Saturday, December 5, 2009

Apocalypse Eve


Like everyone else, I am about to die. Every generation of humanity has believed that it was going to be the last one, and by some coincidence, my generation was right. In the past, a lot of people would've given God the credit for the coming disaster. Hell, I probably would've when I was a kid and I know my parents would've, too. But nobody I know believes in God anymore. As information has piled up, the whole idea has just become too absurd for even the most optimistic of us to still consider it viable. The fact of the matter is, two things that have probably been clear and obvious to people for the whole of human history have just been laid out in the open so nobody can really deny them anymore. They are that, first, human life is of almost no consequence at all to the universe at large (people used to struggle to believe that their own life was meaningless to the universe – now we've realized that the whole of human life is meaningless) and, second, everything comes from chance. If you rolled the dice a million times, the utter destruction of humanity and perhaps the planet (I say perhaps because whether it will be the planet also is another of the myriad things that are beyond our collective understanding at the moment and, as this is the final moment, for ever and ever) on the exact date it happens may come up once. So many specific causes have to create so many specific effects, which in turn create more effects, and this whole web of possibility just ends where it ends. There's no reason for it. It just does.

This letter, I realize, is a waste of time. There's been a near constant cacophony of drinking and fighting and fucking on my street since the first announcement was made. (Our vast collection of human knowledge doesn't include the exact date and time of our doom. We thought it did but the first estimate, the one presented to us as scientific fact by a panel of leading scientists and the heads of state for all the G-8 countries, was yesterday at three in the afternoon. Another group of scientists then presented some compelling evidence that it would, in fact, be tonight at midnight. A third group – financed by rich enough people that they've installed a countdown clock in Times Square – says it isn't until next week. I'm not really endorsing either the second or third group, but it's fair enough to say now that the first group got it wrong.) Regardless of when it is, it's self-evident that it's soon. And most people I know are choosing to drink and fight and fuck. I'm at the kitchen table with a can of tomato soup and a beer writing you this letter, which will be destroyed in the inferno (if it is an inferno – everyone's assuming it is, I think because it's what we've always assumed. Fair to say, given the information that keeps on coming to light about the usefulness of our assumptions, that it could well be anything. In fact, the certainty people have related to the inferno has got me leaning towards expecting anything but an inferno) along with everything else. Why write if you're not looking to leave a legacy? And what legacy will there be after all this? So, look, I have no good reason for why I'm writing instead of being outside and ringing in the apocalypse like everyone else. I just am.

It appears that that the last book I will have ever read – could be the last book anyone ever read – was Galapagos. That book is about the end of the world. This is not a coincidence, though. I picked it for that reason. Vonnegut was wildly optimistic about how this would all go down. There's no Mandarax, and no secret supply of captain semen to get us through, and no furry Japanese girl to give us all an evolutionary advantage that will sustain us through all this. At least, if there is, it hasn't made the news and I haven't heard a thing about it. So, even if that all does exist, it might as well not. It doesn't make any difference that it does.

Here's something funny. There isn't any money anymore. I got kind of careless when I thought the world might end yesterday afternoon and finished my tequila. I tried to go out to get some more this morning but there's no shops and, obviously, nobody will take cash for the bottles they've got. I have $5000 in a shoebox that I've been saving since I was 15, and it won't buy me a bottle of tequila. Shit, I've got all that college money in that mutual fund. There aren't any mutual funds anymore, either, it goes without saying. At first, I got mad at the idea that some asshole banker had drained it all out for himself when the going got tough, but then I went to try and get some tequila this morning and I realized he got what was coming. He was willing to completely betray his fellow man, but he can't. And now everyone knows he was willing to. Poor bastard.

Anyway, what prompted me to write is this. After the news hit, a lot of people left town because they thought going somewhere flatter was going to save them somehow. The area around my apartment was starting to get crowded with junkies and weirdos, so I found an abandoned house near the freeway. There wasn't much stuff left in it – the same optimism that made them leave town apparently made them think they'd need furniture. I started sleeping in the attic, for no reason really, and there was a box in the corner that had the word US written on it in black marker. I was hoping to find a blanket or can opener, but all I found was every letter I ever wrote you, pictures of us at our wedding, Ellie's baby book and the newspaper we saved from the day she was born. I know it's na├»ve, especially in the circumstances, but my picking your house out of all the houses I could've picked is the only thing I think in the universe I think might not be a coincidence.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Break For This Short Announcement

