Apply Yourself

I wake up every morning to multiple alarms. None of them actually wake me up because I don’t have a schedule. I have no schedule. But even saying that is kind of wrong. I go to bed every night at around two in the morning. Sometimes later, never earlier. I drink five to six nights a week to the point where I need it to fall asleep. My gut is in the midst of a third world riot where they throw Molotov cocktails at police, the cops being my large intestine. Their charred remains get a closed casket funeral in a toilet that doesn’t flush properly. Flush it twice. It’ll work the second time.

I have a wake-up routine. I sleep through each phone alarm, set to some stupid android preset jingle, to the volume of a tornado alert. My mom comes down, or my brother, and restrain themselves from just fucking obliterating me in my sleep. I would – you have alarms going off from two hours straight. I am a burden because I am 22 living at my mom’s crib. I do not replenish the water filter. There is nothing that brings more anger in this world than not filling the water in the water filter – forgoing the fact that it doesn’t filter fluoride and the filter blinks red for two months before we change it. Not filling the water filter is a grave act of aggression. 500 years ago it would’ve started a cold war in a royal family. Now it just means I get dirty looks. Anyway, I wake up sometime between ten and twelve.

Waking up feels like hell. I cannot get out of bed. The only thing I reach for is my patent-pending nicotine stick. I’m addicted to nicotine. The only time that I feel it is when I wake up, with a fresh pod, fully charged. Then, but for a moment, I can feel the sludge in my brain move around. I wake up feeling as a fresh as a piece of supermarket fried chicken at 7pm on a Sunday. After I get my popcorn lung, I check my phone. Twitter. A time sink comparable to Skyrim where you spend 400 hours and you realize you could’ve done anything else, but at least the side quests are out of the way. If the dogs bark I think about what would happen if I took Whole Foods 85% dark chocolate and left it on the ground. Waking up sucks.

Most mornings, as of late, my mind flips to plan s. I think about the people that I’ve let down, the shit I’ve fucked up. But in all reality, by most metrics, I’m successful. I think that I might suffer from the thing that everyone’s mom told them when they came home with a C in 9th grade history. You’re smart, you just need to apply yourself. I did. I graduate with high cum honors, three majors, blah blah blah. I did a lot of shit. It doesn’t subside the feeling that I want to find the highest bridge in a 100-mile radius but even if I did it, I’d fuck up and end up a quadriplegic that couldn’t jerk his own dick. Cup of coffee with three ice cubes because I have no patience and I’m back to normal.

I think of this every morning. Things, in a comparative sense, aren’t bad. I am not broke. I am not ugly. I eat well, I drink two cups of coffee, I live a relatively wealthy life in terms of both experience and sociability. I have a job. I am not the two Syrian migrants shining my vans in Beirut. I am not the kid I met who got shot twice by ISIS. I go to bed satiated. I wake up not to gunshots but to the melody of geese and wind chimes. Life really is not, in the comparable sense, bad. But right now, I’m stuck in hell. Maybe If I apply myself, I’ll get out.

My abusive relationship

I took two trips in the summer of ’17. Both too close to the equator. The arid heat that asphyxiates you and the sickly sticky heat that glues your balls to your thighs. In Morocco is where I met her. We’d stuff her full of hashish and roast her down. Kick her to the curb when we were finished. In Morocco I was supposed to study, but I was obsessed with her. In Florida I when in rehab, and we’d meet outside Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Wherever we were she was always there to comfort us, it didn’t matter if you had 30 years or 30 days sober.

Her nickname was Nic. I knew her inside and out. And she knew me – she knew my lips when she kissed them and my lungs when she filled them. She was the one who I felt laying in bed pumping out chemicals from my pineal gland. The one who held my hand lovingly at work when I was frustrated, the one who woke me up with a cup of coffee, the one who consoled me after I fucked up a test. She was there when no one else was.

She had a lot of layers to her, and every few months I pulled them back to reveal a new face. She first came to me in the form of Marlboro reds. I’d rip her open and fill her with playdough balls of hash. We sat under constellations on the dunes of the Sahara. Then she came back to me in rehab. was passed around a lot. Never the same. Sometimes she’d show up to Cocaine Anonymous in an oversized band tee and doc martens as an American Spirit black. Other times she was a 30-year-old diner waitress still in her work clothes as a Pall Mall. Occasionally I’d find her on the side of the road, unnamed and half used. I’d still clean her up and give her what she needed.

