gun in his hand so I asked “everything okay?” He said “yeah. I got my gun so people know I mean business.” I said “o-kay” and walked away from him. The “gun” was a block of wood crudely shaped like a gun and covered in mildew.

I went back inside the apartment and now it was full of people, and my mother was there. She was cooking a sheet of tofu on a hibachi. There was a bag of “ready to eat Lasagna noodles” on the counter that wasn’t lasagna at all. I looked at all this and asked her “what are you doing?” She leaned in close and whispered “No one here can cook.” I leaned in and said “That’s not what I meant. I can see what you’re doing; my question is why are you doing THIS, specifically?”

Cut to: I’m walking down a very steep and long hill in the outdoors with a lot of other people. Some of them appear to be hippies. The strange thing about the terrain is that someone had thrown fleece blankets all over the ground so that no pavement or foliage could be seen. At one point a woman says “Babe, we need to talk.” Five guys respond almost immediately with some variation of “Why do you sound upset when you say that?” At that, everyone sits down, except the lady who first spoke and the five men who answered. She points to one of them and says “You know why,” and the other four sit down. The man standing points to a seated girl near him and says “Well your friend said…” and she stands up. She points to me and says “Well, your friend said…” but I am sliding down the hill on the softness of the blankets, farther away from all of them and I can’t find my footing. I finally realized this was an Improv Exercise but I didn’t recall reading about this in the literature prior to the hike and I didn’t fully hear everything exchanged, so I’m sliding away muttering “I promise I’m trying. Oop, there I go. By, y’all! Send canned goods…”

And then I wake up.

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Me and my ‘Rona

I don’t know if I mentioned this, but I quit smoking for good this past October 3rd, 2019. My wife was preparing for an elective surgery and it was suggested that she quit smoking prior to; smoking constricts the blood vessels, raising blood pressure, and the doctors don’t want to go to slice into a person and have unpredictable spurts. Sounds reasonable enough, and I’d been looking for a reason, anyway. So, we quit.
Well, I quit. She started up again about a month ago. I have no intent to pick up the habit once more. It’s smelly, it’s expensive, and it’s not good for one’s health. Particularly in these days of pandemic panic. It’s said that Coronavirus is harder to fight in those who have smoked or are active smokers. I want whatever I edge I can have for the fight.
I work in the public sector, you see: a restaurant manager. I haven’t stopped working since this all began, as many in my industry have. I don’t quite remember when it started, but I remember when it drew close enough for me to see its future clear.
It was March 12th, 2020, and Marc Rebillet was going to be playing a show in downtown Houston. We’d made no plans to attend, but I thought it might be something fun to do last-minute after I got off work. But I’d been watching the news, seeing how the Covid-19 virus was spreading around the globe and growing cases steadily climbed in the United States. Italy was shut-down, New York was discussing Shelter-in-Place orders, and Ohio had just closed. I knew Houston was next. I knew it. I told my boss, and boss’s boss. They kind of laughed about it.
I went home and saw that the CDC had dropped the suggested gathering limits from 250 to 50, and in another twelve hours it would drop to 10. I knew the scope of my job would be changing. I just wasn’t sure how. I suggested to my wife we go see Marc Rebillet and have some fun. She said “nah”. We went to a local bar and I drank a Corona; not my typical beer but I was feeling subversive.
The very next day everything changed. We had closed the doors but would still operate as a to-go and delivery location. However, an errant storm would knock the power out just two days later and we’d be unable to open for a full day-and-a-half. I worked the whole time.
The fear, paranoia, and ignorance that reigned over the next three months was unlike anything I’d seen in all my years on this earth. And I’ve been here a minute; I’ve seen some shit. I saw the Challenger Shuttle explode, I saw the Berlin Wall come down, I watched Los Angeles burn in the aftermath of the Rodney King brutality case, I watched OJ lead the cops on a chase in his white Bronco, I saw the Twin Towers fall, I saw the AntiChrist take the throne of the United States of America. I thought I’d seen it all.
I hadn’t.
Chinese-Americans; hell, almost any Asian-Americans were being vilified in their own neighborhoods for this “China Virus.” People were boycotting Corona beer because the name instilled fear. People were scared to leave the house, and as many were furious to be kept in the house. People were obstinate to wear a mask and as many were furious towards those who wouldn’t. “Science” appeared around every corner, contradicting itself at every turn. No one knew what to think or who to trust. The World Health Organization was brought into question. With a name like that, you’d think they’d be above reproach. Names are arbitrary, it seems, as Corona would tell you if you’d lend an ear.
Now, to give you some further insight into my headspace during this whole thing, I’ll just spell it out: I’ve been horribly depressed, for a very long time. I’ve discussed my general disenfranchisement with the world around me, but it got worse in late January when my job moved me to another location (the third move in less than five months). Since arriving in this living hell, I have been wandering in a daze, yearning for further hardship to make it seem less severe. Every time I would sneeze, I would be disappointed if there was no blood. When my gas tank would be close to empty, I would have to fight the urge to drive it until it ran out completely. When a relative or friend would call, I would anxiously await their news that someone I loved had died, but the news didn’t come. I would stare into a demonic world of hate and disease and beg it to offer something just for me, some special wound I could wear to make my place in it make sense. I wanted to suffer.
I wanted to get the Coronavirus.
It seemed inevitable, anyway. The people who frequented my restaurant were such abhorrent trash that it seemed impossible they wouldn’t rush to get the disease and give it to as many people as they could. They are all children running through the news conference touching all the microphones. They’re the stereotypical self-important prick in the zombie film hiding their bite marks, believing their money will save them, believing in their own invulnerable storyline. They’re human dirt. They practically are the virus.
Obviously, they’re not all that. I’m trying out some vilifying, myself. Maybe if I say enough vile shit, I’ll get the smiting I so rightly deserve. In truth, I’m just tired. I’d rather get the thing than live another week worrying about getting the thing.
So, imagine my elation when Tuesday morning at 5am while trying to pee I was rocked by a chill that set into my shoulders, causing me to begin violently shivering. I barely managed to get all my urine in the bowl and flush as I shuffled across the apartment and wrapped myself in a blanket and sweat as I slept for nine hours, my brain turning to soup. When I finally got out of bed my wife said that I’d been coughing, but I assumed that was from screaming along to Glassjaw’s “Pretty Lush” on the way home after a shit night of work. I went back to work with a slight headache but feeling mostly okay. I had another bullshit night of working way too hard and after locking the door at the end of the night the chill came back in. I’d been checking my temperature with an external digital thermometer throughout the evening, but it never peaked above 99. I finished out my shift and went home, wrapped myself up, and sweat for another twelve hours of soup-brained dream thoughts. This time I was trying to convince people to speak using either Arial or bold font, and they could use them interchangeably if they’d follow a few simple rules, but every time I thought I got it I would throw the blanket off and the chill would hit my bones, and my brain said “Oh, they don’t get it! Get back in there and don’t screw this up!”
Like I said, soup.
When I finally did get out of bed Wednesday, I had a bad cough, my eyes hurt from sinus pressure, I had a headache, heat rashes on my scalp, and agitation at the top of my nasal passage. My wife suggested I get it checked out. I thought it was a pretty good idea, because I didn’t want to spend another night like the past two. So, I pulled my insurance card and researched urgent cares in network and was soon off to see a nurse about my issues.
It should be said at this point that I am not a hospital, insurance, nurse, medication, or medicine kind of person. To casually spend an afternoon off to get a cough checked out is not who I am. I don’t take aspirin. I drink water and get plenty of sleep (sometimes), typically. That’s how I deal with stuff. So, the mere fact that I went to urgent care was enough to cause some concern.
Truth be told, I get these shivers every now and then. There’s no pattern, or no direct causation that I can recall. It’s not directly related to actual cold, either. It sets into my bones and it scares me, every time. It was worth looking at.
So, I went. And I waited. I finally was led to a room and a nurse took my vitals. No fever. Blood pressure and heart rate were good. BMI was high but I’m used to medical professionals telling me I’m fat. The nurse practitioner came in and read my symptoms that I’d told her back to me. I agreed with my own assessment. She asked if I wanted to be swabbed for Flu and Strep. I said sure. She asked if I wanted to be swabbed for Covid-19. I thought it wasn’t necessary since I didn’t have a fever.
“We’re seeing cases now with no fever associated,” was her response.
The night prior I’d had a phone conversation with my boss’s boss because we had an employee who claimed to have the virus, and other team members caught word of this and wanted to know if we’d be supplying testing for them. His short answer was “no” and the reasoning was that we’re taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread so even if patient zero were among us there is little chance we would be affected. It’s a fair position. He went on to say that if someone wanted to get tested they certainly could, but they couldn’t come back to work until the test had cleared them.
Knowing this, I didn’t want to get the test. I hate my current job assignment, yes, but I don’t want to miss work. I actually give a shit about my job, the company I work for, and the contribution I make. Which is why it seems doubly irresponsible not to get the test. So, I said sure.
I left the Urgent Care around 6:00pm on Wednesday. It is now 5:20pm on Saturday night, and I have not heard the results of the Covid-19 test. I do know, however, that I do not have flu or strep. My throat is still a bit raw, my nose is clogged, and I feel a general lethargy and rashness about my skin, but otherwise I am much better. I want to know if I have it. That’s all.

