Part Thirty-Seven: For Your Amusement

Let’s take a break from the more serious fare and spend a little bit discussing some random things that are popping into my mind at the moment, an opportunity to lighten the mood a bit after my last few posts.

Thanks to one of my best friends I was inspired to entertain myself at the Central States Fair one August in a way that had nothing to do with any of the rides. I spent a while wandering aimlessly through the midway until it got dark enough for my purposes and I was prepared to have some fun…and my experiences with scouting at an earlier age had taught me quite a bit about being prepared.

I had a few Alka Seltzer tablets in my pocket and a fountain drink I had purchased from a concession stand along the way. I picked my victims for this prank entirely at random, approaching them slowly, popping a tablet of the Alka Seltzer into my mouth, filling my cheeks with soda, and allowing the foam to begin spilling from my mouth as I latched onto the stranger, rolling my eyes back into my head so that only the whites were showing and muttering in a rasping voice, “Someone in here wants to talk to you.”

I got away with startling people with that particularly amusing prank five or six times before I noticed the obvious security personnel following me wherever I went. I had gotten my enjoyment out of the night and figured it was time to cut my losses and get out of there before I got into some sort of trouble, also the front of my shirt was pretty well drenched from the foam that had been spilling out of my mouth. If I had been thinking I would have hidden away in the haunted house and tried out my prank on the people in there…would have added a legitimate scare to the attraction perhaps.

The next prank was planned, but never implemented. My fellow musician and I wanted to rent or outright purchase full wet suits which would leave no skin exposed and sneak into a port-a-potty at the fairgrounds, lowering ourselves into the respective basins of two separate units, from which point we would fling feces back up at unsuspecting victims when they used the toilets…maybe even just slapping a handful of the waste against their cheeks when they sat down, potentially scaring the shit out of them in a far more literal sense.

We figured that we could safely escape from security or police because no one was going to attempt to tackle us, coated in filth the way that we surely would be. We could race, awkwardly as would be the case wearing scuba gear, to the creek where we would dive in to the relative safety of the water where we could swim away to a safe distance and escape to laugh our sick asses off in safety somewhere.

In retrospect I have to think it might be best that we never did attempt that specific prank since I doubt it would have gone anywhere near as smoothly and seamlessly as we imagined it going. Wouldn’t it have been grand, though? If it had worked out as planned, it would have been absolutely fucking brilliant.

Or maybe I’m just crazy…but you can keep your opinion to yourself on that matter.

We had many genius plans, my fellow musician and I, so many hilarious pranks that we never got the chance to try out.

We wanted to purchase nice, white suits of some thin, breathable material, dress ourselves up as fancy as possible, and swallow almost toxic quantities of laxative. The plan was to board an elevator, push our way to the front of the cab, and let loose in front of everyone before accusingly looking at every other passenger when the smell permeated the compartment.

After we had gotten bored with the elevator the plan would have been to wander around in a public place, shit stains on display, without acknowledging the situation. Having no shame could be liberating sometimes, and it would have been terrific fun to try out that little prank as well, if not also a bit degrading.

There was also an entertaining idea of staying with someone who owned cats and insisting on using the litter box instead of the bathroom with a totally unbroken nonchalance, regardless of the privacy level…I still consider trying that one out as an adult someday, which should tell you just how adult I really am…or am not.

We may have had numerous plans that were never fulfilled, but there were plenty of things we did for entertainment without any planning involved. My fellow musician and I had a coworker who became a friend of ours and she happened to live in an apartment downtown near where we would aimlessly find ourselves wandering a great deal of the time during the midnight hours.

It just so happened that the alley entrance to her building never seemed to be locked, and we decided to walk right in on many occasions. At the end of the hall where the apartments were located was a large cabinet with wooden doors, which were similarly unlocked, and we couldn’t keep from peeking.

Out of that sheer juvenile curiosity (though we were both supposedly adults at the time) we discovered that these doors opened on the breakers for all of the apartments on that floor. It should be obvious what came next, as we immediately tripped all of the breakers before restoring the power again.

We came back and did the same thing quite a few times, when we were walking downtown and happened to pass by that particular alley entrance. Perhaps our actions cost some resident their job because an alarm didn’t go off in the morning, but we didn’t care. We were amusing ourselves and that was the only thing that mattered to us at the time. The victims of our amusement weren’t even afterthoughts.

That sort of dissociative mentality informed a lot of our decisions…and especially mine, as you will learn (if you haven’t already), but that’s all I wanted to share right now. That’s it…move along, there is nothing more to see here.

Part Thirty-Six: The Love of My Life

We’re going to jump forward a little bit here, or perhaps more than a little bit, because something specific is on my mind.

I met a woman a couple of years ago who changed everything for me. She knocked me off my feet in a way that I couldn’t have conceivably seen coming, in a way that I can confidently state that no other woman could.

It started innocently enough, with a night of fantastic conversation that neither of us wanted to walk away from. It was only a couple of days after the New Year, and I still can’t imagine a better way for that year to have started off. New Year’s Eve had been a disappointment for me, as the girl that I had been involved with was too busy drinking in the bars to even visit me long enough to wish me a happy new year with a kiss. I was in the final stage of a failing relationship which sorely lacked in connection and communication; so that night, losing track of the hours in captivating conversation was a blessing that I wouldn’t have dared hope for.

It began with something so simple, a friend request on Facebook from a woman I knew of but didn’t actually know. She had been involved with a friend of mine almost a year before and was previously married to an acquaintance of mine who I hadn’t really seen since before they had gotten married. In addition to those connections we had numerous mutual friends, so I had seen her pop up all over the place for quite some time online, though we had never been properly introduced and had never met in person.

I had always thought she was incredibly beautiful, and I do very much mean it when I use the word “incredibly” as a modifier there. I never had any occasion to contact her because there was no reason for me to suspect that she would even know that I existed…or to care, even if she did know. We know about my crippling self doubt and insecurity already, so there is no reason to explain why I felt that way with respect to her. It should come as no surprise.