We truly fell in love with her in college. Tucked away in a green shirt we’d go back to my room and I’d tear off her cellophane. She’d abuse me. She took the breath out of my lungs and I spent every paycheck on her. I’d miss her every moment she was beside me. Her noxious perfume pushed people away from me. But we had each other. She was a 20 pack of Class-A L&M menthols. Her touch was ice to my lips. But I broke it off with her. We’d still see other sometimes, when I was drunk and needed her at 3 AM.

These days she comes to me in a different form. I’m still embarrassed to bring her around the house, to have her meet my mom. My dad tells me to drop her. These days she comes dressed as an aquaberry juul. She’s cute and slim and I can take her into my place without anyone batting an eye. She’s a bit of a freak. We hang out in library bathrooms. She kisses me in every stairwell and elevator. She’s different, but she’s still there.

She has a new taste to her. Minty or Mango but I can’t tell what lipstick she’s using. She might have killed a few people out in bumfuck nowhere but I’m willing to look past it. She still drains my bank account. I can’t let her go. I love her with every bone in me. Maybe it’s just the chemical reactions, but I don’t believe that shit. I’m loyal to her. And she may fuck me up at every corner, but I’m still gonna kiss her goodnight and say good morning. I don’t give a shit if it ends up hurting me.

I love you, nicotine.

fry cook, esq.

I don’t really have much to say. It was sometime around 4am a few days ago when I wrote this and I was drunk.

I have a few ideas about what I could do. You got a job, you quit a job. The last restaurant sucked balls. Hot sweaty no one to talk to you. Five fryers. Cleaning one fryer and draining it sucks because you’re always a small movement away from irreparably scaring yourself. You’ll need skin grafts from your thigh to even look like a freak. Burns on the arm, legs, occasionally a hot splash of oil smudges your glasses and scalds your cheeks. Just a bit. Enough to make you fuming but never enough to take off your apron and walk out the back.

Burns. Lots of burns. Burns on my arm. Burns on my chest. One night I was pissed at a girl. Burnt myself on the arm with an L&M menthol in front of my friends. Bugs orbited around the porchlight aimlessly. In a sense I was like them. Orbiting. She was a smart one. Thought I liked her. Showed someone at the party the texts and he said something stupid. I knew she had a boyfriend and I still got mad. Dumb text. It doesn’t matter know. I have two burns on my left arm that I can’t get rid of. Two marks right before the crease in my elbow.

Told my friends then I did it for attention. Evergreen flash of anger and sadness. Anger is sadness with conviction. I was joking but now they make fun of me for it. Rips at my ego but I let it go. Smile. Take another sip. I did again. Forever saved in a thirty second snapchat. Some stupid Yung Lean song playing off my phone speakers. Took another L&M menthol and put it out under my left nipple. Can’t burn the right portion of my body. I’m right handed. The embers were hot and if I was cool I’d say it didn’t hurt a fuckton, but it did. Adrenaline felt good that night. Anger washed away.

College. Uni. I keep calling it Uni and my friends chastise me for it. I don’t know why. I miss college. I transcended the stoner archetype. I became popular. Now I live at home and reminisce about half-decade old memories with friends from home. Remember that kid from high school? No, and I haven’t thought about him in a solid five years. College was fun. Met a lot of good people. I denigrate the college I went to but I ended up doing well.

Uni College was sick. Winter and summer breaks meant something. It was the end of a semester or a year. You go back. Mispronounce au revivor to the friends at home to show them you are well read and start a new semester. New classes. Syllabus week. Time to go back to being an RA. New freshman. Need to acclimate them. They’re scared. Never paid attention to them. Room checks would come around. Well, looks like it’s all good, but the George Foreman grill goes against university policy. They’d hide it. Need to bring it home when mom pays for a bus ticket because only one-in-three students have a car and it’s a mile uphill behind a locked parking lot.

