eulogy

One of the last things I said to Jimbo, aloud anyway, was that I wasn’t going to his funeral. This was as he moved the last of his things into the back of his Honda Accord from Myrtle Street. He was leaving the sober house in the middle of the night — only it wasn’t the middle of the night. It was closer to eight. It may as well have been the middle of the night, though, since he was bailing on the rent he owed Tommy without telling anyone. Trying and failing to keep it hush hush. He had been flirting with the idea of leaving for a few days, which meant that he’d already made his decision, but a few of us were trying to talk him out of it.

“Where are you gonna go, Jimbo?” we said.

Jimbo said he had his eye on a couch in a living room in an apartment in the West End. $500 a month. The guy who was on the lease was a former manager of the sober house where we lived. Nobody could really figure out the angle, which meant that the angle was clear as day. Jimbo had his eyes on another run.

They say in the rooms that you relapse a long time before you ever pick up again. In that regard, I’m not sure Jimbo ever really got clean. He was a big gorilla of a man. 6’2”, 230, and bearded with wild in his eyes. He’d recently become obssessed with going to the gym, and we all speculated that he was shooting testosterone into his ass, but hey — better to get swole than die with fentanyl. Jimbo was a delight to call your friend. He’d been kicked out of Myrtle Street early in the summer for buying Johnnies from another guy in the house, and gone on a hell of a tear, but we were all glad he’d made it back in one piece. When he was out, he’d apparently overdosed with some people he knew, but they’d brought him back with Narcan. He’d gotten the tip of a syringe stuck in his arm from God knows what — nodding off after shooting up probably. He’d left his brand new AC unit in our apartment when he got booted, and texted me one day in July to get it back. I don’t know why I didn’t say no, but I didn’t, and it went straight into his veins.

He’d made it back, though. He’d heard about how Chris had died in our bathroom, and he’d ODed himself. He said it put the scare into him. He was ready to do it different this time.

*

About a week before Jimbo left, my housemates and I were sitting in our living room being sober and boring when we hit on the idea of starting a pool to bet on people we thought were going to be the next to relapse. We never did start it, but we all agreed that Jimbo was the best odds. Maybe because we’d all been to more detoxes than we could count, or because we’d spent enough time living those odds ourselves — the simple fact is that if you keep doing what you were doing before your last relapse you’re in trouble.

And so it was that Jimbo was still hung up on an ex-girlfriend. So it was that Jimbo stopped going to meetings after about a week back. So it was that the little unpunished transgressions against house rules piled up. Jimbo got a shitty call center job, went to shows after curfew, and ruined Tinder for the rest of us. (On what was probably his last Tinder date, he drove half an hour to a woman’s house, brought her wine, fucked her, and left when she asked him to make her come.) And we let him get away with it, because what else could we do? How can a group of people who are barely keeping it together tell the most gregarious of all of them to dial it back for his own good? What sort of credibility do we have?

A good suggestion made in the rooms is to refrain from taking another person’s moral inventory. It’s something we all do anyway, but it’s probably best to keep it to yourself for the most part. After all, very few people react well to being told they’re fucking it all up, and even less so the person in the throes of addiction. So why risk it? Why risk inciting the unwell part of the brain into saying, “I’ll show you who’s fucking up!”

What you do instead is take your own inventory, and try very hard not to make the same mistakes you’ve made repeatedly. In the 12 Steps, this process is undertaken in the 4th and 5th steps. The 4th is your reckoning — as best you can muster — and the 5th is your confession. It’s all very Christian and American and confusing, and for a lot of people it arouses suspicion and skepticism. And maybe that scrutiny comes from a good place. But maybe trying to believe in something you don’t believe in at all is as sincere a gesture as you can make sometimes.

I don’t know.

What I do know is this — when I’d finished my 5th step with my sponsor, sitting on a park bench across the street from Starbucks, under-dressed for the crisp fall air in the early morning light, rushing through so I could get to work, he stopped me and said, “You can be very mean,” and I winced. I can be very mean. I’d already known that I could be selfish and arrogant and needlessly strident and deceitful and on and on. But I didn’t know I was mean. I thought everyone knew how kind I was. Or how kind I wanted to be. I thought that even if my ideals about the generosity of the human spirit didn’t always shine, at least it was clear to everyone how excellent those ideals were. Always. But it turns out I was wrong.

