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The Girlfriend Game, stories by Nick Antosca



Word Riot Inc.: Kicking Small Press Into High Gear

Blood Tender

(Paula Anderson died in a car accident 2004. Word Riot Press has made her chapbook available online so her talent can continue to be appreciated.)

Paula Anderson

Middletown, NJ
First published January 2003
ISBN  0-9728200-0-0

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted without express permission of the author or Word Riot. This text is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to persons alive or dead is purely coincidental.

I would like to thank the following people:

Daniel Anderson Jr., Jackie Anderson, Barry Briggs, Ave Caron, Naomi Graham, Liz “Imee” Greene, Wayne Hausfeld, Conan Hernandez, Steve Kozischek, David Mumm, Fred Ourt, Robert Posner, Pam Prevatte

Richard Brautigan and JT LeRoy for the inspiration.

And special thanks are in order for:

Mike Conti – Thank you for tirelessly putting up with me, and holding the string to my helium balloon.  I love you!

Chris McLendon – What would I have to write about, had I never met you?

and Jackie Corley – Somehow, you work magic.  You turned a little idea of mine into a magazine EMPIRE, and you turned 200 pages of rough, unstructured nonsensical CRAP into something we both should be proud of.  None of this would have happened if not for you.

-Paula Anderson

INTRODUCTION

The Internet has been a catalyst for many things, not least of which is the revitalization of indy media.  We’ve grown so used to instant communication that a desire for artful communication has reemerged.  E-mail, AIM, E-zines, Blogs – the methods and means of culture are evolving.  The works of artists and writers our children will cherish are now appearing in Jpegs and html.  And yet, the essential beauty of what these new talents are trying to tell us is timeless.

Paula Anderson is one of these talents.

The book you’re holding contains writing from an online journal – or blog – Paula has maintained for over a year.  The journal’s place online created an initial element of performance: a well-conceived tale rather than aimless introspection.  That’s not to say Paula hasn’t discovered something in the process of this journal – she has, but as a character in her story.

Positioning herself as narrator, Paula weaves the reader into the journal.  We learn something about loving life passionately from Paula and her friends in the same way we learned it from Dean Moriarty and his gang.

This brutal, fire passion is what Word Riot Press is all about.  Don’t let the simple quality of the book cover fool you – Blood Tender is an electric experience.

-Jackie Corley
Editor & Publisher
Word Riot Press

November 26, 2001:

President Grant Has A Mighty Fine Face

…which I know because his face is on the fifty dollar bill that Papa gave me.

I love my grandfather.

Papa’s name is Jake Gidst. He was a running back for Washington and Lee in the fifties. We have some old newspaper clippings with pictures of him. He’s cuter than old Johnny Unitas. Number 33, that was Papa. He even played in a couple of bowl games.

He owned an apple orchard. He owned a Southern States. He was the mayor of Boone’s Mill, VA once (which, since I know you’ve never heard of it, is in the heart of moonshine country, about 10 miles outside of Roanoke.) So the thing about Papa is, he doesn’t wanna hear a whole wealth of nonsense. He’s a little hard of hearing (which is alarming, since I can’t imagine him just getting old) and I think he enjoys the lowered hearing ability, as he doesn’t want to hear it if it isn’t important anyway. He’s just a down-to-earth, classic Virginia farmer. Not that he really farmed, I guess. But no matter – he’s just…well, he’s my Papa.

Lately he’s taken to telling jokes. When my brother came off the plane at the Roanoke Airport a half-hour early, his head full of cornrows (which Papa hates), Papa said the plane was early “because of Zeke’s aerodynamic head.”

I’ve always been proud of my grandfather. He’s a simple guy, but at the same time, he ain’t no hick. His suits are expensive, his house is huge, and whenever they come down, he takes us out to wherever we want to eat, and he never even looks at the check, even though Zeke always orders something like surf and turf.

Papa’s got a full head of dirty-blonde hair too, and I challenge you to find me another 70-year-old man that can say the same. There’s a streak of gray in the front, but you can barely see it…kinda suits him anyway…So I’m sitting here staring at this fifty dollar bill, and remembering how he pressed it into my hand as we were about to leave.

“Here’s a little Thanksgiving money. Y’all have a safe trip home.”

I love my grandpa.

November 26, 2001:

My Grandma’s Reign of Terror Is Over.

I call my grandmother ‘Omom’, just for future reference.

So Omom has never really liked me. She has this thing about being fat – if you are, she doesn’t like it. And I am the only person in the whole family that is. My aunt Francine used to be, but then she went all bulimia. So maybe Francine’s teeth are rotten, but she ain’t fat no more.  I wonder which Francine Omom likes better.

To add to all of that, I talked a lot as a kid. And I wasn’t sensible. Not that I’m sensible now. Fuck that. So it was always me in last place, with my brother being a star athlete, Marcus (my cousin) being a star athlete, and Chelsea (my other cousin and Marcus’s sister) being a straight A student, and it was a recipe for total shittiness.

She was always really good at veiled insults. “Do you really need that second helping?” “We have diet soda, you know…” So it goes.

Zeke, Marcus, and Chelsea have grown up to be these total models of physical perfection. Zeke and Marcus are halfway through their freshman year of college. And doing ok. Chelsea’s plugging on through the 11th grade. And doing great. And nobody really cares that Marcus smells like weed, or that Chelsea was sneaking into the alcohol cabinet after Thanksgiving dinner, or that I’m the one who writes Zeke’s papers. Omom don’t care about none of that.

But this time? She wasn’t so slick. I mean, she just was really obvious about it, and she ended up looking like an ass. Me and Zeke were talking about me spending my life living in a trailer on the beach, working at the movie theater and playing in a band on weekends. Her ass just butted right in in medias res and said “You can’t put a trailer on the beach.” Yeah, I forgot you’re such an expert on beaches, living in a valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains and all. Then it was all “A band? Don’t you have to have some kind of talent or play some kind of instrument to be in a band?” So I handled it pretty well, and just said, “Well actually, I’m planning on being the singer, which I do very well, and I also play the guitar.”

Omom: Oh you play the guitar, huh? I’ve never heard you play a note.

Me: Yeah, well you’ve never seen me take a shit either, but I bet you aren’t so quick to dispute that.

Ok I didn’t say that. But I wanted to. That would have been the best day of my entire life.

Omom: Well, people who are in bands are people who have played for years and years before they ever even think about joining a band. You aren’t in a choir, you didn’t take chorus in high school….

Paula: Well actually there’s a lot of bands, like the Chili Peppers, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles, who weren’t people who’d played for years. When John Lennon started a band, he could barely play at all. Stu Sutcliffe, George Harrison – they both were extremely inexperienced.

Omom: I don’t think that’s right.

Paula: Well, I’m afraid it is.

Omom: Whatever.

She lost that smoothness and just was out to draw blood. It was like the parade in Holly Ridge; I was too shocked and humored to be mad or insulted. It was great. And Papa’s understanding fifty bucks on top of it – I’d do it again in a heartbeat, I tell you.

November 30, 2001: Once (Again) In A Blue Moon

So tonight would be the Blue Moon. And knowing that almost makes it seem more beautiful when you look at it through the tree branches in the wind with a rain of leftover leaves falling all around.

Not that it really is any more beautiful, but somehow it makes me tingle on my extremities like I’m sprouting new buds. Even makes my heart skip a little when I go out to smoke, because under a blue moon everything is more real and more alive.

It’s the witching hour.

I keep noticing bizarre little things, like the little something hanging from the lampshade by invisible strings. It almost looks like Tinkerbell. And the spot in the hall that feels colder than the rest of the house. The rustling noises every time I step outside.

Why is it that beautiful things are so scary? Scary and beautiful like Carol of the Bells.

In the glow of the computer, the black and white family faces in the silver-framed portrait look like ghouls and heroin junkies.

Everything makes me shudder, even though my eyes are glassy from taking in beauty.

Only in a blue moon.

December 2, 2001:

Pivot’s Story of a Christmas in the Islands

I’ve been disenchanted with Christmas for a few years. Just seems like there’s nothing in it, once you’re not a kid anymore. I’m not a Christian; I could give a fuck about Jesus Christ. I don’t particularly like my family, so I don’t get that glad-to-be-home feeling. And once you don’t get to rip open shiny boxes, what the hell is the point?

Jessica Y. was a Christmas girl. When we were 14, she’d always put little post-scripts at the end of the notes she wrote me. 164 days till Christmas!!!!!!! She had a great family. She was Catholic. She lived the American Dream, the tacky kind of exact monetary planning of what a person could get for gifts, knowing the exact amount each relative would spend, and exactly what could be obtained for that amount. And to her, that was lovely. That was Christmas.

But what was it for me? What is it for me now? Just another day. I spent the last 2 Christmases alone, with the family up in VA.

So I gave Pivot Daniels a ride down to the nondescript building where his van was being fixed (a building with one of those catch-all kind of names that could mean anything from furniture rental to Volvo mechanic) and on the way back, he told me about Christmas in Grenada, where he’s from.

His accent (which is similar to the Jamaican accent that my father has, only much thicker and much more indecipherable) made the storytelling a little harder to understand, but gave it more weight, more depth than any easily-forgotten American tale of what-I-did-over-winter-break.

In the islands, he said, you know it’s Christmas when you start seeing the eggs. Dyed eggs, like Easter, I gathered. People would take the eggs directly from the fowl they kept in their yard and dye some up to display for Christmas.

In the islands, you start cooking lots and lots of food 9 days before Christmas, because everyone comes from door to door. A few drinks, some good island food (some curried goat or jerk chicken maybe. Dumplings with fried bananas and meat patty) and some good conversation, and then it’s off to the next house.

Boy I tell you, he said, that’s Christmas. You go out all day every day all night every night to the fetes, to the clubs and everybody dances. In the streets there’s people playing steel drums and guitars. You throw them a dollar all in good spirit as you head on to whatever’s next.

