July 5th

Today is not a holiday but I’ve decided to spend the morning lying in bed, reading a novel as if the 4th of July would go on forever. The venetian blinds on my bay window are mostly closed but I can still perceive the shifting color spectrum as the sun makes it’s way across the sky. If only I could read in a light tight box, immune to the feeling of time slipping away, I could stay here much longer. Anxiety and galloping thoughts get the best of me. As always, the world is going on out there and in my head; endless variations of individual worlds.

Sometime between 6:00 and 7:30 a.m., I dreamt that I woke up in someone else’s bed. The bed belonged to my friend, Krivo, and it was in his new apartment. I have not been in his bed or his apartment since 1995 but I knew where I was because he walked in the room and started talking to me. I got up to look around and admire his art collection. The piece that caught my eye was a painting on silk of a man in a blue and purple suit wearing a fedora and playing a saxophone. The piece was titled The Jazz Musician. I remembered that this had been a gift from me and was touched that he still had it. Upon waking, I know I did not give him that painting but I sent him a text to see if he had something like it.

At 7:30 Carl left to take his mother to the cancer doctor. She has multiple myeloma and her body is wasting away. She weighs less than me now. That can’t be good. I feel for him because I know the devastation I would feel if my mother were sick but it is an empathy more than a personal sadness because I have intentionally never bonded with her. She is not my mother and I am not her daughter. I feel like an impostor, welcomed into her home like a stranger. Trivial small talk and jello salad. Paper plates partitioned so the mashed potatoes don’t touch the meat. Margarine scooped from a tub and presented in a glass bowl. She doesn’t know what to say to me nor I to her. She is a kind soul but she is not my mother.

Ernesto and Carmen sit at the airport waiting to board the plane that will take them home and back to their routines. I try to imagine Carmen’s life, seemingly free from the burden of ambition. She cleans the house and makes dinner; watching talk shows and servicing her husband in accordance with routine. She goes bowling. At forty-something years old she has many things that he has bought for her yet her own efforts have yielded only a shelf full of bowling trophies and romance novels with creased spines; souvenirs from a life-time free of ambition. Not trying equals never having to fail. It is safe. It is air conditioned. It is the lead role in a cage. I guess it’s a cushy gig. I have to wonder though, bringing nothing to the table, what is she to him except a housekeeper that puts out? I don’t understand and I’m not going to try. She fits his definition of “wife” and it is my lack of understanding that relegates me to being what Monique would refer to as “hardly anyone’s type.” It’s ok though, I would rather be what I am.

Dean is at his office, impeccably attired in clothes that clearly did not come from the department store at the mall. He is not a snob but he is a snappy dresser. Those are his words. He is not prideful but his dignity is strong. Those are my words. He sits at his desk; stirring the world, initiating chemical reactions, making something out of nothing. He is beautiful.

Mr. Green Jeans

I was floating on my back in the pool. I can’t swim but I can do this gimpy, floaty thing for short durations of time until the visions of being eviscerated by imaginary sharks scare me back up to the lawn chairs where I belong. I rest my feet on the edge of the pool and lay back in the water like an upside down chair. In this manner I could consider the possibility of swimming while being relatively safe from drowning. So I’m floating, eyes closed, sun on my face, until I feel someone staring at me. My eyes pop open and I see a decent looking middle aged man standing at the edge of the pool, smiling down at me. He says “hi neighbor” which pretty much scared the shit out me and I almost drowned anyway. I was 19 and living in a swanky condo in Las Vegas. This man who, as it turned out actually was my neighbor, lived 3 doors down. His name was Chris, he was forty-something and was a high school wrestling coach.

I’m not much for making new friends and, when it comes to introductions, scaring the crap out of me is not the best method, but he apologized so I let him off the hook. I even took him up on his offer to go back to his place so he could show me his lizard and by that I mean his 5 foot Green Iguana who resided in a stadium sized custom terrarium in the middle of his living room. The iguana’s name was Mr. Green Jeans. It was a stoic creature that would occasionally tilt it’s head to get a better look at you and sometimes might even move one of it’s feet. At the time, I had no idea that I would someday have one of these mini dinosaurs of my very own. The first thing I noticed about his place was that it smelled like iguana. I suppose my house does too although I’ve had mine for over 10 years now so I don’t notice. Sometimes Chris would say hilarious shit like “we have to turn the music down because Mr. Green Jeans is getting stressed out” and I would be like “really, how can you tell?” Chris also told me that, although he had had Mr. Green Jeans a very long time, he didn’t plan on crying when the iguana expired and went to lizard heaven. For all I know that damn thing is still alive. So far as I know, they live indefinitely.

I still find it ironic that the first person to seduce me into smoking weed was a middle aged high school teacher. I was at his place one night and he rolled us a joint. I probably told him that I had never indulged the habit before but, to be honest, I don’t remember. Here’s what I do remember. We were sitting on his bed and I took a drag, expecting immediate results, and nothing happened. I didn’t realize it took a couple minutes to kick in so I guess I must of have inhaled, oh I dunno… all of that joint, like it was a cigarette. Chris, being an experienced smoker, just sat there with his god damned mouth shut and didn’t even try to intervene, apparently waiting to see if I might start reading his mind or speaking in tongues. What happened instead was that I became paralyzed. I mean not actually paralyzed; I could still wiggle my fingers and toes but my body seemed to weigh about 500 pounds and I couldn’t get off the bed. I couldn’t even sit up. What happened next? Fuck if I know. We might have had sex, but probably not, maybe I told him the exact date and circumstance of his death or where and when the next Mega Bucks machine was gonna hit, likely I told him to get some fucking air freshener for that lizard cage and then succumbed to a drug induced coma.

