Thursday, April 30, 2009

Alone Again Or?

“It really all comes down to how you see it,” she said to me.

We sat on her back deck smoking cigarettes and waiting for the Xanax to kick in. It had been a long day, emotionally draining in the way that only a funeral can be. We had spent the afternoon watching our parents cry and the evening drinking beer in the muggy Kentucky air. We never really were keen on small talk, we didn’t see each other often and she knew there was always something I needed to talk about. There was no time to be wasted.

So, like every other visit, we talked.

Family events on my mom’s side of the family couldn’t be more different than the ones on my dad’s. It had been seventeen years since my uncle had died in the plane crash, which meant it had been seventeen years since my mom’s side had all been together. Over the course of the six hour reception, I stood at her side as she introduced me one by one to her eighty nine first cousins, each proceeding to tell me they last saw me when I was “this” tall. It is crazy to think that my mom has cousins who are two and three years older than her mother, whose funeral we were attending.

The cousins and their children came by one by one to pay their respects to my grandmother and offer their support to my mother and her siblings. Each one spent their four or five minutes rehashing a shared childhood memory with my mom and asking her if they could do anything for her. After a moment or so they continued on to my uncle and aunt, but their words were not lost on my mother. She leaned in to me more than once to tell me she couldn’t remember this cousin or that cousin’s first name or how many siblings they had, I’m sure they would have been the same if it was their mother’s funeral. Regardless of whether they remembered how old I was or how long my mom had been married, the simple fact was that their sympathy was genuine in only a way that a family member’s could be. It was clear that they were all there for each other, no matter how far apart they had grown.

So right, by the end of the night I was exhausted, Leslie and I sat on the back deck smoking and waiting for the Xanax to hit. She wasted no time. “Why are you going to New York?” “Are you really in love with this girl?” “Are you going to be able to afford it?” “Are you going to come and visit us still?” She sounded like my mother, just minus the annoyed “what the hell are you doing with your life” tone that she had taken with me since high school. She was concerned, asking about my drinking and if it was still eroding my mental health. She asked the questions I had been trying to avoid answering for the past few months. I don’t know; there is too much to put down here and too much back-story that needs telling for me to accurately explain it. I just remember sitting there looking at her nonjudgmental eyes and thinking that she was listening to my blabbering like only family could.

The drive through the hills to the funeral was long and hot, the sweet smell of the sour mash hung in the hills of the bourbon country that runs in my blood. Blasted out limestone lined both sides of the road and the ash trees let the sun though in small beams. We drove the winding roads my grandfather used to run moonshine as a teenager and past the farm where my grandma worked the land. It had been too long since I had been to the country; I feel a connection with my past when I am out in those woods, something that the city lights will forever blind me to.

The men didn’t cry and the women did; a typical country funeral. I stood at the front of the church and read from the scripture, hearing my voice begin to crack over the microphone as I grew choked up. I got back to my pew and quickly stopped the welling in my eyes, sitting down as the rest of mass passed. We buried her; I almost fainted in the hot sun as we listened to the priest’s final words. We hung around for a minute before going to visit my grandpa and uncle, arguing over who would remove the red wax from the Maker’s Mark bottle we had purchased to pour over their graves. I watched the brown liquid soak back into the ground where it was born just three miles away. My grandma always said we buried them there so they could have a drink whenever they pleased.

I’ll lie there as well.

I sat down on my couch that night and can honestly say I haven’t been that tired in years. The fifteen hour days and seventy hour weeks have nothing on that Sunday night. It takes a lot to hold in those emotions, to be strong for your mother and your aunt. The men don’t cry in our family; that’s how it has been forever, we just don’t. I remember my uncle telling me he had no sympathy for me as I cried at his father’s funeral. “That’s my pa, boy, if anyone should be crying it’s me and ya don’t see me cryin away now do ya?” He had a point.

I didn’t cry at his funeral six months later.

But that isn’t me, not in the slightest. My family knows me well, but not so well that they have picked up on the things I’ve been hiding from them. I’ve learned to hide my emotions from my family, even the ones like Leslie, who know me so well. It has grown over the years to the point where I find it hard to talk to my parents and even my brother about things I need off of my chest. Hiding the way I feel is terrible for my mental stability and just provides more fodder for the inevitable emotional explosion that takes place every few weeks. It has driven me insane my whole life.

