I used to run up around the school and then down Rainier Street on the way back home. Someone I was supposed to meet lived there. I worked out like a bastard animal to get in shape for varsity football. I played for an incredibly intense, incredibly successful high school football coach. With my animal workouts, I got to be the fastest player on my team. They timed us semi-regularly. 40-yard dash. Admittedly, we didn't have a particularly fast football team; nevertheless, I was the fastest. I was also the third strongest guy on the team. The only two guys who could bench press more than me were huge linemen who outweighed my average build by about 50 pounds, so I would HOPE that they could out-bench-press me!
I had actually started the offseason conditioning program stronger than even those two guys, but once the regular after-school workouts started in earnest as a team, then pretty soon, when it came to the bench press, it felt like I had a four-cylinder-engined car that was competing against a couple cars with eight-cylinder engines: I may have had a head start on them, but it was inevitable that they would pass me.
The week before football season started was also the week before the high school year started. Someone I was supposed to meet later went to my same high school. This last week of practice before the football season started was traditionally called "Hell Week," because of the penultimate intensity of the full-pads, double-a-day football practices in the sweltering heat of late August. We practiced and panted like dogs, both morning and afternoon. Most guys had to drive or get dropped off to practice. But my parents lived three houses up from a park that led to the high school and the practice field. It was literally a five or six-minute walk for me. This was how I acquired my nickname among my teammates.
For the early-morning practices, the hot August sun was not yet tormenting and crippling, it was so damnably early that the first practice of the day started. The grass would actually be cool. There would be a low, fine mist above the landscaped, freshly sprinklered grass in that park.
Because I lived so close to the school and the field, I didn't have to put my football pads on in the locker room like the other guys. I would put my pads and everything on in my bedroom, even my cleats, and I'd then walk out my downstairs sliding-glass door and go clockety-clock-clackety down the sidewalk in full football pads, helmet dangling from one arm. And then I would have to cut through that freshly sprinklered, misty-manicured lawn in the park to get to the practice field. Did I mention it was damnably early? My teammates would be exiting the locker room or already stretching on the field. They would see me coming as a ghostly, mist-shrouded figure. I would emerge, apparition-like, through the misty morning fog, fully padded up to play.
Now, at the time, and for a long time, the central playground feature of this park, right in the middle of the sandbox I had to walk through to get to practice, was a rather unique, three-story, metal-encaged, playground rocket for climbing. Little kids could climb up its three segmented stories, and they could slide down the descending slide sticking out from the side of the middle, metal segment. Someone I was supposed to meet used to climb up there later on with a pencil wedged sideways in her full lips and a journal in her hand; all by herself she would write in her journal from the inevitable third story of the rocket, inevitable because its lofty isolation beckoned her. As it did for me, later, but my beckoning call from its alluring isolation was more for beer drinking and deep pondering, at the time.
But my mystified teammates would see me emerging from the fog next to this huge, yellow, metal rocket. And I became known as "Rocket Man." I wish it had something to do with my having been the fastest player on the team. But no, my team nickname had a much less heroic, and much weirder origin than that.
In the 1970s, they had these ant-farm toys for kids. It was like a series of small, rectangular, clear-plastic, mini-aquariums you could interconnect with flexible, clear tubing. It came with a coupon to send away for your free batch of ants to be sent to you in the mail. You can’t call it a colony, because they wouldn’t send you the queen ant, just the workers. Once the workers all died, that was it. No more ants.
I, however, preferred to collect my own ants. That way, I’d never run out. It just so happened that the same exact species of ant that the ant-farm people would send out were also native and plentiful where I grew up as a boy.
My favorite thing to do when I was about four, five, and six years old was to walk down the street with an empty metal coffee can and a stick and look for red ant hills. They weren’t hard to find, once you recognized the telltale giveaway signs all around their holes, plus all the red ants coming in and going out.
Despite the ant-farm people mailing them all over the world to little kids, these red ants bit and stung like bastards. That didn’t bother me, though. I was always too fascinated by their behavior to care too much about the stings around my ankles, once they crawled up my shoes and got past my socks. They were vicious little buggers. Although I did try smearing Vaseline on my shoes one time to make them slip off or else get stuck, but that didn’t work at all. They just crawled right over the Vaseline like it was nothing. If anything, the Vaseline gave the ants better gription.