We only went one actual date, if you could even call it that. He took me to Tom and Jerry’s for some fish tacos and then we went to Binion’s Horseshoe on Fremont Street to have our photo taken in front of a million dollars. Yep, back in the day, Binion’s used to keep a million dollars in a bullet proof glass case and, for a nominal fee, you could have your photo taken in front of it. I never thought of Chris as my boyfriend. I didn’t feel any particular way about him, he was just the guy who lived down the street and I was just his naughty little secret. He wanted to fuck me, he tried to fuck me, and I didn’t stop him, but he had himself an acute case of the erectile dysfunction. I’ll concede that it can happen to anyone from time to time but I was 19 with the hormones of a race car which made me unsympathetic and, when it happened twice in a row, I was seriously unimpressed. I also began to pick up on the fact that he was hiding me from his friends. Apparently he didn’t want them to know that a limp dick was all that stood between him and deliciously kinky sex with a barely legal teenager. I took offense to that. I mean, what the fuck, right? That’s rude. So, with this in mind, I decided, rather than firing him, to torture him until he quit.

I was getting ready to go home to see Dean for his birthday. On the day I was flying out, Chris invited me over for a glass of wine. I’m pretty sure I polished off an entire bottle of something pink, at which point my behavior deteriorated to completely unmitigated bitch. I recall him saying “I’m gonna take you home now because you’re being an asshole”. This next part has nothing to do with Chris but is funny in any case. After he brought me home I still had to pack for my trip. I was only going to be gone for a few days but was so shitfaced I couldn’t figure out what to pack so I dug up my biggest suitcase and put pretty much everything I owned into it. Then I made my bitch of a roommate drive me to the airport. I was still drunk when my mom picked me up and I had no explanation for why I had packed enough shit to spend the summer in Europe.

Upon after my return, Chris invited me over for the evening. Having not forgotten my plan to torture him until he tapped out, I accepted. Shortly after I arrived, Chirs decided that he was going to take bath, presumably because he thought I would join him. Instead, I decided to perch myself on the back of the toilet and give him the mantis stare until he felt so awkward that he got out of of the tub and dried off. Then I went home. The next week he invited himself over to my place to watch a movie. We were sitting on my bed watching whatever lame ass flick he had brought over. I didn’t like it and was making frequent crude remarks about it when he said “why don’t you just relax and enjoy the ride?” “Really?!?!” I said “I am the ride”, a few minutes later he left of his own accord stating that I didn’t seem to want company right then. “How do you like me now?” I asked as he walked out the door.

The Gun Show

Carl just stepped into the kitchen donning his favorite accessory; an olive colored Red Oxx travel bag.
“Does this look too much I’m carrying a purse to the gun show?”
“No”, I said, ” it looks like a European shoulder bag, but if there’s any safari types there, at least they’ll know you can’t buy Red Oxx at Wal-Mart.” My answer seemed to satisfy him and he headed out the door to meet my daddy/brother, a relative god never intended for us to have in common, at whatever gun show the two of them are planning on perusing today.

Personally, I just can’t bring myself to spend an entire day walking around a drafty building with exposed insulation, rubbing sweaty elbows with a crowd of pot bellied Lone Ranger types; all mustachioed faces and beady eyes, swimming in a sea of camo hunting caps. Seems to me like wearing camouflage on your head is a good god damned way to get shot in the fucking head. But that’s just me. Eavesdrop on any conversation and the air is rank with paranoid lunacy. Each man intent on defending his wife from imaginary intruders and storming the show with an unprecedented sense of urgency. I’m sure their concerns are well founded, today probably is the last chance to complete their stockpile of ammo before Obama arrives at their house to personally disarm them and maybe steal their TV. Well whatever, kids. How much beer did you have for breakfast?

I’ve always been a little on the fence when it comes to weaponry, of any type. It’s not that I’m against the right to bear arms, as it were, but it attracts and breeds the type of mentality who falsely believes that the threat of violence brings peace, or who mistakes the stalemate masquerading as peace during an impasse, for a resolution. Well Johnny Walker Red, where were you and your concealed carry last week when a 73 year old man in Yuma, AZ went bat shit crazy, shooting and killing six people including himself? What? A little late on the draw? I’ll say. That whole mess could have been avoided if only you had been there. Despite all the peacekeeping guns in the world, chaos marches on, tracking bloody footprints into the house and staining the carpet.

A story from my personal collection:

Sometime around the beginning of my senior year in high school, my step dad, Charles, decided to let his mid life crisis manifest itself in the form of a personal guard dog. I remember coming home one night to find him sitting on the couch holding a tiny Blue Healer puppy named Pete. Pete was pretty cute but, when I reached out to touch him, he snarled at me. Resisting the urge to snap the little bugger’s neck I looked at Charles like what the fuck? He said “This dog ain’t a pet so don’t you go treating it like one.” He then went on to explain that he had purchased Pete to defend his welding truck from tool snatching pirates. This may have sounded like a good idea. It wasn’t.

With each passing week Pete got bigger and meaner and Charles grew in his resolve that no one was to scold his precious killing machine for being aggressive towards people. This was his personal guard dog after all. I should mention that from the time I was 5 years old until I flew the coop at age 19, we always had a minimum of four dogs and this type of overt aggression was never tolerated. Once Pete lost his puppy teeth and grew some real canines, the incidents started to pile up. Despite being saddled with the responsibility of watching the truck, Pete would still spend his nights in the yard and house with the other dogs. The problem was that Pete did not understand the difference between friend and foe. It is nothing short of miraculous that no one sued us for damages. Pete bit, and drew blood from: my step brother, my step brother’s best friend, my cousin and my boyfriend. Charles couldn’t be bothered to offer even a begrudging apology for his dog’s behavior; always muttering some passive aggressive nonsense about Pete serving a purpose.