So I got into bed that night and I called her to say goodnight. I had been waiting for that voice all day long, as soon as I heard it, the levees broke. As the previous week was poured out in tears and screaming, she just listened patiently. I could feel it leaving me, my heart slowed down and my breathing calmed. I just needed to let it out. The whole weekend I was in the company of my family, but I couldn’t help feeling completely alone…whether I really was or not. I spent five minutes on the phone with her and everything I had been building up for the previous five days was gone in an instant. I don’t know yet know what this means, but I’m slowly beginning to realize.

The ease of release and the judgment free listening, they are the reasons I started writing here. I started writing when I was alone, and the truth is…I was alone.

I don’t feel that way so much anymore.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Damage Control

I get these fits of rage from time to time which lead me to seriously question my mental stability. I’ve been feeling his grip around my throat lately and I don’t know why he is back inside of my head. I thought I had shut him up. It has been a while since we’ve been totally out of control, but it was close this weekend. I managed to keep my hands on the reigns because she was here, and that was the only reason. The lack of hard amphetamine drugs in my system had made it easier to cope with his anger, but in the same token the lack of hard opiates is making it more difficult to keep him at bay. It all comes down to the alcohol and the pot these days; cigarettes don’t even faze me anymore. In any case, EZ is back and he is stronger than ever this time.

It’s strange how some nights I can literally drink a case of beer and be the happiest, friendliest man on earth. On other nights I’ll have four pints and be on the wrong side of sanity before the bars close. I can’t control myself. My brain is a bed of tinder and the slightest spark will set me off in the worst way. You might remember someone else occupies my head besides me. Tell me to stop drinking and he will slam down the rest of the pint I’m holding just to piss you off. Tell him to quiet down and he will scream in your face. Tell him to slow down and the accelerator will be on the floor. I’m on the verge, fighting for control, moments away from punching bricks and putting out cigarettes on my flesh.

We both know I don’t want to, but I can’t stop him.

It takes just a few words or a passing glance to set him off. It’s strange because when I was younger I never had these fits, but as I’ve grown they have actually gotten worse, considerably worse. I never knew I had someone else controlling me. It used to happen only when I was really depressed and I started drinking, then it started to happen regardless of the mood. When I stopped shooting up it got really bad. Naturally I was spending less time half-conscious on my couch so I could spend more time drunk and angry. As I started drinking bourbon to get over the withdrawal I began another addiction.

The bourbon put me over the edge; and let him out of his cage. We would flip out at a bar and get kicked out night after night. We would get into my car and, gripping the wheel with white knuckles, we would hit the gas on the interstate. I found myself on the street at night, stumbling home, cursing the whole way. One such evening, EZ pissed someone off and they tried to cut our throat. I was piss drunk but I can still feel the breeze across my neck as his knife missed my windpipe by an inch or so. I ran home as fast as I could and we stood on the second floor porch with a pint glass full of bourbon, a loaded AK-47 and ninety rounds of ammunition while I waited for the police. If I would have found him before the cops did we would have blown holes in his torso. It is a frightening thing to think about, but it isn’t the first time I have lost control and he has been mad enough to kill.

I’ve calmed down in the past few months and managed to put EZ back in his cage, but only due to the settling of insanity in my life. This doesn’t mean that I’ve got myself in control; I’ve just got no reason to lose it. Lately though I’ve been discovering that if you give me one it won’t take much. It used to be that it was only when I was drunk, but more and more I find it happening when I am stone sober…that scares the shit out of me. It happens at work when 80s Hair gets on my bad side. I can feel myself losing it but I can’t stop. He is there, in my head, screaming at me to feed the anger.

I can’t fight him, I try, but it is impossible.

It is almost like watching yourself on TV. I want to stop him, but I can’t. When he gets control he does everything in his power to feed the anger, he lives for it. As he takes control the grip on the glass tightens, the drag on the smoke is deepens and the voice I utter takes on a different tone. There are no thoughts of consequences when he is in control, just immediate release of anger. I am floating above watching him rip through my life with a grand smile on his face. Destruction is his drug and anger is his release. Everything I have built, he will destroy. We are opposite sides of the same coin simply waiting to see who lands heads up.

