There’s a Plot Here Somewhere…

Back at the bar where Jon and his friends were gathered, they discussed these events, remembering old times.

“You can’t possibly include all of that in your speech. We’ve been here an hour already, and you haven’t really said anything yet,” Collins remarked.

“I know, but it’s all important. It’s all leading somewhere, I promise. Besides, we just got to the good part. I’m obviously not putting every word of this in the speech, but this is all part of your story; out of everyone at this wedding, there aren’t many people who have known you as long as we have. Won’t they want to know how you got to where you are?”

Collins nodded as he sipped his beer. “That’s true, but my wedding reception isn’t exactly the time or place for a full biography.”

Schmidt chuckled, saying, “Why not? You don’t think your wedding guests want to hear about your entire life story?”

“I don’t think they want to sit and listen to Jon-boy for that long. At this rate, he’s going to have enough material to write a series of books about me,” Collins retorted.

“C’mon, don’t flatter yourself; your life isn’t THAT exciting. You’d get a trilogy at best,” said Jon.

Schmidty attempted to flag down the waitress and said, “Well, if we’re going to write Collins’ trilogy down on a bar napkin, we are going to need some wings.”

“Oooh, that sounds awesome. We’re also going to need more napkins…alright, Jonny, where were we?”

  • –        –       –       –       –       –       –       –       –       –       –       –       –       –       –

The rest of the trip was rather uneventful. A couple good meals, a lot of driving around town, and then a quiet drive home. After they returned, they met up with Schmidt, who was working the overnight shift by himself. The two of them decided to keep him company and tell him about the trip while he worked.

After Schmidt got off duty, the three of them decided to go to the store and do what they liked to call “adventure shopping.” This was a tradition they had developed where they went to a store, performed a bunch of shenanigans, and timed how long it took them to get thrown out. As juvenile as it sounds, it was actually quite fun. Even Jon, who was the most rule-abiding member of the group, found it entertaining. So the boys went to the store.

“Man, I thought that greeter at the door recognized me from the last time we were here,” Collins said quietly after they walked in.

“Last time? What did we do last time?” Jon asked.

Collins laughed out loud as Schmidt began telling the story. “It was just me and Collins last time. He tried putting a bag of fun-size candy bars on lay-away. Then when they didn’t let him do it, he filled the cart with candy and started handing it out to kids as they walked by. About a dozen of them tried to leave the store without paying for it.”

Jon chuckled. “Did he tell them it was free candy or something?”

“No, he just handed it to them and told every one of them ‘Happy America Days.’ And then a bunch of them just walked out of the store.”

“Yeah, I may have accidentally orchestrated the biggest candy-heist in history.”

“I can’t believe they still let you shop here,” Jon remarked.

“I am too, considering I get thrown out of this place at least twice a month.”

Walking over to housewares, they saw a large bin full of kitchen timers, which they then set to go off five at a time at thirty-second intervals. The first set went off just as they escaped the scene of the crime, barely containing their laughter.

Moments later, the loudspeaker crackled to life, with a very annoyed woman trying to talk over the two-dozen kitchen timers sounding in the background.

Can we get every available associate to housewares? We are having technical difficulties.”

The boys allowed themselves a moment of laughter as they meandered over to the clearance section. According to Collins, that was where all the fun props were kept. Seasonal items that were out of season, masks, toys; it was a prankster’s paradise.

Upon arrival, they proceeded to don Halloween masks and begin a three-way sword fight using foam noodles (you know, those pool toys that look like giant strands of colored spaghetti.) This went on for quite a while, and eventually made its way over to the produce section, where a toppled basket of apples alerted security to their antics. Their noodles and masks were taken away, Collins was issued a written ban notice, and the three of them were asked to leave.

Somehow, on the way out, Jon was able to get in line and buy a bag of tortilla chips and some salsa, which they subsequently popped open as soon as they made it outside. They found their way over to one of the benches out front, sat down, and had a good chuckle.

“That wasn’t half bad. I’d love to see the security footage of us gallivanting around the place,” Collins laughed.