It’s hot, too, it’s always hot, but who cares when you got an ocean right there? And you get so drunk your friends have to carry you home, drop you at the door, and then off to the next house, to the next bit of Christmas.  And on this day, Jesus was born.

You got to get the roots, he said, if you’re going down dere.

And that sounds more like Christmas than anything I ever heard of. That sounds like where I want, no, where I need to be. So I made a pledge right there in the car. Next Christmas I spend in Jamaica.

I’m getting my roots and I’m packing my bags, and no matter what it takes, I’m going down dere.

December 7, 2001:

Happy Birthday Jubilee. You Feel Like

I couldn’t hack it at telemarketing. So I tainted up my karma some more by telling them that my grandfather died, and that I may or may not have to move to Virginia indefinitely to take care of my elderly grandmother, but that I definitely wouldn’t be in to work today. And that I’d tell them tomorrow whether or not I’d have to quit.

If I ever thought I felt shitty before, I was wrong. I knew it would be an interesting day anyway, due to the conversation I had in front of WalMart that morning. I was waiting for a song to finish, sitting in my car, singing away at the top of my lungs. I open my eyes and a woman is standing there. Which is, of course, not a usual occurrence, so I was pretty freaked out. She proceeds to tell me that rock music is Satan’s music (yeah, like that would be any kind of deterrent, even if I DID believe it.) Spend some of that energy praying, she says. And so I say, Why don’t you spend some of YOUR energy on suicide?

Bad tinged with good. Good tainted by bad. Like undigested corn in a perfectly good toilet floater. Like an unexpected fly in a starving person’s unexpected sandwich.

Which is another thing. I’ve decided to spend Christmas Day at the soup kitchen. And it’s not just because I like soup, either. (Ba-dum-ching!) I’m fucking sick of usurping natural resources without giving back. I make myself sick. So it’s either help somebody or ice-pick myself to death. I like option one, thankyouverymuch.

Oh, so I got off the point.

I quit my job. Or, I will quit it in a few hours. I couldn’t hack it – I can’t, absolutely can’t sell to people anymore. I just don’t have it in me. Manda alerted me to the fact that the local factory is hiring and the pay, benefits, hours, and conditions are much better than telemarketing. Plus, she’d be there, and she happened to come along in my life at this perfect time where I’m on the watch for some amazing new thing, so I can’t completely discount the possibility that she’s part of that. But I digress…again.

Mom didn’t understand, and what’s more, she wouldn’t even listen to the factory information. She just said that if I couldn’t do telemarketing that “there were going to be changes” and that she’d take all my stuff away and sell what she could to pay for professional help for me.

So this hurried conversation took place in the 5 minutes between when she came home from work, and when she took Pivot Daniels and Jag Creek down to the car rental place to pick up a car to take to Charlotte to get Jag a green card. So she leaves and says that I better go to work. Or else.

So in my extreme caffeine-induced haze (we’re talking maybe 6 cups of doublecoffee here) I raced around trying to think of what to do. I decided that Step 1 would be to sell everything I can possibly part with. I managed to scrape up 35 CD’s that I don’t really need (although it hurts like bloody hell) and my fairly new (and mostly unused) keyboard, and even my 3 Beatles albums on vinyl (not that I really planned on selling them.) I raced around, thinking, thinking, whatdoidonow?

So I call up Manda and figure that in the state of mind I’m in, I need somebody to talk to. Somebody to help me figure out what the hell I’m going to do with myself. So I drive out to Swansboro-by-the-beach to pick her up, which is maybe a 20 minute drive, and drive on back into the city where we realized that Retro Records, the store where I was going to sell my CDs was closed, so I hooked a quick U-Turn and we went to the dollar theater just in time to see Don’t Say A Word.

So I got home right when I usually get home from work, so Jackie (the mother) was none the wiser.

So my solution?

I’m leaving.

I pondered where to go. It has to be far enough away that I can’t fall back on her anymore. The best way to teach a kid to swim is to throw him in the water – he might start sinking, but he’ll grapple till he ain’t anymore. And if he doesn’t, then he wasn’t meant to be in the Olympics anyway.

So is this just another crazy plan? I don’t fucking know – I never know this stuff…I just…. don’t want to feel like I should ice-pick myself to death anymore. I just want to go till I can’t go anymore.

December 11, 2002:

‘Come Into My Den’, Said the Spider to the Fly

The time is Sunday morning and Mom pulls me out of bed at the crack of noon, because Jag has come over to rake the leaves. And so I have to help. Not surprising – it’s 70 degrees and sunny again and I cursed myself for wishing I was on a tropical island somewhere. No doubt I’d still be raking some leaves if I was. From a palm tree, perhaps.

So we sang Negro spirituals to pass the time. Good advice, they have. In the middle of ‘Wade In The Water’, it came to me that the birds here don’t fly south for the winter. They’re fine where they are – which tells you something about the coast of North Carolina.

So I had to go to the beach. I knew I’d see sharks – there’s always something going about. And there were, too, double fins rising and falling, a little too close to where I would have been swimming, had Pete been there.

I unpacked my bookbag of CDs to sell. I don’t know how I thought I’d be able to part with them. Even my Donna Summer Greatest Hits album is worth something to me, and that’s more than $2.  I’m just waiting for the high to end.

I want to scream somewhere where I won’t be heard. There’s so much pressure inside of me, filling me up to the top of my head – you could see it swimming behind my eyes, if you were to look very closely.

It’s all a merry-go-round, and here I am, going along in such a ridiculous way. We all are, I suppose. Makes me think and say ridiculous things, and stay up late at night, listening to a taped Vince Vaughn interview on NPR through my headphones, in my darkened bedless bedroom on my couch under blankets.

And there are stars.

There are always stars.

December 22, 2001: Needle Marks

People think I’m a heroin addict, on account of the needle marks on my arms. Sometimes I think maybe I really am, only I can’t remember it. It would certainly go a long way toward explaining things.

It usually seems like the whole world is going just a little bit faster than it’s supposed to, like a record played on 78. I wonder if people look at me like a record played on 16. I wonder what that would be like.

My uncle Edison says that my memory is bad because I lie so much I can’t distinguish fact from fiction. Well, I always could tell a good story. I used to always think it was really cool when people made observations about me that were totally on the money – I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and I’d always ask people to ‘tell me about me.’

I can’t remember anything anymore, and really, I’m not too sure if Edison even said that.

January 2, 2002:

Weather’s Here. Wish You Were Nice.

Love is a needle goes all the way down…I’m always surprised…I’m feeling so Kristin Hersh today. And listening to Juliana Hatfield. Wish I was a lesbian so I could do this every day. Wish I was a lesbian anyway.

I wish I hadn’t waited so long to write; now all of a sudden there’s too much stuff to say and for some reason I’m frustrated enough to cry, because I know I’ll truncate this in the telling. I’m such a lazy bastard.

But I’m trying. Lord knows I’m trying.

Some day or other last week, there was a party. But actually, if we’re going in sequential order, that doesn’t come yet.

First is Pete. Pete Pete fucking Pete. Pete came home for Christmas and somehow I thought it would be different this time. I’m so naive sometimes.

I went to see him, and all of a sudden he’s Captain Marvel come home again. I decided that song was about him.  He’s been taking writing classes and reading, and then it’s like he’s gotten so smart and so on it that I could barely take it. I’m almost mad that he’s not just some geek anymore. At least then he was mine. Now he’s everyone’s, and everyone wants him, too.

So Pete spent an entire night reading to me and making me listen to the finer nuances of the Deftones and all. Commanding my total attention as usual. And I guess at the time I thought it was really awesome and I allowed myself to forget that I said I’d never call him again, that I’d wait for him to come to me. Because deep down I know that that call would never come.

January 12, 2002: Music Makes Me Panicky

That wolf stalking me from the backyard is coming back.  I think (too much.)  I could hear it between the notes of a Donovan song this morning.

I’m going to die.

I love (too fiercely.)  And it’s always unrequited.  I even love the wolf stalking me from the backyard.  Quirky like Deacon O’Reilly the Republican bum and not half as putrid.

I depend (on controlled substances to help me maintain.)  Fuck Zoloft or Prozac or whatever.  I’ll be sane on cocaine…just don’t sneak up on me too quick.

It’s paranoia.

Must be the season of the witch.

January 19, 2002:

We Like The Boys With The Bulletproof Vests

All of a sudden I’ve been thinking again about society. It’s a worm I just can’t get off my brain. It’s like everything’s decaying and decaying everywhere you look. Was it always like this? Was I asleep? It wasn’t even gradual; it’s like I just looked up one day and there it was. Decay.

I made Pete cry today. I thought there’d be some kind of satisfaction in that. In making him feel. And there was, when he was yelling, but the crying was different. He tears at my heart so much, in ways I never thought I’d let anybody. Because I never did before. I’ve been tiptoeing around him, telling him I love him and being so sweet because he has that demon lurking around him. Sadness. It’s a clown. And you can smell it. So I try and try and strive and pine and worry and wonder every time the phone rings if it’s going to be Hippie telling me he’s dead or something weird like that.

And then today he starts patronizing me again, like he does. I know why he’s an asshole – I’m not perceptive, by any means, but he made it so clear that night…That he feels inferior and feels like they all (we all) hate him, and so better to be an asshole.

And so I yelled at him and said all these terrible things and he’s yelling and then all of a sudden he’s crying and I’m not feeling satisfied anymore. I just feel all apologetic and scared and so I compensate by re-stating the obvious.

I would die for you. I would drink your fucking bathwater. I love you I love you I love you. Don’t ever leave me because I’ll never leave you because you’re my best friend (if not more like I wanted…)

And now I’ve gotten all off-subject. I wanted to talk about decay. And not Pete’s decay because it’s just scary and I don’t like it.

I found a note from my-gay-ex Swain inside a book of mine. I guess he meant for me to find it whenever. It’s sort of like him – surprises.

I want to get a job

So I can buy you things.

I want you to go insane for me

Every time you’re under my thumb.