Good people. Good professors. Dr. [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]. Lots to talk about. Good advice. [REDACTED] doesn’t have wisdom but he has advice. Dr. [REDACTED] had wisdom. The whole department knew me. Three different academic buildings new me. Across campus, through each bar, through every corridor, I’d say hello with a smile on my face not knowing where I knew them from. They knew me. They’d flip out when they saw me at parties. But I’m not coming back. Not for this semester.

The mailman who walks five miles a day will crush your diploma in the mail. Slam it through the mail slot at your mom’s crib without care or consideration. Why would he give a fuck? Why would I give a fuck. Piece of paper. The people were important. Classes were easy. Friends were plentiful. It’s over. Get the degree and pay for the transcripts and stop falling for nostalgia. It will only drag you back in the recesses of your mind.

Step two. What next? Fuck around a bit. Summer felt like a haze. Since you step foot on the graduation stage it felt like a haze. Three months ago you were living at your grandfather’s drinking too much beer. Eating meat from the trucker who needed to make weight at the weigh station and something that resembled deer? Drove across the country. Saw family. Little brother helped drive. Good kid. Hope he doesn’t fuck up. Somewhere in Missouri Aunt [REDACTED] handed you a piece of pan-fried bass you just caught. Serene property in the middle of nowhere. She put the fish down and looked at you and said, be confident, you’re qualified. Don’t accept shit from anyone. You know how far I’d be if I were you?

Water sits in a glass on the nightstand. You don’t drink water. You try because if you don’t you’ll get a hangover. Nerves raging. Sharp pains when you stand up. The alcohol fucks you in the morning. The weed does too. Makes you sleepy. But more importantly fogs your brain. Clogs it up. Hazy. Like the night sky behind a few clouds but only so many that a few stars shimmer through. Or maybe it’s satellites. Who knows. You schmoozed your way through astronomy. Told the prof you cared about it. Don’t remember a single fucking thing.

Planned. From kindergarten to the end of your senior year. Five years old to twenty-two. Each step. Michelle Obama approved French toast sticks. Middle school tables defamed with sticky syrup. If you got some on your sleeve you’d want to go home. College too. Happy little workers at the common dining hall. They liked you. You were friendly. You knew that hated their lives, at least their jobs. Everyone hates their job, some are just better at being quiet about it. The only redeeming factor was someone who treated them human. They slid you raw tuna steak and they asked your friends where you were when you were gone. Life was planned.

You haven’t even given yourself a rationale for law school. This is the next step. You need to get on it. Do you really want to be a lawyer? Why? Your life will still suck balls until you spit them out. Wake up and spit out the nuts. A geographic change doesn’t change things. But it’s a plan. Another plan is the US armed forces. Drape yourself in the tricolor of the state and march in step. Learn to shoot. Suffer. Truly suffer. It would not be fun. It would be four years of tube-processed shit into down your throat like a scat version of gitmo hunger strike force feeding. Military would suck balls.

What’s next to talk about. Her. Is she gonna help me make this thing work out? Probably not. It’s probably a good idea when you are harder than diamond in your lindy-wear boxers cut on the sides and she’s wearing her Calvins on a videocall – not without purpose. Sending you messages. Good ones. Women and men have to chat about things besides the only topic both truly want to talk about. Sex and other degenerate shit. But the other stuff makes daily suffering worthwhile. How are you? How have you been? How’s the DMV and why is the lady taking so long and what’s wrong with your car and are you okay? She’s thousands of miles away. Left you and went to law school. She got an 164 on her LSATS. I need a 164 on mine. It fucks me up.

It’s on you, retard. You can live this life. You can work in a restaurant for the REST OF YOUR FUCKING LIFE! You can hangout with the felon who works on sauté right down from grill, which is manned by a Honduran dude who came here holding on for dear life under a lettuce truck. But now he’s pulling bones out of a salmon like a surgeon and leaving at 9pm on a Saturday night while you slave away. Sweep Brush Squeegee Mop and then Spot Sweep till you’re 70 fucking years old. Every day you’ll think about how you could’ve been a lawyer by then.

Five years. It’s a five-year plan. Set some ground rules for yourself. Hit the gym. Build muscle and lose weight. Stop drinking. Drinking and smoking every night. You’ll melt your fucking grey matter when that is, as of right now, the only organ that matters besides your heart. Maybe your appendix too but only if it exploded and you could rip a couple thousand off GoFundMe.

