Saturday Night: 11:18pm
The pain is unlike anything I'd imagined it could be. I left Amy, my wife, last night. I'm sitting on my friend's bed smacking away blindly at the keys in the mostly dark room, only the flicker of the TV Guide channel spooling endlessly in the television in the corner.
Three days ago, I installed the bracket that holds that television 3 feet high in the air--hospital-style--for my pal Giselle. Three months ago, Giselle left Julie, her girlfriend of some 3 years. Somehow, neither of us seems to be cut out for that life, and rather than fight for our love--which we both have for these respective women, let there be no doubt--we've destroyed them. (Giselle is currently trying to repair the relationship. Outcome TBD.) We took what will be seen as the easy way out.
In the meantime, though, it's far from easy. I returned from dinner with Amy last night, Friday, and under the damning but necessary influence of several drinks, told her I wasn't happy. Not that I am now--at this moment, typing away in the dark on my laptop, one of six or seven things I took from the apartment when I left, including deodorant, contact lens solution, my eyeglasses and some cash I'd been accumulating, knowing that this day was coming eventually--but I certainly haven't been happy for many, many months.
A year ago, November, 1998, I had something of a breakdown. My father had, six months prior, had a stroke and heart attack, changing him from the haughty, hateable son-of-a-bitch I'd known for about 30 years into a new, different man, a grandfatherish fella without a bad thing to say about anyone. He became the kind of man who necessarily depends on the kindness of family and strangers to get by. (See "Two Fathers, Two Sons") That, and I was turning thirty in the coming January, and Amy and I just weren't getting along so well.
I still loved her, and still do. But something snapped a year ago, and I found myself bawling alongside her, both of us bleary and teary like Lifetime women, speaking of divorce. The next morning, I decided that it was impossible for me to walk away. So I stayed. Right or wrong, I stayed because she loved me so much.
But nothing was really solved. And last night, after what I thought had been a pleasant dinner with some of her friends from work, I finally broke down--once again teary like a schoolgirl with a skinned knee--and told her it was over. The break-up lasted about 30 minutes, during which she threw a framed wedding snapshot at me, tossed my Hanukkah gifts into the kitchen (I'm a way-lapsed Catholic; she's a Jew; we celebrated, nominally, her holidays).
It was a bad time. And that's because I love her. But, nonetheless, it was time to go. Sometimes, it is. Love be damned. Sometimes: it's time.
Saturday night: 11:34pm
So I sit on Giselle's bed. I'm staying on her futon in the other room until my arrangements become more concrete. I intend to pay my share of the rent to Amy--some $800--for a year. She can keep the apartment. Or, if she chooses to move, I'll keep the apartment, continue to pay her the $800 a month and offer up the money I'd saved toward the real estate extortion-fee which is integral to New York City's real estate machine. If that money isn't enough--and if subsequent bills become overwhelming--I will take a loan against the $10,000 I've managed to stash in my 401-K.
None of this is the point, though. Of course. Story is: I've left my wife for a lonely life. (Don't make the easy assumption: I'm not, in any way or fashion, with Giselle. She's a lifelong, hardcore dyke. But, she's also my best friend, and we've become curiously inseparable. Yet still utterly platonic.) I haven't left my wife to chase ass. I just know that I will eventually make her unhappy when I'm unable to be the husband she deserves.
A lot of it is the job. I spend a lot of time at work. Odd hours. Antisocial hours. My weekends are usually dedicated--or at least interrupted--to my job at the newspaper (see "From Breadlines to Deadlines"). I spend 15 hours there every Monday and, when we wrap up at midnight, I always go to the bar with my friend and coworker Lisa. Amy, quite naturally, doesn't understand why I don't come running home to spend my sparse spare hours with her. And that, I admit, is wrong.
I should want to spend all of my spare time with her. Fuck the writing. Fuck the one or two friends I've managed to make since coming to this city five years ago. But I can't. I want to write in my spare time and, when I don't write, I don't necessarily find myself thirsting for time with Amy. Again: that's wrong.
She deserves more. So I'm giving her the chance to find it. But the pain is unreal. To see her collapsed on our bed, sobbing from the depth of her soul, wrecked me. I couldn't stand. I couldn't leave. But I had to. "Go do what you want, just like you always have," she spat at me. Fair enough. Though I've always tried to avoid hurting her, I know I have. So she's earned the right to hurt me back. As much as she wants.
(The last time I felt pain like this was when my girlfriend Laura dumped me during my freshman year of college. That was in 1988, more than ten years ago. Well, that's not entirely true; I also remember the wrenching pain when Jennifer dumped me. Apparently, I was quite dumpable. I believe I was too dependent, something I hope I've purged from my psyche as much as possible. But now I'm doing the walking, so why does it hurt so much?)
Monday morning: 7am
Yesterday, I went by the apartment at 12:45pm. I'd called to say I'd be there at 1:00, and I was not surprised to run into Amy on the street: she was high-tailing it out of there before I arrived. She was on her way to return my gifts.
We spoke for about 7 minutes on the street. One thing I've always dug about Amy is her strength. While I haven't been witness to it much first-hand in the last several months, she's got a dignity and backbone that'd force most down before her.
Monday night/ Tuesday morning: 1:31am
I'm back on my futon after a 15-hour workday at the paper. Not a bad day; I've certainly had much worse. But to find myself sitting alone in a friend's bedroom when I'm usually tip-toeing into the apartment around this time--after an hour or two of decompression at the bar with Lisa--is quite unexpected. Not unpleasant, though. I just had some leftover spaghetti and salad that I'd made last night. Giselle smoked some pot; we watched an hour of Court TV. I clipped her cat's claws, since she's never done it herself.
I'm relaxed, ready to sleep soon. Even alone, on this futon.
Monday night/ Tuesday morning: 1:34am
It's about having the strength and determination of character to change your life. Leaving Amy was--continues to be--the most difficult thing I've ever done. I just want to avoid becoming the kind of married, adult man I've always detested: easy choices in pursuit of a stable life.
Instability is par for the course for those who don't want an ordinary life. So it goes with pain as well. The agony in my heart is the price to be paid, the devil's due, for what I hope to be a life less predictable. If I don't make something of this life I've consciously pursued? If I fail to capitalize on the situation I've carved from my wife's very heart? Then fuck my promise: I will put the heat to my temple.
Monday night/ Tuesday morning: 1:36am
My mother left a message for me at work inviting me to join them for Christmas. More specifically, to fly into ----------, join them at their house, and then drive with them to visit with my sister who lives a few hours away. It would be nice to "spend that time together," she finished. Funny: I'm 30 years old and only now feeling like my mother may actually like me.
No tears. No couchtrips. No therapy, please. (Else I wouldn't be getting divorced, right? We'd be in "couples counseling.") I love my family--I like them, even--but generally from a distance. That's the way I was raised. Love, assumed, but never displayed. And so what? Ask anyone besides my soon-to-be ex-wife: I'm a mostly emotionally stable individual.
Monday night/ Tuesday morning: 1:40am
Press return indeed. Watch the rush of colors that are pain; feel the wrenching of muscles that are pain. My bowels are clenched; my stomach's of knots. My neck is sore from a strange pillow on a low-lifer's futon.
I may as well tell the mattress story. Some three or four months ago, the upstairs neighbor's heating pipes leaked through our ceiling and ruined our mattress. This was the bed I'd bought back in Philadelphia. One of those cheap jobs: 800-number and quick delivery. The leak was a liquid Kevorkian. We decided to spring for a new one. Trying to be smart--to do the right thing, some would note--we went to a small business in town, but they were closed. Anxious, we went to Sleepy's, where we bought the plush-yet-firm full-size of our dreams. Three days later, I took the morning off from work to await our scheduled delivery, and found myself fucked in the ass by a negligent dispatcher and an apathetic store manager. I sat at my desk, impotent with a near-exploding temper formed of a dozen calls from the office, each one a different asshole sales rep with an idiotic question. Five hours after the promised delivery window, I told the dispatcher and store manager to suck my ass; I put up a note telling the possibly stray delivery boys to do likewise. Then, I went to work, where I promptly wrote a 500-word diatribe against the chainstore fuckers that ran in New York Press' annual "Best Of" issue (see sidebar). Point is: we never got around to buying another mattress. Instead, we decided to hold onto the $1,000--or, rather, to avoid putting another grand on the credit card--and sleep on the queen-sized pull-out couch which we brought into the bedroom. This--and here's an important detail--left our only other room a hardwood wasteland of laundry and old magazines. Two months later, with no living room to speak of, no other room where one of us could conceivably get away from the other person, I found myself typing in the corner of the couchless living room at 4 a.m., my traditional time to write when I can't sleep. It sucked. It sucked. IT SUCKED. Not my wife's fault, naturally, but it quickly escalated in my sputtering little brain into an endemic problem beyond repair by a simple new bed. No, this was serious.
