There is a Bit of Optimism at the End

I don’t trust my parents. I trust other people’s parents, just not my own. When a person has a kid, the truth becomes less important. Instead, a father might delude himself in the pursuit of comfort and stability. Everything is supposed to be okay. It isn’t. But it is supposed to be. Parents are the people responsible for conveying that message. I’m going to have lots of children. This way, delusion might drain the browning ankle-deep kiddie pool in my backyard. I’m not going to do it myself.

Everything seems anecdotal when it comes from someone who cares about your survival. I don’t do trust very well, particularly with people who care.

“I don’t want to die.”

I was six years old when I first thought about death. I remember my dad mentioning something about me being a young Woody Allen as I buried my head in my mother’s lap and sobbed.

All I wanted to hear was, “Me neither.” But no.

Instead, “It won’t happen for a long, long while.”

Their half-assed consolation (insulting in the magnitude of its half-assed-ness) was eventually condensed to ‘a long while.’ Soon it will be just a while. And in a while, it will be soon. I try not to talk about it anymore.

Back in 2006, a kid named Nick died unexpectedly while he was playing basketball somewhere in Maine or New Hampshire or Vermont. The distinguishing border is unimportant. He lost his breath. His heart gave out. He was just a kid. I was the same age. I didn’t know him, but I saw him once. It was a real tragedy. He was much better at being a kid than I was. And I could only think about myself. His parents probably told him he had a long time too.

Maybe I don’t want to be a parent. You can teach your kids whatever you want, but sooner or later, something will come along that contradicts you. It will blow a hole through the facade of your experience and seduce your tenuous credibility, the same credibility for which you’ve forgone somewhere between three and six experiences with prostitutes. Luckily, I have no credibility yet. It might be easy to attain but it seems impossible to preserve. I don’t know if it’s worth it.

In fifth grade, my teacher wanted me to die by suicide. She didn’t say it that way, but she meant it as the eventual outcome. May. We called our teachers by their first names. Perhaps the administration figured that as long as we didn’t know their surnames, we couldn’t hunt them down when we grew up.

I don’t blame May. I was disorganized and had a nervous laugh to the point where every other breath came out accidentally. I was an easy target. If only I could have been more self-aware… I would have chosen to be different.

But there I was. As myself. With little idea as to how I could prevent a daily berating. At least I got some attention. I wasn’t one of those kids in the middle of the pack that would later go on to be a notary or low-ranking non-profit employee who actually makes a difference (that no one cares about). Instead, I was at the bottom, destined for a life of revenge against no one in particular. All because I had a nemesis in my formative years, someone I could dream about burning alive over and over again. It’s something you learn to practice. And no matter what, it’s a want that never goes away. When you hate someone deeply, it takes up most of your time.

On my birthday, my mom came to class because that is what we did for birthdays at my school. At dismissal, I was packing up my things, talking to a friend. My mom overheard May say to me, “Don’t talk to Skyler. Everyone knows he can’t do two things at once.” I learned a lot about my weaknesses that year. And while it may have been true, it wasn’t right. My mom was pissed off. She set up a meeting with the school psychologist and the teacher to experience, for the first time, catharsis by means of confrontation. It was uncomfortable, but I did it. I don’t remember what I said, but it was probably something like, “You’re completely right about me, but when you broadcast my flaws, it hurts my feelings.”

Back then, I had the luxury of using my feelings as a rationale to ask someone to modify their behavior. This no longer works. These days I get pissed off when someone uses their feelings against me. I can’t control how they feel. They can’t even control how they feel. And as much as I try not to care, their feelings knock on my door when I’m fast asleep. They are like the moat of urine in the public bathroom. There’s nothing I can do about the ecruswamp at my feet. I’m wearing shoes so I’ll just suck it up. And I’m not going to use a stall. I’ve stepped in piss before. Hell, I’ve stepped in shit before. Not human shit, but all shit is the same shit. For the rest of the year, May continued to pick on me. Nothing changed.

I’m willing to bet that she felt the same way about death.

My second-grade teacher didn’t like me either. Ms. Mukherjee. I asked a lot of questions. That’s what I thought we were encouraged to do. I guess there is a line that you’re not supposed to cross because she limited me to two questions per day. If I were less oblivious, it would have killed my curiosity. But my curiosity is still very much alive, unfortunately.

I’m not saying that curiosity is bad, but it is problematic for me because I’m afraid of the truth. I’ll use death as an example. The more I explore it, the closer I get to making a decision. I know that it is real and I’m pretty sure that it lasts forever, but I’m still deciding if that is a curse or a blessing. I guess it depends on how rich I become. Or how healthy my relationships grow to be. I don’t want to be an old person who resents younger people for having more time. I don’t want to undress my wounds to see an abundance of scars left by decisions I never made.

And everything is scarring. Most people call it nostalgia. They can find a way to reflect on the past productively. For me, that feeling is almost always about the present. Of course, I would love to be transported to a time where things were a bit simpler and I didn’t need someone to put a finger in my ass in order to come. I don’t (yet), but you get my point. When I hear a song that I’ve nearly forgotten, I find myself wishing that this was the first time (there may be no such thing as “nearly” forgotten when it comes to music). It brings me back to what it first meant, a tone that will never change regardless of any new context or pain.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to be alive, I really am. On the other hand, I regret having lived at all. I can’t imagine myself making the most of it.

But perhaps.