"Come and Get Me"
Originally published in Five Points, Volume 12, Number 3
I know I drink too much, but it's not easy living seasonally, no matter what you people may imagine. The rest of the year we're all looking to get out, not that it's in our best interest or yours to communicate that. "We have a house here," you say (and mean that you actually live somewhere else but love to pretend to think you'd be happy here year-round) to which I say, "I have a house here too," when what I mean is "I have a fucking house here too, which I can barely fucking afford, thanks to you and my ex-wife."
The millennium got off to a bad start with your court-ordered presidential election, when we got ourselves one of you second-home kids opting out of the competitive burdens of the top tier by becoming a year-rounder. Giving your vowels more room than your consonants is always a sign, always a fucking clue. Oh, sure, you're a cowboy—you'd call yourself a lobsterman around here—but you wish like crazy that you didn't waste your childhood learning ballroom dancing. Spare us, OK?
What I wonder is where were you, Mr. President, when my stupid crazy son who takes after me might as well have stepped on one of your fucking landmines? It was a Jet Ski stunt like your own bragging underachieving party-time kid might have tried to pull off too, but it's just like you not to bother trying to identify. You could be sitting right here at the bar nursing your O'Doul's Amber and mouthing something totally useless like, "If there's anything I can do to help," when you know damn well I live from paycheck to paycheck, if that.
My question to you, Sir, is how hopeless do you think I am? And how hopeless am I? How unable am I to do right by my son? How hopeless, thanks to me—and you—will he be?
"You and he both fooled me exactly none of the time!" my ex-wife told me when I first got the idea of blaming you for it. But don't you think for a minute that my boy or I ever deserved this, because in his own way he was only trying to make ends meet that day, just like every other day in the life of a kid with high school teachers who couldn't be bothered to wise him up. He wasn't reckless by nature, I'm saying, unless you want to call that contagious glee of his a fault. He got that from me too, needless to say, except at least I was given the chance· to outlast mine.
People like you often ask which is more dangerous, a Jet Ski or a snowmobile, but isn't it obvious along a rocky coastline that it's all about the fucking ledge? Mine never had your poppy's cigarette boat to play around on, but he could read lobster pots before he ever opened a book, so it isn't like he was ignorant. He must have been showing off for some below-average multimillionaire's son-sound familiar?—or else he'd be sitting right here next to me instead of slumped in his wheelchair on the rehab ward. Does it matter to you that it fucking breaks my heart to have my sharp kid's narrowed eyes fixed open into that gullible stare of the brain impaired?
Don't you ever wonder how much less harm you might have achieved in some other walk of life? I ask myself this about you all the time, on the remote chance that you regret your presidency more than anybody. God knows your parents are mortified, but I'm not one to cry for Argentina, believe me. I was barely hanging on as it was, is my point, so you truly ought to be ashamed of yourself, even if I can see you aren't. Here's another thing that depresses me: you and I have the same birthday, not that you'd be capable of caring. And don't go calling the Secret Service on me or anything, but I wouldn't mind it at all if there was some way to arrange our dying on the same day-too.
I'm ready, is what I'm trying to tell you. Remember the expression "I'm outta here," my ex-wife's favorite?
When you and I were boys I wasn't a loser yet—were you?—so I definitely could have used a role model like you had. No, don't bother arguing the poor-me, absentee-parent thing, because we locals know all about your family's gated Vacationland Peninsula, and we've all seen those photos of the two of you in your matching nylon windbreakers wearing the presidential seal like it's your fucking family crest.
My own dad was a roofer, of the original sort, who never wore a harness. When he fell off his scaffolding one foggy day it made the other guys feel better to blame it on one-too-many, but it would have killed him anyway to live long enough to end up feeling the way I do. He was careless, is all, and even though he had a wife who tried to reform him—so that makes three of us—what else is there to do in this town? I have my regular seat here at the bar where anyone can find me, which is as good as any office. And even though they say you should never do unto others what was done unto you, I say there's something worse than to become a fatherless son, which is to become a sonless father.
Which would you prefer? To die on the spot like my dad, or to live like my boy barely hanging on as a poster child for the neurosurgery department of some fucking teaching hospital? My dad would know what to do too, and since we all know you're strictly the either/or type yourself, it's easy to imagine your all-too-quick answer. But hold on a second.
