I wrote this for tonight, for this place. KGB Bar, December 8th, 2021.
Forty-one years ago and sixty-eight blocks from here, at 10:40 PM, Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon to death. "American Dipshit Kills British Nitwit" is a headline I've imagined. "Dipshit Killer of Nitwit Singer Inspired by Shit Bag Novelist J.D. Salinger" is another.
Uptown people are singing "Imagine." Down here I'm really trying to.
I made a new friend. He's twenty-four and I'm almost forty-eight. "The old half-and-half," some oldtimer might say, as if that's a thing.
Oldtimers always make what they say sound like things that are said.
"Get right with Jesus young man, or Jesus'll get right with you." Shit like that; all probably nonsense. The sputtering remnants of once precise minds being Swiss-cheesed by dementia or Lou Gehrig's disease.
That's my fate too. I see it now. Mouth sounds mistaken for mysticism, my teeth and tongue in disagreement, making a plea for moisturizer seem like something from Lao-Tzu.
If my new friend could double over in spacetime, fold himself into the future, he'd be my age, like Giancarlo was. Maybe this kid could spit Gian back into my days, and I'd love him even more than I already do.
Giancarlo DiTrapano died in the spring. I'm compelled to write his name into this story. Kid said the G in KGB should stand for Gian. I said the G in GHB should stand for Gian.
Every G should stand for Gian.
Matthew jumped off a building last October.
Brendan fentanyled the year before, three months after Evan.
Eight more since May.
I'm the only man my age left alive.
I'm reading this right now because no one retweeted Gian today.
I remember one of the last times we talked I was depressed, and I complained like I usually do. I told him I had nothing left to stuff inside the hole anymore but more hole.
"Take a look in there," he said, "and tell me what you see."
I said I saw a tiny Brad deep inside.
"Bet he's a real cutie pie." Gian said.
Now I roll joints for stoners. I buy drinks for drunks and crush pills for junkies. I set up rails with my bank card and I watch. I watch like a eunuch at an orgy.
All good vibes must die.
This is the essential teaching of the Buddha.
When I was ten years old serial killer Leonard Lake committed suicide in custody by swallowing a cyanide pill he'd sewn into his shirt.
I remember thinking, We should all get one of those when we're born.
This seemed like a strange thought to have at that age, but when I told Gian about it, he said he'd thought the same thing back then.
He was born one week before me, on what was supposed to be my due date. In moments of sadness I impute this with meaning, imagine we were cosmic twins, brothers from other mothers meant to share the same womb.
Here are some of the things I did before me and Gian turned ten:
I kicked a dead dog so hard it's jaw bone got stuck in my Reebok.
I dreamed I fucked Wayne Gretzky's wife while he watched from inside a fishbowl.
I kept Mason jars of my piss under my bed and stuck a gas station giveaway Fred Flinstone figurine up my ass.
I threw a zip-loc bag full of cat shit off my fifteenth floor balcony and hit an old lady in a motorized scooter.
I got molested by my hot female babysitter and went back for more.
I sat on Tariq's roof with Rasool and spit on Lionel, the new kid. He was from New Zealand which seemed fucked up and creepy.
I shot the beak off a flying seagull and it kept flying. It remains one of the strangest things I've seen, a beakless bird silhouetted against the sunset, certainly singular in that moment, if not in all of human history.
I wrote to all of the consulates and embassies in Toronto, asking for information about their countries. I imagined going to school in Egypt while not having gone to my own in over a year.
I tried hypnotizing myself using tapes my grandma gave me, and I did it in a British accent. I think it worked. I have no memory of the subsequent fourteen years.
Today is my ex-wife Laura's birthday. She loved John Lennon and could roll a joint with one hand in a hurricane.
Fifteen years ago today, I gave Laura my opinion for her birthday. I tried to explain to her why I thought monogamy was failing us. Laura was smart and charming, beautiful and funny. There was nothing wrong with our sex life, other than the fact that no one else was involved.
