Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Sick Intruder

I’m at the office, pulling an all-nighter. It’s around midnight. Outside, east of Thunderbird and Scottsdale road, there are no cars. No people, no sound.
I have the door open, lights on, headphones blasting.
I’m aligning some text when I see movement in the corner of my eye. The hallway light dimmed and then brightened abruptly, as if someone just walked by.

I remove my headphones and listen closely. I hear shuffling feet, like someone’s dragging them in a painful stupor.

This business area of Redfield road is ghostly quiet at night, there are no residential complexes of any kind. Why is there someone here at this hour? I didn’t see or hear a car pull in, this man is on foot.

I grab a ballpoint pen in my fist, and will stab this man’s neck if I have to.

I move slowly from my seat, silent, listening for his position.
I hear fumbling in the kitchen. He’s turned on the faucet full blast. He’s groaning, sniffling a very runny nose.

I’m behind him now, just a few feet away.
He’s young. Can’t be more than 22 or 23 years old. His weakened frame slumps under a dirty hooded sweatshirt. His jeans are tired, with dark hair and an unkempt beard.
I watch him vomit in the sink, then grab his mouth as if struggling to be quiet.

I can’t kill this boy, he’s already dying.
 I put my pen in my back pocket.

“Can I get you something?”

He jumps, spinning to face me with a watery-eyed glare.

“It’s okay. You’re safe here. Let me get you some water.”

I take a bottled water from the small refrigerator, approach him slowly and hold the bottle out to him.
He hesitates, wiping slime from his mouth.

After looking me up and down a few times, he grabs the water quickly and starts chugging it, never taking his eyes off me.

His eyes. They’re sunken deep, panicky black holes, with a thin layer of clammy sweat from every pore. He’s sick. And I think I know from what.

“You don’t look so good buddy. Why don’t you have a seat,” I nod towards the large leather couch by the front door.

He looks at the floor, then back at me, then the floor again.

“You can talk, can’t you? I already told you, I’m not calling the cops.”

“Yeah… yeah okay,” his voice is embarrassed. He’s in the spotlight now and has some explaining to do.

He tries to appear normal, but he’s too far into withdrawal. His body is shivering, his sweat stinks unnaturally. He makes it to the couch and collapses onto it, grimacing.

“You got a few bucks you can spare… you know for the bus.”

The bus, cute.

“How many hours in are you?” I ask, sitting down beside him.

“What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean.”

He grabs his stomach, leaning forward, containing a monster in his gut.

“I… I don’t know. It’s been like twenty six hours or so I… I think.”

“Twenty six hours? Jesus. You’re dying by now.”

He swallows, his face is white, “That’s what… that’s what it feels like man.”

“I’d offer you some food, but you can’t eat right n-“

“-Oh God no. No food. No food…” he’s rocking back and forth now, his muscles are tearing themselves. His feet kick around, grasping for relief that doesn’t exist.

“I’d let you sleep here, there’s a bed in the back. But I don’t want you stealing shit the moment I let my guard down,” I tell the coffee table.

“Aw man, I won’t steal nothin-”

“-Yeah you will. Because I would if I were you.”

He doesn’t argue with me. Just keeps rocking back and forth, gripping his stomach tightly. His eyes water, he’s gasping for air and spitting poisonous mucus into the trash can I gave him.

“You… you don’t know what this is like man,” he utters, barely audible.

“Are you sure about that?” I roll up my sleeves, “Look.”

He leans over, and stops rocking when he sees my arms. “You… you have no veins…how long were you…”

“Few years,” I tell him, rolling my sleeves back down.

He goes back to rocking, his legs won’t stay still for a second. He feels really stupid now.

I ask him how he got here. Now that he knows I’m on his side, with genuine understanding, he doesn’t hold back. He confesses his entire night to me. Starting off with how he called his dealer way after operating hours, got in the guy’s car, asked for a front, and got kicked to the curb. The curb right down the street from my office. He says he was walking around, desperate for somewhere to hide, and that my office was the only place with lights on. So he took the risk and came inside.

“You realize chances are you’d get arrested, beaten up, or thrown out just showing up in a random office. This is the LAST place I’d expect to see someone like you. This town has no patience for drug addicts, man. What were you thinking? It’s almost guaranteed you’d end up in jail, where it’s pure Hell. Especially when you’re sick,” I tell him.

He tries to respond, but vomits in the trash can instead.

“All right, come on. Let’s clean you up. Get up,” I stand, grabbing his wet hand and pull him off the couch.

He stumbles to the bathroom. I watch him in the doorway as he splashes water over his face. I notice him avoiding his own reflection in the mirror.

“Look at yourself,” I tell him.

He’s leaning over the sink, his shoulders shake beyond his control.

“Look at yourself. In the mirror.”

He slowly brings his gaze up and faces himself. His eyes beg for escape. Freezing sweat, a mixture of snot and vomit down his chin. His skin isn’t white anymore, but ashen gray.

He growls, closing his eyes tightly, his lips shiver. Here it comes.

“I hate this. I… I hate this,” he whimpers.

“That’s not you, that guy in the mirror.”

“I’m such a fucking loser. I hate this. I want to die. I hate this… so much.”

“You’re not a loser, man. You’ve just been acting like one for too long.”

He grips the sides of the sink hard, straining to gain composure.
But he can’t stop it. The heroin dam in his brain has just burst wide open, letting all the depression, sadness, guilt and regret flood his mind.