Any sportsman will tell you, a gun that goes off by itself is destined to go in the ground.

When spring rolled around my mom took me to get my senior pictures done. After my portrait session was over, we ate lunch and went shopping. It was one of the last really good days we spent together before time came along and changed everything. On the way home we stopped at the grocery store to get dog food. Since we had five dogs we would always get the biggest possible bag which would typically weigh 50lbs. Back at the house, it was a pretty long walk from the driveway, all the way through the yard, up the stairs of the porch and to the front door, so I volunteered to carry in the heavy bag. The gate was crowded by four happy dogs with wagging tails and one snarling, crazy eyed, mean as hell Blue Heeler. After pushing my way through the gate and making it half way across the yard, Pete charged me and helped himself to a big mouthful of my calf muscle. My mom managed to kick him off of me and we made our way into the house where Charles, who could not possibly not have heard the commotion in the yard, was sitting smugly at the kitchen table; presumably feeling proud of fine job he had done of training his guard dog. I probably should’ve known better but was full of adrenaline, and way past the point of no return, so I made my way through the living room to the kitchen, looking Charles straight in the face with blazing eyes, and said through clenched teeth “Control. Your. Dog.” and then threw the dog food bag down in front of him, stormed off to my room and slammed the door.

I don’t think either of my parents were prepared for my reaction. My mom had been trying for months to talk some sense into Charles about this insane dog situation. It was a futile effort. He couldn’t be reached or reasoned with and would explode with self righteous anger at the slightest insinuation that he may be doing something wrong. I didn’t expect this time would be any different nor do I actually know what happened next. I assume my mom filled him in on the details. All I know is I was in my bathroom wiping up blood and pouring hydrogen peroxide on the holes in my leg when I heard a rifle discharge in the driveway followed by my mom’s hysterical wailing and, by that point, I had come out to the living room where I could hear Charles’ booming voice shout plain as day “shut your god damned mouth Melinda, this is what you made me do!” All at once I understood what happened; Charles had shot Pete and, worse yet, he didn’t do it because the dog attacked me. Knowing we would be sufficiently horrified, he did it to be spiteful. As per normal, he won because the girls cried and a hateful impasse, that vaguely resembled peace, was restored.

People Watching

Try to make it real. Compared to what? -John Legend

People watching is a habit that causes insanity. I should know, I do it compulsively. The problem, you see, is that people lie and this is Universal Truth #1. They lie on every level and about every thing. They lie with their words and their actions. Elaborate facades are built with clothes, houses and cars. A pig with a Benz and a boob job is still a pig, you know? That house in the cul-de-sac may seem opulent from the outside but it doesn’t necessarily come furnished with happiness. From the inside, it might look like a prison of debt, intent on draining the last drops of nectar from the inhabitant’s soul. The world of human relations is a charade and the bottomless cauldron of poison apples for this mind virus is Twitter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter as much as the next introverted scab picker but there comes a time when you have to spit out of the Kool Aid of inadequacy and draw a line in the sand dividing truth from fiction. Self employed nut jobs and patient spiders, this is for you.

So let’s say you own yourself a little business and have accepted the task of creating an online presence to raise awareness by coating the faces of your followers in the seed of your influence. First of all, this shouldn’t be your job because all business owners are manic depressive gluttons for punishment. We gamble with our peace of mind every day, shaking it like to make it break, stepping on or around anything that gets in our way; impervious to cold, hunger and pain, or so it seems. What we really do is gnaw off our own cuticles and scratch our skin raw agonizing over what to do next. You know it’s true and if it’s not, then maybe you’re doing it wrong. In light of this ubiquitous fact, you, the business owner, should not ever, never ever never, even look at Twitter, much less indulge in the stalkeresque tendencies that most people would seek a restraining to order to put an end to. What you need is a good right hand man with a keen bullshit detector to do this for you; someone whose job it is to save you from yourself.

Universal truth #2. The “right” answer is implied in the question and may or may not have anything to do with the truth. Ask any kid how that bubble gum got stuck in his hair or why his brother is crying and he’ll say “I don’t know” because that’s the right answer. Ask Bill Clinton about the stain on his assistant’s dress and he’ll say “it’s toothpaste”. If the question is “what shall I say on twitter about myself and my business?”, the “right” answer is: anything that makes you sound happy, fun, knowledgeable, busy and successful with the occasional candid remark thrown in to remind everyone that you’re still a real person; a devastatingly effective, empathy inducing move. Those of you positive thinkers in the crowd assume I’m being a negative Nelle, drunk on the swill of disillusionment, but let me tell you, Pollyanna, I call it like I fucking see it. Reality is not biased by the letters after your name or the romantic notion that spouting frivolous nonsense on Twitter makes you better than you actually are but, if you want a level playing field, then it’s time to get hip to the rules. What I’m talking about are the real rules and there’s actually only one: when you show up to the party, you had better come dressed as who you’re supposed to be. Clearly then, the right answer is not anything that sounds like “my business is sucking wind, IRS is breathing down my neck, clients are blood slurping jackals and my competitors won’t stop until they have my head on a stick.” That, my friends, is the wrong god damned answer. Doesn’t matter that it may be true that day, that week or even that year, it’s the wrong answer so don’t say it.