We should've just bought another fucking mattress. Things might've been different today. Better? Worse? I don't know. Just...different.
Tomorrow, I pick up my rented SUV and begin to move out. I plan to pack my clothing, records, CDs, books and electronics. I may also grab some old paperwork, like my taxes, and maybe track down my birth certificate. I'll go back in another week for the boxes of Crank, and then one of these days, I'll clear our storage space--which I've paid for since its initial rental--of all of her personal belongings, such as family pictures, keepsakes and such.
Then, I'll deposit the non-essentials of my life (boxes of Crank, old mailorder, old letters, archived freelance jobs) into that storage space, and go about finding an apartment for myself. I called my company's moneyman and asked him to begin processing the paperwork for me to secure a $5,000 loan against my 401-K. That entire sum will go to a broker's fee to find me an apartment. The money I mentioned earlier won't be nearly enough. I'll need about $7,000 up-front to move into a $1,500 apartment.
I don't know where I'll live. A one-bedroom if possible; large studio if not. I'll need the landlord to accept dogs, since I plan to wrest custody of my mutt, Buddy, from Amy, who has indicated that she wants to keep all of the animals. That, I hate to tell her right now, isn't going to happen. I will get my dog, plus maybe one of the cats. Definitely, though, the dog.
The first decoration in my new apartment will be my Gacy painting: "Christ." It's the real thing, bought years before his death, through that guy who was pimping for him out there. Amy always hated that painting, but not for the Gacy-association: she's not a fan of Christ. Not even in an ironic, Jew-hating-Jesus kind of way. And that's always bugged me.
My second decoration will be the Holy Hologram, which I've written about in these pages. Amy's dislike for the Hologram once again stems from that Jesus thing. Shame, really, considering how much I adore that hologram. It will will once again greet visitors from a badly painted wall soon, much as it did back in Philadelphia when I lived with Tom.
I don't mean for any of this to seem like badmouthing. Do I need to tell you once again that I miss my wife? But I've set the course, and I must continue forward. This is the right thing to do, and I won't allow sadness or loneliness or uncertainty prompt me to change that. Again: this is the right thing.
Giselle recently broke up with her girlfriend, Julie, and moved back into the apartment which I now call my temporary home. She's painted the place in dark, quiet tones, yielding a dark, somber environment. One day when I had a rental car, we went out to Jersey (where everything's cheaper, and you don't need to pay anyone to deliver what everyone else in the fucking world can drop into their trunk and deliver to themselves) and she bought a weight bench and heavy bag. The bench sits at the foot of the futon where I sleep; the bag hangs across the room. I've repeatedly needled her that she's fast approaching Travis Bickle territory. She's not so amused; not-so-secretly, I've been envious.
I probably can't live with such minimal trappings. I've got a thousand records, two hundred books, a decent stereo and dozens of boxes of back issues of Crank (which, as I mentioned, I expect will end up in storage, but if I find an apartment with a spare 10 cubic-feet of closet room, then fuck the $90/month for the rented closet; I'll live with the inconvenience. Shit, the boxes can serve as my coffee table.).
Monday night/ Tuesday morning: 2:05am
The writing feels good. It's nothing phenomenal; I may not even keep it. But it's good to feel it pour out. I regularly type about 80-90 words per minute (I once tested at 110 for a temp job), so once I get going on a good clip, even in the pitch dark with the laptop's monitor not casting more than a candle's light glare onto the keyboard, I can still cruise along and let the words come out. It's been a fucking dog's age since I felt this.
I'm way into American Beauty mode. Last night, I smoked pot for the first time in ten years. Back in college, a few months after a devastating, barely-post-adolescent breakup with Jennifer (see reprint from Crank #2, p. 86), I stopped doing all drugs because I'd been smoking too much pot and doing coke more than just occasionally. So I haven't done any drugs for ten years.
(Well, okay, since I'm getting into it, and since my wife can't possibly be any more upset with me, there was one time with my old friend Andrea, back in 1992 or so, hanging out at her apartment before going out to a show. I shared a joint with her and a few of her friends whose names I can't even recall. Then there was that time hanging out at another work friend's apartment where I may have taken in a lung-full or two, but only because I was already drunk. Then, one hit at Giselle's old apartment some afternoon when we were trying to write together. (We once wrote a horoscope column together under the pseudonym Lynn Bishop; it was fucking great, but only survived 20 weeks before getting spiked. If you're interested in reading her words of wisdom, go to crank.com where I plan to post those original columns.) But only those couple times. And never coke or anything else more serious than those couple puffs of pot.)
Packing that pipe felt so natural, though, even after all these years. Giselle wasn't even in the room; I inched back onto the ledge all alone. And I liked it. To sit there on her bed watching television, so utterly relaxed and calm, no racing thoughts, no racing heart, no anxiety and millions of simultaneous agonies, felt so fucking good.
When we got back from work tonight, after I'd eaten my leftovers, she smoked a little as part of her nightly routine. I didn't even think of it; instead, I got a bottle of beer and relaxed in the way I'm accustomed. And there you have a demonstration of one of the many means by which you can categorize people: by default, when searching reflexively for relaxation, some people drink, others do drugs. I grab a bottle; Giselle grabs her bag.
Monday night/ Tuesday morning: 2:17am
I am moving along at a terrible pace. The battery will die in about 10 minutes, I think, so I should lean over and grab the power cord from Giselle's laptop. We've got identical rigs, which is no accident. When New York Press finally decided to finally develop and launch a website (a whole other story which I won't go into here), I realized that she and I would need to have remote access to the website for observation and maintenance reasons. So, I convinced my boss (with barely an arm-twisting, which was curious) to buck up $8,000 for two cherry laptops. Now, a year later, they're a bit long in the tooth, but certainly fine for my needs.
The battery is about to utter its death rattle; the screen has dimmed. But I've got nothing more to write anyway.
Monday night/ Tuesday morning: 2:19am
The pain will lessen, I guess, so long as I keep myself busy. That's not right, though, since preoccupation will likely mean procrastination. I will crash, two weeks from now, living alone without my wife and dog. Who's T. Bickle now?
I also expect to explode from the pent-up essence. Granted, Amy and I weren't fucking every day, but we never dropped below weekly, and usually held steady at two or three times a week, even though certain days--like Mondays--didn't even exist in our schedules. Important point, though: it was quality. I've never, ever had a time when I couldn't get my hard. Sometimes, I'd decline to invitation, and would instead get her off with my hand or such, but that wasn't due to lack of ability, but rather lack of energy. (Or, on more than one occasion, lack of affection. It's actually tough to fuck someone--or at least fuck them well enough to enjoy yourself, and not with spite--when you're annoyed by them.) And I rarely failed to get her off. At least not on any appreciable number of occasions. Remember: we're talking about ten years of fucking. Ten years.
I don't expect that I'll be, um, manually releasing much tension while staying here on the futon. I don't think I'd be able to go through with that; it doesn't seem right. So I plan to explode. My nightmare: One morning, I'll wake up a priapic cripple. All day, I'll be sitting at my desk, walking with parcels in front of me, trying desperately to conceal my tension. Then, when I get home and find that I still don't know how to go about securing a real, live receptacle, I'll just explode, blood, guts and man all over.
(Giselle: I'll try to go it in the bathroom and will call 9-1-1 so you won't discover the mess.)
When the time comes to fuck, I'm curious as to how it'll happen. Am I a one-trick pony, capable of fucking just this one particular woman with any significant results? Again, remember: ten years. The last time I fucked a woman other than Amy was my junior year in college when Amy and I were broken up for a few months when I took some girl home from a party and she made it clear that she wanted to fuck. So we did.
The next morning, when I was saying goodbye on the front porch of the house I shared with the not-yet-cunt Paulette and some sublet chick whose name I've forgotten, this young woman asked if I wanted her number. "Oh, of course," I mumbled, substituting a guise of hangover for the more genuine apathy inside.
"Where do you live?" I mustered, expecting a campus and dorm name.
"Right now I'm with my father, but I'll probably go back to my mother's soon." She was so fucking adorable, this bright, slight, mousy hippie-chick with fuzzy armpits which were so surprisingly cute when she was on top of me or when she was on her back, arms stretched above her head.
"Um, how old are you?" I asked, suddenly a bit more clear-headed.
