I didn’t smoke weed, and I didn’t drink, but under the fluorescent lights of Canal Street Station I feel like a thing that slithers. Somehow my fingernails got dirty. I was walking with the girl who I was formerly obsessed with, and I was telling her what I thought was a very interesting story. What I know was an interesting story, in fact, from her gasps every time we hit a pivotal point. And then, in the middle, we ran into some old friends of hers she hadn’t seen in a while. She’s from here and she’s popular, so this happens a lot. There were eight of them. Normally I would just smile and shake everyone’s hand and all that, but I just couldn’t give a fuck about these people and how they knew each other and anything like that, so I stood off to the side and waited for her to ask for her bag so she could go with them. I enjoyed the breeze and I checked my phone. Finally she called me over and her friends were like wtf why are you just standing over there! Meanwhile she had just asked minutes ago why I never do what I want. So that was the thing I wanted, to not talk to these people. I was really fine with her leaving with them, very convenient escape for me, but I did not want to meet them all for no reason. But I did anyway because what kind of asshole would I have to be to hand her her bag and say goodbye and nothing else. So I shook hands with every single one of them. There were people she didn’t even know and I shook hands with them, too. One guy said now repeat our names back to us. I said, I value you guys as people but I don’t have a memory like that. Everyone thought that was funny. You had to be there. So now I look awesome. From weirdo to awesome in sixty seconds. After five excruciating minutes where everyone tried to pretend that we could have an inclusive conversation, they ask what’s up next. I hand my friend her bag and say goodbye, shaking hands with enthusiasm and warmth and real kindness in my eyes. Eight people I will never see again, now they all have a piece of my soul. The train just won’t seem to arrive.
I guess, like many children who were raised as Christians, I’ve always had a problem with sex. I didn’t even have actual sex with my girlfriend of three years from the age of 16 to 19 because it was one of the hard lines of Christian morality that I would not cross. All I did as a teenager was think about sex, but I knew I mustn’t act on the thoughts. I even felt super guilty when I masturbated.
When I met the woman who became my wife, she was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist her. I didn’t tell her until months in that I was deeply religious and had felt that all the sex we were having was a sin. She thought that was weird and kind of hurtful. Immediately after that conversation, we had the best sex we had ever had up to that point.
Two years into our relationship, I stopped believing in God. I derided any kind of belief in anything, even that the color of a t-shirt could be known, and prided myself on not being delusional. I began to internalize that life was a cruel joke.
Sometimes after that, my wife would want to have sex, but I wouldn’t feel like it. I would be too busy thinking about how I’m going to get myself out of this hell. I thought the answer was make more money so that everyone could leave me alone, so that I could stay home and brood and not have to do shit.
One of the few things I still enjoyed (with the other things being eating and doing drugs, mostly alcohol), was courtship: the parts leading up to sex that you were technically allowed to do as an evangelical. I assumed it was too late to court my wife, so I would court girls at work. Mostly they were girls I didn’t find attractive, so there was no danger of me getting caught up. Sometimes they were girls I found attractive, but who were used to the game and would play along with no interest in going any further.
But on two occasions, it seemed that I had found a soulmate.
The first girl did a lot of drugs, so we were able to forget about our problems and just live in the moment. Before anything happened sexually, she had some kind of breakdown and disappeared for a few days. In the time it took for her to re-establish connection, I seriously contemplated suicide one day and got fired from my job for blacking out at work and being creepy the next.
The second girl, this recent one, doesn’t drink, so instead of just checking out, we have long talks in which she challenges everything that I believe.
I had to ask myself, did I make a mistake getting married? At first I thought the answer was yes. Slowly, very slowly, I realized that I didn’t really love this girl. I loved the idea I had of her, and what my life could be like if I wasn’t bound by the only thing that kept me in the world of the living: my wife.
Why hadn’t I broken up with my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, when I decided that life was meaningless and cruel? If nothing mattered, why couldn’t I just leave her and do drugs and listen to music and fuck the world?
This girl made me think. Why does that happen? There was a girl in Boston who made me think.
Sure I’m always thinking, but I’m usually thinking the same thing. Some variation of the same thing.
But in these two instances, all the lights in my head went on for a blinding few seconds. Then they went out with a hiss and I found myself on cold, damp, soft weird shit, just shivering there.
A neurotic mess: myself, but worse.
The first descent in darkness was interrupted with some real practical type shit. I got fired, so I had to find a job and make money fast and I’m no good at that. Working seven days a week saved me from suicide or enlightenment.
Then this most recent descent.
My inner life was cruising along at medium shitty, nice and comfy. Then I met her and the ride got bumpy. I thought, why these moments of transcendence, mixed with these hours of extreme neurosis and nausea?
I asked: why am I stuck in this marriage, why can’t I just do what I want, why don’t I ever do drugs or listen to music in the dark or jump off cliffs?
Then I found the answer to why I don’t do those things. It wasn’t because I’m married. It’s because I believe that life is stupid and pointless, and I believe that if it was designed, it was designed to fuck with me.
Ten years ago, when I found out Genesis didn’t really happen, I laughed and said, you’ll never fool me again, Culture. Society. White men in long robes. Fuck y’all. I bought a bottle of Chivas, like my new hero Hunter Thompson, and I went to fuckin town.
Ten years I believed in nothing. You don’t know! I said to everyone. You don’t know shit, none of you do because none of you can, and anyone that thinks they know anyone is deluding themselves. And more power to those assholes, because I’d love to be able to delude myself. But I couldn’t delude myself. I had seen the truth, and it was an abyss.
Ten years I worked in restaurants thinking that the reason I didn’t get out of it was that I wasn’t using my free time effectively.
Ten years and longer than that, I lied with abandon, fashioning a chameleon armor around my starving, angry soul to keep everything away, to keep alive in a world that couldn’t give a shit.
But how is it that these two girls broke in where others didn’t?
Probably something to do with sex and something else to do with my mother.
Gotta go, bitches. More later.
Spoiler alert: I still don’t believe, and I’m still married.
If you give me a secret, I’ll give you one in return. I’ll lock yours up with what’s left of mine. The fuller the box gets, the lighter it seems. Sometimes I wonder, though, what you’ll do with mine.
I do my best to guard others against discomfort, especially those closest to me. Turns out it’s not helpful, it’s impossible in the long term, and it hurts me.
Have faith in your innate ability to understand the music.
I woke up from a dream of dancing. Filled with grace and joy, I could only express a kind of jerky willingness to participate.
How pointless it is to talk to yourself when you’re not even listening.
When I started lying, I didn’t know the evil inherent in convenience.
I heard that delaying gratification is a skill that predicts success, but I forgot that it’s a dangerous thing to do when you might die tomorrow.