The Fragile Art Of Speaking Too Soon

When I first began writing this, the intention was to cover the second half of my meth-dealing journey into the Pacific Northwest. However, I’ve just experienced a momentary change of heart (you can thank my recently – and finally – diagnosed Bipolar disorder for this) and will be getting the narcotics-laced adventure to you on a later date.

See, a newfound surge of emotion has been approaching me over the past couple of weeks, no doubt in correlation with the imminent “New Year.” Now, this is odd because I usually write these things off as unimportant; it’s not that I don’t appreciate the holidays, but annually updated numbers usually do little more to stir me than the sorry sight of my own flaccid genitalia.

Of course, in these moments of anxiety, my mind begins to scatter in search of answers. Maybe it’s that I’ll be twenty-one, soon? Or perhaps something related to my current (and potentially permanent) withdrawal from college? No, neither of these seem right. And what about my insecurities regarding romance? Dying alone? Seeing old faces over the holidays that I’d rather not encounter? The sheer amount of booze that these holidays bring, and the social and mental pressure that my tiny Irish brain will confront in its wake? Eh, not really. At least not any more than usual.

No, this is something different (potentially new) that entering “adulthood” has awoken within me. And even as I pitifully shit these sentences into a pirated word-processor, I cannot grasp an adequate way to communicate them to you.

You see, whenever I attempt to convey these emotions to others, the situation ultimately devolves into one of two scenarios: me jerking off all over myself in attempts to appear sympathetic (And deep! Don’t forget about seeming deep!), or me clamming up and remaining awkwardly quiet for the remainder of the day (this can really kill a party). Either way, one singular conclusion is always reached – a grand finale of silence and proverbial shrugging – and I spite both myself and the uncomfortable companion for never reacting with enough extremity. There are no explosive tears, screams of love and/or terror, theatrics that make me feel more important than I truly am.

In my greatest  fantasies, I weep harder than Christ at a late funeral, my compatriot hurling their shaking frame to my feet in a fit of weeping, dragging me down to the floor and running quivering fingers through my greasy mess of hair (fuck it, maybe they give me a hand-job as well). My nasty little heart is massaged and the weird issues that I have with affection are soothed and mitigated (see: adoption).

But this obviously never happens and so I continue to flop around uselessly, coldly and unpleasantly wading in the fecal waters of self-directed remorse, soaking up every minute of life that passes un-seized and un-utilized.

Stress headaches leads to the couch – the couch leads to rest – rest leads to sleeping – sleeping leads to five o’clock in the afternoon (and but a single hour of consciousness spent in the earth’s natural daylight). And, at the end of this disgraceful chain of first-world misery and hopeless bitching, we arrive at the end of another day, another month, another year (in this case, 2015). One’s feelings swell up like an elderly prostate and the proverbial urethra of their mind closes up, the figurative piss-stream of their once rushing thoughts and passion stagnating inside the urethral canal of their right hemisphere (or left, if you’re a technical sort of fellow).

It’s sort of like making a mix-tape (mix-CD?) for a friend whom you haven’t encountered for a very long time, where every song ends up sounding like the end-credits track of a really terrible indie film. You can’t order them right, because they all sound like you’re about to walk off-stage, draw the curtain, announce it’s “the end.” But everything is happening always, and the show is never “over,” even if you kick the bucket. You get all whiny and confused and fucked-up and existential and write blog posts that span over a thousand words, filling them up with your uncomfortably personal bullshit that nobody else really wants to read.

Oftentimes, I blame my parents’ chaotic divorce for my inability to properly connect with other human beings (and while I’m at it, the rest of my life’s problems, as well). There was yelling, thing-breaking, and even a bit of law-enforcement intervention. But of course this is really just a scapegoat (and a crumby one, at that), whipped up so that I don’t have to address my own shortcomings as a human being.

And mostly, it works.

I get to be the trouble-child, the victim, the “poor baby.” I get to sleep on the sofa until mid-to-late afternoon, mentally wading through a delicate fog of memories and inventions as my brain composes and compartmentalizes, tenderly cradling and carrying me into the following year, before I even have the chance to scream.

Happy New Year.

