Sunday, May 17, 2015

Hide and Seek A.K.A. Darwinism for Idiots

Hide-and-Seek taught me at a young age that I lacked a natural instinct for survival. I knew the rules of the game and I knew there were ways to win, i.e.: As a hider, you can fly solo, you can form alliances, or you can turn yourself in to the seeker and tell him where everyone else is hiding, making their downfalls a victory for your inner psychopath. I often chose to form an alliance, because Hide-and-Seek was frightening. For some reason, the act of hiding has always heightened my anxiety and given me terrible gas. Something about having to remain still and silent while someone pursued me has never agreed with my nerves or my bowels. It didn't matter that nothing worse was going to happen than someone saying, Ha! Found you! I reacted to imitated danger the way a skunk would react to actual danger.

OH GOD, I give up, I'm here, you found me.

I withheld this information when I asked my cousin, Shmatthew, to join forces as his older brother, Miguel, counted backward from 30.

"Sure," he said, "Let's go."

We bolted upstairs and into our cousin Allison's bedroom. We ran through the door and glanced around for a spot. Under the bed was out of the question, as it had been repurposed for storage. We were no longer small enough to fit in her life-size doll house, so that was out, too. The only spot left was the closet, which was jam packed with clothing. "What do we do??" I whisper-shrieked.

Matt started for the door, but our other cousins darted past him and disappeared into the other upstairs rooms. From Allison's doorway, we could just barely make out Miguel reaching 15 in the count-down. "Seventeen! ... Sixteen! ... FIFTEEN! ... FOURTEEN! He bellowed. There was nowhere to go, and no place to hide it seemed. We were like two of the slower Romanov's when the townspeople revolted. "We're fucked!" Shmatt said, throwing his hands up.

"There in the closet!" I said, noticing an open patch of space in the otherwise crowded area. The space was big enough for one 8-to-10-year-old, but not two of them.

Not horizontally, that is.

Above the small open space on the floor was a wooden beam. Bingo. I hatched an idea of acrobatic genius.

"Okay," I said, feeling my intestines juggle a fart from one end to the other. "I'll hang from the beam, and you sit underneath me."

"O- okay," Shmatt said with a beat of hesitation.

"Hurry! There's no time!" I said, in italics.

I squeezed in ahead of him and grabbed onto the beam, hoisting my feet and butt into the air. "Okay...." I said, "Now... get underneath me... and support my body."

"Christ," he said, shimmying his way beneath my dangling ass. I felt his small palms cup each of my butt-cheeks and told him to close the sliding door with his foot. As he did it, we heard Miguel yell, "READY OR NOT.... HERE I COME." I felt scared again, and that I might soil myself.

"Oooh," I softly whimpered. My stomach made a gurgle and I felt something shift.

"What was that?" Shmatt asked, his arms pressed straight up over his head.

"Nothing..." I said as quietly as I could, hearing what sounded like the slow, methodical steps of a serial killer ascending the stairs.

"Here I coomme," Miguel said, that sick bastard.

Gurgle, gurgle, my stomach went. Even though I knew Miguel was probably not a real murderer, my nerves didn't seem to know the difference. My palms began to sweat and a live-wire of panic started to creep into my head. I heard Miguel's slow footsteps pass Allison's room, and felt a rush of relief. I re-adjusted my grip and wiggled a little.

"Shmrrgff!" Shmatt grumbled. Apparently, I had over-estimated his strength, and underestimated my own weight. I hadn't thought that Shmatt would be any less able to support my whole body than I would be able to remain suspended for what started to feel like a very long period of time. The comic positioning of it all started to make me giggle and lose my grip.

"Shmatthew," I said, my body quivering as I tried to keep from laughing and farting. "I'm fa- I'm falling!"

"No you're not! No you're not!" He whispered, "I've got you!"

"I ca- I caaaan't hold on!" I said. At this point, a little poot made its way out.

"What the- did you... didyoufart??" Shmatt asked, pivoting his his body from left to right, causing me to thusly turn with him as I dangled from the bar.

"I'm sorry!" I said, unable to hold it in any longer, "Oh no!" The combination of fear and hilarity made me unleash a rapid-fire series of farts directly through Shmatt's fingers and onto his head.

"Oh... oh my god," He said in a deep baritone, still supporting my entire body with naught but his bare hands. As I convulsed with laughter and what might have been the early stages of a heart attack, I lost complete control of my own hands and let go of the bar, crashing down on top of my cousin's head. The collision of our bodies forced the closet door to burst from its tracking and fly outward toward Allison's bed. Our bodies lay mangled in a gassy heap on the floor, our limbs sprawled like a pair of starfish that were tossed onto dry land. The commotion must have been audible from downstairs, because seconds later, I heard someone thunder up the steps.

From the doorway, Allison's mother--Aunt Shmathy--looked down at us and covered her nose with her hand. I could barely see her through the tears in my eyes, but needless to say, she did not look pleased. All she wanted was to have the family over for dinner and now she had to fumigate her daughter's closet and repair a broken door. Miguel on the other hand, looked quite happy leaning up against the threshold of Allison's doorway. We essentially found ourselves for him and managed to make complete asses out of ourselves in the process. But hey, no use in feeling shame, right? Every forest needs a skunk and every coastline needs a dying starfish for vacationing white people to put in a glass jar in the guest bathroom. The lowest rung on the ladder is still a rung, I say! I will be jester to your knight, and I will do it with my ass held high. And by "held," I mean literally, with the assistance of a second jester who likely didn't know what he was signing up for.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

How I Came to Own a Thing Called "Face Polisher"

Suffice it to say, I've made a few bad purchases in life. For instance, lemon hair gel, and salmon colored cargo shorts. I grew up with an affection for things, and felt jilted if I left a store empty-handed. Even when my parents went to the post-office, I hoped they'd buy me a festive roll of stamps. But as I've "grown," I like to think I've learned to think critically about how I spend money. After all, fiscal responsibility is one of the main tenants of adulthood. Just this last summer, I managed to enter a Sports Authority without spending a dime. Granted, I had an adult with me.

Boyfriend, Shmyler, and I decided to check out camping gear for a trip to a music festival. Just on the outskirts of the main festival area, we would join thousands of other music like-ers on a vast plot of grass, sleeping in L.L. Bean tents and urinating in portable toilets (Wild II, anyone?). We struggled to refer to this as actual "camping," but we were excited about sleeping outside. So we wanted to look into some tents and shit.

And look into tents and shit, we did.

But we didn't buy anything. Really. I, who once spent $15 on hair gel with bits of lemon in it--bits of lemon that promised "locks of blonde hair by beach season" but really just made my head smell like a yellow jellybean--didn't buy anything from the tantalizing out-door aisle. Thought I was tempted, I did not purchase the Mount Everest-tested sleeping bag that could withstand an avalanche and the claws of an adolescent bear. I did not take home the eight-person tent that came with its own porch and dinner table. My secret? Well, Shmyler wouldn't let me.

"Fine," I said, "but we should look into getting a tent later. For future camping trips."

"Okay. Another time we will do that."


"Maybe when they go on sale. Please put the sleeping bag back on the shelf."

The truth is, I haven't changed--not much. I only avoid ridiculous spending when Shmyler is with me. He is many things to me: partner, scheduler, traffic guard, phone-finder, news-source,  among others. But Financial Adviser is his most frequent honor/punishment for choosing to date me. If he hadn't been present at that Sports Authority, I'd have brought home a small base camp. He argued that we needed lunch meat more than a portable fortress so we did that instead.

He was not, however, in my company when I recently visited a luxury soap store named Sabon. Sabon is a place where the sales reps are hypnotically charming and are full of shit--beautiful, fragrant shit that smells like fields of lavender and high self-esteem. I was doomed the moment I spotted their discounted gift baskets from the sidewalk.

"LET'S GO THERE," I said to my friend Kyle, who was looking to buy a housewarming gift. Luxury soap store = fuck-fest of housewarming gifts.

As we walked in, two reps greeted us immediately. One of them was tying an apron around the waste of the other. I was intrigued by this, because it either meant that the woman getting her apron tied on could not tie a bow, or she couldn't touch her apron with her own hands. This made them seem professionally mysterious; my sucker-brain thought, Ooh, they have to help each other put on aprons, ooh, how collaborative.

See? Doomed.

The store had many smells, but none too abrasive. Everything from the soaps to the light fixtures and shelving units looked expensive and hand-made by Polish farmers who summer in Narnia. What struck a chord most was a large and circular brass faucet in the center of the store. As I looked at it, I remembered that I had actually been here before.

Sabon's schtick is that they guide you through a five-product hand washing routine that makes your skin feel like the ass cheek of a fucking newborn. This leaves rubes like me with no choice but to buy buy buy. The only reason I know this is because Shmyler has a friend who works at the store in another part of the city.

"Have you two been here before?" The first sales rep asked, the apron tie-er having since disappeared to the back.

"I think so!" I said. "Can we wash our hands?"

"Oh! Well... yes, come right this way," she said, somewhat surprised. This guy's making my job easy, she probably thought.

Kyle looked apprehensive, but I ignored him and rolled up my sleeves.

Sales Lady positioned us around the faucet so that we were each in front of our own pedal-operated spouts. We wet our hands and she squirted our palms with various lotions, soaps, and exfoliates. As we washed, the she chattered on like a docile bird. With an unidentifiable accent, she spoke in a tone that made me feel both comforted and consoled, though I didn't know what I was being consoled for. By the fourth rinse, she procured an Arabian looking pot with a light blue substance inside.

"Now this one," she said, smearing my palm with a blue cream, "is our specialty. It's a face polisher made form mint and lemon, which is a very good herbal combination. It's great for evening out your skin tone and making you a better person in general."

She didn't say that last part, but that's what I heard.

"Oh woow," I said.

"Yes, it's our specialty," she said again. "When I put it on, I feel as though my face can... breathe."

Not for nothing, my hands did feel ridiculously smooth. Even Kyle was nodding in agreement.

