He was three steps across the bedroom floor before his brain finished booting up. He ripped the screaming alarm clock out of the wall for some fucking quiet. His first conscious decision of the day was to line-drive it into the opposite wall. Fuck that bitch, anyway. Too bad that dent is just in drywall, and not her lying fucking face. He took a deep breath and sank to his haunches, palms grinding the sleep out of his swollen eyes. Goddamn…gonna have to buy another alarm clock – a louder one, he thought.
The Lying Whore kept reaching out of his past to torture him. Her latest trick was to appear in ever-changing mental movies. The movies were short loops, and the only consistent characters were The Lying Whore in the thrall of utter sexual satisfaction and a nebulous male listed as “The Guy She’s Fucking Now #4” in the credits. This trick was the worst so far, because it ambushed him as he drifted into sleep.
Moving to a different city had helped, especially at first. He’d been busy with the details of the sudden move and lining up a job. The eternal dilemma of What To Do Now? occupied the rest of his mental energy. The new city didn’t have The Lying Whore’s favorite restaurant, or the lakeshore where he’d proposed to her, or the apartment that once felt like a fortress of bliss. He decided the new city was going to be home for awhile, and to stay alive. Things weren’t great, but they weren’t terrible. He’d been through worse, for sure. He smiled as often as once per week now. Progress.
This latest trick was undermining all that. Sleep was no longer a welcome respite, easily achieved. The latest trick sent claws of anger, jealousy, and despair ripping through his guts every time he started to drift off. He slept fitfully when exhaustion overwhelmed him, but only for a few hours at a stretch. Exercise helped a little, and whisky helped more, but he’d started dragging ass at work. Fatigue lessened his control of the constant rage that seethed just under his skin. He’d slept through his alarm twice this week, making him late to work.
He was three minutes late that night. Nobody noticed but him. He liked his job as a bouncer, and a year ago would’ve been there ten minutes prior to the start of every shift. The recent struggle to show up on time mystified him. He’d never been late to anything until The Lying Whore fucked him over. Now, even good things were a struggle.
Working at this bar was good for him. His employers wanted friendly, competent staff who engaged with the patrons and cultivated relationships with the regulars. He’d always prided himself on being professional, so he donned the expected role like a costume. Even pretending to be happy was preferable to his normal state.
He made his first walk of the night through the place, bro-hugging the regulars and chatting with the new faces. A cocktail waitress pulled him away from one such conversation. She asked him to throw a drunk guy out for groping her ass and grabbing one of her tits. He verified the drunk guy’s identity and observed the drunk guy’s group for half a minute. Usual shit, he thought. Routine. He told the other bouncer what was going on, and went to do his job.
The talk with the drunk guy started out like they all did. Evasions first, then the possibility of mistaken identity was trotted out. After that came denial and demands to speak to the manager. Refusal to leave was next, and finally the drunk guy telegraphed a geriatric right hook in the general direction of his head.. He did what he usually did – step in, quick shot to the xiphoid, twist out an armbar, promise to break that elbow first if anyone in the drunk guy’s group even thought about moving.
Maybe the drunk guy was whinier than most. Maybe fatigue was a factor. Maybe he had a strange kind of crush on the aggrieved waitress, or decided the drunk guy was an adequate stand-in for The Guy She’s Fucking Now #4. Instead of going out the front door like usual, he steered the drunk guy out back into the alley. He smashed the drunk guy’s face into the brick wall, gave himself time to transition to a choke. The drunk guy struggled feebly and went limp. He rammed the unconscious man into the dumpster a few times, enjoying the noise. The drunk guy’s shirt tore, and he lost his grip. The drunk guy sprawled boneless onto the asphalt. He dropped the scrap of shirt and kicked the drunk guy in the stomach.
