Therapy today was eye-opening— that’s for sure. I’ve been seeing Dr. Russo for about three months now— you know, ever since the fire. And he started today’s session with a conversational rocket punch:
“So, Charlie,” he asked, “What’s been bothering you? Why are you here?”
“Let’s make some breakthroughs, then. Well, I think I’m dying,” I told him.
“Tell me about that,” he said. He adjusted his spectacles in a clichéd manner reserved for old and out of touch psychiatrist types. “Do you mean in a physical or figurative sense?”
I took off my hundred dollar Birkenstock’s and hoisted my right foot to show off the blood soaking through my two dollar Fruit of the Loom socks because, you know, I Wear Socks With My Birkenstock’s™.
“Oh my God, what happened?” Dr. Russo gasped.
“No, no, it’s fine. Nobody Is Spilling Blood On Your Carpet This Morning™,” I assured him. “What kind of carpet is this, anyways? Did you steal it from Hometown Buffet or something?”
“What— what happened, Charlie?”
“Check out my new tattoo,” I said, attempting to lift up my foot but, alas, I was already too decrepit for even the simplest of operations. That’s the price you pay for getting “ANDY” tattooed on the bottom of your foot as a hemophiliac. “Got it two weeks ago,” I said.
“It can’t be good for it to still be bleeding.”
“Because of the hemophilia, Dr. Russo.”
“You got a tattoo and you have hemophilia?”
Dr. Russo, ladies and gentleman. Unable to understand and apply even the simplest of slang terms used by today’s prodigious youth. What a rube.
“It’s not being retarded; it’s just a bleeding disorder.”
“So is this related to what’s bothering you?”
“No, but I’m glad you asked. You ask a lot of questions.”
I brought up the image issues I had shared with Dr. Russo from a previous session. “What about all of these ‘Keep Calm and Chive On’ shirts? Somehow I’m supposed to believe they’ve existed since the 1940’s?”
And there are so many variations of this phrase. For shopping addicts there’s “Keep Calm and Go Shopping”. For people who purchase Apple products there’s “Keep Calm and Think Different”. For bakers there’s “Keep Calm and Bake On”. For people who bake. Get it? I don’t. Is it a pot reference? There’s even a “Keep Calm and Eat a Cookie” shirt for the Cookie Monster. Cookie Monster doesn’t even wear shirts.
Where’s “Keep Calm and Smoke Crack” for crack heads? Where’s “Keep Calm and Don’t Make a Sound Or I’ll Kill You and Your Entire Family” for people who are fans of threatening the meager and impressionable? Where’s “Keep Calm and Don’t Make a Sound Or I’ll Kill You and Your Entire Family” for people who are wearing it because they are fans of threatening the meager and impressionable ironically?
But what about shirts for the people who are so poor or fat that they can’t find a really good shirt. Like, people who wear pumpkin heads for shirts. Or the people who are so large that they can only wear shirts made out of shower curtains? Where’s the shirt for my homies looking for that coveted sousaphone scholarship that’ll get them straight outta Tuscon and into the Sousaphone Big Leagues?
Dr. Russo told me that that wasn’t the problem. He said that the “Keep Calm” shirts were a “projection, as in “[I’m] projecting [my] problems onto other people.” Here’s the thing: I don’t own a single “Keep Calm and Keep Calm and Don’t Make a Sound Or I’ll Kill You and Your Entire Family” shirt, mug, or hatchet. This is something I shouldn’t have to worry about. Like DNA tracing.
“What’s really bothering you?” he interrupted my train of thought with. Also, check that out: it’s a sentence that ended with “with”. And now two.
“Reality. I don’t know what’s real anymore,” I said.
“Explain,” Dr. Russo leaned back, letting out the sigh of an exasperated giraffe-like figure from a shitty young-writer’s first attempt at inserting fantasy fiction elements into his story would imagine.
“I don’t know if Shia Lebouf is a cannibal or not,” I confessed.
“Who?” Dr. Russo once again said all fantasy-like, again. Whatever; I’m over it.
“The kid from the first three Transformers movies. Does he eat people or not? I can’t tell.”
