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It's Time to Get Fucking Weird

It’s Time to Get

Fucking Weird

 

“Generally speaking, art is an expression of man’s need for an harmonious and complete life, that is to say, his need for those major benefits of which a society of classes has deprived him. That is why a protest against reality, either conscious or unconscious, active or passive, optimistic or pessimistic, always forms part of a really creative piece of work. Every new tendency in art has begun with rebellion.” – Leon Trotsky

My dreams keep forcing themselves upon my consciousness, leaving me dazed and at odds with myself over whether or not my subconscious being can make a victim of me. I awake from these dreams wondering who I am that I might have such thoughts. Maybe I am my more sadistic desires. They seem to be taking over my thoughts like a state of permanent revolution. In my dreams I berate those people I would do everything to help in my waking hours, I seduce those that I am too shy to speak to, I eat and drink with abandon and I no longer vilify people who had once done some perceived harm to me – instead I identify with their demons as I embrace my own. When I am awake I feel more like I’m asleep in so much as I lie to those close to me about what I want, in favor of what they want. In return they call me a good person. My dreams are not of me being a good person, and I’m sure that they are destined to destroy the waking, bourgeois notion that hiding my true self to fit social expectations is how I am meant to behave. Dreams rewire our brains, connecting thoughts and memories and experiences that otherwise share no conscious connection.

I am being rewritten.

I question whether there is a way I am meant to behave.

I listen to “White Riot” on repeat.

I think I am meant to be a revolution to myself. To strip bare my being until something wholly new can be brought out, until I am no longer the “good kid” written about so long ago in the Benton Harbor Herald Tribune for my straight-A’s and civic engagement and varsity letters. Until I am no longer hiding inside my skin. Ultimately, isn’t this how everyone feels?

To: Jeff

Subject: I’m an asshole

“I’m an asshole. That’s what I’m writing about. I’m an asshole and I feel like I need to deal with that and understand it and deal with whatever it is. I know people don’t think I’m an asshole, well, some people, but I am. Regardless, I’m confused and I’m not happy.”

I click send. Moments later a response comes back.

“We are to others as they would like us to be – for the most part anyway. I think that, to ourselves, we are the assholes. Hiding. Depriving. Unforgiving. Stubborn. – JJ.”

It’s not a dream.

It’s not a dream.

It’s not a dream.

My daughter screams out from the other room. She’s had a nightmare. I am able to comfort her. She’s afraid of Bart Simpson from one of the “Treehouse of Terror” Halloween episodes. She’s afraid of the lava in the video game Minecraft. She doesn’t know where my mind has been wandering. She knows I’m not afraid of what scares her. But she doesn’t know what I am afraid of. “I was just having a bad dream too, it woke me up right before you called out for me,” I touched her head, gentle stroking her hair. I try to think of something to say. “There’s a book called House of Leaves I read, it said that no one ever really gets used to nightmares, and that’s true, but what you’re afraid of changes as you grow older.” Her glance catches my eyes just before she squints under the pressure of a yawn.

“Daddy, what are you afraid of in your dreams?”

“Things I can’t really describe sweetie, now let’s try and sleep again, and dream happy dreams.” I don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t know what happy dreams are.

Regardless, she doesn’t need to worry about fearing her own mind. I don’t tell her that what I’m afraid of is that I’m afraid of myself. I hide it from her because I have to. Because I believe I have to. Because when I was her age I was taught to hide it all. I sit in silent contemplation over whether I’m protecting her or just stubbornly hiding from my own fears for the next hour.

Lying next to her I feel her grip on my arm loosen as she falls back off to sleep. Slowly I drop one leg, then the other, off the side of her bed, using my hand on her desk for leverage as I attempt to straighten my stiff back and escape her room without disturbing her; without inflicting my disturbance on her. I wander back to my own bed where I lie in a state of half-consciousness.

Words I read two weeks ago ring in my head, “it’s time to get fucking weird.” I try to remember where I read the words but I can’t. Doesn’t matter, they’ve become a sort of mantra for this mission I’m not certain I’m embarking upon intentionally – but that has apparently already begun.

It’s time to get fucking weird – those words form brackets around each of my thoughts, the ones I try not to speak out loud, except when my sleep betrays me, fantasies and mental masturbation spew forth from my mouth out of my unconscious: “fucking cut me, cut me” – it was pornographic and gratifying. My partner, Gail, found it terrifying; in the light of day maybe I do too. Sometimes when I scream out, or more often, when I lie still as death, she shakes me awake, worried that I won’t start breathing again. Maybe I’m not just dreaming that I’m underwater; maybe the blackness and negative space I allow myself to inhabit during those moments are actually consuming me, drowning me.