He blinds my eyes to rationality and drowns out the sound of loved ones begging me to come back to reality. He shows me only what he wants me to see, that which sets me off. He is always waiting, waiting for that little glimpse which tells him the opportunity is now. It is then that the door slams open and it is too late. He knows the fears I hide from others and he knows just how to express them, pure unadulterated rage. He knows it fights off tears and he knows it wards off anxiety; it is the only thing he knows how to do.

This has taken on a different tone since I started writing it. At the beginning it was just an admission of the facts, it is quickly becoming a plea for help. Don’t tell me the things I already know. I know drinking makes it worse so just shut up, will you? It is going to be hard tonight, a bitter struggle. I can’t be alone with my apartment full of alcohol, not tonight. Bad news comes in floods in my life and now that it has started I know there will be no quarter. I’m waiting for the grief to pour in like a fucking thunderstorm.

I’m right there on the edge and tonight will be the test of a lifetime.

I can feel it as I type these words. I’m wiping tears away from under my glasses and counting the thirty minutes until the nicotine gets into me. It’s only going to help for a minute. After a few more I’ll be passing the drive thru liquor store and I know the 40 ounces will be calling me. I need a drink, no ifs ands or buts about it, I need a fucking drink. The trick is going to be keeping him under control. He won’t shut up on his own, a drink might help for a minute. Other than that, I know only two ways to do it, putting a bullet in my skull or a needle in my vein…neither of which I plan on doing.

It is going to be a fight, it always is. It’s me versus EZ tonight. Main event, everything is on the line. Gripping at my sanity, holding on for dear life. Who will win? Who will perish? If I win, he is put back in his cage and lives to fight another day. If he wins, I lose control and something bad inevitably happens. Under his control I’ve lost friends, broken bones, destroyed property and started fights. These are the least of my worries. This battle seems never ending, but I can’t go on fighting him forever.

One of these days when he gets control he is going to kill me. This blog will go dormant and the emails will stop. Maybe you’ll wonder what happened to me, but after a while you’ll forget who I ever was. If I let him, he will kill me and any memory of me. If I continue to fight this battle with no end in sight, I will lose my life much sooner than I want. Everything is on the line. Every time something goes wrong, everything is on the line. It is do or die.

I have to find a way to kill him before he kills me, it’s just that simple.

If I let you, you would make me destroy myself.

In order to survive you, I must first survive myself.
I can sink no further, and I cannot forgive you.

There's no choice but to confront you, to engage you, to erase you.

I've gone to great lengths to expand my threshold of pain.
I will use my mistakes against you, there's no other choice.
I'm shameless now, I'm nameless now, I'm nothing now, I'm no one now.

But my soul must be iron.
Cause my fear is naked.

I'm naked and fearless.
And my fear is naked.

From "Bottom" by Tool

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I’ve got a knot in the pit of my gut that will not go away. I’m finding it harder and harder to sleep at night, let alone concentrate during the day. I can’t sit still and bouncing my leg nervously as I talk on the phone has become routine. I’m biting my nails and smoking more than I have in the past few months, I can only think about one thing.

I’m sure my friends think I’m talking out of my ass. Over the years I’ve known them; they’ve heard hundreds of schemes and master plans which never went further than the end of the joint we were smoking. I’ve contemplated the Peace Corps, law school, crab fishing, the Army, and teaching, among other things. Not a single one of them was pursued. The thing is, those plots were usually hatched over more than a few drinks and typically forgotten by the time I woke up to a headache in the morning. It’s to be expected that they think I’m full of shit.

The fact of the matter is that this time, I’m not.

Quite frankly I’ve never been full of shit, I was always serious about the plans, no matter how batty they seemed. Trouble was I just never had the motivation…or maybe I just smoked it. What I always needed but never had, was a catalyst, something to kick me in the ass and get me started. I found that being comfortable is easier, no one likes change and I am no exception. But comfortable is boring, and I am not ready to be bored yet…there is so much I haven’t seen.

I’m doing it, for real this time, and when my friends ask me if I’m just talking shit again, I’m going to tell them. I’m not kidding; my days here were numbered as of April 13th. It’s just a matter of time.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Noose

It was this weekend four years ago; I was home in Milwaukee, staying with my parents over the Easter holiday. Spring and Easter breaks were always my favorite, usually coinciding with the weather turning for the better, they were the signal that the school year was, at last, coming to an end. I could taste summer vacation as I spent the long weekend hanging out with my high school friends. The perfect recharge before the stress of the end of the term and finals began.