It startled me to receive the friend request from her, if only because I had entertained the thought of trying to establish contact with her so many times before just to try and get to know her. That initial shock was nothing compared to how startled I was at how well we seemed to hit it off. We talked for hours, like I said, discovering that we had far more in common than either of us had with anyone else who had come into our lives, and I was beyond captivated with her.

It’s strange to imagine that, had she not taken that first step, I would never have had the nerve to try talking with her. As silly as it seems for a man in his 30s, I am (and have always been) intimidated by beautiful women, and she was certainly no exception, being so exceptionally beautiful to me that she took my breath away (and still does on occasion when I first catch a glimpse of her). It was astounding to me that, after talking with her for that whole time, that she could turn out to be such a perfect match for me.

My self doubt manifested itself when I began to suspect that our apparent connection and enjoyment of each other’s company was a one-sided thing when I didn’t hear from her again for a little more than a week after that first conversation, and I had made a couple of small attempts to touch base in that silence.

I started to think that I was right to assume that there was positively no way that she would take a real interest in me. I didn’t know how hectic her life was though, not at the time, and that her internet connection at home was far from reliable. She did indeed reestablish communication though, and we ended up talking for hours all over again quite a few times over the following days and weeks. I was enamored of her before I even knew it.

There were a couple of hurdles though, where my admiration of her was concerned. She seemed so unbelievably perfect for me, but I was still tacitly involved with another girl, which made it impossible for me to really delve into this amazing thing that was happening to me. The other hurdle came in the form of some mutual friends she and I shared who were feeding into my insecurity by reinforcing the fear in me that I could not possibly be what she would want in a man…they amplified my feelings of inadequacy. These were not insurmountable difficulties, but it was the issue with my insecurity that would prove to be the greater of the challenges.

There came a night, not too far down the road from her getting back in contact with me, when this spectacular woman invited me to her house. We had been talking quite a great deal and were already growing quite fond of one another. That first meeting was all it took for me to be entirely won over by her. We sat in her dimly lit bedroom talking for a couple of hours that night, about whatever came to mind, and joking with each other about things that polite company would find horrifying. I perused the books she had stacked upon her headboard and smiled to see so many of the same ones I had read for myself or intended to read. That would ultimately be one of the things that she cited as the sort of thing that made her so happy to have found me; that I was not only literate, but also intelligent and a writer myself.

There was something distracting though, about the fact that she was wearing nothing but a sarong when I arrived. There I was, sitting next to this enthralling and intoxicatingly lovely woman, with nothing but a thin piece of cloth covering her. If she had been trying to seduce me, she would have been hard-pressed to find a better starting point. It was undeniable that the chemistry we’d felt when we were simply talking with one another was even more profound in person. If you believe in love at first sight it could be argued that I fell in love with her right there that night…I certainly couldn’t frame a satisfactory argument to the contrary.

All that we shared that night, beyond the excellent company, was a kiss. I certainly wanted more than that and so did she…but I knew already that I wanted to be hers and that she felt the same way about me. I wanted to start things the right way between us, which meant that I needed to end things with the girlfriend I still sort of had. I didn’t drag my feet about it.

It didn’t take us long to be together and she was amazing in every way I could have dreamed as well as numerous ways I wouldn’t have thought to dream about. Everything about her served to draw me closer and closer to her. I won’t describe the intimacy here, but I would actually love to do so just to relive those experiences in my mind. We were insatiable for each other though, whenever or wherever the opportunity presented itself. We couldn’t keep our hands off of each other even during the breaks she had between classes when she would stop by my house to see me. I must admit that I miss those days, looking back…and I wish my memory was well-developed enough to allow me to close my eyes and relive almost every moment I spent with her up until today, the good and the bad.

And there were indeed bad times and fights. She wasn’t good at communicating her feelings about things and I had a tendency to push far too much when there was conflict, which triggered a fight or flight response ingrained in her since she had been involved in an abusive former relationship. I should have treaded more carefully in those cases, and I wish that I had, if only to know that I’d made things easier on her rather than more challenging when she was already in a negative state of mind. We could have avoided many of our fights if I had been more respectful of her problems concerning confrontation. That isn’t to say that there were a lot of fights, proportionately speaking. There were too many, for sure (but I would likely insist that one fight with her where I made her unhappy in any way would be too many), but I have been involved in plenty of relationships of my own and witnessed many others (both successful and not), and we actually fought less than what I would have to perceive as the average. If we had worked together to develop better habits for communication, a lot of those fights could have been easily avoided…maybe all of them could have been.

After starting my current job (less than half a year into our relationship) we developed a routine that I still reminisce about. I would spend the night at her house on Wednesday and Thursday nights while she and her children would stay with my own children and me on Fridays and Saturdays (and longer if there happened to be a day off from school for the kids on Monday). We would snuggle up in her bed on my nights out there and watch movies together until we fell asleep or until we couldn’t bear to keep our affection for one another held in check.

On Saturday afternoons, between my split shifts, I would drive to the bar where she worked and we would have lunch together. The routine was both comfortable and nice. I was happy. For the first time in my life I was happy without reservation…and she felt the same way.

During the summer months and Christmas break, she and her kids would crowd into the house here and we would have more time together. Our children bonded far better than either of us could have hoped for (something that we remarked upon plenty of times) and both of us were readily accepted by each other’s children as well. I won’t claim that life was perfect, but it was so much closer to perfection than I had any right to believe I would ever find.

You could easily guess that we started talking about marriage, and she was even the one to first bring up the topic in conversation, after I caught her looking at dresses and rings one day. Neither of us had the best opinions where marriage was concerned when we first got together, our previous experiences being less than stellar…but here we were, ignoring all of those predispositions and discussing our getting married in such a casual and optimistic way. It was all I could have hoped for, and she was everything I could have wanted. I knew that I would be spending my life with her, I had no doubt that she was the right one for me, and I didn’t even believe in that sort of thing.

There were ups and downs, like with every relationship…but for me the good always outweighed the bad. Maybe I will go into further detail on that aspect of our relationship later, when I come back to this topic. There will be more to write about where she is concerned. She is the love of my life, after all.