But people do care about you, fucking moron. You have a lot of friends. Good friends that’d drive two hours to pick you up from the airport on short notice. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s not hard though. Many just don’t have friends. They don’t have luck with girls. You aren’t either of those people. You can work your ass off but also you can manage a conversation. You have brains. Don’t think of your life as as a movie. There are no character arcs. Time only moves one way and the only critic that matters is you.

Once again. People around me love me. Show more care to those who raised you. Don’t sling around fried Sysco garbage anymore. No more blanching fries and dropping hush puppies and meekly telling managers why you can’t come in early. Graduate from being a fryer. Become a lawyer. Green copper plaque outside an exposed brick building in fifteen years. Fry cook, esquire.

your life as a movie

20-something guys will get a crumb of ass and begin to think that their life is an art film debuted at Tribeca. It’ll gain a cult following. It’ll be a movie that other guys will put on because the girl they are on a date with doesn’t care what they watch on Netflix. You met online, like everyone else in 2019. Neurotically think for ten minutes she’ll judge you for the elevator scene and still and put on Drive. Close enough to a romantic movie. Hope she doesn’t think Ryan Gosling is hotter than you. The movie doesn’t even matter. She came over and didn’t think you were a serial killer. The only thing that matters is getting her into your bed to just cuddle.

Someone joked to you in 9th grade health class that spoonin leads to forkin when you reached the sex-ed lessons. You laughed then, but you understood it now. She’s laying to your right and it’s great, but you are crammed against the wall with your pins-and-needles arm underneath her. You haven’t had a girl in your bed in a while. Your sole focus is awkwardly angling your dick away from her so she can’t sense it. Your hand is on the back of her head with your fingers rolling through strands of her hair.

She tilts her head to the left. You tilt yours to your right. She giggles, because she’s just as nervous. Meanwhile you’re just trying to hold your cock at an angle so she can’t tell you are no softer than granite. Look into her eyes. You imagine it as a film. The camera would shift onto her with a face shot. The sole lighting is the movie you’ve stopped paying attention to. You see her freckles and moles, her cherubic cheeks looking directly into the camera. Her deep brown eyes see through you but you can’t choose which eye to focus on so you switch left to right.

The kiss scene is integral. The director commentary says so, and so does the guy who turned a subpar film into a sixteen-minute critical analysis on YouTube. She exhales onto your face and you hope your breath doesn’t stink. Her lips meet yours and after five minutes your lips are smoother than river rock. Still trying to awkwardly angle yourself. The scene transitions to a overhead shot from the ceiling. You throw her on top of you. She’s grinding away and your anxiety fades away. Next scene is left to the audience’s imagination as two bodies push and pull under blankets.

The following scene is quintessential. The morning wake-up, with the camera aimed towards the morning sun in the window above the bed. Wake up to her fingernails gracing your chest, her smile in your face with messy morning hair. A morning kiss and she is off to work but before she leaves she puts on your hoodie like you owe it to her. You aren’t sure if you’ll ever get it back. The next shot is him in bed – fulfilled, happy, in that weird state follows projections about the future.

Avoid people who say that say she was the one who got away. They never explain this in movies. It’s never implied that you to go back to your shitty life. The plot where you get her in the end in the airport three minutes before her flight except you can’t anymore because TSA needs to feel your ass now. It ends up idyllic and you’re Zac Braff and she’s Natalie Portman and you get leave your shit life. You stop thinking about being lonely, about never having kids, about spending the rest of your life alone. Life viewed through rose-tinted glasses even if you have to plod back to a wage slavery, at least you have her.

But the art film has a twist at the end where it’s not like other movies! The director smugly reveals in an interview that the movie isn’t supposed to be like regular films. The main character – you of course, as you always imagine – is supposed to feel heartbreak in the end. To march back to the desultory dread of everyday modern life. No sunday pancakes no two-story house no 1.5 kids who are doing really well in school.