Well, goddamn. If that wasn't the second seventeen-year-old I'd had sex with while at college. The other one was named...shit, I can't remember. Kim, I believe. I took her virginity when I was a sophomore. She was hanging around the dorms, a younger hometown friend to one of my dorm friends. She liked me. A lot. And I was drinking. A lot. She'd come over, we'd all hang around and, eventually, she and I started fooling around. Don't get the wrong idea now: I was only 20, and 17 wasn't too far behind, the one high school diploma between us notwithstanding.
Of course, I eventually fucked her. Carefully and considerately, safely and sincerely, but I still felt terrible after the second. I could see that look in her eyes, that wide-eyed look of attachment, and I knew I'd done something wrong. Plus, I was also fucking around--not fucking, mind you--with a woman named...shit, forgot that one, too...who had the largest breasts I've ever personally encountered while still having a toned, athletic body. She'd jerk me off in bed while I returned the favor. She, too, liked me for a while. Though she, too, ultimately, hated me for being me. Common occurrence, that.
Monday night/ Tuesday morning: 2:40am
So it goes.
One of the cats at my feet just rolled over on to its back, a deep sigh of feline peace, one paw on one of my feet, his tail draped casually over the other.
The television glow coming from Giselle's bedroom has gone out. I don't know if she falls asleep with it on grandmother-style or sets a timer or just flips the switch the moment before exhaustion overtakes her. I think she dozes and then rouses herself for a split second, with enough wherewithal to finger the OFF button and darken the glow.
She'll sleep late tomorrow, at least until 11. She's one of those people, though I think her claim to needing twelve hours of sleep is a bit exaggerated, because I know that on more than one occasion each week, she will wake up in the wee hours to either take or make a phone call to either her ex-girlfriend--they still talk; they're kinda working things out--or to her sister or to one of her many, many former lovers who have become "like-my-sister" friends.
But that's her lifestyle, which is drastically different than mine. I'll be up at 8 tomorrow. Shower, shave, withdraw cash from the bank, rent the car. I need to bring a current utility and phone bill with me, so that I can leave cash as a deposit, rather than a credit card, since I don't have enough room on any of my cards. (I have terrible, terrible credit, so now, after several years of nothing, the only cards I have are ghetto cards like BankFirst and Capitol One. Five hundred dollar limit? Christ. I've had larger bar tabs.) I'll buy some boxes, pack my shit and summon Giselle to join me at the apartment so she can help haul my shit into the truck.
Frankly, it's the least she can do. During the two-plus years I've known her, I've moved her out of her Brooklyn hellhole, temporarily into her girlfriend's 4th-floor apartment, then out into her current 4th-floor, then "permanently" back into her girlfriend's and recently back into this place. This past move was a particular bitch, because she'd subletted this place out to someone and then broken up with her girlfriend, leaving her with nowhere to go. So she stayed at her friend's apartment--sound familiar?--which means I was lying when I said that she came back into this place. In fact, she actually moved out of her girlfriend's, then half into the friend's (and half into the office, which served as a temporary locker for her larger crap), and then finally once again into this place as soon as she had persuaded the subletter to vacate without incident (aided by a couple grand as please-get-your-ass-outta-here bribery). This place, of course, is on the fourth floor, just like all of her other residences and crashpads.
My now-former apartment is on the second floor. And, if the god of real estate grants me her favor--it's just got to be a "her" because only the word "cunt" can do justice to such a heinous economic system as New York City realty--I'll stay on or below the third floor. I'm getting too old to hike up and down four flights every time I need more beer. I mean, fuck Christ, man. Mercy.
Monday night/ Tuesday morning: 2:59am.
The alarm will alarm me in 5 hours. Not bad, considering. I've had less sleep without the benefit of an hour and a half of peaceful writing. There are many odd points, subtle points, of staying in this apartment. First of all, Giselle is my employee. Have I mentioned that yet? Have you figured that out? She's not only my closest friend, but also my assistant. We work together 45-plus hours each week. We are in close contact, virtually inseparable at work, her duties so intertwined with mine and our rhythms so often in sync that we're often accused of sharing a brain. Now, I'm at her home, eating yet another meal with her and yammering even more about whatever it is friends yammer about without self-consciousness.
That, and I helped assemble a lot of this apartment. I've installed light switches, drilled the mounts for the television bracket, cut shades, hung ceiling lamps. The alarm clock that sits next to me is identical to the one at my old apartment: I'd bought two for me and Amy, but found I wasn't using mine because my body functions on an old-man automatic circadian rhythm. So I gave it to Giselle when she moved into this place and found that, without the girlfriend and dog to alarm her, she was unable to rise from bed and get her ass to work.
Now, that same clock, with its same face and same buttons, waits to alarm me in five hours. It waits with an eager vibration barely visible in its red LED, an eagerness to start my day and put me on the course to change my life. It just wants to do its job well.
Monday night/ Tuesday morning: 3:06am.
It's time. My eyes are finally dropping, my stomach has settled. A cat has moved up next to me, still a bit wary of my presence, but more concerned with affection than guarding any imaginary, genetically imprinted sense of a lair.
So I sleep. For a time, at least, and hopefully without fits of guilt and pain. Tomorrow afternoon, I move some of my life out of my life. This should be quite a day.
Tuesday night/ Wed. morning: 12:32am
I've returned from a quick trip to the Jersey shore, where I revisited some spots from my teenage years (I spent all my summers at my grandparents' house in Pt. Pleasant, NJ), strolled out on the jetty and otherwise reminisced.
On the way home, Amy called me on the cel phone. Our first conversation since Sunday. Frankly, I don't feel like transcribing and describing it right now. In fact, I don't feel like writing at all.
Sunday night/ Mon. morning: 12:47am
There's a bar called Welcome to the Johnsons about 2 blocks north from here along Rivington. It's modeled after a suburban basement or living room: wood panel, Sears television set, even a Pong rig produced upon request. I've been stopping there lately for a nightcap. A last drink or two before returning to the apartment and trying to sleep.
The weekend was interesting. Friday night, I mostly walked around town and hit a few bars: Black Star, The Library and finally Johnsons. I only had a few drinks in total, but the combination of exhaustion and the little bit of pot I'd smoked earlier conspired to knock me out. When I got back to the apartment, I fell right asleep.
Saturday day was spent at work as always, and at Heather's party that night. Heather is Giselle's friend who started working for me several weeks ago. I'd met Heather and her now-husband John many times over the last two years, so I had no problem adding Giselle's professional voucher to my own personal opinion about her. She's a gem.
John and Heather threw a holiday party. I was excited to go to a party proper; I haven't been to anyone's apartment for a party in a long time. We ended up staying out incredibly late--which Giselle had, in fact, anticipated and had accordingly cleared her Sunday schedule for nursing the hangover. I finally fell asleep--with the surprisingly pleasant help of a Vicodin--at 7 a.m. after fucking around for an hour or two on a nascent script, this issue of Crank and some miscellaneous e-mails.
(Fortunately, when I read the e-mails the next afternoon, I didn't write anything stupid. Like many drunks with a tech inclination, I've been known to send some absolutely stupid letters to people while sitting up late at night. That's one of the reasons I maintain my AOL account: so many other people also use AOL that I've often got the opportunity to unsend stupid messages, something you can't do outside of your e-mail domain. During this session, the only questionable thing I wrote was a dinner invitation to a woman I've known professionally for several years. But I was already planning to do that, and I was actually quite pleased with what I had written when I read it the next day. (After-the-fact note: The personal invitation was declined, but the professional relationship remains intact. And no, it's not someone from my job.))
Sunday was spent lounging around the apartment. We watched Hands on a Hard Body and Limbo, both amazing movies. I cooked some food and had a couple drinks. Then, the X-Files, the laptop and headphones.
Monday night/ Tues. morning: 1:51am
I've just come back from work. Rough day, long day. Not sure why, only that it was a bad one. Since one of our coworkers was fired a couple weeks ago, things have been rather great. He was derisive, to be kind; an asshole to be unkind. But that's another story that will never be told.
Today shouldn't have been bad, but it was. Sales reps drove me fucking insane; nothing was on schedule or working properly. Too many things under my tent, I'd say, and sometimes I can't handle being the ringmaster. Usually, it's fine. I'm proud of my work. I'm proud of the people who work for me and, as importantly, I'm proud that I've got them working for me. They make me look good, so I treat them well. They are, really, my friends.
Maybe living with Giselle wasn't the best idea. Oh sure, you can say that now, wiseguy, you can naturally observe that no two people should spend so much time together. But it's not like that. Or, it hasn't been until today.