Part Thirty-Five: The Crystal Palace Falls

When the degenerate showed up in my life the final time, he was married and enjoying his own meth addiction (as was his wife, who happened to be a nurse)…the difference being that they were intravenous users, which is something I didn’t much care for. All of that aside, he did appear to be a little more stable than he’d been the last time I’d seen him when he’d attempted suicide on my living room floor…but I know how deceiving appearances could be, especially where the degenerate was concerned.

His own source being unreliable, the degenerate quickly latched onto my roommate’s best friend like the parasite that he was. Seeing those two spending more and more time together was depressing, to say the least, and it saddened both my roommate and I. The saddest part of that was how quickly the degenerate’s corrupting influence took hold, and intravenous use became the preferred method of administration by those my roommate and I had previously spent so much of our time with.

As a brief aside, intravenous use produces a quicker and more intense rush of a high that doesn’t last as long as it does when administered through either smoking or snorting…it also produces more pronounced psychological effects, and increases the health risks associated with drug use almost exponentially, no matter how careful the user in question happens to be (and the problem with drug users is that caution becomes less and less important with the passage of time). My roommate and I were well aware of these issues and considered them to be the line we weren’t interested in crossing.

The corrupting influence the degenerate exuded extended beyond the drug use itself, as he and my roommate’s best friend got a job together with a moving company where they began stealing small items like jewelry in order to sell it. This activity led to them being fired and made my point quite clearly for me, that there was more money to be made in actually sustaining employment than engaging in stupid and risky behavior for relatively small short-term payoffs. Neither of them was capable of taking the long-term into account though, not at that point…they were both too far-gone.

The increasing distaste that my roommate and I had for those in our circle of friends and acquaintances led us to begin treating them like subjects in an experiment we were performing, as we grew steadily more and more detached. We started trying to predict the behavior of different individuals, manipulating them in subtle (and sometimes far from subtle) ways in order to test their reactions and note them.

We called this Project Crystal Dreams, and we came up with shorthand nicknames for our participants within the experiment so that we could communicate about them openly regardless of who was present.

We actually got pretty good at it, calculating when one or another of our subjects would arrive at our apartment simply by determining where they were presently and what their previous movements had been. Our calling different places and asking questions about someone as far as where they were and when they’d left became another sort of manipulation, of those individuals from whom we were making our inquiries as well as those we were actively trying to monitor. We focused a great deal of our attention on the process of monitoring and exercising small amounts of control over their circumstances and the reactions they exhibited in response.

There was a perverse pleasure to be derived from those times when our extrapolations proved to be accurate, regardless of how negative the conditions might actually have been. I doubt that either of us really put much thought into it at the time, but I suspect that our interest in this little thought experiment was a method by which we could distance ourselves from the steady decline we were witnessing in our friends. We were doing what we could to separate ourselves from what was going on in order to avoid feeling connected to the events around us any more than we absolutely had to.

What the fuck do I know, though? We were spun out and suffering from severe sleep deprivation by this point, often going as long as a week without even laying down for more than an hour even though our bodies knew better than we did and forced unnoticeable little traces of unconsciousness upon us.

Sadly, as aware as I was of the state of everyone else in our lives, I was oblivious to just how much the long-term drug use and sleep deprivation was impacting my roommate. It was New Years Eve of 2003 when I looked around me, with my eyes wide open for the first time in a long while and determined that it was time to get out while I still had something of a life to return to.

I made the unilateral decision that there would be no further methamphetamine in our apartment and some self-aware aspect of my roommate was still clear headed enough to display a look of relief when I told him, in no uncertain terms, that we were done.

If I had known how close to the edge my roommate had been, I would have done what we had left all by myself, or (at the very least) split it a bit less evenly between us. We had a fairly large supply remaining that night, and his half of it must have been just a little too much.

That was the last time I did methamphetamine until a few months later when I had to test the quality of a batch that a friend of mine picked up when we took a trip to Denver for the purpose of a drug run. He didn’t use any of it himself, and he knew that I was familiar enough with the substance to be able to give him a fairly good idea of the quality he was paying for. That was the only time I broke with my sobriety, and not for the purpose of pleasure.

That’s beside the point though, back to what I was talking about.

I went to sleep for a couple of hours that night (I’m one of those individuals who could successfully nap when under the influence if so inclined) because I hadn’t been sleeping and I knew I needed it.

When I woke up a couple of hours later and walked down the hallway towards the bathroom my roommate abruptly opened his door a crack and peered out at me suspiciously. It was bizarre, but I was inured to bizarre behavior by that point since it was essentially a constant.

It wasn’t until after I’d used the bathroom and was on my way back to my bedroom when he opened the door wide enough for me to see what looked like a god damn disaster area and stood there with an expression that was almost challenging. My first thought, upon seeing the state of his bedroom, was to wonder how in the fuck I might have slept through what he’d done in there.

Everything was strewn about everywhere with no apparent order. Even his bed and dresser had been pulled apart and spread around the room, his blinds had been pulled from the window, and posters were removed from the wall.

I asked him what the fuck he was doing with his bedroom and he responded with something terse and paranoid about how I knew exactly what was going on that night.

I turned around and headed to the kitchen for a soda, shouting on my way down the hallway that I was surprised he hadn’t fashioned himself a tinfoil hat. He replied that he had done precisely that, which was the first indication that his sense of humor was still intact or that he had completely broken from reality, and I shouted back that it was curious that he could manage that without any tinfoil in the apartment.

I stood outside of his bedroom door like an angry parent and told him that he needed to clean that fucking mess up right then and there and to get his fucking blinds back in the window before our landlord happened to come by and see the state his room was in because his window faced directly onto our porch next to the front door.

It took a little while to discover what had been going through his head while I slept that night. According to him the rest of us (his best friend, my ex-girlfriend, and I) had been on the other side of the wall separating his bedroom from mine, watching him and laughing at him more and more as he broke down. We were apparently using lasers aimed at his window to monitor him and we were mocking him the whole time. There was something about a homosexual conspiracy as well, as he had been drawing something that turned out to be an accumulation of dicks, and he was being controlled by external forces in doing so.

He cleaned things up a little bit (though nowhere near enough to satisfy me) and then left for a couple of days to recover at a friend’s house where he could separate himself from what happened that night, this friend being entirely unconnected to the drug use and activities that had been taking place. He seemed much better when he returned, but recovery from a breakdown like that takes a while.