Most of the weekend was spend with my two closest friends. I hadn’t seen them since my last trip home over Christmas, so they were excited I was home. Excited enough that one of them had decided to buy a half ounce of mushrooms for us to take in the creepy barn behind his house on the south side of the city the night before I left. I hadn’t eaten mushrooms since being dosed in Cincinnati the year before, I had tripped on other drugs since then, but never mushrooms. I was scared that my night might end up like the one the year before had, but I was in my hometown in the company of my best friends.

“What could possibly go wrong,” I figured.

I don’t remember much of the trip and if I did it wouldn’t make any sense for me to explain it to you. You either know what I’m talking about or you don’t, it’s that simple. We talked circles around each other, the light of the lantern casting eerie shadows throughout the barn filled with the product of years of spring lawn sale hunting. Being surrounded with the knickknacks and oddities from decades of his father’s packrat tendencies made the barn the ideal place to sit in near darkness and debate the fate of the world while tripping your face off. We sat up there for hours, shouting like madmen and scribbling the secrets of our enlightenment on little scraps of paper to read when we were sane again. I was still tripping when I looked at my watch and realized it was sometime after one in the morning. I had a six hour drive the next morning and the incredibly difficult task of falling asleep on mushrooms to deal with so I said my goodbyes and climbed the ladder down to the driveway.

I remember it being very blue that evening and the sensation which ran through my body when I sat down in my cold car and pulled down the driveway. The streets were empty; I decided to take the long way and give myself some time to straighten out before going home. I don’t remember much of the car ride except when a fox ran across the road in front of me, forcing me to slam on the breaks and come to a jarring stop in the road. I sat there for a second, watching it run off into the park before I decided it wasn’t a good idea to be parked in the middle of the street.

The rest of the drive home I couldn’t stop thinking about how strange it was seeing that fox, it had to be a sign or something. I had never seen a fox outside of a zoo in my life. I couldn’t quit thinking that it meant something.

It was a few minutes past one thirty in the morning when I caught the red light at the corner of 124th St. and National Ave. Nothing was any different than the hundreds of times I had caught this light, only 24 blocks from home. The after hours lights from the Speedway on the corner cast a faint glow on the intersection. I noticed a brightly dressed man in a t-shirt and running shorts on the other side of the street, in my state it took a moment for my eyes to focus on him.

“Who the fuck jogs at one thirty in the morning?”

The situation was growing odder by the second as the man slowed from his jog and began to stumble back and forth on the corner.

“Is he fucking drunk?”

The light turned green and I pulled forward slowly, getting halfway through the intersection before I saw him collapse on the corner to my right. At this point I had no idea what was happening, was it a joke? Some kind of prank? A junkie? When he didn’t get up I thought for a second and pulled my car into the Speedway parking lot. I got out and headed across the lot. My head was spinning as I jumped up onto the retaining wall and across the lawn to where he lay on the sidewalk.

I can’t remember if his eyes were open or not but I can recall his face with absolute clarity. I never found out if it was him or the drugs in my system, but he did not look human. He wasn’t responding to my shouting and when I started shaking him he didn’t move. I remember the shades of black on his face, it was contorted and it looked like a cheap Halloween mask. The skin was wrinkled and blotchy with spots of red, painting a terrifying contrast amongst the black streaks. He was making sounds that I cannot bring myself to think about, let alone describe, to this day. His breath was heavy and his chest was heaving.

He did not look human.

I had been standing there for a good thirty seconds before it struck me. He was dying.

I was in shock instantly, the mushrooms made each movement seem as though it happened underwater. I managed to get my phone out and dialed 911, fighting the trip as my eyes went in and out of focus. I walked in tight circles as I spoke to the dispatcher. My words came out slowly and deliberately:

“There is a man dying on the corner of 124th and National.”

I hung up the phone and stood there, staring at his face, the image searing itself into my brain. I had no idea what to do, I stood there and watched. There was no one in the gas station and the street was deserted, not a soul on that block but the two of us. It was the most intimate moment of my life but also the most terrifying. I have never felt as helpless as I did that night watching that man die.

