You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack.
That’s not entirely true. It wasn’t a bad house at all, really. Structurally, anyway. There was some repair work that had to be done after the fire in the laundry room.
Right after the fire department left, she called her mother and said the blaze was my fault. After all, I was the only one who did the fucking laundry. I must have turned that space heater on next to the plastic laundry basket full of clothes. Even though the fire department determined that it was a wiring problem, there must have been some way to trace the origin of the Great Laundry Room Fire back to me.
I should have left then. At that moment, when I fully realized what a scapegoat I had become, I should have packed my shit and left. But I didn’t. I stayed that long hard winter in a tiny three room suite in a Hampton Inn on the corner of Henley and Main, downtown. Lived with her. Brought the Boy to that place on alternating weekends and tried to pretend that nothing was wrong, everything’s fine and we’ll get back into our house soon.
Her house, is what I should have said.
It’s the last week of November. Thanksgiving is today, in the technical sense, it being past midnight.
I am thankful for the time I was with her, for the shelter, the occasional good times and the relative financial safety.
I am thankful, maybe in an odd sense, for the abuse in that relationship, abuse that defied societal standards, for she was the one who abused me, the male.
I am thankful for that time, for it taught me the things that I really found important in a mate, a partner. A wife.
You may find yourself in another part of the world.
I am not what you call a world citizen, with all apologies to Karl Wallenberg. I have been to the edge of the continent. Florida. Daytona Beach, to be exact. I have been to Daytona twice, each time with the ex-girlfriend. And her family. For a week at a time.
Although watching her and her sisters tear into each other like mongeese at a cobra convention, I could do nothing but cower in the corner and wait for it to be over, wait for their incomprehensible Northern family dynamic to take over, and make everything all right again by not talking about it. The sheen of courtesy and the dull shine of politeness… well, even Jamie and Adam proved that you can indeed polish a turd.
Picture X on the beach, with a girlfriend who doesn’t respect him. Picture X missing his kid, just because that boy is the only person he knows at that time that he can relate to and speak to.
THE KID IS 11 YEARS OLD.
The Boy looks forward to any new “Spongebob Squarepants” episode. The Boy listens to metal harder than anything in my collection up to that point. I say a line from “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” The Boy says the next line. And we collapse into a five minute long laughing fit.
I am a grown ass man.
And my best friend is not the woman I’m living with. Sleeping with. Shopping for. Cleaning for. Waiting on, hand and foot.
My best friend was eleven years old.
The child is growing up. He’s twelve now, rocking back and forth on the brink of what the fuck do I do now. I am thankful for this.
This past year, Cootie and I were able to take Mogwai and the Boy to Myrtle Beach. Still the edge of the continent, just not as far south. And I was able to stare at the ocean, off into that limitless blue-green horizon, with my son. I am ever so thankful for that moment, that first moment on the beach in the sunlight, looking into the great forever.
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a great automobile.
I drive a truck that is way too goddamned big for me. I feel no need to overcompensate, but this truck of mine? Jesus Christ. I can’t even park the fuckin’ thing correctly. It served a purpose, when I lived on a veritable farm out by the lake. And it still comes in handy when I am asked to help friends move or haul garbage off from an old house.
You know what else you can do with a big-ass truck like that? You can leave your job. Your good steady job. And you can drive to your favorite gas station, in this case, the BP at the corner of Chapman Highway and Woodlawn. And you can buy two huge cans of piss-swill beer, like Icehouse or Miller High Life. Then you can turn your ass right around and find some half-rural back roads to drink that piss-swill beer on while you drive.
Because you know you have two choices.
You can drink yourself into oblivion and you can drive that great automobile into a telephone pole. Or off a cliff. This is mountainous terrain. There are indeed plenty of cliffs. You can grab that third page headline: Single Car Accident Claims Life of Knoxville Man; Alcohol A Contributing Factor. Maybe you can score one of those wonderfully tacky roadside memento mori. A Styrofoam cross. Some silk flowers. A faded picture. “We luv u.”
Or you can go home.
One of those options is better than the other.
There is a kind of alcohol abuse that is based in a strong desire to die. I no longer have that hard-on for nowhere. I am utterly thankful for this.
There is a kind of relationship that is so rancid and toxic that death, even with the threat of a Judeo-Christian hell, seems like a better alternative. I am no longer living at that special kind of Ground Zero. And I am thankful.
You may find yourself in a beautiful house.