I like to think that I helped him to regain some semblance of centering, with a healthy dose of mockery and friendly derision thrown in for good measure, because I simply couldn’t help myself. We already discussed the fact that inappropriate humor is one of my ways of coping with things that make me uncomfortable.

Upon sobering ourselves up we made our apartment into the default safe haven for our friends to find some peace and temporary sobriety as well and it seemed to go pretty well.

For the most part, it was a good thing…but it could always be assumed that the degenerate would find a way to fuck it up. One day I was letting him wind down at the apartment after a particularly heavy binge. I was staying in the living room where he was because I didn’t trust him enough to leave him to his own devices in our apartment after all the times he’d proven that only an idiot would trust him.

I happened to fall asleep on the loveseat in the living room, keeping an eye on him, and he was gone when I woke up.

It was a day or so later when I began noticing that some of my DVDs were no longer in my collection (which was nowhere near as substantial as it is today) and I began asking around as to whether anyone had borrowed any of my movies.

I was able to narrow down when they had disappeared based upon the fact that I’d watched one of the movies in question the night before the degenerate ended up coming over and I confronted him about it. He threw a fit and became angry with me for accusing him of stealing from me.

I filed a police report and provided them with his name in connection with the theft and, sure enough, they located a handful of my missing movies in one of the local pawnshops with a ticket in his name. The prick had stolen from me and then had the gall to act like I was an asshole for accusing him of doing so.

It turned out that the police would recover my items but I couldn’t have them back until they had been retained as evidence if I wanted to press charges, otherwise I would have to go into the pawnshop and pay to recovery my own stolen items. I didn’t want to wait for what could be half a year or more before getting my movies back, so I opted to pay my own damn money to get my things back. Ultimately it didn’t get me back everything I had lost, because the degenerate had only pawned some of them himself

If I had thought to mention my roommate’s best friend as well, I would have been able to recover all of my missing movies, because the degenerate had given him another bunch of my movies to pawn in his name too.

From that point on, the degenerate was never welcome in my home again. It was the last straw for me; that he had stolen from me, lied about it, and led to me having to pay to retrieve what was rightfully mine in the first place. I decided that he was simply not worth having around and informed him of that fact. I haven’t seen him again since then, and I will be a happy man if I never do see him again.

Thus we have reached the end of my tale, at least the part pertaining to drugs and debauchery, as there have been no further drugs consumed by your humble narrator (aside from the occasional prescription medication, most of which has been prescribed to me legitimately).

Part Thirty-Four: The Hard Choices

Those who know me are well aware of the fact that I am of the pro-choice camp where politics are concerned, because I don’t feel that I (or any uninvolved party) have the right to impose a subjective moral choice in someone else’s life. Those who know me a little bit better are similarly aware that I lean towards a pro-life philosophical stance as far as my own life is concerned. Philosophy, however, has little relevance when real life comes into play a great deal of the time.

Once upon a time I met a spectacular woman and almost immediately knew that I wanted to pursue a relationship with her…strangely enough, she was similarly afflicted where I was concerned. It was less than a month into this relationship, and one of the first times that we had been intimate, when an accident happened with the birth control this woman was using and we just seemed to have the sort of awful timing that led to conception with that one slip up. It was a short while later before we discovered that she had gotten pregnant, having had no reason to suspect that it was even a remote possibility until she began displaying some of the symptoms associated with the early stages of pregnancy. Both of us already had children of our own and we were at points in our respective lives where neither of us was prepared to be bringing a new life into the world, financially or psychologically…so neither of us exactly relished this startling discovery.

My first question, not knowing precisely when the conception took place at first, was to ask if the baby was going to be mine. It may seem like a rude inquiry, but I didn’t know what her sexual activity had been like up until we had gotten together, and I hadn’t requested those specific details. It wasn’t that I was considering washing my hands of the situation no matter what he answer happened to be, that thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. I really liked this woman and I wasn’t eager to jump overboard just because some other guy may have accidentally gotten her pregnant, it wasn’t like we both didn’t already have children from different partners, so the principle was essentially the same.

The timing worked out that the baby was mine though, as you might be able to predict.

We talked about the situation quite a bit, and she felt that abortion was the only viable solution since going through the pregnancy and having another child (at that time specifically) would essentially derail everything she was working towards in her life. She had a lot going for her, just on the horizon, and she was putting a great deal of effort into improving her life and the lives of her children; this was one of the things that attracted me to her, one of the things that I admired about her.

I tried to work out ways that we might be able to avoid going through with that particular decision, because I knew that she didn’t want to go through with any abortion any more than I did, but every attempt to figure out an alternate solution led to the same grim outcome…that she would be stuck losing a great deal of the progress that she’d made towards the better future she deserved. I had no choice but to concur with her assessment of our options, though I didn’t stop trying to brainstorm some other way up until it was no longer a possibility.

There was no question that she didn’t want to do it though, so don’t you dare judge her, the whole idea itself was painful to her and all I could really do was let her know that she had my support and that I was there beside her either way.

If she had chosen to keep the child we would have figured something out, as difficult as it might have been, I’m sure…as challenging as it surely would have been, we could have worked through it, because (at least for me) what we had was worth the strain. The choice was ultimately hers to make after all discussion had been completed and the options were weighed, and she made the difficult choice to terminate the pregnancy.

She scheduled the appointment with Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls (a few hours away) and I set aside money in order to assist her with the cost of the procedure. The scheduling wasn’t optimum and it conflicted with my work schedule, being an overnight trip…and it was like pulling teeth for me to get any time off work, which meant that I was going to be unable to accompany her. It turns out that, to this day, that it can be said that I do have two regrets (regardless of my bluster about not regretting anything); not working harder to find a way that I could be there with her during that trip to Sioux Falls is one of them, the other is that I didn’t find a better solution for us so that she wouldn’t have to go through with that.