As I rinsed my hands off yet again, I noticed that the small "exfoliates" in the cream had painlessly removed my hangnails, which made me feel like I just watched myself perform a magic trick I didn't know was coming. Oh mhmm, I thought, this is both luxurious and useful. I was enchanted with the magical face polish, and asked myself if I should take it home, even though "face polish" sounds like a phrase made up at the end of the day by a marketer who just wanted to go home.

Le face polisheur

I stalled my decision by informing Sales Lady that my friend needed a gift.

"Oh lovely!" She beamed. "What are you looking for?"

"I don't know, maybe a candle," he said. "Like the ones in the window?"

"Perfect, yes, those are our specialty."

I was under the impression that face polish was their specialty but whatever. Who says you can't have multiple specialties?

"OH, yes, yes," she said again. "Come look at these. This one is nice, right?" She uncapped a glass cup to reveal a blue candle inside that was named, Mysterious Water. The name was idiotic, but she was right. The scent was indeed, mysterious, and... watery. Kyle said "Sure," and decided to buy it.

"Do you gift-wrap?" he asked.

"Oh, yes. Yes, it's our specialty."

Apparently this was an multi-talented establishment that only accepted specialty-level service across the board.

"Now," Sales Lady said looking at me, "what about something for you?"

After see-sawing for three seconds, I said, "Face polish! I would like polish for my face. Where is it."

"Right here, oh it's right here." For a moment, I heard Shmyler's voice in my head, suggesting that maybe $40 for a jar of something that might not be a real thing is an unwise purchase. But it was too late. I had already lathered and rinsed in the Kool-Aid.

Kyle and I brought our items to the counter, where a cashier began to wrap the candle. We both watched in confusion as she tied one ribbon around the box and handed it back. "Specialty," was a loosely used term in this place, and I lost some respect and love for Sales Lady. Though, not enough to put the face polish back on the shelf. I bought that shit. I bought that shit right quick.

"Sucker," Kyle said.

"This is for me and Shmyler!" I protested.

"BullSHIT," he yelled unnecessarily, "You got that crap for you and you know it."

"Okay, I did, but he may use it. In fact, I'll encourage him to use it, because we are a team and I am doing this for us."

"That's just sad," she said, looking down at his $26 "wrapped" candle.

When I got home, I immediately got in the shower and used the face polish. In my excitement, I accidentally got some in my mouth and swallowed it, which made my esophagus close up a little. And in case you were wondering, it didn't make my face feel like it could "breathe." It did, however, make my skin feel cool as if there were a small person blowing on my face at eye level. I'd say this was a successful purchase then, considering how much more expensive it would be to hire a live-in face blower. #win

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Don't Shoot the Visitor

Setting foot into my brother's first apartment was interesting for a couple of reasons. One, it was the apartment we both grew up in, and two, it looked like a meth lab. Another interesting fact: neither my brother, nor his two roommates (one legal, one squatting) attended college or worked full-time jobs at this point in their lives. So, at ages 19, 18, and somewhere between 17 and 25, the three of them lived chaperone-less and could party with impunity. They could also avoid household chores as if they were a detriment, which I believe led to the slow construction of the castle for bugs made of dirty dishes. They were on their own with hardly a concerned neighbor to peek through the paisley window curtains. Our old home had been converted into an island for lost boys,of which my brother, William, was king.

Will's biggest talent, his fairy-godmother gift, his blessed gene of providence, is gaining followers. This is a risky talent, because followers put things in motion. They continue a cyclical pattern supplying power to the person that attracted them in the first place. The end result could be great, like with Ghandi, but, it could also be very bad. I hate to mention Hitler, but... Hitler. Will was neither good nor bad; he found the middle ground and became what I like to call the love child of Peter Pan and Jack Sparrow. If anyone were to start a pocket society of dirt-stained, maybe-legal, rum-swigging vagabonds, it would be my him.

Walking through Will's front door wasn't so much a trip down memory lane as it was a glimpse into the suburban version of Tortuga. The myriad derelict teenagers lazed about, eyeing me as I walked through the kitchen and dining room, deciding whether to seduce me or stab me in the thigh. I use the word, "stab," literally since everyone in the house seemed to own a pocket knife. There was a faint smog in the air that smelled like blueberry blunt papers, and the ground appeared to be coated entirely in a glossy film of Hawaiian punch. The dining table our father had made entirely by hand was now a permanent beer-pong surface, ready for a game whenever Will's guests felt inclined. Just south of it was a large fish tank that contained all the accoutrements of a fish habitat, but no water.

"What's in there?" I asked Will, afraid of his answer.

"Geckos!" he answered. "We used to have three, but now we have two."

"Where's the third?"

Will cupped my cheeks with his giant hands. He eyes went wide as he brought my face close to his. "We're not sure," he said with a large smile.

"I shee..." I said through smooshed lips.

After that, I noticed a sofa flanked by two blanketed piles of lumps that resembled the covered remains of a murder-victim. A busty, black-haired girl named Tourell stretched awkwardly over one while browsing her phone. On the wall opposite the couch was a flat screen television that was so big, it partially covered the two windows on either side of it. I had a flashback at this point to when Will and I purchased this very TV at WalMart. Since it was wider than my Camry, Will had to lie horizontally behind it in the back seat, and hold onto the door to keep it from swinging open. I I wanted to ask how he managed to mount the TV onto the wall, but I drifted back toward the suspicious blanket-covered lumps by the couch. I wondered whether my brother and his roommates were hiding contraband in plain sight.

"Guns??" Will said to me, "No, Sam, jeez there are no guns under there. They're upstairs in my room."

I craned my ear to the ceiling where I heard footsteps and hearty laughter. "Would your room happen to be where those minors are milling about?" I asked, pointing up.

"Naw, they're not. And don't worry, those guys don't need supervision. Most of them are 18."

"Oh, good," I said, "I was worried."

Will had recently joined the National Guard, so his ability to behave responsibly in regards to his own safety did not worry me. However, he had a strong penchant for providing shelter to idiots that didn't know their dicks from their foreheads.  With his new home, he created a limbo between high school, college and full-time employment--a responsibility-free zone that attracted wayward youths like bugs to a zappy light. They ranged in age from 17 to 25 and were all people you'd be disappointed if they dated your children. Except Tourell. I noticed she had neither a knife, a joint, or a drink in her hand, and apparently she was a very smart girl on her way to college in the coming Fall. Everyone else was packing heat, by which I mean weapons and an astonishing amount of body odor. This delighted Will, as he loves guns and hates soap. Combine that with a tendency for impulsive behavior, and you have yourself an 18 year-old rifle owner.

"Here, I'll show you!" he said, as he bounded across the living room and up the stairs. I followed, choosing my steps carefully between more exposed blades and what could have been a dead gecko. I entered Will's bedroom to see him cradling a fully functioning, semi-automatic rifle. I wasn't unnerved by the fact that Will owned a gun; what bothered me was the gun itself. For I also harbor a powerful lust for weapons. I don't know where it comes from. Maybe it's just the guy in me, or maybe it's just what happens when you watch Power Rangers on repeat in your early years. Whatever the cause, I have tried to contain it, because it's all fun and games until someone gets shot at point blank range with a paintball gun.

FLASHBACK TO... Summer 2006-ish:

It was Summer, 2006-ish. I had invited my cousin, Jumbalaya to hang out and do something fun, but not too expensive, maybe a movie? Nah, it was too nice out. Who knows, we'd play it by ear. Both our parents were out doing whatever they hell they did when we were left unsupervised, so we started to feel a tingling sensation of freedom. While I waited for her, I was overcome with an urge to really frighten her. I concocted an idea to shoot her without actually shooting her, by emptying my paintball guns of all its paintballs, but leave in the cartridge of CO2. I could lock it into the gun and it would produce a loud bang, without actually releasing a projectile. But she would think she was actually being shot! Hilarious! I was so excited, I had to use the bathroom three times before she arrived.

When her car pulled into the driveway, I waited in my bedroom, shaking like a heroin addict. She killed the ignition, and I let our a muffled squeal. I listened to her feet crunching the graveled driveway, and my cheeks grew red hot. As she opened the screen door, I peed a little in my pants. It was possible that I would burst into tears before she even got to the living room.

"Sam?" She asked once inside. "Hello?"

"hi!" I squeaked. "i'm in here!"

"Mmkay...?" I heard her walk toward my room.

As she appeared in the doorway, I squeezed the trigger. The loud bang rang gloriously--just as I hoped it would! However, it appeared I was not successful in fully emptying the paintballs. Imagine my surprise to see an explosion of white paint blossom across Jumbalaya's stomach. Jumbalaya was very surprised, indeed, and let out a sharp scream--the ultimate "what the fuck" of screams. She clutched her abdomen and crumpled to the floor. I ran to her side as my bowels filled with diarrhea.

"OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD!" I yelled into her face.

"AAAAAHH!" She screamed.


"AAAHHHH!" She continued.



I ran into the kitchen to get ice and a towel. Hands shaking like I was on a roller-coaster, I madly grabbed the ice-tray. In my panic, the tray slipped from my fingers and went cartwheeling through the air, scattering the cubes in a pinwheel formation toward every corner of the kitchen.

"FUCK!" I yelled and reached for a bag of frozen peas.

"Muuhhhh!" I heard Jumba moan from my bedroom. Peas in hand, I sprinted back to her, but missed a turn and ran straight into a wall. With a searing pain in my right eye, I stumbled through my door and offered the peas. Jumba removed her hands to reveal a small hole in her shirt, then lifted the fabric to reveal a perfectly round welt that looked like a sun seen through a powerful telescope.

"You... asshole," she gurgled, taking the peas from my hands.

"I'm so sorry, I'm so... sorryyy!" I wailed again and again. She lay there for about five more minutes before she was able to stand up. I made us eggos and ate mine in the corner without a fork.

Poor Jumbalaya. She just wanted to hang out and maybe split a Dairy Queen, or go for a walk--it was breezy but not windy, y'know? I felt like the biggest fuck-wit on Earth. I could have killed her! Had I angled the gun a fraction of a degree higher, the paintball could have crushed her wind pipe, or gone up her nose and into her brain. Even worse, if I had angled it at all lower,  I could have shot her right in the pacoochy. It wouldn't have killed her, but reconstructive labia surgery would surely have ended her social life forever.

