Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Nowhere, America: Starting Over

STARTING OVER

 I don't want to do this. 


I have never been good with change; even it that change is for the better. If a change in life were to be represented by a large, fierce predator -- say a lion --- then I would be that new born clueless baby gazelle just struggling to get on it's feet.  I will need someone else's help if I have any hope of surviving.

Now let's say that the lion represents a GOOD change in my life. This change that I am going through now is definitely not a lion.  I'd say it's more like a rabid hyena who also happens to be a psychopath.  Worse, I am alone and peeing down my leg.  Good times....

Man, I really need to get off the crusty old couch and get moving.  I have no idea how long I've been sitting here but there's a good chance that my ass may take root if I don't do something soon.

What box did I pack my bedroom stuff in? More importantly why didn’t I mark any of the boxes?


Oh, I know why....Because I was running away.  It's hard to get properly organized when you're retreating with your tail between your legs.

    Misery is a peculiar thing in that, like people who cut themselves, it is self-destructive habit that does nothing to solve problems.  Yet, most people (myself included)  are so caught up in that large crushing vice known as depression that we make absolutely no effort to get away from it.  Instead we tend to embrace it,  to cling to it as if to say we absolutely deserve the dark gray drizzling shit storm of melancholy we find ourselves neck deep in.


Except this time I feel I richly deserve this wretched state that I now found myself in.  I had a really good thing going – a good job, a nice house complete with man cave, a loving, devoted wife; and I pissed it all away. 


No, that’s not descriptive enough. Let me try that again.

 I didn't just burn the bridge.  I napalmed it repeatedly, incinerating away all evidence of love, hope, and a bright future......I deserve my misery.


You know what else? It is truly amazing how depression just saps every ounce of energy that you have. I’ve been staring at my suitcase for what, an hour now? 


Of course, given how things have been going of late, I should just be happy that I got everything out of the truck and into the house.


     I mean, seriously, why can't I just be happy?  Why do I find it so hard to be just another everyday Joe; working, paying his bills ---- talking to people?  Talking to people.....  Why can't I simply talk to people?


     And as my marriage crumbles – no, not crumbles – it’s over, of that I am certain, I sit on this dusty old couch and wonder why, of all the places to fall back to,  did I come back to my old home town? My only ambition as a clueless, stuttering, neurotic teenager was to get the Hell out of here.  I wanted to escape Nowhere, America; I wanted to leave behind, the dirt roads, horses, cows, pickup trucks,  all my insecurities and past failures and find a place where I felt like I belonged.


(Yes….That went well)

       I wonder where I put the coffee pot?  I hope I didn’t break it. Better yet, where's the Crown Royal? Why in the Hell didn't I mark any of these boxes? 


     Ah, yes....I remember why I came back here.  As much as I don't like it -- here is familiar.  I guess it’s kind of like that abused lover who just keeps leaving and then going back to that dysfunctional relationship. And much like that sad individual, the thought of picking up the pieces in a new town makes me uptight......Well, okay, it makes me extremely anxious.


     BAM BAM BAM!!!!!


Shit.....That sudden noise wasn’t good for the heart.


     “Kyle!!!!  ARE YOU HOME?!”

    That would be Kenny, my little brother and polar opposite. Picture if you will, an energetic socialite who's short stature artfully hides the Thor like strength that he possesses. Now picture Thor as a child with all the destructive powers coupled with A.D.D.  See where I'm going with this?


Kenny's hyperactive life didn't start out that way.  A lethargic child with purple lips was found to be iron deficeint by the local witch doctor and, thanks to Kenny, I will never eat another piece of liver for as long as I live.


But the liver worked well --- perhaps too well. As a kid I nicknamed him "the creep" because he destroyed every toy that I owned.  Those Star Wars action figures I had been collecting?  Beheaded.  My bike? Torn down into several pieces.  My cheap plastic baseball helmets that I tried to take care of?  Cracked and shattered.

As a teenager if there was something shattering, burning, or exploding then there was a good chance that Kenny was involved.....


And now --- he is the local law enforcement.  Go figure....


BAM! BAM! BAM!

     “Hold on!  I'm coming.”


     “Dude, what in the Hell are you locking the door for?”
   
     “Old habit, I guess. C’mon in.”

     Kenny smiles as he steps through, no, lunges through the door, invades my personal space, and knocks the wind out of me with a big bear hug. As if crushing my rib cage wasn’t enough he added a huge slap on the back just to make sure that all air had sufficiently escaped my bruised lungs.   (Gasp)
    
“Well, you're not in the big city anymore bro.  You can relax a little.”


(Relax….Right)
    
     “Wait, aren't you a cop?  Aren't you supposed to be out and about the village preaching safety, security alarms and, in your case, arming yourself to the teeth?”


     “Not right now, I'm off duty.”


     “Off duty?  Then who’s watching the village?”


     “The city council was kind enough to hire a weekend officer.  I got the weekends off now.”


     “Well aren't you a little disappointed there, Barney?  Does that mean that you get to take the bullet out of the gun for a couple days  out of the week?”


“Eh heh, eh heh.....You're a scream...”