We've always had our bad days. We expect so much of each other that, when one of us falters, there's a problem. Today, apparently, it was my turn. Nothing intentional or malicious, but maybe negligent. The slightest accidental negligence, no doubt, has been many the cause of the most extreme wars.
At quitting time--when the messenger took away the last case containing the last boards, film and disks--Lisa, Gabe and I went across the street for a pint and burger. Usually, Lisa and I head down to our shared neighborhood and drink at 288. But, since that's not really my neighborhood anymore, I've pushed us to stay nearer to work.
Giselle went home. She doesn't usually join Lisa and me--Gabe does only occasionally, depending on the time frame and his feelings toward returning to Queens, where he lives alone in a desolate neighborhood filled with Russian immigrant gangsters--but she certainly wasn't tonight. Rough day for her, too. We'd bickered all day, furthering the perception of us as a sexless old couple, and she's coming down with a cold to boot. So, burgers for us; pot and a shower for her.
Monday night/ Tues. morning: 1:59am
I'd intended to come into the apartment as quietly as possible, and I did. But when I got in, Giselle called out for me to open her door. "He heard you come in and he wants to eat," she said, referring to the younger of her two cats, Dakota. He wants to eat.
Now, fifteen minutes later, me freshly showered and sitting on the futon in the laptop glow and sinking under the pleasant headphone soundtrack of a Sun Volt album, both cats sit next to me, purring for the company.
Weird days, these. Tomorrow, I pick up the rented SUV for the second time and haul out my bookshelf, desk and old copies of Crank and such that populate the space above the kitchen shelves. Then, maybe over to the storage space where I'll pick through the shared possessions. Fortunately, we have very little assets in common. Some photos, which I'll let Amy keep; some animals, which we'll fight about eventually. No co-op or house; no car. No insurance policies or passed-down heirlooms for the squabbling.
Tomorrow will suck, though. It hasn't hit me hard yet, though it will. The pain is still immeasurable. I know, deep inside, that this is the right thing. Was I weak or strong? Tough call, chico. Perhaps a bit of both.
Monday night/ Tues. morning: 2:05am
I most definitely won't buy a gun now, with the expectation of suicidal levels of self-pity and morose funk to sink around me. I may still find a way, maybe, if things get bad enough. Fuck my promise to go 80 if I made 30. I'm fucking up a lot of promises these days, so fuck that one double. If it's time to go, it's time to go. (I'll do my best to finish Crank #7 first, though. Not necessarily in an effort to establish any great body of work, but rather because I'll just hate to have disappeared without a final farewell.)
Suicide has always been close to my heart. The first stories I ever wrote--they somehow only seem around the corner behind me--exclusively featured suicidal protags. At the end, the narrator--they were, of course, all first-person because I had no idea, and still don't for that matter, how to relate a third-person story, which is why I don't write fiction--always died by his own hand. Maybe some day, if I've got the grit, I'll dig up my old Atari 800 at my folks' house down South (they moved there a couple years ago; I'm a Jersey boy, remember?), figure out how to print and rescue all my old crap. They'll be nothing more than laughs, of course, but what better pursuit than humor these days?
Monday night/ Tues. morning: 2:10am
The words do pour. 6400 words without an edit. And you can just shut the fuck up if you think I've gone soft with all this weepy-weep grey. I'm not soft, I'm a human, motherfucker, and if you had half a brain, you would've always known that from reading a little deeper than the cuss words and blasphemy. Some people, they get it. Others: they don't.
As I mentioned before, but didn't expand upon, Amy and I spoke last week, the Tuesday night after I'd moved out. I was driving home along the NJ Turnpike, having just returned from a three-hour trip to the Jersey shore, and she called. Funny thing, I was enjoying one of the first distinct highs I'd felt in days. I was howling along with some song on the radio, feeling nothing but elation and promise, when the celphone rang and the caller ID pegged "HOME." I couldn't not answer.
She was upset, as I knew she would be, to come home and find 95% of my things gone. We spoke a bit; she cried only part of the time. She's a strong one, one of the strongest women I know, and thank god her strength is evident. "I'll be fine without you," she said, "but I wish I could be with you." Broke my heart, right then and there.
I feel terrible about the situation. I'm not the happiest I've ever been sleeping on a futon, worrying about waking up my sometimes-neurotic roommate. (I love you Giselle, with all my heart, but you know.) I'm not happy pulling my clothing out of a bag and returning them worn later that day to another bag next to it. But it's still the right course.
That night, we spoke for about half an hour. She cried only a third of time, and then only when something particular prompted it. Something like my mention that I needed to find an apartment, or asking about taking the bookshelf. Those things, quite naturally, upset her. Then, she'd regain her composure and talk the way I remember her talking, years and years ago, the tough bitch I fell for.
She hasn't been that tough bitch in a long time. At least not with me, and that's rather draining. I needed her to be strong with me and for me; I spend enough time being strong for myself and for people around me that I can't seem to do it for her anymore. That's wrong, so I decided to not pretend anymore. Hence, the futon.
Monday night/ Tues. morning: 2:18am
Giselle's speaking on the phone in her bedroom, mumbling whatever she's mumbling to whomever she's mumbling to. Our biggest disagreement, I think, concerns the usage of time. We're both up right now, at 2 and change, both dealing with our life and loneliness the way we see fit, but I'll rise at 9 or 10 (at the latest) and go about getting things done. She'll sleep until noon, citing exhaustion and her own curiously vague sleeping sickness, and do something constructive only if she goes into work.
She's not lazy, nor unmotivated. In fact, her ambitions are second only to mine in the circle of people I know personally. She wants things, many of the same things that I want. But she's got problems using her time more efficiently. Not only do I know that I'm sacrificing my wife for my work--and I hope to god I'll actually prove that trade to be worthwhile--but also sleep and, many times, the very sanity that gets me through the dayjob.
Maybe that's why she had such a bad day. Generally speaking, I deal with the daily malaise of dayjobbing better than her. That may be because I make more money, but maybe not. She's three months further along in her independence, and I know she's frustrated. By her telling, she went through a couple weeks of elation, the feeling that she could do whatever she wanted. But then, she didn't do anything. (In her opinion. The moving out, creating a new life in a new apartment... Those things comprise a rather significant accomplishment in my book.)
Now, she's on the other side of the break-up, feeling a mixture of quiet, lonely satisfaction and regret. She doesn't write, as I do, to fill in the day's last hours before exhaustion overtakes my brain. She's a photographer, but photographers in New York can't usually function like they do in the rest of the world. No enlarger in the spare room; no darkroom in the second bathroom. For New York photographers without a bankroll or established name, it's an account with the photo lab, and the constant feeling of creative frustration. So, instead, she speaks on the phone with her sister, her other friends, whoever. She helps old friends with their problems and thereby feels better. She remains central to many lives, whereas I expect I could roll away like a tumbleweed with very few people mourning my prolonged absence.
I try to write. The script is languishing; Crank #7 is still. She mumbles quietly, ever-protective of a privacy which she believes represents strength but which only leads to isolation; I write.
I hope my wife is alright. She must be lonely, though in her honest moments, I don't think she would disagree with my decision to leave. She misses me, but I think she'll be happier without me.
She will, perhaps ironically, handle this better than I.
Monday night/ Tues. morning: 2:29am
Writing in real-time, I also fortunately tire in real time. I'll set the alarm for 9 a.m., keep my headphones on (and earplugs clutched as a handy backup), restart the CD and drift off.
First, I've got 3 or 4 script ideas in my head, and they all fight for my attention. One is in-progress with Giselle, but it's predictably slow-going. I find that I work best on my own, then compare notes and scenes with her. We discuss direction and development, and then I return to the quiet dark of writing. In this way, we make the most progress and, in this way, we will settle into a good partnership. She can shoot, I can write. But that first 111 pages; they're the bitch of the litter.
That's what's on my mind, simply because it was such a bad day. I think of escape, and I think of working my dick off. If I don't, I will have wasted a good wife and turned my back on a good life; it would, simply, be rude to do otherwise.
Fuck it. Rough day, as I said, and I'll finally sleep it away. Right about now. 2:31 a.m.
Wednesday night: 8:50pm
Yesterday came and went. I got the SUV and moved the last of my shit out of the apartment. I took my birth certificate, bookshelf and the last bits. I left some checks for bills and such, and left. Nothing more to say.
Sun night: 11:54pm
Not numb. I wouldn't say that. And I'm not unaffected. But I am handling things, for the most part, rather well. I miss Amy. I miss what we were, a couple years ago, and I wonder where it went. Did it break under the pressures of my job? Of marriage proper? Of outside forces? From where did my dissatisfaction come?
