My girlfriend offered up a kindness and peace today, & while that’s not where this starts, let’s start there. Neither of us are even close to flush with cash, and we have mountains of debt. She’s scratching away at hers, bit by bit, working a job she can be proud to do while being far better than it.I’m now in Month 3 of my latest unemployment (which I totally deserved), applying like mad and making it into deeper, previously unknown reaches of Nowhere.
I had been planning to go for a drive for most of the afternoon, to get out into somewhere that would offer a fair trade to the sunset and make both things more beautiful. For some reason I waited, and in that I had waited long enough for my girlfriend to get home. As is customary, I asked about her day. That story is hers.
She then asks about mine, and there’s never much to tell. Rarely a callback, rarely an interview, rarely a response to my queries. Applications filled out, resumes sent into a void. I know that, someday, I’m going to grow out of my fondness for the e-mail handle “spankbankceo6969,” but as of this early morning, it has yet to happen. Besides, the person who responds to a job query from that address is the only person who should ever be my boss.
In talking about my nothing day, she asked reasonable questions, offered reasonable solutions, and I was an asshole about it. She offered a kindness and peace, to get me driving. Both our stomachs were rumbling. She wanted eggs for her breakfast, and we’d split a pizza for dinner. I said I’d take her, and then I sank into myself. I was silent for a while, and then I’d reached my breaking point and stormed off, telling her she should go get them herself. Five minutes later, I was preparing to go insane on more than a full total gram of caffeine and, while I don’t know what she did in those few hours that I put myself on the road, I know what she didn’t do.
I missed the sunset because I headed east, and north by the time the light was gone. I was on my 3rd can of Rip It within 30 minutes or so, and could feel my heart growing legs in order to run out of my body. Rip it, in a quick aside, is an energy drink made by the same folks who make Faygo (thanks Wikipedia) and like all energy drinks, it’s possibly poison. But it’s cheap, and cheap & poor are buddies.
I bought 5 cans, buck a piece, and hoped that if I shotgunned them fast enough, I could induce a heart attack, crash my car and die. That was my hope because I actively and furiously hate myself. And for me to do that on my own, with my own hateful thoughts and actions, I’ve somehow reasoned, is fine. But I asked her about her day, and then when it was my turn and I had nothing that I was proud to say, I fell deeper into the part of me that wants to die and I was short with her, terse and cold as I jumped up and left the house.
The fact that I’m now writing this indicates that the first bad thought I had didn’t come to pass. My heart is still racing, I’m wide awake and ready to run laps, but I’m no ghost. I feel like one, feel like I’m haunting my friends and family. I feel a bit dead and often feel it’d be better for me to stop all this haunting and just commit to the death thing all the way. I thought about just turning into traffic a bunch of times. Swerve into that concrete pole. Jump the median. Red lights have no more meaning. I still had enough gas in the tank to do any of those things, and I still do.
I didn’t and won’t, for a bunch of reasons that I don’t understand, but while I was driving, talking to myself between loud, angry, kill-something-anything-should be you-just do it songs, I thought about the ridiculous position I was in; I had one dollar left. I spent 5 of the 6 dollars to my name on shitty energy drinks, leaving me so broke that I couldn’t even buy a pack of razors.
“Even if I could afford the razors, I’d just use them to trim my beard and go about my day.”
I turned around just past Trenton, crossed into New Hope and started the quiet, traffic-free ride home that PA Rt. 32 offers. I was waiting for a place–any place, really–to piss, to wash my hands with a foreign soap, to splash water on my face and try to forget a little of the hate I’d just spent on myself. I ended up in a bar, which was as benign a place as any, given my lack of funds. And surprise! It did the trick.
Sure, sometimes you’ve just gotta go and then go, but there’s something about a bar, especially a quiet one, that commands a little something extra in my mind. So I sat at the bar and just asked for a tap water, with my plan being to leave that last dollar of mine as a tip. Regardless of the etiquette on tipping for a glass of water, I tip. Regretfully sorry if that offends.
The bartender brought the water in short order and either didn’t see the dollar or was classy enough to simply not bring it up, and so there it sat as I took my 1st sip of what I thought was just very disgusting tap water. “Typical, Bucks County! Typical! Man can’t get anything worth having in this county without paying!” raced through my head far faster and angrier than I could have said it in a public establishment. Took one more sip, and realized it was something else entirely.
I smelled the rim of the glass, and anyone who works in a bar, who does dishes or cleans knows that smell. Slow night, perhaps, maybe an early rush but nothing for hours between then and my glass of tap water. The bartender must’ve been cleaning the glassware over and over, maybe wiped the bar a couple of times, and didn’t think of the 2nd thing that creates that smell. The first is bacteria. The 2nd is time. If they’d been slow, he might have never thought to switch the dish rag, and so my glass managed to reek of it.
I waited for him to pass me again, and was extremely quiet in telling him about the glass. He sniffed it and immediately took it away, brought me another one that he cleaned just before filling it, and it was fine. Problem solved. Then he placed a shot glass, lip down in front of me. Oh hell yes, free drink!
For some reason, though, I didn’t put 2 & 2 together and I asked him to thank the nice person who sent it to me. I was even dumber when I asked him “why?” after he told me it was on the house.
“You didn’t make a big stink about it, you came to me first, you left me something on a tap water and didn’t take it away when it wasn’t good.”
I’ve been reading a lot lately about how being poor leads to making more and larger mistakes. Apparently, studies had to be done to validate that “desperation” is a real thing. It’s true, though, because when he asked what I’d like, I said, “well is fine.” I don’t care who you are, you should never say that in a bar. It was the final cruelty I’d inflict upon myself over the course of this whole excursion, but was just another that would never occur. He looked to the top shelf and asked me again. He offered up a kindness and peace, & I got the kind of whisky I’d have ordered for myself a decade ago. I drank much better in college than I have since, to my detriment…but back then, I had good friends. I still have good friends to haunt.
I shook his hand and left the bar. After a certain point, my long drives aren’t a means to anything. They’re a rubber band’s recoil. Sometimes I test the band, but it never snaps. I always come home.
And when I came home tonight, all was quiet. I left my office after a couple of hours and saw that my girlfriend was asleep in bed. I walked downstairs and saw what she didn’t do, which was to go out to get her eggs, a pizza for us to split. I can’t say that the only reason she didn’t go is because I stormed out of the house, but that’s how I feel.
It’s why that concept of haunting resonates so much. Too often, I feel like I’m haunting her, too. And while not everything that haunts us hurts us, everything that hurts us does haunt us. I ran up the stairs and turned off the lights she’d left on, the TV showing Netflix choices we weren’t making. She was somewhat awake, and I rested beside her, explained myself, apologized, told her I loved her. She kissed me, but hours later I’m still not able to climb into that bed. Too much haunting left to do, it seems. Haunting myself, because she’s now fast asleep and I never asked her what she ended up having for dinner. I don’t know if she ate. I know I didn’t.
Monkey Shoulder Triple Malt Scotch Whisky: 5/5. I really liked it, which is saying something, considering it’s scotch. I love bourbon and rye, but I hate scotch. Considering this wasn’t really much of a review for it after all, but rather an otherworldly moment of joy in an otherwise miserable little story, here’s their site: Monkey Shoulder Triple Malt Scotch Whisky I hope that’s apology enough.