One time I went to one of my favorite red-ant hills down the street where I knew there was a nest, and there were TONS of them crawling all over the ground. They had all come up on top and had left their underground tunnels. Many of them had wings and were bigger than the workers. These were crawling up whatever they could find and then spreading their wings and flying off, or else they were taking off right from the ground if they could. They were flying off in all directions, all around me. It was amazing! It was clearly a great big deal in their Kingdom of the Ants down there.
I was five. But I deduced what was going on. These were the queens. They were going off to start new red ant hills. I felt overjoyed, like I had happened upon something famous. It was a miracle. This was rare and a special event. And when it was happening, I’m sure my legs all stung up more than just the usual amount of times, but I don’t remember any of that. I only remember marveling how I had made a big discovery about the ant world.
And I looked down right then and I saw it. The yellow one. The one and only time I have ever seen a yellow red ant. It was different from all the rest. But none of the others were attacking it, so you knew it was still one of them. It’s the only way you could tell. It was so different, it stuck out like a sore thumb. And there was only one of them. I had stumbled onto my second big discovery about the Kingdom of the Ants all in one day, and all at the same ant hill: There was such a thing as a yellow red ant.
I was the only kid to ever see such a thing. There were lots of kids at my kindergarten, but none of them had a ant farm, and none of them even cared about ants. Just me. I was the only one.
Indiana Kissed Me Goodbye
Indiana kissed me goodbye when I left. Never had a thing like that happen. Not to this day.
My dysfunctional parents decided to move us back to Southern California, after getting us all worked up about moving to Indiana two years previously. They decided to do that after first figuring out a way to squander all of their money in Indiana first.
Good going, Mom and Dad.
It was late spring. My parents had decided on a trip to the lake for our last weekend in Indiana. Uncharacteristically, Mom went. The lake they chose was the lake right behind our Indiana elementary school, the place where I’d found that salamander at recess under that rock, the only salamander I’d ever caught in my life. There aren’t any salamanders where we came from—where we’re going back to now—so I was showing everyone. They thought I was weird. Mrs. Fay said I should let it go. Of course I was going to let it go. But I was from some other planet to those Indiana kids, because to them it was just a salamander. So what?
This lake was one of scores and scores of small, natural lakes in the region. In California, we’d go to the beach; in Indiana, you go to the lake. So here we were. Our last weekend, and we were finally doing an Indiana thing as a whole family.
It felt a lot like a trip to the beach, too. Me and my brother were in our swimming trunks. Dad was in his cut-off pants for swimming shorts. Mom sat on shore with my baby brother, but also because she hates the water. Whenever she wasn’t saying anything, it was fun.
When you first walk in the water, it starts to go from blue to clear all around you, as you start to step in and go deeper. I got to where the water came up to my ten-year-old waist, and then, about a thousand identical tiny fish swam up to my bare legs and started kissing them. It was a whole school of them, all taking turns kissing my legs. Somehow, even then, I knew this was a thing you could never get to happen in Southern California, not in a million years.
The wildlife in California was always so much more standoffish. Not Indiana animals. From birds flying right in front of your car, to fish kissing you on your legs, to fish always biting your hook, Indiana’s more plentiful animals were so much less wary of humans in general.
I could see these silvery fish swimming all about my legs and I could feel them kissing me. It looked like a thousand little aquarium fish. It felt like little nibbles on my skin, and their nibbles felt like hundreds of tiny butterfly kisses on the skin of my legs.
We were going back to California. We were leaving Indiana for good. And Indiana was saying goodbye. The fish were saying it. They were saying it on behalf of the fireflies and the luna moths and the nightcrawlers that couldn’t make it because they only come out at nighttime; the fish were saying it for the spotted salamanders and the striped salamanders and the mottled salamanders under all the rocks that also come out only at nighttime; the fish were saying it for the birds that got killed on the front of our car and the red foxes that only climbed onto neighbors’ roofs in town, but disappeared out here completely because they knew my Uncle Curt was hunting for them, but there in town, he wasn’t allowed to shoot one. He could get in trouble.