I proclaimed my attraction to Laura and my happiness with her sex style. I said I could love no other woman and meant it. I explained how it wasn't about sex so much as it was about a desire to have new experiences. Laura was tall and blonde, she had freckles and a lazy eye I thought was hot. But reality prevented her from being short with dark hair, or ten years older and super bossy, and I didn't want to resent her for limiting my pleasure. I wanted to experience enveloping a tiny woman and being enveloped by a giant one. I wanted to be with a woman who licked her own armpit or kept her boots on in bed. Or, more accurately, I wanted those options. There's nothing more painful in life than regret. I didn't want to miss anything, I didn't want to have "what if"s. Too many hearts break needlessly, I explained, because our natural curiosity or interest in novelty is unacceptable, and we're forced to break up instead of choosing to stay in love while allowing our partners their freedom. I believed what I was telling her, and I still do. I've never been a jealous person. I wanted Laura to experience as much pleasure as possible, because I loved her that much, I trusted her, and life is mostly painful. Sex is, if not the only one, one of very few natural remedies for suffering God has allowed us.
"I know what I look like," I told her, "I know I have a limited repertoire. Aren't you ever curious about other guys? You must be attracted to other men that you see."
Our cat, who'd been sitting between us on the couch, stretched, jumped down and left the room. Laura smiled her big smile, lit a cigarette and turned to face me.
"I understand what you're saying," she said. "And yeah, it does make sense. I guess I would like to experience different types of men. It could be fun to fuck a guy that helps with dinner, that comes up with ideas for dinner and doesn't need help. That seems hot. It could be cool to fuck a guy with a driver's license and who could take me places. It's hot when guys do their taxes and know how to pay bills. It'd probably be fun to spend time with a guy who doesn't always need reassurance, who isn't playing Scrabble online all day then complaining he never has time to do his work. It's true that since we met I haven't fucked a guy who can put Ikea furniture together or install printer cartridges, or buy a new coffee maker instead of taping the old one together. And you're right, it's not just about sex, it's about the experience. I don't want to resent you either Brad. You make a lot of sense."
That conversation was hard because Laura agreed with me, which had been my hope. But where she naturally just couldn't be a horny Polish grandmother, nothing was stopping me from getting my driver's license, or paying my taxes. Nothing except me that is. I wasn't, at that time, to use the language of the program, capable of getting out of my own way. One week later I had coffee with another addict after a meeting, a guy named Big Dwayne who told me something I've never forgotten.
"You don't get into relationships with women Brad, you take hostages."
In the program, particularly in men's meetings, you'll often hear someone say, "We'll love you enough to tell you to grow the fuck up." This past summer I had a revelation. I've accepted that brutal honesty, gratefully, from men I hardly know. But when the women who've loved me throughout my life have told me to grow the fuck up, I've always taken offence.
My ego is not my amigo, that's true.
It's also rarely been an amigo to anyone who's cared for me.
That night after Big Dwayne diagnosed me so accurately I needed to find an outlet for my discomfort that wasn't narcotic. Insanely, the statute of limitations in British Columbia allows me to describe, free of consequence, what I did that night.
On the corner of Heatley and Keefer street, five blocks from the house I shared with Laura, was a large Edwardian home mostly obscured by century bamboo. What was never obscured was the fuckface owner's candy apple red Mazda Miata. His vanity plate read "BOYZTOY." He had a fat shaved head and always had his sunglasses on backwards. I saw this shit bag every day. We lived skid-row-adjacent, and his freshly painted, well maintained house reverse blighted the neighborhood. I didn't think too much about it, just walked towards his car while tearing off the sleeve of my shirt. Anyone could've seen me, but no one did. How often has this been true for me...It was dark on his corner, someone had shot out the streetlight. The Mazda was half backed into his garage, the front of it sticking out like some baby's tongue in the dark. I found a branch on the ground, wrapped my shirt sleeve around it and stuck it halfway into his gas tank. I love the smell of the gasoline. I love the smell of something bad is coming. I lit the end on fire and bolted. This is called an Irish Parking Ticket. There's nothing better than when life feels like a movie. The car didn't exactly blow up so much as shoot ropes of fire into the garage. Suddenly the house was on fire. Suddenly the house next door was on fire. Suddenly a dog came out of nowhere, also on fire. For the first time in a long time it looked outside how I felt inside - infernal. Fuckface emerged, crying like a baby in an Ed Hardy t-shirt and flip-flops, his hands full of sports trophies, all probably from high school.
I slept well that night. It was in the papers for a minute then it wasn't. Laura and I spent Christmas in Zurich, and then we spent six more at home, and then we stopped spending them together.
Giancarlo said Naples was going to be the new Berlin and I believed him. He had big plans and he was making moves. Now Naples is just Naples and Berlin is just Berlin. Nobody's steering the ship. Those of us left are lost at sea, fucked up Gilligans and Gingers, looking for lighthouses that've long been decommissioned.