I want to write you poetry.

I want to always know the right thing to say.

Love,

Swain

When I hear the words in my mind, it’s Pete’s voice behind them. So much decay.

I’d say I’m weary but I’m not. Abnormal sleep patterns. That was on the checklist. Decay.

January 20, 2002: A Screeching Halt

A three-day high comes to an end. It’s back to feeling-sorry-for-myself. And then there’s lists.

I hate when people make lists of people…feels like high school. That was 3 years of embarrassment at not making the lists, and 1 year of embarrassment at making the list and feeling inferior to everyone else on the list.  I decided I’d never ever make lists of people again. Shout-outs, invitations, they all make my stomach knot up. When we had to make “Senior Will and Testaments”, I was on the staff that compiled them, and I waited until everyone else had turned theirs in, so I could make sure to include everyone that had included me, as well as every single person I could recall any inside joke about. And even some random people, just thrown into the mix. Mine was the longest one of all, by far.

I remember in 1999 I had a party at my house, and I was so nervous to invite anyone and risk leaving out someone, that I invited everyone around me at any given time for days. It seemed to be the best plan anyway; it was a great party.

But I digress.

The whole point is that my high is over. Not just because of lists, but also because of fatigue, which made me finally drop off to sleep today. When I woke up I cried because I’d ruined it all by sleeping. I always ruin it all.

Or, I should say, it always gets ruined.

I need some more of that No-Doz and coffee, some more of that sunshine-thru-rain, some more of that spinny happy dazey days feeling of extreme connectedness-but-solitude and voids of rhyme and reason, and love.

And love.

I wonder if it’s going to be a Wilmington summer…

January 22, 2002: Tap-Dancing On A Landmine

And I can’t just stop at that.

Because it’s not even like that – with Pete, I mean. Because I can sit up here saying I don’t care about him anymore, but the truth is, I enjoy his depression.

My sad dirty dirty sad secret.

I like it. Because I want him to need me. I want to be the sweeping in heroine and fix it all for him. Or if not the heroine, then at least the heroin so I can make him forget.

I wanna say things, lines they’ll remember in 100 years. Things they’d say on TV.

It’s such a dangerous cliff-edge I’m walking though, the wanting putting a strain on a friendship of 7 years.

I’m in love. Shit was supposed to feel good.

But I’m just confused…….Diary cliché phrases like “we’re all going along in a ridiculous way” that I could apply to my whole life and every single entry.

The tiny fragment of lust left for Brody James that nags because there’s no Pete without Brody and no me without Pete…or something.

I lust after everyone except the ones I’m with.

January 28, 2002:

“How I Spent My Summer Vacation” by Little Johnny

Yesterday my mother’s old best friend Talya, who is a Quetchan Indian called. My mother hadn’t heard from her in years, and we had been talking about her a lot for the past few days. About how my mother should call her and all.

So I went to my old high school where the middle-school kids were putting on The Wizard of Oz and I cried because it was cute, and also because I miss my fading youth already. And Citrus (Jag’s little sister) was the Wicked Witch of the West and she was so good I cried even more and gave her a ride home. When I got back, my mother was laughing the loud soul laugh that she only laughs when she’s talking to Talya because she has this way of imitating other peoples’ laughs and Talya laughs with all the life and spitfire of the Earth and things.

She told my mom she’d been thinking about her the past few days. My mom wasn’t surprised, she said, Talya does that a lot.

But I knew what it was. It’s that Native American connection with the Earth and with people and with the tiny invisible threads that connect everything existent to everything else.

It’s like magic really. It’s like when fall leaves dance in the wind in a little cyclone, or when it’s suddenly 75 degrees on a January Sunday, and you think maybe it’s because Talya called.

Talya lives on an Indian reservation in Yuma, AZ, which just happens to be directly on the path of the road trip I want to take this summer to California. Maybe I’ll get to meet her?

Maybe it would be all cosmic and I’d just see her beckoning from the highway.

January 29, 2002: ‘Weird Karma and Full Moons’

So yesterday started out beautiful. Seventy degrees and breezy and the sky blue as June. And I knew everything was going to go swimmingly, since my car was finally fixed and I had an Allman Brothers tape for the ride and plans stacked a mile high in my head.

Manda had called and said hey let’s go job-hunting and so I said hey let’s go con some money off people and rent Bully and so it was going to be a killer day and by the time the sun fell and the full moon came up, we’d be employed and full of fantasies about Brad Renfro and Mike Pitt.

Because, as everybody knows, nothing ever goes wrong when it’s a 75 degree sunny breezy day in late January on the NC coast.

So I got my cigarettes and my Allman Brothers tape and put on my nice clothes and my ass-kicking Frankenstein shoes, and headed out onto the highway to Swansboro-by-the-ocean to pick up Manda.

So I knew that my car wouldn’t start acting up again – because that’s the rule. It was such a nice day. And just as I was thinking that, it started pouring rain. And just as it started pouring rain, my car broke down. So I said NO! Fuck that! I’m going to Swansboro.

Now, the thing about my car is, whenever you stop (once it gets warmed up) it starts trying to cut off on you. So I just did what Pete told me to. Put it in neutral every time you’re going to slow down or stop, revv the gas, throw the bitch in drive and zoom off. Don’t give the car a chance to cut off. See, I’d do anything Pete told me to do….

…but I digress…

So I make it to Manda’s house (barely), and tell her about the car. But we decide to go ahead with plans anyway, and we get maybe 2 miles without having to stop, and then we come up to Highway 24. Left turning lane. Red light. Heavy traffic. Pouring rain. Car stops. So I’m trying to start it and it’s not cooperating, and Manda’s yelling “Well just try it again! Dude, try it again!” and I’m yelling “It’s not working! Dammit! Dammit!” and cars are angrily zooming around us to turn. And then I look in the mirror and notice a Sheriff-mobile behind us. And then on with his flashers….

“Paula, he’s not getting out…”

“Go tell him we’re broken down.”

“I’m not going to tell him – you tell him.”

“No, you. I’m the driver!”

“Yeah, you’re the driver – go tell him.”

“It’s against the law for a driver to exit a vehicle on…”

“Quit lying.”

“Why don’t you go Manda?”

“There’s cars like an inch away from my door!”

“Well, I’m not getting out. It’s raining.”

“I’m not getting out either.”

…and on like that until the cop gets out and comes to the window. And he says, we’re going to have to move it out of the road. So I’m thinking, hey, what a nice guy. He’s gonna push the car so me and Manda will be safe. Awww, nice copper…nice fuzz…

So he runs back to his car to get his jacket, and then comes back and tells us to get out and push and he’ll steer. Fucking WHAT? So we get out in our nice job-hunting clothes in the pouring rain and start trying to push this car off the road. And then a young Marine in cammies runs over and starts helping us push the car…

-Marines are the most chivalrous bunch of guys on Earth-

…and so we get it to the side of the road, and the Marine says it’s a damn shame when you got females out here pushing a car in the rain and Deputy Dewey leaves and so we head to the payphone at the nearby gas station to call Manda’s parents. And I realize we have no change and run back to the car. When I get back, there’s a car with two old birds in it asking us if we’re headed to Jacksonville. We say Fuck Yeah! and hop in.

So the old bird on the right says she doesn’t talk much, as she doesn’t have teeth anymore. And I say Well that’s all right ‘cause Manda doesn’t talk much either. Tee hee. Anyway, they say they’re picking us up because they’re trying to better their karma, on account of the fact they’re trying to retire to a house in Florida and they need some kind of break since it’s so expensive.

Man, if only they knew about me and Manda’s karma! It’s contagious.

So the old birds are laughing like crazy at dumb shit I’m saying, and it’s…. it’s very Kerouac, and it was like…listening to “The Weight” and smoking cigarettes. I don’t know; it was nice.

So the old birds drop us off about a quarter-mile from my house, and we walk on back to my place, and spend the afternoon talking about how bizarre our circumstances always seem to be, and how it’s compounded weirdness when we hang out. I burned a little hole in the trampoline on accident. I drank some wine. Manda looked at family photos. We talked about being cool. (Because we are just so very.)

Then we headed on up to the library to wait for her father to come and pick her up and drive her back out to Swansboro-by-the-Sea. And at the library the sun went down and the full moon came up, and we realized that that probably added to the bizarre energy of the day, the swirley air and laughter high and smell of lemons and fresh rainy sea air and grass and grass and cigarettes and old birds…

…and life. And life.

So I gave Manda my last copy of Catcher In the Rye, which she hasn’t read yet, and about 10 or so CDs that I consider essential (along with a page of notes on what/when/how to listen to them.)

It’s that karma, man. Course, we’re still unemployed, but at least we’re cool…

February 7, 2002: Yeah Happy Like You

I’ll still be sitting here in my old age, drinking screw-top wine from a jelly glass. Addled mind with tiny pieces of marijuana stuck between the cracks. Yeah, I’m like a burnout.

It’s always been my ambition to be Marilyn Monroe with her hair uncombed. Scarlett O’Hara with sunburn. Watercress sandwiches with the crusts left on.

The crust.

Fuck class. Class (lines) are for people with no imagination.

I shouldn’t have glued pictures to my wall with Elmer’s. They don’t come off. I threw a tantrum and ripped at them, but now there’s jagged rips of all kinds of color everywhere like tears in the space-time continuum. My own little break in the universe, right here.

Only the holes are too small to get through.

I made myself a little 4’ x 4’ cubicle office in the corner of my room. Communication Breakdown Central, it is. I don’t need any more anyway – it’s a parody of the magazine itself and how tiny and insignificant it is, but it’s there and it’ll be there and nobody can just ignore it.

Mack says we’ll be the thorn in the side of the music industry.

Seems like I’m always a thorn in somebody’s side, sitting here listening to The Cramps suggesting let’s get fucked up and all. Good. I need some goodtime buddies. I need somebody to get high with and get all fucked up before I’m too old for that to be ok.