Five minutes passed before I heard the faint sirens growing closer. He had stopped moving two minutes prior. Tears ran down my face but I was not crying. The realization of what had happened hit me so hard that I was in complete shock. The sirens grew louder and louder and I slowly began to grow paranoid, wondering if I would be found out. The cop walked me over to me as I sat down on the retaining wall, trying to tell him what happened. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the stretcher going into the back of the ambulance, the white sheet drawn over his face.

I lay down in my bed that night but I did not sleep…I didn’t sleep for a while after that.

This is the noose.

The noose is no longer a physical object of death robbing the life from my lungs. It is something different. I bear events like this on my conscience and few days pass that one does not come to mind. I’ve been thinking about this one lately as it happened this coming weekend. I realize that four years later I still feel like I didn’t do everything in my power to keep him from dying at my feet on that cool night. I am well aware that it is completely ridiculous to blame myself for that man’s death, but I can’t help thinking that if I wouldn’t have been tripping I would have been quicker or I could have given him CPR or something. Maybe I could have done something; maybe I could have been more comfort to him as he died.

I don’t know.

I never knew his name and I never knew what killed him, but what I do know is that I carry his life on my conscience. It is part of the noose that chokes me back to the ground whenever I get back on my feet, forever serving to remind me of the past. Whether it be justified or not, I have often felt it was my fault that I couldn’t save him. If only I was faster, smarter, stronger.

If only I was……if only.

I can’t live with the grip of that noose around my throat. This guilt I have chosen to bear will eventually drag me into the undertow. It has to be let go. I will never forget it, but in order to function I must learn to give this memory and the others like it their leave. I have carried these weights for too long, they must be let go. I just have no idea how. Where does one begin?

Where do I begin?

As I get older the noose gets tighter, more guilt joins the rest. Unless I learn to let these burdens go will kill me. My own mind is the most dangerous weapon, more dangerous than any bullet, rope, pills or cliff.

If I let it, it will kill me.

So glad to see you have overcome them
Completely silent now
With heaven's help
You cast your demons out

And not to pull your halo down
Around your neck and tug you off your cloud
But I'm more than just a little curious
How you're planning to go about making your amends
To the dead

Recall the deeds as if
They're all someone else's atrocious stories
Now you stand reborn before us all
So glad to see you well

And not to pull your halo down
Around your neck and tug you to the ground
But I'm more than just a little curious
How you're planning to go about making your amends
To the dead

With your halo slipping down
Your halo slipping
Your halo slipping down

With your halo slipping down
Your halo slipping
Your halo slipping down

Your halo slipping down to choke you now

"The Noose" A Perfect Circle

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Not Cool

This is just not cool.

I used to think about who I was going to go out drinking with after work and which tried and true drunk driving route I would take home. I used to wonder who I was going to sell my last ounce to and where this weekend’s blow would come from. I thought about women and obsessed over money. I cheated, lied and generally didn’t give a shit about the consequences. I often wondered why I didn’t feel guilty or bad about any of the objectionable decisions I was routinely making. I was drinking bourbon like they were bringing back Prohibition, but hell, I was having fun. I was going nuts like I had never before in my life and I had more than enough to write about. I went into depth explaining the late night fights, the morning hangovers and the crazy shit I barely remembered doing. I wrote about shit that was haunting me and looked at myself through cynical eyes.

But now it’s all different, and I blame you.

You see now I don’t think about the drugs, sex and drinking like I used to, I think about……..other things. Nowadays I think about things like sending you flowers on your birthday and what presents I want to give you. I talk in this gay ass voice when we speak on the phone and have used the words “luvee,” “sweetheart,” and “baby,” way more than I ever wanted to. I think about candlelit baths, oil massages and romantic dinners. My thoughts are filled with cuddling, touching and holding you close.

My God, gag me with a spoon.

Damn it, now look at what you’ve done, you fucker. You’ve gone and turned me into a sap. I honestly thank God on a nightly basis that no one I know has heard me talk in that cutesy voice I use to say goodnight to you. Damn it woman! What’s happened to us? I mean we used to talk about how hard I was going to spank you, how I was going to choke you and how I’d tie you up and use you like a toy. Now we talk about things like how much I love you and how incredibly gay we are.