Fortunately, she survived and her bruise only lasted for a cool 8 months. It took me a long time to recover from this ordeal and grant myself the permission to laugh shamelessly and at length about it so, as I watched Will hold an actual, bullet-shooting rifle in his lap, I became queezy with PTSD.

"Don't worry," he said, "it's not loaded."

"Right, I've heard that before," I said, referring to myself.

A snake-in-the-garden grin spread across Will's face as he looked up at me. "You want to hold it? Don't worry, there's no ammo in the gun, or in the house. I don't allow it."

No I thought, I do not. But of course I did! I wanted to hold it, and spin it, and use the butt to smash a hole in the window and pick off an imaginary army of zombies in the backyard. Against all common sense and that whole fucking story about shooting my favorite person at point blank range, I said, "Uh, okay."

It felt heavier than it looked, and the metal was cool. It was certainly no paintball gun. My cheeks started to get hot, and I suddenly felt powerful. I was a lottery winner, a former man of meager means stepping out of a Camry and into a Corvette. It even smelled powerful, like really dense nickel or some type of mineral people die for in Africa. Before this moment, I was a clumsy English Major from Connecticut. Now, I was a clumsy English Major from Connecticut with a gun, motherfucker.

"Okay, take this back, please." I said, sensing an adrenaline black-out coming on.

Will chuckled as though he saw exactly what he expected to see. "You sure?"

"Yep, all done."

Will gently wrapped his hands around the body of the gun and lifted it from my sweaty palms.

"Feels good, right?" He asked.

"Yes, it does. Please put this away and don't let anyone here see or touch it."

"Why not?"

"Because this place is like a half-way home for people who think Hot Pockets are non-perishable." Just as I said this, a scrawny boy wearing an oversized ACDC shirt walked in.

"Whoa," he said, "can I see that?" And, as if he hadn't heard me at all, Will handed the rifle over to him. I took some steps backward as the definitely not-of-drinking-age Lost Boy sauntered off with the rifle like Rambo with a wedgie.

"I'm leaving," I said, "and I'm calling child services for the geckos."

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lost and Loving It: The Benefits of Never Knowing Where You Are or Where You're Going

I have a sordid relationship with any mode of transportation, mostly because I don't know how to use them. I'd like to attribute this to a wildly active imagination--a mind's eye that sees beauty and potential in all things, if you will. That would be nice, but the reality is that I have a canine ability at best to know where I am at any given time. I will save a little face by blaming my dad for passing down his own lack of awareness to me. I have evidence.


Julebruary 50billionth,

One sunny afternoon, my dad took his hybrid out for a little spin. He plugged a random address into his GPS and promptly followed the gentle commands of a bodiless lady. To his credit, he did followed her instructions very well. But ironically, therein lay his downfall. As he cruised along on a highway, the GPS lady abruptly said, "TURN LEFT, NOW," and my dad veered calmly at 50mph into an exit that was barricaded by a line of traffic cones and flanked by two police officers. As he sailed between a space wide enough, the officers waved their arms angrily, mouths contorting into various curses. To which my dad waved merrily back. "What emphatic policemen," I imagine he thought. It wasn't until seconds later that he realized what he had done, and was amazed at how blindly he obeyed the bossy lady in the direction-box.

"I would have driven right off a cliff," he said to me.

"Some would say you already have," I responded, sipping a cappuccino.

"What was that?"


I somehow inherited this navigational dumbassery from him, I just know it. But, whereas he is too obedient with directions, I am inexplicably hesitant to believe them. For some reason, the highlighted route on the screen disorients me and I never turn at the right moment. Gallons of gas have been wasted from having to back-track to the correct turns. It's as if I have to pass the turn, size it up through the window, and turn around for a second or third try if the roads are particularly tricky.

Dehh, take a lefts, and go up.
Even New York, a city where the streets have not curves, but right angles; not idiotic street names, but are numbered, it's anyone's guess as to whether I'll get where I'm going. Often the case is that I have to take a tour of the surrounding five blocks before I get there. Even with restaurants (which seems always to have stupidly small signage. I mean, wtf New York? Oh look at us, our signs are smaller than an index card and are written in Burmese. Well excuse the shit out of me for not having binoculars and the eyesight of an Afghan Hound.

What the fuck was I talking about? Oh, yes, inner navigation. I have none! No internal compass here. Nope. I've come to accept it as part of my personality. I've learned that if I just accept it as a piece of me, it's less infuriating for myself and those who are dumb enough to be my friends. It's common knowledge among my compadres that I need a good half-hour buffer to make up for the several wrong turns. All I need is a half hour, people. So before you invite me to your dinner party at the leboobydoop bistro and wine bar do the math, because I'm terrible at that, too.

Once we clueless wanderers have accepted this part of ourselves, we can enjoy the perks of getting lost.

Never knowing where I am means I don't have to buy a gym membership. Being lost means being in motion. One man's wrong turn, is another man-child's impromptu jog around the block. For sprint training, I like to lose track of my subway stops, so that when I glance up and realize I'm supposed to exit the train and the doors are closing, I lurch forward off my seat into a full areal somersault and slam into the window, missing the actual door by about seven feet. By the time I brush the dirt off my shoulders, fix my bangs, and get out at the next stop, my heart rate is elevated like a gay little humming bird. Never mind that the stress might be forming ulcers in my stomach. I've kept my figure without having to change into workout clothes in my office bathroom, which I think is something that would depress me beyond help.

Getting lost means you can interact with strangers! Once, after I had ridden a subway for fifteen minutes in the wrong direction, I flailed my way off at the following stop and sprinted to the station exit. As I reached the top of a stairway, I decided it was a good time to stretch my arms backwards in an attempt to crack my upper spine. I clasped my hands behind me and jutted them outward, making contact with the mouth of the woman directly behind me. I felt teeth and, I think, a little tongue. I'm not sure why her mouth was open at that time. She might have been at the awkward start to a sentence, but I think she saw my fingers swoop into her face and wanted a little nibble. Weirdo.

EXHIBIT C (is for cookie)
Getting lost is actually a good way to see the world. Or, in my case, the horrid underbelly of the city's transit system. One instance in particular has remains scorched into the plain of my memory.

It was gay pride weekend in New York (already a bad sign), and some close friends and I had convened to do whatever it is people do for gay pride. From what I gathered, it involves running from one end of Manhattan to the other in hopes of actually seeing a parade, which is fucking impossible. As it was summer time, running was especially extraneous. At one point, we gave up and wandered sweatily into an Urban Outfitters to do some shopping. When we reemerged onto the street, trendy cloth-bound shopping bags in hand, we couldn't agree on where to go.

"This way," said Chree.

"No this way!" said her sister, Shmackie.

"No that way," said Claude, who was visiting from L.A. and had no business informing anyone what to do.

"Oh let's just try this way!" Screamed Quincy, who was from Boston and drove cars, and was therefore even more useless than Claude.

It was clear there was dissent among the crew as to how we were going to get away from the Urban Outfitters entrance, so I did what do best during any manner of discussion, and looked up at some clouds. As I snapped back into reality, I saw that I was following everyone down a flight of stairs to the subway. I obviously didn't catch the name of where we decided to go, so I have no idea if we made it there successfully. What I do remember (vividly) is the pained face of woman/human bull-dog, whom I refer to as Carol. Carol, my friends, had what I call, a case of the oopsie poopsies.

At first, she appeared to us as a sound from below--a wailing of sorts you might hear from a camel giving birth to a Range Rover.

"What is that?" Chree asked, glancing fearfully to the another staircase, from whence the moaning sounded.

"A dying something," Shmackie said. "Definitely something on its way out." We faltered in our path onward, drawn toward the voice like a crowd to a car accident.

Next, we heard another voice, this one coming from a different woman whose tone suggested she was not happy. I decided to call her Persnippity. As Persnippity emerged from the secondary staircase, she looked over her shoulder, looked back down to her feet and shook her head. We stepped out of the way, trying to look inconspicuous.

"Come on!" Persnippity snapped.

"HNNnnnNNN," Carol moaned back. For an instant, I thought Carol might have been mentally handicapped, on account of her apparent inability to articulate complete sentences or words. This made me feel awful. Here we all were, waiting to witness some kind of spectacle of a dying creature, who turns out to have special needs. What kind of person had I become? What kind of asshole rubbernecks at someone else's handicap? We started to walk on as Carol finally emerged. Immediately, it was clear she was not mentally handicapped, she was just in pain.

An after-shock of guilt bitch-slapped me across the face for now having realized that I assumed Carol was mentally handicapped merely because she could only communicate with guttural noises. I was batting zero on the sensitivity front. That twinge of guilt did not last long however, because Carol's source of pain became horribly clear.

 Carol struggled past the top step and grabbed hold of the wall for support. Her sweaty face was the color of a newborn plum and her breathing sounded like great dane trying to choke itself. Slowly but with desperate determination, she lumbered to a white piling and started to loosen her pants. We stepped further away, sensing we were in a splash zone of sorts.

"Carol, please," insisted Persnippity.

"I GOT DA SHITS!" She roared back, her face now a full-blown shade of crimson red.

"Yyyep," Shmackie said, "I'm out."

We followed Shmackie to the other side of the station as Carol continued yelled into Persnippity's face.

"They're just tourists!" She said.

It was clear that Carol had made up her mind, and it was clear that we had to run away. Other pedestrians caught sight of her and darted in outward formations as if discovering a pipe bomb in the middle of the hallway. As we picked up our pace from speed walking to a light jog, I indulged a demonic urge to turn around and watched in horror the piling and the floor blossomed into a dark-brown tropical flower beneath Carol's bowed legs. Normally, this is not something people want to run into, but I thanked my lucky stars. I had spent 45 minutes racing after a parade that consisted of ill-fitting underwear and 238 kettle drums, and I needed something to shock my system. I didn't ask for Carol to do what she did, but I got it anyway. I'm sorry I made you picture Carol literally lose her shit all over the New York subway, but I like to share. It's my way of saying thank you to the universe for giving me blessings like Carol's horribly timed explosive diarrhea.