It’s time to get fucking weird – every night lying alone next to Tina/Jennifer/Jen, wives and girlfriends and partners and stretching on and on into the reverse, it’s like I can feel the pleasure of warm blood spilling from my cold veins, embracing my exit from this world. The hot burn of the knife making a clean cut, the sting not coming until after the brain processes what has happened, then the cool sweat that forms along the crest of the forehead, the whole arousing action one sensuous fantasy. There’s power in an exit plan; there’s some sort of peace in knowing a big red button exists and the persona elected via a lowest-common-denominator-process is in control. My generation knew it could apocalyptically be all over in a minute, and we’d be sitting there alone watching an afterschool special, the key still tied on a shoestring around our neck.

It’s time to get fucking weird – whatever this all is, it isn’t me fucking, or dying; it’s my disembodied spectator watching the fruit of my father’s loins suffer in the physical world – a sort of schizophrenic illusion – voyeur and viewed and both at the same time, questioning if voyeurism really is a one way street, or is the voyeur also complicit, a necessary part of the performance. And are my memories, sitting in the isolating lonely darkness of my room, or even on this page, mere performance and exposition to be toyed with, or are they part of some true exploration? It’s time to get fucking weird – at that moment in my eye’s final flutter, before I drift back off into the stillness of sleep or the numbness of the daily grind, that’s where I enter my own House of Leaves. It’s the stories I tell about myself and the lies I use to hide those stories away. “I’m fine.” “Really.” “Nothing’s wrong, just enjoying the quiet.” “I love you.” When I tell the truth, when I attempt to thwart myself, people leave or else I chase them off. They lock me up: hospitals, courts, jail cells. The last time I stopped being a danger just to myself: that last time when I wandered the streets fried on acid, that last time when I sought out unknown and unsafe secret sexual pleasures, that last time when I ran down innocent bystanders. Then again, maybe I’ve never been a danger just to myself. Then again, there may never be a last time as long as idle hands remain able.

This is my non+fiction game; my flavor of mental illness. A narrative of telling lies to tell the truth, and everything I tell you, I promise, is as truthful as the Bible. I am a fact collector and a fetishist of secrets. The facts I collect are there in my mind to be re-assembled into a narrative that supports my truth. The facts provide me a foundation for exploring my avoidance, my isolation; but maintenance sometimes feels easier. Avoidance and isolation can make me invisible. Freedom to sit and stare blankly at the leather orgy or the stripper or the priest giving a sermon while he eyeballs the altar-boy, the place where I tell myself I’m my own helpless victim, watching as my actions crumble family and career, or even those moments where I fight myself to comfort my daughter, who hopefully has none of this predilection in her veins to detach from everyone, to detach from herself. Really, what happens when you realize what an asshole you’ve been? To Jeff’s point, what is it that I am unable to forgive myself for that makes me want to hide away from my rampant desires and continue to appear like that well-adjusted father, living in the suburbs of Middle America. Am I in any way well adjusted? Post that to Facebook and see how quickly well-meaning people come to your defense, trying to remind you of what a nice guy you are. In Middle America, where no matter what the Bible says, we don’t want to be honest with each other. Amazing how uncomfortable we all get about someone else’s self-examination. Instead, we’ll all just say we’re all nice guys and good people.

There once had been a time when I thought I wasn’t an asshole, I wasn’t the problem. That period where I believed the hype – that I was a good kid and a nice guy – it was that nice guy part that so often figured into my narrative of being disabused by others who were honest with me, whether I was ready to be so honest with myself or not.

The night I met Norm was at some punk rock show on the main floor of St. Andy’s in downtown Detroit. Might have been Three Floors of Fun night, what was colloquially known at the time as Free Whores for Fun. I was under 21 but downed beers anyways, or if I couldn’t get ahold of those I’d just do some acid, maybe smoke a little weed or find some ecstasy before opening the old theater door, paying my couple bucks entry and heading inside. My surplus military issue parka had plenty of pockets for road pops - covered in punk rock, scooter rally, and northern soul patches it placed me in no group and yet every group I gave a shit about, all in one inane gesture of self-righteous-exclusion via geeky association.