Thankfully she had a close friend who was both willing and able to be there with her, and he took the trip with her in my place. I was grateful that she didn’t have to be there alone, because she shouldn’t have had to go through it by herself. It broke my heart not being there anyhow, especially when she told me about the counseling that took place before the procedure itself. I should have been beside her when she was forced to read about the development of her fetus and where it was at this point. I should have been there next to her when they asked her if she wanted to see the ultrasound video, which she couldn’t bring herself to watch (and I don’t blame her).

After it was all said and done, we never really sat down and talked about it. We never took the time to mourn together or really process what had happened. Maybe it would have made no difference if we had tried, as we each mourned our decision separately in our own ways, but it seems to me, looking back, that some good may have come of us doing so.

I didn’t make it easy for her to talk to me though, my coping mechanisms are off-putting at the best of times, but they can be devastating during times of extreme emotional fragility (which, thankfully doesn’t occur often). I wrap myself up in thoroughly inappropriate humor or flat affect detachment when working through difficult quandaries and the like; sometimes fluctuating between the two with seemingly no warning…and this was one of those occasions.

Maybe if she had been a part of my life longer than she had, she would have been accustomed to that trait enough to see it for what it was…but, as it stood, it simply pissed her off and made her feel like she was alone in coping with the loss we had sustained. If only I had developed better habits when dealing with unpleasant things, that whole situation could have turned out better.

There are people who bounce back just fine from something like an abortion, there are even people who can be casual and dismissive about it, but we were not two of those people…and scars still remain to this day.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later that she told me that she blamed me for the whole thing. She knew, logically and rationally, that it wasn’t my fault…that, if anything, her error with birth control was the proximate cause of what happened. But what she knew and what she felt were two very different things. She knew that it made no sense to resent me like she did for what happened, both the unexpected pregnancy and the following termination…but that didn’t stop her from resenting me just the same. That undercurrent of animosity wasn’t made any better thanks to my inability to take the trip with her and be supportive in that respect as well.

There are a number of questions and possibilities that I have mulled over since then, little ways that I wonder if things might have been made at least somewhat better. Maybe if I had less jarring coping mechanisms or maybe if I had been able to be with her as a shoulder to lean on before and after the procedure…or even if we had communicated better with one another openly and honestly after the abortion, we could have mitigated some of that resentment and animosity. I never hated her for what happened, but she was the one who actively had to bear the burden of both the choice and going through the actual process involved, and I honestly can’t imagine what that had to be like for her. She tried to appear stoic and undisturbed, but I knew that it was a façade and I avoided probing at it because I thought that she needed that appearance of stability to keep from falling apart.

Even now I wish that there was something I could have done differently, because maybe things would have been better between us if that had been the case…but nothing can ever be done to repair the mistakes of the past, and we have to go on living with the repercussions no matter how painful they might be.

I may be pro-choice still, but I will never pretend that abortion is something that should be decided upon without very serious consideration. It takes a toll on the parties involved, at least it did for the two of us…and maybe that toll was just too much to bear on its own, even without the additional factors involved like my stupid, ill-advised reactions, it certainly seems like the price of that decision we approached together was much higher than either of us was properly equipped to pay.

Part Thirty-Three: In Love and Meth Continued…Hold the Love

Once more we venture into the period of my life as a methamphetamine use. This will not be a coherent, linear bit of storytelling, I don’t believe. That might be an impossible thing to manage, even if I desperately wanted to pull it off. Shit starts to run together and time blurs more than a little bit. This is more likely to be a series of snapshots randomly pieced together, rather than a movie.

I recall an instance when one of the anchors at the NBC station approached me in the break room, asking me in passing if I had been losing weight, to which I inquired, feigning insult, “Are you trying to say that I was fat?” It’s funny to me, knowing that the anchor in question probably had some idea what was going on regarding my apparent weight loss, because I was routinely carrying a small supply of the crystal in my wallet when I went to work, intermittently doing lines on the counter in the control room where I worked, frequently while there was other staff in the building. There were definite perks to working almost entirely autonomously.

Caution goes out the window with greater and greater ease the longer one is under the influence of methamphetamine. There were a couple of occasions when the former cop who was hosting our Mexican friend would offer me rides to work and we would casually end up smoking the substance from a glass pipe while driving down the streets in the middle of the afternoon. It wasn’t just me who experienced that sort of disconnect from common sense, is what I’m trying to say, that drug has a definite impact on one’s sense of personal vulnerability…fundamentally erasing it.

There were literally whole days and nights that would run together seamlessly in the most surreal way while my roommate and I would spend the whole time in that former officer’s house, alternately doing lines and smoking from pipes almost constantly. I shudder to think of the quantities we were consuming that way in just one sitting (and not solely because of how entirely wasteful it was). We would lose track of time in conversation and monitoring the grainy feeds from the numerous security cameras that provided uninterrupted views of the whole area surrounding the house, because trafficking in massive quantities of crystal meth is the sort of thing that merits a bit of precaution. All said, it was actually damn enjoyable for us.

My roommate and I were almost always sent home with a decent quantity of our own to get us by in our everyday lives…and it most certainly did. There was often enough that we weren’t opposed to sharing with friends who occasionally came by and even the relatively new downstairs neighbors, when they were inclined to partake. One of those times, when our supply was low, they agreed to reciprocate when they had some of their own a few days later.

Sure enough, they did contact us (a few days later than expected) to let us know that they had what we were waiting for and my roommate went downstairs to retrieve it. I was already doing just fine at the time, so I wasn’t in the kitchen when he tapped into what he’d been given, only to almost immediately begin complaining that it was burning in a way it shouldn’t have been and that it tasted like shit, having an ammonia or piss smell to it. I started laughing and went into the kitchen to see what the problem was. I began laughing even harder when I tried a small taste of the yellowish rocks that he’d brought upstairs, because my roommate had just been snorting crack.

It took about a week or so before I stopped routinely teasing him for being a crackhead, each time he would end up with this sheepish, uncomfortable look on his face while still smiling and chuckling about it.