I'm sitting here minding my own business when, through the drone of sportscaster chat and nobody at the bar quite up to humoring the credit card set with more of those lame-ass lies about how we're all in this together, I begin to get in my mind an image the size of a billboard, of the ocean's endless supply of waves coming on in, one after the other, all the same. I'm staring into space like an idiot, but I'm concentrating, because after every ten or a dozen identical waves there's the odd one to disrupt the regularity. This one doesn't look all that different, just a bit higher or rounder or whatever, but once I notice this, I see how this rhythm is becoming the new pattern of waves—the new monotony—so now I'm not quite sure what to think.
I decide to have another while I keep a close eye on it, and though this silently moving picture has got to be some kind of message—what the fuck?—it's soothing to focus on something bigger than me. I can't tell if it's meant to be in black and white or color, but it must not matter. As usual, I'm in no hurry to call it a night, only this time I wouldn't call myself drunk.
On my drive home I'm naturally in the mood to see it for real, and because the full moon is like a floodlight, I know I can. I'd leave the truck running except for the price of gas—don't get me started in on you again—but I might be here for a while anyway. This could take time, because here's my new question: what if life isn't only about either dying in a flash or it being dragged out forever?
I'm watching the water carefully now, and it's true that the ocean seems to have within it this capacity to be more than it is. If it wasn't the middle of the night by now I know there'd be some dumb-ass surfer out here who could probably explain why there's the one particular wave he decides to go with even when they all look alike. But I wouldn't want his company anyhow.
I get back into my truck and drive to where I began this night with the frozen burrito that I wasn't in the mood for once I discovered it was vegetarian by mistake. At my place there's nothing you could call a desk, but if I put the microwave on the floor there's a writing surface at least, and a pad of yellow paper with just enough sheets left. I only need two.
"I'm sorry," is all I can say, knowing that before sunrise I'll be putting my apologies into the mailbox at the end of my former driveway. I already know enough to put a stamp on the envelope of the Last Will & Testament that I updated thanks to my lazy father who left behind nothing whatsoever. I'm making the effort to write down some nice little moment I had with my ex-wife and am surprised at how easy it is to be honest—"I loved you!" has an exclamation mark!—but at the same time how possible, even easy, it is to feel like I never truly existed.
Because the ocean has never tempted me before, I'd never think to just walk on in. Besides, now that I own my own destiny, I owe those waves a lot. No doubt all you shrink-wrapped part-timers will be telling each other how I should have gotten help, but what this misses is that I did. Sitting at the bar I told myself there had to be a better way to do it, and there was.
The sun will be coming up soon, so first I have to get you and all your poison completely out of my system. Shall I scream your name, or is it enough to simply admit my own name to the list of those who have lost their lives during your presidency? It's a matter of public record and my own big mouth that I voted for you the first time, but it's also no secret that with your rich-get-richer oil scams you've sucked the fucking blood right out of people like me. If I'm calling 911 now, it's not because they work for you, believe me.
I'm calling them for two excellent reasons: because I don't want some poor dad and his freaked-out boy to be walking their dog on the beach and have to be the ones to deal with me, and also-well, no, they're one and the same—I do want the EMTs to have to deal with me. They're trained for it, and besides, they have to. I'm an organ donor, and it says so right on my driver's license.
Here's how it will go. I'll say, "Hi there. I'm going to need some help getting to the hospital because, by the time you get to me, I'll have shot myself in the head."
I'll tell them my exact location in order not to lose a precious moment, and I'll remind them that since they may need to use extraordinary means to keep me alive in the ambulance, I won't mind if they do. Of course there's the possibility that I'll make a mistake and finish myself off altogether, but that's not my first ambition. I want to be found alive. Not altogether, however, since I have no intention of surviving this.
What I want is to make my parts add up to somebody else's whole. If I could make my son himself again I'd donate my fucking brain, but since that's the one organ they can't transplant—well, in my case maybe not my liver either—I'll have to settle for becoming somebody else's eyes and ears. Or lungs. Or heart.
In my letter to my ex-wife I told her I was sincerely sorry, but I underlined what I wanted my last words to be: "Now you know I'm not good for nothing."