Man, I have felt like a giant sack of fibrous shit since Sunday. I remember waking up in a rage, which I regret to admit is no longer an uncommon occurrence. It’s not that my eyes even open anymore; when it’s time to be awake, the holes where eyes once were just fill with white flame and then I’m UP. Hello immediate panic, immediate frustration and constant, angry fear, all of it so aimless and useless and never anything I wanted.
Car wreck, busted up body, concussion, and medical bills like too many people would be fully capable of believing, I’ve had a lot happen in the six months since my last entry. And I want to quit blaming it all for the fact that I can’t get my head straight. I want to quit writing about it, thinking about it, forgetting about thinking about it and then thinking about it again, then telling someone about that, and hey! It’s only the third time they’ve heard the story, and if they’re still listening to me at this point, then they’re close and good friends, so I can abuse their time and patience just this once more. I mean, I would do it for them.
Except I wouldn’t. I’d probably completely derail if I heard one repeated word, the fire from my eyes making its way down a tube inside my head to shoot out of my mouth if there was a hiccup in cadence or rhythm. And if there was a mistake? A full-blown fuck-up? Forget it; I’m ripping that apart with the avarice and rapacity of a starved jackal. And these are my friends…
…so, back to Sunday. I either had nothing on my mind or now think that I had nothing on my mind, and then I wanted to have a little something to eat. I ordered some take-out, tipped generously, and oh fuck! The door shut behind me. The lock’s a little finicky, in that it’s a piece of garbage that slips just enough to lock a man in his pajamas out of his house with his lunch. But I, man of reason and peace, was perfectly calm in knowing that the spare keys were right where they belong.
One second later, maybe less. Just as I’m realizing that my hands are not touching the spare keys, I’m also flying into a completely irrational rage. My first, FIRST reaction is to break the fucking door down. Moments after, I’m realizing that it’s much harder to knock down a door and I’m screaming on the phone, which was somehow more important to have than my keys. I mean, I barely speak to anyone but myself anymore, and I leave the house all the time. In fact, that very moment was one where I’d left the house. But yeah, have the phone and fuck the keys.
I ended up calling the groundskeeper to see if he could let my lunch and I back into my place, and since it was Sunday and he’s easily the oldest person I know, he really tried to play up his “but I’m so feeble” gimmick to wriggle out of helping me. It’s too bad that the guy just had surgery, can only walk with the help of a cane and is currently likely to lose a battle with cancer in the not-too-distant future, so if he’d flat out told me to drop dead, I might have felt obligated. At 2 pm, I’d have felt obligated.
So he was kind enough to walk over and let me back into my own home. And then he wants to pet my cat, and I can’t blame him one bit, considering how much I enjoy doing that very thing. The cat bolts up the stairs and this compels Bob (that’s my groundskeeper; Bob, meet the people who suffer me. People who suffer me, meet Bob.) to, at once, engage his reserves of spryness and nosiness in order to pet that beautiful kitty at all costs.
He’s like a little, unwashed, shoeless Scandinavian vampire girl: you let him in for one thing and then you find yourself suddenly concerned with gaping, gushing puncture wounds on your throat. Bob’s path was key-cat-apartment-sneaking around-judging the shit out of me. He used the excuse that has now become a trope of our clumsy, boring ballet, that the guy downstairs has a leaking ceiling, and so Bob wants to have a look at the bathroom.
I’ve looked at the bathroom, and so has Bob…and my girlfriend…and the landlord. The guy downstairs and I have spoken, we’ve separately and collectively spoken to the landlord, and still the leak remains, so I imagine that it’s just this extant being from time immemorial, rocketing towards the apex of infinity to circle around me like a ridiculously returning Saturn, coming back this time only because he…forgot his fucking keys. It’s a leak, just like the leak I have in my own ceiling, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over these past few years, it’s this: if you have a leak while poor, you might as well knock the house down and start over with pitch and hay because that’s the only way the leak is going away.
When I actually have the good fortune of being sleepy, I do try to take advantage of it, and I did so that Sunday night. I might have squeezed in an hour of sleep before there was that becoming-too-familiar beating-down of the door. This time, it’s my girlfriend, and she’s locked out. But aha! I have my keys this time! I’m already completely on fire as I’m rampaging down the stairs to let her in, not mad at her but surely, absolutely mad, inconsolable. Really, it’s just a hurricane-force temper tantrum, but at least I could fix this and storm back off to bed like the double-barreled infant I am.
I don’t think I really lost my mind until I got all way down the stairs and realized that Bob locked the second deadbolt. The second deadbolt, which really should be Second Deadbolt for how pivotal it was in this whole misappropriation of oxygen, is a lock for which we don’t have a key. Fucking Bob does, though. So when Bob left after letting me in, he locked my girlfriend out and effectively locked me back in, as the deadbolt opens by key on both sides. I am now a maniac.