Those same downstairs neighbors had a difficult time staying out of trouble, quite unlike we more civilized folk upstairs, as one might expect from the sort of people who would trade crack for methamphetamine as an equitable exchange…and the company they kept was equally classy. One of these lovely individuals ended up coming to our door and finally hanging out in our apartment after the downstairs neighbors had left and she discovered that she’d left her baby in a running car that she’d locked herself out of before going into their apartment (more than likely to procure some substance or another from them). We weren’t happy about the position that whole situation had put us in, because we had to actively argue with her for a good long while before she would agree to let us call the police to help her get into her car.

That wasn’t the only time the police came around because of incidents directly relating to those neighbors. One night I was laying in my dark bedroom, preparing for one of the increasingly rare intervals of sleep that I was enjoying, with the window open when I heard the distinctive squelch from a police radio just outside. I quickly and quietly got my roommate’s attention and we split the supply that we had on hand and snorted it all to insure that there was no trace of it there in the apartment if the officer outside was there to see us for any reason.

It wasn’t long before there was indeed a knock at our door and an officer was standing there to greet me when I opened it up. He was there to ask me if we had heard any strange noises from downstairs because there had allegedly been an altercation involving the junkie couple that lived there. The line from Sid and Nancy was absolutely correct, “Never trust a junkie.” We hadn’t heard anything, and told him so, and the officer thanked us for our assistance and went on his way.

We were wide awake by that time and there was no chance of sleep coming for either of us any time soon after what we’d ingested in our panic, so we settled down in front of the television and happened to catch the beginning of The Illustrated Man (the film loosely adapted from Ray Bradbury’s short story collection) on one of the channels…it was a pretty good night, all things considered.

There was a bit of a scare with the traffic coming and going at the former cop’s house and the possibility that someone who’d been privy to what was going on there might be talking to the police and it was discussed as an option that the Mexican would be shifting his base of operations to our apartment temporarily because there was no obvious connection between my roommate and I and what was going on over there. Had the apartment not been only a two-bedroom with insufficient space, that might have happened, and I must admit that I’m relieved that we weren’t put in a position like that.

My roommate’s behavior began to get increasingly erratic as our drug use persisted and his attitude seemed to be shifting in an uncomfortable way. He had lost his job a while before and wasn’t having any luck obtaining a new one, and we were all becoming more than a little bit worried about him. His best friend and the former cop who were providing us with our supply (perhaps at the behest of the Mexican living there, a man who apparently wasn’t terribly fond of my roommate) determined that it might be best to cut him off for a little while and they requested that I not let him know about anything that I was still being given.

I felt the same concern that they did, of course, and I thought that cutting back might be a good idea (but I couldn’t bring myself to cut him off entirely, and ultimately neither could his best friend), so I downplayed what I had available (as did our suppliers), hiding the bulk of it differently than I had before and doling it out more sparingly.

This slow drip access led to the unexpected side effect of my roommate being more productive around the apartment than he had been for a while…primarily when trying to locate any stray traces of crystal that might have fallen on the floor or into any of the furniture. I came home to a clean house a couple of times because of this, and we both got a bit of a chuckle out of his displaying the stereotypical behavior of sifting through carpet fibers for drugs that had spilled.

He was definitely behaving in such a way that our concern was merited, sneaking around and searching for any methamphetamine that might have been hidden from him. One evening, before I went to work, I cut us off a couple of lines and intended to do the same with some of what was left after I returned home. When I did get home though, what was left was only about a third of what had been there before I left. He came into my bedroom when he heard me breaking up what was left and nervously asked if there was enough for him, to which I raised my eyebrow skeptically and said that there was a lot less than I thought there had been.

It was another month or so before he confessed to me about sneaking into my stash that night and apologized for it, and for the deception. I reminded him that I wasn’t a complete idiot and that I already knew, that I’d known that night.

It was shortly after that when the initial Mexican fellow needed to return to where he’d come from south of the border, a replacement being here to take his place in the region. I was asked if I would like to accompany my roommate’s best friend in driving the Mexican back to where he needed to go. Apparently my presence had been specifically requested by the Mexican in question and I was all for that opportunity for adventure until the former cop pulled me aside and warned me that there might be some unpleasant or undesired conditions that would go along with meeting the people these specific Mexicans worked for.

Hosting the Mexicans in his home, the former cop had been privy to some conversations taking place between the two of them and had seemingly heard them discussing me in addition to their business matters. My first response was to daydream a bit about becoming intimately involved with a large scale criminal enterprise like that…a certain moral flexibility I exhibit, that you should be aware of by now, made that prospect very appealing to me.

It took me a moment to consider the somewhat sinister undertone to the story when the Mexican was telling me about how he hadn’t seen his daughter in a long time and that this was going to be his chance to see her again. I had children of my own, and the last thing I ever wanted to do was have them dragged into anything associated with that lifestyle because of my stupid, impulsive desire to live the life of an actual criminal. I had to decline; though I do sometimes wonder what direction my life might have taken if I had not.

It was around this same time, as the binge period was beginning to take on a darker tone, when the degenerate reappeared for the final time in my life.

I’ll end this here. This seems like a good place, as good as any other. Don’t worry; I’ll get back to it soon enough…just not right away. Something else is on my mind that I feel I need to share, related to moral flexibility, before I get to that.

Part Thirty-Two: The Degenerate Returns

When I last discussed the degenerate with you it was when I got convicted of disorderly conduct for what could have easily been attempted murder, or conceivably even voluntary manslaughter if my friend had gone into a different gear that night…things could have been much worse than disorderly conduct.

Following that incident was a period of peace; well, peace where the degenerate’s presence in my life was concerned (in that he wasn’t present in my life), the rest of my life was plenty devoid of peace.

It was more than a year or so later before the degenerate appeared in my life again, relatively stable by comparison with how things had left off before, though the application of the word stable where he is concerned was always a relative thing at even the best of times. This guy has always been a self-serving, erratic piece of shit as you’ve likely become aware from my previous stories relating to him…and some people are simply congenitally incapable of change, no matter how necessary it might be.

This brief reappearance didn’t end in violence like the previous two intervals had, but it did end with him taking off with one of my favorite long coats. He’d needed a coat to wear one night and I was kind enough to offer him one of mine, because I’m a charitable sort of asshole if you catch me on the right days. It was only a couple of days later when he took off again, to destinations unknown, my coat keeping him warm. I knew he was selfish and short sighted, I knew that he was prone to unpredictable behavior, but I let him run off with my coat anyhow and I never saw it again. Life goes on.