He stepped back and admired his work. The drunk guy started moving his limbs in spastic, weird little circles. A few seconds later, the drunk guy scrunched his face up. A scratchy wail sobbed out of a bloody mouth. He toed the drunk guy face-up, then stood on both the drunk guy’s elbows. Pinned like a butterfly. He looked into the drunk guys eyes until he was sure full consciousness and awareness had returned. He let a gobbet of spit drip slowly onto the drunk guys face. The drunk guy shook his head from side to side, but the spit just rolled around on the bloody face. The drunk guy started crying, really sobbing. Tears and quivering lip, snot and rivulets of blood.
He looked up, and saw the other bouncer watching from the doorway. The other bouncer accused him of having problems. He thought about it for a few seconds, and then a few seconds more. He rehearsed some retorts in his head, but they didn’t make sense, even to him. The other bouncer wasn’t going to agree that this was actually The Lying Whore’s fault. The drunk guy was a dick, but he wasn’t The Guy Who’s Fucking Her Now #4. Even with the reality-bending power of post-combat rationalization, he couldn’t make the pieces fit. Shrug. Sigh.
He agreed with the other bouncer.
He had lots of problems.
Just get your guts ripped out by a woman you loved with every cell in your body? Recently, or does it just feel like that? Are you fine most of the time, until some random association shits you into the clogged toilet of hellish introspection?
The guy in the story’s been there, and most guys who’ve read or ever will read these words have been there, too. Depending on your circumstances, it’s one of the worst things that will ever happen to you. It sucks, no doubt about it. It’ll get worse, unless you do your new job well.
What? New job?
Yup. In addition to all the other shit you’re dealing with, you have additional duties and responsibilities that you didn’t ask for. No, you don’t get paid. There are no vacation days or scheduled breaks. Sometimes the gig is pretty easy, and sometimes it’s a cast-iron bitch. You’ll hate it for awhile. Do it diligently, though, and you’ll be extremely gratified.
Here are your duties:
1. Don’t communicate with her. No phone, text, email, Facebook, smoke signals, semaphore flags, or heliograph. Don’t even say “I’m not talking to you anymore.” Nothing. Every time you re-engage with her, you’re setting the clock back to zero.
2. Don’t get addicted. Don’t rely on non-prescription chemicals to cope. Be cautious with prescription chemicals. Sure, get fucked up and blow off some steam – once. The absolute last thing you need is a Xanax habit or a DUI. Feel shitty now? Imagine you feeling shitty, except in detox and headed to jail soon. See what I’m saying?
3. Conduct yourself with dignity at all times. Venting, bitching, begging The Universe to deliver you from your torment – all that’s done with extremely close friends or family – and sparingly. Cryptic emo poetry about how unfair it is does not belong on your Facebook. You aren’t Maynard James Keenan, and all that shit does is make you look foolish. Same thing goes for appearance and grooming. If you let yourself go after a break-up, you’re broadcasting inner weakness. Be sad and depressed and angry for awhile – that’s fine. You can still wash your ass, brush your fangs, and do your laundry.
4. Do not get an STD. Pregnancy is hereby defined as an STD until further notice. The ancient wisdom that “The best way to get over a girl is by getting on top of another one” has some truth to it. Notice how the saying does not endorse pissing razorblades, Planned Parenthood, herpetic lesions, or writing child support checks to a bar skank?
5. Don’t get fired. If you’re still in college, don’t let your grades slip. You’re bummed out right now. The repo man doesn’t give a shit. Neither do the grad school admission folks.
Do these things, and in a few years this part of your life will be a minor bump. Fuck them up, and you’re doing yourself permanent harm. You won’t be able to look back and say,”Yeah, it was rough for a minute, a bit of a nut-check, but I came through alright.” Instead, you’ll be begging your parole officer to give you a ride to your shift at Arby’s. You’ll have proven that your ex was correct to leave.
Your pain is like gasoline. Some men douse themselves in it and stink up the joint. Fuck them – those guys are hazardous and toxic. With a little discipline and work, you can put that gas in the tank and drive somewhere better.
Be that guy.