Hey, you! Yes, I'm speaking to you. Are you listening? Good. Don't you think it's time to consolidate those debts? All the worry, stress, calls from the collectors at dinnertime. Aren't you afraid to check the mail, concerned that yet another bill or collection notice is waiting for you? And, on a more personal note, if I may, how did you even get so much debt without ever taking out student loans? What do you have to show for it? And wasn't the point of not taking out student loans in the first place to avoid being in this situation? Luckily, your to-this-point complete failure to grasp fiscal responsibility as a concept can be solved with one quick phone call. One of our dedicated experts will help pull all of your wide-ranging, various debts into the manageable and affordable debt-reduction plan that's right for you! Didn't you hear me? Pick up the phone and call today, before you prove your grandparents right!
Now, if you'll allow me to indulge myself for a moment. Imagine, if you will, that you are approaching a crosswalk. The light is clearly red, and there is also an accompanying red hand. Ignoring the racist overtones of needing the white man to tell you its safe to walk for a moment, we can all admit that we've been trained not to walk when the red hand says not to walk. But suppose that as you approach this crosswalk, you see a small group of people walking in spite of the red hand's warning. If you're like many young urban people, you will assume this is a sure sign that it is, in fact, safe to walk across the street. But, how can you be sure these people can be trusted? How do you know that they are not legally blind? Maybe they're part of a suicide pact. Why are you willing to put so much trust in the idea that they're not part of a suicide pact, when the stakes are so high for yourself?
Anyway, call today, before it's too late. Back to your regularly schedule programming.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Comeback: A Second Monologue

Since I was, like 14, everytime a girl has left my house, if she didn't leave fighting, I have waited up for maybe an hour or so hoping she'd come back. So far, that has happened zero times. Maybe the girl that really does come back, without my asking, will be "the one." Or maybe she'll just have left something. I imagine I'll be waiting up and then see her headlights out my window or hear the knock on the door. I'll open the door and be so excited to see her there and she'll say "I left my sweater. Can I grab that?" And that's when I'll know. (pause) Um. (pause) That- (pause) That I should stop waiting up. (pause) Because it's a waste of time.

Friday, August 31, 2007

They All Say That

Gio, an early twenties man
Nate, Gio's best friend

GIO and NATE at a table, over beers or coffee

Gio: I tell all our mutual friends that it's going well.

Nate: But . . .

Gio: It isn't going well.

Nate: It isn't going well.

Gio: It's going very badly.

Nate: Then why tell all your mutual friends that it's going well?

Gio: I have no idea.

Nate: You tell me it's going very badly.

Gio: Well, it is.

Nate: But why tell me that?

Gio: Why? Because, first of all, I tell you everything and second of all, you don't know her.

Nate: What's that got to do with it?

Gio: It has everything to do with it. To a man, the people who know us both think we're perfect for each other. I need an opinion that doesn't have that bias.

Nate: I can definitely provide that. I think she's terrible for you.

Gio: That's what I mean. That's why I tell you.

Nate: But that's my bias.

Gio: I think I just don't . . . I take things too seriously. I am taking this too seriously. I am severely overrating her. She is no good for me, and I have a much worse opinion than I used to on whether she's good at all.

Nate: In one sense, she is.

Gio: What sense?

Nate: The sex.

Gio: Yes, the sex is good, but not that good and, for the first time in my life, with any girl, I feel responsible for the sex not being good because I'm sure she's better at it than I am, and I can only assume-

Nate: She's better than you are?

Gio: -that's because of, yes, she's better than me. I don't think she's had more sex than I have but I can say, most certainly, she's had better sex than I have.

Nate: How do you know? Did you ask her?

Gio: Ask her? Fuck no. Why would I ask her? That'd be, like, a death wish to ask her.

Nate: Then how do you know?

Gio: "Compared to me, you know, you've had way better sex, right?"

Nate: How do you -

Gio: Are you fucking kidding me?

Nate: Okay, but if you haven't asked, how do you know?

Gio: Because of the way she acts. The way she behaves. She talks, and she moves her hips, she has great rhythm, she . . . she talks. That's how I know. Her natural reaction to sex is to enjoy it. Mine is more . . . to get it over with. That's how I know.

Nate: Your natural reaction -

Gio: Well, maybe not to get it over with, but you know what I mean. I'm not accustomed to someone being so good at sex.

