There's still a chance. Best guess worst case scenario not enough time to stop what'll amount to a few scars down the line, harsh reminders of a story well worth telling but better off forgot, branded forever after victim of an event people will want to know about even if they have the tact not to ask, saving the observation of the obvious for their own private speculations, telling more about themselves than what occurred by how far off the mark they are -- the strangest people being those who land closest. There's still a chance. Surviving makes the tale well worth confessing because in the end that's what it becomes: a confession of weakness when another was needed to save and the crack in the armor came straight from the heart, though some would argue otherwise, "It isn't weak to love or need salvation," because they don't understand the humiliation of desperation, of thinking if only I could... stop this then I'd never have to answer the questions concerning where those angry red lines came from (as well as when the knife writing eventually pales changing the inquiry to how the white lines originated) and knowing the answer all too intimately. It isn't like an accident where a person can lay claim to a blackout excuse for not remembering the screeching tires, rending metal, confused cries, and drip drip drip of blood onto the roof turned to floor. No, this is notches made in bone personal, a part of the forever after stories avoid. Meat is malleable. That's the simplest explanation. Offer it to silence the inquisition. That's how it'll be after all is said and done because there's still a chance to get out the door, run to wherever the knives are just proving their sharpness, cutting so quick, clean, and deep with barely any pressure or force it seems like the skin is opening up to hug the blade. A little carved, but that's not so bad. Move those legs. Pump till battery acid burns through every fiber because it's two miles to the house the voice on the phone said to hurry to, "Hurry, hurry little friend. You can have what's left. The longer you take the less you get." The news calls him the Speed Freak, not because he likes the drug but due to the m.o.: snatches a loved one, phones along the heart string, and it's see how long it takes to realize you went running down the block to make it to a house in the nearby neighborhood when really you should have dashed to the car, key stabbed&twisted the engine to life, and flew two miles in barely a minute. But it's too late now. Legs like pistons pounding the pavement go into a whole other gear never knew you had realizing the car is faster than you. Pumping to prove yourself wrong, "I can run faster than a car." Sure you can. Never doubt. Never: should have, could have -- there's still a chance something will be left -- salvageable. It doesn't have to be pretty, just save the day.
As I sit here watching Full Metal Jacket I can’t help thinking about Valentine’s Day. There are some days that mark the rest of your life. Once they come to pass every moment afterward is, in some way or another, influenced by those events. My Pops, for instance, cannot look at a butcher’s knife without muttering, “He had it coming.” I can no longer get far past a Valentine’s Day without thinking about Jennifer Winters.
My first kiss, my first love, and the first of many whom -- fuck-all -- I’ve had to shoot.
The whole situation started because teenagers are not chemically castrated and corralled by means of electrical prods. The boys are allowed to wander around as if they aren’t legally insane, and the girls, while more physically mature, are not much better off. Both sexes are in a constant state of hormonal psychosis and extreme neurosis. This causes the wild paradoxical behavior wherein most teens attempt to be individuals by fitting in with a group. As such, any connection with another human being, no matter how angel hair thin, convinces a person this is the love of my life. Ergo: every teenager falls in love with the simultaneously right and wrong person.
I met Jennifer after she ran away from home. Her father had fallen off the wagon and consequently returned to various habits which made home life a nightmare. His beating her regularly initially inspired her escape, while his ardent return to Satanism solidified her resolve. Mainly, the resumption of acid fueled rituals in the basement with a host of Dungeon & Dragons literalists compelled her to flee. Her mother -- a British eccentric who believed she’d been married by a fairy king-- had not been of much help during these trying times.
Jennifer, however, had more determination than most teens. While my friends and I laid out grand plans for the future, we never got farther than a bottle of whiskey could take us. We drank the nights away in Sid Telmer’s garage plotting our paths to glory. And to be honest, for the most part, we knew exactly what we needed to do in order to start down those roads to riches: get a cheap guitar from the local pawn shop, submit to magazines, learn how to use a camera, etc. Yet, none of us ever really took step one. Jennifer, on the other hand, had studied life at the school of Do As I Say or I‘ll Break Your Fucking Jaw. (Good ol’ D.A.I.S… It boasts many graduates, but not many success stories, probably because the wrong people always get enrolled there.) This education taught her that life is what you make it. So, with no real plan, she packed a bag and just headed for the horizon.
We met at a kegger. The first time I saw her she was coming out of a bathroom, her nose still white with coke. She looked like Cristina Scabbia. I remember her floating past me the way angels drift between clouds, and me thinking, “I have to kiss her.” It was my first visceral reaction to a woman, and I‘ve been chasing that feeling ever since.