But that’s not all. I hear things, you know. You see, after the two-straight months of busting ass at work, I put in for vacation and through some magic scheduling got eleven straight days off. Eleven! Guess how much I accomplished in that time? How many Tik Tok videos I made? How many short stories I wrote? How many blogs I posted? How many songs I recorded?
Go on, guess.
It’s zero. I did zero of those things. But I did post some articles on AintitCool.com, including an interview with my idol Henry Rollins, so there’s that. What we did do was see my friend Heath in his new place in Houston, see our friends Amber and Matt in New Braunfels, and my friend Sara in Austin. We saw these people, and in small gatherings (literally just us) and we ate food and drank heavily. I watched movies. I started my new class for the summer session. That’s what we did. That’s it.
Well one of the managers at work, after hearing that I got tested for Covid-19, is “pissed” that I went “traveling” while on vacation. One of the above-mentioned friends is concerned that we were “welcomed” into their home. AFTER ONLY THE MENTION THAT I’D BEEN TESTED.
I want a much milder example but none is coming to mind so let’s just go with what I’ve got: is there a Star of David that I can wear while I await the results of this test?
This pandemic is unprecedented, these times are uncertain, and these waters are uncharted, yes. And all of that I got just from big-budget retail market advertisements. The reality of our situation is everyone is fucking scared, and just as with their trust, they don’t know of whom to be scared. And now that I’m possibly “one of the infected” I feel on the outside. I check my phone religiously, monitoring the goings on at work while also awaiting my test results, and perhaps it is the vigilance, but the volume seems to have slowed down. As though I am already gone, a phantom receiving transmissions from the world of the living at a removed frequency.
This is me and my ‘Rona, and even though it’s all I’ve ever wanted, I don’t want to wish it on anyone. Mind you, I don’t even know if I have it. If you want my opinion, I’m 99% sure I don’t have it, but that doesn’t really matter until everyone around me knows for sure.

Stay tuned.

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