So when I told Jimbo as he was leaving Myrtle Street that I wouldn’t go to his funeral, I corrected myself, because that was mean — just needlessly mean. I said I was sorry, and I told him not to go one more time. And of course he left. And since we all know how this story goes, last week he died in that living room he was renting for $500 a month, alone and unwell. His roommate had been arrested earlier in the week during a standoff with police, so his body sat there over the weekend, rotting from the inside.

Everyone who knows him is shattered.

It’s probably not the case that a mental illness has a telos, but I can tell you from experience that it feels a whole hell of a lot like addiction wants you dead. When everything in your rational mind is saying, “Do not do this, you are going to die,” and that argument is just utterly steamrolled by your disease — that happens every day, all the time, all over the place. All of the accumulated wisdom of the rooms and the rehabs loses. It’s the reason people in recovery suggest taking things a day at a time — the implication being that it only takes a day to kill you. And while cliches and platitudes aren’t always sexy, and are sometimes so unsexy as to be anti-sexy, they occasionally have the virtue of being true. If you’re incredibly lucky, you might live long enough to know that in your bones. And if you’re not, for reasons I don’t get but I understand, I truly hope you find your peace. Because I will miss you terribly.

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a little tenderness

lloyd died on my kitchen floor at about 1:30 in the morning on friday the 13th, 2018. yesterday. naked from the waist down, blood coming out of his nose from either the fentanyl or the narcan (i had run next door to get narcan after we found him in the bathroom, so i’m not sure if he was bleeding before or after we gave it to him and anyway it doesn’t matter), pallid face slowly losing heat, me on the phone with 911 — “i’m not certified in cpr anymore i was certified in cpr five years ago,” just absolutely frantic, the dispatcher on the other end of the line, very calmly, “you don’t have to be certified” — and then me pushing my housemate ryan’s hands lower to the base of the breast bone, my left hand on top of his hands, 911 in my ear. we push and push and push and push and i tell ryan, “go fucking harder break his ribs it doesn’t matter,” and ryan stops and i yell, “don’t stop keep going,” and he does, and i’m really trying to help break his ribs here when the fire department arrives and takes over. i tell 911 thanks and they say thanks and hang up and we all go outside and talk to a dozen cops and detectives for a while and give statements and correct them when they fuck up the timeline, and wait. another ryan — the one who helped me get the door open — he and i both know he’s dead, and so we don’t bother to stand on tiptoes to look through the kitchen window and assess the situation. there is no breaking news anymore. and anyway news doesn’t break it just unfolds and there usually isn’t a thing you can do about it.

i only remember later that you don’t have to request a person’s permission to perform cpr or first aid when they’re unconscious — that their consent is implied, and that that’s why the 911 dispatcher had told me that i didn’t need certification. i learned this in my certification class, and i remember this as i’m sitting on the steps at the sober house next door to my own at 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning, sitting with everyone else in silence, a light rain falling, waiting for the crime scene unit to take the body away.

when they finally do, my housemate not-cpr ryan and i go back in and throw away the bath mat that’s covered in blood and shit, clean up the blood on the kitchen floor, and mop. tommy, the house manager, helps out and tells us to get some rest, and ryan and i are just like, “it’s fine, tommy.” i spray air freshener to get rid of the smell of death and take out the trash and tommy leaves and ryan and i sit on the couches in the living room and wait for exhaustion to come. when it finally does i go back to my newly single room, lie down and look at lloyd’s bed for a minute or two before rolling over to face the wall and go to sleep.

a review of your favorite concert of the year

sean is weird. it’s not that he’s weird so much as that he’s simply this dude who was completely there when i was small, and now he’s also there but it’s different now because people on the internet know who he is. people on the internet don’t know who i am. i kind of like it like that, but i’m not gonna lie i wish i had the attention paid to me that sean does. because baby i wanna be famous. i’m not gonna lie about it. most people probably wanna be great. i just wanna be famously great. i want people to be like, there’s tom, and i’ll be like feigning, ‘heh, i don’t want this,’ but i’ll secretly be curious about whatever person i’ve constructed for public consumption. like, how’s that person doing? i hope okay.

it’s weird. people i know are famous. i’m just kinda like, ‘i remember when you and i lived together and you never did the dishes.’

full disclosure: i’m not talking about sean here

fame is the last thing a bunch of interesting people say they want, but even those of us who aren’t particularly interesting want it. because whatever. we live in a place and in a time where being famous is validating and you’re like maybe i’ll be a footnote one day. because a footnote means a biographer. and who wouldn’t want a biographer?

