I see universes, loves, achievements, like a projector up on the wall in my mind’s eye. The coveting of my peer’s lives and indulging of my day-dream fantasies keep me paralyzed. Having a foot injury has left my mind in the form of marinated stew, boiled until its liquefied mush and no solids remain. It starts to rot and smell, contaminating my mind space. My brain is the smarmy politician, constantly telling me its going to change things, just false promises and inertia. I can make all that money if given the chance. What’s the difference between laboring like a robot or being a skid row bum if you are morally bankrupt and without purpose. I’m becoming fed up being a cog in the machine, albeit a malfunctioning one. Going to war seems like a true sense of utility but who decides which great men and lousy warriors live and die, it’s the flip of a coin it seems, like it’s a coin flip whose born into wealth or poverty. I’m told I hit the birth lottery by being born a white male in the U.S.
September 22, 2016- I’m staying in hostels until I can find an apartment. I stayed in this grungy, smelly hostel last night and tonight, it smells and its hot and I hate the transient atmosphere of people looking to get drunk, make shallow connections and rub parts. It’s these homogenous college age kids, euro-rail travelers from America or Switzerland, Germany, Italy or wherever the hell who spend 3 days in a country and check it off their list forever. A fear of missing out emerges in me, when seeing travelers pass in and out, night after night, especially while being holed up with a self-induced stress fracture in my toe from overexertion. This could be a prison if I had to stay here for a month, or even a week. I see the me of five years ago, innocent, naive, no perspective or seasoning, just looking to get drunk. Hooking up with a foreign girl would be the pinnacle of any vacation. Now I find the choreography of arranging plans with drinking buddies at hostels exhausting and not worth the effort.
I ordered dominos to the hostel the other day. It was frustrating looking up the Spanish words for “medium” and “delivery.” The familiar food shame and fatigue served as a mild tranquilizer after gorging myself on a medium Margherita pizza and six mushy chocolate chip cookies. Reminds me of the ritualistic feasts I used to prepare in my marijuana induced feeding frenzies in college. These orgiastic feats of gluttony, tests of human will, pushed my body to the physical limits of hedonistic excess. I had to sprint out of a movie theater once while watching Hot Tub Time Machine to projectile vomit several ropes of black sludge after consuming a large slurpee, a tub of popcorn and $10-$15 worth of vending machine candy. All this in an attempt to fill the bottomless pit of WANT in my soul, that eternal pest and monster of a word that will never allow me to be satiated, it only wants more, forever. How does one escape the prison of the many hamster wheels and stop chasing every want and desire ad infinitum? Where actions are dictated only by the next carnal pleasure: the tasty meal, orgasm, drunken night, and propagation of one’s mighty ego. We’re all residents of this prison, however free we claim to be. Some are on parole or have more freedom in the yard granted for good behavior. Some have elaborately decorated hamster wheels and sleep with the other skinny attractive hamsters in their cell at night, but they are still in prison.
I went to view an apartment today, reluctantly, as I was wearing a large boot from the stress fracture incurred on the Camino. A moody british girl answered the door. The same accent I hear on other Brits, usually charming, was morphed into this “gotcha” sounding kind of one-ups-man type of lazy wit. We meandered over to the couch after awkward small talk. I informed her that I didn’t drink alcohol, thinking that this is a boon to all landlords and subletters. “Well, what do you have with fish? You don’t have white wine?” She asked.
“No.” I said.
“You don’t smoke? You don’t have any other vices?” She said.
“I used to use chewing tobacco, but I can’t now because they don’t sell it in Spain.” I said.
“We like to drink a lot here, we have friends over a lot, you seem to be the very straight and narrow type, I’m not sure you would fit in here.”
“I think I’ll just be going now.”
She trailed behind me as I limped to the door in my boot “Wellll congrats on doing the Camino so well!” she said, with a spike in pitch at the end of the sentence. She slammed the door and released a string of curses and epithets from behind the door that I’m sure were intended for me to hear. My stomach drops and I feel the familiar physiological indicators of my old pal shame.
Am I boring? Am I straight and narrow? I thought I had advanced past the antagonistic, self-righteous spokespeople for drinking that I encounter frequently, “You can’t even have one drink? What about at your wedding? You gotta let loose sometimes, right?” This girl classified drinking as an essential part of her British culture and therefore her identity as well. I see this as lazy, hopping onto the train of a common hobby shared by the masses, but this is my bitterness coming out. I wanted to tell her, “I don’t drink because I don’t need to!” I don’t need it to mask my shitty unattractive personality like you do.”
I was being bitten because I was trying to impose my lifestyle and views on someone else in a brazen way, although it is relevant when considering prospective roommates. I wanted to flaunt it, and sometimes I vainly want people to pat me on the back for it. Which would usually only occur for 1 out of every 50 people roughly, unless they are sober themselves.
This was the first time in a while someone had put it so bluntly and through her eyes, so black and white. Drinking alcohol vs. sobriety at its most reductionist form, represents fun and freedom versus containment and boredom. I used to wholeheartedly believe that a person who doesn’t drink is not open to new experiences. I was the guy who hassled anyone around me who wanted to “take it easy” that night, and bought them shots and pushed them in their face. Now I know alcohol is shortcut to vulnerability. It’s a performance enhancer that expedites the process of getting to know one another, in a shallow way, acting as training wheels on a bike for the timid, or steroids for a track star, depending on the volume.
Since being sober I haven’t been able to match the pure child-like excitement and all-synapses-firing interactive flow of those nights at the bars and clubs. It was the rare time I felt like I was on the same social playing field as everyone else around me, the words just came to me, I didn’t need to think, I was naturally funny, smooth, likable, if only for a few hours before I crashed and burned. There was such joy in shutting down the more pesky regulation centers in the brain temporarily. I have since not deployed that many muscles in my face while smiling, however psychopathic the smiles, and however dead and absent of humanity my eyes were. Some days I feel acute pain at the realization that I am a person who mediates my facial expressions and speech like a producer behind ten screens in the production room of an NBA broadcast.
Each night, I tasked myself with inhabiting the persona of a confident model of masculinity, dancing and talking to any woman, being confrontational and acting out the antithesis of my passive and timid day-time persona. I discarded inhibitions like sweat rags and felt fortified with new muscles. As each drink went down, the warmth from my stomach worked its way out to my extremities and gave me that feeling of home, in my own skin, a place I don’t make it to often.
I would wake up in some girl’s bed and consider it a home-run, the apex of my existence. These escapades should have strengthened my self-esteem, but I always felt like I skipped too many stages of the introduction process and was now more distant and detached from people as a result. My immediate cut and run reaction the morning after being physically intimate with someone is a symptom of my complete inability to be emotionally available. If I were allow someone to see the deeper parts of me, and that person liked them, that would be in opposition to everything I believe about myself. Where would I direct all my angst and self-hatred? Where would I draw my motivation to write, if not from the scorn and rejection of women and my view of myself as a solitary underdog redemption story? I can’t have that.