Through a mouthful of chips, Schmidty replied, “If you weren’t such a klutz, we could have stretched that out for a while longer; they were still dealing with the kitchen timers.”

“Hey now…I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. Who puts a basket of apples in the middle of the floor anyway?”

Jon piped up, “Apparently THEY do. Can you imagine the meeting their security team is having right now? I wouldn’t be surprised if they put up fliers with Collins’ picture on them now.”

“That would be awesome. The only sucky thing is I wouldn’t get to see my own wanted poster unless one of you stole one for me or if I came back to the store.”

“Yeah, well…it’s the price you pay.”

Schmidty, in typical fashion, changed the topic suddenly. “Jon, when do you leave?”

“…if you wanted some alone time with Collins, all you had to do was ask…”

“Shut up…like, when do you move to Michigan?”

“Oh. Well, school starts in 6 weeks, so probably within the month. I’m just waiting on my housing form to be approved, and I can head up there.”

“Are you gonna need any help moving your stuff or anything?”

“No, the rooms are furnished, so everything I’m taking up with me will fit in the car.”

“Ok. How long do you think you’ll be up there?”

“School should take about two or three years, and depending on the job market, I might stay up there. It all depends on the money once I graduate. I have to go where the jobs are.”

“Fair enough,” Collins said after a moment. “Let’s get out of here; I see six security guys coming this way.”

The next few weeks went by quickly, and nothing noteworthy really happened. Well, there was an incident the day before Jon moved, but he’d rather forget the whole thing. Suffice it to say that being handcuffed to the inside of his own truck and forced to listen to mariachi music for two hours was not how he had planned on spending his day…Anyway, time came and went, Jon moved to Michigan, and then things started getting interesting. Oh, and by the way: Schmidt went back to the store a week later and stole Collins a copy of his “wanted poster.” It was quite epic.

Professional Self-Critic

I’m walking down the hall, absentmindedly going about my business, lost in thought. I have to smile at the irony of it all; I despise cliches, but I am a walking, talking cliche. An angsty youth, pessimistically pondering the future, hiding away a seed of hope from himself, pretending he is numb to it all. I could be the poster-child for the emo movement.

The thought that meanders through my mind tonight is one of hope and optimism. I don’t like to be hopeful or optimistic at all; I like to consider myself a realist. I have almost convinced myself that I see the world for what it is…almost.

I continue to walk the halls aimlessly, thinking about this.

I have told myself over and over that I view the world I live in through such a dark lens because that’s the way it really is. Nothing good happens, misfortune and sour outcomes should be expected at all times. I’ve pompously pumped myself up by thinking that I am a critic because I am smarter and wiser than most. My ego tells me that I am sarcastic and critical because I am intelligent enough to be that way; the truth of the matter is I am simply too weak to be optimistic.

I am afraid; I’m silently terrified of being disappointed. I’m scared of building my hopes up and seeing them dashed in an instant, like a casserole dish as it crashes onto the kitchen floor.

I’m not high-minded, I’m a coward. I am not strong enough to stand in the face of disappointment and hope for a better outcome next time; I fall back into a snarling, bleak outlook, and refuse to believe that something better can come along. I am weak, I am afraid, and I am ashamed. I am embarrassed by my own fragility, and I attempt to disguise it as cynicism and snark.

I mock the hopeful because I am so crippled by fear that I cannot summon the ounce of hopefulness I have stashed away for even a second. I cannot allow it to see even a second of daylight, because I know that the moment I unleash it, I will have to acknowledge the things I hope for. What happens when I allow myself to be optimistic? What happens when I hope for the best? The larger part of my mind says that is when all hope will be lost, and my inner cynic will be proven right. And yet, there is a small voice, barely more than a whisper, that says, “But what if he’s wrong? What if there is room for hopeful optimism? What if your lack of hope is the very reason hopeful things don’t happen?”

