So, it turns out my vampire novel isn’t actually about vampires. It’s about the relationship between two young women and how one helps the other come to accept the sadness and anger she feels after a shocking, unimaginable loss and live her life one day at a time, and also there’s some vampires in it. This book will never get published.
In 2005 I set out to do a daunting task, and I got fully daunted by it. I wanted to make “Three Stories in One” an illustrated book. “Three Stories in One” is an iredeemibly bonkers short story I wrote in high school, sort-of* cowritten by Boone Siebersma, featuring the public personas of some people we knew, such as myself (the cranky passive narrator), Boone (the unique and aloof one), Luke (sex-starved and well-groomed), Wendy (the badass racecar driver), and Amber (the perky cheerleader). I got through about sixty pages when I put it aside temporarily and never got back to it.
Which is a shame, because the work I did for it was really quite brilliant. Here’s some highlights.
* Sort-of in the sense his inspiration and encouragement were crucial to the process, and he wrote the sequel on his own, but the words on this one are mine.
And now, here’s a Hollywood comedy moment that actually happened to me.
From about 1999 to 2000 Katie was my best friend. I don’t know if I was hers. She had come to New York to be an actor, which didn’t work out, much like my having moved to New York to be a writer. At the time, though, we dreamed big. I liked her because she was funny and weird and larger-than-life, and together we could enjoy the full effect of New York City while not having a penny between us. Life, for me, was simple back then.
We grew apart for various reasons, the least of which was the new romance I got wrapped up in. And because life, for her, was not simple, she left New York to return home. But she was, and still is, one of my favorite people in the world, and when she was going to return to the city for a visit during the Christmas season, I couldn’t have been more excited.
Katie wasn’t a punctual person, but I was, and I arrived at the Union Square Market and waited as the minutes clicked by. There she was, in a shop selling something quaint, and she hadn’t noticed me. I missed her so much, I was going to sneak up and give her the World’s Biggest Hug. And I did.
But it wasn’t Katie.
My victim would have been well within her rights to mace me, but she was quite gracious and good-humored about the whole thing. I turned to escape, only to run into Katie, who thought it was hilarious that I was a sputtering, blushing mess, even if she didn’t know why.
That wasn’t the last time I ever saw Katie, but it is kind of funny that my most vivid memory of her post-move was of someone else entirely.
I had a chilling thought that came unbidden in my head, and I can’t shake it. It’s telling me I should kill myself. I’m having a hard time shaking it because I don’t think it’s wrong. I’m not saying this because I’m depressed, but because of the logic of it. It breaks down to two reasons.
First, I won’t be missed much. The fact is, I’m not a priority in anyone’s life. I’m not feeling sorry for myself when I point this out. My relationships suffered under my marriage, and died when I moved to Qatar, and by the time I felt good enough get them back, everyone has moved on. They’ve got partners and children and friendships that didn’t disappear for five years, and no one has time for me. And that’s okay. It is what it is. I’m not upset about it. I’m doing fine.
And that brings me to my second reason. I’m fine. Everything is fine. I haven’t been this good in ten years. If I’m going to pull the plug, now’s the time to do it, before the other side of middle age and the depths our government and society are going to fall. I don’t have a lot to look forward to, but this moment is perfect. Logically, it makes sense.
I’m not going to commit suicide. It would kill my parents, and it would royally screw over my roommate, even if I slipped her all of the money in my bank account before I did it. Plus, she’d be the one who found me, and I don’t want to do that to anyone.
But there’s that voice in my head, telling me it’s a brilliant idea. Its logic, though, can’t get past the fact that I’m never going to do that.
I’m thinking of a guy I used to know in New York, for most of the time I was there, and he’s one of the few people from my past that I don’t know what he’s doing. I’m Facebook friends with most of my old friends and exes (and friends with the friends of the exes in the cases where they don’t want to have anything to do with me), and while most of the people on Facebook are hardly on Facebook, I know they’re there, and I have at least a tangential connection to them.
But not him. I’m not even friends with his friends so I can’t get in touch with him secondhand. The aol email address I had for him is defunct. He’s completely gone.
He stopped talking to me the day Kate and I decided to get married. When we made the decision, I called my parents, and then I started to call friends. He was second on my list. In the five minutes it took me to hang up the phone after I called the first person, do something quick, like go to the bathroom or get a glass of water, and then call him, the first person had told their friend who told him. When he picked up the phone, he was furious that he found out about through a rumor. I can understand why he got upset, even though I didn’t do anything wrong, and I wouldn’t do anything different, even though calling him second resulted in me losing my friendship with him forever.