"That woman did not look pleased," Shmackie said as we regrouped on a different platform. "Y'know, the one whose friend just shit in the hallway?"

"I know," I said, "some people are so skittish."

I have no idea where we went after that because as far as I was concerned, no destination was going to top the journey.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sam Does Sports: A Spiritual Journey

Whichever deity divined my ability to get lost multiple times in my own neighborhood, also provided me with a penchant for non-manly activities. Like wrapping a towel around my head and referring to myself as Victoria, watching Spice World on loop, and tennis. Depending on which parts of the world you're in, tennis is the least offensive of these three to the brotherhood of man. However, in my hay-day as a bumbling middle-schooler, it was not so great to be interested in batting a fuzzy ball back and forth with an object that looked like something Strega Nona would use to beat dust out of a carpet.* That is to say, an object of housewifery. Anyone caught on the tennis courts actually playing tennis was deemed nothing less than a "faggot-bitch."

Very true, according to middle school polls.
The same deity that planted such un-popular seeds in my soul-fabric also neglected to weave in any interest at all in subjects that would not get me beaten up or called a pussy. Like burping into the nostrils of a baby, hating my teachers, and baseball. Granted, I played baseball in elementary school, but only because my uncle Paul said I was a fast runner, and there was something satisfying about hitting a ball that was flew toward my face (insert Freudian slip about tea-bagging here**). I enjoyed the competitive nature of team sports, sure, but baseball eluded my complete attention, as did many things that didn't (don't) involve a gospel choir or a key change. Many times I walked on to the diamond, as they say, I struggled to, well, care.

One time, my gym teacher made my class play a game of softball for funsies. I was only fully present when I was up to bat and running the bases. Running was fun, hitting the ball was even more fun, but standing anywhere, like, anywhere at all in the outfield was mundane and exhausting. It also nearly took my life

As my team took to the field, I vaguely remember being assigned to short-stop, but I may have been put in right-field and simply wandered toward shortstop, and decided to just stay there. It didn't really matter since the batters kept missing or only half-hitting the ball. The majority of my classmates were not athletic, so there were many foul balls in between strikes. Each time the ball met the bat, the smacking sound was merely a tease, signaling yet another foul ball. I practically re-imagined Cinderella with a armadillos instead of mice until something actually happened.

As a girl named Leslie stepped up to bat, I assumed the position of uninterested-tween: jutting my hip out, while rendering one leg limp, studying the contour of my nail bed. Not unlike this helpful stock photo of a sweeping tweenager:

Cut the hair, nix the broom, and make the skirt three inches shorter, you'd recognize me from a mile away.

In a twist of karmic fate, I suddenly imagined that Leslie might be a sleeper and smack a drive-line ball right into my mouth. I heard the ball meet the bat and looked up lazily. Lo and be-god-the-fuck-damn-hold, I stood in shock as the softball's size grew from minuscule to gigantic, flying right at me. I shrieked and did everything with my gloved hand except for position it in front of my body to catch it. So, the ball collided with my sternum. And it hurt--more emotionally than physically, I'll admit, but shit! What kind of awful sport bores you to death and then bruises your chest plate?? I was done-girl-done with baseball, but still felt a social responsibility to sport. I would sport among the best of them, but at what????

Enter, tennis. I hate to disappoint you, but my affair with tennis was actually quite pleasant. I took lessons over the summer, performed competently, and even taught my German classmate the words to 5, 6, 7, 8! the most obscure pop song ever invented. The problem with tennis remained that all the boys at school thought it was for pussies. The lessons were with kids I had never met and would never see again, so I was off the hook in the bullying department. After that summer, I tried to test the waters with an acquaintance that I often sat with on the bus home. He was a beefy, black haired, man-boy named Eric. He treated me fine as far as fellow bus travelers go, and sometimes, I sensed he even looked out for me. Sort of. One day after school, he rushed into the adjacent seat to mine and turned to me, fanning a handful of baseball cards between us.

"Oh my god, Sam. Sammy, oh my god," he sputtered, cheeks red and forehead full of sweat. "Sammy, I just got three holo-foil cards of John McBlablabla and Seth von Yadawhatever for only one card of RANDY SOMETHINGOROTHER!!!

"Oh," I said, "Uh..w-wow, wow! That's really great... I'm sorry, what?"

"Oh my God, Sammy. This is terrible. Sit back, I'm gonna learn ya some baseball."

He was right, this would be terrible. Eric went through each card in his hand, informing me of their stats, achievements, and horoscopes, but I didn't absorb any of it. When he started to calm down, I brought up tennis to gauge his reaction.

"Nah," he said. "Tennis is lame. You can't try too hard."

"What?" I asked. I struggled to understand his comment, since trying too hard was one of the many unforgivable tenants of being a nerd.

"You can't hit as hard as you want," Eric continued. "If you hit that fuzzy piece of shit ball too hard, it flies out of the court. It's stupid."

Had I known that professional tennis involved serves and returns that clock in over a hundred miles per hour, I might have said something, but I had nothing to defend my stupid (sic) sport with. In my sophomore weeks of tennis lessons, I had sent many a ball soaring out of the court and into various cars, rivers, and foreboding wooded areas. I was bummed out about this, because I felt I had no choice but to give it up. If someone who was nice to me would call it stupid, the hybrid psychopthic assholes that bullied anyone without a parole officer would be merciless. I had to figure out which sport landed between the life-threatening boredom of baseball, and the froofy reputation (sic) of tennis.

It was a couple of weeks later that my aunt Nanette recommended running. Why don't you do track? She asked. She recalled a day on the beach where she took me and her toddler sons out to run along the ocean. As she told the story, I remembered it surprisingly clearly. I trudged through the sand, barely getting tired for what might have been 20 minutes, thinking all the while that my aunt and cousins were right behind me. I stopped to look back and saw Aunt Nanette waving with her whole arm, a small figure about half a mile away. I could hardly make out that it was actually her waving, but I knew it was her, and I knew we were both impressed. "You'd be great at that!" She said. "Go our for track!"


I took up cross country to get in shape during the Fall, and when Spring rolled around I joined the track team. What I loved most about track and field was the options. We could jump, we could throw, we could relay and we could hurdle. Hurdling soon became my obsession. I watched the eighth graders leap over them like humans who had been infused with gazelle DNA. They were graceful, yet powerful, and they maintained their popularity. I found what I was looking for! Despite the amount of finesse and kinesthesia required to do them, hurdles landed in the sweet-spot between fatally boring and social suicide! I wanted to be a gazelle; a really fast, really fucking cool gazelle. The only problem was that, where the eighth graders resembled African fauna, I resembled a turtle with really long legs.

For whatever reason, I could not bound over them in the way one was supposed to. My feet stuttered as I got near and leapt straight up with only a slight arc that made every hurdle-jump an edge-of-you-seat nail biter that caused onlookers to gasp, WILL HE MAKE IT?? Eventually, I became so frightened of them, I lost the ability to go over the hurdles at all. Within the three weeks before our first meet, I had come to a complete halt before the hurdle more times than I could count. The act manifested itself into my brain so deeply that I began to lose my mind.

One night, the night, the night before the meet, I woke my mom twice due to a subconscious anxiety attack. The first time, around mid-night, I apparently walked right up to her sleeping face and asked her "Excuse me, but where is Kate sleeping?" Kate Labelle was a classmate and track rockstar. She knew almost everything about how the race would go down, and proved to be a reliable source of information, and comfort when she felt like it. My mom gasped as her eyes slowly opened to a close-up of her son's deranged eyeballs and said, "She's not sleeping here! Get back to bed!" And so I did. Minutes later I dreamt of the hurdles. The gun sounded and I ran. My feet practically levitated off the track and just as I leapt toward the first hurdle, I snapped out of my dream and watched the edge of my bunk bed pass beneath me as I sailed over it. I crash landed into a chair beneath me, crumpling into a tangled mess of limbs. Mom, awake for the second time that night, rushed in to my bedroom.

"Wha-tha hell happened??" She whisper-shouted, eyes slightly crossed.

"I... jumped... apparently."

"Well," she said, "are you okay?" I nodded yes. "Okay then get back to bed and... stay there."

The next day I was a damn mess. All day, my mind was absent, re-living my dream of the first, wretched hurdle. I was surely going to die. This was it. If the hurdle itself didn't end up decapitating me, the shame would be enough to make me drop dead where I stood. By the time I was on the field, Kate Labelle and some other teammates tried to console me.

"Don't worry," they said. "You'll be fine." When I didn't believe them, they upped their sincerity and got other kids to try to convince me I would definitely at least jump the first hurdle. "It's all gravy from there!" One of them said. I felt slightly better, but my nerves were still on high alert when it came time to line up for the race.

"Seriously, dude, you got this," one boy said wearing an orange t-shirt and white shorts. He stood next to me in a four-abreast line of the kids who would race with me in our heat. "Okay," I said, mostly unconvinced there was any way this would end well. As our line came up to the start, I placed my feet in the pre-run position, left only with my own brain to fight, not flee, from this diarrhea inducing race. I looked to the side and orange t-shirt smiled. I can do this, I can do this, I can do this. Can I do this? Fuck I fucking hope so, I thought.

"Runners set..." the starter shouted, and raised the cap gun. Bang.

As if fleeing from a man with an actual firearm, I bolted from the starting line. The first hurdle grew larger and larger, and the past month of stutter-stepping and bunk bed diving flashed before my eyes. In the largest burst of adrenaline I have ever known, I felt my right foot lift from the turf and jab toward the hurdle's top edge. In another burst of rapid after-shock adrenaline, my left foot launched my body up. For a split second, I felt elation. I did it. I was flying, I was going up, and up! Okay, woah, still going up. Where is the ground. 