It’s hard work, being hopeful. A seed can’t grow in the dark. I know that. Yet, here I am, drawing the shades closed once again, throwing that sliver of optimism back into a box that I keep stashed away in the back of the closet. I am still far too fearful of being so exposed. Any shrink would call this a defense mechanism. I see it for what it is; I ignore it, yes, but I know what it really is. It is pure, unadulterated cowardice. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be brave enough to be optimistic, but I won’t get my hopes up.

Addicted

I am an addict. It doesn’t really matter what I’m addicted to; it’s all the same. Women, booze, heroin, meth…the addiction remains the same. When you first start, you still feel like a person. You may have some pretty rough reasons for picking it up, but nothing can compare to the reasons you can’t put it back down.

It’s like you start out whole, or at least something close to it, and you sell a piece of your soul to the devil with every fix. You chip away little slivers of yourself until all that’s left is a cold soul. You check your pulse now and then, wondering if there’s still a heart within your chest.

That’s not so bad until it’s all you’re left with. People don’t seem to understand that addiction is enjoyable; you wouldn’t be hooked if it wasn’t. Eventually, however, you have a moment of clarity, that brisk morning where you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and you’re not sure who you’re looking at.

The change is in the eyes. The eyes tell you what the rest of you hides. The eyes show the experiences, the loss, the pain, and most importantly, the self-loathing.

At a certain point, that’s all that remains. And that is where I am.

There came a day for me where I stopped doing it for the pleasure and started doing it because it made me feel something; it was better than not feeling anything at all. When I went without, I couldn’t avoid my emptiness. I wound up just staring at the wall, contemplating the nothingness I had become.

It’s all I have anymore. I chased away all my friends, scared away all my family, and now this is all I have left to my name.

It’s not a sickness. It’s not a disease. I can’t go to the doctor and get a shot, and then suddenly be all better.

It’s not weakness, either. I’m not weak; I’m broken.

This is the outward expression of something that has lain dormant in me for a long time. My addiction is evidence that the decay inside my soul is so rampant that it affects my body as well as my mind. It controls my actions; I used to despise the fact that I let it turn me into this. Now, I don’t give a damn.

This…thing, this monster inside me, I know it will be the end of me. This is going to kill me one of these days. The sad thing is I’m perfectly okay with that. I mean, I’m practically dead already. Inside, I am empty; it’s just my body that carries on.

Hero! (or How I Got Run Over by a Moped)

“Hello there, Audience; it’s me, Thatcher, again. As if you had any doubts; you probably read the title and knew right away that I was back at my old shenanigans again. It’s been a while since our last adventure. There is a damn good reason for that, too. I kind of wound up in the hospital.

“You see, not long after my last bit of excitement, I was in need of a little cash. You know what, this story is much better if The Narrator tells it; he saw the whole thing. Narrator, take it away.”

Thank you, Thatch. Now, as he told you, Thatcher was in need of some money. Believe it or not, he is not able to steal electricity or heat, so naturally, he has to pay for those things. Also naturally (this is Thatcher the Great and Terrible we’re talking about), he didn’t want to spend his own money on these things. He finds it is much more rewarding to steal the money. Or as he puts it, to “have some kind soul pay my bills.”

So he went out and started turning out people’s pockets. Pickpocketing is a difficult business these days; you can’t just steal someone’s watch and pawn it anymore. The police have gotten wise, and go straight to the pawn shops, pulling the records of any items that fit the description of the thing that was reported stolen. And since pawn shops keep meticulous records of items bought and sold, as well as buyers and sellers, pawning stolen items is pretty much a no-go.

That leaves just cash. I mean, he could use someone’s credit card, but that would get him caught even faster, and Thatcher very much enjoys his ridiculous life outside of prison. So he steals cold, hard cash. the day in question had been going quite well. He was up several hundred dollars after just a couple of hours. People really are oblivious to what is going on around them; some of his picks were so blatantly obvious that he should be ashamed of himself. yet, the people continued on with their day, completely unaware that he had just robbed them blind. (That reminds me; I should really tell you about the time Thatch pretended to be blind while getting away from a crime scene. He wound up playing piano at an elementary school talent show; it was a real fiasco.)