What kind of burnout loser am I, anyway? I’m a disgrace to the term. No sex since last summer (unless you count waking up hung over and naked next to a Homecoming King over Winter Break) and no drugs in almost as long.

I miss being on that path. To self-destruction. Nothing’s more appealing than bringing myself to the point of insanity and hanging suspended in midair over Loss like I do. Like I did. I miss it.

I’m getting way too close to good for comfort.

February 9, 2002: A Life Like Aerosmith Lyrics

There’s a roach floating in the coffeepot and welcome to America. Fin schooling me on New York and the big words she knows like vernacular and creperie. It’s so cold outside I can’t feel my fingertips and it smells like winter again. The azaleas were blooming but now they’re choked off from the cold.

The wine left out from dinner is going to my head and Fatboy Slim is on the radio. Praise you. Praise me.

I’m so indecisive about everything. I was sure of what I was doing yesterday but now it’s all wrong again and I’m going back on my word. I fired Jenny from the magazine and I decided Manda was holding me back from work and things. But then I changed my mind

again

party-time-wasting is too much

fun

February 15, 2002: Flock of Blue Jays

I saw a flock of blue jays bullying a cardinal today. Things like that probably don’t happen much, so either it’s good luck or I ate too many morning glory seeds. I think it means big things. We’re going to be famous, see.

Everything’s going so swimmingly, and of course it’s only a matter of time till the bottom drops out. But I don’t especially care. Not now anyway.

I don’t really like Valentine’s Day, but I don’t especially dislike it. I suppose if you’ve got somebody, it’s pretty nice. I usually don’t though. But I honestly don’t care that much…. or I do, but not really. I’d like to be in a relationship, but not enough to go out looking for one.

Everyone’s telling me I should write a story. Nobody realizes I can’t write. People are so stupid. Or maybe I am. I’m a good writer, but I don’t have anything to say.

I’m defending everyone lately. I spent forever defending Howard Stern and Artie Lange to my mother, and then defending Pete. Defending my “essential albums of the 1990s” preliminary list of about 500 albums. I argue things into the ground for no reason.

I’m going to stop sleeping for a while. I woke up at 1pm today. What a horrible fucking waste of a day. Weird how sometimes I care if I’m wasting a day, and other times… But I had things I was planning to do. I miss my old coffee-cigarettes insomnia. That was kind of nice. At least things got done and I watched the sun come up all nice and hazy-cold and too much time on the back patio looking into the backyard to see the eyes and the wind chimes across the creek.

Even if my hands always shook and my throat tasted bloody and I came unglued and everyone thought I was crazy.

I probably am.

February 19, 2002: I Used to Steal Cerulean Crayons

There was a year when I was so infatuated with the cerulean crayon that I’d steal them from everywhere. Nothing was ever cerulean on Viewmont St. – in fact, I’d never in my life seen the color until then, and I couldn’t bear to see a cerulean crayon and leave it behind.   I kept them all in a drawer beside my bed.   It only stopped when I woke up one morning when it had snowed in that hour before sunrise and there was a blue wash over everything and the sky was suddenly cerulean and it was like Heaven had broken open and spilled all over the world!

I never stole crayons again.

February 20, 2002: I Miss Hell

The best thing about not being in Hell anymore is that the bugs are gone. All the maggots and fruit flies and big flies and the dragonfly on the window are gone now.

And I still have the instinct. Whenever I come home, I cast furtive glances around the edges of the door to make sure there’s no caterpillars waiting to fall in my hair. They’d get lost in there. And always covering my food and putting a fan beside me while I eat so they can’t come die in my spaghetti.

Hell changed everything. I don’t even like food anymore. It’s all the same; you don’t taste it. You just thank God that you have some today. Because you probably didn’t yesterday and you might not tomorrow.

I don’t live on the same plane of existence as the rest of the world. That’s from Hell too. There was no day and no night there. You wake up at 7pm one evening and watch an hour of TV before you start wondering what day it is. And you’re only wondering because you want to watch Law and Order.

You eat only once a day and never the same time. Always the same food though. Can’t afford anything except spaghetti with canned tomato sauce (which costs 87 cents and 37 cents, respectively) and some days you don’t eat at all because moving from the couch would take way too much effort.

Of course, those were the down times. Then there were the manic times of writing 10,000 words and half-empty coffee cups everywhere you forgot you were drinking from and a path of empty through all the trash from pacing.

My jaws would hurt from grinding my teeth like I was speeding or something. But I couldn’t afford speed. It was something already inside me.

So I’m not in Hell anymore.

But I really miss it there.

February 23, 2002:

JT Money Lyrics and an Entire Wasted Day

Such an annoyance it was. Him sitting there, conspicuous, reminding me of that JT Money song
Who dat off-brand nigga tryin to hang with the clique?…Playa I don’t know you nigga tell me who you wit… (Just pretend for a minute that me and rap lyrics go together well.)
But so that’s what had come to mind. If I’m getting high, I don’t like people just being there with no explanation. He knew where I lived too. Eerie.

I should just stay in the house from now on, I think.
But anyway, I slept for an entire day. I’m not naturally an insomniac; I try to force it on myself, and it catches up with me, after a while.

Dindi had tried to call me some, he said. And Jag too. (My friends have odd names, they do.) I was hoping to hear from Dean, in one form of communication or another, but he’s still AWOL and apparently lost in New York somewhere.

I woke up to 118 unread emails, 10 unanswered blog posts from the CB staff, 3 messages, no coffee, and a pounding headache.

Welcome to my midnight.

I’m so jealous of everyone who’s traveling right now – and everyone who is getting a tattoo. And everyone who’s smoking up and eating strawberries from Southwest Strawberry Farm.

Screw you guys.

February 23, 2002:

101 Things About The Mingo [excerpted]

3. I was born on September 11, which has become the worst birthday in the world now.

15. Pete Mac is my best friend. I really want his nuts. Like bad.

34. My-gay-ex-Swain was my first instance of sex-within-a-relationship, and he dumped me for his ex. He and Rick are very happy, so I’ve heard.

35. I lost my virginity on a pool table in Emerald Isle during a drunken Spring Break 2000. I don’t remember the guy’s name.

36. I have been in love 4 times, and had sex with 5 guys. Nobody exists who is on both lists.

37. My parents met because my father was a migrant worker who picked apples on my mother’s father’s apple orchard. They were married in 1981.

39. My father has this thing. He’s setting up franchise families all over the globe. Every 10 years. In 1972, he had a daughter by his first wife. In 1973, he had a son by her. Ten years later, he had me in 1982 with my mother, and a year later, he had Zeke. In 1992, he had a daughter by his new wife and in 1993 he had a son by her as well. I wonder if she realizes it’s 2002 now…

46. I am obsessed with gay people and I hope to be one someday.

47. The name “Mingo County” comes from this passage in my favorite book Sarah by my favorite author JT LeRoy: “He is from Mingo County, West Virginia. Everyone in West Virginia, no matter how bad off they are, gives thanks at least they don’t live in Mingo County.”

54. I lie a lot.

55. I honestly believe a lot of the stuff that used to be lies.

60. In 1995, a friend of mine named Corcoran Rowe blew his brains out. They found him in a field. His head-case parents had an open casket funeral. I saw the body with a plug fitted into the bullet hole and puked.

72. When I was twelve, I used to have a stalker. I miss that guy.

78. I purposely started smoking in 2000, with the intent of becoming addicted. I thought it would be cool.

79. I still think that.

80. I am intrigued by self-destruction.

81. I smoke weed.

82. I used to do coke.

83. Someday I will do heroin.

84. I plan to die of a drug overdose sometime in the 2020s.

90. I enact scenes out loud when I’m alone. Arguments and conversations.

92. I am intrigued by motorcycles, hitchhiking, and being homeless.

94. I’m deathly afraid of maggots, slugs, worms, and caterpillars (especially those black, white, and yellow caterpillars.)

97. I have two theme songs: “I’m Only Sleeping” by The Beatles and “Urge For Going” by Joni Mitchell.

February 25, 2002:

An End To Bad Writing (or NOT writing)

So I just woke up from dreaming I went to Memphis to meet two guys named Dave and a cartoonist working on an audio book of my life. He was disgruntled because it wasn’t his usual medium.

Moving on…

I really get off on real-life-type things. Like going to the post office. Buying cigarettes. I went to the drugstore yesterday (what a misnomer…) and the Valentine’s Day Conversation Hearts were on sale for 13 cents a box.

How incredibly depressing.

Even more depressing, I bought some, and eating them, I realized I hadn’t even had any this holiday. I think I didn’t even remember that it was the 14th.

And what does that mean?

It means that I’m not in touch with the world (it’s further proof of that.) And here I am planning this huge endeavor of three-pairs-of-two-cross-country-hitchhiking-summer and I’m very dangerous when not closely watched and monitored and controlled by someone.

I’m like a helium balloon and I need the kid to hold the string, because what do you think happens to those balloons when the kid lets go?

They rise up up up glorious and elated euphoric ecstatic orgasmic and then they realize it’s too far too high too much but by that time it’s too late and they touch the sun and die.

February 26, 2002:

The Ballad of Paula and Manda (cont.)

I tried to write this normal. In fact, I tried twice and it deleted both times. So I’m just going to fuck trying to make it make sense and just write.

Mother Nature gave the warning that it was one of those me-and-Manda times by hanging the full moon flag at 4pm, as we were coming off the island. It was going to be one of those odd dazey karmic stellar sonic power days, made not of reality but cotton foggy clouds and nihilistic immature relaxation. It was going to be a time was what Mother Nature’s flag was saying.

And it was.