They took us both in, BethyBoo and Dropout. Before they even knew what was going on between Cootie and I, they allowed both of us into their home. I think that when Cootie and I slept in the same room that night, they figured it out. Dropout knew it was coming. Gods… that drunken night when I stayed at their house because I couldn’t even walk out the goddamned door with falling… and I told Dropout that I absolutely had to go because I had to go get Cootie, had to pull her out of her home and her relationship and bring her to myself… (meanwhile, Cootie was texting BethyBoo telling her not to, under any circumstances, let me out of that house because Bad Things were going to happen if I left…) and Dropout, in his firm yet kind way, said, “You’re not going anywhere tonight, X.”
And I, in a fugue state of inebriated naivete, asked him, “Well then, how am I going to go get her?”
“You’re not,” Dropout said.
A month later, I was living with he and BethyBoo. I was sleeping either in the basement or on an air mattress with Cootie in a back room. I know we were a burden on them. We were there for about three months. That’s a long time to have company, especially company that fucks as loudly as Cootiebug and I do. And they fed us. And they let us watch their big-ass TV. I didn’t even miss a single episode of LOST. We played, laughed and drank together. We took care of each other’s children. They were beyond good to us.
If it hadn’t been for BethyBoo and Dropout giving us a place and the space to begin building our relationship and our life together, we would have had a much tougher go of it. They gave us a terrarium to plant seeds in and good soil for those seeds to grow in. Cootie and I grew strong in their home.
I proposed to Cootie on their front stoop. Dropped to one knee and slipped a Claddagh ring on her finger. Held her as she said “yes” and cried.
And less than a year later, Cootie and I were married on that same stoop. The officiant at our wedding? The Right Reverend Dropout.
I am thankful for BethyBoo and Dropout for opening their home to two relative strangers and widening their Circle so much that they became our Family.
If it hadn’t been for them sheltering us and allowing us to get our shit together, the Cootie and X you know so well may have taken much longer to coalesce.
I will love BethyBoo and Dropout forever for supporting us, loving us and showing us kindness when everyone around us didn’t think we were anything more than a fling. They believed in us.
And that’s a rare gift.
With a beautiful wife.
I never dreamt I would get married again. I’m a two-time loser. And when you can fuck up relationships that much, you have to look at what the common denominator for that failure is. Hey! It’s me. Groovy. And I had promised myself not to inflict the plague of myself onto any other poor woman ever again. I knew I was the weakest link.
In other words, I had been beaten down so much in my other relationships that I truly believed that I was deserving of nothing but blame. Something’s always wrong, right?
So what the hell was I supposed to do with someone who loved me unconditionally? Someone who understood my jokes and my references, who understood my need for fun and for watching shitty ’70’s grindhouse movies like “Invasion of the Bee Girls?” A woman who would bravely attempt to match me drink for drink?
Someone who liked me?
What the hell was I supposed to do with my new best friend?
I dropped down on one knee and proposed to her, that’s what I did.
If you haven’t learned anything else from this blog, please take away that I have finally found my soulmate. My lost twin. My perfect match. My Last Girl.
I am thankful for the woman I married. My sweet Cootiebug. The best decision I ever made.
And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”
How did I get here?
I got here because of Cootiebug.
I got here because of BethyBoo and Dropout.
I got here because of Scofield, who wanted nothing but to see me happy. And when I got happy, he got real and showed me exactly what kind of friend he is. The kind that stays.
I got here because of Mogwai, who could have spent an inordinate amount of time hating me and making life difficult for me and her mother. Instead, she saw how happy her mother was and wisely chose to accept me into her Circle, widening it enough for The Boy and myself and trusting that she would be taken care of. She will be. My Mogwai.
And The Boy, who didn’t flinch no not one little bit when I told him I was marrying Cootie. He stood by my side as Best Man when Dropout performed the ceremony. He has always believed the best about me, even when he didn’t have to.
And you should see that Boy and Cootie together.
Cute, cute, cute.
I got here because of Tom and Edith, whose lives have been running an oddly beautiful parallel course to ours since we began. Their support and encouragement helped me stay strong through the difficult times, through the waiting (which is the hardest part) and through our wonderful victory at our wedding. I am eternally thankful for the strange tapestry weaving us together.
I am thankful for Grant Morrison. My sentence is up.
I am thankful for Amanda Palmer. You motherfuckers, you sing to me.
I am thankful for Counting Crows and the perfect blue buildings.
I am thankful that if you will dare, I will dare.
We all lead unresolvable lives. But I am thankful that, in the midst of it, there really is such a thing as Love. I am thankful that I found it… even if sometimes I don’t know what to do with it.
Time isn’t holding us.
Time isn’t after us.