Nate: So, that sounds great.

Gio: It sounds great, and it was great at first, but now, I really realize that I'm not that good at it. She has this unspoken . . . this, this expectation of what sex should be like that I just don't think I can -

Nate: Well, what does she say?

Gio: About what?

Nate: About the sex?

Gio: What do you mean, what does she say?

Nate: Does she give any opinions?

Gio: She did. Early on, she said it was great. But, they always -

Nate: They always say that.

Gio: Yeah. And she only said it early on.

Nate: I see what you're saying.

Gio: The sex is the only constant thing, though. The other night, I tried to kiss her while she was in my bed, this was even before sex, and she turned away. She told me, "I have to be honest with myself, and do that stuff because I want to, and not because I'm afraid of losing you."

Nate: That doesn't sound good.

Gio: No, it doesn't. It fucking sounds like she doesn't want -

Nate: Like it'd be dishonest of her to kiss you.

Gio: (drinks) Yes. Exactly. But not, evidently, dishonest to fuck me.

Nate: So, what, like friends with benefits? That's what she wants?

Gio: It's hard to say, because she sometimes lets things slip. The other day, we were out with Jay and I was making some joke about wanting my next breakup to be very hurtful and cruel, and she said, also joking, but she said, in front of Jay, "Maybe I should just leave now." The implication of that, obviously -

Nate: You want your next breakup to be hurtful and cruel?

Gio: No, it was a joke, but I'm saying, the implication of her response, "Maybe I should just," that implies that she would consider us as breaking up. That means she considers us together, even though she finds it dishonest to kiss me. (drinks) Isn't that fucked up?

Nate: Also, that she referred of "losing you."

Gio: Yes, right. Things like that. She implies a relationship that's deeper than the one she wants, or maybe, doesn't want. I don't know. Maybe she wants a relationship, just not right now, but they all -

Nate: They all say that.

Gio: Right. They all do. That's what I'm saying. (drinks) But I think she's genuine.

Nate: I have thought every one was genuine.

Gio: Really? I haven't. I think she's different.

Nate: I have thought every one was different.

Gio: Well, that may -

Nate: She's not . . . they're not different.

Gio: One will have to be someday.

Nate: But, presumably, that one won't refuse to kiss you on the ground that it's dishonest.

(Gio drinks)

Nate: Or, you know, one day -

Gio: I just think, like, if I wait it out, and continue to be as kind as possible to her, and try to keep the emotional, like, hardship out of our conversations, then one day she'll -

Nate: One day she'll what?

Gio: I'm just saying, this is maybe worth waiting for. Or fighting, maybe, it may be worth fighting for, or waiting for-

Nate: But how long can you wait?

Gio: -Or both.

Nate: This is the same thing that happened with Jess.

Gio: Oh, no it isn't. This is nothing like what happened with Jess.

Nate: It is, too. You're making yourself completely available, buying her things, giving her compliments, taking her places, walking with her, you know, completely available and giving her the option of just taking what she wants from it. You're not demanding anything back.

Gio: She says it's unfair for her to put me in this situation.

Nate: She's right about that, at least.

Gio: No, no. I don't want - the things I already - I don't need to demand anything, because I just like being around her. That's enough.

Nate: That's fucking ridiculous. How long can that last?

Gio: 'Til she decides -

Nate: What? That a free ride doesn't sound so good anymore, and she'd much rather - I mean, fuck. Wake up! She doesn't even want to kiss you. The best you could hope for is that one day, she regrets this whole thing. That's the best.

Gio: But, I'm saying, like what she said when we were with Jay -

Nate: No, you're overreading that shit. You're way overthinking that shit. The bottom line is, if she wanted you, she could have you, and she's not taking you, circumstances be god damned. And I hope, truly, that she regrets that one day as much as I think she should, but you are not winning any fucking points, here.

(they both drink)

Gio: I'm in love.

Nate: You're just saying that.

Gio: I am just saying that.

Nate: You always say that.

Gio: So it's either always true, or it never is.

Nate: I hope, for your sake, that it never is, because if this is love -

Gio: -this isn't love.

Nate: I hope not.

Gio: It isn't. It's not. I don't - it isn't.

Nate: You're too good for this.

Gio: I sometimes agree with that.

Nate: I understand it's different when it's just you and her, it always -

Gio: It always is.