*

sean and i said hello and i said, ‘my gosh i don’t know a thing about you’ to myself, and realized that i never will because to be close means to maintain space, and i do neither with sean. so i get the performative sean. which is all any of us ever get with one another. i said this in rehab when john, ‘if you ever discuss any of this outside of this room you’ll be violating hippa and may be subject to termination in the program’ the psychiatrist suggested in group that i was being ‘brave’ by acknowledging the fact that we were all playing roles in rehab. that it was exactly what we were supposed to be on guard for. like ending a sentence in a preposition. which maybe i acknowledged as some meta commentary que sera style, or maybe i was just flattered that someone finally said it, until everyone said it — to wit, ‘you’re so interesting’ — and i was like, ‘fuck omg i created this mess. i am a performance  and a caricature of myself.’

which fuck you you are too

*

with everything else

my brother and i were sitting on a ledge way up high on some cliff on some streetside in front of the colisseum. in rome, that place. i don’t know how to spell collosieum. it’s one of those things that just you realize you’ll never get it one day, and it happens and you go, “it’s fine, there are no spelling tests in the apocalypse.”

anyway, this was in 2003, so fifteen years ago around this time. or a month and fifteen years ago. or whatever. not important. what was important was that we’re sitting there with a, like, three-euro jug of wine and paul mccartney is playing hey jude and we’re all stupid in the crowd watching paul mccartney sing hey jude in front of the colloseum, and it was free? i don’t know how, because it was 2003 and twitter didn’t exist then so i couldn’t figure this out. like maybe he said something bad on twitter and this was a goodwill tour — which hasn’t happened on twitter yet but c’mon it obviously will. anyway. but my brother and i had just been wandering around rome being broke and like, ‘okay parents this is the part where we get money and guidance from you,’ and parents were like, ‘ya i don’t think you planned this too well.’ and so we wandered around rome and the collisseum was free that day for some reason that is also inexplicable, and we were just strolling back to a hostel near the train station when i was like, “someone is doing a soundcheck outside of the collossseumm,” and literally there’s paul mccartney playing ‘let it be,’ and it was just like, ‘that’s interesting.’ and so, as you do, we sat down and some people tried to sell us stuff and paul mccartney said, ‘see you tonight for my free concert arrivederci,’ and we were like, ‘okay, that works. that sounds like a plan.’ we went to the hostel and ate food and waited around. i think my brother took a relatively decent photo of me looking blase and weathered that i’ve always liked and that i’ll never see again. then it was just, ‘okay. probably now or so, right?’ ‘yeah, probably.’ ‘okay, so some wine, and a baguette.’

‘terrific.’

and then paul mccartney played some music that night, and my brother and i were sitting on the side of the road on this cliff drinking and smoking weed in front of a shrine to death and its malcontents, and paul mccartney’s just like, ‘fuck it time for hey jude’ and we’re like, ‘fuck yeah, dude, na na na na na na na is the universal language!’ and they go ahead and do it. they do it and it’s fun as hell to sing a bunch of nas in rome in may in front of the collissuem in 2003 when you’re me. but also other people seemed to be having fun, too

*

Other people seem to be having fun. Which is in itself a mystery. I went to the dual diagnosis place to treat my whatever. I am an alcoholic, so one was addressed-ish. Which is a problem, because I’m also an idiot, but as I said, whatever. I went to this AA meeting where I absolutely did not give a fuck anymore about anything but the next five minutes, and I said “Look, I’ve done it all, I’ve lived an interesting life, I’ve collapsed and stood back up. I can hustle. That’s the problem, I can hustle. I’ve never really had to because it came so easy. It comes so easy. And now I’m doing all this shit to deny myself and sabotage myself because all of this is ridiculous and fleeting. I came to rehab and beat the system with smoking — seriously, you can ask these people, I’m the fucking cigarette smoking guru around here, scouting spots and doing recon and shit… it’s ridiculous. And then I get the hot chick because why not? It’s a mission and something to look forward to. And so it happens, and whoop-dee-do. Now I’ve got another week in here to do what? Sit here and live. There’s nothing sexy about sobriety. There’s nothing sexy about being basic.”