This short-shaggy-headed-goatee-faced-guy-wearing-a-Pharaoh’s S.C.-bomber-jacket-smoking-like-100-cigarettes-at-a-time steps up to me, “I gotta fucked up P200 with a kit, but when it runs It. Is. Badass,” he said to me, with an odd southern-Californian meets Michigander accent, the word badass lingering on forever – bahhhhhddddd ahsssssssss. “You ride scooters?”

“Yeah, I ride scooters. I’ve got a modded out Vespa VNA. I’m Andy.”

The words sliding lazily and uncontrollably loud out of my drunken mouth, the thumping of bass and screech of guitar shaking my already shaky rail-thin frame. Norm wasn’t a handsome man, but he was confident in a way that made him completely, fuckably attractive. Even before settling into some middle aged sense of sexual ambiguity I was oddly drawn to him - tattooed and pierced head to toe, long before the first fucking millennium-era-hipster was born; he pulled back his bomber sleeve to show me a collection of scooter boy and skinhead tattoos covering his forearms. Hold Fast in fading ink across his knuckles.

“If you’re blasting down the highway or banging a chick, fucking Hold Fast,” Norm shouted to me in those first moments.

Then he introduced me to Amy.

His wife.

We exchanged phone numbers. Back in those days there weren’t many of us scooter boys in the Midwest, especially that I knew, and in Detroit you had to stick together, because you couldn’t count on Detroit for anything but getting into trouble. He called a few days later and told me to meet him at City Club, AKA Shitty Club – located in the basement of a mostly cracked-out downtown hotel, the Leland, with walls painted in Day-Glo and a crowd that resembled a massive leather clad BDSM orgy. I was nobody there and I could tell any lie I wanted. It felt like home.

Driving down I-75, pushing 85 past Hamtramck in my old Plymouth Horizon, already fuzzy from a 40oz of Old English, chewing on spearmint gum, my skin crawling. I was looking for ways out of my skull, my mind full of claustrophobia all trapped inside of that bone prison with neurons popping off in an attempt to blast an escape route out of there. I think it’s always been this way. Washing my thoughts in alcohol and adrenaline, hiding out among the other night creeps, helped calm my anxiety.

Without the availability of GPS or the mental capacity to look at a map, my steering wheel seemed to function like a divining rod leading me directly to the non-descript parking lot and the twenty-ish story blank brick wall, broken up only by a service entrance halfway below street level that served as the doorway into my world. Walking toward the dance floor I spotted Norm and his girlfriend. My girlfriend, Jen, was at home or out with her friends somewhere, or who the fuck even remembers.

That’s the thing about drug abuse and alcoholism – who the fuck even remembers – except for those memories I can’t escape. Those facts I can’t let go of. Those stories I keep alive without knowing why. At this moment though it seems so important to remember if I was with Jen or not – because I think if I was with her, if I was still caring for her, still coming home to her after degrading stupid and self-destructive nights of debauchery, that would go a long way to understanding why I feel like such a sack of shit. But there are the facts I can’t remember, even as I tell you that she was still with me, still waiting for me at home. Maybe it helps to make up stories when you can’t remember the truth.

As if you might not have really been alive at all were it not for the story you’re telling yourself.

As if it is the words that make it real.

The world my consciousness inhabits is bound somewhere within my personal experience, imagined scenarios and my (in)ability to discern between them, between the fact and fiction. The blackouts were frequent, giving me even more opportunity to divine my own truth out of the few facts available to me. Norm bellied up to this mental illness buffet of mine, grabbed a knife and fork, and stuffed himself on my world. His manic, intentionally bad behavior drawing me in until there was no turning back, similar to how cops manipulate confessions, trapping their prey seemingly without effort, just a turn-of-phrase or two, good cop, bad cop.

Liars.

All liars.

I hate cops.

I convinced myself I was just an observer; my consciousness detaching with every new intoxicant I ingested, allowing me to float outside my body, watching myself partake in all manner of social taboo as if it wasn’t me at all.

The next morning, less than a week after first meeting her, I was lying to Norms wife Amy about him being asleep on my futon, then about him being down the street getting cigarettes, then I found myself picking him up from some flea-trap motel near the airport where he’d gotten into some sort of sex-swap poker game between his girlfriend and a cousin or boyfriend or something of hers.

“Dude, Amy call?”

“Yeah, twice, probably more, but I stopped answering. I told her you slept on my futon and went to get smokes.”

“Shit. You got some smokes, I ain’t got two nickels to rub a dick with much less a pack of smokes. Can’t go home empty handed.”

“Yeah, I got ya covered.”

