Tag Archives: stories

The Weekly Meeting of Everyone Who Doesn’t Talk to You Anymore

The weekly meeting of everyone who doesn’t talk to you anymore takes place each Tuesday at 9pm in a church basement. The College Friend Who Got Tired of Your Whole Thing makes the coffee and The Kid Who Stopped Hanging Out With You in Junior High Because He Wanted to Be Cool brings the donuts.

The meetings are led by The Guy Who Wanted to Collaborate With You on Something But Stopped Answering Your Emails. He brings the proceedings to order by asking if it’s anyone’s first time here. A man stands up and introduces himself as Grad School Classmate. A chorus of Hi, Grad School Classmate echoes back to him.

The meeting leader says that all first timers must share their stories as best they can. Grad School Classmate gulps and looks out over the room while he thinks of something to say. The rows of chairs seem to stretch on forever in all directions. It’s the biggest church basement he’s ever seen.

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Bedtime

“Why can’t you go to the movies tomorrow?” she asks.

“Because I have to work,” I say. “Your school has the day off, but my office doesn’t.”

“You have to go and write books?”

“No, that’s not my job.”

She fixes me with a quizzical look. When I lock myself away to write at home, I often tell her I have to work. I now realize this has led her to think writing is what I do for my job-job. For a moment I believe I’ve disappointed her, but really I’ve only disappointed myself.

“I don’t get paid to write,” I explain. “I do it in my free time.”

“You write for fun?”

“It’s not really fun, but…”

“You should make a book of your stories. Like, from your life. They’re funny!”

“What would you put in that book?”

The Salty Dog story, and, um…I don’t know, but they’re funny. You should tell more people your stories and get paid for that and that would be your job instead.”

“That’s not going to happen.”

“Why not?”

A million things spring to mind, a million things that stab and bubble inside my brain all day when I’m away from her, at my “real” job, but I can say none of them. Not to her.

“Well…It’s very hard to make a living as a writer, and people don’t seem too interested in the things I want to…”

“Battery roll!”

“What?”

Battery roll, that’s another good story you have.”

“Yeah, I like that one, too. I don’t think anybody wants a book about this stuff.”

“Then make something else with it.”

“Like what?”

*shrug*

“Alright, under the covers now. I love you.”

“Say ‘don’t let the bed bugs bite’,” she commands.

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite,” I say.

Click.

Bathroom, 1993

Mr. Rossi teaches Regents Global History, and he is a loser. That sounds harsh and unfair, and it is, but it is also true.

If you see Mr. Rossi, you recognize in a few second, There stands a loser. There are no shortage of losers at my school, and in my more honest moments I count myself among their ranks. But kid losers can’t compare to grown-up losers. As a kid, you figure being grown up removes several layers of loserdom from your surface. Adults can drive, live in their own places, do what they want. Those adults who can’t shed this skin are especially deserving of our contempt and laughter, and none get more of both than Mr. Rossi.

All losers search for at least one person they can stand atop and say, “At least I’m not that guy.” Mr. Rossi is that guy.

Mr. Rossi is shorter than most of his students. He is pudgy, which is somehow worse than being straight-up fat, and he accentuates his pudginess by insisting on wearing horizontally striped polo shirts to school. His hairline is beginning to recede. Midyear, he attempts to grow a mustache, and the thing comes in patchy and sad. He looks like a far less adventurous Mario.

Mr. Rossi still lives with his mom. Someone with more self awareness would have made sure the teenagers under his watch never found this out, but Mr. Rossi just told us, like the fact wasn’t a cudgel kids would use against him. He lives with his mom in a crappy part of Newburgh, a rough town. Once, a stray bullet whisked through his living room and missed hitting him by inches. He told us this too. Had this happened to someone else, it would have been terrifying, or bestowed upon him some stripe of badass-ery. But since it happened to Mr. Rossi, it’s hilarious.

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Choose Your Own Traumatic Adventure

Sometimes I use this site to write about painful memories. I find it’s cheaper than therapy and less habit forming than medication (though just barely). That’s not to put down anybody who needs either (or both) of those things to deal with whatever requires dealing with in their lives. I just find that tapping it out on a computer works best for me. Writing is the medium in which I express myself the best. If I could sculpt or paint or interpretive dance better than I can write, I’d do it one of those ways. But I don’t, so here we are.

For a long time, I exclusively wrote funny-ha-ha stuff here (or tried to, anyway). Whenever I considered writing about Deep Things, I feared coming across as one of those precious kids you’d hear in freshman composition class, pouring out their soul about the ordeal of having a vaguely distant father, because my trauma is SO important, the WORLD needs to hear about it and share my pain.

I can’t say when or why I changed my mind about that, really, but at some point I discovered that this site gives me the means to lay those memories out and defang them by transmogrifying a tale of woe into a humorous anecdote. Or at the very least, finding some humor to extract from it, usually at my own expense.

I’ve come to believe that in most instances of non-physical trauma, how much damage you suffer from it is largely up to you. Yes, horrible people can say horrible things to make you feel horrible, especially when you’re a kid and don’t quite know how to handle it. But we all grow up (unless you live in Williamsburg), and at some point in your life you have a choice. You can hang on to the pain forever and let it eat at you like an untreated wound, or you can slough it off in some way–such as, say, writing about it–and let the spot heal.

I’ve chosen the latter. In examining many of these incidents with the remove of time, the thing I find the most funny is the one thing I could have changed–namely, how I reacted to them and held on to the anger for way too long, thus giving a lot of power to people and things that didn’t really deserve it.

[I also now take a kind of perverse pleasure in careening wildly between straight-up silly posts and serious ones on Scratchbomb. Like this site has become my personal episode of M*A*S*H and I am Hawkeye. One second I’m wearing an arrow through my head and the next I’m standing over a dead soldier muttering, “When will the killing end?!”]

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