I’m not one of those people who immediately offers the tribute of respect to my elders. I know, I should be, maybe once was, but you run into one too many of these elders who take that respect and shit all over it, and suddenly one becomes a little bit reticent about offering it until a sequence of events has occurred. It’s not a specific trial or list of feats, but this indicator and that marker and then that bulls-eye over there have to be hit, and then the El Dorado of my respect is open like it never had doors in the first place. All of that said, when I placed my second call of the day to Bob, at around 8:30pm that Sunday night, this respect thing was a little less El Dorado and a little more Fort Knox.
I can’t recall a single thing I said to this frail, struggling octogenarian, but whatever I said was enough to get him over here to, one would assume, let my girlfriend into the place for which we pay our timely rent. That, naturally, starts with Bob yelling at her. He opens the door and then starts up those stairs again, with unclear motives that are either cat- or bathroom/snooping-related, but it’s also apparent that this guy similarly gets himself wrapped up in fits of blind rage. Whether this guy is the polar opposite of what I want for my future or my Sherpa up Mt. Everest, I should be taking notes, because he’s in my face and we’re screaming at each other. FYI, we would probably have both been doing this with boners, were he not so old and were my blood not making the room smell like a steel mill as it burned to ash while pouring out of my fire-eyes. I feel horrible now, but I have to say that it felt pretty OK for a second to have some kind of outlet for all of this awful stuff that seems to have posted up in my head with no intention of leaving.
Sadly, that ended when ol’ Bob made vague threats on my life. He’s going to get me, he knows guys, guys in Germantown, I’m “fuckin’ done!” Sure, Germantown’s no Kensington, but as rough Philly neighborhoods go, it’s a contender. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the elderly, it’s that they’ve forgotten a lot, but what they remember can sometimes be terrifying. Plus, I only know this guy about as well as I know about Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. Plus, I’m younger, so I’m immediately the asshole in all of this. So I called the cops on the guy.
My reasoning now, and maybe in the moment, was, “angry little prick is escalating the shit out of this, and so am I…better call someone to step in on the situation!” but it felt like a combination of “I have no spine,” “must not kill,” and “don’t you have a home, you old bastard?” I never knew that I could feel immediately relieved and immediately wretched, as if the two conditions were the head and tail of the same serpent. Almost too soon, the cops were the next clan to take a turn at beating the shit out of my door.
Somehow, I had composure, complete calm. Bob, on the other hand, couldn’t have been more livid. For a few seconds there, I was half-convinced I’d just hot-potatoed a demon of possession right into Bob’s little, broken, veiny body. The officer was probably a few years younger than I am, which was a sad little shock to my whipped-to-shit ego, but we spoke quietly and my end of the issue was resolved in seconds. This, of course, left me feeling like a coward and a fake, which I think is what typically happens when things turn out all right.
Then it all anchored deep about 15 minutes later, when the landlord called to chastise the both of us and swiftly hang up before we could respond, like a property-owning child with wrinkles. Resolution suddenly ripped away on top of everything else, Bob went home, tattled on my angry potty mouth, and got my girlfriend sent to the principal’s office with me. I called the cops because I was being threatened in my own home (by a senior citizen I once described as having “a handshake like a gay feather”), and the landlord had the nerve to call and yell at me. Then I called her to set things straight, and she hung up on me again! If I didn’t feel like I totally deserved the treatment, I…well, no, that’s always going to be infuriating. It’s just that I occasionally feel like all that I do is so horribly wrong, so wildly deviant and without merit or sometimes even logic, that it becomes really tough to find justification, even in my own heart, for times like these when absolutely everything in the world I know feels so crazy.
I haven’t heard anything from the guy downstairs, but I can only assume his ceiling’s still leaking. So is mine. Bob and the landlord are abstract concepts, pathetic phantoms who might think they’re filling my soul with fear, but they can’t possibly know that my cup already runneth so unfathomably over. They don’t know a solitary damned thing, because they’re just the latest exposures on top of the giant stack of pictures that flash behind my eyelids when I try to sleep. The real Bob is probably sleeping right now. The real landlord is one Xanax behind him.
Maybe some people count sheep or watch TV shows from the 90s to put themselves to sleep, but every time I close my eyes and give a REM cycle the old college try, it seems like I’m chasing Hitler in a footrace to be the biggest asshole. And what scares me isn’t that I’d win the race; who could? I’m just worried the day will come that I’ll hear he’s just beyond the horizon.
Totally irrational? I feel like I can safely agree with that assessment, and maybe in my heart of hearts I know I’m fine. But if so, I wish my heart of hearts would tell my brain to shut the fuck up. I don’t need to stay awake anymore. I don’t need to keep watch; the door will mostly go unknocked and can often be unlocked. My cat is prized. However warped, at least two strangers have developed a fascination with at least one aspect of my life. And even if it’s only a leaky ceiling, I still have something in common with someone else out there in the world. For his sake, for now, I hope that’s it.