“And this is something that is bothering you.” He almost accused me with that tone of his. I feels like it lacks a question mark when typed out loud.
“I can usually google shit like this. I should be able to do it from my phone. Three seconds, tops, I could have an answer. But google isn’t helping me at all with this because I’m The Sucker Who Bought A Windows Phone So Now I Have To Use Bing™. And it’s not even all that easy to look up on google. There is no hard-sourced information about him eating people but tons of people are saying he’s an actual cannibal. I have no idea.”
“It doesn’t bother me if he, you know, eats people but it’s good to know which people are the ones that eat other people— especially if you’re going to be hanging out around them.”
“You’re hanging out with this guy?”
“I mean, not on paper. But yes.”
“Are you thinking about harming him?”
“No, but I’m wondering if he’s thinking about harming me.”
There was a long, pregnant pause. Like nine months pregnant. It reminded me of my ex-girlfriend.
“And my ex-girlfriend,” I said.
“Does she know Shia Layboof.” Another sharp accusation from the Doctor himself.
“Which girlfriend was this?”
“Not the last one but the one before her.”
“Does she have a name?”
“Yeah, I just can’t remember the stupid thing.”
Which was true. Is true. I miss my ex-girlfriend, whatever her stupid name is or was. I miss her stupid eyes. I miss her stupid non-pregnant belly. I miss the stupid son I could never have with her because she didn’t want to get stupid pregnant right out of high school, the bitch. What about my needs? What about my wants? You’re like a sponge; all you do is take, take, take, and drain others of their love and emotion.
We had gotten in a fight one night. Sure, it’s long behind the both of us but sometimes I go back and visit this fight because it was one of the most notable moments of our entire relationship because, when it came to this fight, I was right.
So when it’s her turn to make up and say her graces, she goes, I swear to God she says, “I apologize. I apologize for disrespecting your needs and wants.”
What is this shit? I’m pretty sure I whispered that out loud. And then I said
“That’s all you have to say?”
“I mean, yeah,” she said. “I figured I should apologize.”
“Oh, so you figure you should have. You don’t mean to say it. That’s why you, in the third person vernacular, say ‘I apologize.’”
Michelle was starting to get those big ass fake tears in her big ass unapologetic eyes. Her tears and eyes kind of matched her face, ass, tits, and face. But I wasn’t going to fall for this trick. Not this time, Batman. Saying “I apologize” isn’t the same as actually saying “I’m sorry”; that’s a cop-out. That’s referring to yourself in the third person, apologizing. I want you to be in the moment when you’re apologizing to me.
“Sweetie,” I said, “then why don’t you say you’re sorry?”
Michelle sniffled and tried to make it seem as if she had already done so. But both you and I, reader— we both know she didn’t do that. She didn’t actually apologize. She just said “I apologize”. So, so trashy. So I so, so told her that.
“That’s so, so trashy,” I said.
“Charlie, I didn’t mean to make fun of you for asking me to dress up as a lobster and have sex with you.”
“It’s more than that,” I said, “You can get the surgery. You can pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars to get it done. You can change your name; you don’t have to be Michelle Powell forever. You can be Bob ‘The Lobsterman’ Dabadino. I know you can.”
“Impossible!” I whisper-yelled back.
“Unfeasible then, Charlie.”
I grabbed both of her shoulders and went for the Oscar: “You can be the lobsterman I want you to be. You can be the lobsterman I want us both to be.”
By the way, I’m not gay. But I am a demagogue scandalmonger and I want to be sure my girlfriend is always willing to do whatever I want her to. Not just what she wants to do but what I want her to do. Because that’s love.
“That’s real love, baby” I said. “And I know you’re scared. So am I.” This was accented with me grabbing Michelle by one of her stupid fat cheeks and squeezing it like I was some kind of grandmother that was also dating her. She ate this all up (no surprise for a fatty) and kissed me.
“You think I’m smart to stay with you?” she asked, pulling away and straightening up her hair.
“I know it, pumpkin,” I said because she was the pumpkin in the relationship.
“What was the reason for the breakup?” my therapist burst into the narrative like some fucked up donkey.