Universal Truth #3. People can be counted on to give the right answer at just about any cost. There’s a great line in the movie Jackie Brown where Samuel Jackson says “You can’t trust Melanie, but you can trust Melanie to be Melanie.” That’s right. You can’t trust people to do anything except to behave like people and what was the first thing I said? People lie, and combined with the second thing, most often in an attempt to give the right answer. I know this. I know it backwards, forwards, upside down and sideways and yet still manage to get mind fucked by Twitter way too frequently. There are times when even my business tanks for a month or two, I have to rob Peter to pay Paul and I start thinking that maybe a real job is in order. These thoughts don’t make me happy. I’m a simple creature, really. I like money, coffee, cigarettes, and hot sex but not necessarily in that order, except for the money part. I don’t enjoy being poor, it’s hard on the ego. When I get in a funk, I start spending a lot of time on Twitter and immediately notice how so and so is purportedly doing this and that and I’m NOT. This only pours gasoline on an already volatile psyche, unleashing the rabid dogs of depression which leads to spending even more time on Twitter and so on and so forth. You see where this is going? It’s a dead end game of erotic asphyxiation. My point is I know that everyone else is just playing along, tweeting out the right answers. A few of them are true, some vaguely resemble the truth, and a good deal are completely erroneous. So why do I take it so personally? Befuckingcause I gauge my value as a human being by the success of my business and if it’s not good then I’m not good. If things aren’t right then I must be incompetent. The voices in my head are brutal. In this weakened state, I am more than happy to let my condescending and toothless chauffeur drive me around in the short bus with the rest of the retards. Pass me a helmet.

Universal truth #4 – Eyes on the prize. Circular obsessing drains potency to the point of nil. It’s a small world and a short life. Don’t look around, look where you’re going.

Watching The Flowers Sway

I was watching the flowers sway, staring at the sky through a screen of yellow petals. Clouds float by and birds soundlessly peck seeds from the round center of the flower faces. Butterflies alight on my hands. I don’t feel them but their wings are luminous. There is no time here. The jingle of keys breaks the silence.

It was well after working hours on a Friday afternoon at Cortez Elementary School. Most everyone else had already gone home to settle in for their three day weekend but I had wanted to get caught up on the sizable stack of work on my desk so I was still there, working uninterrupted for the past two and a half hours, and only took a break when I did because of the hunger pain gnawing at my stomach. I realized that my husband, Greg, was probably getting worried because I hadn’t called and, after digging around in my purse and desk, I also realized that I left my phone in my car. Suddenly feeling very guilty for losing track of time and being off the grid, I felt that I urgently needed to call home so I jumped up and charged out the door, turning the bottom lock from the inside to make sure no one could get in while I was gone. You know, sometimes I think I’d lose my head if it weren’t attached. I looked everywhere in my car and couldn’t find my phone. “Shit”, I thought, “I must’ve left it on the kitchen table this morning.” At that point I decided I better just pack it in and go home so I head back to my classroom to get my purse but, as I’m walking up the ramp to the door, it hits me that the only keys in my hand are my car keys. Of course I locked the door behind me on the way out and I can see through the little window that my classroom keys are sitting on my desk. “Aww, fuck me” I mutter to myself. I usually wouldn’t talk like that but at this point I’m tired and hungry, plus I’m alone anyway, so who cares? I march back towards the main building desperately hoping to find a custodian still on duty.

Martin unlocks my office door, much to my relief, and I thank him profusely. He seems pleased with himself for having done me a favor but then he follows me inside, closing the door behind him. We are standing facing each other at either end of my teacher length desk. He stares at me with his typical lack of expression. Fear hits my veins in the same instant he lunges for me. He tries to grab my wrists but I am able to pull away and run towards the door. Unfortunately, the steel door is heavy and in the time it takes me to pull it open, he lands on my back, driving my forehead into the sharp corner. My vision goes black momentarily and he throws me across the room onto the floor. On the way down my right foot catches, causing my knee to turn out of socket, and I come down hard on my shoulder. I hear him lock the door from the inside and, as my vision returns, I scramble backwards towards the fire extinguisher on the south wall of the room; it’s the only weapon I could think of. Martin stands in front of the locked door, hands in his pockets, watching me pull the fire extinguisher from it’s holster. I realize I’ve probably dislocated my shoulder as well. I’m sure he can clearly see the bloody goose egg growing on my head coupled with my lurching movements. He knows I’m injured and evidentially is not concerned as his face hasn’t changed nor has he moved from his position by the door. Only now does it occur to me to say something so I say, “get out of my classroom”. Martin doesn’t react. I hadn’t had time to consider what was happening but now I realize that the two of us are quite likely the only two people on campus and I’ve got no means to escape or call for help. Why doesn’t his face have any expression on it? He doesn’t look angry, he looks… vacant. “Martin”, I say in the most rational tone I can muster, “what do you want?” He still doesn’t answer me but now he takes a step in my direction and I can see he’s gripping something that’s in his pocket. It’s obviously not a gun but other than that I can’t tell what it is. My heart is beating thunderously loud and I really start to panic now. He means to kill me, I’m sure of it. I start to scream ” get the fuck out!!!” and he quickens his pace. I know there’s probably no one that can hear me but I scream for help anyway. I also know that the school district hasn’t had this fire extinguisher serviced in at least 10 years and that it won’t work. I’m standing on my left leg because my right foot is rotated painfully to the outside and I can’t turn it back. The pain in my right shoulder is intense too so I’m on my left foot with a broken fire extinguisher in my left hand while the man of a thousand expressions is almost to me. He pulls whatever it is from his pocket. I still don’t see it because I’m swinging the fire extinguisher at his head. Unfortunately, I miss and hit him in the shoulder. It must of hurt more than he expected because he reeled backwards momentarily and I heard him say “stupid bitch”. I saw then what I can only describe as madness in his face. Martin was always quiet and reasonably polite however I wouldn’t go so far as to say he was friendly. To be quite honest I always figured him to be a little slow. Now though, it seemed like someone else was looking out through his eyes. His face still bore no real expression except his eyes which were shiny black and focused. He came at me again, faster this time, and I swung the fire extinguisher as hard as I could, so hard in fact that it flew out of my hand and put a hole in the wall, missing Martin altogether. Martin’s forearm landed across my collar bones and he pinned me to the wall. I was able to get my hand up and on his face. His arm was crushing my windpipe and I could see a screw driver in his right hand. I couldn’t breathe and the world was starting to go black again. With the last of my strength I drove my thumb into his eye. Again he retreated, hands clutched to his face. I hoped I had blinded him, there was a little blood on my thumb and I tried to run (lurch) for the door again. I was about three steps away when he tackled me from behind, throwing me to the floor with unbelievable force. All the air shot from my lungs leaving me mute and unable to breathe. There was blood on the floor under my face, it was dripping from where I hit my head the first time. He was straddling me, sitting with all his weight on my back. Even if I hadn’t just had the wind knocked out of me, I couldn’t have inhaled. I felt him grab a handful of my hair. He pulled my head up and bounced my forehead off the floor.