Nate: Right. Always.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A monologue

Fuck. That was stupid. Now I can't sleep. I don't care if she sees other guys . . . that's the whole arrangement, here actually. Especially since she told me she was only really comfortable with me because I was so low pressure. Would it be too high pressure to tell her I care if she sees other guys? Fuck, of course it would. I should call her now. To tell her that I don't care if she sees other guys. (Remember when we had that conversation on the way to the Mercury Cafe when I asked you if you'd consider it cheating if I had sex with someone else, and then I told you that I wouldn't consider it cheating but that I'd be upset and hurt? I think, now, especially since we had that conversation recently about me backing off, that I wouldn't be that upset and hurt. I mean, and this is presumptuous to even suggest you would be, but you shouldn't feel guilty by me.) She just said it in passing anyway. "Actually, I ran into someone I just met last night so he and I were hanging out." That doesn't count as seeing someone, does it? Not yet. If she is seeing someone, she wouldn't tell me. And why should she? She shouldn't. It's not really my business. Unless she sleeps with him, of course. Then it is. There's a whole new area if she sleeps with someone because of the health concerns and so on. You know, she hates using condoms. And she's not on the pill. Last month, when she thought she was pregnant, who knows if it'd have been my kid or her ex-boyfriend's? Who wants that situation? If she gets an abortion, who goes with her to the clinic, you know? (pause) Telling her I don't mind if she sees other people is a big thing. Maybe too much. You've gotta be prepared if she takes you up on it. And I'm not prepared for that. I'm in love with her. I'm in . . . that's the . . . that's the first time I've said that. And it was bullshit. I'm just grasping for straws. (Don't leave. I'm in love with you.) I didn't mean it. It was an instinctual reaction to the idea that this might be ending soon. Throwing a log on the fire. (pause) Still, though. I don't want her to be with anyone else. I can't tell her that, though. That would be too high pressure. The low pressure thing would be to tell her she can see other people without feeling guilty. I don't want to overplay my hand. I should call her later, when I haven't been drinking. That's stupid, I can't sleep unless I talk to her now. How am I supposed to sleep with all this shit floating around in my head? I should call her. (pause) I should call her. (pause) Ahhh, fuck it. What's the point?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Giving Stuff Back

A waiter/waitress

SYLVIA and BRADY at dinner.

BRADY: I thought you hated duck.

SYLVIA: I thought you were a vegetarian.

BRADY: Don't change the subject.

SYLVIA: How am I changing the subject? The subject is changes in one of our dietary habits that the other one is surprised by.

BRADY: Whatever.

SYLVIA: Don't whatever me. When did you start eating meat again?

BRADY: Like three months ago.


BRADY: I don't know. It was too much hassle.

SYLVIA: That's why?

BRADY: That's why.

SYLVIA: Seriously?

BRADY: Seriously.


BRADY: Why wow?

SYLVIA: I just . . . it meant more to you than that.

BRADY: Obviously not.

SYLVIA: I thought it did.

BRADY: Well, it obviously didn't.

SYLVIA: Obviously.


SYLVIA: This is stupid.

BRADY: It was your idea.

SYLVIA: Well, its stupid.


BRADY: (pulls a bag from under his chair) Here. Its your book, that picture frame, the sweater and a sock. You didn't say anything about the picture frame on the phone but --

SYLVIA: --Jesus.

BRADY: --you just didn't rememb-- Jesus what?

SYLVIA: Do we have to do this now?

BRADY: I thought that's why we were here.

SYLVIA: I mean - I don't mean . . . yes. I mean, do you have to this now - before dinner?

BRADY: Sorry. I didn't mean --

SYLVIA: Jesus. (takes bag, put it under her chair)

BRADY: --Jesus! I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything. I didn't know there was a certain time . . . set aside . . .

SYLVIA: There's not. Just forget it.

BRADY: Whatever.

SYLVIA: Don't whatever me.

BRADY: I . . . uh. Okay.

SYLVIA: Come on.

BRADY: I . . . wh . . . uh.


(enter WAITER)

WAITER: Two duck clubs with mashed potatoes. Would you like more wine?

BRADY: Yes, please.

SYLVIA: I'll take some, too.

BRADY: Why don't we just get a bottle?

SYLVIA: I don't --

BRADY: It doesn't make sense for us to keep buying the same wine by the glass.