Anyway, so there he was, making one hell of a living in a very dishonest manner, when he saw what should have been a very easy mark. An elderly lady was crossing the street, and her purse was hanging onto her shoulder by only one strap. It was flopping around, wide open, just asking for him to put his sticky little fingers into it. I mean that in a very literal manner; his hands are very petite (they make for great piano playing, apparently), and he had just lifted a cinnamon roll off of a street cart several minutes before. He had literal little, sticky fingers…but, again, I digress…

Thatch saw the opportunity before him, and walked up to the woman.

“Ma’am, woud you like some help crossing the street?” he asked her.

A wide smile grew on her face, and she replied, “Oh, yes; you are so kind.”

Thatcher took her arm and supported her as she crossed the street (yes, he actually helped her; he’s a thief, not a monster.) As they neared the curb on the other side, he slipped his hand into her purse and grabbed her wallet. At that moment, he heard a high-pitched sound, and suddenly, he was lying in the street.

A moped slid to a stop several feet away, and his arm hurt like hell. Looking down at it, he understood why.

“Well, I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to bend that direction,” he said to himself.

People poured out into the street, with several helping the old lady to her feet. One of them called an ambulance. A police squad rolled up seconds later, and the police propped Thatch up against the front tire.

“What happened here?” the officer asked.

The old woman stepped forward, clearly shaken. “That young man there was helping me cross the street, when that MANIAC on the scooter tried to run us down. He pushed me to safety, but the driver still hit him.”

Someone in the crowd chimed in. “Yeah, he’s a HERO!”

“Crap,” Thatcher thought to himself. “The last thing I needed was a reputation as a hero. I can’t have people recognizing me; I’ll starve. Or I’ll have to get a real job…yeah, I’m gonna starve.”

Thatch attempted to stand, and the officer held him down.

“You’d better stay seated til the ambulance gets here, son.”

Thatch shook his head. “No, I’m fine. I’ll just walk it off.”

The people around him laughed.

“Not only is he a hero, he’s tough as nails, too! What a guy!” someone said.

With his good arm, Thatcher waved off the statement.

“I’m not a hero; I just got hit by a moped. It’s no big deal, really.”

Thatcher was suddenly struck with a thought. “Are ALL the heroes on the news just small-time criminals who got hurt doing something illegal? Man, there really are no good people left in the world. What scoundrels.”

“I wasn’t pushing her out of the way, I was st…oh, yeah, that’s what I was doing. I was helping her across the street, and then I pushed her out of the crazy driver’s way,” he said aloud.

He shook his head and cursed himself. He had actually almost said, out loud, that he was a thief. What an idiot. He had to be more mindful of the things coming forth from his mouth. Haha. He loved a good double entendre.

Suddenly, right in the middle of the story, Thatcher interrupted the Narrator; rather rudely, I might add.

“Thanks, dude. I’ll take it from here. No need to tell the Audience that I was running my mouth at the hospital, and they gave me a surprise prostate exam. So, anyway, I wound up in the hospital for a few days. Haven’t been able to use my arm much lately. Thankfully, I snagged enough money that day to pay my bills for a couple months.

“That’s pretty much it. I get the cast off in a few days. After that, I’ll be back to normal.”

Now, Thatcher; don’t you want to tell them about the T.V. interview you did?

“Oh, yeah, that’s right. So, after my surgery, the news crew came to my hospital room and did an interview with me for the story. I was still REALLY high on the pain meds, so I said a lot of things. They never aired it, though. Apparently, they frown on lots of swearing and dirty jokes being played during the nightly news. I didn’t really tell them anything about the incident; I was just real obnoxious.

“One good thing did come out of this, though. When they did the story, they showed my picture on the news. One of the guys from one of the Families in the city saw it and recognized me. I guess I pulled a heist and accidentally botched an operation of theirs. I thought they would be angry and would want revenge, but that’s not the case at all. They said I impressed them, and they invited me to a dinner party where the local crime bosses get together and plan stuff out. They said they want to avoid having different jobs intersect like that. We’ll have to go together; you can be my plus one. You can come too, Narrator.”

