”It’s okay, Had a bad day
Hands are bruised from
Breaking rocks all day
Drained and blue
I bleed for you
You think it’s funny, well
You’re drowning in it too
Everyday it’s something
Hits me all so cold
Find me sittin’ by myself
No excuses, then I know
Alice in Chains
When I came home from 24 Hour Fitness yesterday, He was laying at the kitchen table with His head in His arms. The sound of the patio door opening roused Him and He held the ice pack on His eye as He raised His face to me.
“Jesus. What happened to you?”
“You beat the snot out of me, remember?” Talking jostled one of his few remaining teeth loose. He spit a gob of blood and tooth shards on the floor. Sitting next to him was a familiar little boy.
“Who’s your friend?”
That smile. I was beginning to know it well. “Well, seeing as how you seemed all full of piss and vinegar in the parking lot the other day, I figured I’d need some reinforcements. He’s you.”
A little fat boy sat in a chair next to Him. Well, you honestly wouldn’t really call him “fat”, but he would. He had thick, Coke-bottle glasses (Writer’s note: For those who don’t remember, Coca –Cola used to be bottled in big glass bottles and sold as an eight-pack. When you were done, you could bring the bottles back to the grocery store who would in turn return them to the factory to be filled with Coke again. That’s right Millenials, people reduced, reused and recycled back before there was a bumper sticker.) He was covered with scars, all over his face and arms.
“They’re symbolic, you see.” He dabbed a red-spotted handkerchief around his still-bloody mouth. The handkerchief had the initials A.J.S. embroidered in opposite corners. “For every one of the emotional blows you took that led you to drinkin’ and druggin’ in the first place. Who knows, maybe if you had been one of the ‘popular’ kids, been good at sports and all that crap, you would have come out of childhood relatively clean.”
Tears streamed down the little boy’s cheeks, but still he uttered not a word.
“Every one of those little tears,” He said as he extended a finger to the little boy’s cheek and caught one, “They represent all the tear-filled episodes you put your poor mother through over the years. And boy did she try. Bought you clothes and hats and video games and computers to make you feel better about being the biggest loser in school. I mean just look at that ultra-moronic Star Wars T-shirt you’re wearing. And she let you leave the house like that. And for what? To see you become a drunk, that’s what.”
[One of the time-honored adages of AA is alcohol, and really any mind-altering substances but especially booze, is cunning, baffling and powerful. This is how it started for me. Yes, I felt like a glorious artist type a la Jack Kerouac or Axl Rose when I said “Screw sports” as a sophomore in high school and chose instead high school plays and the literary magazine. And over the years, I abused drugs and alcohol for different reasons. But this kind of thinking really got the ball rolling. They made me completely forget the terrors of ages 7-16. I was a chubby, awkward kid who didn’t fit in with anybody. You know that group of four or five misfits that just weren’t “cool” enough to hang out with the “cool kids”? I wasn’t “cool” enough to hang out with those misfits. That certainly is not an excuse for the path I ended up actively trotting, then sprinting, down all those years ago, but it is one reasons things happened the way they did. Before the brain surgery, it might have happened that I stopped on my own, but I doubt it. Addiction will find something, anything, to tell you and ride that something out until it finds a new, fresher thing to tell you. It’s just that simple. That something may change over time (“Because I deserve it”, “Because I’ve been through so much”, “Because no one truly understands me”, “Because I am a worthless shell of the self I was before the brain surgery and nothing could ever be good for me again”) I’ll say it again. It will find anything and make it work to its favor. That’s what is meant by “cunning”.]
“Pulling out the big guns, huh?” I said and dawned a shit-eating grin of my own.
“Y’see, the most pathetic part about you is your weakness,” I said as I mixed a protein shake. Couple scoops of chocolate protein power, a dollop of peanut butter, a banana, milk and ice. Red Mango’s got nothing on me. The boy at the table still said nothing, but he looked over at me. His geeky Star Wars shirt had changed to a plain white T-shirt and he had stopped crying. I took a fresh A.J.S. handkerchief from my pocket and dried the tears on his cheeks. “You keep trying to find something, anything, that’s going to dig at me just left of confident and latch into my gut like a hookworm [I knew I’d find a literary use for my parasites class!] But a good friend of mine said something the other night that really inspires a sense of hope in my heart. Even if this Vet Tech thing doesn’t work out right now, somehow, some way, it will work out in the long run. But you know what else, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure it does work out now. I’ve talked to my teachers and all is certainly not lost, it’s just going to be an uphill battle. And I’m used to facing uphill battles. Of course, I’m not used to fighting the uphill battles, but I am now. And I’m done making excuses for myself. No more. Excuses are for the weak and the undisciplined. I am neither of those things So you see, either way, you lose.”
The boy’s glasses were gone and he was wearing shorts and a pretty bad-ass pair of hiking boots and he had lost 20 pounds. He looked over at Him. He, meanwhile, had shrunk and disfigured to half His size. He looked like Golem from Lord of the Rings with a particularly bad hangover. The boy stood up, walked over to me and we did the hand-jive hand shake.
“Come on, little man. I just bought an Alice in Chains greatest hits album. Let’s queu up the Ipod and go for a walk.”