WAITER: A bottle of cabernet, then?

BRADY: Yes, please. Thank you.

(WAITER exits)


BRADY: You remember that cabernet we had at Megan's?

SYLVIA: Yeah. That French one?

BRADY: It was Twin Fin.


BRADY: Twin Fin's American.

SYLVIA: I thought . . . no, it had a screw top. I distinctly --

BRADY: Twin Fin does have a screw top.

SYLVIA: I thought it was French.

BRADY: The French one you're thinking of was merlot. And it didn't have a screw top.

SYLVIA: No - at Megan's, it was French. I remember.

BRADY: We had that merlot at Megan's for New Year's. I'm talking about Peter's graduation party. We had Twin Fin cabernet.

SYLVIA: Peter's graduation party? I don't think I went to that.

BRADY: Yes, you did. And we drank Twin Fin cabernet. It was the first wine you'd seen with a screw top. I rememb --

SYLVIA: I remember the screw top. I just always thought it was French.

BRADY: Well it wasn't. Its American.


(BRADY takes a bite of his sandwich.)

SYLVIA: I still can't believe you eat meat.

BRADY: I can't believe you don't remember Peter's graduation party.

(WAITER returns, pours wine, leaves bottle on table, exits. As he leaves, both of them show non-verbal gratitude.)


SYLVIA: I can't stand being around you and not being able to kiss you or say "I love you."

BRADY: You can say it. I love you.

SYLVIA: No, I don't -- don't -- no, I can't. Please, don't.

BRADY: I do. I love you.

SYLVIA: Then why can't we --

BRADY: No. You know why. It doesn't work.

SYLVIA: But, if you love me and I --

BRADY: Don't be so naive.

SYLVIA: I'm --

BRADY: Don't. Just . . . don't. Please.

SYLVIA: Sorry.


SYLVIA: Have you been with anyone since we broke up?


SYLVIA: Is it someone I know?

BRADY: Yes. Its Emily.

SYLVIA: Jesus. I didn't want to know who.

BRADY: Sorry.

SYLVIA: Its . . . are you still together?

BRADY: No. We broke up.

SYLVIA: Oh. I'm sorry.

BRADY: Don't be. I'm not. It didn't work. I knew it --

SYLVIA: Please.

BRADY: --I just kept comparing her to you.


SYLVIA: Why would you tell me that?


BRADY: How many people have you been with since we --

SYLVIA: I don't want to talk about it.

BRADY: You asked me.

SYLVIA: You didn't have to answer.

BRADY: That's such bullshit.

SYLVIA: What? You didn't.

BRADY: Whatever.

SYLVIA: Don't whatever me.

BRADY: Uh . . . fu . . . shi . . . okay. Fine.


SYLVIA: This is stupid.


BRADY: I know.


SYLVIA: So, why don't we just go.


BRADY: Okay.


(BRADY exits)

The Good Doctor

The Doctor - a fat, mid 30's woman with obvious cleavage
J.R. - a man in his early 20's with a straight face
K.C. - a man in his mid 20's with a southern accent

A hotel bar, in Chicago. THE DOCTOR, JR, and KC are sitting around a table, drinking beer.

DOCTOR: Jeff said you guys all were in some class together in Delaware or something.

JR: Jeff is a serious opiate addict. He's always making shit up. It was probably a hallucination.

DOCTOR: He is? No, he's not. Is he?

KC: Could be. I don't know these guys.

DOCTOR: I thought you all knew each other.

JR: We do, now.


JR: Well, I'm Jeff's dealer.

DOCTOR: Why would you be his dealer?

JR: Huh? Oh. The money's good. Anyway, we're here on business. Andrew, that prep-school asshole with the sideburns that left a minute ago, is our Michigan contact.

DOCTOR: He and I were making out. I got up to go to the bathroom and he just left.

JR: Now you know why our Michigan division is doing so badly.


JR: I wouldn't take it personally. He's a complete speedfreak and he behaves erratically.

DOCTOR: He does speed?

JR: Are you kidding? He's on speed right now.

DOCTOR: He is not!

JR: Oh, yes he is. We came up here . . . Jeff and I. . .to deal with this very problem.

DOCTOR: You know I'm a doctor.

JR: Then you should recognize speedfreaks and opiate addicts. (drinks) Actually, it'll be good to have a doctor around to keep Andrew from bleeding to death when I cut off his fingers.