He considered us best friends, though, when I think about the six years I spent there, he’s rarely in my thoughts. I remember clearly my girlfriends, I remember clearly the women I wanted to be girlfriends, I remember clearly my drinking buddies and the guy whose apartment I would hang out in every Friday, getting stoned for several months before we went our separate ways. But I barely remember him.
And that’s weird because we hung out nearly every single weekend since the day I met him at a party in August of 2000. I enjoyed his company, even if his verbal filter was faulty and he was a little problematic (he identified perhaps too strongly with Rob from High Fidelity—the book and the movie). He was a songwriter who didn’t write songs, but my persistence in writing inspired him to get out his guitar and invite me to his apartment so he could show off. I recall, as vividly as I remember anything, one day, as we were walking underneath the Brooklyn Bridge on the Brooklyn side, seeing a pair of really old men sitting together on a park bench like an old couple and thinking that was where he and I were going to be in fifty years. We didn’t last five.
Every other person in my life has become the bones behind a character I’ve written (that’ll encourage my friends to read my writing, to see if they recognize themselves). And then there’s him. All that time and experience together, and all that time and experience apart, and I don’t miss him. What does that say about him? What does that say about me?
But now that I’m thinking of him, I want him to be happy. In fact, the only thing standing in the way of his happiness at the time was him, and I hope he finally defeated himself. I hope he grew up to be as cool as he’s always wanted to be.
Dear Person with Clipboard,
I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want to sign your form and give you my email. I don’t want to give you my money. I’m already registered to vote. I give money to the charities I support every month like clockwork. I’m sure you represent some fine organization with beliefs that I support, but you personally I find reprehensible.
As I approach, I don’t make eye contact. I am wearing earbuds. I’m charging fast, like a rhino. I am sending off vibes not to bother me. I literally use the words, “I don’t want to talk to you” when you get close. But that doesn’t stop you from shouting at me, from waving at me with both hands, from physically obstructing me so I have to duck and weave to get around you to get on the Metro and go to my second job. Do I need to wear a sign? Would you respect it if I did?
The next time you block my way to the Metro station, I’m going to keep walking in a straight line at top speed. Yes, it’s rude to knock people down, but it must take rudeness to combat rudeness because I’m all out of ideas.
You, clipboard person, are a blight on the urban life that I otherwise prize, and I’m demanding you stay away from me.
I’m Jeremiah. I’m a middle-aged white man in America, so that means I’m over-represented in the media and in the workforce. I’m also a pretty good writer. You can find out a lot about me in this journal, going all the way back to 2005.
For example, my day-to-day life is normal but interesting. What I consider my best slices of life are here, though sometimes things happen that are beyond insane. Speaking of insane, I’m bipolar and have ADD, and these things are so deep a part of me that I have to spend a lot of time making sense of it. I sometimes find myself thinking about the past, and I get a little nostalgic, sometimes sad, but I think about my friends and things are (usually) okay. I’m deeply steeped in pop culture, and I have some pretty serious opinions, though you’d never know that by talking to me. As I said, I write, and I reflect on my unusual process as well as my successes and failures at it quite a bit.
Basically, I like to write little essays that aren’t, with one or two exceptions, too long, and these are hundreds of them. Stop on by, take a look around, tell me what you think.
Confession time: I kind of have a crush. It’s no one you know, and it’s not someone I see often, but it’s a thing. I just know that whenever they wave me over to come talk to them, I want to impress them and follow them around all the time like Newcastle follows me around, telling them, “What you’re doing? Keep doing that.”
This person is younger than me, so their language and priorities are different than mine, and that is endlessly fascinating to me. They’ve got an energy I can barely keep up with, but I want to try. I’m old enough and wise enough to know that this could not sustain itself much more than the encounters I have with them as it is. I don’t want a relationship with this person. Hell, I don’t have anything in common with them, but they still make my heart go all aflutter. When I’m around them, I feel more confident, more interesting, more fun, more special. They give me something to look forward to and daydream about, and a reason to sigh wistfully.
It’s interesting having a crush when you have no sexual desire, but it’s actually way better. My feelings aren’t limited to wanting to see them naked or kiss them (they would probably snuggle like a pro, though, if I’m speculating). They don’t have to be “cute” for me to be into them. I’m interested in their personality, in what makes them what they are.