I was watching the flowers sway, laying on my back in the grass. Yellow sunflowers towered over me in every direction. I only observed; having no thoughts or feelings. The silence of eternity was here. I gave no consideration to how long I had been there or how long I would remain. No ideas surfaced in my mind. I just was; still in the present moment.

Pain wracked my entire body. I gasped for air and choked on my own salty blood. I tried to open my eyes but could only see out of one of them. I didn’t see Martin but I smelled cigarette smoke and heard his keys jingle behind me. I was facing the back of the class room and I guessed that Martin was leaning against my desk smoking a cigarette. I had no concept of how much time had passed. I could see a screw driver on the floor a few feet away from my face and it was completely coated in blood and what appeared to be some of my hair. Oh god, everywhere I looked there was blood, my blood. How am I still alive? I notice that I’m cold, my feet especially so and, to my growing horror, I realize that I’m naked from the waist down and my blouse is torn open. I don’t see my clothes anywhere. I can’t imagine why I should be awake right now only to discover that I’ve been beaten, broken and raped and am very close to dying of blood loss. A cruel cosmic joke of sorts. My assailant is still in the room, presumably watching me gurgle and choke on my own blood while he takes a smoke break. I have no illusions of fighting him off, escaping or of not bleeding to death but, in hopes of avoiding any further pain, I decide to play dead. I try to breathe as shallow as I can and it is all I can do to not choke on the blood pooling in my mouth. Please god, just don’t let him hurt me any more, stop my heart before he finishes that cigarette. From behind me I hear some rustling and clanking. He’s going through my desk. My dwindling brain power reminds me that there is a hammer in the bottom drawer. I hear metal clang on metal and the sound of a drawer closing. I should be scared, I guess, begging for mercy or something like that but ,when I heard his footsteps approaching, a strange kind of fearlessness came over me. I was furious for what had been taken from me in this room; everything, everyone I had ever loved, every memory, every experience and emotion I had ever known had been torn from my grasp and I couldn’t accept that all the moments of my life had led me here; dying at the hands of an expressionless janitor on the floor of my own classroom. When Martin’s footsteps stop behind my back, I listen for his pants to rustle knowing he would be squatting down. I felt his hand on my shoulder and, somehow, someway, a superhuman burst of adrenaline hit me and I reached out, grabbed the bloody screwdriver and plunged it into his arm. He howled with pain and brought the claw end of the hammer down on the top of my head.

There is always a few moments when you first wake up when your mind is still and the world is peaceful. You haven’t yet hit play on the nonstop recording of useless thoughts and worries that most of us call thinking. It is a brief moment. I was watching the flowers sway and I began to wonder where I was and how I would get home. I noticed the quality of the light start to change. The brilliant sunshine had been turned down a notch and there were no longer any birds or insects to be seen. A vague sense of unease came over me and I saw thunderously dark storm clouds rolling in from every direction. It was then that I noticed I seemed to be drifting up towards the flowers. This paradise had become something else, a deluge of thoughts returned to me and I was terrified to be cut loose from this world. I grabbed frantically at the flowers; tearing off leaves and petals, trying desperately to pull myself back towards the ground. The wind was picking up and huge rain drops started to splash off my face. I clung to the thick stems of the sunflowers, intent on preventing myself from being drawn out into the storm.

