I woke up in Asia, I’m not sure where. Was the timer still ticking?
In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s what sent me on my way here. Regardless, Mike was gone and so was everything else — well, at least geographically. Of course, I really knew where I was, but what I’m trying to do is describe the feeling.
After college I decided that dropping roots in a Midwest nowhere town — where people were kind enough in a way, but their insular outlook often led to a kind of blind cruelty that’s hard to describe — was not for me. This, even though I had studied to be an elementary school teacher.
I say studied, but most of what I really learned was extra-curricular. At parties, befriending a couple rogue professors who I don’t know how the fuck they kept their jobs, meeting Mikey, reading books other than my classes required from the library, and just basically following my own interests.
The dull hellscape of everyday college monotony at a commuter school in northwest Indiana wore on and on. At least there was MySpace. I used to write my fuckin’ poems there.
By the time I saw what elementary school teachers and the schools were actually like, I said “fuck this,” in my heart. I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it. So I found a way to go to Japan.
When I say I didn’t know where I was at first, that was kind of true. I was jet-lagged and on some highway bus traveling from Kansai International Airport to Okayama. I kept waking up at random intervals and seeing green mountains rolling by outside the window. I felt like a sack of shit. I felt like I was in Tennessee. That was the only place in the states I had seen landscapes like this. Nothing like the perfectly flat grid of cornfields, sparse woods, and small towns of northern Indiana.
Outside the window, as the bus rumbled along the highway, I see a lady holding her tiny kid under the armpits and his pants are down and he is pissing on the side of a convenience store. Huh. Maybe the stuff I read in those tourist books about public urination is true.
At this point I was still very nervous and couldn't even fully enjoy the fact that I had finally made it. The reason was, I had had a meltdown before I left America, and fucked some shit up. Another meltdown that Mikey, for all his fucked up weirdness, was the only one who could counsel me through it. It was almost like I tried to sabotage myself before leaving — by starting a family.
It all followed this explosion in the street between me, my ex-girlfriend (the one who slapped me in Asheville), and her new roommate in Chicago. Neither of these women liked me very much, by this point. And in many senses, understandably so, I guess. I’d been invited by my curly-headed friend Aiden and his wife to head up to the city for a Casiotone show, and everyone was going to sleep over at a mutual friend's house on the north side.
Well, I got drunk enough so that after the show I tried to mend fences with the two girls, and it backfired. With one split-second flick of her acid tongue in response to my shittily-assembled olive branch of a comment, a flash fire vapor explosion commenced. All the pressurized pain that had for months been building and straining and relentlessly inflating against my barely-held-together insides, combusted. Before I knew it my eyes were hot with tears and I was on a street corner in front of the whole group, screaming myself hoarse until I could feel blood in my throat. I could feel the blood hot in the back of my raw throat as I high-pressure-projectile vomited the most life-disaffirming insults I could muster into their stupid fucking cunt faces, the most degrading string of misogynistic, crude expletives I could conjure from the pentagram-shaped portal to hell that had opened up in my chest.
The others looked on in half-drunken-amazement, seeming to in one instant understand perfectly clear: This guy has some fucking issues.
I got a behind-the-back-middle finger from the tall, acid-tongued roommate, and I still remember my ex-girlfriend's small body walking away, dejected, following her. I felt sad. The next morning I received a text message politely requesting I get “fucked in the face." Maybe I deserved that.
But that wasn't the self-sabotage proper. So I should quit wasting your time and get to that. I told you I do not know how to fucking write a book.
After all that bullshit that night, the remaining group of us went back to this girl’s place. The girl (who everyone there called "Prairie") had been very motherly when I lost my shit and was trying to calm me down in the street and telling me about how right I was in the silent shadows of the trees after, as we lagged behind the group. God damn I was taken in by that. It felt so nice to be told you're not a weirdo. It's a weirdo's number one aphrodisiac, I guess.
Both of us being drunk, you can imagine what that led to. And I regret it, too, in a weird way (not the sex but the volatility of it all and the emotional strings being tied in and ripped out so fast) because maybe if I wouldn’t have been such a fuck up, something could have worked there, and Prairie and me could have had fun, and had a nice, little relationship in that cozy little house on the north side of Chicago.
I don’t regret where I am now at all, of course, but do you know what I mean? Life throws so many treasures on our shores in its generous and inexhaustible decadence, whether we have time to grab them or not. Whether we can keep them and enjoy them or not. And then the tide comes in, sucking the shiny chances back down to the depths like they were never there. But they still stick with you. As sticky as the salt on your skin after a swim. It's hard to forget all those shimmering chances that wash up and back out again. But we all only have two hands. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. It's probably a good thing.
Prairie and I stayed in touch even after I came to Japan. Mostly out of necessity. I had overcome my fear of giving and receiving STDs that night temporarily, as she also had her own neurosis there, and so we somehow were able to absolve each other of all our hypochondriacal sins and worries-turned-paralyzing-paranoia. Uninhibited freedom fucking was the result. I was wasted. She was high. Looking back I should have also smoked weed, as perhaps I could have performed better sexually. Did I even "perform" at all? It's all a blur with a couple still frames. Anyway, there was no protection in site, or if there was, I had rejected it. It’s hard to remember. But the possibility of a child was now there, and like Mikey said after I got home, head pounding:
Fuck dude. You may have to come back from Japan right when you get there now. Can’t just bang her and leave her high and dry…. I mean you could. But then you wouldn't be able to live with yourself.
I knew he was right. I was also against the abortion thing. So there it was. My escape to Asia was now tentative. On standby. But meanwhile I had to keep preparing for it as if it were a sure thing.
The flashing lights of Okayama's Bic Camera and the blaring announcements in the nighttime streets gave me an existential, panicked giddiness. A gaggle of cheerful aliens shouting into my ears with megaphones, pushing flashlights into my sand-filled eyes that hadn't known sleep for three days. I couldn't understand a thing. Walls and walls of TVs and fuck-your-sleep fluorescence exploded from the open-front electronics store. But it was also exciting. Even in that state. Even for a small city. For me any city was big. And this one was in a brand new land far, far away from my previous life. I’d eventually get to the hotel. Get some sleep. Wake up and see the spread of colorful pickles and salmon and riceballs with seaweed. Miso soup.
Smiling girls at the front desk dressed impeccably in crisp uniforms and clean, attractive hats. Fresh morning sunlight in the lobby, bouncing off the smooth white porcelain floors, the taste of hot, black coffee. I remember saying “good morning” to an old man working in the konbini down the street. A gray-haired old man whose beaming smile caught me off guard, and who had actually understood my Japanese and responded in kind. Did you know you can buy a cheap dress shirt and tie at some of these convenience stores? Ain't that funny?
After a few days, another email arrived from Prairie. No baby. We messaged a few times after that, and then the whole thing kind of faded away. Back into the sea. I hope she is happy now.