“Let the games begin!”

“You look like crap,” says my cousin who’s standing on the sidewalk before me near the entrance to his building. It’s 6:30 in the morning on a Sunday and I’m crouched by the curb, tying the shoelaces on my battered Mizunos and when I start to look up at him the first thing I notice is a very large dragon tattooed on his left shin, crawling all the way up to the thigh. His legs are slender and smooth, shaven entirely. It takes me half a minute to figure the large blocky ‘M’ with a dot above it embroidered on his cap: It stands for iron man, that triathlon… sports… thing.
“I didn’t get much sleep last night,” I tell him as if apologizing and of course in the back of my head it secretly translates to my not getting any sleep at all, having come over almost directly from Jimmy’s party the night before.
“I can smell the booze from up here, you know” he says with a smirk but not disapprovingly.
We are running together in this 10K race competition this morning.

Most of last night I remember in brief flashes of memory:
The last thing I remember well is I think Cindy standing on the other side of the counter, asking me why the champagne on her glass looks different from everyone else’s, redder. It’s because she had poured herself the cheap-ass Lambrusco instead and never realized.
She ended up throwing up over a wastebasket at the parking lot before we made it to Kay’s for some life-saving pasta after the party. By then she already had three or four band-aids stuck to her ass, over the fabric of her dress. I’d found those in her purse and I kept putting them there every time she bowed down to vomit as Dennis held back her hair.

Then there was when I went to the freezer and found the bottle of Stolichnaya. I went up to Monika and Martha and when I was just about to pour some orange juice on my glass Monika reprimanded me with a slap to my wrist. “We’ll drink it straight” she said with the usual stern look and icemaiden composure, which after a friendship of 15 years I'm pretty sure mean an inner smile.
I ended up pouring some orange juice after she’d turned her back to talk to Martha anyhow.

We left the party with Kay. Monika was in the front seat with him and me and Dennis and Cindy sat in the back. Dennis had a plastic cup filled to the brim with Baileys and we were drinking it all up as if chocolate milk. “Who wants an espresso?” he’d slur before passing it around. Martha followed us behind with Bryce in his car.
I have no idea where we got the Baileys from. I think it was Martha, who poured the entire bottle on that plastic cup before we left. I think I remember her giggling because she’d spilled much of it on her cleavage or something.
The rest of it was mostly a blur, I think.

I only fully realized what I’m doing well into the race, there by the third or fourth kilometer. My sweat reeks of stale champagne and I’m panting like a dog, and even though I’m not exactly experiencing my top performance I’m actually holding my own, surprisingly enough given my poor condition: Looks like all the training in the park must be paying off after all, what do you know.

It’s then, halfway into the course when I start noticing this sharp pain on my forearm and when take a good look at it there it is, an inch-wide wedge-shaped burn mark that as sure as hell wasn’t there the night before.
Later on today, when we’ll meet up Jimmy for dinner he’ll tell me he’d burned me with somebody else’s lighter during the party to stop me from stealing all the strawberries from the topping of his birthday cake.
“Really?” I’ll ask him. “Wow.”

I end up finishing the race in 47 minutes, 29 seconds, though: 273 out of I think 2162: Not bad at all, you know? That’s well above average, especially for a drunken idiot. Not bad at all indeed.
My cousin of course finishes it in 39’, and his brother in 42’, and as we’re standing by the swimming pool at this swanky country club they belong to, sometime later, they get me to enroll at this other race coming up next Sunday.
This time though, I think I’ve learned my lesson and I hope to do it clean.


Lighten up, chum

There’s a big-screen LCD TV in the middle of the living room when I come home from work on Friday. It’s not supposed to be here and it sure as hell wasn’t here earlier in the morning either. The fruit cake leftovers in the kitchen point out to my parents having come over in the afternoon. They have a spare key.

I stand motionless in front of the new TV set for I think fifteen or twenty minutes, pissed off as hell. As a personal rule I’m not supposed to take anybody else’s money or expensive presents in life— least of all from my parents— because it sort of muddles everything and it would simply justify everyone calling me a spoiled brat and I guess that bottom line, all mistakes have got to be ultimately my own.
So there I stand trying to make up my mind, halfway between returning the gift and dropkicking it all the way down from the eleventh floor, wondering what sound it would make as it reached the ground

I’m tired, though:
I’m spiritually tired and I’ve been dragging chains as long as the goddamn Titanic lately and this has been a shitty year all and all and I could use a break and I guess fighting mom over a TV set would be something of… ahnn counter-productive. So I don’t.

Of course by this time I’ve already sat down on the couch and I’m sort of going up and down the channels with the remote and I’ve started wondering if I could get away with breaking that rule just this once, that a tiny wee peccadillo into the evening wouldn’t really hurt in the big picture, right? Okay, maybe just dent it a bit but I could live with a dent, couldn’t I?
Okay then, just this once.

Hey, big screen TV, then.

The following morning there’s a scorching sun up in the sky and down here on Earth I’m going to the park to run a few laps around the lake. I end up bumping into this cousin of mine who used to be like, really, really fat until three years ago and now he’s an honest-to-god athlete whereas me, I’m, I dunno, fit, lean? It’s conceivable I’m actually faster than he is for short distance sprints but he’s a long-distance runner with at least twice the stamina and that’s what it counts.