Sandpaper Sleeping Bags

My personal perception of the perfect joy would come in the form of a scent. It would be early Christmas morning (every morning) and a steaming mug of Mexican coffee would be planted in one of my two hairy fists. Cinnamon candles would sit aglow atop the fireplace mantle; upon the couch, my wife would rest with one majestic tit flopped out and the nine-month amalgam of my crudely-squeezed seed suckling from its tip. I would lean in and deeply inhale the wistful stench of musty fabric and breast milk, and I would say to myself, “Wonderful.” The audible utterance of this word would not faze my spouse, as nobody would question my feelings or motives in my world of blissful perfection.

These were my thoughts as I lay splayed in a heap of (at least) four adolescent bodies, our thoughts and feelings wafting silently into the air above us and pooling together in a cloud of private nostalgia, the notion of sleep closing in upon us. I smelled my left armpit and prayed that my bladder would hold overnight, briefly visualizing the image of my companions as they awoke in my piss, my many years of beds un-wetted suddenly dropping their streak of success. Moments later came the fear of sporting morning wood, accidentally spearing the young man beside me as we wakened in the winding sheets. Soon enough, the lines of my consciousness blurred and both worries became the same, piss-drenched boner hell leaking into my oncoming dreams.

“Where is the bathroom?” I broke the brief and peaceful silence.

“My roommate has the West Nile Virus,” the young host responded.

Crawling out through a nearby window, I stood on the asphalt shingles and scanned the cozy neighborhood. The sight of a neighboring house caught my eye, the home of a childhood friend. The emotions invoked cut deeply as I unzipped my pants; leaning off the side of the building, I produced my penis and unleashed a wave of urine across the homeowner’s recycling bins.

After returning inside, I shared my stories of Lebanese youth who have their limbs amputated and replaced with hooks. This is done so that the given consumer may effectively hang them (right-side-up or upside-down) from doorways, closet rods, shelf brackets, or whatever else they see fit. This is done for sexual pleasure. Stitching their mouths shut is an optional addition for the client, which I also believe is somehow related to sexual pleasure. They are sold over the darker corners of the internet.

I like to call these creatures “Hook Children,” because it communicates the point snappily whilst putting a minimal emphasis on the horrible reality of the situation.

That night, we fell asleep to the sound of crying. It was very soft crying and I almost got an erection.

Living in America is pretty okay, sometimes. Trying to kill myself was a weak-ass move.

My previous life as a superior guitar player. One day, this photograph will grow up to be a stock image. Just like it's father.

My previous life as a superior guitar player. One day, this photograph will grow up to be a stock image. Just like it’s father.

Bags Of Flesh, Bottles Of Urine

Many healthy concepts fall to the wayside when one is recovering from a traumatic event. The cutting of hair, the changing of clothes, the flushing of toilets, the taking of showers (or perhaps the exiting of showers, once three full hours have passed). When my elder brother’s marriage was decimated by insecurity and distrust, he abused hard drugs and became homeless. When my father lost his job, he curbed his livelihood and spent his accumulated retirement fund on scraping by atop a blue sofa.

When I survived the rupturing of my veins, I coped by devolving into a shitty person.

Within days, I had isolated myself from all trusting friends, broken up with my long-term significant other, and watched enough internet pornography to give myself handcrafted genital herpes. Though I had moved off-campus, I was still clinging to the notion of successfully completing my first college year. Every day, I would return to the dorms and insincerely discuss classes with my friends, all the while neglecting a majority of my homework. Every night, I would walk into my ex-girlfriend’s room and beg for her affection, always reducing my logic to some pathetic copout about “being good friends and loving one another but avoiding any real relationship.” Commitment, responsibility, confidence, and overall functionality had become utter strangers to me. I was a pitiful train wreck of weakness and dishonesty.

Yet, by some ugly miracle, an absurd solution came to me amidst the thick of my wretchedness. It was delivered to me whilst sitting at home, trying my best not to think of my most recent counselling appointment (something legally required of me, as long as I wanted to avoid the loony bin). My hands were set upon my keyboard and a good friend of mine (a young man by the name of Levi Nelson) was sitting at the other end of cyberspace. He had been informed of a strange and rare opportunity, something that could change the course of our lives as we knew them.

“Boot companies will sponsor you to walk across the country in their boots,” he wrote me. “We need to investigate this right now. We need to get out soon. I’m going to get ahold of [our friend] Garrett.”

That was all it took to stand me up and dust me off. I needed to travel back to Portland by whatever means necessary. In fact, the very words “by whatever means necessary” may have actually crossed my mind at some point throughout the abysmal, amateur process that we referred to as “plan-making,” an essential and preceding step in what would be the longest fourteen hours of my life.

