Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hangman

The letter that she had written me was sitting on the dining room table in a standard white envelope. It was mixed in with today’s mail that I hadn’t opened yet. Her letter wasn’t in the mail box; she had slid it under the door while I had been at work.

Part of me wanted to read it over and over again. Hang on to every word that she scribbled on to the paper. Something deep inside wanted to understand her and think that every word communicated was truth, the answer, a gospel of sorts.

The envelope was under a coupon magazine that promised 25% off my next dry cleaning bill and buy one, get one free biscuits from a fast food restaurant that was on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River. Even though it was only 15 minutes away, I hadn’t been to Kentucky since I dropped her off at her house for the last time. There wasn’t really a point.

I cleared the table so I could eat my dinner and pretended not to think about the envelope that was now sitting on the kitchen counter. My fork moved from my plate to my mouth slower than usual. The pain was enjoyable. I didn’t want to climax.

Wheel of Fortune was on TV and though I hadn’t watched it since I had lived with my parents over a decade earlier, I sat through the entire competition. Steve from Salt Lake City was who I rooted for. He didn’t seem like he would vote for Mitt Romney and he treated all of the other contestants like they were family. Only hands claps were emitted when he spun the wheel. No cliche phrases were uttered.

Steve lost because he couldn’t solve the “Before & After” puzzle without needing to buy a vowel. Unfortunately, he went bankrupt on his last spin and Margot from Des Moines easily solved the puzzle. “Bare Foot Ball” she screamed at the top of her lungs. She lost in the bonus round.

I’m not sure why I bought a California King, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. It took up the entire room. I didn’t even sleep in the middle of the bed. It took too much effort trying to go to the bathroom at 5am. I slept on the right hand side where she use to sleep. It didn’t smell like her anymore.

At some point during the night I had brought the envelope in to my bedroom and while I was getting ready for work I propped it up against the bathroom mirror. Since she had hand delivered the envelope it wasn’t addressed any which way nor was there a stamp in the top right hand corner. It just said my name in the middle. Her hand writing was sloppy. It could have said any one's name.

When I went to leave for work I found another envelope under my door with my name scribbled on it. I looked through the peep hole. No one was there. For some reason I decided to open this envelope immediately. There wasn’t even a letter inside, just a yellow post-it note that said “Disregard the first letter”.

At that point I decided that it was time to read the first letter. The cursive was scribbled but I could make out most of the words. I found it to be a bit confusing though as the name that was written in the salutation was not mine and she had never told me that she had cheated on her previous boyfriend.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

You'll Wish It Was Only Make Believe

The year Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Six was an eventful one. The Cold War, which seems to me to be the best kind of war, was still going strong. We even had a real life quote/unquote James Bond looking bad guy in Mikhail Gorbachev with that birthmark on his forehead. He just looked evil, even though he moved to California after the collapse of the Soviet Union and won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was still scary looking to a 5 year old. Which I was.

The Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship, but not before dismantling our Atlanta Hawks in 5 games. Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer came out in 19886 as well and hit number one on the charts. Sledgehammer also had that crazy stop motion/claymation music video that would always duel with Michael Jackson’s Thriller for the number 1 spot on VH1’s top 500 videos of all time.

Some other top headlines read:

“Challenger Explodes 30 Seconds After Lift Off, Seven Crew Die”

This tragic event lead to tasteless jokes for years to come from my friends tossing lit matches at each other and yelling “Challenger!” I wish this joke would’ve stuck instead of them trying to hit each other in the balls after asking what the capital of Thailand was or the incessant quoting of “That’s what she said”.

“Nuclear Accident At Chernobyl Endangers USSR And Europe”

I didn’t understand this headline when I was a kid and I’m honestly surprised at how little I knew about this tragedy up until a few years ago. Not until I was playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and had to battle a slew of snipers while running across radioactive farmland that I decided to get educated on the subject

I discovered that Chernobyl not only displaced almost half a million people, but also released 400 times more radioactive material than Hiroshima. There was also a picture of a dog that I came across that looked like it was from John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. It was pretty fucking awesome.

1,000% Increase In Aids Cases Is Predicted By 1991

My parents, like everyone else in 1986 didn’t seem to talk about aids for probably one of two reasons:

1. They didn’t understand Aids and didn’t care.

2. They didn’t understand Aids and it scared the shit out of them.

Aids became real in my families life a few years later when the music pastor of the church we attended announced that he had Aids and was dying. Naturally, the church did not agree with how he had contracted the Aids virus. So they fired and disowned him.