Tears are pouring down his face. I don’t say a word, I just watch him burn as I lean inside the doorway.

Every tear down his cheeks angers him more. He’s sobbing, deep and hard gasps of air, choking on his own pain.

“I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” he screams at the mirror. He’s gripping his matted hair tightly, rocking back and forth.

I’m not sure who he’s apologizing to. It’s not just me, but to himself as well. To the loved ones that have banished him. Maybe everyone and everything.
I’m watching a complete stranger break into pieces. It’s important not to interrupt this moment. Let it hurt him. Let it leave a scar.

He’s bundled himself up tightly in the corner of the bathroom. He can’t bear to look at himself anymore.

That’s long enough.

“Hey man, you want a cigarette? I’m gonna have one, if you want.”

He wipes his eyes, “Yeah. Yeah that… that sounds good.”

We’re out front in the parking lot. He’s sitting, legs shaking and kicking around.

I lean down, lighting his smoke for him, then light my own. I take a long drag, letting the bathroom moment leave us in the breeze.

“You… you got anything that could make this go away?” he asks.

“Nope. Nothing. Not even a Vicodin.”

He groans, grabbing his face and doubling over.

“But I can do you one better. It’s late, really late. But I’ll drive you to a detox center if you want.”

He doesn’t respond, staring at his vibrating feet.

“Not Lark, that place sucks. I’ll drive you to Community Bridges in Mesa. They’re good people there, man. They’ll help you.”

He’s thinking about it. His mind is screaming at him, back and forth. Even the most rational brain is torn to shreds in his current situation.

He stands up, too quickly. “N… no. No.”

“What, you got some place to be?”

He doesn’t. And he knows it.

“Come on, man. Fuck this crappy life you’ve been living. Get it all back. Get it all back now.”

His lips curl up, he’s about to cry again. He covers his face with a shaky hand, and starts walking away into the night.

I should grab him. Punch him, throw him in the truck and take him to get the help he wants but can’t accept. But I don’t. For some reason, I don’t.

A passing wind hits him hard, chilling him to the bone. He keeps walking, getting smaller in my sight until he vanishes around the corner.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Andrew Wrestles a Lesbian.

After a long day at work, I stop by a nearby dive bar for a few lonely drinks.
I didn’t plan on making any friends, or even talking to anyone. Just a couple Long Islands, then I’d drive home and go to bed quietly.

So I’m sitting on the dark end of the bar, getting fuzzy, grungy Nirvana playing overhead. And I can’t help but overhear a ruckus on the opposite end of the tavern.

It’s a group of 20-somethings, all riled up over who knows what. There’s a hot chick, three guys with beards drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, and an obvious lesbian. The lesbian’s standing up now, beer in hand, hollering about how she could ‘kick anyone’s ass.’

The guys make no effort at arguing with her. One just hollers back “Oh you totally could! You’re buff as hell!”

My vision’s too fuzzy to notice her wide shoulders. Otherwise I would’ve kept quiet.

“I’ll arm wrestle ANYONE in this bar and OWN them hahaha!” lesbian shouts.

The sad lineup at the bar doesn’t say a word, but my drunk mouth does.

“Pfftchh… FINE. Bring it. I’ll arm wreshhtle you.”
The bar turns its gaze at me. Some snicker, others shake their head.

“Oh? We got a pudgy one that wants to get beat,” one of the 20-somethings say, thumbing in my direction.
Lesbian sets her beer down, then leans her neck hard to one side. I could have sworn I heard a crack sound from it. Her face is serious, staring right at me. Whatever’s been bothering this girl her whole life shall be avenged through defeating me.

My body takes me over to a small table with two stools. I sit on one end, and she sits on the other.

I’m still thinking this is a joke, then she rolls up her right sleeve. Her arm wasn’t a normal arm. It was cut from stone. It had bicep veins and forearm veins that glistened in the light. Chiseled, like cold steel.

Great Andrew.

I remove the straw from my Long Island and pound the rest of the drink in one gulp. Then put my own arm up and we lock hands.
The bar crowd is watching, seemingly eager to see this lesbian crush me. This’ll be a good story to tell their friends.

I closed my eyes, and thought about Karate. It’s easy to tear off a tree’s branch. But tearing the trunk in half is impossible for any man to do. Make yourself like the trunk of a tree.

One of the bearded fellows tells us to GO, and the amount of thunderous energy from this girl’s arm was unbelievable. I wasn’t pushing back yet, just holding her there. I kept my eyes closed, imagining my upper body as one large, locked object. 
She’s straining and grunting, veins pulsating otherworldly rage.
Just holding our hands in place was draining me fast. I could feel the lactic acid building up in my arm, shoulder and back. I was running out of time.

Then a strange thought popped into my buzzing head.
This isn’t a woman. This isn’t a man either. This is like Jillian Michaels. Part machine, part nightmare. 
Send Jillian Michaels back to the kitchen.

Her friends are cheering her on “He’s got NOTHIN on you babe! KILL HIM!”
Her face is getting red now, her forearm exploding like a thousand suns.

I thought of everything I hated. Everything I regretted. Every sad moment I wish I could take back but couldn’t. I balled it all up in my chest, and sent it to my arm in one burst. Even my mouth growled.

To my surprise, the back of Lesbian’s hand smacked hard against the wooden table.

I beat her. I won.

