Expiration Date

It was hot, my skin was crawling and on the whole my mind was poisoned with the kind of things that make a man wrap his lips around a pistol. This shit sucked. It definitely sucked.

Moments ago I had exited the house for one mundane reason or another, probably merely as an excuse to keep moving. I think part of me thought that if I moved around enough it would stop the incessant feeling of pins and needles bombarding my whole god damn body.

I’m pretty sure the entire exercise was a waste but it did succeed on one front — I had survived the moment and lived to experience the next. Remember, it’s the small things in life. It has to be because for most of us the big things are just one, giant pile of steaming shit.

So yeah, the little things.

I opened the side door to the house, a house that was supposedly contaminated in some fashion or another. How was it contaminated? Hell if I knew, nor did I care. I had come to accept that fifty percent of everything I had ever been told was pure bullshit, another thirty percent was flagrant guesswork and that left fifteen percent that was right only by happenstance and finally five percent that was probably plain old factual, mostly, maybe. How the fuck should I know?

The house seemed fine to my untrained senses and that was good enough for me, besides I was only here to move a couple of items — a favor for a friend. He had insisted on wearing some ridiculous mask that covered the nose and mouth but the humidity made it difficult to breathe through that farcical piece of shit so I tossed it aside, annoyed.

In general I was annoyed with the god-awful, mind-numbing pace of it all. What the fuck was taking him so long? Just what in the hell were we aiming to accomplish today anyway? None of this should be taking so god-damned long. Yet, here we are. Thumbs up asses. An innocent passerby might think we were enjoying this ridiculous charade. Thumbs up asses and all and even being in the know, as I was, I might be inclined to agree with that hypothetical son-of-a-bitch. This shit was moving slower than a glacier and with all the fucking grace of a cripple on ice skates. Fuck.

I was hungry and frustrated and ever the curious type I opened a pantry door to my right and found that it was well stocked with snacks and breakfast food. The house had been vacant for some eight months so naturally I began to check expiration dates. Mind you, those expiration dates weren’t going to single-handedly determine what did and did not go into my mouth. Puh-lease. Expiration dates are suggestions at best, curiosities at worst. No stamped on date was going to tell me what to do. Fuck that.

I greedily jammed my hand into a box of Twinkies that had expired the previous September. I did not hesitate. If post-apocalyptic films have taught me anything it’s that Twinkies and cockroaches can survive damn near anything. What? Oh right, the expiration date was one thing; but there was also the issue of the unknown toxins. Well, fuck those toxins if they even existed and if they did we were about to find out if I was made of hardier stuff. If not then I would die and so be it — law of the jungle mother fuckers.

My teeth sawed through that iconic, yellow sponge cake with zest and that ole boy didn’t taste half bad. It wasn’t good, mind you, but it was edible and that was good enough for me. Most of the fluffy, cream filling seemed to have disappeared probably absorbed into the cake over the months. The end result was a bit dry but I was alive and I did not regret my decision.

I turned the box over and had a laugh at a picture of Twinkie the Kid in his ridiculous cowboy outfit that oozed homoeroticism — this mother fucker was a god damn trailblazer in the world of cartoon mascots. There was a knowing glint in his oversized eyes and why the hell shouldn’t there be? He had won, he was triumphant. Generations of gluttonous American slobs had rammed those soft, cream-filled, yellow phalluses down their gullets and asked for more. Twinkie the Kid didn’t even try to hide the fact that he was a certified rock god of the queer community; dude just strutted his stuff. He even wore a cowboy hat that looked like a mutant penis, the innuendo was obvious.

I swallowed.

I set the box down and turned my attention next to a can of Pringles near the back of the cupboard. I could hear the sound of my friend on the phone coming from the basement. He seemed to be in the midst of some kind of strategy session. Why the fuck weren’t we just moving this shit anyway? For a guy so concerned about invisible noxious fumes, he sure as hell was taking his sweet ass time.

Pizza-flavored Pringles, perfect. As an added bonus the expiration date had just passed days before. Emboldened by my success with the long-expired Twinkie, I greedily shoved a pair of chips into my gaping maw. The Pringles were not only stale but held a hint of moisture. I darted out the side door of the house once more and spat profusely. Fucking disgusting. I told you expiration dates are bullshit.