Uh-oh. I was going too high. After cock-teasing my muscles with the possibility of jumping over a hurdle for 28 days, they had overcompensated now in this explosive moment and sent me in a flying arc that was so high, my body began to spin forward. Somehow, I caught myself before face-planting, and landed on my feet with my knees up by my ears. By the time I looked up, the other runners had already cleared the second and third hurdles. I lurched forward, moving purely on shock motor skills, with little coordination happening between my brain and legs. But I was so elated that I had cleared the first hurdle, I didn't even care I would finish dead last. I lobbed my frail body over the subsequent 7 hurdles and my friends cheered from the sidelines.

"Runn fasterrr, Saaammmmm!" They yelled.

No friends, I thought with a smile, I cannot. For you see, my body has gone numb, and I am moving purely on relief and fear-based adrenaline. I felt like a deer who'd been love-tapped by a speeding car. Except, instead of bounding forward like a panicked, yet graceful forest creature, I bumbled my way toward the finish in the fashion of a startled new-born cow. By no means was this a pretty sight, but I refused to feel self conscious. I lost against every other student who competed, but I conquered my fear of the hurdle, an inanimate object that stood no taller than three feet.

Three years later, I came in first over all at that very same race, and my coaches strong armed the state to allow me to compete in finals. "He may not have qualified," they reasoned, "but he's come a long, long way. Like, really long. Cut him a break, eh?" They agreed, and I ran the 80 meter hurdles with the best pre-teen runners in Rhode Island. And since I was not qualified to compete at that level, I came in last overall. Again. But this time, I looked good doing it, which is what really matters.


The making of this post involved several Google searches. One of which was "Gay tennis," which led me to this gem:
I have several questions about this, but do I want the answers?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Regular Child is Sluttier Than Your Honor Student

When I came out, my spirit animal changed. Yes, I believe in spirit animals. They're cool and very useful when it comes to assigning superficial characteristics to people you want to get to know. In my early years, my aunt described me as a Springer Spaniel--high octane, short attention span, and with a penchant for snuggling. After I came out, I was a Springer Spaniel with an erection. Other acceptable animal spirits included, rabbit, hamster, rat, squirrel and guinea pig. Essentially, all lifeforms with an inspired determination to copulate.

Time to go hump literally anything.

Allow me to explain. Before admitting to my family and friends and Twitter that I was l'homosexuel, I forbade myself to experiment with other boys. I had a secret to keep, and a facade of a straight person to maintain (which no one bought, with the exception of a few very sweet, very naive girlfriends). While I hid my inner gay, my body filled with suppressed hormones the way a Coke can fills with carbonation in the hands of a hyper maraca player. My parents knew I was hiding something from them--that was clear, but I was taken aback at how acutely aware they were of just how much was pent up inside me.

When I came out to my mother, she wasted no time declaring that sex was off-limits. I was 14 at the time, and wildly uncomfortable coming out in the first place, so when she became stern and said, "No sex until you're 18. Not in the mouth, not in the hiney," I was mortified.

And also disappointed.

The sole reason I came out was a boy named Jamie (whose name is definitely not Jamie, and whose identity I'm protecting exclusively to prevent him from contacting me) who, I swear to God, I saw in a dream before I met him. He was so good looking, my brain invented memories involving him that didn't actually happen. He was evenly tan, excellently dressed, and smarter than 90% of the entire school's population. He was also Brazilian, which was the most exotic piece of information I had learned about a person at that point in my life. I was aware that he had a boyfriend who was equally attractive and smart and universally loved, but the Coke can needed opening, so my mind zeroed in on the singular goal of getting it on. But first, I had to come out. I needed to be honest with whom I was in order to grant myself the permission of experimenting sexually without hiding behind a veil of lies. I'd like to point that, while this story will undoubtedly portray me as a base, man-whore, I was very loyal to my scruples in being honest. But I digress.

I came out to my parents and, sex laws notwithstanding, they were elated. My father even invited me to redecorate his living room, a decision he would later regret, (fast forward to a room of orange walls, green carpets and a poster of a palm tree--really, I should have been shot). They supported me fully, and opened the metaphorical gates to my new life as a certified gay. My extended family and many friends rallied in their grand nonchalance about my orientation, and I was able to put my unbelievable desire to make love on pause to be grateful for having such a kick-ass group of people on my side. Having jumped that massive hurdle of emotional climax and catharsis, I was ready to experience sexual climax and catharsis.

Spoiler alert--it never worked out with Jamie; who would have thought a sex-crazed 14 year old would fail in his attempt to break up an astonishingly attractive couple that involved a brilliant mixed raced Romeo and an overachieving brainiac that resembled The David? Mine was a doomed mission, but can you blame me for trying? In any case, the rejection led me to my first boyfriend, Liam (also a fake name and in no way an ode to that pre-teen in One Direction). Liam was a vivacious junior who was two years older than me. He had bright eyes, more energy than I knew what to do with, and a lot of Germanness, (tall, blonde, good at public speaking). He introduced me to many things, like theater, Bjork, and intercourse (hooray!)

I remember making first contact with his... down-there. The moment remains frozen in glorious gold carbonate in my mind. As Bjork sang about falling in love with a hedgehog made of salad forks, Liam and I made out. I lay beneath him as we kissed the frick out of each other, tugging and pulling on one glorious invisible rod of ecstasy between our two hungry mouths. Gradually (or what I thought was gradually), I slipped my hand between his jeans and his stomach, and felt what might be the largest penis I will ever encounter as long as I live. Even as a novice penis-toucher, I was astonished. My mouth froze on his and my eyes opened, staring into his closed eyelids.

"What's wrong," he breathed, eyes still closed, penis still in hand.

"Mmuh.. buffin..." I wasn't saying words, just sounds. I didn't know how to tell him he appeared capable of pleasing an adult horse. Not without embarrassing him anyway. Liam opened his eyes, not breaking his bedroom gaze and giggled. I smiled back and continued to look at him as though he was responsible for the size of his member. Are you kidding me? I thought. Just where in the god-damn fuck do we think this will fit? Hm? It was going nowhere without damaging me permanently, that was for sure. I experienced a flash of panic as I envisioned myself in the emergency room, bare ass in the air with nurses and doctors wailing at my bedside, "Why didn't he wait? Why didn't he listen?? HE'S JUST A BOY!" 

In another unprecedented moment of confusion and terror, I began thinking about my mother. This is why she didn't want me to have sex, I thought. She wasn't worried about STDs or decency, she just didn't want me to have to wear an adult diaper in the ninth grade. But, just as quickly as those horrible thoughts entered my mind, they left. The memory of my mom's sex-talk did not stop me from making out with Liam as if his face were a watering hole in the desert. Even his alarming endowment faded from a potential murder weapon to shaft of erotic pleasure (yes, you can roll your eyes at that, grab a bucket if you need to, but I'm not apologizing). I don't know why I've never said it before, but making out for the first time was a Richter Scale 10. My body literally shook as a molten wave of calm covered me from follicle to foot. It was as if the little men in my brain were operating on too much and not enough caffeine. The first kisses were the greatest, most unoriginal thrills of my teenage life.

In spite of my maxed out levels of euphoria, we did not have sex that night. Which is a good thing, because I think I would have burst into flames and died right there. I would not rise from the flames like a sexual phoenix, but rather I would go down in history as a sex martyr--Sam Ferrigno, Patron Saint of Coitus. His was a life of few years, but those last 30 minutes were really something, am I right? *fist bump*.

My relationship with Liam lasted less than four months, and I attributed the end to my hyperactive sex-drive and inability to focus.  Several more relationships followed before I even made it to senior year. To say I was slutty would be less accurate than saying I was extremely slutty and could not be stopped. After each sex act, I was overcome with guilt and paranoia. I felt I had dishonored my family and had surely, definitely this time, contracted AIDS, herpes, gonorrhea, swimmer's ear and the black lung (seriously, has WebMD brought peace of mind to anyone?). Yet, every time the dust settled and I would see that my parents were not tarred and feathered for having a floozy for a son, and that--thanks to contraception and an open dialogue with sex partners about the ramifications of blowjobs--I was not positive for STDs. Sure enough, as soon as I felt relieved that I worried over nothing, I gained a false sense of invincibility and started all over again.

Over a hot mug of bourbon one night (don't ask), my dad once pontificated that, if you have a son, you worry about one penis. If you have a daughter, you worry about all of them. And now, I'd like to add that if you have a gay son, you might as well crush a Xanax into your morning coffee until he's 45, because that shit rinses and repeats like a shampoo model with short-term memory loss.

My poor parents. I think at some point, they had to toss their hands up and let Jesus take the wheel, because I could barely keep up with myself at times. Other students were excelling with scholarship-winning GPAs and record-breaking athletic feats, and I created a massive web of sexual confusion and potential penicillin injections. "Just don't get crabs, okay? Please?" my father asked one morning after I walked two boys to the front door. Truthfully, I think my parents did their job. They never shamed me for having sex (even when they told me not to, and I did anyway because hormones), and they spoke honestly about why reckless sex is bad for your health and for your soul. Still, I brought home many boys, some of which I fully intended to turn into semi-long-term boyfriends. When teens start having lovers, parents worry about the potential havoc their genitals will incur on any stability in their lives. My folks were great sports, but I know they worried like all parents do. If karma is at all mathematical in its score-keeping, I will no doubt become the octo-dad to a brood of polygamous, bisexual man-whores.

Note to self: WebMD the dangers of mixing benzodiazepines with caffeine.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Vengeful Stink of Redemption

I'll spare you the eye-roll and avoid talking about how difficult middle school was. We all went through it and those who haven't, will soon enough. Anyone who was ever eleven years old knows that grades 5 through 8 are hell on earth. If a person is at all different, he is to preteens what a tired fawn is to a pack of hyenas. I was a closeted homosexual with logic defying crushes on my bullies, so I found myself in the limping fawn group of the social food chain. But that's it, really. I was gay, they were not, they were mean and, now that I think of it, kind of ugly for children. It's a tale as old as time, and I've little original flavor to offer. What I would like to share with you, is how I avenged myself on accident.