On January 5th of this year I told Gian what I'd done in Vancouver, how I'd blown up the house of a mancaver. I always wanted to impress Gian, he did that to people, set a high bar for cool that was mostly unreachable, strange as in a lot of ways Gian was really corny. He used Instagram filters and meant it, but somehow it worked. At home in Italy he had a Nirvana poster above his bed. If anyone else did that I'd make fun of them, but he was bulletproof somehow, until that day he wasn't. Gian wrote and played a song for me on piano that's buried deep inside YouTube. I don't want anyone else to ever see it.
"Oooooh, you're such a badass." he said when I told him what I'd done. Some men express their love through mockery. Gian was like that, or at least with me, or maybe I'm just genuinely mockable. Then like always, he one-upped me. The statute of limitations doesn't expire with things like this, but dead men can't face charges, so it's safe to tell his story.
Gian got his bachelor's degree at Loyola in New Orleans. In Philosophy 288, Culture and Civilization, The United States of America and Her People, Gian became friends with a shy girl named Abby who was slightly overweight and very anxious. Like all good people Gian liked an underdog. One day during class some chowderhead jock called Abby fat. The next week she wasn't there. Gian learned she'd dropped out of school and moved back home. He said it bothered him, that she'd been rattled so easily and drastically. I said I would've felt the same way.
Four months later Gian was in a Burger King drive-thru and noticed the clown who'd bullied Abby driving the car ahead of him. His name, he'd learned in class, was Brent. Like most good ideas, Gian said it came from nowhere. Anthropologist Eric Wargo says that good intuitive ideas are actually moments of precognition, instances where versions of ourselves living in parallel futures slightly ahead of ours in time are relaying back to our subconscious minds in this universe information about events that have been successful. We suddenly feel compelled to eat a grilled cheese sandwich because an alternate version of ourselves advanced in space/time has just eaten one, and found it delicious.
Gian followed Brent out of the drive-thru, down Claiborne Avenue all the way to the Walgreens just past Jena Street. Brent parked and went into the drugstore. Gian ate his Whopper, turned up the radio and waited. He said "L.A. Woman" by The Doors came on but I don't believe him; I think he was intentionally listening to Nine Inch Nails. He said it was easy to remember how Abby's face had looked that day, like some shame-shaped origami. He wasn't particularly mad, he told me, he just felt—and when we do get to feel this way, it feels how candy tastes—righteous. Everything lined up perfectly. As Brent exited the Walgreens with a box of condoms and a tube of toothpaste, the parking lot suddenly emptied. Brent had twenty feet left. Gian had twenty-seven years and a heavy foot. He put the strength of generations of Umbrian peasants into the gas pedal and headed for the man who hurt his friend.
"It sounded like a champagne cork," he told me. "At first I thought it was him denting the car, then I realized it was the other way around.
He said he thought Brent must've gotten lodged in the grill. He couldn't see him anywhere. Then a second or two later he dropped from the sky, a good fifty feet from the car, landing angular and soupily in front of the Salvation Army.
"I barfed on myself a bit," Gian said, "just cause it looked so gross. His foot was stuck in his armpit and most of his face was scraped off."
I asked him what he did after that.
"I drove my car to a shitty neighborhood, left the keys in the ignition and walked back to school," he said. "The next day I reported it stolen. My insurance actually paid me out two grand."
"I don't believe you." I told him, but I was lying.
"Google it bro. I don't need to make shit up. I'm the real deal."
I've never believed in ghosts because I've never needed to. Today is different. If there's a ghost that does rails in the bathroom of bars like this one, then I want to be haunted. I want someone to break my dishes and slam my doors. I want to be haunted by a ghost that boycotts writers with agents, that tells me that no matter how gay he is he can still "tear up a pussy way better than you ever could." People hate ghosts cause they won't fuck off, they never stop hassling you, they're always in your business.
I have abandonment issues.
I'll fuck with ouija boards.
I'll invite the entirety of the spirit world in if it means Gian will be back, telling me to go write, stop bitching, grow up, I love you.
At the end of the meeting this morning we said the serenity prayer following a moment of silence for the addict still suffering both inside and outside of the rooms.
This reading should've taken fifteen minutes.
Please retweet Tyrant Books.