Now, my exploits with women up to that point (and to this day) are often referred to as Operation Keep Single Forever. So I was leery about just going after her. I didn't want to set another woman on fire by accident. I needed a careful approach, something slick yet casual, confident but not arrogant, powerful though hardly aggressive, intelligent without being pretentious, romantically subtle while remaining obvious… in short, I needed to say hello.
How exactly to get that done perplexed me until I discussed the matter with Sid. He considered my dilemma, shotgunning a beer as he did so. He then pointed across the room at Jennifer Winters and shouted, “Hey you, this guy wants to talk with ya.”
I thought about killing him till I saw her detach from the group she’d been with and head over. Sid patted me on the shoulder, “You’re welcome,” and left me on my own.
“I know you?”Jennifer asked, gripping a beer bottle like she might need a club.
“Then what do you want to talk about?”
“I have no idea.”
She gestured to my t-shirt, “You like The Start of All Cunts.”
“Yeah, it‘s a good band.”
“I like ‘em too.”
And snap! we ended up talking all night. Our similarities just kept stacking up. We not only liked the same horror movies, we even loved the same scenes. It’s hard to find a woman who likes to drink whiskey and laugh at dumb blondes being eviscerated. We were a match made in heaven.
We kissed later that night. It wasn't technically my first. However, stumbling drunk at 14 and falling lips first into Melissa Finch didn't seem to count. This was the first time someone kissed me back.
She didn't have a cell phone, so I gave her my phone number because she was still couch surfing, relying on landlines for calls. About three days later she settled in at a friend’s and called. We started dating. I’d say probably two weeks in I fell in love. This girl, Jennifer Winters, was my future. I believed that my if a person striped off all my meat the bones underneath would already have her name carved into them. My DNA demanded I be with her. Our love was a fact as immutable as the laws of gravity… until I had to shoot her.
For the record, I did not kill her. I simply shot her in the leg to keep her from stabbing me. Why was she about to stick a six inch steak knife into my neck? Acid. Possibly with a little PCP or meth on the side. Fortunately for me, she kept a gun on the nightstand in case someone broke into the motel room to rape and kill her, or just one of the two. See, by this point the romance of couch nomad had worn off considerably. She'd gotten a job as a barista that afforded her a motel room, though the freedom of her own place came with certain apprehensions. There's something about having to walk past a room everyday where the window looks like the folds of a fat man pressed against it, as if said fat man has somehow filled the entire room, that makes a person nervous about just what kind of people are around them. Hence, the gun.
In any event, after I’d bandaged her leg (Clean wound. Bullet went right through the thigh… her soft, sexy, porcelain thigh; and getting shot tends to rapidly refocus a person‘s attention), she explained everything. When I entered the room she believed I was Nyarlethotep, a messenger of ancient evil gods sent by her father to bring back her skin. This fact is critical insofar as it indicates she hadn’t been trying to kill me, but the demonic herald of her father. I would be lying if I said I immediately departed from that insanity. I actually recall saying, “Hey, I get it. We’re cool.”
See, when it comes to women, even the drug addicted variety -- I got blinded by my dick. It can be so nice to connect with another person their faults tend to fall out of view, especially if you can have sex with them. The frequent refreshing of her pinpoint pupils; her night terrors that would erupt on the street at random during micronaps brought on by being awake through week long meth benders; her willingness to turn parties into riots. All these things seem like such obvious indicators now -- fuck-all, run boy RUN! -- but at the time I only cared about the stuff like: a girl who wants to laugh at horror movies with me; someone content to sit in a basement getting ripped on cheap booze and listening to my kind of music; the ability to tell someone my darker thoughts without fear they’ll flinch then none too subtly make for the exit.
Jennifer showed me I don’t have to change who I am to be with someone. That’s why not a Valentine’s goes by I don’t think about her. She showed me the right way and the wrong way to fall in love. And I’m grateful for that… though not as grateful as I am to no longer be dating her.
See, once her boyfriend got out of prison…
transcribed portions from an episode of the underground game show WIN, LOSE, or SUICIDE! that used to air Tuesdays at 3 in the morning on the pirate TV station Massacre Media.
Mel: It's time for another edition of everybody's favorite late night game show: WIN, LOSE, OR SUICIDE! Tonight's contestants are Marilyn Cross, a nurse from Albuquerque, who will be competing against our returning champion Devon Rusk, whom we all know has no job and therefore, no future. Welcome back, Devon!
Devon: It's good to be back, Mel.
Mel: Shut the fuck up. As he already let slip, I'm your host Mel August. And this is Win, Lose, or Suicide! Brought to you by Crispy Carnival Flakes -- make your breakfast a carnival of taste.
But before you do, let's get to know our contestants. Marilyn?
Marilyn: Yes, Mel?
Mel: How are you this fine evening?
Marilyn: I'm good, and excited to play.