The original strategy was to drive back to the big city, meet up, and walk across the country (just like that). However, the far-reaching expanse of America proved too daunting a starting goal; we needed something simpler first.

The second plan was then formed; my friends would be driven into La Grande before commencing with a group expedition to Portland. That way, we would be allowed a small taste of a greater adventure, to determine whether or not we had what it took. And yet the use of vehicles made things “too easy.”

Here, the third plan was born; my friends would walk to me, stay for a week or two, then set out as originally intended. Levi knew members of a tax-evading, independently operated semi-cult known to the youth of Portland as “The Boneyard” (a name earned upon their discovery of animal skeletons, uprooted from beneath the soils of their backyard). A sunken-eyed man lived there with his profoundly pierced girlfriend, a fellow by the name of Fini, who dealt narcotics from a truck and proclaimed himself the group’s “acquirer of goods.” He would supply gear for their excursion, covering camping and general survivability altogether.

Nevertheless, Fini’s heroin-laced preparations took far too long and I became impatient. When visiting a friend’s family in southern Washington (and simultaneously contracting a terrible fever), I finally caved, spontaneously deciding the ultimate plan; from White Salmon to Portland, I would walk approximately seventy miles along the highway, stopping for nothing.

When the time came to return to La Grande, I broke the news to my friends and we drove back into Oregon, saying our goodbyes before I departed.

Within the first five hours, I had barely outrun two trains, stumbled into a homeless congregation in the woods, and discovered a garbage bag full of mysterious flesh.  There was dog shit on my hands and people shit on my shoes. The sun was setting rapidly and my nerves were quickly getting the better of me. After a certain point, I drew and unfolded a sizable pocket knife that had been supplied for my travels, shambling like some drunken rube down the side of the open road with a dark blade hanging visibly from my shaking fist. Two arm warmers (my inadequate substitutes for bandaging) shifted and began to itch beneath my sleeves, leading me to periodically scratch at my wrists and elbows as I shuffled alongside the speeding traffic. It would have been a feat to look more suspicious.

At one point, after the pinkish sun had at last disappeared behind the mountains, a sudden urge to urinate overcame me like a tsunami within my bladder. Bizarrely self-conscious about leaking onto the concrete road, my sleep-deprived brain informed me of a simple, indisputable alternative; relieve myself into the empty water bottle that I had finished off a short while back. Without questioning such logic for even a moment, I whipped my manhood out in the middle of the freeway and emptied my foul, dark, sickly piss into the frail plastic container. After that, all it took was a quick turn of the cap and I was on my way once more, piss-flagon secured at the side of my backpack and stance shaking like a junkie in the cold.

Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t until a good six hours past sundown that an Officer of the Law was called to investigate my undoubtedly frightening presence. When the alternating beams of blue and red began to wash across the road, I crawled up onto the highway’s median divider and tucked my knees into my chest, wracking my hazy brain for the best way to look like a “good guy” (thank Christ, I’m white).

“You alright?” the man called out to me, speaking quietly into his radio as he approached.

“Yeah,” I told him, greasy and heaving and coiled into a fetal position atop a slab of concrete. “I’m good.”

“Where are you headed?” he asked.

“Portland.”

“Oh. Whoa. Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you armed?”

I thought for a moment. “Yes.”

The Officer stared at me, hand near his hip. He didn’t speak.

“Wait, shit, no… I mean yes. But not really. There’s a knife in my pocket. Like a pocket knife. In my pocket. Also a wrench I found in the woods, but that’s actually in my backpack. Oh, and a giant screw from the train tracks. That’s also in my backpack.”

Miraculously enough, these words seemed to alleviate a small amount of the man’s tension, his hand now raised and bearing a bright light, scanning over me. “I’ll give you a ride,” he offered. “As long as you put the knife in your bag there.”

Keeping my movements slow, I lowered myself from the divider and unslung the rucksack, drawing the knife and storing it within. It was clear that he found me unfathomably shady, but any sense of intimidation had been shed over my cluelessness, and a break from eleven consecutive hours of walking sounded like a dream. Putting my hands up, I began to lurch toward him.

“What are you doing?” he asked me.

“Pat-down,” I said.

“You want me to give you a pat-down?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I mean yes. Only if you want to, though.”

Reluctantly, the Officer ran his hands down my body, a wildly concerned eye set upon my face. When he was done, he wiped his hands on his uniform and opened the back door of his car. “Alright,” he spoke firmly. “Get in. You can leave your bag up front with me.”