Martin saw a bloody hammer in his own hand and a dead woman on the floor. At first he didn’t understand what had happened. The last thing he could remember he was heading to the supply closet after cleaning the girl’s bathroom by the cafeteria. That’s when Mrs. Ringwald flagged him down saying that she had locked her keys in her classroom. Oh my god is that… He used his foot to roll the body over, it is! What the fuck?!?! He looked at his watch. 8:00, how in the world did it get to be 8:00?! The last he checked it was 5:00 and he was getting ready to leave. An all too familiar sick feeling came over him. This wasn’t the first time he had come to his senses in the middle of something ugly. Fearing the neighbors would take legal action, his parents had helped him dispose of the dead dog they found wrapped in a blanket in the shed behind their house. For weeks there were reward signs for the missing German Shepard. Jasper was a friendly dog that would frequently play in Martin’s yard and, sometimes when he thought no one was watching, Martin would go in the house and get a couple hot dogs to bribe Jasper into performing some tricks. His favorite was to place a little chunk of meat on the dog’s nose and then, on his command, Jasper would fling his nose up and catch the treat in his mouth. One sad afternoon Martin was playing with Jasper and “woke up” to find himself kneeling on the ground clutching a rock the size of a football and Jasper laying next to him, his skull was crushed. In a panic, not knowing what to do or even what actually happened, Martin drug the dog carcass into the shed and wrapped it up in a blanket. A few days later a mysterious foul odor was wafting into the house and his dad went out to investigate. There were other times too, other “incidents”, but nothing as fucked up as this. This was a woman, a human being! He had liked Mrs. Ringwald. She was so pretty and nice. He didn’t even remember coming into this room. I didn’t do this, it wasn’t me. Martin’s thoughts were racing. It couldn’t have been me, I wouldn’t do this! Oh god dammit…, god dammit why does this shit keep happening to me?!?! Martin sat on the floor beating his hands against his forehead. He recalled his father’s words as he listened through the wall while his parents argued one night, “Irene, that boy is sick. I’m telling you, he ain’t right and if we don’t do something, next time it may not be an animal that he kills.” Martin replayed this conversation in his head, hearing his mother not responding but only crying. He started to cry too but there was no time for that. He had to get himself and the body out of here before someone came looking for Mrs. Ringwald.

By the time the police arrived on Saturday morning Martin had long since fled the scene with the body, leaving an almost comical trail of bloody bread crumbs that led them straight to his front door. Like I said, I had always figured him to be a little, well, simple. They let themselves into my classroom and discovered a scene so gruesome that I was declared dead even though there was no body. Surveillance cameras, time clocks, bloody fingerprints and the trash bags of Martin’s blood stained clothes that he left in the dumpster gave police a pretty clear road map to follow.

I was watching the flowers sway, whipping violently back and forth and nearly bending to the ground from the force of the wind. Rain stung my eyes but I clung to the ground, refusing to let go.

I was watching Greg address the news cameras. He was pleading on my behalf, begging anyone who might know something of my whereabouts to come forward. “but I’m here” I tried to tell him. His sadness and desperation cloaked him like a black robe. I grabbed his arm with both hands and shouted “Greg!”. He only stared into the cameras and said “please help me bring my wife home”. My parents were standing behind him each lost in a world of misery. My mother’s eyes were blank and her face was horror stricken. When they went home after the press conference I saw her retching into kitchen sink before collapsing to the floor; hugging her knees to her chest and rocking back and forth. My father sat on the couch staring at the TV that wasn’t on. The house was silent. I didn’t want to be the cause of bringing this grief on my family. My heart broke for all of them as the pain of losing me ripped through them. I hurt more for their sadness than for my own lost life. I was especially sad for Greg. We had been married less than a year although we had been together for a total of five years. He was my soul mate, I really believed that and I could think of nothing worse than to helplessly watch him lie in bed crying night after night. I wanted to comfort him, to tell him that I was here and that what had happened didn’t really happen to me exactly, just the me he was used to seeing. I hovered around him, feeling helpless to make myself known. His darkness was so thick he couldn’t see or feel anything except his loss. When he would finally drift off to sleep I would try to reach him there and occasionally he would see me but he never recognized our interactions as anything more than dreams.

I didn’t know how much longer I could hold on. The wind blew so hard that the towering sunflowers were being ripped from the ground. I was so tired. If I let go I knew I would be swallowed up by the abyss of storm clouds. It would be no different than being dropped in the ocean. My fear of what was out there was intense but so was my fatigue. It seemed the more afraid I became, the harder the wind blew and the harder the wind blew the more afraid I became. Finally I couldn’t hold on anymore and let go saying “I give up”. Almost instantaneously, as if god had spoken, everything stopped and the sun came back out. The birds and insects returned and all was as it had been. Once again I was watching the flowers sway and I understood that it was only ever my own fears that were attacking me.

Two months. That’s how long it took the police to figure out where Martin left the body. He left it in a drainage ditch in Bernardo, partially clothed and wrapped in trash bags. A railroad worker found it. Being submerged in water all that time, there really wasn’t much left to find. Dental records were needed to confirm the identity.

I was watching the flowers sway and I decided to stop being afraid. Yes, you can decide stuff like that at any time regardless if you’re walking the earth or idling in sunflower limbo. Decisions can be made by any being at any point. The decision to let go of fear means you have to let go of a lot of excuses too. If you’re lucky enough to be alive, think how your life would be if you weren’t afraid to live it. As for me, I’ll catch y’all on the flip side and when I feel ready for another adventure, I’ll come back and start over.

Five years. That’s how long it took the justice system to convict Martin Sedillo of Carrie Thomas Ringwald’s murder. He’s going to die in prison. My family feels that it is “over” now but it doesn’t satisfy them to punish Martin. No amount of locking him up can undo what has already been done. Greg feels that it is ok for him to move on now. I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to tell him that for years but he felt he couldn’t start to look at anything else in his life until the trial was over. All I want is for my family to be happy again. I can’t bare being the reason for such sadness but, like them, I have to let go and move on.

I was watching the flowers sway.