It started at 12:45 with shit I’m late but I don’t know what to wear because I know Manda is going to wear something for job hunting but what do I wear because that shirt is dirty but I’m late and the Sheriff’s deputy that flirted with me at the gas station on the way to Swansboro-by-the-sea and said hey didn’t Officer Grohl arrest you for phone calls last Christmas? Damn, you’ve grown up huh and looking me up and down and I’m thinking hey we should fuck on top of your cop car or in the back behind the cage and hey you have handcuffs and a billy club and all sorts of fun toys…

…but I digress…

So we’re talking about hair (curly vs. straight) and my cop fetish and all sorts of girly things and reminiscing about getting high and getting drunk or otherwise fucked up and about how we were too shy to get jobs and how I’m too internet-obsessed lately and what we’re going to do once we’re famous.  And through all that maybe a half-hour of job-hunting, exhausted after a 200 question computerized job application at Target.

We headed out to Topsail Island under the guise of checking out this restaurant that was hiring, but we didn’t find it or really look and we just went to a gas station and entertained the clerk and went on about Zagnut bars and teaberry gum and stealing and beer and being cool and how we needed jobs and the island and the beach and hair and guys and everything under the sun and then drove around drinking Pepsi for Manda and grape Gatorade for me and talking about how we hated sand.

Manda treated me to Chinese food at Mai Tai and there were cute guys at the next table eyeing our boobs.  I rated one a 9.5 and Manda didn’t agree, but she said I should get his number. But everybody knows I’m too shy for things like that, so we just giggled and attracted attention and discussed with the waitress the sex-factor of Robert Downey Jr. and whether or not he warranted a Gemini (which we decided meant a twin fuck from the both of us.) The waitress agreed with me that he did but Manda doesn’t like those older guys

And she wanted to go to the mall and hang around but I hate the mall because other than Jilly (who’s the dykest straight chick on the planet) Manda is my only female friend, so I don’t know how to do all that girly stuff like ogling guys and whispering about how cute they are and watching them ogle you and giggling. So the mall never held anything for me. But since she’d just laid out 26 bucks for our lunch, I relented.

And we had such a time! Young Marines everywhere watching us walk by and by and by, wanting…something (because, as Manda says “Everybody wants the titties.”) And the lesbian chick at the bookstore stuttering through telling me they didn’t have any JT LeRoy and the guy at the guitar shop asking me my sign in a roundabout kinda way and giving us guitar picks. Nay-nay power baby. Titty pride.

So all in all it was a success and a time and all that and my stomach muscles hurt from giggling and my tummy was full of nicotine and teaberry gum and my mind full of … guys … and isn’t it funny how when you hang out with guys all the time you forget how damn sexy they can be. It takes a girl to remind you.

Manda says I’m using her for her karma, and her penchant for combining with me like acids and bases to make crazy things happen. Well, she’s probably right, but that’s friendship anyway. And it’s like I end all the Manda episodes: We’re still unemployed, but at least we’re cool.

March 2, 2002: Petty Theft Adrenaline Rush

Oh I got so high off the rush from stealing the City of Jacksonville cone from the corner of Henderson and Carmen. I ran dodging behind the preschool’s sign when a car came and then darting out and grabbing the cone and manhandling it into my car all huge and banging me in the shins and in the rearview mirror in the dark my hair was crazy static wild and my eyes glinting and even in the dark you could see the pink in my cheeks.

And I laughed so hard I choked a little, half delighted at the cone sitting in the passenger seat.  I even talked to it a little.

And then I took it home and set it beside my Town of Carrboro cone and put on the Jacksonville High School Student of the Month shirt stolen from the school supply closet and drank down some more coffee before I even caught my breath.

March 5, 2002: Always Worms In the Apple

I suppose you can’t please everyone. And I suppose that every natural high balloony-sky-feeling gets punctured in places…

Because everybody’s gotta take a shot.

I’m trying not to care – I’m creating things now. For the first time since high school, I actually have some kind of direction.

Pete Mac and me are real good again and we’re planning an awesome trip all summer with Canadia. I’m writing, I’m thinking and brainstorming and doing all this stuff.

And it’s like drugs. It’s like this thing I can’t get enough of, and for the first time it’s not self-destructive. So hate me. Fucking do it. Hate me, hate CB, down all of it. Please. Because what can I do? I’m just sitting here trying to keep sane and trying to be something instead of stagnating.

At midnight on March 1st, the first issue came out and now the shitstorm starts. Somebody on the staff has to be disgruntled. Everybody’s pointing out typos. People don’t “get” my stories.

And now I’m darkening everybody else’s creative sunshower before it even starts?

I refuse to feel sorry for myself though – I created something for once, instead of just talking. Canadia says you can’t please everybody and it was so funny because it was the first time that it occurred to me. I really can’t!

I think I had it in my head that I had the ability to make dreams come true. For everybody in the world, if I tried hard enough. Train trips around the nation, magazines, stories, books, bands, jobs, love, donations, crazy-high rushes of speedy feeling like I feel because there’s so much to do in this life.

Because it’s gonna be a banner fucking year, 2002.

But people are undoubtedly going to be unhappy, and that hadn’t occurred to me. So it ends here. I’ll be Scarlett O’Hara and think about it tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

For now it’s beautiful.

Pete came home for Spring Break and almost immediately left again on a trip with his father. But we spent Saturday night (and a good 5 hours into Sunday) together, just being. We went and saw Jack Black rescue a shitty movie at the cheap-seats and then rapped to a gay cat over at Taco Bell, who gave me a pack of Newports. Then home again to Pete’s to watch his film projects and regale his family with our antics and crazy stories. Then three hours in my car talking talking talking

saying nothing

and everything

and just being damn glad to know each other (I assume.)

Everybody notices us. I guess I know it’s our hair and our voices and grins and slap-happy dress code and things but I don’t care because I get to feel famous.

Everybody’s going Tommy Edison all of a sudden, alive with ideas. We’re all going to be stars, we are, and it’s rushy. It’s crazy but it’s true and I’m walking around all day with a grin on my face bigger than Texas.

It’s a new era. So fuck all the worms, because there’s a billion apples in the orchard and we all just got the keys to paradise.

March 6, 2002: She Runs the Forty in Five Flat

There’s something oddly fulfilling about doing average adult things today. Getting up early and shuffling to the coffee maker. Showering, brushing my teeth, heading to the bank to cash a check and then the post office. Walking, shaking my ass and a Newport lit in my left hand. Grocery shopping for ingredients and then cooking from scratch.

Funny how I can’t make myself do this stuff but when I get around to it, I actually have fun. Times like these, I even like cleaning.

So what was so uncool about Sam in Sixteen Candles anyway? Woulda been cool lounging with Jimmy Montrose at the dance and having the attic room and a phone line. I sort of miss high school.

Every movie character I see I envy. Even the guys in Requiem for a Dream or Bully or Trainspotting. Everything and everybody in the world is so cool.

Pete says we’re cooler than people. I was telling Canadia this the other night, that the requirements for being cool are 1) interesting hair, 2) creation of things or ideas or emittance of some kind of creative energy, and 3) a car that is recognizable as yours from anywhere (or no car at all.) They’re not difficult requirements, that’s how come I know so many people are cool.

I’m in such a euphoria state of mind today. I’m all happy-trails summer camp sunny brat pack pink lately.  Dindi got an interview with Taking Back Sunday and they ranted about pop-punk bands. Everything’s coming up roses and shit.

All the CDs except 3 are claimed and Morphius Records is calling hounding my ass and Pete and me are good and we’re all taking a trip and I’m writing a book and my brother is coming home this weekend and I’m watching TV when I’m not supposed to and my car is fixed and I’m so jack-of-diamonds today. Queen of Clubs! Ace of Spades!

Be nice to someone today.

March 11, 2002: Boat Rides and Fizzy Lifting Drinks

I can’t make anything say anything the way I want it to – like trying to put one more smoke in the ashtray when it’s full and it keeps falling back out.

And for every step forward there’s another one back. Jackie has 26,000 words and JT has 20,000 and they’re going two-step two-step and I’m stuck. right. here. 21,000 and stagnating.

But whatever, so my Captain Marvel came home again and we went and drove around willy-nilly looking for ways to cause trouble and yelling things out the window and using the word ‘ass’ too much. And he liked the birthday present I got him of The Pete McFerrin Bicentennial or Actually Bi-Decade-ial Mix: A Collection of Birthday Songs Mingled For No Apparent Reason With Songs About Transvestites. And a hemp choker.

And we went in the woods and it was the strangest thing – him and Hippie pretending like they were actually crazy and bringing me there to kill me because I’m scared of the dark, and for a minute I believed it because Pete is so unintentionally intense and twisted and dark and he was sort of…it was oddly sexy. Both of them. I think I like the woods.

Just a million things to say or show you like Willy Wonka’s factory, but I’m all stuck with just the one thing. If I had to pick just one thing to talk about it would probably be the boat ride. Or the big place with the chocolate river or the fizzy lifting drinks.

But there’s nothing to say about the way my room looks at night with the neon stars and neon everything with the black light on so I can see – it’s a neon ballroom with me as the prom queen and something twinkly on the radio.

It’s a really small room, but there’s still room enough to spin.

March 12, 2002: You Could Help Me Find My Way

If you were here, I could deceive you. I’m always telling lies. The truth is, I’m a liar and I’m a thief, but at least I’m cool.

It’s like, what if I said ‘I Love You’ after all that – wouldn’t you still be inclined to believe it? Who would lie about something like that? Not even me with my tired-wash look and eyes in need of sleep. And not even you would doubt it, you with your halfhazard dress and old Reebox, you with your hazel eyes and dark-orange voice.

And as for me, maybe I can never remember what I was going to say or going to do, and maybe I hate it when my mouth is sticky inside from candy or from your sour advice. And maybe I never know where I’m going or anything ever but you could help me find my way.

March 16, 2002: $$Get Real Paid$$

I want a job so I can spend my money on stupid bottom-feeder dropout stuff like tattoos and weed and some Chinese food for later. I feel like sighing but I’m afraid I’ll never stop until I’m completely deflated and in a mess on the floor. Silly me.

I get in this pattern and it loops and loops and loops and loops and loops and loop sand loo psan dlo op sand loops until suddenly…

I’m older.