I did as he commanded, clambering into the cramped, plastic space and jamming my sore legs into the tight gap behind the passenger seat. He walked around front, entered the vehicle, and set my backpack with a heavy thud in the space beside him. “How far are you taking me?” I asked through the barrier of steel mesh and bulletproof glass.

“I can only go about a mile or so toward Portland from here, but I know where there’s a payphone that you can go to.”

“I don’t have any money.”

“I can give you a bus pass.”

“Awesome. Thank you.”

Turning his key in the ignition, the Officer muttered more words into his radio and stepped on the gas, the vehicle jerking slightly upon startup.

Almost immediately, an ungodly stench slapped me in the nose.

Wafting through the backseat, some rank odor had found its way into the vehicle, musty and sour all at once. My face puckered in disgust and I began to observe the front of the automobile, mumbling through sparse conversation whenever it arose.

“My son’s adopted, too,” the man said.

That’s when it hit me, my gaze landing wide and trembling upon the piss-flagon. Its cap had loosened and the rancid urine was splashing in turbulent synchronicity with every bump in the pavement, some leaking down the bottle’s edge and onto the dark leather. At one particular moment, upon approaching the border of Troutdale, the cap slipped off in full and landed in the crevice between seats, wet and foul and lodged into a cavity of the man’s car. Putrid froth splashed out in a thick, yellow glob, landing dangerously close to a small, indiscernible control panel beside the Officer’s right leg. Yet somehow, by some brilliant work of divine intervention, he saw nothing, smelled nothing, and said nothing (well, at least that last one).

Just after passing Troutdale, the Officer pulled over to the side of the road and asked me to exit the vehicle. As soon as my feet touched the ground, agony shot through my knees and thighs; with great effort, I staggered over to the passenger door and waited for the man to open it, speedily reclaiming my bag with a nervous smile.

“I forgot the busses aren’t running anymore,” he told me, handing me a pass regardless. “Good luck out there.”

“Thank you,” I said, taking a step back to watch him pull away.

As the dark shape disappeared down the road, I dumped the flagon out at my feet and watched it bleed slowly into the pebbly earth. The cap was still in the car.

Turning, I continued my journey into Portland.

(Next: My Life As An Accidental Drug Peddler)

Pre-haircut Mack, setting out for Portland on foot - April 5th, 2014

Pre-haircut Mack, setting out for Portland on foot – April 5th, 2014

The Night I Slit My Wrists, We Ate Lasagna

I hate to start on a grim note, but context means the world with these things, so bear with me.

About one year ago, I attempted to kill myself.

Due to shock and blood loss, the initial event has become somewhat obscured in my mind, but some fragments of memory still remain. There were the bleached sheets, the jug of hot piss under my arm, the nurse who threw towelettes onto my chest. But that doesn’t matter so much.

It’s after the hospital discharged me that things begin to clear up.

I remember sitting on the bathroom rug beside the toilet, cross-legged with gauze wrapped tightly about my limp forearms. On the tiled floor before me, a mobile phone had been laid ceremoniously atop a pile of bloody clothing, low-resolution images of naked bodies flickering over the tiny screen. The lights were off and my penis hung flaccid in my hairy fist. Smudges of maroon speckled my fingers, my stomach, and my thighs. When I reached over to obtain some toilet paper, the bandaging snapped loose and unraveled into the urine-laden waters below (in an hour of darkness, flushing becomes suddenly irrelevant). I could hear my friends laughing about something in the other room. I started laughing because my lacerations smelled like human waste.

After ultimately abandoning the notion of masturbation, I returned to the living room, immediately met with the sullen gazes of my father and college compatriots. The younger men had seated themselves upon the surrounding couches and chairs, their speech severed by the return of my greasy presence. In the center of the room, my father stood as though perched upon a stage before them. Words caught in his throat as he attempted to curb his discerned tone, but they soon came sliding from his seemingly unmoving mouth. “We’ve got lasagna,” he said.

For the remainder of the night, the collective group watched samurai films and ate said slabs of questionable Italian meat. It was as though nothing serious had transpired in the prior hours, as though things had returned to normal and would remain so forever. Little did I know the bizarre cascade of shit that would soon envelope the apathetic lump of being that had become my life.

Yeah, I know.

Fuck it, I had to start somewhere.

(Next: Bags Of Flesh, Bottles Of Urine)

The following morning in the snow - February 4th, 2014

The following morning in the snow – February 4th, 2014