Yes, it was an accident--I had little, little control over the situation, which is why innocent bystanders were affected as well. They were punished for merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Truthfully, I didn't realize it was revenge when it happened. In fact, I hadn't regarded it as revenge until now--13 years later. In one minute, I was without any power to speak of, and in the next, I realized I had enough power to clear a room.

I am referring to the deadliest fart in the history of my life. Let's begin with a weekend field trip my 7th grade class took to a nature reserve.

It was winter, and our teachers caravanned the entire class to University of Rhode Island's W Alton Jones Campus. It is tradition for the 7th graders to go on a weekend-long nature trip for them to learn the value of teamwork, nature, and the benefits of eating leaves and dirt instead of chicken. There are cabins, there are nature trails, there are ropes courses. A handful of vegetarian college students either volunteer or are paid in peanuts to lead the annual tween sojourn into the woods.

As we unloaded from our buses, the vegetarians herded us into a large building that looked like a park ranger's headquarters. They talked to us at length about eating vegetables and beans, and occasional buckwheat and pinecone salad. All but one of them abstained from eating meat, and perhaps it was coincidence, but she always stood to the side of the group during presentations. I suspect she was marginalized by a habit of clubbing baby ducks for lunch.

We were intrigued by vegetarianism, but not sold. "What do you eat instead of chicken nuggets?" one of my classmates asked. Fiber was brought up as a selling point, which led to the discussion of fluid pooping which was enough to send all a hundred and eighty-whatever of us into a frenzy of fart noises from the boys and "EEWWWWWs" from the girls and dormant homosexuals (I remained quiet, managing a few giggles).

Before we left for Alton Jones, our Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Peters, predicted that the girls would behave like normal human beings and the boys would be inspired to fart as often as possible. Not only would our flatulence be overactive, but our shame would plummet. We're in nature! Farting is natural! Amen. I am not exaggerating when I say the evenings in my cabin were so inundated with farts that a white noise maker would have provided a less steady stream of sound. Our Vice Principal had drawn the short stick and was assigned to sleep in the advisor's room of our cabin.

One evening, he the room just as a particularly gassy boy named Steven lifted his ass over the edge of his bunk and released a staccato of rapid fire flatulence right into Vice Principle's face. His timing would have been more outrageous had the other 20 occupants not been launching their own thwapping fart-missiles in every direction. Again, I remained silent--from both ends. When everyone had finally fallen asleep, the quiet was almost unnerving. I tried to force out a little toot to make the silence less eerie, but I chickened out. Nobody, not nobody needs to shit his pants in a cabin full of thirteen year old boys.

The next day, we were presented with a variety of ropes courses and group games. First, we formed a large circle in a field just outside the Nature Headquarters. one of the college vegetarians named Sally walked to the circle's center and informed us all how to play Steal the Chicken. Beneath her feet lay a limp, rubber chicken, and she delivered the simplest instructions ever: "I'm going to say a characteristic or fact, and if it applies to you, you have to steal the chicken. But if I tag you, you are out and you must return to the outer circle.

Sally then dared everyone whose favorite color was green to come and snatch chicken away from her feet. Several of us advanced, and I don't know how it happened, but I managed to steal the chicken. The adrenaline caused my stomach to turn and feel like it might produce diarrhea, but a counter adrenaline came in and turned my nerves into a blood-thirsty urge to defend my fucking chicken at all costs. I double-triple-septuple dared anyone whose name began with a motherfucking M to come and fuck with me and my chicken. To my surprise, Sally meandered up to me with a hungry glean in her eyes. In a frantic bout of confusion, I swung out at her as if I were a single mother defending her child from jackals. I landed a balled fist on her shoulder blade, causing her to arch her back and stumble a little. She walked away with her arm cradled in front of her chest and another counselor told me to please relax. "Her name doesn't begin with M though!" I protested, as if this were good enough excuse to physically harm her.

"My middle name is Mary," she said, rotating her shoulder blade. I don't remember asking anyone to throw their middle names into the ring, but I felt embarrassed all the same. I appeared to not understand the range of variations the game called for, but also, I earned the reputation as the hyper student who needed containment. I recalled every martial arts class I signed up for as a kid, in which there was always a spaz case whose ADHD left his parents no choice but to encourage violence as a hobby.

I collected myself and refused to enter the ring. "No I wasn't born in November, you're mistaken." "Did she say 'all boys,'? I'm not so sure." Several other students jeered and flapped their hands in mock-pansy imitation of me. I did my best to ignore them and focused on doing the next activity with a cooler persona. The vegetarian forrest guides split us up into groups. Each group was given their own vegetarian/nature guide. Sally took a deep, smiling breath through her nose when she realized I was part of her troupe.

We didn't quite understand what she said next: "All right guys, lets go to the field."

We glanced around trying to make sure we weren't actually in a field already, but rather a valley, or a deep mirage. "We're in a field...," a rotund boy named John offered.

"This one will be different. Trust me."

We shrugged and followed her through a modest patch of trees and indeed came upon another field smaller than the first. Sally stepped in front of us and announced this was going to be an exercise in letting it out. The phrase triggered a response nerve and my diarrhea sensation came back. Letting it out? Letting what out? Please don't let anything come out. I was under pressure to not look like a fool again, so I was sensitive to anything that could be construed as a freak-bowel movement.

"I just want everyone to think of all the terrible things that bother you," Sally said, breathing deep at the end of her sentence. "Put it all in a ball right here," she said, pointing to her chest. "When it's there, hold it, and when I say go, I want you to all run as fast as you can in that direction and scream! When you can't scream anymore, stop and freeze. Then just... look around yourself, you know?"

Okay, Sally. I realized this was a let-the-stress-out activity, and my bowels became motionless once more. Nothing is going to be let out that I'd have to hose off. No need to get worked up over screaming and running. An ape could do this. Sally lined us up single file so that we stood shoulder to shoulder and said, "Take a deep breath... and... GO!"

"AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!" We all ran forward and screamed our brains out. We charged a line of trees in the distance like the Scots in Braveheart. One by one, we fell away, with myself and two others charging ahead. AAAAAAAH I continued, breathing in between screams. AAAAAAHHHHH (breath) AAAAAAAHHHHH (breath) AAAAAH. When I sensed a too-distant absence of my twelve group members, I turned and ended my scream as a question: AAAAAAAHHH? From about thirty yards off, everyone silently furrowed their brows in unsympathetic pity. Clearly, I missed the small bit about going only so far as one breath could take us. I walked back, bruised again by looking like an idot.

Sensing my defeat, Sally put me in charge of the next activity. We walked about a quarter of a mile through more woods and came upon a tall wooden pole, and a car tire.

"Your job," Sally said like a game show host, "is to get the tire over the top of the pole." I suggested the easy route and have someone throw the tire up to the top. A couple of my classmates made futile attempts, coming short by about ten feet.

"Okay, Sam," Sally said. "How else might this work?"

"A human pyramid!" I said, gleeful with my idea. I figured Once the tiniest member of the group was at the top, maybe she could lift the tire up and over.

"Okay! Sound good everyone? Great!"

The group stood before me and I relished my position: it was the complete opposite of being picked last in kickball. The first person to be picked would be the bottom center. Rotund John, the largest and strongest member of the group, looked at me with a silent fuck-you, as I instructed him to get down on all fours in front of the pole. We got halfway through the third row up before he started making muffled cries of pain.


"It's okay, John, Almost there." I coached.

"ffffmmgg, nnnnggokay!"

I told a sturdy girl named Laura to brace John with more support, and instructed a petit trio named Ricky, Leslie and Ryan to climb up and form another row. As they pawed up their classmates' strained bodies, John's wailing grew louder.

"AAUUGH!" His hands had begun to sink into the ground as his face turned a pretty shade of fuchsia.

"Almost there, John!"


"You can do it!"


"Okay..." Sally stepped in.


"Okay! OKAY!," she yelled. Ricky, Leslie and Ryan froze on their treks to the top of the pyramid, hands and feet covering various eyeballs and mouths. "That's enough! Climb down!" They dismantled, and I stood apart, unsoiled, a beatific look of disappointment on my face.

"That was a good try everyone. Excellent work!" Sally exclaimed, clapping her hands together as she knelt by John, whose eyes were beginning to uncross.

"But we didn't get the tire over the pole," Ricky said.

"You can't," Sally said, matter of fact. "It's impossible."

The twelve of us were silent, waiting for a punch line. "Huh?" Leslie asked.

"The exercise is to see how we approach an impossible task," she said, without a trace of irony. "Your teamwork was commendable. Really good work everyone." John's eyes regained focus and flashed between me and Sally, deciding which of us to smother first in our sleep. Fortunately, his wrists were in no condition to murder anyone. For a second, I thought they might be permanently stuck in a waving position.

A ropes course and several trust-falls later, Sally took us back to headquarters for dinner. For no apparent reason, a classmate from another group trailed me the whole way back whispering "You're gay," and "faggot" into my ear. The hate speech was a crummy punctuation on an awkward day of team-work failure. By the time we made it to the dining hall, I singly determined to eat my feelings. My stomach had been jittery, but I ignored it, grabbing brownies, pizza, hotwings, potatoes, garlic bread, and something called "ethnic rice." I even grabbed a vegan cookie for the hell of it. Whatever, I thought. I don't have to eat all of it.

About half way through the meal, I got pretty full. I felt the food slowly make its way past my chest, blocked from everything else I crammed into my face. I soldiered on, obligated not to waste too much. As I regarded another two full slices of pizza on my tray, one of the counselors/vegetarian forest guides clanged a trash can lid at the front of the hall.

"ALL RIGHT, STUDENTS!" He yelled. We all fell silent.

"YOU'VE ALL DONE GREAT SO FAR!" the other counselors applauded and we took our cue to clap, too. "But we've got... ONE MORE CHALLENGE for YOU, toDAY!"

Oh fucking fuck. I could barely sit up straight without my stomach pressing against my lungs. If we did another trust fall I would likely shart into someone's face.

