Brain’s scattered

Drink’s poured

Took the knocks for granted

Now there’s none left at the door

Trying to gain the ground back

That my feet forgot to walk

Need all the luck the world can give me

That’s why I’m sleeping fingers crossed

Stuck at the Beginning

anatomy2 018

The stillness of the room echoed my latest failure.  In a moment of calculated rage—as the nearly blank page cemented the ever-increasing feeling of hopelessness—I ripped the page from the legal pad and glanced at it, ‘I have recently arrived at the conclusion that when it comes to reaching my destination, knowing where to begin has proven the most difficult undertaking.  So I wander, with no directions, from all directions trying to make sense of the charades that cloud the entrance.’

I had been sitting at my desk—staring at the tip of my pencil for the better part of two hours—wishing it would pick up the slack for my inability to come up with a single fucking thought—the same thing I’d done night after night for the last five months.  I was writing a novel, well, trying to, but with as many failures as attempts, the only thing I’d managed to put on paper were a couple of wordy lines about the perpetual state of the novel itself.  Those lines weren’t even new, but seeing as they’re all I had—they had become the stand in first lines for the novel.  Fuck.

“A novel about life, full of explanations and ideas,” I’d drunkenly boast to uncaring ears.  Everything I put to paper left me with fabricated people living fabricated lives and the message got lost in translation.  I did try, and managed, most of the time, to keep from talking about the novel at all.  Guilty of a history of premature celebration at the sight of promise, I have found out—the rather painfully embarrassing and humbling way—that it’s better to keep your mouth shut than to have to explain to everyone how that script you wrote, sold, said was getting made, who’s cast you were already mentioning, had only been tentatively optioned and dropped because of the bad economy.  Venture capitalists don’t venture out too far in times of crisis—especially on the untrained, unschooled, and unconnected like myself.  So it sat as a 249kb file in my documents folder titled ‘Manifests of Creative Genius.’

I needed inspiration, and for me, inspiration came in the shape of an orange label less prescription bottle filled with what my friends and I called Taste.  Rolling myself across the wooden floors, I found what I was looking for above the stack of size-organized books ranging from Shakespeare to Kerouac on the metal cart turned bookshelf.

The pulse of the world outside my window pulled me from the comforts of anonymity—where I often sit and watch people—coming and going—living their lives.  I gave them names.  I gave them jobs.  I gave them backgrounds and heartbreak and purpose and vices and dirty secrets.  It was all part of a character development exercise I picked up in college.  I saw them—driving their cars, walking their dogs, jogging, getting to the bus—faces riddled with despair and contentment—and I wondered if any of them had it all figured out.  Maybe someone out there did.  It gave me hope.  Chances are they were just as clueless as I was.  That gave me hope.

The task at hand soon seeped to the forefront of my thoughts and I examined the newly appropriated Taste against the late afternoon sun peering through the half raised blinds like a trophy in its case.  “Grape Ape.  Organic.  From California.”  That’s what my dealer told me.  That’s what the sticker said.  Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.  Maybe giving it a name is supposed to justify the price.  Whatever it was, it was tasty, and served its purpose.  A few seconds is all I could hold it in for before it all came pouring back out with a loud hacking cough as I tried directing the smoke out of the window with little success.  Definitely left a taste of grape drank in my mouth.  Guess the sticker didn’t lie.

I went back to watching the cars.  ‘What would my life be like’ I often wondered ‘if I drove that beemer, or that beater?’  I wanted to be somewhere, anywhere.  What if I’d stayed in school?  What if I were a better person?  What if I’d been a better boyfriend?  What if I had more money? –All well-worn questions of the depressing pity parties I was always throwing myself.  This time I had a guest, a group of foliage in the tree outside my window that had taken the shape of a tiger, in a top hat, and it was giving me advice, and strangely enough, I could read its lips, and it all made some sort of sense.  I was stoned.