The bar was dead silent. Even Billy Idol seemed reduced to a whisper.

I was about to get up and cheer, then I looked at her. She was rubbing her arm, looking horribly sullen in a way I can’t put into words. Her bottom lip quivered. Her friends were watching, and she let them all down.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” I reached towards her, but she recoiled back in her stool.
“Don’t be sad. I’m pretty sure I just got a hernia from that. You could still kick my ass, you totally could,” I do my best to console her, with booze on my breath.

“You’re stronger than you look. You work out at all, man?” she says to the floor.

“I do lift… Jimmy John’s subs sometimes.”

“Dude I LOVE Jimmy John’s!” her entire demeanor changes. She smiles a big smile, showing evidence that she was once a pretty girl before turning herself into She-Hulk.

“Hey! Nother round for the crazy guy!” one of her bearded friends shouts.

They all came over and shared a few laughs with me. I joked with them about lesbians beating me up, they bought me three PBRs (which is hipster poison, but I didn’t want to be rude) then I waved them all goodbye.

Even now as I write this two days later, the entire right half of my body still hurts. J

Monday, December 12, 2011

Andrew Fails with Four Men.

It’s a regular Sunday night at Lotus. The football games have concluded. The sports crowd has mostly gone. I only have one other table in the room, and they’re keeping themselves busy with their plates.
I go back into the kitchen to check on some things then return to the seating room.

There are four very well dressed men sitting in the far booth. I’m the only server on, so they’re mine.
As I get closer to them, I notice they look like business owners. Their hair is perfectly groomed, gleaming smiles and bright moods. These guys have an air of importance, but humility, on the surface.

“Evening gentlemen, my name’s Andrew, I’ll be your temporary friend that gets you things.”

They all laugh, perhaps too hard.
“I love him already!” one shouts, festively.

“Have any of you been here before?” I ask.
“Nope,” says one man on the left.
“Ohhh well in that case, scooch over!”

The man on the right gladly moves over, giving me just enough room to sit beside him in the booth.
They seem very amused by this. It’s my usual routine, unique among the servers there. Though a bit unconventional, it always works in developing trust quickly.

I take one of their menus, “We do things family style here. So that means you have to share!”

“Oh, well we never mind sharing!”
I glance around and notice they’re all looking at me, not at the menu. Hm.

“All right well we should get a variety of dishes then,” I point out some of my favorites- a chicken dish, a beef one, a shrimp one, and a combination appetizer, “this should keep it interesting. And I know you’ll all love -”
“-Are you Italian?” one jumps in.
“I bet he is! Oh my GOSH I LOVE his hair! Can I feel it?” a second one exclaims.

“Uh sure why not,” I say.

The man across from me reaches out, revealing a nice Rolex under his suit sleeve, and get this… doesn’t just touch my hair, he runs his fingers through it.
“Oh wow, it’s so thick! I wish I had hair like this!”

“I know me too! It’s so… cute,” the fourth one says.

“Wow thanks guys. Oh by the way, what are we having to drink?”

“Ooo are we drinkin’ tonight boys?” one asks.
They all exchange glances at me, then each other.
“Oh yeah. Oh yeah we’re drinkin’ tonight,” answers one.

“Ok, what’ll it be?”
Rolex guy points across the table at the two beside me, “They’ll each have a Longbeach. I’ll have a Strawberry Mojito, and Bryce,” he thumbs to the smiling guy beside him, “He’ll have a dirty martini.”

“Make it real dirty Andrew,” Bryce says, with a huge grin. They all share a giggle at that.

“Sounds good fellas, should I put the appetizer order in as well?”

“Put it all in babe!” Bryce says. They all laugh at that, too.

With that I was certain- I was playing with fire. But my tip depends on them liking me. Remain friendly, Andrew. But a bit ambiguous. Mysterious, distant, but engaging. Like dealing with girls in college.
So I put their order in, drop off their drinks and keep moving elsewhere.

I conclude my other table, they tell me they loved the food and appreciated the good service. I give them some coupons and send them away happy.

So now it’s just me and the four men across the room.

Oh and the hot bartender. She’s hot enough to melt asphalt. Where most businessmen skip right by me to sit at her bar, these four gentlemen paid her no mind.

Some time passes, and the food is ready. I bring it all out on a large tray and set it along the center of their table.

“So Andrew, are you going to join us?”
I have no other tables, and they know it. I have no excuse to leave.

“Sure,” I say, noticing the man on the right eagerly scooting over again.
I opt to pull a chair up and sit on the end, as if I didn't see the invitation.

“So you guys look like big shots. What do you do?”

“Well he owns a club in Tempe, and we’re partners,” Rolex points to Bryce.
“And you two?” I look to the couple on the right.

“Oh we’re… promoters. Hey! You should come visit the club!”

“What kind of club is it?” I ask, but I think I know the answer.
“A fun one,” Bryce smiles, “You should visit the club soon!”

“Or just visit us,” says one of the promoters. He whips out a card as if he had it ready.
“There’s my number. I’m Todd.” For some reason the rest of them giggled.

I take his card, “Cool thanks Todd. Listen I gotta clean up around here. Enjoy the food eh?”
“We will! It looks so good!” Rolex exclaims.

I finish up my side work. Periodically checking in but leaving quickly. Eventually Rolex takes the bill and pays with his card, I drop it back off and let a few moments pass.
I notice he’s stood the bill booklet up at the end of the table, signaling me my tip is ready.