No matter. What's done is done, and I'll remain strong in my resolve to see our lives changed. Mine for the worse, I suspect; Amy's for the better. But see above for more of that.
Tom's coming into town next week to visit his folks in Jersey. He'll come in Tuesday, stay the night, and return for New Year's Eve. I don't have plans for us for either night yet, but I imagine they will involve liquor. Our plans always do. I don't know what Amy will be doing. Out with friends, I'd bet, or at someone's apartment. We'd never made any plans--I think I knew that months away, months ago, was too far in advance--so there's nothing on which to place any guess.
Speaking of my old friend Andrea, I got in touch with her recently. She was my pal back in college. A good friend, not just some fleeting dorm mate or fuck friend. We never had sex, likely due to our good friendship. She's two years my senior and, when she left school, she remained nearby, working first in the music business and then, when she'd been ground down by that hellish life, for Johnson & Johnson. Around that time, I graduated, moved back to my hometown for a bit and then off to Philadelphia. Somewhere along the line in Philly, we steadily lost touch.
I wouldn't normally--and, as a rule, I just won't--blame Amy for anything I regret doing or not doing in our shared past, but I did lose touch with Andrea because of tension between them. Amy disliked Andrea for two reasons, both valid: Amy was threatened by our friendship and Andrea never really took Amy too seriously (which was my fault, because at the beginning of my dating Amy, it was just another college fling; by the time it became something more, the tone was set, the damage done). So we went our separate ways: Andrea continuing to work at J&J, then playing in a band, leaving J&J and eventually settling in Hoboken with a job in Manhattan.
I tracked her down through her former landlord, who was kind enough to call me with a new phone number. We met out at Brownies for a drink; curiously, she was already meeting this guy named Jeremy on their third date (or something). But he was nice enough to tolerate our extended catch-up, which lasted about two hours and felt like old times. She offered her sympathies for my break-up and spoke fondly of Amy, whom she'd never really disliked; they just never really got to know each other.
With Jeremy there, I didn't have the chance to speak my mind entirely. I wanted to tell Andrea how much of an asshole I felt for losing touch with her. I'd become a fucking cliche: Break up with significant other, track down old friends. I wanted her to know that I'd learned--only quite recently, in fact--how important it is to have close friends, friends who remain friends throughout the course of life. Giselle has taught me what this loyalty is all about, and I hope to demonstrate it by action and intent.
I wanted to tell Andrea that, years ago, I should've kept my friendship intact while still being respectful to my girlfriend. I should've found ground between them; should've fought for everyone in my life to remain in my life. But, instead, I was a coward. I paid proper respect to my girlfriend--and I don't regret that; she deserved even more respect from me--but cut a friend free.
I couldn't tell her all that at Brownies, so I e-mailed her the next afternoon. She called the following morning and let me off the hook. We plan to get together for drinks again soon.
Sunday night/ Mon. morning: 12:16am
I went Christmas shopping today and met a cat I want to adopt. First things first.
Fuck the holidays, and all that. I plan to spend Christmas Eve alone in a bar--an old tradition from before Philadelphia which I broke with Amy three years ago--and Christmas Day maybe with Giselle, if she's around. No plans, though.
But I did buy gifts for everyone around me. I enjoy buying gifts, not the least because I can generally afford to buy decent gifts now. I never bought anything for Amy for Hanukkah, so I naturally feel like a complete fucking cocksucker about buying gifts for my work friends and close family members. I went back and forth on the idea of buying something for her, and ultimately decided not to.
I did, though, stop in at PetCo to buy some toys for my dog, Buddy, and the four cats who are all currently living with Amy. For Buddy: two chew toys and a bag of lamb lung, his favorite treat. For the cats: a bunch of toys.
At PetCo, a rescue group puts cats and kittens on display, presumably for adoption but definitely for donation solicitation. As per routine--because I'm actually a kind man, believe it or not--I stopped by to stick a dollar in the jar and check out the felines. One poor soul caught my eye, maybe the saddest little thing I've ever seen. His right socket is empty and sewn shut. He's mostly white, about 2 months old, I'd guess. I'd call him Winky.
I'll think about adopting him. (Giselle was gung-ho, if only because she knows my own stay in her apartment is temporary.) I will get the dog, but I suspect Amy might keep all the cats. So, I'll need a cat (I've always had cats around me; a steady pride of three was always around me as a grew up); the dog will enjoy the company. Even if Amy does release one or more of them, they'll get along just fine. Winky will just have to learn the lay of the land quickly, considering his handicap.
I'll decide on Tuesday.
Sunday night/ Mon. morning: 12:59am
Last Thursday night, I was persuaded to join my pal Tony and his girlfriend, Julie, out for drinks. We went to Welcome to the Johnsons, which for logistical reasons has become my favorite barside hangout.
Julie's a madwoman. She and Tony have been seeing each other for a couple months now, though they'd been hanging around a lot for awhile before. Tony, in fact, fucked Julie on the third floor of the Puck Building during one of New York Press' special issue parties, way back in September, 1998. They're both odd birds, and I'm saying that without ever really having seen them in action together.
First off, Julie was born and raised in Taiwan, came here when she was 12. So she's got a bit of an accent, which is already fodder enough for me under a few drinks. Add to that her shocking habit of slipping into street lingo. "Hey homey," she'll say, already making me laugh, "I reeery rike your new hair corer." How, I ask you, can a man like me be expected to not be a wiseacre?
By the end of the night, we'd already established a physical fighting relationship. She's a pure alpha chick, a no-bullshit firecracker whose balls-out femi-buttons are so pronounced that it was almost too easy to make her blood boil. Too easy, yes, but still fun. By night's end, I found my left forearm gouged by her nails; my chest, not accidentally near my neck, featured two long gashes, as if Dracula had taken a bite and then decided to scrape my skin for another two inches. She'd gone for the eyes, but I managed to deflect her. This, um, climax came after several unexpected hours of boozing. The three of us had planned to meet up for a quick one, maybe two, then go about our lives. But conversation was actually so much fun, and their company so pleasant, that we lost track of the rounds. That, and a photography agency was throwing a party in the space, and we weren't kicked out. So, the room was filled with rather attractive people. It's hard to walk away from that.
I was in a great mood, which means I was in rare form. "Rare form," they call it. "They" who know me well enough to know my swinging moods and how the good ones relate to my conversational persona. The great mood wasn't entirely due to Tony and Julie, though. Two hours into the night, us sitting at the small end of the L-shaped bar, a young woman approached me out of nowhere and asked, "Are you Jeff Koyen?" "Why, yes, I am," I replied, as suave as I could manage under eight drinks. "Who are you?"
Sasha. She'd interviewed me two years ago for a journalism project at NYU. If I recall, she'd needed to speak with a newspaper reporter and, since she hated going along with all that by-the-book curriculum crap, she wanted to invent some fun for herself. So, rather than a real writer, she got in touch with me, a zine writer. We met at Washington Square Park, where we chatted for a bit, ad-libbed some bullshit for her professor and went our ways. She was tall, not at all bad looking, with a jet-black Cleopatra cut. I had a fun time.
Two years later, she was standing there re-introducing herself. Turns out, her agency was throwing the party. Her agency, I think. Hers and a friend/partner. We had a nice exchange, she gave us some free drink tickets and off she went to gladhand.
I won't lie. It felt good. Sure, to get any great, life-affirming assurances from a random encounter with a familiar face is ridiculous, but I saw Sasha as an omen. Nothing came of the encounter, though I do remember verbally exchanging e-mail addresses (hers never had a chance in my cloudy head), and nothing ever will. But, as with the best omens, it's not about their literal meaning (or even potential), but about how you apply their confluence to your life. And the combination of Sasha encounter with the carefree hours of drinking with casual friends at a new bar was, simply, the best--if not only--omen I've had in the last two weeks.
Wednesday morning: 6:13am
Fuck. The fucking shift key has broken. It works only intermittently, but I'll skip the gag and will, later in the process, correct the capitalization problems I'm facing right now. It's all very cummings. I suppose I'll need to bring it into the shop for a repair. It is the company's laptop, so maybe it'll be the company's bill to pay.