One more hit for good measure and I’d be at my optimal writing high— which to the detriment of the novel, and my life itself—was closely related to, and often confused with my face-down-in-the-pillow high.  I needed music; something to stimulate a book out of the recesses of my brain.  For ten minutes I perused my music library before settling on a shuffle through my extensive all-encompassing nineties playlist.

I grabbed my latest read, Corso’s Variations, and picked up for a few pages.  I grabbed my journal, read my ramblings from the day’s occurrences, I skimmed the stack of pages riddled with notions of existence and love and destiny and acceptance and betrayal.  In the madness of my words are the answers to my questions.  All I can do is dive in and hope a word, a phrase, a chord, a lyric; anything would stir me in the right direction.  I stared at the blank page waiting for that something.  I got nothing, not a thought, not a word, not if my life depended on it.

I thought about my parents and all they’d given up just to have me fuck it all up.  “You’re the biggest disappointment in our lives,” they told me after I broke the news I was dropping out of school over breakfast, at McDonald’s, which I asked them to pay for.  “We love you, and although we don’t agree with your choices, they’re yours to make, and this is your life to live.”  I wanted to write for them.  I wanted to write my wrongs.  I wanted to make them proud of me again.

A muffled vibrating provided me with much-needed distraction as I searched the mess of pillows and blankets.   It was Crazy, a fitting nickname as he was—apart from being my best friend and brother—crazy.  He wasn’t always like that, but he’s got ninety-nine problems, and it’s one bitch.  Five years they lived together, inseparably, creepily, and one day she just left.  She wasn’t anything special, but he loved her, and it fucked him up.

“Yo dude, hey,” I barely made out over the loud humming in the background.

“Dude, what’s that fucking noise?” I inquired holding the phone away from my ear like those douchy people that hold them like microphones.

“Hold on,” I heard before a THUD and a, “shit.”

“I’m here, what the fuck are you doing?” He lived almost two years away.  I knew why he was calling me.

“Shit man, I’m on my way up there.  I was sitting at home, bored and shit, and I decided to come up and kick it.”

“Right on, well I’m at the crib, just come by here.”

“Cool dude, but hey,” he paused before revealing his real reason for coming by, “hey man, can you help me out?”

“Yup. How much you needing?” – I asked looking at the lone bag I had left.  I wasn’t going back out.

“How much is it?” he asked.  He always asked.  Everybody always asks, as if by asking I’d magically lower the price.

“Same as last.”

“Then same as last.”

“How far are you out?” I inquired hoping he’s far enough out of the city for me to get my room cleaned up.  Not that I give a fuck what Crazy thinks of my room, but seeing as my writing attempt for the evening had quickly met its demise, it was time to move onto my as-of-late ritualistic Friday night cleaning.  I’m on the third week of a self-imposed ban on going out.  ‘I’m working on my writing’ I’ll tell my friends.  Truth is, I’m broke, and rather than be the penniless friend who goes out and just hangs out until his friends feel bad and buy him a drink he then has to space out for the entirety of the night, I prefer to avoid it all together.

“About thirty,” he stated with a slight air of question.

“Right on, see you then,” I say diving into the pig sty that is my room.  By Friday night, having been too busy—lazy—to do any sort of upkeep, my room looks like a moderate case in an episode of hoarders.  Littered with papers, books, movies, cd’s, my trashcan—overflowing with ideas and empty high life bottles, surrounded by fast food bags inside of fast food bags, full of rotting tomatoes the ignoramus at the drive thru always forget to remove—soda cans, candy wrappers, pens long out of ink, pencils—erasers worn down; all simple tasks that a normal person takes an extra thirty seconds out of their time to dispose of properly.  The worst of it—empty bowls with curdled splashes of milk or hardened moldy noodles, wickless candles turned ashtrays and half empty cups of suspect liquid all held in place by a mysterious furry goop on my desk.   Dry-heave after dry heave, I’ll promise myself a clean streak, spitting up bile thinking ‘I mean it, this time’.

‘He can’t be here yet’ I thought hearing my phone going off again.

“Yo, can you get me two?” he asked.


