Thursday, October 9, 2014

My week off with me



By Felix Carroll

Man, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do, don’t we? I haven’t seen my former self in like, what, 13 years? Or is it 14? Really, that long? Holy cow, time flies. Does my former self still eat a lot of Burger King and smoke cigarettes and sleep on a futon in an apartment above a deli that always smells like bacon? I wonder if he still refuses to get a credit card. Is he still snooty about not owning a television?

And does he still have a full head of hair? What about that flat-bottom fishing boat he had chained to a maple tree on the banks of a reservoir? I wonder if he still says, “World, talk to the hand. I’m gonna go get me a large-mouth bass and a good buzz.”

Has his eczema finally cleared up? Does he still quit jobs every 10 months and split town out of antsyness that he’s missing something somewhere else— somewhere far away where people have figured everything out about life and how to live it. People who never yawn?

I’m nervous. My wife and son are in San Diego for a whole week to visit my brother-in-law and his wife. I’m all alone with myself for the first time since I met my wife 14 years ago. A whole week! Just me. I know my former self will pay a visit. It only stands to reason. My former self, the guy who lived alone and did whatever the heck he wanted to do whenever the heck he wanted to do it.

My former self disappeared once I met my wife. You know, three’s a crowd, that sort of thing. He had to go. It was either he or she, and there was no way I was going to let her go. She’s a redhead for goodness sakes. She would be the Lauren Bacall to my Humphrey Bogart. It was time to clean myself up a bit.

That old me — the me who had sworn off career, children and owning anything that took two people to carry — he and I need to catch up. The last I saw him he was sulking. He wouldn’t even turn around to say goodbye. He was cleaning the Whopper wrappers from his pick-up truck and threatening to move to Ireland. He was still a romantic who would allow Chuck Berry and Benny Goodman and Jack Kerouac to poison him with ideas about wide-eyed America and living free-range and feral. My old self even moved with a girl to Chuck Berry’s hometown of St. Louis — one of many strange and tragic decisions — in an effort to self-mythologize. I recall my former self dreamed he’d jump into the Mississippi River to swim out to Huckleberry Finn’s raft and join him on his journey through the central nervous system of America.

He didn’t find Huckleberry Finn or the taproot to glorious American myth in St. Louis. He did find a riverboat moored by the Gateway Arch, and on that riverboat was a Burger King. I’m not kidding. Go figure that one out. And my former self ate one of those combo meals and got sick to his stomach and soon had to duck in a panic into a hotel bathroom on Market Street. I think Chuck Berry used to play gigs in that hotel. Man oh man. My former self is the only one I can talk to about things like that. We’ll be up all night laughing till we can’t breathe. I hope my wife doesn’t call from San Diego in the middle of that one. She’ll think I’ve lost my marbles, and of course I haven’t.

My former self will tell tales of bare light bulbs and blinking neon and broken down barns and playing drums in the greatest bands that no one liked and dragging chains in mud show circuses. He’ll recall his dismay at all those freshly minted strip malls surrounding every old town he’s visited — all those impenetrable moats guarding all those broken downtowns — shoe cities with no more soles. Would Jack Kerouac cry? Would he eat a Whopper? Is Wild Bill Hickok turning in his grave, his trigger finger twitching?

I hope my former self doesn’t still drink Budweiser. I refuse to buy Budweiser for him.

My former self will look around the place and see the Legos and the dish towels, and he’ll mock me. I’m prepared. In the evening when night has settled in and the dog is having a nightmare. When I’m wondering what people are doing in Tulsa right now, or Truckee, or Buckeye, or Calexico, or Baker City, he’ll try to needle me.

Fatherhood?

“Yes,” I’ll say, “and it’s true what fathers everywhere say: Having a child is the greatest thing in the world and makes us better people and happy to be wherever we are, mostly. Laugh all you want: Ha, ha, ha — ya dick.”

Marriage?

“She’s a redhead, you dope. We talked about this years ago. Just look at her. Just talk to her. Somehow she saw in you something I could never imagine. And besides it takes courage to love, ya fuck face. Go have diarrhea in Denver or Durham or Delrey Beach.”

Mortgage?

“I cannot defend myself on that one. I wanted to live in a yurt. ”

He’ll call me a sell-out. I’ll let him. He cannot hurt my feelings. That’d be impossible. 

Yeah, I may have a cigarette and coffee with him at 6 a.m. I owe him that. But I’ll have the bathroom fans running. And he has to skedaddle by the 20th. I have to pick my family up at the airport. 

I’ll look forward to seeing their photos from Legoland. 

I really will.

I hope they miss me in direct proportion to me not missing my former self.

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