I approach them one last time, “Great, any last requests within reason?”
They all laugh again, too hard.

“Come see me soon, hon,” Todd says, handing me the booklet.
I take a quick glance in the booklet, noticing a $40 tip on an $82 bill. Then snap it closed. It makes an audible clap concluding my performance. The money is mine now.

“So you guys must know a lot of hot chicks, running a club and all. Any sweethearts you could recommend for me?”

The room got dimmer. Each of their demeanors dropped a thousand miles.

“I don’t know. Maybe,” Todd says to his fork, sinking back in his booth.

“Well we’ll work on it. Thank you gentlemen, it’s been a real pleasure. Take care of yourselves,” I smile and leave.

From a distance, I watch them slowly gather their things. One of them pats Todd on the back like his mother just died, and they all walk out.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Andrew Fails with Six Women.

I’ve always been the believer that the purpose in a man’s life is to find the right woman. Marry her, make a family, and then you can enjoy living. Unfortunately, this is a lot harder than it sounds. With women, chances are you'll fail often. But the rejection is worth it, when you finally find a good one. So despite the odds, I've gone on dates whenever I can.

They all started off pretty good, but then something happens and I can’t help but sabotage myself. In the past, I would have feigned interest to improve chances of sex. But lately, I haven’t. I’m thinking more with my brain than with my wiener, and the results aren't good.

To keep this from getting too long, I’ll just fast forward to the good parts. And by ‘good parts’ I mean the thing my mouth said that ended any chance of copulation.
So now I present to you, the Six Most Recent Dates:

1.  1. The Health Nut

She’s sitting across from me, we’re outside on the restaurant's patio. The sun glistens off her dark hair, the occasional breeze placing her in a slow motion fantasy.

She’s looking down at the menu that I’m all too excited to try. I pick out my dish, then look at her in anticipation. She doesn’t seem happy.

The waiter comes by, proper, poised.

She extends a finger cautiously, like the menu could bite her.
“Is there gluten in this?”
“I can’t have any carbs. Are there carbs in the grilled salmon dish?”
“Is the salmon farm raised?”
“What kind of awful things are they injecting the fish with? Ugh. I can’t eat this garbage.”

She flips her hair. Clearly me, the waiter and this place aren’t worthy of her.
Waiter does his best to appear calm and understanding. Leaving to ask the cooks periodically about how much MSG is in the whatever-possible-dish she spat out of her pretty mouth.

She’s gorgeous, be nice Andrew.
No. Wait. This is just the first date. It will always be like this. She’ll always pick apart everything in every place I try and take her to. Combined with how I’m Italian, and love all food, this won’t work. I’ll give her one more chance. One more question and it’s over.

The waiter returns for the 3rd time, hopeful this will be his last.
“Is your soup made with chicken stock? Is the tomato sauce canned?”

That’s it.
“Yeah and are your ice cubes fat free? Shut. Up. And order something.”

She never talked again.

2. The Cute Moron.

She’s sitting beside me at a bar. The lighting is red, fervent, passionate over her skin. It illuminates her softly, accentuating every tempting bit of her.

We’ve befriended a guy next to us at the bar. He can’t stand it anymore, and asks
“So how did you two meet?”

I put a hand on her thigh under the counter to stop her, and speak instead.
“Well I was in this giant castle. It was filled with turtles and ghosts, but I got passed them all. At the end was this giant spiky turtle that I jumped on, slaying him. She was waiting afterward.”

The guy went to smile, appreciating the joke, but she cut in- “Huh that’s not how it happened. We met at a Starbucks.”

“Wow I was saying you were my princess. Are you kidding me?”

She scoffs “What? I don’t like, get you at all.”

“You know what. We’re through,” my mouth said.

Her glossy lips curled, “YOU are dumping ME?”

“Yes and if anyone asks, it’s because you didn’t get an obviously cute Mario reference.”

“Oh my God Andrew. You’re so freaking weird.”

“Yeah I am weird. But you’re dumb.”

3. The Fisherman. (Obviously hot girl in perfect shape that keeps fishing for compliments.)

This one was stunning. Even I got nervous the moment I saw her. She’s sitting across from me at Oregano’s.

“Want to split a pizza?” I say to her.

“Uh, I look so bloated today, sorry I’m like soooo fat.”
She takes her manicured fingers and pinches her flat stomach.

“Are you just fishing, or do you seriously have a body image problem?”

“Fishing what? No I’m like so breaking out right now too. See?”
She points to her perfect, blemish-free face.

“Yeah I see it. You look like shit. Maybe you should’ve worn more makeup.”

4. The Online Girl.

This girl started off lovely, but has since covered herself in a myriad of tattoos, each with conflicting ideals. She’s wearing a black Jimmy Eat World t-shirt, tightly. It reveals her very sporty, fun looking shape.

“So gauges eh?”

“Yeah, aren’t they hot?” She slides two fingers through her right earlobe with ease.

“What’s the goal in mind, when making your ears into rubber bands? Is it so you can hold your cell phone in them or something? That would be pretty convenient.”

“Uh. Ok grandpa. No it’s so I look hot, you know express myself.”

“Why go so big though?”

“It’s addictive. You just want to keep going.”

“Addictive as in ‘well my dad already hates me, might as well go bigger!’”

“Ugh God. You DO sound like my parents. You even look like my dad. Oh gross! You’re gross.”