Winston the Savage
This actually happened. I opened 1984 by George Orwell and I opened Brave New World by Orwell’s one-time teacher at Eton, Aldous Huxley, and I went over both books with a fine-tooth comb and I counted 32 separate and specific awful things that were anticipated by Orwell in 1984, and 19 separate and specific awful things different from 1984 that were anticipated by Huxley in Brave New World, and I became in my own real life an amalgam of Winston Smith from 1984 and John the Savage from Brave New World.
Every time I hear the latest lies from the mainstream news I live it, and every time Big Pharma tries to kill me and make a profit off me and mine I live it, and every time I see government perverting the Hegelian Dialectic using false-flag psychological operations in order to push through totalitarianism, I live it. Orwell and Huxley predicted it. It’s here now. I don’t like being reminded what happened to the respective anti-heroes in those two stories because I will probably be forced into something most unfortunate like they were, however, I do have a faith and a worldview that has ultimate hope and eternal life at the end of it, unlike those stories—but first I’ll probably be hounded down and have to be killed in this life, because just like those two characters from those two stories, I too have a low tolerance for tyranny and a strong penchant for questioning its authority over me.
She said no. Again. AGAIN she said no. I can’t even BELIEVE this.
“Look, we haven’t had sex for MONTHS. I can’t TAKE it anymore.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about needing a female body and I DON’T HAVE ONE AVAILABLE TO ME. Do you know where I can find one?”
“Look, I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about,” my ‘wife’ said. “We have sex ALL THE TIME.”
“When?!? No. We don’t. We have SEASONAL sex. Once every three months. And lately, it’s been every SIX months!”
“Zeke. Listen to me. I’ve been keeping track. I know EXACTLY how many times we’ve had sex.”
“Yeah. So do I! It’s once every six months. Apparently, I’m the only one who needs it, so I’m the one who knows.”
“Zeke. ZEKE. Look at me. Look. Listen to me. I’ve been keeping a log. I have an ongoing agenda ALL about this. I’ve made a list of all the times we’ve been having sex for the past TWO YEARS, and it’s WAY MORE THAN THAT.”
“What are you talking about? Are you living in the same world as me, or what?!”
“You’re so disorganized, you don’t even know what’s going on, do you?”
“What are you even TALKING about?!”
“I’m talking about sex, Zeke. What are YOU talking about? See? You don’t even know, do you?”
“You see? You don’t even know what we’re even talking about right this instant. You can’t even keep track of this conversation right now. And I’m supposed to go by you?? You want me to go by YOUR numbers?? YOU need to get your FACTS STRAIGHT first.”
“No. No. What are you even SAYING?!”
“You see? This is why. This is why I’ve been keeping a log for all this time. For exactly this reason. You’re ALWAYS accusing me of things. Things I DIDN’T DO!”
I got nothing. I have nothing now. I am talking to something I don’t even recognize.
She wasn’t finished. The last say had to hers, as usual, as always. “We have sex ALL. THE. TIME. You don’t even REMEMBER it, so I guess that’s how UNIMPORTANT it was to you.”
(And I am so brainwashed, so gaslit, so beaten down by attritional narcissistic abuse and my own codependency that I don’t even think to call her lying-ass out, call her bullshit bluff, and ask to see this non-existent log upon which she had been keeping a non-existent record of all the non-existent sex we had been having for years.)
She was the greatest kisser I had ever kissed up to that point. Her lips mirrored my lips’ every move, every jot and tittle. all night long. If I deliberately twinged a tiny muscle on my top-right lip to tickle the top-left lip on her, she correspondingly twinged her top-left lip in the same place to tickle my right, and it became a dueling duo of twinging, tickling upper lips; if I nibbled a spot anywhere on her lip, she playfully nibbled mine right back in the same exact spot, mirroring everything my lips were doing at any given moment. Her lips danced the dance of my lips, same exact dance as mine, whatever I did, mirror for mirror, her tongue the same, step for step, all the way not home.
I thought it was because she liked me. I thought it was because we were simpatico, were compatible, so complementary, so right for each other. My mind did not yet know what a narcissist was, my eyes could not yet see the demon behind the veil of her coal-black dolls’ eyes, the one controlling her from the spirit world, making the lipsticked meatsuit move and mimic and mirror.