Mel: Good all around. It says here you're a nurse.
Marilyn: Yes, that's correct. I work for the local elementary school, but I volunteer whenever I can at the nearby free clinic.
Mel: That's just super. You're better than most people.
Marilyn: Well, I don't think...
Mel: Of course you don't, otherwise you wouldn't be here. Are you guys ready to play?!
Devon: You betcha.
Marilyn: I suppose so.
Mel: Oh, Marilyn, if you're only supposing then I get the feeling you don't really know what's going on.
Marilyn: I don't actually.
Mel: This is Win, Lose, or Suicide, and here's how we play. Our dedicated team of professional investigators have spent countless hours digging into your background to uncover all kinds of info.
Marilyn: What kinds?
Mel: The kind you don't want anyone to know. But here's the deal. I'm going to ask you some questions. For every one you get right, you'll earn the money to bribe our silence. Do you follow?
Marilyn: This isn't what I thought I was signing up for.
Mel: That's too bad bitch because we're hitting the ground running. Audience! Let's get wild.
Devon: You're going down whore.
Mel: Devon! Ready for war. I like that. And as the returning champion you get the first question.
Devon: HIT ME!
Mel: I will. Shortly after conducting his Sixth Symphony, this composer contracted cholera and died in St. Petersburg on November 6th, 1893. Who was it?
Mel: Famous composer
Devon: ...I'm thinking...
Mel: Died of cholera.
Mel: A lucky guess... but correct nonetheless. That's a hundred dollars Devon. You're off to a great start. Marilyn, it's time for you to get in the game. In Roman mythology this figure was the father of Morpheus, the son of Nox, and the brother of Mors. Who am I talking about because I don't know?
Mel: You didn't even have to think about that one,and you're right! Way to go Marilyn, a fantastic way to begin. $100 in your pocket to prevent god only knows what from surfacing. Devon! Are you ready for one?
Devon: I'm diamond hard to continue.
Mel: TMI, my friend. TMI. But here we go: This poet and painter entered a prolonged morbid state after recovering a manuscript of poems he had buried with his dead wife, seven years after her burial. Who was this sick son of a bitch?
Devon: I have no idea.
Mel: I'd be shocked if you did.
Devon: I'd like to use my emergency line.
Mel: Are you sure? You've only got one for the whole game.
Devon: I'm sure. Once I get rolling proper, I can take this cooze no problem.
Marilyn: Excuse me, but that's rude.
Mel: Goddamn right it is. Devon, so you're using your emergency line.
Devon: Yes, I am.
Mel: Then you get one hint. This weirdo's love for his dead wife is implicit in the painting Beata Beatrix.
Mel: Beata. Beatrix.
Devon: I don't... fuck.
Mel: I'll assume this is going nowhere...
Mel: No, not even close. It was Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Devon: Of course. Of course.
Mel: Like you really knew that, Devon. Marilyn! This is your chance to surge ahead. Are you ready?
Marilyn: I am.
Mel: Then let's go to a commercial break. We'll be right back after this word from our sponsors.
Mel: And we're back. It's been a lackluster opening for both our contestants. So far Devon is proving god loves a blind dog, while Marilyn is holding on by a tampon string.
Marilyn: We're tied right now.
Mel: Thanks Marilyn. Nobody cares. Still, here's your chance to bring the hammer down. For $150, can you tell me what classic erotic novel John Cleland is famous for?
Marilyn: ...I don't really read erotica.
Mel: Nobody does. Depending on your gear, people are either rubbing one out or in. But I need an answer, quick as you can... right now.
Marilyn: Fanny Hill?
Mel: That's the best you can come up with? Well, the judges'll take it, and so will I. The full title, to remedy your ignorance, is Fanny Hill, or The Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. And they were spicy tales, according to the footnote on my card. That puts you in the lead! Which means it's time for our first bribe.
Marilyn: This is the part that worries me.
Mel: Don't worry. You've got plenty of cash. But remember: spend it wisely. Coming onto the stage is our private investigator Joe Sanders. How you doing Joe?
Joe: My balls ache from fucking your girlfriend, sack slappin' against her ass, but I'm aight.
Mel: Well, that was tasteless. Joe, what have you got for us?
Joe: Two nights ago I managed to photograph Marilyn here performing a particularly illegal act.
Marilyn: Oh god...
Mel: Marilyn knows what you're talking about, Joe.
Joe: I'm sure she does. That shit was fucking whackadew.
Marilyn: I'd like to offer all of my cash.
Mel: Whoa! Marilyn, calm down.
Joe: I will take all that cash.
Mel: I'm sure you will, however, Marilyn, are you sure that's such a good idea?
Marilyn: Absolutely. I... I...