It was all as easy as that. “I got ya covered.” It was what a nice guy would do, but really, it was so much of me wanting to not be a nice guy.

Wanting to be more like Norm.

Wanting to think a blowjob on the main floor of Free Whores for Fun was totally acceptable.

I spent my weekdays working in a high-rise out in the suburbs as a computer technician, surrounded by all the trappings of large parking lots and boxy concrete office towers, a bleak reflection of Soviet era construction in capitalist America, where we all somehow have decided what we’ve created is better; that our injustices are somehow just-enough. I would sometimes vomit in my cubicle trashcan after an hour’s sleep and little to no sobriety over the preceding 14-or-so hours since I’d last sat in the same seat. I had to keep a job however, because Norm couldn’t. He’d learned as a military mechanic how to use vice grips to hold his sleeves and thus arms up in the undercarriage of a Hummer while snoring away, laid flat on his back on a creeper. His Navy training carried over into civilian life.

Banging his girlfriend-cum-airport-janitor-coworker in the Detroit Metro bathroom ultimately led to dismissal; at least I think that may have been the story. Regardless, I had to support my girlfriend, myself, and now at some level Norm too; it was the first in many similar roles I’d play in life as a support system for other people – and as such I used it as an excuse to continue pretending I was a decent human being. I was caring. I was a nurturer. I was good. But I wasn’t. I expected things in return for my efforts; I expected Norm to provide me cover for my own bad behavior – as if he’d forced me into it or something. I expected Norm to provide me with experiences. I expected Jen to clean up after me, after making a mess of myself: emotionally, physically. I’d pass out drunk in the bathtub, covered in vomit and she’d wash me off, cover me with blankets, forgive me, not mention it, look the other way. I was using them at least as much as they used me, and that’s exactly how the nice guy is the asshole.

That’s exactly how I am an asshole.

I am an asshole.

Summer Saturdays became titty-bar days. A ten-or-so mile stretch of Eminem’s infamous 8-mile lay between Norm and my houses. I’d ride west for what seemed like forever, past the same titty bars I’d stop at on the way back into the city, past gang-war-worn neighborhoods, dotted with liquor stores and car-stereo shops; the little 125cc 2-stroke piston vibrating back and forth between my legs, barely keeping pace with the hulking American steel still so common on the streets of Detroit. A mile from my destination and I’d fouled a plug, the engine coasting to a halt, the Detroit steel driving on. Fortunately it wasn’t much to push the little Italian bike. No cell phone to call anyone with those days, no working payphone to be found. Just me and my dead scooter on the berm with traffic blowing by, garbage filled McDonald’s bags being tossed out in my general direction from any number of them. When I finally arrived, Amy had some spicy sausages laid out on the grill. Norm passed me a cold beer. I tousled their young son Alex’s hair and kept from locking eyes with Norm’s in-laws, who surely thought as little of me as they did Norm. He knew that too. Why not marinate our mutual disenchantment in alcohol then? Norm wouldn’t be home tonight, we all knew it no matter what he told Alex or Amy – best case scenario for them, and possibly for me, was that he’d pass out on my futon. He lived a poor-man’s life of Riley on her meager income, his in-law’s good will, and my desire for his company.

Walking out the front door he turned to me, trying to break the tension, saying, “If it’s got tits-r-tires it’s gonna give ya trouble.”

We’d spend the rest of the drunken afternoon stopping in as many glitter-littered strip joints as we could make it to before we’d blown our wad, my wad.

“Dude, this place has some terrible old ladies dancin’ the pole. They just like someone to be looking at ‘em, so the drinks are always cheap.” Norm said, giving me a bit of a Popeye-ish wink and shimmy before opening the door.

The noon sun slashed the sagging tits of the 30ish-year-old career stripper like a blade, her severed mammaries flopping to-and-fro casting shadows across the smoke stained red velour wall coverings. We might all be better off if we’d been cut down with a blade at that moment. The club, if it’s fair to even call it that, didn’t even bother with a door man, instead the bartender yelled for you to come over and pay a nominal cover with your first round of drinks. The bar itself was made of cheap faux-walnut paneling with the yellowish pre-nicotine-stained-bottle-bottom-glass diffusing the otherwise harsh fluorescent lighting. Before long Norm knew all the dancers - and they knew him – even without handing out dollar bills, or maybe because of it, Norm was a king in his palace. This is where he collected his harem.