Honestly, I’m blaming you.

Look, sooner or later someone is going to find us out and they are going to fucking make fun of us. You met my friends, could you imagine the shit I would take if they heard the nicknames we have for each other? We have essentially purchased a one way ticket to doucheville and we are boarding the train of no return. We have got to formulate a plan of action here or the inevitable gayness that ensues will blow our current level of douchebaggery out of the water. Eventually one of us will become completely overwhelmed by it and spontaneously combust.

You may have noticed that the frequency of posts on this blog has decreased lately. That is because the only things I can think to write about are saturated with douchey sappiness. Again, damn you woman, you have taken away my reckless lifestyle, my normal speaking voice and now my blog.

This is just not cool.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Learning to Walk...Again.

It’s been about six years but I still figured I would pick it back up easily, muscle memory and all. The trucks were looser than I like and I stepped back off just as quickly as I stepped on. TJ watched me, quite amused, as I struggled to gain my balance on the board and started rolling. It took a moment, but after a few minutes I was skating around the parking lot like I had for countless hours when I was growing up. The sound of the urethane wheels rolling over the pavement was drowning out my apparently shouting former roommate.

“C’mon Cheese Hawk, let’s see a trick.”

I positioned myself, back to the dumpster, and pushed off toward the other side of the parking lot. About halfway across, I kicked down hard on the tail while lifting the front foot up and forward. I brought my front foot down hard, where the board should have been. Unfortunately this was not the case.

“You suck, I’m going home,” I heard as I picked myself up and dusted the gravel off my ass. I dodged the empty Coke bottle thrown at me out the window of his car as he pulled away. I grabbed the board and made my way for the front door. I stood there for a minute, key in the door, before I thought, “Why not just stay out here and skate, it’s gorgeous and all you’re going to do is shoot zombies on Xbox while you drink beer at a way too early hour.” I lit cigarette, emptied my pockets, took off my shirt and rolled the board out into the lot.

I also got a beer.

For the few minutes I rolled back and forth across the parking lot, failing attempt after attempt at the trick that used to be second nature to me. My glasses kept falling off as I looked down at the position of my feet on the board, I used to wear contacts. Regardless, after a few minutes I had landed the ollie and was suddenly feeling sixteen again. Except for the fact that every time I would stop, I had to catch my breath…I don’t remember ever being that winded after a skate when I was younger.

I stayed out in the hot sun for the next forty or so minutes, trying increasingly difficult tricks with little to no success before finally attempting to jump off my stoop onto the board, which ended with my face slamming directly into the GMC Yukon parked next to me. I picked up my glasses and checked to make sure all teeth were in place before heading inside.

I sat down on my couch and twisted a High Life, realizing that I was pouring sweat with a rapidly beating heart. “Shit,” I thought to myself, “I used to do this all day everyday and I never got this winded.” I stripped down and headed into the bathroom, lifting my foot to step into the tub and wincing as I realized my legs were stiff as shit. I stood there watching the steam roll over the top of the curtain, thinking about just how fucking sore I was.

When I woke this morning, my goddamn legs felt like they were going to break and my face hurt a little but was thankfully bruise free as far as I could tell. All I could think about for the entire drive to work was how badly I wanted to skate when I got home, and how badly my legs were begging me not to. I realized that, even at twenty four, my body is getting older.

I used to skate a few days a week from sunrise to sunset and never had the tight feeling in my legs like I do today. Then again I haven’t been so obsessed with skating since before I left for college, I’m hitting the lot as soon as work lets out this evening. I’m sure that I’ll bust my shit more than a few times, but I’ll get some cool looking scars in the process. Plus, the only strenuous activity I have gotten in the past year strangely coincides with Pitseleh coming to visit; needless to say I could use the exercise.

But one thing’s for sure, when I got back on that board yesterday afternoon for the first time in years, it felt good. I suddenly started thinking about the long summer days spent in the back lot of a Wal-Mart, an empty basketball court or a city park. I remember sitting with friends, smoking, skating and listening to music all day long. It felt good to feel that wind in my face, even if it has to get through a beard now. I felt like the Cheese of the past, not the bad one but the one I miss and wish I could still remember. That hour or so on the skateboard brought me closer to him than I have been in the past six years.

I can’t wait to get out again tonight.