JC

Dear Mankind,
I’m afraid we must redefine the nature of our relationship. I regret to inform you that I will no longer be able to accept your cash donations in exchange for opportunities to blow me on television. While this was a pleasurable and beneficial arrangement, you loose lipped cajolers have been portraying me in an unflattering light and my agent says it’s bad for business. Sadly, I have never encountered anyone more adept at misinterpreting the facts than you pitifully nearsighted bastards and it hurts me in my heart, but that inglorious clown faced whore you make me out to be is lowering my klout. Apparently, some douche bag sporting the stigmata and a new pair of Gurkee’s charged a Milgauss on my Am-Ex card and then broke the neck of his saltine “companion” who tried to stash it in her twat while he was in the can reading WWJD Magazine and taking a dump. Unfortunately for her, she was not bat winged enough to pass a Rolex off as a camel toe and got a taste of the pimp hand for her efforts. Granted this could have all been avoided by not leaving a $6000 timepiece unattended in the company of a woman with a peg leg and open sores; any fool knows that, but the fact remains that no self respecting social media aficionado would be caught dead retweeting the tainted words of a charlatan. My bank even froze my accounts on suspicion of identity theft resulting in an incident that left me red faced with shame when my card was declined at Spago’s during my parent’s anniversary dinner. My old man had to pick up the tab prompting him to scold to me in front of everyone; wagging his finger in my face and saying “Son, you’ve got to get your affairs in order.” Then he slapped a waitress on the ass demanding that she hold his staff while he tried to make the manager comp the whole meal claiming that he had nearly choked to death on a hair in his salad. The long and short of it is this; you kids are making me look bad and I didn’t sign up for this shit. I guess it’s true what they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Additionally, I am not a doctor. I can’t fix your meth teeth and if pus laden genital scabs were a concern maybe y’all shoulda kept your collective dick in your pants. Please, fucking please stop with the pleas for mercy. I’m not your bitch and you’re gonna need to clean up your own messes. I do, however, have a direct line to the eye in the sky, flamboyant drama queen that he is, keeping me privy to what is hip and I even have a signed lithograph of @Banksy_Graffiti’s ‘Consumer Jesus’ being delivered to my vacation home in the tropics. Most of my friends consider this genre of art to be passe but word has it his work is extremely collectible. Anyway, I packed your shit into some boxes and left them in the garage. There’s some left over fish in the fridge and a loaf of french bread in the oven if you’re hungry. By the time you get this I’ll have walked halfway to Bermuda. Don’t try to call me or I’ll be forced to get a restraining order.
Yours in Christ,
J

Fake Doctors

The following is my opinionated, but not entirely unscientific, testimony for breaking up with dairy products.

Generally speaking, we Americans have been indoctrinated in the gospel of cow’s milk; being led to believe that partaking in it’s creamy goodness is not only wholesome but necessary. Milkiness is next to godliness. Don’t believe me? Turn on the TV and see for yourself. Interestingly though, no other adult mammal consumes milk and certainly no other mammal consumes the milk of a different species. Be that as it may, our near religious fervor for cow’s milk will not be quelled by the facts. To hear some folks tell it you’d think Elsie sits at the right hand of Christ as an honorary member of the holy trinity: Father, Son and Holy Fucking Cow.

Most milk comes from pregnant cows and contains huge quantities of the androgen hormone DHT (dihydrotestosterone), enough to regulate the metabolism of a pregnant 900 pound jersey cow and is also high in IGF-1 (Insulin like growth factor-1), the growth hormone responsible for turning a new born calf into a lumbering farm animal. Milk is baby formula and we make our own, there is no need to drink theirs. It is rumored that 75% of the world’s human population is lactose intolerant to some degree. This means that I am far from alone in experiencing the festive display of intestinal fireworks that commences immediately following the consumption of even the tiny quantity of half & half contained in a Mini Moo coffee creamer. I broke up with that low down bastard, milk, a long time ago but still continued in my love affair with cheese and yogurt because their cultured live enzymes made them digestible for me. I did not realize they were the perpetrators of another crime.

As a kid, my parent’s, like pretty much everyone’s parents, would miss no opportunity to plunk down a glass of milk in front of me and tell me to drink it. I was a small child, not sick, just slight but rather than stating the obvious which was that I was a healthy little person I was told, mostly by my grandmother, that if I didn’t start eating more food and drinking more milk that I would become frail and diseased, “like me” she would say. I consumed a lot of milk, yogurt and cheese so, in retrospect, maybe it’s not surprising that puberty hit me like a ton of bricks at age 11. While it never did produce a C cup bra size, it did mean I started my period in 5th grade and with it came a biblical scourge of breakouts that more or less put an end to my already minimal social life and led me to believe that I was going to have to work on being smart because skating by on my good looks probably wasn’t going to cut it.

My mother has recently informed me that she struggled with acne for a good 30 years; from adolescence until her mid 40’s, a fact that I somehow did not pick up on during the first 15 years of my life, but she swears is true. The thing is, she just told me this last week. I’m 35 years old. Last fucking week! Now, I’m not gonna say that she was a bad mother but I have a major bone to pick over this issue. When she told me of her affliction my first reaction was to throw something and demand “why didn’t you help me?!?!” She worked as a medical assistant in an urgent care center for about 12 years while I was growing up. There was a dermatologist who worked there too. I know this because she did take me to see the dermatologist, once. Granted, it is not my mom’s fault that this dermatologist prescribed some totally ineffective treatments but where I take issue is that she had the same problem and knew first hand how it affected her self esteem; transforming her adolescence into a painfully reclusive time yet, when she it saw it happening to me, she acted like it was no big deal. Not wanting to explode in her face with a tirade of accusations, I didn’t ask her why, but if I had I imagine her answer would be that I didn’t complain or ask for help and therefore she was blissfully (conveniently) unaware of my crumbling self esteem, assuming that there must be some other reason for my conspicuous shyness and inability to make friends. I didn’t complain or ask for help because I was too embarrassed and because I didn’t know that there might have been more help available. I think at that age, the responsibility for identifying and proactively addressing physical and emotional problems is the job of the parent especially when the problem was so visibly obvious and the parent was a health care professional. Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20, right? Seeing that I was destined to suffer the same fate as herself one might assume that my mom would’ve sought out every treatment option available, relentless attacking the problem from every possible angle until clear skin reigned triumphant. Instead, she would sit mutely by while my step dad berated me for wearing too much makeup, in what he assumed was an attempt to get “all whored up”, when all it ever was was an attempt to make my skin look normal.