Wednesday morning: 6:17am
I creep through the apartment in the wee hours. I don't know what started me awake, but I'm up now. I just went online to read the same classified ads I read yesterday afternoon in my apartment hunt. What a miserable process, finding an apartment in New York City. For out-of-towners, I'll explain this once and only once (mainly because it's one of the most overwritten subjects for New York City hacks): due to the competitiveness of real estate in New York City, the buyer has little or no power. Unlike Philadelphia, say, where the real estate agents I dealt with received no payment from the tenant but, instead, handled the monthly rent and presumably took a piece of that action, NYC brokers take a fee, on average, of 15-17% of the year's rent to simply advertise the apartment and open the door. Pay for your fee, move in; you'll never see your broker ever again.
If you move into this city as a youngster, the best advice I can offer is to become someone's roommate. Ask friends. Check the Shares section of the newspapers. Whatever you do, if possible, avoid the fee. In my case, I'm much too old to have a roommate. I'm also too old to live in a studio apartment. On the good side, though, I have no interest in the more upscale neighborhoods; I'm looking in the deep Lower East Side, a dozen blocks away from the hip Lower East Side of Ludlow and Orchard streets. Still, though, this being New York City and the economy being so fucking strong, I'm facing a monthly rent of at least $1200. More like $1500.
Do the math: $1500 (I'm being realistic) per month means I need to have $3000 ready for the landlord (first month's rent plus one-month security) plus 17% of $1500 x twelve months. My fee will be about $3000. Three fucking thousand dollars for doing very little. Well, that's not true. They do a lot... to fuck you over. The brokers will demand to know every detail about your life, including why you're looking for an apartment, how much you earn (which is the only reasonable request, so far as I'm concerned) and what your credit is like. They will run a credit report and then bust your balls about every fucking missed bill payment that turns up. And if you earn less than, I'm guessing, $100,000 per year? They ask for a guarantor: someone to vouch for you. So here I am, 30 fucking years old, being asked by some 22-year old fuckface hick cocksucker in a cheap suit if I've got someone to "guarantee" my occupancy. Fuck you and fuck your guarantor. No way. Run my credit, call my boss for a reference and ask me to suck your cock. Fine. But no guarantor, fucko.
At 8:45 this morning, I'll meet Nina in front of a newly renovated building nearby. She's got lots to show me, and she's excited to meet me. There are one-bedrooms starting at $1200, but from what she can gather from me over the phone, she thinks I'd be happier in either the $1500 apartment or, if I can stretch it, the $1800 unit. "Or, maybe you'd like to see the 1300-square-foot loft? It's a steal at $2100." Is it now? "Oh, and pets are fine in this building." Oh, are they. You filthy gash.
But I'll go look, even though I know there's no way I'll take one of her apartments. The landlord, she claims, wants first rent plus two month's security. Then, add her 15% fee and I'd need to cough up $7600 to move in. "If I show you something you like, are you ready to make a commitment tomorrow?" They all ask that. But again: I'll look. Why not? it's her time, and if anyone pays her company $3000 to turn the fucking keys to open a goddamn apartment, then the rest of us should waste as much of her time as possible.
A more interesting lead came from a fella named Tom whose ad was online Tuesday afternoon. He's got a one-bedroom a block away from where I'm staying. We chatted on the phone, and he too was excited to meet me. But the current tenant couldn't be found to arrange a showing time. On my way to meet Nina, I'll call Tom on his cel phone and push him for a meeting. I'll bring my checkbook to that one: the rent is only $1250 and I have a feeling Tom's fee will be reasonable. And the landlord has no problem with dogs.
Wednesday morning: 6:41am
I only just realized that I'll need to undertake a complete edit of the current material of Crank #7. I'll reword my "thanks" to Amy on p. 4. I'll cut a mention of my wedding that was somewhere else in the autobio section (see below for a good chunk of the story of my wedding). I'll need to eliminate certain vague references to my dissatisfaction that appear in the "Last Bitcher Show"; why imply something that I'm explaining in detail right here?
For instance, I had written this:
"I find myself slightly out of control. It's the boredom, the prospect of an ordinary life eventually--inevitably--settling down around me."
Well, I just cut that out, because it's a bit obsolete. I was slightly out of control, but now I'm a bit more level. Somewhat ironically, I'm drinking less than before and, though I'm smoking a little bit of pot here and there (not very much, believe it or not; and only late at night while watching television and trying to settle down into a comfortable calm of coming sleep) my self-destructive actions have subsided.
It's too early to tell whether or not I'm really happy, deep inside. There are too many other things to do. Too many chores and tasks and obligations. And, of course, it's the fucking holidays. There's Christmas Eve to consider: At which bar will I spend it?
Wednesday morning: 6:50am
The sun is creeping up over the East Side. I can see a sliver of sky through the tenement's air shaft which allows the tiny window space in the room where I sleep. The cats are awake and hungry. Giselle turns in her sleep in the other room. I hear her cough occasionally.
The laptop is exactly where it was meant to be: on my lap. I lay across my futon, head uncomfortably propped against the wall, my balls cooking from the heat of the batteries and hard drive.
Ten thousand words and counting. If even half of this diaritic entry is salvageable, there won't be any risk of Crank #7 being too short. And I haven't even started to write about the wedding.
I can sneak in an hour of sleep if I put the laptop to sleep right now, so that's what I'll do. There is such a thing as a no-fee apartment, but I suspect they're mostly fairy tales told to newcomers. If I could find one of those, though, Crank #7 would be a lot closer to becoming something more than dots on a screen.
Sunday afternoon: 1:57pm
I'm back to scribbling notes on scraps of paper; receipts, napkins, flyers, what-have-you. I'm at the 2:00 showing of End of Days in a theater that, according to the Fire Dept.'s occupancy notice, could hold 140 but won't threaten that limit without another buck-twenty bodies. The movie will suck balls, I know, as does everyone else in this room, but I'm quite intentionally killing time right now in this manner.
I can usually sit through even the worst movie, so long as I'm alone or have absolutely no responsibility to my moviegoing partner. Which means, for me in my usual life, that I must be alone. I always feel responsible for those around me if I've initiated the activity, even if they've signed wavers releasing me from said responsibility, I always feel otherwise. But I enjoy going to movies alone anyway, and I expect these next 2 hours to embody the pleasant solitude I'm desperately seeking.
That is, if the blowhard prick in the seat behind mine will just shut the fuck up. He's made comments after every commercial and every trailer. His date is quiet, perhaps recognizing his pointless, useless blathering as an acceptable, Tourettesian condition. Maybe he shuts up at home, so she can tolerate his noise when they're out and about. Maybe she's deaf.
I don't fucking care. I just want him to shut up. Shut up. SHUT UP!!
Sunday afternoon: 4:17pm
The movie did suck balls, and now I'm in a cab on my way back to the apartment. Actually, it wasn't that bad, I guess. No, wait a minute: it was. It sucked balls. But at least that guy shut up as soon as the opening credits lit the screen.
Sunday evening: 6:52pm
At work on Wednesday, Giselle gave me a kitten for Christmas. Not just any kitten, but a fucking blind kitten. Stuck on the Winky story, she went looking for my half-blind feline, but couldn't track him down. So she went to Bide-A-Wee--a rescue/adoption group in town--and managed to coincidentally fall in love with this totally blind kitten, whom I've named Keller.
His right socket is seemingly empty, a gaping hole of fleshy vacuum. His left eye is distended, swollen and blue. An opaque blue, like the night sky just before sundown, not a pretty, clear-water blue. He may have some light sensitivity in that left orb, but maybe not. We can't tell how much of his reflexes are due to light recognition and how much should be credited to his acute hearing.
He's fearless. As rambunctious as any normal feline, and twice as brave. He'll grow into quite a cat, if I can only keep him from dying from a concussion after yet another bump into the wall. Or door. Or refrigerator. Now that joke never gets old.
Sunday evening: 6:59pm
So that was pretty much the weekend, oohing and aahing over the cute, blind kitten bumbling around the apartment. She also gave me a turntable, which I'll be needing for my new apartment, and a bunch of smaller gifts. My main gift to her was an original Gacy marker sketch which I bought on eBay. In fact, I bought two sketches: one at auction on eBay, and then the second after a short e-mail negotiation with the seller. He threw the second one in for less than the first. Spare me the hipster line: I had my Gacy painting eight years ago, and I still quite like it. And spare me the meta-hipster line, too: I'm not concerned with any of your condemnation, be it for buying a killer's painting or be it for being a sucker to what you now see as an old trend
She loved the sketch. I love mine. Fuck off.
Sunday evening: 7:02pm
Need I remind you? Giselle and I are just friends. It's an odd relationship, I'll grant, and I doubt many pairs of people in this world manage to connect with each other in such a manner as we have. She drives me nuts at times, since we disagree on so many points, but more often than not, our bickering is short-lived and affectionate.