5. The Feminist

I’m sitting alone at the table, eager to eat sushi. In strolls a magazine-cover blonde. The only blonde in this list. She’s got a designer women’s suit on, with a low cut shirt underneath, allowing just a peek at her legendary boobs. She’s chatting on her smart phone, as if I’m an appointment she’d rather avoid.

“Hi Andrew. Yeah I was busy.”

“It’s okay, with what?”

“Oh I had another model shoot. With Calvin Klein,” she says it in a way to show me she’s too good for me.

“That’s cool. I hope you like sushi.”

She takes up the menu, then sets it down. “I’m not really hungry.”

“That’s okay, I know how it is being a model. Well I don’t, but it sounded cool, me saying that.”

She doesn’t smile, just starts texting.

“Tell your boyfriend I said hi,” I gesture towards the phone.

“It’s not my boyfriend. I don’t have one for good reason.”

“And what reason is that?” I ask, leaning forward like a reporter.

“I don’t need one. Men are just, not to sound rude, but men are just things to be used.”

“I see. Yeah we’re just tools, every one of us. So I figure we split some spider rolls, maybe some sashimi and a round of sake?”
“Fine,” she says, finishing another text.

I eat most of the sushi. I try to keep the conversation going, but only get short responses throughout the date.

“So are you trying to get with me or something?” she eventually spits out.

“This is a date, right. How am I doing so far?” I ask, eating the last bit of salmon.

“You’re too short,” she says to her iPhone.

That’s it.

My body stands up, and my voice drops, “Okay. Sorry. I’d pay for the dinner, but I’m tired from being used. I’m brainless and poor, you know. Nothing more than a seed donor.” 
Our eyes meet for the first time, then.
I burn through her skull with my gaze.
The phone trembles in her hand. She uncrosses and recrosses her legs, uncomfortable in her chair. For that moment she’s much smaller than me, and she knows it. Her mouth stutters half a response as I napkin my hands and walk out.

6. The Materialist

We made it through dinner. She laughed at my jokes, smelled good. I liked her so far. Now I’m taking her home in my 1999 white Dodge Dakota. It’s an average pickup truck. Nothing I’m proud of, but I keep it clean.
From the passenger seat, she says
“Hey Andrew. You’re cute and all, but that shirt. What is that from, Express or something?”

“Yeah, I got it from Christmas last year.”

“I thought so. Express is so lame. We need to fix you,” she pats my hand, like she’s comforting a retarded kid.
“And this… this truck or whatever this is. My ex-boyfriends had BMWs. They’re nice, you should… you should get a BMW!”

“Oh. Yeah okay. Let’s stop by a dealership on the way home,” I say, as plainly as possible.

“I don’t think any are open this late. WAIT there’s one down on Camelback I think. We could pick out a nice white convertible!” she’s being serious. This isn’t a joke.

“Sounds good babe. You know I never thought of that before, just BUY a new BMW. Why not?”

“I know right? They’re so sexy. You’d be sexy in one,” she’s glowing now, like she just struck gold.

So I take us down from North Scottsdale to Camelback road, she’s all excited telling me where to turn to get to the dealership.

We pull into the parking lot. Perfect new BMWs gleam a rainbow of dreams I’ll never achieve.

“Why don’t you get out and start looking, while I find a place to park!”

“Okay!” she exclaims, giddy.

I watched her close the passenger door and skip off towards a sparkling M3.

Then I drove away.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Andrew Goes to Confession.

I really should have gotten to bed earlier last night. My face rots in the mirror, eyes like two black holes.

Should I shave? Will it even matter?
No, why fake it. This is what I look like, just run with it and hope for the best.

My crusty vision fights the morning light. In the Dakota, I battle a bit of rush hour traffic, bringing my nicotine breakfast in and out of the window.

The parking lot of St. Thomas is relatively stark this early on a Monday. All the weekend warriors are busy back in their normal lives until Sunday.

Should I tell him my deep-seeded depression might not just be mine, but shared by an entire generation without a purpose? An entire future sitting alone on a computer, detached from what little you create. Less likely to go outside and build something, less likely to know your own neighbors. Driving and living shoulder to shoulder amongst thousands of strangers, zombies, self-centered lifestyles out of fear.

Or it’s just too early and I need sleep. That could be it too.

I find the Parish Office 15 minutes early. I try the door but it’s locked. So I back off from the door, and a moment later, this girl opens it to let me in. She’s shapely, with long dark hair and a pretty smile.
“Good morning, I’ll tell Father John you’re here,” she smiles again.
Mmm. I could stare at her all day.

Great Andrew, why not lust after the receptionist in the priest’s office while you’re at it.

I sit on this quiet couch and sink deeply into it. On the walls are sporadic Jesus-related paintings, and a picture of John Paul II, looking very much like Yoda if he were weighed down by overly ornate garb.
Within minutes I feel like I’m waiting for a dentist. Distant office chatter about how-was-your-Thanksgiving-oh-it-was-good, the occasional phone ringing.

The third person in as many minutes walks by, suggests I have some coffee.
“Oh no thanks.”
Do I really look that tired?

A tiny old lady, trying hard to walk in without assistance, finds the receptionist and asks where her sunglasses went.
Pretty Receptionist does her best to tell the old lady she has no idea who she is, or where her sunglasses are.
A third woman appears, jovial and pleasant, from one of the back offices. She corrals the old lady back outside with a helpful demeanor.