“Ok, It’ll be like 15 minutes.”

My next order of business was deciphering between the clean and dirty clothes spilling out of the inadequately sized closet with the ever effective smell test.  Once that’s done, it’s separating clothes into their respective piles, just to have me give up and throw them back into my closet for when I have enough time.  Crazy sent me a text ‘yo, can you get me some coke?’ To my instantaneous ‘Get real’. This is what he does, he’ll call me when he’s already on his way up here.  Had I not answered, I would’ve found him sitting in his car, but that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what makes Crazy crazy.

About eight months ago, in the midst of one of his prescription induced black-outs, a common coping mechanism for what he calls having his heart ripped out—he knocked out a guy…with a tire iron…outside the only bar in town…in front of about 20 people.  Apparently, from what I’ve been told, Crazy, nearly incoherent from a night of slamming drinks, agreed to buy coke from Cokie the Coke dealer.  Crazy thought the guy was offering him a line and followed him back to his car.  When the guy asked for the money, Crazy was empty-handed and Cokie blew a gasket at Crazy’s ‘fuckinaroun’ and hit him.  He turned his back to Crazy and boasted an assumed victory, only to find himself the sore end of a tire iron to the face discerning between gravel and his teeth.

Crazy runs back inside to a waiting round of shots, toasts a ‘let’s get the fuck outta here’, explains himself, and readily make their escape.  Into the Evo they go, spitting gravel they Tokyo Drift out of the parking lot—nearly missing a police cruiser responding to a ‘man knocked the fuck out in front of bar’ disturbance call.  Thinking he’s being chased—by a cruiser he thinks he can outrun—he speeds off into the quiet streets of the slumbering Midwestern farm town, determined to lose the five-o.

At the sight of fast-approaching sirens, Crazy decided on the next sharp left, going fifty, and lost control on the gravel sprinkled from a driveway that sent him spiraling into a light post, pin-balling him around before he came to a slamming stop on top of an all-too-familiar wooden fence—his neighbor’s—thirty yards away from getting away with it.  83 staples across the forehead later, he didn’t remember a thing.  That’s why he’s Crazy.

The antiquated doorbell’s fire alarm ring ripped through the apartment, snapping me out of the sort of peacefulness one can only achieve through the Zen of mundane activities like clothes folding.

“What’s up?” I ask leading the 5’6’’, gymnast figured, crowned by a receding fade Crazy up the stairs.

“Not shit,” he said in his unnaturally loud voice, “I ran out of pot this morning, and I was gonna wait until tomorrow, but watching v sober sucks so I decided to come up here and get some more from you.”

“Dude, I got neighbors.” I had to ask.  “Just wait ‘til we’re inside before you start in on your dead hooker situation.”

“Right, sorry,” he says and is quite the rest of the way up.

After double-locking my door, the TV was the first thing to go on.  My walls are paper thin and the evening news in an adequate distorter for wandering ears—you never know who may be listening.

“So yeah man, stuff’s called Grape Ape. Organic. From California,” I spewed just as my dealer had done to me just hours earlier, “It’s pretty good. Tastes like grape soda.”

“Forreal,” he says putting the bag up to his nose, “Smells like grapes.  Looks awesome.  Let’s get high,” he says putting a small nug on the table.

“Wanna smoke out of the vaporizer? Just got it.”

He leans up to the check out the alien contraption. “This it? Sure.”

“You just turn the knob to her,” I instruct. “Load it here. And smoke.”  I imitated. “And it gets you high.”

“I’ve smoked out of a lot of shit, but this is the first time I’ve ever needed electricity.  Tight.”

“Now we wait.” The one drawback to vaporizers, instant gratification is not one of its strong points.  While we waited, I loaded a bowl and sat back as Crazy gave me the rundown on the latest dramedy.

“Dude, I think I’m finally over that bitch,” he randomly let out between a double hit, in which he torched the entire bowl. Dick move. “I know all I do is talk about her, and thanks by the way, for listening to all my problems.  I know it’s not fun, so thanks.  But forreal, I’m done with that bitch.”