But don't forget that she's a dyke. Nothing will happen between us, and that's probably why we can live and work together as we do, with few uncomfortable moments. She's still in love with her ex-girlfriend, and they may or may not be mending their relationship, so my arrival in her apartment as a single man has no bearing on our platonic relationship; nothing will shift from that territory.
In the meantime, we've got a perplexingly domestic life going on. We do bicker, sometimes at work about the most domestic of issues: You didn't buy toothpaste? You were so loud leaving this morning. You watch the worst tv. You need some time alone in the apartment.
That kind of stuff, no doubt amusing to some of our coworkers. It perplexes people, and I'm sure most people assume we're fucking. They've been assuming that for more than a year now, which really kind of sucks for me, considering that I've not gotten the goods, but people assume I have. I'd much prefer the opposite.
Sunday evening: 8:02pm
I just finished reading Paul Auster's Leviathan, given to me by Gabe, one of my employees. I don't know much about Auster other than his other titles and that he wrote Smoke and that he lives or lived in Brooklyn, but I enjoyed the book. I guess I should be more familiar with this area of writers, that age group, that Brooklyn gang of artists, but I'm not. Too many years spent reading zines. Too much familiarity with 16-year old Xerox jockeys. Too much isolationism and arrogance to concern myself with writers.
Sunday evening: 8:04pm
It's about formulas. A new math, a new paradigm. It's no longer about the discrete measurements, but about the relative formulas. I was always good with related rates, and that's probably why I understand where the world's mindset is heading.
Before long, the thinktankers and hindsight visionaries will be able to look back on these years and they will, maybe, understand that these are the change of days. These may be their end days, but that's not the case for everyone else. People under 20 right now, maybe even under 15, will ultimately run this world--sooner than we think, too--according to the way they understand the world to work. And it ain't with a ruler and plumb line.
Related rates. Formulas for calculating the numbers you need. Think about the web, for instance. As much as I hate to evoke the fucking web in this rumination, I must. We no longer use exact measurements as related to how images will appear. The same image can be any number of sizes to the beholder; size depends upon resolution, but we don't use resolution to determine exact size either. That's the first variable, not the last. In fact, there is no last variable, other than the resolution at which the beholder has set his monitor.
No one's talking about it, certainly not all the hairpieced web "experts" who read Industry Standard and relentlessly use laughably outdated lingo like "stickiness." Those guys are just trying to stall their obsolescence, which they can smell in the very air they awake in. It's in the threads of their cheap suits, in the food they eat. The old school will find its room empty, yet the teachers and administrators will wonder and ponder the vacant halls. They won't understand that their very way of life has grown up and around them.
Still, they will desperately continue to earn a living by selling digital snake oil to those people who graduated alongside them from the old school. The new school will scarcely notice the trickle-down, because they'll be elsewhere.
I'm not quite sure where I'll fit in. I've always wanted to define my worth independently of any technology and platform: I don't want to find myself the local blacksmith in a town without horses. So I write instead, hoping to define my life in this way.
I understand the new school better than most people understand their own school. I'm not a non-pragmatic futurist, not a dreamy-eyed speculator borne of the new guard sci-fi novels of 80s (well, I am those things, but I'd like to think I'm also more). I will prove myself more, I am confident, as soon as it comes together. But try not to think about too much, I tell myself, else you're nothing better than those pundit-chasers you mock so much and so often. Let it come naturally, and so it will go.
Sunday evening: 8:19pm
Today, I missed my wife. I'm not sure why, but I did. something must've struck an odd note during my sleep, or else something in my waking moments. But I missed her.
We hadn't had a good Sunday afternoon together in ages, but I nonetheless missed some that we had had, many years ago. I thought a lot of those first two years that we were in New York, when we got along fine and had similar intentions. But then I reminded myself of the changes we'd gone through, that I really am certain that, ultimately, we would diverge in an incredibly bad manner.
Still, though, I missed her. And that's loneliness, I guess, and I deserve to be mocked for my naivete. That, and I haven't had sex in 4 weeks, which is the most time I've gone without sex in a long, long time. over the ten years we were together (or, well, let's say the 9 years since we'd reunited after that first college break-up), we never went more than a week without sex. Even during our bad times. But the last time Amy and I fucked was the night of her high school reunion (please, don't ask), the Friday before the Friday when I left. That would've been almost a month ago. Perhaps ironically, it was a great fuck, in a hotel room with a few drinks in both our bellies. So at least our final rut is a good memory for me.
Sunday evening: 8:26pm
Having put down those words, I feel a bit better. The new cat is spread out on the futon behind my head; I'm reclining on the floor, leaning against the futon, and his paw has fallen down next to my right ear, mercifully muffling the banter of the VH1 special Giselle's watching.
She's leaving for Miami on Tuesday morning and though I'll miss her, I'll also welcome the first chance I will have had to be truly alone. I try to get out of her space when she obviously needs it, but I am drained by having nowhere to call my own. I owe her for letting me stay here without any strings attached, and I know I can stay here forever, but I also miss my own routines, my own pace and my own noise. I need my dog, a new bed, my albums, my books and my habits. I won't have the dog while she's gone, but I will have the chance to turn on the stereo in the morning while I groom and dress.
I missed the dog today, also. These are rough times.
Weeks later. Thursday morning: 7:01am
I'm sitting in the office, music turned loud, enjoying the peace and quiet of these early hours. No one is at work, and no one will be for at least another hour and a half. I'm here because I'd rather be productive in the office than tossing and turning on the futon. There's only so long my racing mind can concentrate on the cat nibbling my toes before I must, simply, get the fuck out of bed and do something.
The new year has begun, and nothing much has changed. My pal Tom--old-time friend, Philadelphia roommate, veteran Crank contributor--was in town for the big night, and we went to a party and then drank at that bar down the street. We were terribly hungover the next day, but he still dragged himself back to Jersey to spend a night with his parents before going back to Portland on Sunday. He was, he later wrote, still hungover on Monday. It was a long night of boozing, and we aren't as young as we were in Philadelphia, back when we drank about as hardcore as two men could drink while keeping down full-time jobs.
Giselle has gone to and returned from Miami. The apartment is no longer mine, and I find myself feeling increasingly caged in. I'm anxious to begin whatever life I may have ahead of me, and I just can't do that living on someone else's futon in someone else's living room.
Amy and I spoke last week, and it went badly. She's finally turned the corner into bitter, and I can't say I blame her. She had been simply upset about things, but she's now getting mad. Mad that I was unable to talk with her about whatever has led to this development. Mad that she won't be my wife as I'd promised her. Mad that I've assumed she wants things she doesn't want. Mad that I've made a choice on my own that changes both of our lives forever.
Typing this upsets me, because I know how much I've hurt her. My pal L., were she reading over my shoulder, would remark that at this point I need to stop beating myself up. Your life, she would say, is your life, and Amy's a big girl. She'll be fine, of course, but I nonetheless do--and should--feel a great responsibility.
How long will I let it last? I can't say.
Thursday morning: 7:10am
No dates. No sex. Nothing of the sort. I'm convinced that I have no idea how to realistically flirt, though I know I've been a tremendous flirt for many years. That, I would observe, is because it was safe. I could flirt as much as I wanted, and it was generally well-received, because I've always been the safe guy with the girlfriend/wife. Now, though, with it in the back of my mind that I might want to go further than friendly eye contact and laugh-laugh-laugh, I'm choking.
Maybe that's good. Maybe I'm not ready. Someone recently asked me if that's the case, and I couldn't answer honestly. If I had the chance tomorrow, would I fuck a stranger? I doubt it. I'm more than just a little nervous about the whole thing.
Thursday morning: 7:20am
So, about the wedding. On March 19, 1997, I proposed to Amy on the spot where we had our first kiss back in the college. I handed her a nice rock, and she bawled her eyes out. It was romantic, sweet and everything I thought I wanted.
Thirteen months later, April 25, 1998, we got married in the Puck Building here in the Manhattan. The wedding was phenomenal: Saturday night, semi-formal, 170 people. Great food, great band, great time. Ask anyone who was there--it was a great, great fucking wedding.
Which was no accident. When I proposed the year before, I was working at home as a graphics monkey and copywriter. Because I had the flexible schedule and because I refused to let our wedding be planned by my future mother-in-law--no offense, but she would've preferred a middlebrow Jersey wedding, Sunday afternoon, "Macarena," "Electric Slide," etc. etc. etc.--I handled most of the plans. I researched the spaces, made the appointments, interviewed and hired the vendors. My reasoning was thus: If I was actually going to have a proper wedding, if there was no convincing Amy to do the Vegas/Niagara Falls routine, then I was going to learn from all the horrible weddings I'd attended in the past. No line dancing (the band was under contract to not play some 50 songs we'd blacklisted), no buffet, no goofy toasts or speeches, no bullshit.
