Something called “School’s Out.”

This is something I hammered out a little while ago. I wasn’t in the happiest place. It was just one of those shit days where it felt better to beat on a piece of writing than hate on myself.

It’s a little bit non-fiction, and a little bit straight fiction. The poetry sucks and the prose is all drenched in “le sad,” but what can I say? I wasn’t in a great fucking mood.

Anyway, enough of my bullshit. Here she be:

School’s Out

It had been a pathetic kind of day. I was pissed off at everything, and the ones closest to me caught all the anger. That’s how it always goes though isn’t it? They’re always around, so they’re the ones who end up getting hit with all the stored up anger and bullshit.

I had woken up at around noon, jerked off and taken a long shower. Thinking in the shower usually helped, but not today. Today it was a useless gesture, and any attempts to make myself feel better slunk down the drain with all the water.

Then I sat around. I had gotten good at that. I was too lazy to do something, and too bored to sit around; firmly entrenched in a constant slew of discontent with myself and the world around me. Occasionally, in a flash of brilliance, I’d grab a piece of paper and scrawl down a poem about my situation, I didn’t hope to sell it, had no dreams or aspirations for it, I just wanted to not be useless for at least five minutes. That day, I wrote a little gem called, “Fuck.”

Too stressed, too pissed off

            Mad at everyone

            No motivation, no money

            Too Much Shit going on

            Exceeded by Peers

            Parents Splitting Up

            Out of school, out of shape

            Unemployed, unemployable

            Pissed at self, pissed at weather

            Keep fucking up

            Bored and lost, and taking it out on friends

            Fuck.

It was pathetic poetry for a pathetic day. I knew it wasn’t helping, and I knew I was making mountains out of my personal problems; coping a “woe is me” attitude for all my shit. I’d catch myself in the mirror of my flat and say to myself, “What the fuck are you complaining about?”

With no answer, I’d go and jerk off again, or give reading a book a shot. I’d hoped it would do something to cheer me up. I didn’t want to dive into anything heavy, just something with enough bite to it to make me feel alive again, like I had before. I craved that certain feeling of youth, the one where you wanted to fuck everything that moved, could drink everything in sight and could spend less than an hour a week asleep. That feeling was gone from me. I wasn’t old, barely 21, yet I felt closer to a thousand when I rolled out of bed in the morning and coughed and snorted my way to my first cup of coffee.

***

I had been out of High School for two years and had accomplished nothing with my life. The feeling of escaping school, it had faded. All the talk of, “heading into the future,” of “growing up and getting onto your life,” it had all faded to memory, or been muted and killed by the boredom of convenience jobs, the taste of instant noodles, the burn of cheap booze, and that never ending feeling that I was stalled at the starting gate of the life I was supposed to be tearing in to.

Everyone else wanted to travel, wanted to go to university, wanted to have kids and get married, start businesses and enter the workforce. I didn’t want any of that, and I thought it all tiresome and stupid. I wanted to write, I wanted to create, I wanted to do something that made people think, something that grabbed them by the balls and squeezed.

Quickly though, naivety segued into reality. The need to get paid outweighed the need to be a creative force. For the next two years it was a slog of job after job; dishwasher, liquor store clerk, delivery guy, dishwasher, and a myriad other assortment of minimum wage nightmares: A factotum of suck.

Of course there was always that feeling in the back of my mind that I could do both. That I could work the day job and then come home and hammer out the next great Canadian novel at night. It just never happened. It was all talk and no action. All drive and no delivery. I’d still tell the people I worked with that I was a writer, but even my enthusiasm for that slowly moved from me believing it, to simply saying it so nobody would assume I actually wanted to work at Nick’s Pizza.

Reality led to realization. I wasn’t going to be a writer. I was going to be a failure. While all those people I laughed at did all the things that they said they would do, I simply remained pathetic, enslaved to a cycle of self-doubt and self-abuse, unable to break out of it while still paying the electric bill.

And so began The Pathetic Days, three hundred and thirty one of them. Until one day I decided to break free and force myself to do something I loved, to give myself no other options but slavery to the printed world. Published or death! I quit my current dish washing gig and went home, overjoyed with my choice, and excited once again like I wanted to be. It was all going to work out, I just needed to push myself, to ditch this bullshit, get off the wheel of the working man and dig into something that was real to me.