Thank you. I enjoy a good dinner party.

“Yeah, don’t mention it. I figure they will either try to kill me, or this will be absolutely hilarious. Either way, it should be entertaining. But that’s not for a while. I need to get some rest; I’ve been playing Mario Cart all day, and I’m all tuckered out.”

And so Thatcher went to sleep, leaving the Narrator to awkwardly end the story with the Audience. He couldn’t think of anything else to say, so he simply bid them good day, and faded away.

What Happens in Christmas…

Okay, so a quick recap: Previously on “I Don’t Do Weddings,” our fearless heroes had taken a trip to Michigan. They had a short sing-along with some fellow travelers, Jon had showcased his horrible impression of Robo-Admissions, and Collins had made some new friends. The next day was wide open for the boys. No business or “boring stuff” to attend to, so the entire day was open for exploration. They spent some time driving through town, and stopped at a couple of the beaches (it was the middle of the summer, and they were in their twenties; where else would they go?)

After getting to know the town fairly well, Jon pulled out a map and decided they would explore the surrounding area.

“Let’s drive through Christmas. It’s right on the lake, and I hear the restaurants serve fresh, local fish.”

“A town with a funny name that serves good food? I’m in.”

When they arrived in town, they discovered something that the town of Christmas never advertised (for obvious reasons.) There is a giant statue of Santa Clause that stands next to the main road going into town, and it holds a sign in one hand that says “Welcome to Christmas” in one hand, while holding the other up as if to wave at the travellers. Whether from the natural wear-and-tear or from vandalism, the waving hand of the giant Santa only had one finger left. For whatever reason, the town left the statue like this, so every person who drove in or out of town received the bird from jolly old St. Nick.

When the guys saw this, what they should have done was turn around and not look back. It does not matter whether you celebrate Christmas or not: when Santa Clause flips you off, it is time to leave town, stranger. Instead, the guys found the first seafood restaurant they saw and went inside.

The food was, indeed, fantastic. What they ate is not really all that important. Honestly, the fact that they ate is not really all that important. The main point here is they stayed in Christmas all afternoon. They ate, they drove around, and they stopped at a forest preserve.

Upon arriving at the forest preserve, they got out of the vehicle, and went to walk down the trail to see the waterfall (something their waitress had suggested they do since it was their first time in town.) About halfway down the trail, a woman came rushing past them, followed quickly by a man yelling over and over, “SOMEBODY STOP THAT WOMAN!” The man never specified why he needed her to stop, but the boys thought it best to just let the two pass them and work it out themselves.

The waterfall was quite a sight, but you can’t get to know an area by staring at one waterfall all afternoon. So, they set out to continue their adventure. Pulling out of the parking lot, they were almost T-boned by the woman who had run by them moments earlier. She went flying through the parking lot in a Civic, nearly rammed into the SUV, swerved around them, and tore off down the main road away from town. Chasing after the vehicle on foot (which is never a good idea) was the same man, although he was too winded to continue yelling the full phrase, so all that came out of his mouth between wheezes was “SOMEBODY STOP…”

Thinking it best to drive away from the crazy people who almost killed them, Collins steered the vehicle back through town. Jon needed to make a quick pit stop and use the bathroom, so they popped into the only gas station in town and Collins grabbed some smokes and a Gatorade for the road while Jon attempted to do his business.

Walking into the bathroom, Jon found the toilet to be overflowing. Seeing a plunger, he attempted to solve the problem and relieve his bladder, but found the more he plunged, the worse the problem got. He began to get nervous and self-conscious when several women started knocking on the bathroom door, asking him to hurry.

Jon promptly walked out of the bathroom, politely asked the ladies to wait a moment due to technical issues, and walked up to the service counter, which was being operated by an apathetic version of Stoner the Pizzaman.

“Excuse me, your toilet is overflowing, and there’s a line of women waiting to use it. I was in there and it was spilling all over the place.”