But not wiser, since I discarded all delusions of genius when they told me to go home for a semester because they say I’m manic depressive.  And Mom concurs because why else would I do the things I do? Yeah there’s probably something wrong with me too but I’m still here

(barely)

So I must be doing something right. Or I’m just lucky. Or both.

Course maybe I’m just rambling that late-night ramble that I always do. Waiting around till 6:02 a.m. when the sky reaches absolute orgasmic supersonic perfection and the birds get all loud (because they know it too) and by 6:10 I’m back where I started again.

March 18, 2002: Three-Oh-Four A.M.

South of Heaven, north of Hell. A thousand million ways to say I like you very very well…

So I spent last evening on the trampoline watching the sky and waiting for the sun to come up, and then spent the day wishing it would go down. Most probably, I’m a vampire.

I don’t have the energy to stop my fingers sticky sticking on the keys like peanut butter and jelly with the crusts cut off

It’s 3:04 am do you know where your kids are? and I’m sleepy sleepy

…but it’s no fun going to bed when there’s nobody there to curl up with and feel them breathing on the top of your head and their heart beating against your ear.

And he says it’s hard to sleep without your breath on my chest

But I suppose you can’t change the past. And I always say I wouldn’t want to but that’s probably not true although really I’d be just as happy (happier) if it was Pete instead of Swain saying that to me and come running through fields of flowers in slow-motion like something in a movie screen.

But he’s always talking crazy stream-of-consciousness and saying things about cherry dicalcium phosphate and sorbitol but in way more beautiful ways than I can say them.

He knows things and every day he knows more and more things than me and I want to know them too but it would sound weird if I said Will you teach me everything you know? Can you just breathe life into me for an hour or two? If we put our hands palm-to-palm, can we begin to melt into one person and would you pull away or would you stay

and whatever because I already know all the answers.

and they’re not bad.

March 21, 2002: Hour Of The Pearl

It’s Steinbeck’s hour of the pearl. The best time of the day, though it isn’t actually an hour, that time between the darkness and the light.

And really it isn’t always the pearly-gray he describes it to be. Except maybe on the beach. And maybe it is in California; I wouldn’t know. But it’s that witching hour that takes on a different hue every day. Today it was turquoise.

I remember a doctor’s office once (where Swain and I had gone to be tested for any number of dirty druggie-copulators’ diseases) with six photographs of the same palm-tree type scene. The side of a building, steps, a ledge with a rocky beach behind it. The same photo six times, spread around an otherwise crumbling room. Each photo was washed slightly in some random color. Here blue, here white, there yellow. Some orange, some purple. And the thing about them was, when looked at separately, each photo looked unaltered, as though it came from the hour of the pearl on a green-tinged day, a colored cloud-cover that would unceremoniously burn off by 9a.m.

Then it was the first day that I noticed the 6:02 phenomenon, that those pictures were recreated on my back patio, only mine were more home, all woods and cigarette butts and familiar shadows and brick and sloping hill. The same picture every day but splashed with some color – every color imaginable at some point.

And I keep meaning to keep a record. But I never do and I always forget the colors summarily and remember only the last two. Turquoise Thursday, Amethyst Wednesday.

The hour of the pearl.

March 25, 2002: Hello and Welcome To the World

Hyperventilation. Sex. Buttered popcorn, Milk Duds, and Diet Coke.

Life baby.

I spent a euphoric weekend re-entering the world. It’s so incredibly hard to explain how it feels; almost like I just woke up. Like I’d slept. Suddenly everything’s awake and feels like pricklyheat.

All these floodgates open suddenly spewing knowledge from one, music from one, money, literature, cigarettes, people from others. Like life here where life wasn’t before.

AND ALSO

the silly laughing carefree youth bathroom-sex-escapades always with my nickel knocked from between my knees because I’m happy now and jubilant and a million things hard to put into words.

EVEN if I only own 121 sq. ft. in the world all cluttered with too many books and CDs and dirty clothes and shoes and collections and

EVEN if the writing comes slow sometimes and my feet hurt and my legs need shaving and my baby isn’t here (or even my baby at all)

I love everything because it’s here it’s here and it’s new and great and beautiful and smashing up silly daffy down dilly whole lotta lovin

tomorrow.

April 7, 2002: DRUNKCARSMASHUP

You tempt Fate.

You tempt and tempt and hold up steak in front of it at the end of the chain and you laugh and get drunk and smoke weed

and get into the car with another Fatempter

sooner or later.

You’re never lucky for long.

I’m home and a little sore after a drunken car accident with Josh Tremont, my fuckable boss at work.

I said a tearful goodbye to Josh’s BMW, and the forty-ounce of Olde English that broke on the ground.  I feel bad that we dented a tree, too.  Wasn’t the tree’s fault we were headed to Josh’s to see if his midgrade was really any good, and if it would make the drunk feel smoother and deeper-mellow.

You know, I thought Josh was a square, but it turns out that when the tie comes off at the end of the day, all bets are off and he turns into one of the bogtrotters like me and the rest of this sinking scene.

I’d fuck him.  Much.  Glad to know he’s in the mud with the rest of us sometimes.

He promised me we’d smoke together, but I guess today wasn’t the day…

April 8, 2002: Invincible

So we were thinking about it last night during our post-car-accident weed smoking session.

And I’m the one who came to the conclusion: We are invincible. We miss the generator, we miss the house, we miss the car, we could have gone into the ditch, but instead we hit the tree.

So Josh’s cherry car is totalled.

BUT

We’re all fine. We live to fuck up another day, my friends.

And there was nothing but good humor when Josh said well it took 24 hours to make it here, but here we are and then hit the pipe and the room began to smell like happiness…

So I love my new job with a fierceness. My bass-player boss Rush and the silly funny things he says.  The crazy janitors and the superior doormen.  Lazy boys and American girls and it’s crazy thinking about it. The fact that things can just fall into place. The way that there is a place I can go where there’s endless entertainment to be had, and everybody there says hi and they know my name like Cheers, and for all that? For all that, they pay me.

And it’s time again for us all to stand around doing the Fatman’s Twist once again once again once again

in a line in a circle

Because we’re young. Because we’re invincible.

April 12, 2002: Kahmana Wanalaia

I want to expand on fucking my boss Josh some more.

See the thing about Josh is, I have no idea why he’s so incredibly sexy. This is a guy who’s maybe 5’9″, and weighs maybe a buck fifty all wet

-pause to appreciate the thought of Josh all wet-

Josh is 23. He’s practically married, having been with his girlfriend for 2 and a half years. They live together. He drinks. He drives while drinking. I’ve seen this firsthand. He smokes weed. Every night. He shares. He kissed my cheek about an hour before the car crash. He kissed Mavis’s cheek too. Mavis wants him all of a sudden, only I think she just wants us to agree.

He used to be in a gang. He has a gang tattoo. He has a long criminal record. He smokes Marlboro Milds. He always gives me smokes, even when he knows I have them and just don’t want to waste them.

-pause some more to think about Josh all wet-

April 13, 2002: Pete and Pace: The Saga Continues

Now, you know how there’s always the guy who brings the beer? When you’re in high school, it’s not so easy to procure alcohol, but there’s always the one guy who makes it happen.

That guy was Pace Gilmore.

Pace is a man. He’s probably been one for the last ten years or so. He’s a republican. A conservative. He drives a middle-aged-man luxury car and smokes Marlboro Reds. He’s a genius. He knows everything about everything, especially military history. He’s a very cold kind of guy, usually, but a big drinker. He always has that bottle of Absolut, and when he drinks, he gets really funny and plays the life of the party really well.

Pace and me went to Chapel Hill in the fall, and spent pretty much all our time together. But by November, it was apparent that I was flunking out of school. And in mid-December I came home to Jacksonville. And it would ruin my friendship with Pace.

***

On New Years’ Eve 2000, I fell in love with Pete McFerrin

***

That winter, Pace fell for a girl named Lara. Lara had gone out with Pete during our senior year of high school. She hated him and he hated her. She was a whore. Pace knew this, but you can’t help who you love….

Lara had first gone out with a close friend of mine, Dean, and broke his heart. Pete calls her the only girl he’s ever loved. And then Pace?  I hated her.

So Mike was thoroughly preoccupied with Pam, and I was preoccupied with Chris.

When I’d first come home, Pace and me immediately started planning my return. He told me that if I stayed in Chapel Hill for one year, he’d take me to California. He told me we’d get matching Chapel Hill tattoos. I ate it up.

Then Pete said that that was stupid.  Pete thought Chapel Hill sucked, and Wilmington was where it was at.  The movies are in Wilmington, the entertainment. So I abandoned the Pace Gilmore plan completely and decided to move down to Wilmington to be near Pete instead.  Lust is a powerful thing.

That spring, Pete got drunk and attacked me. Pace called it all “attempted rape,” and he looked up the statistics on whether or not Pete would do it again. He told me not to hang out with Pete anymore. He also promised he’d never tell anyone.

And you know what?  I forgave Pete for attacking me before I forgave Pace for calling Pete an attempted rapist.

And so, time passed.  I eventually moved back to Chapel Hill, but Pace wasn’t around.  He’d gone home for the summer, determined to win Lara’s heart.

In September, I visited home and found out that Jacksonville was alive with a new rumor. Apparently Pete had raped Lara.  He also raped me. And being the sexual deviant that I am, I liked it, and now we’re closer than ever.  Suddenly I was the end of the chain in a huge game of Telephone.

Pace got drunk one night and admitted to me that he told about Pace. And just like that I hated Pace. Pace and Pete hated each other, too.  We were just a big triangle of bad feelings.

Eventually, I forgave Pace, because I guess I missed the cute way he smoked.  And I missed the way I always felt like I was learning, just from being around him.  We tentatively began to be friends again.

***

So I got hired at the movie theater, thanks to Pace. Suddenly I wasn’t searching anymore. That ‘urge to go’ was gone. I was content. Which meant that my whole life-with-Pete plan was suddenly really unimportant. It used to be that all I talked about was moving to Wilmington, taking the magazine print, and being an author forever.