I glance at the coffee machine’s clock from across the room, it’s 9:10. Father John’s purposely having me stew for a while, it seems. Can’t show up right away, have to let the patient wait a bit. Make it look like you’re busy.


I get up and see John. He’s not wearing his dress today. Instead he’s in all black like I am.

“Yeah that’s me.”

“Uh… there’s coffee over there?” he points, with a concerned look on his face.
“No thanks. Hey sorry I got scheduled so early. I think they do it on purpose, so I’ll be rotten and grumpy, and more likely to tell you how I really feel.”
“It’s true,” he says, as I follow him into his office.

“Hey damn. Nice office man. Stained wood furniture, black leather, plenty of literature.”
“Yeah,” he drops into a comfy chair opposite from my own, “I should have a nice office, don’t you think?”

I crack an offensive joke about priests rollin’ on 22 inch rims.

“We totally could if we wanted to. At least the kind of priest I am. We don’t take a vow of poverty.”
The both of us shoot the breeze for a while. I mention my world view of ironic isolation because of the internet. Instead of being weirded out, he chimes in immediately. We exchange jokes unheeded on the subject. I tell him if Jesus were to appear now, people would be taking Twitpics of him and texting while he’s standing there confused.

“I just feel like I could be right next to someone, yet they’re miles away. I mean the other day I saw a commercial ‘Use your Visa Card for a chance to win tickets to the Super Bowl for you and ten friends!' And I’m like, I don’t even have ten friends. And the two I have don’t even give a shit about football.”
Father John laughs.

“Seriously, I’d just sit there with an entire row to myself. Sorry these seats are taken, I have the tickets right here.”

John laughs again, then tells me about how he used to be on Facebook, but kept offending people and stopped, “It’s like I have all these ‘friends’ mostly nutjobs from high school that I never even talk to. I’d say the smallest thing on there and they’d all freak out.” He went on about the anonymity of the internet. How people say bold things they normally wouldn’t in person. How meeting a lover now is so cold, calculated, statistical, and distant through online ventures.

I tell him I feel awkward in Mass. That I watched this angelic girl sing in front of the crowd, tried to clap afterwards and felt like a moron.


“Dude yeah. I was like what the hell she did great. No one claps? She could have died up there and gotten the same reaction.”

“Well it’s a song about Jesus. It’s about Jesus, not her.”

“Then we don’t clap for Jesus?”

“No, we don’t clap for Jesus.”

“So if she does lousy, then what?”

“Then I fire her, I guess. I can’t believe that was you clapping. I seriously thought it was some mentally challenged kid or something. If that happened like five or six years ago, I would’ve gotten on the mic and publicly berated you!”

“Then I would have twitched like a retard, cried and ran out.”
We both laughed hard again. I like Father John.

I crack a few more offensive jokes about Jesus waking up in the middle of the night when the church is empty, scratching himself, stretching, then returning to his normal Crucifix pose. John enjoys them, then checks the clock and goes “Oh yeah, so you have some sins?”

“A load of them.”

“Ok well we better do this by the book,” he takes this silky looking purple scarf out, kisses it, says “I do this so it looks like I care. I mean, I do care. You uh, you know what I mean.”

“You sure you don’t want to work on some crossword behind a clipboard while I ramble on and you act like you’re listening?”

“I already did my crossword. Guess I’m out of luck,” he chuckles at me again.

We get the formalities out of the way, then he motions for me to begin.

“Yeah so I lied, I double-parked, will vote for Ron Paul again and I’ve been intentionally avoiding some bill collectors.”

“That’s not so bad.”

“Well I didn’t want to give you a heart attack right off the bat, father.”

“I appreciate it. But go on.”

“Ok, make sure you’re comfortable. You need a snack?”

“I just ate breakfast, go ahead,” he says.

So I went on about my worst secrets. The drug thing, the crimes, the miracle story, the broken heart and so on. He interrupted me a few times with a “Whoa. Wait. Really? Then what happened?”
He was even leaning forward.

So I conclude.
He says “Wow.”
I respond with “Though it sounds like it, I’m not Satan I promise.”
He raised an eyebrow, “How do you figure?”
“Satan would be better looking.”
We both shared a hearty laugh.

“So is that it?” he said, wiping his eyes.
“That’s the gist of it, I’d say,” my stomach growled hungrily.

He then held his hand out and spoke a bit about how I was absolved of my sins. I recanted a prayer with him about how I’m sorry and won’t do it again. Afterwards I ask “What time is it?”
“It’s 10am on the dot,” he said.

“Dang, you’re a professional!” I shook his hand, “How much I owe you doc?”

“Three Our Fathers in front of Joseph in the church. Ask him to pray for you, to help you become the man God wants you to be.”

“That’s it? I don’t have to paint the roof or get whipped by some Haitians?”
“Not on Mondays.”

We chatted outside for a bit longer about Italian food. He says he feels fat, I tell him don’t worry I’ll be fat soon too. He shook my hand again with a big smile, and I left for work. J

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Andrew, the 350z, and the Policeman.

I already regret doing what I did tonight. I wouldn't recommend it. But it sure gave me a rush! Whew.


The last few days I’ve been house-sitting for a close friend of mine who’s out of town.
In the garage, sits a fresh and clean Nissan 350z. It’s silver with black leather, pure temptation wrapped in metal and fiberglass.
It’s Friday night. I get off work early, come back to the house and let myself inside.
I set my keys down on the counter, and see the Nissan’s key waiting there as it has for days.
Take me, it says.
I pick the key up, caressing it.
This isn’t my key. But it sure feels like it.