The next time he came around was during a time when the waiter was my roommate and the girl from Indiana was my significant other. They had both been warned of what could be expected with him around, and both of them justifiably questioned my judgment in welcoming him into my life all over again like I did. I was clear with them as far as my motivations were concerned; that some part of me wished to see him redeemed and that I might be able to somehow facilitate that redemption or that he would ultimately need to be put down like a rabid animal and that I felt like it was my place to be the one to put him down…it was one of those Old Yeller scenarios, “…but he was my dog. I’ll do it.” I don’t know that my explanation in any way instilled any greater confidence in my judgment, and looking back I don’t suspect that it should have.

The situation was tense at times, knowing that things could get pretty fucking strange and potentially dangerous with him around…but I did my best to maintain some small amount of control over him and kept a close eye on his every action while he was around, hoping that I could anticipate the break as it approached.

All things considered, I did a good job of helping him to stay level and reasonably steady for a couple of weeks…but I’m not perfect and he was damn far from perfect as well.

The breakdown happened regardless of my attempts to ward it off. My girlfriend and I returned home from dinner on Friday evening to find him drunk and still drinking with an underage coworker (and friend) of mine who was abjectly horrified by the time we arrived home because the degenerate had taken to treating this friend like he was a girl (and may have actually been perceiving him as being a girl for some entirely unknown reason); and a fetching one at that, one he had taken quite the shine to.

My coworker took my arrival and the distraction that it momentarily provided as an opportunity to get the hell away from his potential rapist and make his intoxicated way to work at the ABC affiliate where we were both employed.

I received a stern reprimand from one of the directors there later on for allowing an underage coworker to get drunk in my apartment just before he had to be at work, even though I had been neither present nor privy to that activity until after it was already done.

The degenerate’s extreme state of inebriation combined with the aggressively sexual and disoriented demeanor he was exhibiting led me to the obvious conclusion that there was no way I was going in to work for my overnight shift while he was still in the apartment with my girlfriend. I attempted to be polite in asking him to leave for at least the next 12 hours or so, but something set him off and his aggression became less sexual in nature and more all around hostile.

He ended up grabbing the first thing he could find, which happened to be a large steel cooking fork from the kitchen as a weapon when I made it clear that I would physically remove him from the apartment if he wasn’t willing to calm down and leave on his own. He drunkenly brandished the cooking fork, his behavior becoming rapidly more unstable and animalistic, and I took that as a sign that I should usher my girlfriend outside before she ended up getting hurt.

We quickly made our way down the stairs and I knocked on the downstairs neighbor’s door so that we could get her inside to use his phone in order to call the police. He let my girlfriend in to make the phone call while I did what I could to keep the degenerate distracted outside so that he wouldn’t follow her as he initially tried to do. There was a clear trend with this bastard, to focus on the women in my life instead of dealing with me directly until he was forced into that position.

Seeing that my girlfriend was on the phone in the downstairs doorway, he retreated back upstairs to my apartment and I followed him, determined that he wasn’t going to be running loose in my apartment until the police arrived, creating further chaos for me to clean up after he was gone. Against all better judgment, my girlfriend followed me.

Shortly before the cops showed up, deflated and knowing that he was going to be arrested, he collapsed onto my living room floor with my girlfriend and I watching him from the open doorway where we could avoid being cornered by this man who had been heaving less human by the second.

He began stabbing at his own thighs with the tines of the cooking fork, with increasingly frenetic quality before raising it and placing the tines against his throat. We could see the pressure increasing as the tips began to further dimple the flesh of his neck more and more and both of us gasped as it suddenly jerked in his hand as the tension disappeared, appearing as if it had just punctured into his neck. Apparently the tips had slipped along his skin rather than jabbing in as the pressure he was applying became too great for the angle…but for a moment there my girlfriend and I were equally certain we had just witnessed the man committing suicide on our living room floor.

Much like the night that had ended with his skull wedged beneath the tire of that 1970s Monte Carlo, some part of me wishes that he had died that night on my living room floor just like some part of me wishes that he had been crushed that previous night…if only to save myself the trouble of dealing with him later on, because I was, of course, stupid and reckless enough to not make that the end of my dealings with him.

He was arrested that night (the second time the police hauled him away from my apartment in only a few short years) and I was almost arrested as well. I had apparently missed a court appearance for some offense that I no longer recall, perhaps the accidental shoplifting charge from ShopKo a while before, and there had been a bench warrant issued for my arrest. The officers were reasonable and considerate enough to leave me be after everything that had happened that night; knowing that I was already running late for my overnight shift in the master control room that night due to the bullshit with the degenerate, as long as I agreed to arrive for court the following Monday morning. I did indeed appear in court as promised; because, unlike many of my friends and acquaintances, I actually believe that treating police with respect is the key to being treated with respect by the police…and that reasonable and adult attitude is what I believe has led to my never being unduly harassed or mistreated by police officers since I stopped being a child, even looking like a less than productive member of society or an all around worthless creature, as I do. That isn’t really relevant right now though.

That was the end of the degenerate’s presence in my life for a little over a year, and the next time he showed up in my life would be near the tail end of the interval of methamphetamine use by my roommate and I, so that is when I suppose I will have to go next in this journey through my life. That next period you’ll hear about will be the final chapter to include the degenerate, not because I finally did kill him or because he did us all a favor and actually killed himself, but because I finally just had enough of his presence in my life.

Some of us, you see, are capable of exacting change within our lives…because some of us recognize that each new day is an opportunity, if we take it, to reinvent ourselves and take a different path from the one we were on the day before. That much is true for all of us, not just your not so humble narrator, if we only accept it…it isn’t always easy, but rarely are the things worth doing the easiest options available to us.

If I can learn that lesson, so can you…assuming that you haven’t already, and if you have, then you should be actively trying to instill that lesson in others instead of reading about my pathetic life.

