Some are the days when the deep blue sky seems vast and full of endless possibilities. You feel limitless in your potential, in your power. You are sure you could take off and soar over the city, if only given the provisions.
Not all are such days.
Our small group gathers weekly to drink coffee, eat day-old donuts, and pick up new ideas on how to further demoralize ourselves. Each other. We find the best ideas on how to reach rock bottom in this little room in the basement of an old AG church.
Rock bottom: The destination of choice for all around fuck-ups. Ours is a disease which can only be cured by a brief vacay on this deserted island.
I have this dog, a little cocker spaniel. When I took her in for a check up last month, the vet told me she had cataracts. She’s in a lot of pain, but I had no idea. Animals adapt to their pain, she told me. It’s survivial. Even though sometimes it ends up killing them.
That night I bought her the expensive dog food, from the refrigerated section, to ease my guilt a little. She puked on my couch and crapped all over the floor. Her system isn’t used to good things in life.
Thriving isn’t the same as surviving.
People can get used to anything. To cold weather, to living alone, to war. To waking up in strange places, in cold sweats, in puddles of their own vomit. I got used to wearing long sleeves. I don’t even get hot anymore. The sleeves are like a shell. My second skin.
Rock bottom. A concept, referred to only in the past tense. Wrapped up in the tales and testimonials of sponsors before they relapse in your living room and you have to call their ex-wives to pick them up.
I don’t believe in hell, but only because I can’t fathom anything worse than this world. I don’t want to. That’s the shit nightmares are made from.
Tommy’s legs always shake up and down in the most unnatural way. His eyes are forcefully held open by his will, while his lids flutter under the weight of his relaxation. He picks at the scabs on his hands and face, mindlessly. He probably looks like shit, but under the yellow florescent basement lights, I think he looks like a Calvin Klien model. He’s lost weight.
I’ve lost perspective.
Last week he tried to tell us about his new job bussing tables, but he kept getting hung up on the word tables. His mouth refused to say that “bull” sound, so it came out more like tab-less. He was bussing tab-less, he told us with his eyes half-open.
Andrea gave up on him and began to talk about her son Victor. He’s up for parole. Again. We all know he’ll never make it, but we pretended. We always pretend for our friends. She’s been trying to set up a job at McDonalds for him.
Rock bottom. A grown man keeping a shitty job for two whole weeks.
It smells like vinegar and pinesol in that whole room. Some sort of weird disinfectant. Reminds me of the school cafeteria, which reminds me of dumpsters outside my apartment. I couldn’t stand it, so I walked out to the courtyard.
Janis stood, crying into Pedro’ s shoulder. He gave me the help me look. I smiled. Shook my head. Mouthed the words “not my turn”. She leaves trails of snot and mascara on his shoulder. That shit never comes out. It’s still on the arms of my best white blouse. Now I only wear black t-shirts to group. Janis is addicted to tears of self loathing and perpetual disappointment.
Rock bottom. When tears are the only thing left that can still get you off.
I sat on the bench next to Nadya–the one with the big hair not the one with the big butt. There are a lot of Nadyas and I think I know most of them.
Got a smoke? She asked. I told her I didn’t. She intentionally leaves her cigarettes behind when she goes out so she can bum some to save her cash. Like we don’t know. Like we aren’t all strapped for cash. Like we aren’t all bums.
You wanna beg? I pointed her in that direction of the street. Fuck you, she said. If you can find anyone to fuck your scrawny ass, she said. Bitch, she said. I gave her the finger. She and her poofy, 80’s hair walked off to find another sucker.
Rock bottom. Begging just to beg. Because you forget how not to. Because begging is your new full time job.
Simon sat down, winked at me. He hates Nadya for all the same reasons I hate her, plus she won’t give him the time of day. He hugged me and asked how I was doing. I shrugged–the universal sign for “same old shit.”
He is cute, but quiet and prone to sobbing during sharing time. Women like sensitive men, but nobody wants their guy to cry like a teenaged girl over everything. Especially in public. It’s embarrassing. People start uncomfortably coughing and picking their cuticles.
Rock bottom. A bottomless pit of self-degrading possibilities.
I went home with Matt. The one with the glasses, not the beanie. We went to bed. I thought about a a pamphlet I saw in the vets waiting room. Picking up more dog food. Shampooing my shit-covered carpets. He probably thought about Nayda. One of them. Maybe both.
We watched tv until he passed out. I slipped out of the room and rummaged through his kitchen drawers looking for something. I wasn’t sure what. My self worth. Or a blade. Or hard candy like my grandmother used to keep in her kitchen. I found a picture of Doc Martins cut out of a magazine and glued to a piece of cardboard with the words “undead” written on the back. A half-empty book of matches. Some paperclips, pencils and post-it notes. One large pack of Happy Birthday balloons. $40. A pair of glasses with out lenses. Frames.
I pocketed the money. Put on the frames. I took the ballons back to the bathroom with me, sat on the toilet lid and blew them all up. I filled the bathtub with them and the closed the curtain. I wrote “Hi!” in soap on the bathroom mirror. I lit all of the matches left in the book and watched them extinguish one by one.
Then I called the other Matt, the one with the Beanie.
We went to breakfast. I told him to order the steak and eggs. It was on me. Then we left without paying.
Rock bottom: Hiding your messages in bottles and in the air inside birthday balloons. A game of hide and seek with yourself.