I walk out to the garage. I just want to hear her.
I turn the key inside her, letting the seat embrace me tightly. She wakes up with pleasure and conviction.
Drive me- drive me hard, she says. Not just anywhere though. Somewhere special.

Camp Creek.

This place is a twisty, unfinished road in the mountains. I used to take my MR2 Turbo up there, and push it to the limit. It’s always a rush of fear and pleasure, like sex during a skydive. This particular piece of road has a speed limit of 25mph, half of it has no guard rails to protect you from the cliff drop-offs. If you make a mistake, it’s either crush into rock face, or fly into the night to your end.

The shifter takes my right hand. My foot massages the clutch as I cycle through her gears. Like an athlete in a suit, the 350z growls but with composure. She brings me with smooth resolve to the end of the neighborhood.
There’s no going back now. She’s got plenty in the tank, it’s Camp Creek time.

Leaving the last bit of civilization, I come to the point where I have to get out and remove a small blockade. Moving the “Do Not Enter” stands aside, I pull the car passed them, then move the barricades back in place.

I take a moment to look at the 350z, and gather my surroundings. It’s quiet, very dark. There are thousands more stars here than I’m used to. The mountain cliffs reach high, the wind cuts through them with a cold howl.
It’s just me, the Z, and this challenge of a road. It’s been quite some time since I negotiated the corners here. Combined with how my driving style will have to change abruptly for this car, I’ll take it easy the first time up and down.

So the Z and I work our way through the blinds turns, the violent twists, hills and valleys. I make note of each unique element. I’m especially cautious of a series of tight hairpin turns, where no guard rail is present on the outside edge. This road is just a couple miles, but it’s a difficult journey the entire time. A true test, I can see why this road was seemingly abandoned in the middle of construction.
The final stretch is the only part where the road stays relatively straight. It juts up quickly, wraps around a sharp rock face, then turns to dirt. This is the end of the uphill battle of Camp Creek.

I let the car idle a moment. My heartbeat is calm, matching the Z’s.

Exhaling, I engage 1st, 2nd, now 3rd gear back down the straight. Her shifter is quicker than you can think. Smooth, short, and without hesitation. The Z craves me to push harder. We slide around the last cliff edge, all the way down to the beginning of the course.
The downhill is harder on the brakes, so I let her rest at idle on the bottom, while I smoke a Camel.

Ok, practice run is done.

As I finish my cigarette, a flashing occurs in the distance. It’s blue and red. Disappearing then reappearing as it tiptoes around the corners of the rock face.
Someone must have heard my tires screeching. I shouldn’t have come on a Friday night.

Get in, the Z whispers.

The policeman has 3 or 4 more corners until he’s where I am. My left foot drops the clutch, as my right pushes the gas hard. The Z’s tires happily search for grip. We blast together as One up the course again. I’m still unsure of myself on a few of the corners, getting only slightly bolder around the turns on the 2nd run. I watch my rearview mirror, seeing the cop car still back 3 or 4 turns.

The final set of hairpins welcomes me hungrily. The Z and I reach the top straight and I let her scream to redline. The pavement turns to dirt. My right hand and thumb engage the e-brake, my left turning the wheel hard. The Z enjoys it, flipping 180 degrees in place, then stops.

I’m facing down the hill again. Dusty remnants breathing over my headlights.

The policeman is further back than I thought. I see his lights moving up the twists and turns across the valley. There’s no tire screeching. The policeman is unfamiliar with this road.

 I notice my hands are shaking on the steering wheel and shifter.
“This is when a man would think of his wife and kids, and give himself up,” I told the windshield.
The Z’s engine continued to whisper sweet nothings, undaunted.
“You’re right. I’m not one of those men.”

My hands tightened their grip. My heartbeat thundered in my chest.
The officer was closing in. He stopped ahead of me maybe 20 feet, covering me in a spotlight.

“Should we let him arrest us? He can’t see your plates,” I told the Z.
The officer stepped out of his vehicle, aiming his flashlight at me. He’s the single source of light out here, otherwise surrounded by pitch black.

Now is the time. I shut the lights off. Combined with the dusty cloud upon leaving, there’s zero chance one could make out a license plate in this darkness.

“Turn the car off si-“

I couldn’t hear the rest of his words over the Z’s burst of energy. My hands and feet worked with the Z in a perfect song. This was the stupidest thing I’ve done in a while, yet I was doing it very, very well.
My eyes darted from the dangerous curves ahead, to the rearview mirror, and back again.
The last time I saw the policeman, he was hurrying back to his car as the passing cliff swallowed him in the dark.

It was all or nothing at that point. Time to really see what me and this Z can do. I flipped the lights back on and took a deep breath.
Where the MR2’s headlights would search helplessly for the road ahead, the Z’s eyes lit the world up like mid-afternoon. Where the MR2’s turbocharged power would burst without warning, the Z’s natural aspiration came on like sweet foreplay.
We darted and dodged around corners, flying downhill to a 300 foot stretch. Right at the end of the stretch is a bump, then a tight hairpin going left.
I was going too fast, but couldn’t afford to hesitate.
The Z hit the bump, and for a moment, none of my tires were on the ground.
The hairpin was coming up fast, as my left hand flung the wheel to the left. We landed together with a chirp, as the e-brake engaged. Sliding around the hairpin, I went to hit the gas harder to push out of the turn… and nothing happened. No tires screeching, just more sliding.
The rear end was hanging off the cliff. It had to only last for a moment, but when it did, my stomach sank.
My hands gripped white on the wheel, my feet preying on the pedals for some response.
Luckily I had enough momentum to carry through the corner, as all four wheels rejoined the road.