No one really listens because c’mon it’s AA.

*

a friend of mine once said this to me:

You’re a special creature. I admire your adventurous nature. There’s something about your calm presence that draws me to you. You march to the beat of your own drum, and in turn I think you will continue to be a leader, whether you like it or not. I like your subtle humor and your philosophical take on concepts. Your [sic] way too intelligent to let yourself drown in alcohol. Harness that shit and I think you can make beautiful things happen. Come jump in the ocean with me sometime.

You’ll always be my rehab boyfriend,

xoxo [redacted]

i have it in a folder with everything else

some splainin to do

[and i]

scott part two (and from i to you)

sometimes you find yourself down and out in paris and london, and sometimes you find yourself down and out in belmont, massachusetts. it isn’t always easy being down and out, but if christ taught us anything it’d that you keep going until romans have destroyed your body and left you to rot. and then, while you rot, ask the guy who’s rotting next to you how he’s doing. and then redeem his soul.

i bumped into scott after realizing that north station in boston was decidedly not open for the night, despite the fact that it used to be, and that i was cold, that things were really not super great at the moment. i had just come from a three hour stint trying to sleep in a backyard outside of the hospital i’d left for reasons that i hope some day someone will let me know. my BAC was a .38 when i got there and i was in tatters. which isn’t to say that i haven’t been in tatters for a while, but yeah. there’s the sleeping in a backyard thing, and then awaking to the cold and worrying about coyotes, and then going across the street because that’s definitely a great idea, and there’s probably a waterfall but it’s too dark to see, but it sounds like a waterfall, and what’s that crossword clue for lee because you should get out of the wind and there’s a little hill right this way, and then being like, dude you’ve really fucked it up this time and the hospital is right there. and then trying to position yourself in a way that won’t be noticed and also isn’t arctic. you’ll regret not bringing a scarf and mittens. you’ll inwardly curse at the ducks or swans or whoever seems to get startled and start squawking whenever you move. you’ll be like, “hey this is an experience, at least,” and you’ll be like, “maybe not walking out on the people at the hospital would have been an experience, too.” and then you’ll go back and forth on the hill that leads to the admissions office, being like, “can i walk 20 miles home? or should i just try to sleep again.” you’ll check twitter because you’re a dumbass and a glutton for punishment. things will be just as horrible as usual. you’ll finally just say, “hey, even if i blow everything i’ve got getting home, at least i won’t die in some shitty state park.” then you’ll say, “that’s not fair to the park. it might be a damn treasure.” fuck those fowl, though.

so this is where you’re at.

you’re not wearing the appropriate footwear because you didn’t plan to do this. it’s that time of night when you’ve got to buzz into the hospital. the two men behind the desk are kind of not surprised in the “that’s a thing” blase way that suggests this isn’t their first rodeo. you say, “hi, can i get a cab from here?” and kind of regret that you’ve never put uber or lyft on your phone for moral reasons because here you are and what good are morals anyway as we all quickly burn.

you go, which is a mistake. you know it’s a mistake. but you leave and you go.

half an hour later, after the cab driver has hit a curb and missed basic GPS cues and spent a not inconsiderable time texting, you pay the way too much bill because this is all stupid and we’re probably living in a simulation, and you walk to the train station. it’s in a state of never-ending construction, so it looks a bit weird. you need smokes. 7/11 is right there so you get smokes and you’re like, “meh i can just sit at the station and doze until sun-up.” you’ve done this before. you once missed the last train (let’s be real, you’ve done it more than once, but this is an example), and just sat there with the assorted pigeons and other people who were just way too tired, the security guys who would poke you with night sticks reminding you that you can sleep, but you must sleep in the upright position. that sort of thing.

and so you’re at the entrance to the train station, and you’re like, “seriously? they don’t stay open now?” and you’re also like, “christ it’s cold and there’s not really many places to catch a few zs right now.” so you’re like. okay. and then you’re like, okay. and then you turn around and you’re like, “i have no idea what i’ve got to do, but let’s find out.”

and so this is where you bump into scott.