There were weekends like that where we ended up loaded and getting off with women right in the middle of a crowd, drunk on any number of substances, our senses on overload, our morals fully extinct. And at the time there seemed to be no backlash for any of it, seemingly no real trouble came about in our ever-present states of mind. We were too wasted to be reflective, too driven by instant gratification to look forward and see where we were headed.

Specifically, and only somewhat ironically, we were headed to Hell, Michigan.

Days before the Detroit chapter of the Pharaohs Scooter Club held its first rally deep in the rural woods of southeastern Michigan I’d been pulled over for drunk driving, my first official offense – but far and away not my first time driving intoxicated. Over the weekend I’d drive back and forth between the campsite in Hell and my court-assigned drunk-school classes. While I didn’t take the classes that seriously, I did take my court-ordered sobriety seriously, if for no other reason than the fact that I knew they would be pee-testing me for alcohol and I didn’t want to spend any more time behind bars – at least jail bars, my mind wasn’t so made up about all matter of other bars. There was, however, a flicker of something else inside me that those couple of days of sobriety brought.

Reflection.

With each passing day I wasn’t drunk it became harder to imagine how my life had transformed into this world where it seemed normal to drink until puking, then drink some more. Being drunk all the time I’d become a character that I didn’t know, pulling out my cock in front of a crowd for a giggle; diving in and out of bonfires, not sure if it was for entertainment value or because I wanted this character to burn, to be destroyed. Somewhere my escape from who I was at the office, from the boring good-kid, flipped. It was time to move. Time to get away from all of this chaos. Time to start fresh in Chicago. Norm didn’t get it. My other friends didn’t get it either. Detroit had provided me with all manner of excess, and yet I treated it, and I suppose them, like I’d been tricked. Maybe I’d tricked myself, you know, the way a dog’s legs run through the air as its dreaming mind constructs a situation warranting the effort - I was running from myself and running from what I’d believed I’d become, and maybe I was running from what I should’ve been all along. Time hasn’t necessarily proven this out, though, as I sit here, in this reflection, dominated so by my fear and self-loathing.

Before I left Detroit to move to Chicago, Norm gave me a book he thought I’d enjoy. It’s a real asshole thing to say, but I was kind of shocked to find out Norm read anything beyond scooter magazines. Regardless, he tossed me a copy of Tom Robbins’ Still Life with Woodpecker. In it, character Leigh-Cheri thinks there is a peaceful and liberated world out there just waiting to be, but ultimately winds up finding her true self through falling in love with the mad-bomber-outlaw Bernard, aka the Woodpecker. Bernard’s mantra is “Yum” – succumbing to whatever immediately pleasurable motivation he catches scent of. Leigh-Cheri’s self-righteousness is overwhelmed by Bernard’s addictive passion for living. It’s easy to draw parallels in hindsight, but if only I’d read it before meeting Norm - would I have guessed who was to be Leigh-Cheri and who would be Bernard?

The last time I spoke to him, he was as squirrelly as ever, driving a town car for some Russians that owned a few strip clubs, living with then-girlfriend Michelle, one of the Russian’s strippers, in a house that, as far as the city of Detroit was concerned, had been condemned and no one owned; however, they paid rent to the local landlord, someone Norm had said before he didn’t want to skip a payment to.

“Drew. It’s Norm. What’s goin’ on man?”

“Norm? Hey, how are you? Where are you?”

“Dude, listen, I’m going to make a cigarette run with my mom down to Georgia. She said she’d cut me in on the profit if I do the driving, thought I might stop and see you.”

“Wow, uh, when?”

“Two or three weeks. Dude, your old lady still around?”

“Yeah.”

“Man, me and Melissa are still OK too. Damn, dude, let me tell you, Melissa and I were super fucked up the other night and we were fucking so hard the bed collapsed right on the goddamn cat. Took me a couple days to realize we killed the fucking cat fucking. Can you fucking believe that shit?”

“That’s some crazy shit Norm. Look, I gotta go, but give me a call when you know you’re coming. We’ll make up a bed for you or something. Just don’t kill our cat.”

“Alright bro, talk atchya then. You know, you got my number again now, this thing rings both ways.”

“I got it Norm. See you soon.”

 
 

Andrew Miller is an essayist, poet, and photographer whose work has been in publications as far afield as The Fanzine to The Columbus Dispatch.
He is the author of one poetry chapbook
You Must Know This, and a personal essay collection If Only the Names Were Changed (CCM 2016). He co-authored Turn the Lights On with Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, M.D. (Resurrecting Lives Foundation) about the effects of mTBI and recovery from it.