The final scenes play through the credits. The director gaffs in the commentary. The focus group loved it! She’s passed the bar from a prestigious law school. You, however, are still slinging food at the pseudo-Italian joint where the only redeeming part is the shift meal. The directory extols his film as a realistic depiction of modern love.

It pans to the main character in a dim apartment a few years later. A shot of his keys rattling in the lock. Plops down on the couch. The cornea-melting blue light from a broken iPhone reflects off his glasses. Checking Facebook but since it’s a movie they can’t get the rights so it is Facegram. She’s married. An associate lawyer at a small firm practicing family law. Prenups and divorces but her favorite is an adoption day.

You’re thinking about putting on a movie but it has to be short. Work in the morning. Netflix recommends you a new release. The director is back with a rekindled creative energy that is sure to just dazzle the viewers. Somewhere out there another guy is watching it with a cute girl in his bed, hoping, just hoping, to cuddle.

stupid metal rectangle

He ripped off the cushions. A quarter from ’93 but nothing else. Peered under the couch. Flip the recliner? Between the wall and the mattress on the floor? In the library bathroom that read NO SHOWERS resting on top of the toilet paper dispenser? Under the car seat next to the survivors of a number nine with big mac sauce? Search parties limit themselves to a week. But this wasn’t a missing Norwegian hiker just finding themselves in the third world. He tore the living room to shreds.

He needed his hit. Time paused. Sweet synthetic mango directly to brain. Dopamine after dopamine hit. The Juul™ wasn’t like a cigarette. It lacked the temporal charm of a dart. Juul was instantaneous. There was no ritual. Cigarette had a ritual. He ran his fingers through the couch again. He quit cigs using patented Juul™ technology. Drove back to the library. Checked the desks, the bathroom, near where the homeless hang out and drink Gatorade. Still couldn’t find it.

He walked back to his car. 1997 Honda Prelude. Sat down in the driver’s seat and did the math. $29.99 for a new silver one plus $15.99 for pods plus tobacco tax for $47.73. Would cost him four hours at $11 hour. Too much. He grew frustrated. Threw his wallet at the passenger seat. Shifted around Long John Silver’s bags on the floor to find it. Spilled cocktail sauce on the floormat. Looked for some wayward pile of brown napkins in the dash. He found a small token from his past – a glovebox aged pack of L&M menthol 100’s.

He cracked open the box. Cellophane held in the formaldehyde. He quit weeks ago. No one wanted to be around him. Hide it from mom. Don’t let the tinder girl find out. Brush your teeth two times over. Spit spit spit. No one longed for a cigarette outside the bar anymore. Too good for it. Cigarettes broke time. They put it on a pause. The Juul was compatible with modernity. Regulatory bodies tried. They stomped out the smoker. Spit in his face and segregated him to the smoke on the side of the building on a rusty metal bench. But they couldn’t stop 15-year-olds from asphyxiating themselves on fruit punch flavored glycerin in the freshman bathroom.

The advent of the e-cigarette brought upon the nihilation of a ritual. The smoker was a ceremonial creature. He needed a flame for his vice. But the fire was never his. He didn’t steal it from the Gods though – he stole it from the wannabe Ramona Flowers girl with blue hair and gauges from the bar when he bummed an American spirit from her. Cigarettes and lighters not only transcended time, but private property. There were everyone’s in a sense, like a whisper down the alley when the brand is never the same but the headrush is.  

He found the green bic with the safety broken off in the console. Stepped outside of his car to lean on the hot paint. He had the slightest worry about the pre-owned trade in value. Affixed the cigarette to his cracked lips, lit it and inhaled. The first drag felt like a quaking nut with your dream girl – a visceral rush down his spine. Cigarettes conjured the aura of a cowboy, a soldier, a sailor. Each in their own right essential proxies for modernity. Between each flick of the ash onto the asphalt he brought it back to his mouth for another ghastly drag until the brown butt. It joined the ranks of every other discarded cigarette as he wound it between his pointer finger and thumb and flicked into the sewer.  

