January 18, 2009

Stop Me Before I Love Again








To call me an “oddball” would probably be too obscure. “Weird” doesn’t describe me either. I'm not a malcontent, but I have never been satisfied, seldom known happiness, rarely had a lover, never owned a house, never had more than a friend or two, never made much money, despised most of the work I did, never accomplished anything notable, and, quite often, found myself at odds with most of my country, and a large part of the world over this, that or another thing. I'm not a misanthrope but I live like a hermit wherever I am. It is probably more accurate to call me a chronic outsider divided over whether to get in or stay out. Of course it’s too late to get in anyway, so the issue is moot. At least out here I can sleep under the stars.


Get in to what? Don't ask me; I've never been in there. You need a pass or at least last year's tax receipt.


I’m not blind or completely ignorant. I can turn on my computer and see that people elsewhere appear to be happy, accomplished, satisfied, productive, normal, accompanied, comfortable, secure, serene, and generally enjoying life, even as it crumbles like a cookie in a bombing raid. There are people out there with serious educations and solemn purposes, who walk the straight and narrow, live a committed life, keep their jobs, serve others, protect animals, believe in God, have a clear conscience, hate war but love their country anyway, and earn money enough to live comfortably; I know that.


But for some reasons, I haven't been able to do it. I broke bricks banging my head against that wall. There are a lot of scenes I’d like to be a part of, but it’s impossible now. I know I've been too selfish. I put myself first when I should have been last. I didn't understand that or didn't have the strength. I see what it takes and I apparently don't have the right stuff. But even knowing that the failure is mostly my fault, I have to guard against envy, knowing the depth of my own despair, and the passion of an impossible longing. It never seems fair, until I recall that I had a hand in every wrong decision I ever made, which led me to this moldy tent in a washed-up carnival.


A “nut case?” No, just a crackpot, and lucky for everybody that I’m not violent. Just cracked. And who cares why anymore? I’ve been through all that with a half-dozen shrinks and twice that many psychologists. I’m nearly 68, and the last train is coming around the last curve into the last station on the last line. Soon it will be everybody off. That’s okay too. Despite that I am, on the one hand, consumed by a lust to live, learn and enjoy, and on the other hand am more than ready to end a wearisome journey, I don’t have any say about how fast the train goes. I never did. I’m not jumping off either.


I suppose that discontent of my sort can be distilled to a fuel of creativity. Let me hope. I’ve yet to “create” anything though, and most of what I produce looks like another mediocrity to me. I’m troubled that my ego might be too small. I’m told it happens. I don't like to compete. Is that natural? I don't know. Some guys are willing to go for coffee with no sense of missing out on anything. There are those who will never scratch and claw for leadership so never get the good jobs either. Afraid to fail maybe. Afraid of blame. There’s that old devil fear again. But there is nothing wrong with not wanting to be responsible for a train wreck.


I guess I’m one of those. On the other hand, it might be I fear that someone will ask me a question, and reveal the enormity of my ignorance. That I might hear the dreaded "Showtime!" and have nothing to show in Max's Kansas City, Yvonne.


So, you lead, and as long as you don’t crash the plane, I’ll get the coffee and write the mail. If you get sick in the pilot's seat, I'll take over and try to land it because I think I can. I know the trick: keep the airspeed up, lightly on the controls, throttle back just before touchdown. Meanwhile, “Don’t ask me nothing about nothing/ I just might tell you the truth.” (Dylan)


Microsoft Word tells me in perfect English that it is: “Don’t ask me anything about nothing." Okay: Don’t ask me anything about nothing/I just might tell you a lie.


I lie all the time. It’s shameful I know. I can’t help it. It’s like a way of life. I have lies prepared for the telling, too. I practice them.


“Officer, I know I paid that insurance premium. They just haven’t sent me the new card yet.”


“There’s nothing to find in this truck. You can search it all you want.”


What good would telling the truth be in some cases?


Officer, I didn’t pay that premium, because they raised my insurance rate $30 a month, after a black kid talking on a cell phone rear-ended me, and swore to an insurance agency full of black people that he wasn’t talking on a cell phone. Yes sir, I’m driving without insurance, and I hope you’ll overlook it.


Yes sir, there’s some marijuana behind that sweater there, and I hope you’ll disregard it.


See what I mean? Now, you could say, pay your insurance and don’t smoke marijuana, it’s illegal, to which I would say, I’d rather spend the premium on grass, and tell that to the 70 million Americans who smoke it. It keeps me from flying out the window.


“No sir, I have no warrants except that one for the time when I shot a judge, who was trying to put me in jail.”

I try to make it funny.


But I know I’m flirting with disaster. For some reason, this close to the station, I don’t think it matters all that much. I’ve lived alone too much to think I or it will ever change. I've always flirted with disaster, and she has taken me for a ride every time. But if I hadn't, I wouldn't have had any fun at all.


Meanwhile, to tell the truth about it, I’m lonely and tired. It’s my lot and I’m not complaining; just saying. I deserve it all. But it’s a drag, and I wish I deserved better. I have to cancel feelings like deleting useless files, or I couldn't get up at midnight like I do.


Other than that minor problem, I’m a real upbeat guy, determined to produce something with my fingers and brain, on the lookout for a permanent relationship with a pretty gal, and hoping I might buy a house near Jack Nicholson someday. Jack and me would be great buddies.


But, frankly speaking, I'd rather have a lover. And not just anyone. I'm long past that station. She has to be something special, a dancer or something, or it's no-go, even if beggars can't be choosers. I want her to lay with me, and hug me close, and caress my neck, and kiss my lips, and make love with me until we pass out. That's all I really want. You'd think something that simple would be easy to find. But now I'm old, they say, and it isn't. It never was.


“Dreaming of you, that’s all I do/And it’s driving me insane.”


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