I am able to stick with him for most of his running, matching his speed, though, and as we’re finishing off the last lap (his fourth, my second) we’re both dead tired and I ask him whether he’s ever thrown up after pushing it real hard when running.
He looks at me mystified.

“What? I’m just asking” I tell him, “It’s not like I’m throwing up right now”.
“No, it’s cool,” he says. “Just as long as you throw up away from chicks and stuff”.
“Like, have you ever…?”
“Thrown up after running?” he asks me in return. “Happens all the time if you drink milk shortly before pushing it real hard.”
“Milk? Really?”
“Oh yes. Are you used to drink milk before running?”
“All the time,” I tell him.
“Dude, it’s a no-brainer,” he says. “You drink up a lot of milk before training and once you get on with your ribcage heaving like fuck, up and down, panting like a dog, you’re bound to projectile-vomit anyhow.”
“So it’s not just me?”
“Nope,” he says.
“That’s reassuring,” I reply, and then he reminds me we’re both enrolled to this 10 or 15K running event the following Sunday and I tell him about Jimmy’s birthday party the night before.

He just smiles and reminds me that milk isn’t the only kind of beverage that induces throwing up.

Shortly afterwards I’m walking around the park aimlessly with my iPod on, barefooted, t-shirt off and all that, and then I find myself standing before the bronze statue of the WWII aviator—and true enough he’s always there, year in and year out, and meeting him is like marking the spiritual transition from Spring to Summertime, like a still-life psychopomp of sorts.

And you know what? That’s true enough.

Here I am under this terrific sun, with a big screen TV that dropped from out of nowhere and I’ve just been green-lit to spew milk after exercising. People should actually pay to live like me. I mean, this is the life!

What else can you expect out of it, right?


Introspective, ‘10

There are two little girls nine, maybe ten once I step into the elevator and they are giggling but not at one another but in fact at their iPhones: “And what time do you think is there in Europe right now?” the blonde asks the brunette without taking her eyes off the mobile. “Dunno,” she says and both of them resume giggling.
“Nine p.m. in London and ten p.m. in Budapest,” I say very matter-of-factly, as if not there at all. “It moves up a notch on the clock as you head East.”
“How about the USA?” the brunette asks.
“Seven… six-five-four,” I count down out aloud and tap my fingers on my thigh with each digit subtracted. “Four in the afternoon in New York. That’s Eastern Standard Time.”
“Do you work with clocks?” one of them asks me. I forget which. I just smile and say nothing in return.
The elevator stops at their floor and they get off: As the door closes the blonde girl turns back, looks at me puzzled and asks whether there’s any Daylight Savings Time in North America. “Yup,” I tell her, “Only it’s kind of backwards from here.”
“But do you work with clocks?” she insists.
“I know time.”

Much later that night I’m watching an old Woody Allen movie on TV, in black and white. The living room is dark and the blinds are half-opened so as to let some of the moonlight in: When I was a kid they used to show Woody Allen movies on TV some Saturday nights and I’d watch them sometimes alone and sometimes with my parents—
I know time, I’m saying to the little girl as if Holden Caulfield to Phoebe but it sounds a bit askew, somewhat off-centered, without direction: Suppose I could backtrack every year and start anew, and they would still come out muddy in the end
— “Not everyone gets corrupted,” says the Mariel Hemingway character to the Woody Allen character when the movie ends. I’d never get what she meant by that when I was a kid.

And I…
I made this real lousy joke the other day.
There was this photograph of my sneakers lying around my living room at 6 a.m. that I’d posted on Facebook for no special reason other than goofing around and there was this book on the floor nearby. I think you couldn’t even see the cover but Jimmy somehow spotted it dead-on and said William Burroughs made for some rather unsavory reading that early in the morning. I told him I’d rather have Burroughs for breakfast than Sylvia Plath for supper.
It remained a pretty good joke up until I realized it left a bad aftertaste in my mouth that clung for days and simply would not wear off: All in all it’s been that shitty a year.

I think the Ramones wrote a song about this, too...

It’s a little past three in the morning and Spring outside is stuffy and warm. Inside we’re at this party even though my alarm clock will go off in a few hours but never mind that, I’ve been trading up the vodkas for the champagne and white wine so it’s mostly cool now, it really is.

I’m talking to this guy I’ve just met, we’re sitting side by side at he end of the room talking crap and kind of trying to outdo one another making funny comments about the mid-80s videos on the big screen TV on the wall in front of us, in the distance.
All of a sudden he leans over, whispers something in my ear.

I say nothing but stand up and trudge my way to the kitchen with heavy steps, trying my best so as not to fall down. The kitchen is empty and I close the door so as to find myself some silence and peace— I could definitely use a glass of water for a change but all I find is some orange juice. I take a large gulp straight from the bottle and wipe my mouth with the back of my hands. And then it finally connects, clicks. Startled, I put down the orange juice and return to the living room:

“Now wait a second,” I lean over and ask the guy as I try my best to refrain from laughing. “Did you just ask me if I want to sniff some glue?!”
He smiles wide, gives me the two thumbs up.
I burst into laughter.


Silverfish, silverfish attack!

It's a silverfish attack and they seem to eat silicon...