If I’m being honest with myself, this is about the most impersonal relationship I can have with anyone, and that’s just the way I am now. I don’t want to make any time and energy commitments, and the last thing I need is a romance of any sort. A crush like this is a way to tick some boxes of my social needs without having to tick the boxes I don’t want.
This doesn’t happen to me very often, so I prize it when it does, and I have no idea how long it’s going to last. I just know that I’m really enjoying it, and that’s absolutely perfect for this moment.
I just realized something about my day job.
When everybody gathers around the water cooler to gossip, and they’re theorizing who’s going to snap and go on an office rampage with an AR-15, it’s me they’re talking about.
This is because I’ve got a pretty stark resting bitch face, I don’t laugh much, but most importantly, I keep almost entirely to myself. I don’t generally say hello to anyone unless they say it first, and I don’t talk to people unless it’s work-related. To be fair, no one’s made an effort to connect with me, but I haven’t made an effort to reach out either.
I’d call it social anxiety, but I don’t feel anxious about it at all. If I’m in a room or elevator alone with someone, I’m not crushed by the yawning chasm of silence. I’m actually pretty relieved I don’t have to have a conversation. I don’t need to talk to people. I don’t really know how. That’s not to say I can’t. I chat with my friends for hours, and when Nicole brings guests over, I hang out and have a great time. Also, there are people at my night job I really thrive around. But for the most part, human interaction baffles me. Therefore, here at the office, I don’t talk to anyone, and they don’t talk to me, and I’m happy as a clam.
In a world geared toward extroverts, however, this makes me strange and unsettling.
I don’t believe in justice. I think it’s a made-up thing, like Santa Claus, for us little people to feel better about how helpless we are. It doesn’t exist. Now, it doesn’t make me any smarter that I am aware of this, it doesn’t give me any comfort, it’s just something that’s true.
How can you believe in justice when our prisons are filled with people who committed mild infractions or nothing at all, being guilty only of having a shitty public defender? Did you know that the Supreme Court upheld the rights of the police to lie to you in an interrogation? They can say literally anything they want to get you to confess, and there’s nothing stopping them. So when they’re not shooting unarmed black teenagers in the back, the cops are conning them into admitting something they never did. Their job isn’t to protect and serve, it’s to arrest and convict, and they’re really good at it.
And while the poor are in cages, the rich can do what they want. Remember Televangelist Jim Bakker? Not only did he commit adultery and rape, but he stole no small amount of money from his own church. What’s he doing now? He’s still a successful televangelist and a moral leader among the faithful. Remember George Bush? Remember the president that we imagined was the lowest we could possibly go? Remember how he lied to the country and led us to a war that killed well over 4,000 American soldiers, an unknown number of contractors, and at least a million Iraqis? Remember how this war destabilized the region, leading to the rise of ISIS? Remember how he made financial decisions that benefited his friends and caused the greatest stock market crash since 1929? What’s he doing now? He’s home in Texas, relaxing, painting pretty pictures, and hanging out with Ellen Degeneres. And if you think that Donald Trump is going to face any consequences for violating his oath of office and the Constitution and the American people, you live in a dainty little bubble that has got to be sunny and bright, and I wish I was there because out here is bleak.
It would be better if I believed in an afterlife. That’s how you Christians (the ones that aren’t spitting on women and torturing gay people) get through this, isn’t it? They’ll get theirs in the end? The problem is, the aforementioned Jim Bakker believes the same thing, except he’s the one going to heaven—him and Joel Osteen and all of those who separate naive people from their money and get filthy rich doing it. Among evangelical circles, Donald Trump, adulterer, rapist, thief, liar, is the chosen one. You may believe he’s going to hell, but according to their reading of the Bible, he’s going to sit at the right hand of God. Who am I supposed to believe?
It pains me to see Mitch McConnell strutting around, smug and safe in his job and his position as a millionaire. How, if some miracle happens and he loses his seat in November, he will just move onto a lobbying job and become richer than we can imagine. He, more than anyone, is responsible for the destruction of our democracy, and he’s going to be rewarded for it until his comfortable death, surrounded by friends and family and holy men telling him how good he is. It pains me to see it, but I’ve accepted it, like I’ve accepted a lot of unpleasant realities that are out of my control, and I won’t be disappointed when another asshole gets away with it. All I can do is control things I can control and live in the best tiny world I can possibly live in.
Life isn’t fair. It never was.