And now I don’t care.

What does all this mean?

Pete McFerrin is the most arrogant person who has probably ever lived. He’s talented, beautiful, fun. He drives a cool car with a loud stereo. He always says the right things. And everybody wants to hang on. Pete is really particular about who’s good enough to hang out with him. So when you realize that you are blessed enough to be at Pete’s side, in the halo of wonderful light that surrounds him, you can’t get enough.

Being friends with Pete one of Pete’s admirers is like being at Busch Gardens on a Saturday in July. It’s like spending all day riding The Big Bad Wolf. You wait in line and wait and wait and wait for this one minute of intense orgasmic pleasure. And then it’s over so soon and you get back in a long long line.

And that is how I thought I’d spend my life.

Pete McFerrin makes you feel like you’re special – that you’re on to something that the rest of the world hasn’t gotten. You start picking up your own arrogance. Because you’re better than everybody, and even if the whole world doesn’t know it yet, you know it and Pete knows it.

You’d never think you could beat that. Until there was Pace, and the theater.  With Pace, you’re not special. You’re just one of the gang. Maybe you’re funny, or rich, or the pothead. Maybe you’re the one who always gets drunk and acts the fool. Maybe you’re the one who always has sex with lots of people. But regardless, you’re one of the crowd. With the theater crowd, there’s never those intense searing moments of glee and pleasure, but there’s no longing and waiting in line. It’s like that buzzy, glowy feeling that you get after having a few beers. And it’s like that all the time. It’s just good.

If you’re not talking/thinking about Pete, if you’re not longing for him, he’s got no use for you. And the theater, to him, is just about Pace.

So all of a sudden the tables are turned. All of a sudden Pete McFerrin isn’t the center of my world.  I’ve got such a good thing, and for the first time in three years, it has nothing to do with him.

April 20, 2002: Throb Me.

Tonight was going-out night with Mavis to Atlantic Beach. Ziggy’s-By-the-Sea to hear her brother’s band play. It’s quiet…quiet as dusk turns to stormy night…quiet and then the lights go FLASH and it’s all pulsing beat and sweat streaming off her brother’s head and making his muscles look even bigger

red light stop green light go stop go stop GO more more over and over and over

like sex. Like rough sex that leaves you feeling all disoriented and drained and half thinking never again will I… but knowing you will because it flows like lifeblood adrenaline acid through your veins like no drug could ever make you feel

‘cept maybe cocaine

but this is better because it’s all really actually happening

and then you’re meeting musicians all of a sudden who genuinely want to know your name and what you’re doing later and always staring

at my tits

and suddenly I’m so glad I have them, so glad I brought them with me, like I had some other choice.

Swift played and the singer Gary got me all wet like I bet Jim Morrison did thirty years ago all contorted face and sitting cross-legged in a corner sometimes and then exploding everywhere

god why is it always so sexual

and telling me afterwards that he was going back to the hotel to watch Reservoir Dogs and I should come sometime

…like I won’t come tonight just thinking about the way you hold the mike Gary.

April 22, 2002:

Karmic Retribution… Sex… Summer… Life…

It’s the week of the seemingly never-ending headspin. It’s April. Julius Peppers was drafted second-pick overall to the NFL, and my Carolina boy is now an official Panther and I can recount tales of our various conversations (or lack thereof.) Josh’s girlfriend is pregnant. He says not to say Congratulations. My toenails are swathed in classic red with silver racing stripes. My hair is a rat’s nest.

Mavis got tonsillitis and my aunt Linley has found a malignant tumor in her breast. I finally finished my laundry and I got my tax refund. It’s ninety-two degrees and sunny and Murder By Numbers is in theaters.

Headspin.

Linley’s tumor makes me smirk and thoughts of karmic retribution swim in my head. Times like the one where 8-year-old Paula got an irate phone call from her informing Paula never to tell another soul again that Linley is related to someone like her – Paula whose skin isn’t lily-white and whose hair is nappy…

It also makes me think maybe I should stop smoking. Not a very serious thought, mind you, but it’s there nonetheless.

Pete quit the magazine and then came back with the condition that I’d agree to be his friend again. I laugh with glee at the fact that his attention does nothing for me anymore.

Zeke comes home from Florida State next week and my room isn’t clean. Luaka Bop Records called and I felt tongue-tied. I can count nine empty packs of Newports scattered around my room, and I wonder where all the cheery red-and-white Marlboro packs have gone gone to graveyards everywhere… when will they ever learn…when will they ever learn?

The 26th MEU is back from their seven-month trip to Afghanistan and everywhere is kisses and Welcome Home to Our Brave Boys signs. Pace says that our Marines are known and feared the world over, that Japan called them the Devil Dogs and I feel an un-hip wash of pride and patriotism whenever I see one. I smile at them and give them free refills at the movies.

Summer has come to Carolina, where spring swept through less than a month before. Down south we never do that halfway shit for long. It’s hot and it’s going to get hotter. Stickiness and sweat makes me smile and the manufactured scent and feel of the air conditioner makes me happy. In like a lion and all that.

So that’s the scene. Sultrysexy weather and our boys back home. Linley with cancer and my money flowing in. Hair everywhere and pretty feet and idle hands with noplace to travel. Laundry-fresh everything and apple-scented Palmolive.

I’m in love. With everything.

May 8, 2002: Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

And we laughed because we all had that book on our shelves, sandwiched in between yearbooks and copies of The Stand and On the Road and whatnot and we laughed because we’re still here.

What places? But what places do you need when everything’s explodey around you just like fireworks, just like TV? Just reminiscing about the times when we used to think that Jacksonville was synonymous with Hell, and all there ever was was out. Then all of a sudden BAM!

life begins.

Miss Anderson, you are under arrest for the trafficking of narcotics…

Here’s me in county lockup with Cher and with Jamie in the men’s ward and how scared we were, honestly thinking we’d do a full ten years for being caught with a boy selling cocaine from the trunk of his car. Oh the humanity! Then there was the chick with her front teeth out who cornrowed my hair and how Cher asked her to show us how to make a homemade shank out of a toothbrush and we just laughed

and laughed

***

Josh: Sorry, did I get you wet?

Paula: …

Josh: …

Paula: …

Josh: Oh, damn…

***

And Josh smiles when I sing “40 Boys In 40 Nights” under my breath while I’m working and tells me I got problems with male-dependency (really, Sherlock?)

And then I realized I was totally sprung on Josh with his bluer-than-blue eyes with the tiny greenish ring in the center. And then I realized that he knew. Oh the humanity even MORE, I thought! And suddenly he’s being way too nice and regaling me with his sexy antics no, he didn’t die – I shot him in the stomach…well, I was wearing a bright yellow shirt with SECURITY written on it, so you just know I got in a fight every night…picked up for possession on the side of the road in Dunlap, Tennessee…

***

So around about two weeks ago, Mavis and me started hanging out at the Waffle House, which is where we met Dealer Dave From the Waffle House with his shaggy auburn hair and smell-trail of marijuana cigarettes. All I want in life is a skinny little white boy is what Mavis said, so I invited him to come watch the Spiderman preview after hours at the theater.

And he came.

Dave confided in me that he really likes Mavis, which made me smile even more. I’d backed off flirting with him (or propositioning him for casual sex, rather) when I found out that Mavis really had it bad for him, and this was a welcome surprise. I was feeling all skippy from hooking up Gay George with a high school kid named Gray the day before so…

Just call me Cupid, I said, and hooked Mavis up with him all perfect and nice and beamed while they made out in that 2002 Kia Spectra of hers. He says he’s buying me a tattoo as a thank-you for the Friday-night date I scored him, and you know there’ll be times…

So in all this huge rush of May heat and love, too many car trips on futile smoke hunts and boy hunts and fun hunts and the rest, the long hours of work in the wake of the legendary SpiderMan film (which meant lots of working with Josh…) In all this delirium and entire days spent away from home and without food or structure or any real purpose, I made a decision.

***

Mavis: (to a 17-year-old boy named Rien that we picked up in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder and took to the pool hall) You don’t have to smile. You’re in high school. But that first day that you wake up and you realize it’s noon, and you’re no longer programmed to get up at six – that first day when you wake up and realize that you have absolutely nothing in the world that you have to do? Believe me – you’ll smile.

***

And Gay George wants to write a book all about his life as an addict and a prostitute and all. About the rapes and the tears and his boyfriend in Tulsa who sent him here because he needed space, and about the Miami rave scene. I lent him JT LeRoy’s books and told him to study hard. He tells me there’s electric sexual tension between me and Josh, but I know that current only travels one way.

…and I can’t stop talking about it…

***

Oh, the places you’ll go, is what they say. And it’s true that we can go anywhere and all, that I can hop a Greyhound to San Fran tomorrow if I really like. I could take a freighter to Bali (to see those Bali Eyes) or a slow boat to China even.

Only, what’s the rush?

July 8, 2002: Friends of P

Friends bring things out in me. Josh makes me mad. Imee makes me giggly and Pace makes me smart. My boss Rush makes me frustrated.  Everybody adds something like a potluck dinner at Paula’s house.

Work is going really well, and now I’ve begun to feel. Like I have a … niche. You talk music with Rush and talk weed with Josh, who you know plays favorites with you. You smoke out back and you drink in the car, and as long as the concession stand is clean, nothing else matters too much after midnight. And it always is (all hail the good employee.)

A month ago I moved in with this guy named Disco who I met at the movie theater. He’s a gay Mexican poetic type with all the light of Ginsberg (and I’m Kerouac, and we’re going to have many many adventures together.) He writes all this amazing stuff that makes me all tingly inside. Throw in new roommate Blue and it’s Two Homos, A Girl, and a Movie Theater. Sound enough like a sitcom?

I had a little theater-sex, got my tongue pierced, and added a little flame to my manner – quit being quite so nice. Like grits…. with Texas Pete…and jalapenos.

Despite all the efforts I make to convince me, I think maybe everybody doesn’t hate me. There’s a few friends of P out there.