As I said, the wedding was great. But quality costs money and it seemed the right thing to do at the time. How much quality did we get? Fifty-one thousand dollars' worth. I personally kicked in sixteen. (Over the year of planning, I ponied up about $9,000 here and there, and then took a loan for $7,500. My last wedding payment was in March, 2000, three months after the marriage collapsed. Funny, that.) We got about $11,000 as gifts, most of which went to our existing credit card bills. Not funny, that.
We didn't have a honeymoon because we'd overextended ourselves so much on the wedding. There was simply no cash or credit we could wring out of the fiscal rag. Though I don't really regret spending so much money on the wedding, it's easy--in hindsight, considering the fate of the marriage--to say that spending so much money was a big mistake. At the time, though, it wasn't. And it still isn't. It's unfortunate, is all.
The wedding was all class, though. We never did have the photos developed. Never got an album together. Right after the shindig, we didn't have the $2,000 we needed for the pictures. Then, a year after the wedding, I knew where things were heading and it was downright impossible for me to find two thousand bucks for the photos. I know that the lack of an album, more than anything else, breaks Amy's heart. And it weighs on me greatly.
Ultimately, I've failed her in many ways.
Thursday morning: 7:36am
As Westerberg sang around the time when I was drinking my first after-school drinks, I'm growing old in a bar. Or alone at the table in the production room where I work. Growing old alone, one day at a time. Each paragraph another slap of age in my heart. Each word a bit of essence squeezed from my soul. I'll turn 31 in 3 days, and I can't fathom what I've done with my life.
At least I'm not doing this on the cusp of 41, with a kid and mortgage. At least I was smart enough to avoid that.
Smart. Enough. Curious choice of words.
A Later Sunday
I'm sitting in my new living room, three cats and one dog elsewhere in the apartment. They tell me I'm living in Williamsburg, a neighborhood in Brooklyn which has in recent years become Manhattan's hipster Morocco. But I'm not really in Williamsburg proper; I'm up along the L train, between the third and fourth stops, where the rent is still cheap and backyards are available. No matter what the broker said or my zipcode indicates, I'm living in Bushwick.
I couldn't handle the $1600 one-bedrooms which were really bloated studios, each and every one seemingly on the fifth floor or above, and only a handful willing to consider me with the dog anyway.
So tonight, any Saturday in dark winter, I'm sitting at my coffee table--a hand-me-down from my cousin Tommy--on my used couch (also from Tommy: it was a package deal)--and I look around my apartment and feel good. My grandmother on my father's side died a couple weeks ago, which was miserable. She was a swell gal, and I bawled my eyes out upon hearing the news (outside of Madison Square Garden, me just five minutes away from boarding a train to go visit her on the deathbed). During the two days I spent down at the Jersey shore helping the family keep their shit together, I got a new tattoo on my left forearm, one to match the one on my right forearm which I'd gotten around the time that things started to sour between me and Amy. The new ink is very similar to the old, and its presence fulfills a balance of change. It represents a new life dragged from the old. Having it burned into my skin while mourning my grandmother seemed about the best timing I could imagine.
But about the new apartment. The one upside to Mom-Mom's passing is that I was given free reign from the family to take whatever I wanted from her house (which my grandfather has already sold). I took a Lowrey organ (which actually works and was the life of a recent party), four easy chairs, a bed, four dressers, a night table, a 1930s radio cabinet, a 1950s blender (still working), a complete set of Sheffield dishes and assorted other kitchen gems. It saved me a ton of dough, and grants me consolation to see so many artifacts of my childhood memories of Mom-Mom's house now in my possession.
In my apartment. I've gotten custody of the dog, after only a couple back-and-forths via e-mail. I've also got Nipsy, the youngest of our four cats, plus my own Keller and Giselle's Dakota, who'd become so close to Keller that Giselle insisted I take him along as a foster child.
My apartment. Is rather large, quite frankly. I've got a spacious bedroom, backyard access, a small writing room, large living room, a proper kitchen and dining area, a workspace where I'm refinishing a desk and a laundry room with washer and dryer. My records are strewn across the floor, the unmade bed is covered by mismatched blankets. I do whatever I want, at whatever hour I want, so long as the dog is kept walked and exercised.
So life is good right now, for the most part. I've been hanging out with Andrea quite a lot; her relationship with Jeremy is currently healthy. I'm not going to discuss my current romantic life because Amy will, at some point, read this document. Some time in the future, I guess, the little truths will come out. But not right now. It's possible, of course, that that future will come before this issue is completed, and you might find out the little secrets in the next few pages. Maybe.
In the meantime, let's just say that I'm doing fine. I'm more than fine. I'm spending time with a woman whom I liked for many months, ever since I met her last year, but never dreamed would possibly be interested in me. I recently found out otherwise.
But that's enough.
A Later Tuesday: 10:35pm
I'm expecting the papers any day now. Amy says she's got a lawyer who will put together a simple separation agreement and send them to me. I would've preferred to go to a mediator, but I'm not going to cause any more unnecessary problems. I detest the thought of a lawyer being involved. I will do my best to avoid finding one of my own. I mean, really. Fuck it. Let's just agree to disagree on the course of our lives, alright?
I'm thoroughly settled into my new apartment and my new life. I'm dating the abovementioned woman, though I still choose to not offer any identification. It's just none of your business, got me? Were I in a different situation, I'd scream it from the rooftop. I'm a man reborn, and though I refuse to regret the rebirth--seeing as how it's come at the expense of another--I will also remain discreet about certain things.
I now maintain that it's about strength. The strength to break out, to refuse to settle into the life expected. To break out and fall into a frightening unknown, where a soul-wrenching pain is just as likely to come calling as a spirit-lifting love. Where rebirth can yield rejuvenation and redemption as easily as suicidal despair. I've had them all, and I can't claim to know which will, ultimately, stand victorious.
That Same Tuesday: 10:59pm
Giselle and Julie are back together. Last weekend, I threw a party at my new apartment. Part housewarming, part surprise birthday party for Giselle. At midnight, Julie showed up, a surprise arranged by Giselle's friend Isabelle, in town from Miami for a few days, and Giselle's sister Michelle.
They went home together and, as of the next morning, are dating again. This is a good, good thing. Giselle is the happiest I've seen her in many months, and I adore Julie and have missed her myself. Maybe I'll get to donate my seed to them after all. (A long while back, Giselle told me that, if she and Julie were to want a child and they decided that Giselle would bear it, then she'd ask me to donate the missing genetic material. (If Julie were to bear the child, then they'd find someone to contrast her crackerness, just as my crackerness contrasts Giselle's Cuban flavor.) Naturally, I'm honored, and will happily hand over a few million of my boys in a cup. I never told Amy about it, though this conversation occurred more than two years ago, because I suspected she'd attempt to refuse to allow me to do it. And rather than be faced with another disappointing conversation, I avoided the conflict altogether and kept my mouth shut.)
That Same Tuesday: 11:14pm
My blind cat sleeps beside me on the couch, purring away like a little blind motherfucker. Curiously, his purring resonates with me deeply; it represents this new life. A blind cat, taken from a death-row cage days before Christmas, now sleeps on my hand-me-down couch in landlord-white-wall apartment in Williams/Bush/burg/wick. My records are piled with my books along one wall, and most of the crap from my dead grandmother has become my own after a couple weeks of arranging and settling.
With those observations, I think it's time to close this chapter. I'm straying into entries about my new life, and that's not the point of these 15,001 (pre-edit) words. Maybe I'll start another document, one dedicated to the new activities of my new life, but if I do, I probably won't include it in this issue of Crank. I'd consider it bad form and something of a disrespect toward Amy to discuss my new life in the context of these pages, which are still inextricably tied to my old life.
You'll find more about my new life in another venue, as is appropriate. Search for it, if you care enough, and you will find me out there blabbing away. For whoever wants to read.
So goodbye, Amy. Forgive me, eventually, and embrace your new life as soon as you can. This world is good, I suspect, as is this life, so long as you've got the strength to not let some asshole like me fuck it all up for you. I'm sorry we never developed the wedding pictures, but I did try my best to make you happy. I left when it became clear that I would be unable to do that for the entirety of your life, which is less than you deserve. You have my best wishes, and I hope we can be friends someday. Or, at the very least, speak again.