“Really?” I doubtfully ask knowing this is not the first time I’d heard this out of his mouth, and almost positively not the last.

“Yeah man, I’m done.  I saw her last night.  Let me back up. So last week, I found out she’s been talking to some ugly ass Mexican dude.”

“How’d you find out?”

“You know how I’ve been using what she writes on her MySpace to try and get her back?”
“No, really dude.”

“Yeah man, so I made this program that basically records her keystrokes and saves her passwords and shit. So I started reading her messages.” He says with no qualms as to what is happening.

“You’ve been reading her messages?” I wouldn’t put it past him.

“Yeah, but anyway, she’s been talking to some dude.”

“So how’d you see her.  I thought you guys were on a no-hangout basis.”

“I was hanging out with her brother yesterday and when I went to drop him off at his house, his parents asked me to stay for dinner.”

“are you fucking kidding me?”

“No man, I stayed for dinner, and the whole time she sat across from me and didn’t say a word.”

“Ha ha. What’d you expect?”

“Anyway , after dinner, we get into this fight and she’s yelling at me for being there and…”

“No shit.  What the fuck were you thinking man?”

“What?” He didn’t get it. “What was I supposed to do? Say no? And be rude to her parents?”

“Yes, you say no thanks and get the fuck out of there.  What are you doing hanging out with her brother anyway?”

“He’s my friend.”
“No he is not.  He’s what, like seven, eight years younger than you?”

“So what? He’s good at Fifa.  Whatever. So we get outside and she’s yelling and you know how I’ve been carrying all her shit around in the trunk of my car?”

“No, what? You’re fucking crazy.”

“Yeah, well, you know how she left all her shit at the house.” It is weird, in my opinion, if not everyone else’s, that you would tell someone you’re leaving them, and leave, but leave all your belongings like you’re grabbing a stroll around the block. “So I finally got tired of seeing all her shit, so I put it in bags and tossed them in my trunk.”

“Okay, so she’s yelling.”
“Yeah, so we’re arguing and I’m getting her shit, and I just had to ask her about that dude.”
“You didn’t.”

“I was pissed, so I told her I’ve been reading her messages, so I started ripping the bags and throwing shit all over the lawn.”  He leaned up and became very animated.  “You remember her cunt sister?”

I remembered her poorly dyed black hair with red strands, painted-on eyebrows, black lip-liner, that stupid choker and overall minute stature and robust figure, giving her the disposition of a gothic bridge dwelling troll.  “Vaguely.”

“So that bitch gets all up in My BIZ, and starts fucking hitting me and shit, and you know I don’t hit girls,” He couldn’t have. “But she wouldn’t stop and shit…”

“Tell me you didn’t hit her.”  This is one of those gray areas where you’re either totally against hitting women, or it’s a ‘fuck her, she gon’ come at you like a man’ kinda things, and it would appear sisters are the exception, yours, or someone else’s.

“I mean, kinda punch-shove to the face, open-handed.” That made it better.

“The cops show up?”

“Nah man, I jumped in my car and went to my parents’ house, no cops shown up yet. Don’t think I’ll be invited over anymore.”

“Wouldn’t think so.  Well man, whatever it took, I’m glad you’re over that chick man.  You gotta get yourself out of that fucking situation.”

“For real man, I’m done. Something happened to me that night, I finally got over everything, all the bad energy I was keeping.”

“Word. Women will make you do some pretty fucked up shit.” I said thinking back to my own fiascos.

“You know, since she left, all I can do is replay every moment in my head. I try to figure out where I fucked up and how I didn’t realize things were so bad.  No matter how much I try to distract myself, I can’t.  Out of all the shit I’ve done or been on to cope—weed’s the only thing that’s been able to help me distract myself.  It’s the only thing that makes me feel numb without losing control.”