the fact that you bump into scott is important for all sorts of symbolic reasons given all the stupid shit that your life consists of right now, but from a practical standpoint you’ve got a few hours to kill, it’s not *that* cold, so it’s about time to get your conversation-game going. scott looks okay, which is good, but within the first two minutes of your discussion he reveals that he just shit his pants, and the absolutely crazy woman who just came up to him says “oh, oh.” you’re like, “okay, interesting opener.” you’re also like, “okay? i’m running out of options, and this could be something i’ll write about.”

which, of course, is all that a lot of this has been about for a while. so you’re like, “at least this is a bookend. at least i suffered. at least i can tell someone about that, at least i can tell someone how to bounce back.”

you’re still waiting on that last part.

and then you’re like, “shit, life keeps going after this, and i’ve gotta actually write it down and not just be like ‘wow how magical.’ i’ve actually gotta stop worrying about how fucking boringly ‘literary’ this is, and fish or cut bait.” but the fact of the matter is that you have absolutely nothing else to do at the moment, and you kind of enjoy doing things that are stupidly interesting, and talking to scott for a few hours while waiting for a train and taking slugs off his vodka after you’ve slept in someone’s backyard after getting dropped off at a hospital after crying for the better part of a month after telling everyone “you just don’t understand” basically, which is supremely vain and pathetic. after doing all of that? maybe you’ll just sit back and wait for a couple of hours and talk to this dude who you went to detox with about life. and ignore the smell. and count the minutes.

scott is still a person. you’re still a person. the crazy lady who accompanied you for couple of hours was still a person. sean, who asked for a hit of vodka while he also wandered aimlessly is a person. so when scott’s like, “i can’t get out of the wind and into the vestibule cause i shit my pants,” and you’re like “dude, i’ve got a roller bag full of clothes, what’s your waist size?” and he says “34. maybe 36.” and you’re like, “fuck, i’m a bit too small, but if you need to wipe your ass, my dude, just take a t-shirt. i’ve got you.” and he does. and maybe he goes around the corner and you don’t talk about what he needed to do because fucking c’mon. you really need to get out of the wind, and he really needs to wipe his ass.

scott calls you tommy. there are not many people you let get away with that shit, but some fucking malden dude from detox who you already kinda lionize for reasons that are incoherent, fine.

scott says, “tommy, i’ve got bone cancer.” you’re like, “wow, this is going to be super depressing because that’s what my dad had, and i’ve got this lower back pain that i’m worried about, and so, let’s see where this is going.”

scott says, “tommy, i don’t give a fuck.” he points at your feet. “i can’t walk like you anymore, but i don’t have to.” he continues:

“tommy,” taking a swig of rubinoff.

continuing notes: california (or, mountain lions, dude)

we went down to ukiah to try and find a friend’s mom, and when it turned out that we couldn’t find her we called people to say as much but the phone lines were clogged with smoke and fire. we kept going because that’s what you do, but to be honest, i knew it was a waste of time from the get-go. we’d gone to the two fire stations in town to ask what we could do. they were like, “lol nothing.” but whatever. it wasn’t my people who were in trouble and i was happy to tag along if there was any way i could help. hopefully that means i’m grown now. even if i’m a cynic at heart, i try to be goddamn earnest.

when pearl and i were chatting earlier she asked me where i wanted to end up. we’d kind of gone over my chronology briefly — montreal, portland, boston, new york, back to boston, here — kinda just the bigger moves — and she was like, so where? and i was like, “i don’t care, really. i kind of love wherever i end up. so far.” because that’s the story you tell. but in most cases, it’s true. i’ve never really been a christian, but i sure did internalize the jesus-y parts.

in the trailer there are basically three things to worry about. 1) mountain lions. 2) norcal serial killers. since the latter is most likely not an issue, you pay attention to the former. let me show you:

there have been something like 11 deaths by mountain lions in the united states since records have been kept. that is a vanishingly small number. i’ve read up on this significantly. i’ve watched youtube videos. the problem is that there was this one guy whose house i painted in 2008 or so, and who had built that house that i painted — so, y’know, big burly fuckin ken kesey Oregon stereotype — and he had this story about being stalked by mountain lions that’s never slipped. apparently he was hunting in the winter, things got quiet, he circled back and saw mountain lion tracks just behind him and left.

granted, this is some fucking archetype with a gun so he would’ve been fine. it’s that the archetype with a gun was targeted at all that worries me.

mountain lions, dude.