Mel: Don't cry dear. Don't cry. Joe, you're getting all her money, but we're not done yet.
Joe: Not by a long shot. I also got a few snappies of Devon here at the local titty bar last night.
Devon: Bring it motherfucker.
Mel: Devon, are you saying you're not giving up any of your cash?
Devon: Fuck no. I'm not bribing this greasy piece of shit. I know what's coming, and as usual, I don't give a fuck.
Mel: That's my man; and why you keep on winning: no shame. Joe, throw your picture up on the big screen... and can we get a mop for Marilyn. She is crying to water the world.
Marilyn: I'm a horrible person.
Mel: Be quiet Marilyn. It isn't about you right now. Joe! Put up that picture! HOLY FUCKING GOD! Devon! You are taking a solid dump on that stripper.
Devon: After I hit her with a bottle of tequila. Knocked her right out.
Joe: I didn't catch that part. Sorry, Mel.
Mel: It would have looked good as a sequence, but hey, we'll take what we can get. Devon, displaying no shame, returns to the lead. However, Marilyn isn't out of the race. After all, she's still got her secret. We'll see how she cashes it in later. So don't go anywhere because we'll be right back with more Win, Lose, or Suicide!
Mel: It's been an interesting game so far. Twenty minutes of combat and some frankly disturbing revelations on both side -- Devon, deranged as usual, and Marilyn, apparently a hobo carving housewife -- we're coming to the end of the line.
Marilyn: I can feel my soul screaming.
Mel: That's great, Marilyn. We're going to need that dramatic energy for the final round. Devon, you're currently in the lead with $900. Plus, you've got three secrets stashed you can trade in for bonus cash. What are your plans?
Devon: To rip this twisted bitch's ass wide open.
Mel: Good man. Marilyn, how's that make you feel?
Marilyn: I don't think I feel anything anymore. I thought this was just a trivia show.
Mel: Well, trivia stems from the word trivial, and there are a lot of meanings in there. Okay! Let's get roaring. Audience, it's that time. We're about to bring out some thermonuclear revelations about the people our contestants care about, things which may change their opinion of loved ones forever. However, they can always pay for silence. Devon, you've got the lead, so that means Marilyn gets to go first. Look up there honey.
Mel: That's a picture of your husband, Andrew, correct?
Mel: And how long have you two been married?
Marilyn: 14 years.
Mel: And I assume he doesn't know about the hobo stabbings.
Mel: As it should be. Now, Marilyn, you're in a close second with $800. If Devon ends up spending over a hundred for whatever reason, you can win this game.
Mel: Try to sound like you mean it. Because here's the catch: you could win if you don't spend a dime. However, that close up of your husband we just put on screen is about to pull back unless you offer our investigator a bribe.
Marilyn: I don't... there's nothing they could... Andrew is a good man.
Mel: I'm sure you think that. But we're about to find out just how good. The question is can you live with what you're about to learn? Because if you can don't spend any cash.
Marilyn: Mel, I'm going to let you show me that picture.
Mel: God bless you, Marilyn. When I heard about this one I thought to myself, "Please have the lady balls to let us show this." And here it is: your husband punching a five year old child straight in the face.
Marilyn: I'm sure he had his reasons.
Mel: You are a devoted woman, Marilyn, and I respect that.
Marilyn: Thanks. I think.
Mel: Devon, get your ass down here.
Devon: No need, Mel. I'm not spending a dime. I don't give a fuck what you got.
Mel: Even granny porn?
Devon: I'll give you a hundred bucks not to put the photo up.
Mel: Fan-tastic! Cuz I don't want to see that shit either. However, holy crippled Christ, we've got a tie. Audience, you know what that means... right now our technicians are leading our two contestants to the isolation booths where they'll be subjected to the most hideous revelations about themselves we could unearth. Whoever doesn't kill themselves will be our winner.
But while they're in there, being reminded of the nightmare people they are, I'd like to say a word about Crispy Carnival Flakes. Not every breakfast is a delight, and eating right can be such a bore. Crispy Carnival Flakes are bursting with everything you need to put a smile on your face. They're sweetly delicious and surprisingly nutritious. You won't believe they're good for you. Crunch into a carnival of taste today.
...and the sound of that shotgun can mean only one thing. We have a winner! And the booths are opening; and our winner is -- here's a real shocker folks! -- Marilyn. Marilyn is today's champion. Congratulations.
Marilyn: Yeah, well, uh huh, yeah.
Mel: That means she keeps all the money she has left and will be back tomorrow to compete again on Win, Lose, or Suicide!
That's all the time we have folks. Thanks for tuning in, and remember: society may be spiraling down a chaotic
stygian nightmare, but that doesn't mean you can't crunch into a carnival of taste. Goodnight everybody.