“I feel ya man, like me, I smoke, not to get high, but to stay normal.  It’s my medicine.  I can’t do the pills.  I smoke a little bit, and I can still handle my shit without getting all popped out.”

“Yeah, it’s a filter for my thoughts,” he explained leaning up taking a hit of the vaporizer, exhaling, expecting smoke and being surprised at the clear vapor. “It’s like, whenever I’m not high, I have all these thoughts going through my head all the time.  Imagine—you’re sitting in a small room—there’s doors on every side, and people keep coming in, everyone with something different to say to you—and they’re all yelling in your face, at the same time—and as hard as I try to focus on someone, they all blend in and the sounds become deafening, and more people keep coming in and smothering you.  Smoking,” he paused for another hit, “is the only thing keeping me sane.”

The moment was overtaken by a somewhat bearable awkward silence.
“Yo man, he said snapping us out of the moment, “this shit ready?”

“Oh…yeah, so, you put this up here, inhale, nice and steady, and if you feel a tickle in your throat, stop.” I said putting the hose up to the base.

“Alright, alright,” he eagerly leaned in and didn’t pay any attention, exhaling a cloud of smoke after a few seconds.  He torched the bowl—the same way he does every time he smokes out of anything.

“Dumbass. I told you to go slow,” I demonstrated the proper handling of the apparatus, and sat back next to Crazy who rolled off the couch onto his hands and knees in a coughing frenzy—with sporadic forced gasps for air—eyes streaming tears.  “You’re up dude. Don’t fuck with the rotation.”

“Nah,” gasp, cough,” I’m good.” Cough. Cough. Breath.  Finally regaining his composure he sat back up.  “I feel high as hell dude. Just off that one hit.”

“It might be the not breathing for the last couple minutes, but whatever does it. Want another one?”

“Nah man, I gotta go in a few minutes anyway, gotta work saan. You know how paranoid I get.” Paranoid is an understatement. Despite driving almost two hours to get here—Crazy has a slightly humorous paranoia about anything illegal in his car.  He takes every glance as a knowing glare and freaks himself out.

Once, one of about thirty cars in the visible stretch of highway I was submitted to one of his episodes as a patrol car entered the highway and he flipped over an eighth of weed, in my pocket. “Yo dude, toss that shit out?”

“What, why?”

“There’s a cop dude.  Behind us a little bit.”

“So what?”

“What do you so what?” he mutters, looking in his rearview, “the weed man.”

“Dude, chill out. He can’t read your lips.”

“Forreal man. We can’t take no chances.”

“Just drive dude. He can’t possibly know I have anything on me.”

“Nah man, forreal. Just get rid of it.  I don’t wanna risk it.  Here,” he extends his hand and rolls the window down a little bit. “Let me have it, I’ll dump it out.”

“Fuck off, just drive.”

“Dude, he’s getting closer. Fuck, just eat it. Get rid of the evidence.”

“I am not going to eat anything.  Just be cool dude.  If anything, acting all crazy’ll get us pulled over.” And we became a barrier at fifty-eight miles an hour. The trooper was next to us.  I heard the thumping of Crazy’s foot on the pedal.  “Dammit dude, pull of at the next exit.

“Which one? The one coming up?”

“Yeah man, get in the right lane.”

Crazy started merging, “Oh fuck, I forgot to signal,” swerved back, signaled, then jerked into the lane, and into the exit lane. Is he following us?”

“Think you lost him.” We pulled over at the gas station and switched.  Now he’s going to do it again, white knuckled at 10 and 2, thinking all the headlights behind him are cops.

“Alright man, Imma head out. Here’s the money.” He set the money on the table, stuffed his bag in his pants. “Thanks man.”

“No problem homie, whenever. And don’t be so paranoid. I know how you get.”

“Yeah dude.”

“And for what it’s worth, sorry about all the shit.  You know I got your back with whatever.”

“I know man.  Appreciate it.”

“What’re you gonna do now?”

“I don’t know.  Guess all I can really do is start over from the beginning and hope it works.”  He disappeared down the stairs and out the door.