The cashier sighed dramatically, flipped his bangs out of his eyes, and said in a very condescending voice, “Did you try flushing it or plunging it? I mean, it’s your mess, you should be able to handle it.”

“Sir, it is not my mess, I actually didn’t use the restroom.”

“Then why were you in there?”

“I was going to use it, but the toilet was overflowing already.”

“How did you clog the toilet before you used it? It doesn’t make sense, man…”

“Just come fix the damn toilet so these ladies can use the restroom and be on their way.”

“Ok, fine, no need to get pushy, duder.”

So the two men walked over to the restroom (Collins was waiting by the door, watching the situation play out with a smirk.) When the attendant tried to open the door, he found it to be locked from the inside.

“Man, it wasn’t enough for you to clog my toilet, but you locked the door too? We don’t have a key, man!”

Jon put his hands up defensively. “I didn’t lock the door. I was able to get in and out just fine. Why don’t you have a key? That seems like a mild oversight on your part, man.

“The owner has it, but he’s on vacation. Dude, water’s coming out from under the door. Now I have to call the cops and have the fuzz break the door down. My boss is gonna be pissed, man!”

The attendant walked away to use the phone, and the line of women looked at Jonny disapprovingly. Feeling immensely embarrassed, he turned sharply and walked briskly out of the gas station.

“Let’s go. NOW,” he said through gritted teeth.

Collins chuckled, saying, “We’re gonna miss the best part! The police are gonna break down the door!”

“Now; we need to leave right this second.”

So, with Collins laughing all the way to the car, they exited the station. As Collins started the SUV, the police arrived, flying into the parking lot, lights flashing. Both men froze as they watched the cops get out, retrieve a battering ram, and enter the gas station wearing full tactical gear.

Driving away, Jon muttered, “We are NEVER coming back to this town again…”

Collins howled with laughter. Santa cheerfully gave his one-finger-salute as the town faded into the distance behind them.

Nihilist Without a Cause

Some people are destined to live lives of hardship and difficulty. At least that’s the way my dad always explained it. He told me that the strongest people tend to lead tragic lives because God decided that there was a certain amount of hardship that had to occur in the world every day. He said that God realized that if he divided all the problems up equally among humanity, that most of the people would die; instead, he started dealing it out in accordance with how much a person could handle. I know that’s a burning bullshit sandwich, but it’s somewhat comforting to think that the reason everything sucks all the time is because god knows you can handle it. That’s the premise that I grew up with; thinking that the reason we struggled when I was a kid, the reason I wound up being the living punching bag for someone I couldn’t hit back, and the reason that I had gone to more funerals than birthday parties by the time I was twelve was that we were strong. the truth of the matter was that we were strong because of the struggle. It wasn’t some Divine Plan, it was just a shit life.

We couldn’t afford to eat because my folks didn’t make enough money. I got the ever-living-fuck beat out of me because someone I looked up to was a manipulative, abusive psychopath. I lost everyone I cared about because life expectancy in our neighborhood was under twenty-five. All of these things were easier to handle when they had a purpose behind them; it was absolutely terrifying to think that life could be horrible for no reason whatsoever. Hell, I’m a grown man and it’s still easier to pass it all off as divine child abuse rather than the culmination of thousands of years of human lives, natural events, and random events converging on one incredibly unlucky group of people.

It will break you. People told me that the world would chew me up and spit me out; they were partially right. This world will chew you up. It will NOT spit you out, however. It will chew and chew and chew, grinding you up until you simply…cease to exist. I know this is a pessimistic, nihilistic view, but it’s true nonetheless. Some people can find the high points in life, but I, however, cannot.

These things are the reason I howl at the moon, and why I hear voices when I am alone. They are the reason I have never really fit in anywhere, and why my own mother said that I was going to die an early, violent death.

There is a twisted silver lining to all of this, though. The shit that I have gone through has made me tough. I’m not afraid of a damn thing; I won’t back down. when you spend your entire life feeling like the creator of the universe is personally kicking you in the teeth, you learn to laugh in the face of the chaos. You learn to take it all in stride.