It’s probably what Jesus would’ve done.

I don’t feel like my dad mentioned Aids or HIV again until Magic Johnson made his announcement back in ‘91, which makes sense because that’s when the headline predicted that AIDS would have increased by 1000%. Why wasn’t this headline replayed on VH1’s I love the 80’s?

1986 was also a great year for something else, something more up my alley, considering I was 5 years old an all. 1986 might hold the record for some of the best toys available on the market during the Christmas Season.

To start off the list:

You had the new and improved, yet smaller version of G.I. Joe. Yes, they shrunk 7 inches, but you no longer had to feel like you were playing with your sister’s fucking Barbie doll. Regardless my grandmother continued to refer to my action figures as dolls. I forgive her.

She was old then and she’s dead now.

Then there was M.A.S.K., which stood for “Mobile, Armored Strike Kommand”. Yes, they spelled command with a K. But now we know where Korn got it from. Anyway, Mask was like if G.I. Joe, Transformers and Darth Vader fucked and a line of generic Hasbro toys was birthed. All of the action figures had vehicles, but the soldier looked like a regular guy driving a Honda Civic, but then he would put on a storm trooper looking mask, hit a button and his vehicle would turn in to a fucking jet! Where the fuck where these dudes on 9/11?

And finally,

Lazer Tag: The futuristic high-tech gun whose purpose is to shoot your best friend in the heart... their words not mine. If you ever played Lazer Tag, you know that it was a great concept, but it didn’t really work very well. You could also buy helmets and all kinds of other “Blade Runner” looking accessories that looked cool, but also didn’t work. They even released G.I. Joe and Star Wars themes sets. We use to play in my friend’s unfinished basement. Cap guns would’ve been more fun... and effective.

Some honorable mentions for the top toys in 1986: the very creepy Teddy Ruxpin, as always the classic Transformers and last but not least, WWF Action Figures. You couldn’t really play with them though because the rubber was to hard to bend, but my older brother found another use for them, Blunt Force Trauma... in which I was on the receiving end.

With all of these amazing choices at hand you would think that I received a glorious Christmas present in 1986. Something that every kid was dreaming of, something violent, something futuristic, something that I could fight over with my brother.

There use to be a video tape of my reaction on Christmas morning when I opened the main present from my parents... and by parents, I mean my mother. It was a defining moment in my childhood that I don’t believe any other boy my age had to deal with in 1986. I still replay it in my mind often.

25 years has passed since this moment in my life and 10 years has passed since my Mom left my Dad for another woman. Somehow in a very Slaughterhouse Five/Billy Pilgrim Time Travel kind of way... I feel like all of these events are connected... pointing back to a singular moment that foreshadowed the future of my family and potentially the rest of my life...

or maybe I just over think everything.

It was in a tall box, almost eye level for a 5 year old who was under 4 feet tall. For some reason as I approached it, I was intimidated... It was as though I already knew that it was going to change my life forever and that I was also probably going to fucking hate it.

When I pulled the wrapping paper off it was like looking at my twin sister, except I didn’t have a twin sister and certainly didn’t want one for Christmas.

The box read “Baby Talk”.

Really Mom? A fucking baby doll. I’m 30 years old and I’m still kind of pissed off at this. I’m not even mad that my mom’s a lesbian, which potentially could have endangered my existence if she had made that decision 21 years earlier, but a fucking baby doll. Jesus Christ.

I have to be honest though. This is slightly my fault. I might have... kind of... maybe... in a very round about way mentioned to my mother that a little girl in my kindergarten class brought in a really cool doll for show-n-tell a few weeks before Christmas.

But seriously. It was 1986, the fucking doll could talk. I was impressed.

And maybe I forgot to tell her that I wanted any.. and or/all of the toys I mentioned earlier. At the same time, I got the Castle of fucking Grey Skull the previous Christmas and still played with it religiously.

With my brother laughing hysterically I kicked “Baby Talk” across the room. Believe it or not, the embarrassment still washes over me when I think of that moment. I felt like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” being forced to wear those god damn bunny pajamas, except this was a sneak attack. The room was spinning, everyone was laughing and my mother just looked at me and said with an evil grin. “But Johnny, you told me you wanted this for Christmas.”