Loud counselor man held up the large, metal waste bin. "You see this BIG TRASH CAN?" he asked. We nodded. We could see the big trash can. "IT. IS EMPTY!" Yes, it was empty. "If we can KEEP IT EMPTY..." Everyone leaned in to hear what would happen if we kept the can empty. I panicked, realizing I was about to be forbidden from throwing my 7th brownie and 10th slice of pizza away.

"If we can KEEP IT EMPTY... Mr. Potts.. WILL DANCE AROUND WITH THE TRASH CAN ON HIS HEAD!!!!!!" For some reason, the entire 7th grade was stupidly and radically thrilled by the possibility of this and wolfed down their left overs. A girl named Clara turned to me and said, "You better finish that."

"Ha! Don't you worry about that!" I said. I feared I might be the first person to actually eat himself to death, as it had become difficult to inhale. Dinner was almost over, but I managed to consume the last pieces of food on my tray. And, as promised, our beloved science teacher danced around with the trash can on his head. Everyone was elated and I tried to smile, focusing all my energy into being very still, and chuckling very softly.


Everyone cheered and applauded as Mr. Potts took a bow. I returned my tray to the counter and walked like the tin man to the nearest bathroom. I locked myself in the furthest stall from the door and tried to relieve myself of my obese food baby. Nothing came out, though. I seemed to have plugged myself up so focused on eating carbs that I forgot any fiber. The fiber!! Sweat beaded on my forehead as I experienced contraction like pains in my lower back and stomach. What's it doing in there?? I whispered to myself. There was definite diarrhea brewing, but it seemed to have not made up its mind about entering the great unknown. I recalled pregnancy exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science and began to lamaze-breath. Hee-hee-hoo. Hee-hee-hoo. A couple minutes later, the pain subsided. Unable to produce stool, my body decided now was not the time. "Later," it said, "when you're up for it." I pulled up my pants, washed my hands, and joined my classmates in a basement meeting room.

Everyone sat indian-style on a vomit colored carpet as the veggie counselors carried on about some campfire song featuring a moose. The kids in the front of the crowd listened half-heartedly, while the rest of us chatted amongst our assigned nature groups. I decided to spin on my butt to join a conversation when something shifted inside me. I felt something like a bubble move upward, and my diarrhea nerves were activated. Gas pockets the size of water balloons squeezed up and down and a searing thunderbolt shocked my pelvic region. Something was coming out, be it a fart, a poop, or Satan's cloven foot. I was in what my future literature professors would call, "A Point of No Return."

I begged my body to reconsider.

Oh no, please, not here.

Yes, here. It said back.

Please, not now.

Oh yes, now.

But... but.. everyone is around.

Who is everyone?

I'm begging, please no.

It is time.

You know this fart. You have been tormented by its jabs to the gut--don't deny it. It is impatient, it is bloated, it has no mind for tact or manners. It's the kind of fart you know is going to be bad before it leaves your sphincter, the kind that cannot be reasoned with. It cannot be, as my brother would say, "swallowed" back into your body for a safer exit some place else. It refuses to even be released in modest bursts, preferring to enter a room all at once in a single cloud of noxious devastation.

As my eyes watered from more rapid-fire contractions, I released a silent stream of air that lasted for five straight seconds. The relief was divine. I was a balloon popped, a rubbery carcass lying limp on the floor, unburdened by the responsibility of retaining air. I sat motionless in a moratorium of self awareness: life before this fart was over, and life after it was about to begin.

Then... the smell rose to my nostrils. Now, we all can tolerate our own smells. Though one's poo smell's much like that of another human, we tend to tolerate our own far more than someone else's. But not this time, This time was astonishing in its exception. As soon as I inhaled, I my pupils shrank. The hairs on my neck stood up, turned gray and evaporated into thin air. I felt the color drain from my cheeks as I glanced around looking for an emergency exit. It was too late for that though. One by one, the people nearby started to crinkle their noses as if smelling a gas leak from a stove. The nose crinkling spread like a ripple among the small pond of faces before me, which then evolved into full-on looks of shock, horror, and a little awe.

"Oh my god," several of them said.

"Oh my god," they said two seconds later.

"OH. MY. GOD!," some of them wailed.

"I think!... I think! (gagging sound) I think I can taste it!"

My classmates frantically turned to one another asking who did this. I denied it immediately, my face hot with guilt. Others were wrongly accused, and they retorted with offended glances and rebukes. Mr. Engel, our reading teacher, ambled to the windows and sent them up to let the air in.

"It's not enough!" Mrs. McVey shouted through both of her hands. Mr. Engel unlocked every door and flung them open. The Vegetarians/Woodland Gypsies  made their way closer to the windows, trying not to make a scene. One of the kids who had whispered hate words into my ear enclosed his head within a hood. His body heaved as though he were sobbing. The smell lingered for so long, we left for bed early. Not without pride, I openly admit that it was me, Chariho Middle School class of 2003. I did it. I dealt it. I supplied it and denied it... until now.

For all these years, I never considered this as an act of karmic revenge on my bullies. However, I can't help but compare it to the scene in Mean Girls where Regina George spreads photocopies of hateful gossip throughout her school. As her classmates turn violent and attack one another in the halls, she stands motionless at the head of the stairs, regarding her work with pride. Thanks to that and 13 years to mull it over, I consider this not as a story of shame and defeat, but as one of odd redemption. It wasn't Satan's cloven hoof that exited my body that night; it was the just hand of a mischievous God.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I Got a Bow and Arrow at Age 12 and No One Died. Really.

On my 12th birthday party I was given a bow and arrows by my parents. I had been asking for it for it since I was introduced to Legolas in 2001, but at age twelve, the memory of pelting William in the eye with a recorder was still fresh. Clearly, time softened the danger of an actual weapon. Perhaps Mom and Dad thought, "If he can turn a recorder into a projectile hazard, then maybe he'll wind up using the bow as a long bubble wand." In any case, my mom rounded the corner of the living room with an amateur bow that was literally shiny and red.

"Ohh, how, niiiice," Aunt Shmetty said, with an expression that betrayed her real thoughts, which were, "Someone will not survive this." My cousins geeked out along with me, and the adults smiled, imagining how they might explain future injuries to child services.

Thankfully, no one died, or even got shot. Early on, I managed to wield my charge with a surprising amount of responsibility. Even when my neighbor friends proposed we strap pillows to our chests and "dodge the arrows," I said, no, that's very unsafe. Instead, I, and whomever I granted the pleasure of coming along, shot the arrows into a wooden fence separating my Dad's yard and the one next door. It was good short-range practice for, well, shooting fences at short range. My Mom's yard was more expansive. When I was there, my friends and I practiced our long-distance shooting. I carried on for an impressive amount of time before I nearly ended my own parents' lives.


Dad's yard. Summer afternoon. 0 supervision.

Like most days of Summer for a young teen, I was stranded at home and bored. Dad was asleep after building a deck with his bare hands, and my neighbors were all away doing upper-middle class things, like picking out small plants at home depot or getting a casual lobster claw at the marina. I was left to my own devices, which involved the computer and my bow. I grabbed my bow and arrows and headed outside. The sun was warm, but not too hot, and the breeze was gentle, perfect weather to shoot things out of boredom. Shooting solo, however, was not as fun shooting with friends. I grew weary of the thwack thwacking the arrows made as they knocked hard into the fence. Before long, I realized this wasn't going to get any more fun than it was. With an exasperated sigh that no one heard (if a boy sighs alone in the woods...) I looked to the right and landed on my Dad's bedroom window on the first floor. It was bordered by long grass and freshly painted walls. His house was a 1950s style ranch, so everything was on the first floor, a.k.a., shooting level.

It had been over six months since I got the bow, and since then, I began to regard things with how well I could shoot them if I needed to. I didn't need to shoot the house, obviously, but I had already looked at it and my shoulder demon had already sunk his peer-pressuring claws into my neck, and asked me whether I could hit the house without waking up Dad. The fresh paint by the window begged to be pierced, destroyed with a single shot. I humored sensibility by saying out loud that it was a bad idea, but I had already decided. I darted off toward a tree about 40 yards from the house bow in one hand, arrow in the other. I turned back and took aim. My desire to shoot the house was winning out against a single shred of common sense, but it was a resilient shred. On the other side of of that window was my Dad's slumbering body, so I pulled back weakly and watched the arrow fall short. Thunk, into the ground it went. Nothing destroyed save a small inconsequential circle of dirt.

Ha! No harm done! I was brazened by the fact that nothing bad happened and drew another arrow. I pulled a little harder on the string and let go. Again, the arrow pierced only the ground, albeit a little closer to the house. By that point I had coated my fear in a severely misguided sense of assurance and pulled a third arrow back further yet and released. As it reached the apex of its arch, that assurance melted away and I realized all at once that I fucked up.

Oh boy oh no oh fuckfuckfffffuuuuck--thwick.

The arrow's head disappeared into the smooth, brown paint less than a foot from my dad's bedroom window. It stuck so perfectly at a 45 degree angle, it almost looked like it was meant to exist there, like an eccentric coat hanger. I was momentarily relieved it didn't crash through the window and through my dad's head, and then I panicked. From where I stood, I heard him grumble and rustle in his bed. I watched his hand pull back the curtain. "BUH," I heard him say.

Oh no! I thought, and ran behind the tree. I hid, the terror calling up memories of watching Jurassic Park when I was five. The raptor was coming and even though he couldn't see me, he knew I wasn't far. I stood stock still as the back door flew open and crashed against the hinge.

"SAM! WHERE ARE YOU?" He shouted.

As I trembled behind the tree, I looked down at the bow and realized I had incriminating evidence in my hand. In a moment of the sheerest, purest stupidity to date, I chucked the bow from behind the tree into an adjacent shrub (where, surely, only the keenest of investigators would locate it).

"Sam." There was both anger and disappointment in his voice. The culmination of my actions proved to him that I could be violent and obtuse at the same time. I stepped out to make my case that yes, this looks bad, really Dad, I know it does, but really, I never meant to, well, what I mean to say is this was just, well, an accident...?

He said no words. Just eyes. Left eyebrow raised in an angry point, pupils laser focused through my bull shit, lips pursed in an unseal-able straight line. It was weeks before I could use the bow again, which brings me to...