Her birthday was two weeks later. My gift was something she surely wouldn’t like. It wasn’t the kind of “surely” when you know the smell of another man on your girl is just her brother. No, because I got her 10 cans of Fancy Salted Mixed nuts. And Michelle hated surprises.
“Really?” she said, pulling the first can out of the plastic shopping bag I used as gift-wrap. Plastic bags really are cheaper than fancy gift bags, by the way.
“Happy Birthday, Michelle,” I said. My hands shot out for hers and I looked her in right in her fat ass eyes. “You said these were your favorite so I went all out this year for you.”
Poor girl actually believed I thought her favorite kind of nuts were Fancy Salted Mixed nuts for just a second. Everybody knew her favorite nuts were Deez Salted Mixed nuts. I mean, these salted mixed nuts. As in my testicles. Because I’m half-black and I salt my balls and dick because I’m a goddamn weirdo.
Fuck you. Leave me alone.
Michelle’s hands were trembling, holding the can. She didn’t notice that her trembling wasn’t creating a rattling sound from the nuts that were supposed to be inside.
“Why not have some right now?” I asked.
“I, I,” Michelle stuttered. Everybody stutters in stories, don’t worry about it. “I’m not hungry right now. Maybe later tonight.”
“Oh come on,” I pleaded, “Eat some.” I lit a cigarette in her living room and immediately threw it to the wood floor, crushing it out with a child-sized -11- steel-toed boot (Now just $49.99 at Payless. Get More, Payless™).
She started crying. “Why are you doing this to me?”
“What’s in the cans, Michelle?”
“Nuts, Charlie. They’re just nuts.”
“You think they’re nuts?”
“I don’t know!”
“Open the cans, Michelle.” I lit another cigarette and threw it back on the ground, crushing it with my other child-sized -11- steel-toed boot (Now just $49.99 at Payless. Payless, Where When You’re Looking For More, You’re Looking For Less. Payless™).
“I don’t want to,” she cried.
“Open the cans, Michelle.”
Michelle grabbed one of the cans of the Fancy Salted Mixed nuts with her long, dead lady spider fingers. They reminded me of my mother who also had dead lady spider fingers because she was— and remains—dead and her fingers were eaten by spiders.
My girlfriend took her nasty phalanges back to her fat self and turned the Fancy Salted Mixed nuts can halfway. “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”
“You don’t want to open the cans because you know what’s in the cans!” I bellowed, banging my hands on the plastic coffee table (Starting at $65.47 this Labor Day. Ikea. A Better Every Day Life, At Home™) that was situated in her living room.
“Stop it!” she screamed
“WHAT’S IN THE CANS?”
“NO NO NO NO NO!” she slammed her hands down on that bitchin’ Ikea table I just told you about. Her hands were all balled up. Dude, you should have been there; it was like she was Donkey Kong or something playing Whack-A-Mole with her ape-like hands. I don’t know, man. I don’t write this shit for you people.
And then I saw something I hadn’t seen in so two weeks. A look that was missing from our sex-life since the very start of our relationship: Stacy looked sorry. And not fat.
“Snakes, Charlie Brown,” she said shortly after I deposited that look into my mental spank-bank.
“I can’t hear you,” I shot back.
“SNAKES!” she erupted like a volcano made of marshmallows— big but ultimately powerless. Powerless but delicious.
“SAY IT AGAIN!” I roared like goddamn fucking indian savage.
“THEY’RE FUCKING SNAKES CHARLIE! ALL OF THEM— EVERY LAST ONE IS A CAN OF FANCY SALTED MIXED NUTS FILLED WITH SNAKES, OK?”
I didn’t want to tell Dr. Russo any of this, though, so I just told him that she just moved away.
“But hey,” I said, “At least I now remember her name was Amanda.”
“That’s good, Charlie,” he said, not quite even believing himself as he said it.
“Also,” I continued, “I think this guy is selling drugs at my work.”
“Why do you think that?” Dr. Russo asked, again because all he does is ask questions.
“Because I bought drugs from him.”
“Let’s call these 15 minute a breakthrough,” Dr. Russo said.
“Sure,” I said. After all, I’d forgotten everything about the fire. And that was enough of a breakthrough. Until I started the next one.