     Kenny looks around the old, dusty, stale smelling house and surveys the situation.


     “It's been quite some time since anyone has lived here.” says Kenny.


     “Yeah, I can tell.  The place smells like it's been closed up for a while.”


     “Uh-huh….So have you talked to Becky yet?”

     “No, she left the key to the house in her mail box.  Ol' man James left the gate open so she's helping him herd all his cows off the road before someone gets to make an insurance claim.  By the way, I really appreciate you pulling strings and getting this place for me.”


 “Oh, no problem.  You know, I could have brought some help and....”


 “No,” I interrupted, “I got this.”


 Kenny crosses his arms and snorts, “Not that I’m surprised, but you're really going to just hole yourself up in here, aren't you?”


 “Ken, I just need time to think things out.  I'm not even really sure how long I'm going to stay.”


 “Kyle, let's not lie to each other,” Kenny said in a serious tone that only rarely makes an appearance. But when it does it demands respect. “You're running away, just like you did after high school.  Except this time there is no Lacey to guide you through the muck and shit.”


 He's right --- and I hate that he’s right. I give no response. I just don't have an answer for him. I may have an answer for him a few hours from now when it won't do me any good.  But, that's just how my brain works.  I have never been quick on my feet.


  I really, really want to be angry with him but he speaks the simple truth.  Sometimes I think he knows me better than I do.  I look away and quietly pretend to be searching for something in one of the bazillion unmarked boxes lying around the house.  Why didn't I mark any of these boxes and how did I end up with so much shit?


 “Kyle,” Kenny says as he wanders off into the kitchen, “I'm not going to let that happen.  I'm not about to sit at my house and think about you and your misguided attempt to shut out the rest of the world.”


 Kenny, being the hyper active busy body that he is, starts rummaging through boxes and putting things away in the kitchen, “I don't want my big brother to end up being some nutty old hermit that lives in a run down shack at the end of an old dirt road.”


 “So when did you become my mother?” I ask in an admittedly lame attempt at sounding offended and pissed off.


 “I'm not your mother.  Her tits are bigger. (Thanks, oh so much, for that visual) Although I think I may be catching her” Kenny grabbed himself, “Whadya think? A cup?”


  I smile in spite of myself.  Kenny has a way of defusing almost any tense situation with a silly comment and a big grin.  It's no wonder he's so well liked.  There are times when I am insanely jealous of his ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, at any time.  He has a true gift.


 And Kenny, by the way, is full of shit....He works out every day and is chiseled.


 “I suppose you have a plan?” I ask despite my insane desire to not know.


 “Why, it's funny you should ask.” Kenny says as he finds the Crown Royal stash and proceeds to take the box outside.


 “Hey, where are you going with that?” I ask.


 “You, my friend” Kenny says, his voice trailing off as he heads for the front door,  “are a horrible, rotten, self-loathing mess when you drink whiskey.  It may be your drink of choice but you simply cannot handle it.”


 “Dude, are you taking my booze?  That stuff isn't cheap, you know.”


 “Fear not, I’ll put it to good use. Hold on, I'll be right back.”  Kenny exits the house, the screen door slamming behind him.


 Outside, I can hear the locust droning on and on.  It's been a long time since I've heard that noise and, to be honest, I've actually missed it.  You just don't hear that kind of stuff in the land of concrete and traffic horns.  I actually find myself unwinding a little bit.  Not much, but a bit.


 Kenny returns with a box and......a dog.


 “Kenny, what the hell is this?”


 “Well, in the box are a couple of cases of welcome home brew; memories from a younger day.”


 Kenny holds up a case of Keystone Light; beer I haven't had in ages.


 “Don't you know light beer is for people who like to pee a lot?”  I ask.


 “Sorry, bro, Guinness Stout isn't exactly a hot commodity here.”


  “This is not a fair trade; Crown Royal for Keystone?”


  “You’ll get over it.....


 “Nice.....Ok, and what about that?”  I ask as I point to the mutt standing at Kenny's side.


 “This," says Kenny as he does some sort of goofy Vanna White thing, " is Tripper. He is a beagle and he is your new best friend, Charlie Brown.”


 “Oh, no, I don't need a dog.”


 “Well, you git him anyway.  Marlo has informed me that three dogs and a cat is too much. Think of it as fuzz therapy, a replacement for your whiskey, and doing a favor for your little brother.”


 Shit......


 “Is he house broken?”


 “House broken, has all of his shots.  You can let him out without a leash and he will come back home. Just listen for him scratching at the door.”


 Damn.....


 “So, this dog and Keystone Light is part of your ambitious plan to get me in tune with the rest of the world?”  I ask.


 “Nah, Tripper is just here to keep you company when I can't.”


Tripper has to be the goofiest looking Beagle that I’ve ever seen.  If you were to look up every little physical defect that would disqualify a mutt from a dog show, this little bug-eyed, bow legged shit has it.


But, I can let him out and he knows how to come home.  That’s really rare for a breed of dog that’s known for following its nose.  So, despite his looks, he must at least be intelligent.