He stepped back into the car to head back home. He thought for a second and fumbled his noxious fingers into the keyhole. As he slipped into the dirty upholstery seat, he graced something metallic. A silver sliver shimmered in the sun. He finally found his piece of modernity. He tapped the juul for it to broadcast an oscillating red like a plane far off in the night sky. He hastily brought it to his lips and summoned a ghastly minty green 5.0% nicotine hit to his throat. Cleaner than a cigarette but somehow less attractive

.The epitome of the modern era was found in that metal stick. It violated every ritual that the cigarette required. It did not break the temporal experience like a cigarette – where a simple press to the lips melted away anxiety. It snuck into moments of everyday, rips of crème brûlée flavored vapor no more distinct than a sip of lukewarm coffee. As essential it was to one addicted to nicotine, it never disappeared. He drove on home. He took another drag from the metal rectangle. It flashed red like a cell tower in the distance. It was dead.

sperm bank

Okay. Fuck it. I was gonna write a story. A bunch of shit was on my mind the last few days. I met with family, extended and close, met with friends both far and near – a kaleidoscope of relationships that bring me a little bit of joy and a lot of exasperation. It’s not hard. But it does seem hard to care.

I don’t really know what to say, but the only thing that rings in my mind is what my grandmother said. Family reunion. Ate deer meat sloppy joes. They called them sloppy does. I was grossed out for a second – not knowing where the meat came from. But then I thought about it. That deer was graciously, swiftly killed by a hunter who shares a bloodline with me. Not some ground beef that consists of the meat of a million cows.

We sat there after we ate. Me and my paternal grandmother. An old park bench that stuck into my back. The procession was inside; the cacophonous rumble of a family outing. Epidictic speaking about a linage that has survived. Overdoses, motorcycle crashes, the diabetes. You know it – uncles chatting about nothing, great aunts complaining about Indian doctors, fat third cousins running around in circles gaffing over a bubble gun.

The tree gave us shade. It was older than me and my grandmother. My Memi. My single bloodline connection to my father’s side. My dad is dead. From what I can tell, he died in 2005. Heroin overdose. He had it in the genes too. Addiction. He’s dust now. I am all that remains.

She spoke to me. I couldn’t remember about what. My hair was in my eyes. I was trying to fix it. Her cadence was marked by her humming. She hummed to pass the silence between her words. Almost as if she was filling in the space when the birds went silent.

Something about my father. Which one? The one who adopted me and married my mother – or the one whose genetic splat thrust me into this world?

She called him something I hadn’t ever hear her say. She called him a sperm bank. Her son, a sperm bank. My “dad”. Reduced to a sperm bank.

My eyes are a little misty. It’s 2:40 in the morning.  I’m drunk off room temp Miller Lite. I wonder what he would have thought of me.

I did it, sperm bank. I did it. I did well in school, I got onto the dean’s list eight times, I got my degree, sperm bank. I did it.

You’re not a sperm bank. You are more dignified than that. And I hope, I hope, you’d be proud of me.

ruminations on neet life

So this is more a reflection on a lifestyle that isn’t fully true. While I am not in training and just got laid off, I’m finishing up university with a final general education class. Took 50 classes, a whole extra year condensed into six classes a semester, and I didn’t take a science course. And I’ve got one more paper to write till I get a meaningful piece of paper that vindicates, at least marginally, that I’m smart. Yet, as far as I’m concerned, I’m living the NEET life. I got two down, at least. I haven’t cleaned my dishes in a month.

This lifestyle is sort of paradoxical. I go to bed when the birds sing and the late may heat starts to make my ass sweat. In the morning I wish for nothing more than some bird shot. Something to get those noisy fuckers out of my life. The 4 A.M. to early afternoon cycle. You know it. You see the sun rise, you wake up at 2 P.M. after sleeping through five different alarms on two clocks. I mean, for fuck’s sake, sometimes I put my phone on my chest so the radiation can melt my heart and maybe wake me up. I sleep through it, always.

I play video games till the early hours of the morning, incessant intervals of game after game. It’s useless, and I put off all this last bit of work till the last moment. I’m writing this as I have five assignments due on natural disasters. I won’t ever use this shit. I need it to graduate. But as of now that’s my only objective. I got laid off. I have nothing better to do than shitpost and get 6 dollar menu cheeseburgers for $6.36, sales tax included. This isn’t the lifestyle I wanna live. It’s great when you work 60 hours a week, but right now it’s hell.