Part Thirty-One: In Love and Meth

I’m forced to temporarily merge a couple of different threads of this disordered narrative that is my abysmally ludicrous existence, because there is an unavoidable correlation between my disastrous love life and my final bit of drug binge debauchery. I told you already about my roommate (the former waiter) and I stumbling upon a steady supply of methamphetamine shortly after the time that I’d forced a wonderful woman out of my life for what I told myself was her own good.

It was entirely recreational use at first, a nice way to compensate for the occasional fog that I experience as an unmedicated insomniac in addition to boosting creativity and productivity quite a bit. Even casual use tends to have a fairly profound impact on emotional stability and thought processes though, and the next half-year or so was most certainly influenced by that chemically altered state of mind I was fostering.

After The Chemical Toilet did what she does best by disappointing me and disappearing, I was in a position to actively pursue other women, even though I wasn’t inclined to actually do that. I did however begin catching the occasional ride home from a girl I worked with at the local NBC affiliate, a girl who happened to be the cousin of my roommate’s best friend. One night we ended up sleeping together quite unexpectedly, the girl and I, not my roommate’s best friend and I…just in case there was some ambiguity in my statement.

That incident felt far more intense and meaningful to me than it probably should have, almost certainly more than it would have if I hadn’t been indulging in the specific substance that I was…or maybe it would have. Fuck if I know if things would have been different if I had been sober at the time, and I have no way of comparing it to a sober iteration of me because this wasn’t a god damn experiment with a control group included, though that prospect does intrigue me and I would love to have gone through my life precisely that way, with a control me insulated from my less brilliant decisions. That’s entirely beside the point, what I do know is that I felt an intense attachment to the girl in question, and she supposedly reciprocated.

We began a relationship together and it wasn’t a bad one while it lasted, I don’t think. She was sweet and affectionate towards me and I apparently treated her better than any other guy had previously. Some of our coworkers were skeptical of our relationship and even poked fun at me for being involved with her, because they were assholes and because they didn’t happen to think much of her…but I didn’t give a damn what they thought because she made me feel good, which was something I most assuredly needed.

A couple of months later she ended up taking a trip to visit some family in North Dakota and ended up returning home entirely broke because she had taken one of her cousins and that cousin’s boyfriend along with her on the road trip and those two had managed to do the exact opposite of contributing. Finances were a bit tight for my roommate and I, but I did have my bass guitar that I wasn’t actively using much. I took my bass down to a nearby pawnshop and collected a decent bit of cash so that I could help her get by until the next paycheck.

She began growing distant towards me shortly after that, spending less time with me and not coming around even at times when she said she would be. Things went on like this for a couple of weeks until one of my days off she called me to let me know that she wanted to come by and talk with me after the 10:00 news was over.

I knew what was coming, and I dreaded her showing up around 11:00 that night, but I sat there waiting for her to let herself in. As I had predicted, she only wanted to talk to me for the purpose of ending our relationship face-to-face…I can respect that. At least she didn’t try to end it over the phone or something silly like that.

As soon as she left I made the decision that changed things from that point on, I made a call to obtain an address I hadn’t previously wanted to know, I put on my coat, and I walked to the house where my roommate and his friend (the now ex-girlfriend’s cousin) were hanging out. This house was the proximate source of the methamphetamine that we had been using for the past couple of months.

That night was when the transition from recreational use to something far more extreme took place. Until that night I had never really tried to consider the sort of quantities that were available in order for my roommate and I to enjoy the free or damn near free surplus that we had been receiving…but it became difficult not to think about that sort of thing when faced with it, and good lord was there quantity. It sometimes felt like there was a lifetime supply readily available to us right there, which could be an accurate assessment if we actually did consume all of it.

The methamphetamine was higher quality than anything I’d experimented with previously, with an almost perfect glass-like clarity…which stood to reason, being trafficked (as it was) up here directly from Guadalajara, Mexico by various Mexicans including a Mexican fellow I actually happened to like, enough so that I began working on developing some degree of conversational Spanish in order to better communicate with him.

I may be making light of the situation a bit more than is justifiable, because these were the sort of men who carried illegal firearms along with them as they illegally crossed the US/Mexico border with massive quantities of high quality methamphetamine and occasional cocaine. These were dangerous men who were members of a dangerous organization…and I couldn’t possibly have cared less. Being closely involved with organized crime wasn’t the sort of thing that tripped alarms for me like it probably should have. Maybe we could casually place the blame for that indifference on the drugs, but it really seems like a bit of a stretch if not an outright copout…in reality I just happen to suffer from a bit of moral flexibility which makes proximity to dangerous criminals the sort of thing I didn’t even consider to be an issue worth worrying about.

These Mexican fellows were arriving here with their cargo, setting up a base in the home of a former police officer, and distributing their materials outward from there. My roommate and I had hit the jackpot simply because his best friend was staying with said former police officer. This placed us right there near the epicenter of the action…and we both milked it for what it was worth.

My state of mind was not the greatest during the succeeding months, as one might suspect…and that was exacerbated by the fact that my recent ex-girlfriend arbitrarily decided to show up over the following three months or so, sometimes for sex and sometimes just to spend the night with me. She would appear at work when my shift was ending just to give me a ride home (and often stay with me) or she would show up somewhere along my path during the walk home to pick me up for the same purpose. Her appearances weren’t the sort of thing I could count on or predict with any efficacy, but it was surprisingly frequent from someone who had broken up with me just a short while before.

The only thing that could be predicted from her during that interval was that she would once again disappear if I even suggested us being together again or if I questioned the fact that she would have left me in the first place just to continue behaving as if we were still in a relationship of some sort.

Between the drug use becoming steadily heavier and this girl seemingly delighting in torturing me and promoting a state of near constant confusion…I’m surprised I managed to come out the other side with anything approaching sanity. Before you interject, let me just say that you should shut up because this is my fucking story and I am sane if I say that I am. Your job is to listen, not to be a backseat narrator.

This seems like a reasonable place to stop, before I go into further detail on the experiences over those months. I have a thing or two to discuss before we get there anyhow, because I clearly have a coherent plan in place regarding what I’m sharing with you, if you couldn’t tell. Bear with me, it won’t be long before we’re back on track. You can deal with the brief hiatus, or you can just stop reading now.