 Kenny claps his hands, rubs them together and smiles that smile that I have grown to know so well.  Usually, when he smiles like that, it is sure sign that I am about to get involved in some kind of trouble or at the very least an undertaking that’s going to make me uncomfortable.  And, no matter how things transpire, somehow, Kenny always comes out of his hair brained plots smelling like a rose.


 “Are you ready to hear my idea?” he asks.


 “I don't know.  It's not going to get me in trouble, is it?”


 “What? No, of course not....That comes later.”


 (Sigh)  “All right, I'll bite.  What is it?”


 “Well, you've always wanted to write a book, right?”


 “Um…Yes?" I say with a dubious look, "Where are you going with this?


 “So, here's what I have in mind.” says Kenny as he opens a can of beer and takes a seat, “This book you are going to write is going to be your therapy.  It's going to be a way to pave your future by laying your past to rest.”


 “And just how exactly is this going to be accomplished?”


 “Ah......Glad you asked.  You are going to write about our small town here that you grew up in....Ah, ah, ah.....Wait...No objections yet, I'm not done talking.  So, here is the catch; you can only write about happy memories.  You will not dig into the past dredging up bad experiences.  Everything about this book will be positive and with a sense of humor.  What do you think?”


 “What do I think? I think you’re a shit for brains.  Why are you doing this to me?”


 “Because you, my friend, are an unhappy wallower.  When something bad happens in your life you shut down, get depressed, and wallow in the event.  Not only do you wallow, you bury yourself in it.  You sit in it...You eat, sleep, and drink it....You do everything but fight to pick up the pieces and start over.  That's why I want you writing happy stories that you are going to bring to me to read.”


 “And, I repeat, just how exactly is this little project supposed to help me?  How does writing about a little, insignificant town help me forget about the past? Writing a book is not going to magically make my past failures disappear.”


 “True, it won’t. But remembering the past is one thing,” says Kenny who chugs his beer and resumes talking, “Reliving it over and over again is something else.”


 Kenny finishes his beer, belches, leans over and breaks wind, and lets out a sigh of relief.  That’s my brother, Kenny the barbarian.


 Kenny gets up out of the chair, “So, happy stories only.  I don't want you dredging up and reliving the past....NO WALLOWING!!!! Got it?”


 “Yeah, whatever….Fine….. I got it. I guess that means you won’t be reading about high school.  But you can at least make one exception, can't you?”


 “Granddad?” Kenny asks.


 “Yes.”


 “Yep.....I'll make that exception.  So you’re going to do it?”


 “Dude, you're going to bother me until I do so, yes, I suppose I'll do it.”


 “Good,” Kenny says as he grins.  Then he thinks of something, snaps his fingers, and points at me, “Oh, and one more thing; get your ass back in shape, you've kind of let yourself go.  Oh, and absolutely no Tim Burton movies.”


 “That's two things.” I say.


“Well, by God, so it is.”


 “What's wrong with Tim Burton movies?”


 “Well, let's see here.  They are dark, depressing, kind of creepy, and strange; which is exactly what you don’t need right now.  Hell, make me a list and I'll go buy three or four movies to add to your collection.  I saw a title called Naked Nuns with Guns...That might be what you need.  Yeah...  But no Tim Burton.....No Sleep Hollow, no Corpse Bride, no Coraline, No Edward Scissorhands..........You can watch Beetlejuice......I can live with that.”


 “Fine....whatever.  Does my gun toting therapist have any other requests?”


 Kenny smiles and slaps my shoulder, “Just keep laughing....Ok?”


 I nod and force a small smile, “I'll do my best.”


 “That's all I can ask.” says Kenny, “I'll see you tomorrow, okay,”


 “Okay.”


 “Later.”


 As Kenny fires up his truck and roars out of the driveway I sit down and rub my eyes.  I then focus on my new friend.


 “Well, I guess you’re kind of cute in a butt ugly sort of way.” 


 Tripper wags his tail, tilts his head to one side, and says nothing.  He just stares and looks, well, stupid.  At least he’s quiet – so far anyway.


 I lean back in my chair and, just like before Kenny got here, I simply don't feel like dealing with this today. I......


 Wait......


 Kenny hasn't even been gone thirty seconds and I find myself beginning to wallow.


 “Damn, it.”


 Maybe tomorrow will be better.  I dig my sleeping bag out of a box, grab a pillow off of the couch, kill the lights, ditch my jeans, and crawl inside my sleeping bag.
 
Tomorrow.  Tomorrow is a new beginning.


 I lie on the floor and listen to the clock ticking on the wall in the kitchen.  I had forgotten how quiet the small town life is at night.  No traffic, no siren, no loud music with its heavy bass threatening to shatter your windows.


 Silence.....Nothing....but....silence ----- and a beagle that just plopped down beside me and made himself at home.  Great....


 How did I go from lying next to my (soon to be ex) wife to sleeping next to a dog ---- that I just discovered has terrible gas?  GOOD GOD…. 


 I guess I’ll be sleeping with my head under the covers tonight.

 Add yet another situation to the long list of things Kenny has done to cause me pain and suffering.  Thanks so much, little brother.  I’m going to sleep well tonight.