Mom's yard, accompanied by friends, in plain sight of 2 adults.

Normally, after a person fucks up in a major way at something, he will return learned and with more caution. Not I. In my mom's expansive yard with more room to shoot at nothing, and less people tp potentially kill, my foundation of safety weak. My friend, Shmarah, and I tried to see how far we could shoot arrows down the half acre field behind our moms' houses. Shmara's mom watched on from her porch, which was twenty feet from mine. The presence of an adult blanketed the scenario with a things-are-safer-now feeling. The bow was not the thing that had once come close to giving my dad an arrow shaped horn, but rather a mere toy. A really cool toy that could send an arrow down a half acre of land.

"You're really good!" Shmarah said. "You could definitely join the olympics as an archer."

"Really?" I asked, already envisioning myself blasting arrows with one of those robotic bows in front of the world, winning gold, and then making guest appearances on a series of game shows where the contestants and I try to outshoot each other blindfolded.

"Really," she said.

I smirked and sent another arrow soaring to the other side of the yard. We carried on like that for about half an hour, taking turns and bolstering my future as a professional archer. With each shot, I became more blasé with where I pointed and what I might have pointed at. At the end of our yard was a road that lead to a small cluster of apartment buildings. I didn't pause when a car slowly made its way down. As it arched its way forward, a lurch cartwheeled in my stomach as the arrow and the car began to line up. Had I shot higher, with a touch more pull, I would have hit it. The arrow landed directly in line with its front tire, coming short by about three feet. The person in the passenger seat turned her head toward us with her mouth agape. To this day, I'm not sure if she knew what happened. She was either appalled, impressed, or just yawning. I like to think it was all three.

"Be CAREFUL!" Shmara's mom yelled from the porch. Shmarah and I stood wide-eyed in near-murder adrenaline and ran to get the arrows from the ground.

"That was SO CLOSE." Shmarah gasped as we ran.

"I KNOW!" I huffed back. "We could have killed someone, or given them a flat tire!"

We scrambled around gathering our ammo and jogged back. Shmarah held most of them, while I held one arrow cocked into the bow string.

"That was really good aim," she said, running beside me. "It was, like, spot on."

At this point the adrenaline pumped mercilessly through my veins, and my ego started to think I was the son of Apollo. Not only did I have aim, but I also had the ability to judge the distance the arrow would fly! Yes! That must have been it. I missed them on purpose. I had gained masterful control of my bow--my arm extended.

We were nearly to the porch when our mom's appeared from around the corner. I thought nothing of shooting an arrow at them.

Thwang. Thunk.


The arrow landed about twelve feet in front of them, and Shmara's mom yelled a solid, "NNO!" My mom raised her eyebrows and allowed another adult to scold her child. "NO, NO, NO!" Shmarah's mom yelled. "We do NOT. SHOOT. AT PEOPLE! NO!"

My mom nodded her head with her chin brought down to her chest. She looked at me in the way that you look at someone getting in trouble for good reason. "Yep," she said with her eyes. "She's right. This should king of be a given." I was embarrassed, shrunken, and shaken. Why did I have this thing? Surely fate would not allow for another near miss. Not a fourth time. I took a break from shooting, and the bow was demoted from recreational weapon to Renaissance Fair accessory.

Every year, the 6th graders put on a fair where everyone dressed in medieval garb, and took on olden day professions. I went as an archer/fortune teller that charged 5 swedish fish for palm readings and let people pretend to shoot my bow for free. I brought no arrows, so both my parents and the school's administration said it was okay. An hour in, someone was shot in the face with a pencil.

Monday, January 19, 2015

I Nearly Blinded My Brother With A Flute

In polite society, my parents won't mention I had a temper growing up. Beneath a pleasant disposition and penchant for snuggling, I harbored rage that was often directed toward my brother, Will. I don't know why, and I don't know where the rage came from, but it was there, and Will often reciprocated with more rage. We've never done any one thing to create an irrevocable rift between us (that I know of) so perhaps like most rage and hatred, it was pointless and random.  Regardless, we both have a childhood furnished with literal and emotional scars. One of William's bottom teeth is off-colored due to the time I pushed his face into a hardwood floor, and I have an anxiety about bumping my shins into things ever since Will bit one of mine so hard a pool of purple blood swelled around his teeth marks.

What's odd is that I think we enjoyed it. Sue me, but the only things I really regret about that era are the times I hurt Will's feelings--the moments when cruelty truly reared its gaunt, clown-like face in full. But the times we got sand in our eyes, or getting a pine-cone smacked into our temples are events I wish we had filmed. Those memories are tucked snuggly in a pocket of my brain unoriginally labeled "boyhood."*

Will and I packed enough physical violence into our daily life that even if we didn't want to hurt each other, we did.

Take the time my parents made the dire mistake of purchasing me this:

The recorder, Satan's flute.
To be fair, my entire third-grade class was required to own a recorder for school. Mine was the only white one out of all 25 of us, because we had already had one somehow. If my life were a movie, this would have been referred to as "foreshadowing," or an "omen," or a "benign signal of imminent disaster." But life is not a movie, and we had no idea.

I took to it fairly quick, playing Hot Cross Buns daily and without end. I learned new songs fast and could twirl it in my fingers like a small baton. The twirling was actually the first trick I learned to do with it before school even started. When our teacher asked if anyone knew how to use it on the first day back, I shot my hand up. As I got up in front of the class and started to spin it instead of blow air into the mouth piece, my classmates lost their minds. OOOHHH, they bellowed, eyes wide like cats who had never seen a ribbon before. Our teacher realized she needed to ask more specific questions if her herd of little assholes were going to properly learn how to play the recorder and torment their families at home.

What she, nor anyone, could have foreseen was the need to inform us (me) of the instruments physical properties--that since the recorder comes in three pieces and can easily be assembled, it can also become unassembled just as easily. Had I known, I could have prevented one of the worst moments in projectile-caused injury in the history of my family. But as I said, there was no way for any right-minded human to imagine I would use my recorder as both a musical instrument and a baseball bat.

It happened on a Saturday afternoon in the kinder months of Summer. Will and I watched TV at our grandparents' house while our parents ran errands. During commercial breaks, I played my recorder while Will slouched further and further into our grandfather's armchair. In an act of false security, we were left unattended (the fools). Neither Pepa, nor Mema checked in while we grew bored. They did not pop in while I crumpled a piece of construction paper into a ball, and began bunting it across the floor with my recorder. They hadn't called down as I grew tired with bunting and excited with the prospect of hitting a mini home run.

As Will reached for his Gameboy, I tossed the ball of paper into the air once more, and with all of my fucking might, I swung. I heard the mouth-piece whistle as it bee-lined for Will's face. I stood stock still for a second, holding the beheaded recorder in terror. Will's hand shot over his right eye and the other eye grew wide and dark. Out of all the infinite points of trajectory in that room, the disembodied mouthpiece took a linear, lightning-fast path to my brother's eyeball. Time and space slowed, like when the lead character in a war movie stops fighting to watch mayhem ensue in all directions.

What followed was a sound I will never forget--the only sound in the world that would make me grateful for dementia later in life. Imagine a tea-kettle coming to a boil, only, instead of a whistle, an air-raid alarm is attached to the spout, and instead of water, magma from the Earth's core is setting it off. That was William's scream. He was so loud and pained it melted my brain stem. It called forth the countless fights, insults and injuries of our past and compressed them into one mental flash-card that read,


As I ran down the hall, screaming for my grandparents, and an ambulance and God himself, I couldn't help but consider the odds of this happening at all. The moment had gone from slow-motion to fast forward: both grandparents entering the room, applying cold compresses to Will's eye, calling my parents, calling the hospital, parents arriving, parents leaving with Will, and grandparents asking me what in the hell happened. When Will returned, he walked through the door wearing an eye patch and an expression that telepathically forgave me but also told me to go fuck myself. Dad informed us that his eye was bruised, but the projectile mouthpiece just barely missed destroying his sense of right-eye vision completely. In that moment, we both aged to adulthood and back.

While the incident forced me to vow more caution and less rough-housing, William's eye continued to suffer. Through no intention of my own, shit kept becoming air-born and smacking him in the same wounded eyeball. I sorted some old comic books and tossed one toward a trash can: it flapped open, changed its flight path and sliced Will's eyebrow. I unbuckled my seat belt upon getting home, and flung the buckle over my shoulder: it caught on my pinky finger, lassoed around the seat, and collided with Will's cornea. With Will in toe, I walked through our front door and kicked off my flip flops: both flew in perfect arcs and landed directly on his face. One-Two. It was as if the cosmos had centered an inordinate amount of energy toward my brother's bruised eye-socket. His wound was a black hole and all free-flying debris would be sucked in.

My father separated us, realizing I was a threat to Will under any circumstance.

"I didn't mean to!" I wailed. This being the desperate plea of all pre-teens. You can't be mad because it was an accident, God Damn it! AN ACCIDENT!!

"I don't care," my dad said, slicing his flat hand through the air, palm down. "You stay on this side of the house, and Will, you go next door. Cover your face."

Poor Willy. He was inured and fate kept salting the wound. The sheer guilt, pain, drama and fucking coincidence of it all forced me to question whether God and Satan were split personalities of the same psychopath. Did I mention this happened a week before Christmas? It did. Will wore an eye patch for three family gatherings and for each pirate-related comment he received, I felt his good eye burn a curse into the back of my neck.

Several Christmases later, I received a delayed karmic punishment by slicing my finger open while cutting carrots. I thought it might be interesting to cut the carrot from the middle by pushing the blade through the carrot's exposed center. I attended three family meals with a bandage the size of a rabbit foot freezing my finger in a permanent point. As I struggled to use a fork, Will regarded me from across the table, wearing a grin that squeezed his massive brown eyes into glimmering, chocolaty slits. He was either pleased that karma had finally sought balance, or that his will to curse me had worked and that he might be a witch. Jury's still out on that one, though it's probably both.


*Girls allowed.