I wriggled in bed with her, with it, as an unwary caterpillar as the wasp laid its eggs. Over the next decade and a half—more, actually—its larvae hatched, burrowed into my skin, and fed on my internal organs.
I was hungover when I got hit with that hot grenade. There was nothing to drink but the hot dog water in the cooler. Even the beers were wiped out.
Camping with these older guys, Don LaRue and his friend—Don’s the older brother of Kenny’s girlfriend; Kenny’s our fishing buddy; he's a dick; he gets chicks; not us.
It was an accident how we got hooked up together, how we went camping with these two older guys. These guys had it all together in life. They were fricking COOL. And they were hanging out with US. It just sort of started by accident when they were playing the Violent Femmes out of their car when dropping Kenny off at our house. Dude, we’re ALL into the Femmes for years now, we told them. I think that impressed them. Then we told them about our lake. Lake Zeecans. It’s our secret spot right off the freeway.
Then it just sort of happened. Grab your stuff and hop in. Let’s do it. Beers were had. Blankets forgotten, mainly. Hot dogs were had. Dewey was there. He got the cooler and offered to drive us all. Dewey Strox. That's what WE called him. His driving skills were a thing of legend.
Those older guys were way cool. They knew Kenny. Kenny was boning Don’s little sister, so yeah, I guess you could say they were cool with each other. Now they met the rest of us.
We listened to that Violent Femmes cassette all the way up there in Dewey’s truck, and the next day all the way back down. We sang it together, harmonized with the Femmes, all of us piled in Dewey’s truck, and because it was the Femmes, our shitty voices matched the Femmes guy’s voice so perfectly, when we got back the next day and were hanging out, all of us out front, Mom came out and yelled for us to stop our damn singing. But it wasn’t us. That was the Femmes playing in Dewey’s truck right then. This was right before seat belt tickets. All of us had piled into the back campershell of the legendary Red Ox’s red truck, there and back, sticking our heads through the back window into the cab so we could sing along with the Violent Femmes together with these older guys who were riding shotgun and bitch up there with Dewey and were cool.
We never did do any fishing. Just camping and drinking beer and bullshitting, us young guys and these two guys that had been seniors at our high school when we had just been freshmen still.
At one point in the middle of the night the beers ran out. I won't tell you what our friend Dewey did. Stupid ass teenagers. We thought we lost him. Thought we were stranded out there. He made it back, though. We heard him before we saw him. He was blasting MAY THE ROAD RISE WITH YOU by P.I.L. in his own truck that he also drove up there. Johnny Rotten was his hero. And that night, Dewey was our hero. He became legendary in our collective memory of what happened, all that we did, and how many beers we drank and slammed and belched after.
Then it was morning. Should have told Dewey to get some water. How dry I am. How dry are all of us.
"What water we got?"
Only water is what's left inside the cooler, the melted ice that had the hot dogs in it. Hot dogs had been opened. Floating before they had even got eaten. Melted ice hot dog water. Yum.
"Want some hot dog water?"
Somebody screwed up here.
"You gotta be shitting me. Hot dog water is all we got?"
F-ck it. Water's water. We were only camping one night anyway.
Don's friend Clint sat next to me the next morning by our almost extinct campfire from last night‘s adventures. We're all gathered around it, next morning, shooting the shit before we gotta get up and get out of here. Clint's the other older guy who went camping out here with us. Looks like he’s got it all down pat; here's a guy who came prepared. These older guys, they really got it down in life. Check it out, he brought a can of chili. He'd set it by those few, still-orangey, ashy parts on the outskirts of our mostly dead fire when he‘d first got up before us that morning. Damn. Chili sounds good. This guy's a veteran. Knows what he's doing. Alls WE brought were those damn hot dogs.
He takes out a knife he also brought, and he flicks it at the top of the can of chili to get it out of the fire, rolls it over to himself between his legs on the dirt. Nobody says it, but all of us are jealous, gathered around, watching him and hungry as hell. Here the can stands on the sand right before him. He puts the knife tip to the top-center of the can with one hand, picks up a big rock with the other hand, and bangs on the butt of the knife with—
"Shit! Oh, SHIT that's hot!"
Five teenagers scatter in all directions and one man down. Or so I though; that’s what my burns on me were telling me. Each of us hit by bits of molten hot chili to varying, burning, scarring degrees and hissing and howling.