Life sucks sometimes, and for some people, it sucks all the time. It can feel like you never get a fucking break, like every breath is a fight. For some people, that is a literal statement; I suppose I should be grateful I’ve avoided injuries and accidents that had me laid up. No matter how tight the money became, no matter how hard people hit me, so matter how hungry I got, I was always able to get up and go to work. Or at least LOOK for work.

I’m quite convinced that my life will be a wreck until the day I die. I’m okay with that; it’s just the way things are, and there is no use bitching about it. Complaining about life is about as effective as barking at the wind; you can’t stop it, can’t slow it down, and you damn sure can’t comprehend it in its entirety. The way I see it, you might as well strap in and enjoy every second that you can, because there’s no stopping the ride.

Sit down, shut up, and stop blaming everyone around you for your problems. We’re all in thus mud pit together, so stop making it an even more miserable place. Or, in the much more poetic words of the devil on my shoulder…

Welcome to the shit show, princess; it only gets messier from here.

Beast in a Cage

Thump. I strike the bag.

Everyone has their struggles; those things that they fight to keep in check. Some people ignore the darkness that lurks inside them until it is too late; others embrace it. Some try to kill it with poison; others drown it out through loud and exuberant experiences. I have a different method.

Thump, thump. I throw a combo.

I recognize the beat that lives within me; I know that the rage and the fury is as much a part of me as my arms. It used to control me, dictating every move I made and conjuring every word I spoke. I tried putting him in a cage deep within my mind, but he always seemed to break out at the most inopportune moments.

Thump. I strike again, and the bag spins and swings away.

Eventually, I came to terms with his existence. I knew there was no escaping his influence, no exercising him from my soul. I knew that there must be a way of controlling it, of using the strength it gave me. When it broke free, it was like a river during a flood; I could not stop it, but there must be a way to direct it.

Thump. Thump, thump. I’m getting into the groove now.

I tried and failed with a few different methods. Soon enough, I found something that worked. I harnessed the drive and determination that came with it, using it to fuel my various endeavors. When it gets to be too much, I come here.

Thump, thump.

I project my demons onto the punching bag and beat them until my knuckles bleed. Some days, I’m here for hours, pounding away, punishing them, brutally beating them into submission.

Thump, thump.

Some people say I have an anger problem. Maybe I do; but then again, I also have a solution, so how bad can it be? everybody deals with stress in their own way. I act like a man in the street, walking among my peers as Dr. Jekyll. Here, I become an animal, unleashing Mr. Hyde in all his grotesque glory.

Thump, thump. Thump.

I can feel it dissipate the longer I am here. The longer I go, the more peaceful I am when I leave. This storm is bottled up inside me, and I lock it away until the proper time. When I get here, there is no one to worry about, no image to uphold or proprieties to adhere to. Once I wrap up my hands, I can let it all loose. It is only here that I am truly free. I don’t need therapy; I simply need time to deal with the whirlwind in my mind on my own terms. I struggle with my thoughts until they relent, and I beat my mind into submission. Everyone has their demons, the dark places they keep hidden deep inside. I’ve found that the best way to keep it from consuming and destroying you is to face it head-on. I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. It finds ways of getting out when it’s been locked away for too long. I just need a release. And here I am. I fight until I feel the final wave building up inside.

WHAM!

I hit the bag one more time, expelling every ounce of strength remaining in my body. It comes off the hook, and both I and the bag fall to the ground. I’m exhausted, but I smile, enjoying the sting of sweat in my eyes. This is good. I have found that I can stand alongside others, being whatever they need me to be, as long as I take the time to wrestle my own issues to the ground. Call it disfunctional, and look down on it all you will; any fighter will tell you that there is a reason they raise their fists in the first place. The fight is not something you do, it’s a part of who you are. The good fighters unleash it; the best control it. Me…I would like to think I fall somewhere in the middle, and for now, that’s enough.

I hang the bag back up and give it one last playful tap. Time to head back into the world. I’m ready.