I wrote some poems, I wrote a short story or two. It was stuff I liked, and I thought the writing was strong and powerful. All in all, my total word count for that month of bliss was around six thousand words, barely the first centimeter of a book spine. I was turning nothing into Bukowski and Burroughs. I was walking around thinking myself a literary god, unpublished and un-printed, yet king of the fucking world. Confident, egotistical, and unedited, I sent my writing off.

There was no response. There wouldn’t be. Once again, naivety segued into reality, then into realization. A doom spiral overtook me. Nothing would work out, and I was going to die poor and alone, lost in the aftermath of high school, unable to hack it in the real world of my peers. I spent that New Year’s Eve alone and angry. So began the second round of The Pathetic Days. I won’t bore you with the details, just the highlights:

Day 71: My brother called to let me know he’d been hired at a graphics effects company in Vancouver. He’d be travelling the world, doing what he loved, and getting paid handsomely to do it. I said I was happy for him. That he’d made it. When I hung up, I determinedly opened a fresh Word document and sat there staring at it for at least an hour. I gave up, watched porn instead, and hated what I was sure was my new position as, “The Failure of The Family.”

Day 112: In a flurry of inspiration, I write a short story for a series of local literary magazine. Their rejection letters all arrive on the same day. Later, I’m rejected three times by three women at the bar I attempted to drown my sorrows in. Drunk, I wonder to myself if they are the daughters of the literary agents who work at the magazine, and my fate to be un-published and un-fucked is a family conspiracy.

Day 311: My Mom calls me to tell me her and my father are splitting up. It’s nobody’s fault, they just don’t love each other anymore. I don’t get as emotional as I think I would. I ask my Mom if she is okay and she says that she’s never felt better. I don’t think any of this is because of me. I sit in bed at night drinking a mickey of scotch and wondering if my success would have strengthened their marriage. I turn their failure into mine and fall asleep drunk. I woke up with hurting guts and the discovery I’m out of food and have twenty six dollars in the bank.

***

I was now on day 313. It was cold outside and felt like the three days previous had all melded into one. I was down to my last twenty bucks, and had seriously considered giving up again. I would polish up the resume and hit the town tomorrow. My will was broken. My creative spirit was left for dead.

I decided to go out and blow my last twenty dollars. To really put finality to things, to force myself into a corner where the only escape route was to once again go out and join the workforce; to join the masses in their slow march toward retirement and marriage and death. It was over. I had lost again. It had taken two post high school years for me to not achieve my dreams. “It might happen later on!” I thought to myself as I grabbed my coat and headed out into the night. “Many authors didn’t make their dent until they were much older!” It didn’t soothe anything, even if late career fame was guaranteed; I wanted nothing of the lead up, nothing of the waiting and hoping. I imagined myself alone in a run-down apartment at age 60, every wall plastered roof to floor with rejection letters.

Why couldn’t I just be happy?

I bought a pack of cigarettes and some food; something to whip up a salad. I contemplated hitting the liquor store, but booze was too expensive and made things darker. I didn’t want the false warmth of whiskey swishing around inside me while all I felt was cold and lost. I went home, ate, and went to sleep.

***

The next morning, I sat on the front steps of my place and smoked a cigarette. It was late afternoon and I was still in my pajamas, with my robe clutched closer to me for warmth. The sun was setting early. Two school buses full of shrieking and laughing young children rumbled past.

I wonder how my twelve year old self would have viewed me and how I was feeling right now. Would he think I was cool? Would he think I was a nerd? How would he feel if I told him about how successful I’d been out of high school? If I told him how things had be turning out since then? About how he’d feel when he’d grown up? About how one day his parents would split up? Would 12-year-old me frown on the smoking?

I smiled and thought to myself that he’d probably do something to cheer me up. He’d remind me of how I used to be; full of creativity and spunk. Remind me that I wasn’t that old, that I still had potential, that even though I had moved into the next phase of my life, everything wasn’t fucked. That I’d moved phases before, and survived.

A cat lay out on the roof of a nearby car, trying to soak up the last few rays of sunlight before dark. He looked uninterested with the world, yet determined to let everyone know he was still in it.

I knew the feeling.

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