Still hungry and now pissed off from the Pringles set-back I struck back at the cupboard and eyed a clear, plastic container of Fruity Pebbles, the cat’s ass of cereals. I removed it from the shelf, opened the lid and took a sniff. It smelled fine. I lowered my hand into the container and lifted a handful to my waiting mouth. It tasted fine too.

I plopped down on some stairs because why the fuck not? After a few handfuls of multi-colored goodness my friend appeared at the base of the stairs and being to recite his plan to me for what seemed to be the 87th time that day. I just smiled at him as if I had a sweet secret. I did not, but I did have that fucking cereal and it was pretty satisfying.

Suddenly, his face contorted and he craned his neck like one of those velociraptors from Jurassic Park. I shit you not. A velociraptor. I chomped another fistful of the Fruity Pebbles and it was all I could do not to laugh at the incredulous look upon his face.

“You’re not…eating those things…are you?”

The fuck did he think I was doing? Giving the little bastards a tongue bath? Of course I was fucking eating those things. I was definitely eating those things.

“Yeah,” I replied.

Some how, his face contorted further. Now he looked like the world’s most curious velociraptor.

“Do you know how long that stuff has been in there?”

The fuck?! Yeah, I had put that together through mother fucking context clues. It was like the guy didn’t know me at all. Now he was just annoying me with these dumb ass questions and I wasn’t going to stop eating those Fruity Pebbles, tainted or not. Besides, the mystery gas or whatever the fuck had rendered this house inhabitable hadn’t gotten us yet.

“I took a gander,” I said dismissively before plowing another handful into my mouth. He stared at me perplexed and then I laughed like a self-satisfied madman. A fruity pebble or two may have fallen from my mouth.

Maybe the fumes were starting to get to me.

Fuck it.

I regret nothing.

Ashes & Embers

The flames that once licked the wind had been satisfied. The fire was all but extinguished now. Soft, tiny flecks of ash drifted through the still, night air. The last of the embers were aglow with nostalgia and sadness.

The sky had been alight not long ago with streaks of color and flashes of light — an annual rite of passage, a celebration. Otherwise the night was calm, a peace had descended upon this place.

Somewhere in the space between there were boyhood memories and the struggles of fatherhood, the sting of failure and the pain of regret. Ideas were mulled, thoughts shared and what had seemed a bitter end revealed itself to be something more.

This was no parting of the ways, this was a changing of the guard. This was no broken fellowship, this was a passing of the torch. A bond born in days past reaffirmed, strengthened through blood and tears.

From ashes and embers — scorched flesh, brotherhood.

Damned like Dexter, Jinxed like Jax

It’s a peculiar thing, depression — the way it ebbs and flows. There was a period of time not so long ago that I had convinced myself that I had tamed the demon, cornered it, caged it. I don’t think that belief was foolishness or arrogance, it was true at the time. Trouble is, depression is patient and wily and it’s likely hitched a ride on my back for as long as I shall exist.

I’m in a funk the likes of which I haven’t experienced in fifteen years and in some ways this bout is worse, much worse. Yes, I’ve created and adapted strategies in that time to better combat the darkness inside of me but with that wisdom so too comes weariness.

I do not possess the youthful exuberance I once did. I cannot bounce back as easily or as agilely as I once was able. I also have responsibilities now and no longer possess the luxury of dropping out of sight for a spell. I am a father to a boy who knows nothing of the shadow that chases me and I hope he never does.

Try as I might to put on a brave face and soldier onward, those around me can see that something is off.

I haven’t shaved in over a week.

I am almost always tired.

It’s said that I look sad by friends and strangers alike.

I often find myself romanticizing the past, wishing I could go back. It’s funny, because as a child, as a teenager, and even as a young adult I did little else but dream of a future, a future that was bright. I envision that future less and less now, stuck as I am in the suffocating minutia of daily life with depression as a constant companion.

It reminds me of something said by Sally Jupiter in The Watchman:

“Everyday the future looks a little bit darker. But the past, even the grimy parts of it, well, it just keeps getting brighter all the time.”

Sleep used to be a respite from the depression but lately even my dreams have turned against me, transforming from vivid curiosities to an unrelenting, subconscious nightmare. I am offered no reprieve from the pain and I have begun to wonder if the wonder drugs aren’t simply acting as accelerant for the vibrant hellscape in my head.

It’s difficult to find hope these days and yet here I am typing away, documenting this — praying that through it I find some catharsis, some refuge, some hope.

I am a desperate man in a desperate time, forever searching for salvation.