The rest was a blur. My body and the Z kept speeding down the course, but my mind was shocked elsewhere.

I was out of Camp Creek and entering normal roads with streetlights. Still moving quickly, I found a gas station and pulled the Z in behind it, shutting her off completely.

I went inside, casually chatting with the clerk as I saw the policeman, sirens wailing, tear by the station and continue on.
Chatting a few more moments, I bought a pack of Camels to kill time, went out to the Z and slumped in her seat.

“Let’s never do that again,” I told the both of us.
The Z’s interior smiled at me, then went back to being metal and fiberglass.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Andrew vs Leila Miller

It had been six years since I had stopped attending Catholic church.
I started off with the right intentions, did my share of studying religious options. Took pieces of each major sect that I found fitting.
Then went off on my own.
I made some good moves and bad ones. One particular bad choice sent me five years into the wrong direction. I became the bad guy, out of necessity. I eventually lucked out though, being part of the 1% that survives hard drug addiction relatively unscathed.

I've since removed that problem, but not the cause of it. So I began searching for a purpose. Some proof, some adjustment, something or someone to open my eyes.

I felt I was a good person on the inside, and I always treated people around me well. I'm known as a nice guy. Described as that person that makes you laugh and feel good, even the one to ask for advice.

I also sin casually. I sin regularly and knowingly. And so far, I'm still alive and well despite doing it. I've become the entertainer wherever I go. I use coarse language happily. I'm blunt, sarcastic, aloof and constantly finding inappropriate humor in things. I'll even ponder funny scenes in my head... during a funeral.

But now it's time to get serious. I'm getting to the age where finding a wife and building my own family is the next step. If I want to find the One, I need to be the One to find as well.

So to get started on fixing Andrew Centrella-
I figured I'd choose the strictest, most guilt-ridden and staunch religion there was to investigate over again.

Enter Leila Miller. Imagine the sweetest lady you've ever met, and you have some idea of Leila. She's got a huge pile of kids, and they're all adorable angels. Along with her husband, there isn't a family closer to the idealized perfection you'd see on 1950s television.

Leila fearlessly sticks her chin out with a very, very Catholic set of morals. She even posts her guts online, inviting an onslaught. Leila regularly jumps face first into touchy subjects- some of them challenging my own core beliefs. I admired that. Who is this crazy woman?

So I read up on her. This lady sticks to her guns- Jesus in the right hand, and Virtue in the other.

Normally I'm the distant critic, never fully attached to any one idea. Leila's the exact opposite, her steadfast resolve impressed me.
But instead of praising her, I attacked her. She represented what I wanted to be, but couldn't be. All the mental back and forth I had developed over my ugly lifetime, I flung at her, hoping to either learn something or cause damage.

Even if I secretly agreed with her position on some things, I'd still poke and prod at her with commentary. Where previous opposition would admit defeat, Leila would come right back with a hard jab of Convincing, and a right hook of Documentation. Despite me being some online faceless punk, she fought me with all the patience and love of a good mother.

Her goal wasn't to beat me, but to save me.

Fast forward some time, and she eventually gets the crazy idea to invite me to her Catholic mass.
Her Catholic bubble.

Brave move on her part. Sure you can get to know someone a bit through online chatter, but I'm no saint. In fact, at that point I fully admitted to her I was complete scum, yet she welcomed me without hesitation.

I've been to mass hundreds of times, but I was rusty. The crowd would recite their routine responses and prayers. I remembered most of them, but didn't speak a word.

So Leila is bowing her head respectfully, the priest is talking, and I'm trying to listen.

Then I look up at the ceiling and imagine Jesus bursting in, shooting some Conversion Lasers, beating me up in action hero fashion, blessing everyone else then backflipping his way out the door.

Dammit concentrate. This is your salvation, you jerk.

Father John, a jolly rotund fellow in a green dress, begins the Eucharist.
He lifts up the Body of Christ and says what he should.
Despite how lousy I know that cracker tastes. I'm starving.

Oh man, I could eat a whole bowl of that. Actually, screw that cracker. Jesus should taste more like a bacon-wrapped filet mignon, medium rare. Oh and with sauteed mushrooms and onions.

Now the priest is lifting up the Blood of Christ and taking a sip.
Is that a house cabernet? I'd like a glass or three.

People are filing out of their pews now. My turn's coming up! I'm so ready to eat some Jesus. Then I look at Leila, who appears proud that I haven't run out yet, and remember that I CAN'T accept the Eucharist without first going into Confession.

And before I can go into Confession, I have to list out every bad thing I've done according to an Examination of Conscience. After taking this exam, I scored a "You are the Devil"

Leila's still encouraging, helping me set an appointment for a Confession. When the lady from St. Thomas calls me to schedule, poor thing will have to clear out the whole day. Figure I'll bring Father John lunch for the first half, and dinner for the second.

I'll update as this evolves.

Oh, and so this blog's headline isn't a complete disappointment... Leila won the fight.