"Oh, shit, that's hot! Oh, SHIT, that's HOT!"
Shaking off limbs, wiping off faces. Some of us on our knees, rubbing dirt on our wounds. I was blown backward off my log. My cheek, chin, and both forearms burned. For a moment I'd thought I'd got it the worst, since I’d been sitting next to him.
But when the smoke all cleared and the shock wore off, I saw that Clint had flecks of smoldering chili spotted all over his arms, hands, legs, and face. He sat motionless, still with the exploded can of chili between his legs. I thought he was still in shock. But nope. He knew how to handle it. Didn’t even flinch, this guy.
"Fuck," he says. And then he just says, "Fuck," again. Like it was nothing.
Dude, I hope I'm that cool when I'm his age.
Dad taught me to be codependent.
Mom taught me that love oscillates wildly, never stable, altogether unsettled and unsettling, full of hugs and cheek-kisses and spoken, doting affections, until another storm of curse words and the lightning-striking “less thans” roll in and out and in again, striking my father, striking him less than, striking us kids, striking us less than, four-letter thunders splitting off the ceiling of our house, off our many faces we make up there in the ceiling stucco, lying here, looking up at the stucco, staring, wondering when she’ll stop. When will Best Mommy in the Whole Wide World come back?
Five minutes, ten minutes, an hour probably. Any minute now.
The only thing that’s predictable.
And then sometimes these storms in her bring the tornadoes of her checking. Checking, checking, always checking. Abandoned babies in the back seats of parked cars, in open dumpsters, in neighbor’s left-open garage doors. Oh please, guy up the street, close your damn garage door, don’t leave it open again, not at night, or she’ll get Dad out of bed again. Midnight. Drag him if she has to. Always at midnight. Dad’s got to drive her, drive her around to go check. Checking. Checking. She’s just gotta check. She saw something again. Again, all over again. She just needs to check, she just needs to check, that’s all. Can’t you guys understand? What if she really did see something? What if it really WAS a baby? Wouldn’t you want to rescue it? What if God gave her these powers, just for this reason? And these brothers of mine, all my younger brothers that aren’t really my brothers anymore—they’re really just replicas left behind by aliens over and over and over again until they’re less than, too, less than, like me, because I saw it all, I saw it when she was normal, I think, I don’t know, I’m still unsettled about it. Always will be, I suppose.
The Lochness Monster, Bigfoot, the Chupacabra, and my Narcissistic Ex’s Unused Sexy Underwear
One of the most bizarre, mysterious, head-scratching things my narcissistic-personality-disordered ex ever did was buy some articles of skimpy, sexy lingerie . . . and leave them hanging in the closet, gathering dust,--and someday there would have been moths eating them out, too, if I had let the hell go on.
At least something would have been being eaten out.
She never even took the tags off them. Otherwise I'd be worried, if the narcissist had ever taken the tags off.
And the rubber sex toys she kept in her nightstand next to the bed. Also never used with me. Never used at all, I think. And I'd be worried here, too, if she'd ever taken them out of the wrappers and boxes.
I asked her once or twice, "What's with the sex toys? what's with the lingerie? if you're never even going to use them?"
All I ever got from her was another word salad. And more word salad.
It's like she bought those things just to have them. Just to show she could do it: Stay allergic to sex, stay as completely and totally sexless as you can, even with all this sex gear here within reach of the bed.
Not like we share that, either.
Yeah.—You know?—It’s like a fully recovered alcoholic who now steels his resolve by placing himself near where alcohol flows, then he resolutely flexes his willpower by abstaining from it when it’s right there. I think my fully frigid ex did the same thing, but with sex. She steeled her resolve to never have sex with me by buying all of those sex things, placing them right near the bed, then flexing her willpower against sex by abstaining from it even when everything was all right there.
Again, if only the store tags had been cut off those things, if only they'd have been taken out of their packages, if their brand-newness wasn't so obvious, then I'd be scared shitless by how many dudes I was sharing her with. I know ALL about what narcs can do.
NOW I do, anyway.
But the tags were on, the brand-newness was on them, and so I chalk this one right up there with the Lochness Monster, Bigfoot, and the Chupacabra.