So today I’m made of sunshine. Still a little high, maybe even a little drunk, and definitely a little tired, but the sun is still shining down on me…

Love.

July 9, 2002: Smalltownism For Dummies

It’s been a month where the beer is never sour at the bottom. A month where everything is enchanted and blowing a kiss really makes the stoplights turn green.

It’s the hottest summer I can remember (which, by the way, is something I say every year) and there’s unrest in the sky. Lightning storms and patches of red and June moons scattering into bloody stormy July ones. There was even a whirlwind in the parking lot of work the other day while people waited to see Men In Black 2.

But even with all that, everything’s coming up roses – even the concrete!

So I live in a broken-down house downtown with this gay Mexican poet named Disco. He drops acid and says stuff like God I tripped so hard I fell forever twice…Later on we moved a boy named Blue in to the living room, reducing Disco’s and my rent to a hundred bucks a month.

So here we are – I work thirty hours a week at a job I’d go to for free, and I make enough to pay the rent and buy weed and Skyy Blue every week. Maybe I’ll even make enough to come and visit you….

***

Early June set off this weird chain of events that jumbled my whole friendship structure up and led to

…Imee Greene, who’s 17 and a bubbly little-blond-chick (the type I always hated) and, somehow, my new “best friend.” She wears lots of lip gloss and platforms and makes me smile. She drives my car home when I’m too fucked up to. She whines too much and always says “That hurts my heart,” but she loves Dave Matthews Band, and can (usually) hold her liquor.  She sleeps to dream and dreams grand and vivid pictures of a world where everybody is romantic and full of fire and passion and all the things real life should be about.  Anyway, Imee Greene’s just a general good person to have around.

July 11, 2002: Like Lemon Trees on Mercury

So I thought I was over my boss, Josh, but I’m not so sure because he likes Dr. Hook and Steve Earle and that changes EVERYTHING. I hate Steve Earle, really, but it doesn’t matter because he’s heard of Steve Earle. And he’s read The Stand. I didn’t know he knew how to read.

He told me he used to be an addict and he came to Jacksonville to get away from it, but he hates it here. He’s my exact polar opposite clinging to me slightly by little strings like our equal love for marijuana and our neediness – his need for a friend and my need to be ANYWHERE AROUND HIM.

Blue moved out. Went to Atlanta.  Told me he couldn’t take being poor with us anymore, especially in light of the fact that Disco isn’t working really. So it goes (?) Or whatever.

To say goodbye, Smokey-the-guy-who-drives-the-live-van-for-channel-5 and Disco and me smoked weed and vegged all weekend with movies in the one air-conditioned room. Blue is allergic to weed, it turns out, so it wasn’t much fun for him. Then I got drunk and fell asleep and missed Blue’s big exit. I’m always tainting the moment.

I finally picked up the new Chili Peppers’ album after almost a week of hesitation, of questioning my true fan-ness. But now it’s Pep fever all over again. I make me sick

of
your hold on me

oh shut up already…

August 3, 2002: Local God

I feel just like a local god when I’m with the boys…

…ain’t it the truth. I get ultradizzy too-hot but never burnt out from too much drink and too much laughter and eight pounds of love inside my skull.

Here’s the thing: I have no car (it’s broke), I have no phone (too poor), and as of ten days ago, I have no electricity!

So is it the worst of times? Or is it still amazing in these last few weeks before Pace goes back to school – these last few orgasmic weeks of near-perfect friendship so beautiful it almost makes me cry. The drunken confessions and realizations

Pace, I’ll always be on your side, no matter what. I’m always in your corner.

Pace, would you help me move a body, no questions asked?

Of course.

Summer movies at the summer theater in the stormy hurricane season of the southeastern coast where it goes from 101 degrees and sunny (too hot, and I spend all day splashing in the bathtub in my bathing suit!) to 70 and storming with power going out everywhere and cold enough for a jacket. Everything comes to a head in the heat – drama! So much drama, and I always did like the drama…

October 12, 2002: Cocaine High and High and High

…and then Disco and Mavis were out and Imee and Hatfield were in.

You know, I really don’t know how I got here.  You live each day like it was the first one you ever lived, and maybe the last one, too.  It’s like every day you wake up and wake up and wake up again and a new adventure starts, like you’ve made a home at Disney World.  There wasn’t time or energy to write, even with inspiration and stories tugging at your heels every step, begging you to look back at it all and analyze it.  Write it down and make it all literary like I used to do.  It used to be the highlight of my life to spin these tales for you all, to weave this beautiful spider web of my real and actual life and to look at it and realize that I’m interesting! Then all of a sudden the fast lane was so fast that you couldn’t look in the rear view.  You ignore the radio and cease the conversation, and concentrate on the road, on the car and the drive until all of a sudden…

You’re Here.

Only where the hell is Here anymore?  I’ve forgotten.  It was all cocaine and excitement and money flowing everywhere.  Boys named Tupelo with deep-South accents and round blue eyes, everybody with blue eyes, except me – the calm little epicenter of everything in the world all of a sudden.

Then shit hit the fan, and here’s me: all alone.  Hatfield stole a car and hit the road and disappeared into America.  Tupelo with the deep-South accent took a job in Chicago, and went off to where it’s colder than ice and windier than the crossroads and I’ll never see him again.  Imee just cries, and as for me – I’m half envious of Hatfield being free and on an adventure, and I’m half afraid I won’t have the chops to make it without a boy to lean on.  Yet again.

Times get tough, but I think that’s kinda neat.

October 20, 2002: Of Mustard Gas and Roses and Those Who Don’t Mind

Imee and me didn’t survive Hatfield’s tornado unscathed.  Something stupid – whatever, and here we are, all petty and vindictive and pretending our friendship is permanently over.  Silly girls, we are.

I guess now I’m running with the intellectual nobody set, and Jag and Rush say I chew people up and Heaven help my next victim. Ah, so maybe I’m disloyal, and maybe I tire of people sometimes, but nobody’s perfect, and I can’t help having a short attention span.

Maybe I have friendship ADD.

Chet Steadman is beautiful. He has blue eyes and spiky hair, a goatee and a deep voice, and brown flip flops worn to breaking. He loves Bob Marley but he hates The Beatles and Nirvana and the Doors even more. He’s an ultrahawk and a conspiracy theorist, as well as an agnostic bordering on complete atheism. He drinks and does coke some, but he’s a weed man – he loves that high like no other. He’s a doorman, but not a relief manager, because he’s not as responsible as, say

Topher Johnson, who I’m not even sure likes me. He’s really sarcastic and almost never serious, and I don’t have a long enough history with him to be sure he’s joking around. He loves the Beatles and hates Bob Marley (and anything else on the up beat) and is occasionally so nice that it’s suspect. He doesn’t take any drugs – he’s never even smoked a cigarette before! He doesn’t cater to me as much as most guys, especially his best friend

Pace Gilmore, who you already know.

It’s like sometimes you feel like you’re atrophying, and you have to talk to someone about global warming theories and politics, about books to read. About the Illuminati or anarchy or foreign policy or the old honors classes from high school. Sometimes talking about drugs and 9-to-5′s and Bud Light and Rack Em’s vs. Muggs Away pool tables just isn’t enough till you feel like you’re the type that belongs in the mall.

I was at the point where I’d actually shop at Hot Topic or American Eagle. Where I’d watch America’s Funniest Home Videos. And laugh.

So maybe Jag’s right – maybe I’m disloyal and I can’t stand the same old conversation for months on end. Or maybe I just never know what I want and I’m never loyal to anyone ever…

Or maybe I’m just a child.

October 25, 2002:

Slugs Are Deadly And That Ain’t No Lie

The slugs are flanking me tonight. A completely sophisticated military maneuver and you wouldn’t think the fuckers were capable, but they are. One of them even managed to sneak its filthy way into the house – they think I don’t know how it is.

But I do.

One of these mornings you’re going to look for me and I’ll be dead. Attacked and killed by dangerous slugs and don’t laugh because you’re only 99% sure that’s impossible. 1% still wonders and someday you’ll see.

Here’s me all pretty and noplace to go. Guess I’ll make a date with Kurt Vonnegut, but I don’t think he’ll care that I’m wearing Love Spell by Victoria’s Secret which makes Chet Steadman go crazy with sexual frustration. Not quite a love spell, but a lust one anyway. Shame it doesn’t work on Josh. Shame it doesn’t work on everyone.

Sometimes I feel like things aren’t lining up like they should, like they used to in that sleepy soldier hup-two hup-two plodding planned-out luck of mine, where I never even have to try or think or even speak, and now the captain’s dead (so it goes) and the soldiers are just looking at me like “Ok, what now?” Maybe I should take them to my leader. Maybe I should choose a leader and stick to it.

Maybe I should try making sense.

October 27, 2002:

Twirly and Twisty and Watery at the Corners

Life is something that happens when you can’t get to sleep.

-Fran Lebowitz

And even when I do sleep it’s just to dream broken fragmented twisting dreams about Chet Steadman, who is so much more active there than when I am awake. When I’m awake he’s only Steadman, and my covers are only covers, all twisted up.

After a million clocked-in hours of fighting and yelling and even occasional tears, Josh and me have reached a rainbow-like peace, calm like flowers by themselves up high where people can’t pick them. I helped him with inventory tonight and he didn’t use the word ‘motherfucker’ once.

More and more now, I get so frustrated that I can’t speak and I feel all low and stepped-on and inferior. It’s like you can’t win. People are either too dumb or too smart, and all of them make me feel wrong for the situation. The world is a tuxedo, and I’m a pair of brown shoes. Topher Johnson thinks I’m “vindictive” and “jealous” if I don’t like the pretty girl at work, and Chet Steadman thinks all of it is “petty” and I should be glad I don’t live in Ethiopia. Pace just smiles like I’m his favorite daughter, the apple of his eye. I’m always fighting a tantrum, because I don’t suppose that would help.

Mostly, I just miss love.