In middle school I told myself life would be better by the time I turned 16. In high school I told myself all would be well by the time I got to college. At the beginning of college of I told myself there would be clear sailing by the time I turned 21. How long can puberty last after all? The answer; long enough to master the art of introversion or indefinitely, whichever comes first. Sometime around age 25 I stopped setting deadlines. Throughout my adult years, I’ve experienced varying degrees of severity; some years passing with only minimal disturbance while other years seemed like a repeat of 7th grade. I have tried EVERYTHING, every. fucking. thing; you name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve been to other dermatologists, all of whom numbly prescribe the same thoughtless regime of treatments that didn’t work the previous time either. Eventually, having no positive experiences to draw on, I really soured to the idea of seeing a dermatologist and resigned myself to finding products that didn’t make it worse and hoping for the best on a day to day basis. Things were actually pretty good for a few years in my late 20’s and early 30’s. I thought maybe I had finally won but then, about two and half years ago, it reappeared with a vengeance. A little breakout followed by a bigger breakout followed by an even bigger breakout until my complexion had gone completely off the tracks. I tried everything that had ever worked with any degree of success in the past, and all to no avail. My face was a disaster and all I wanted to do was hide but I still had to run my business and successfully close deals which requires a great deal of confidence, all the while feeling hideously ugly. After about 6 months of this nonsense, in a state of total desperation, I decided to once again see a dermatologist. This time, I told myself, is the last time. I’m going to ride this doctor like a fucking pony until they find something that works. I was committed to finding a cure. Incidentally, by this point I am convinced that there must be some stimulus, other than being smitten by God, that is triggering the breakouts; some hormonal, dietary or environmental factor that is working against me but I still have no idea what it could be.

On my initial visit to the new dermatologist, upon hearing my story and my feeling that there must be an underlying cause, the first words out of her mouth were “We don’t actually know what causes acne.” I was like “Are you shitting me?” Imagine that, the cause of the most common skin aliment in the world is not known by the doctors whose job it is to treat it! Really, I mean really?!?! Here we go again, I thought. While she was talking I stole a glance at what I assumed was her medical degree hanging on the wall behind her. Turns out, it was an associates degree in animal husbandry from Middleton Community College. A few months into my tenure she was writing me yet another prescription for a different oral antibiotic and I asked her if such prolonged use of antibiotics wasn’t adversely affecting my health in other ways. She looked at me like I was speaking in tongues and her answer was, get this, “but that’s how it’s treated.” Oh ok, so her plan then was to keep prescribing me oral antibiotics until the abdominal pain and intestinal liquefaction drew my attention away from my face and drove me to slit my wrists in the bathtub. There, problem solved. Eventually, after spending about 7 months and lots of money with this quack, I put in a vote of no confidence and went to find another new doctor. Unfortunately the new one was actually worse than the previous. Both of them did the same things: telling me that acne was a mysterious problem that may be caused by black cats or voodoo curses but definitely not by anything I may be eating and, since the cause is evidently more elusive than the aboriginal unicorn, there was really no point in trying to figure it out so just take these antibiotics until your stomach bleeds and use this horrible battery acid topical ointment that will cause 2nd degree burns, rendering the acne much less noticeable as a result. When these methods would inevitably fail they would get exasperated with me, like it was my fault their lame ideas didn’t work, and then just move on to the next items on the list, still making no effort whatsoever to consider the cause; hurriedly tossing another prescription at me and showing me the door. I only went to the 2nd derm three times. On the third visit she was so rude, curt and useless that I hit the end of my rope, sitting in my car crying with frustration for half an hour before I could get it together to safely drive away. This woman, whose degree I noticed was actually a framed certificate of authenticity for a 1985 Astronaut Barbie, actually said to me (after I shot down all her no-brainer suggestions), ” I don’t know what to tell you then.” Well fuck you very much doc, and thanks for nothing.

I know I can’t be the only middle aged person in America suffering from a chronic case of puberty and my heart goes out to anyone who is coloring their gray hair, applying anti aging treatments to their eyes and using Proactiv on their face all at the same time. If this is you and dermatologists have proven to be a condescending and useless tribe of fake doctors, I feel your pain. But there may still be hope for us yet. One night, during yet another exhaustive internet research marathon, a long overdue miracle occurred. I learned that, while it does not have the same effect on everyone, many people believe that the consumption of dairy products is a direct contributor to the presence of long term, treatment resistant acne in both teens and adults. Basically, the cow appropriate levels of DHT and IGF-1 present in any dairy product throws the human metabolism into a tail spin causing wild fluctuations in blood sugar levels, inflammation and increased oil and skin cell production and guess what all of these things are major contributors to? Surprise, surprise: acne. Admittedly, my love affair with cheese made me reluctant to test the the theory. Eventually though, I decided that no food tastes as good as clear skin looks and that if I wanted off this ride sometime prior to filing for social security, it was time to get serious. That was about 5 weeks ago. The first few weeks produced only nominal results and I was about to throw in the towel when, in week number 4, I began to see a dramatic improvement. Blemishes cleared up and new ones did not appear to take their place. Days are ticking by and, while I’m fully prepared to discover the whole thing is a cruel practical joke, so far the other shoe has yet to fall. With a long history of disappointment I am reluctant to announce the occurrence of an official according to Hoyle miracle just yet but, for the first time in a long time, I am optimistic.