I'm only compulsive when I have other things to do. I'm not really compulsive about cleaning or organizing. I'm compulsive about rearranging clutter that I don't really want or need. I'm obsessed with going through my wallet and throwing away the receipts that I insist upon receiving from cashiers at restaurants and gas stations. I never do anything with my receipts but throw them away and wonder how I collected so many before disposing of them.
My favorite pastime is going through iTunes on my computer and skipping songs that I don't really like listening to but don't have the heart to delete or take off of play lists. I used to really like making play lists of specific bands and genres. Now I listen to everything on random. I skip most of the songs. The only thing that I've never skipped is Mozart (only because my father made it a point to tell me that Mozart makes people smarter). Another pastime that I enjoy is going on drives trying to read all of the bumper stickers on the other cars; most of the stickers are normal, "Support the Troops," "I Brake for Kids," and other boring things. Every once in a while there will be a great bumper sticker. In my opinion, a great bumper sticker is the type that make you wonder what the hell it's talking about, or will make you laugh really loud even if someone else is in the car and doesn't think the slogan is funny at all.
I've been suffering writer's block for the past two months. I'm not a writer. I just write. But lately I've not come up with anything to write down. I mean in my journals and in blogs. I have trouble returning e-mails. I've found nothing to say in the last two months. I'm sure that there is something wrong with an average person who has writer's block. I'm not even a writer. How can I get writer's block if I'm not a writer?
I guess it started when I went out with my girlfriend three months ago. She starts fights with me all the time. She doesn't mean to, but she just gets so damn mopey when I don't pay attention to her all of the time. I tried to listen to her, but there were other people with us, and I hadn't seen them in a long time.
"Honey, do I look okay?” Elle asks.
"Yeah, you look great. Are you ready?" I ask.
Elle is the type of girl that thinks she's really low-maintenance. She's not low-maintenance at all. She's pretty. Not conventional pretty. Maybe a little bit large, but not large. She's average, I suppose. She's about a foot shorter than me, kind of curvy, but doesn't have much of a chest. I'm not complaining. Don't get me wrong. I think she's pretty. She has brown hair; sometimes it looks red, I like it best when it looks red. Her hair is out of control, it used to be really long, but we got in a huge fight about a year ago and she cut it all off to make me mad. It didn't work out like she thought, now it's just more fun to pull when we make out.
"I'm almost done. You can go smoke if you want, and I'll meet you outside when I'm done. I don't know what my problem is tonight; somehow, I'm just incapable of getting my hair to do anything. And, don't worry; I'm not going to wear makeup or anything. Seriously, if you want, I'll finish up and meet you outside," she glances at me, squinting a little bit. She's not wearing her glasses, and refuses to wear them out to the bars; she'll be squinting all night.
"Yeah. Yeah. Okay. I'm going to go then, I'll be smoking. You'll take forever. You're such a girl."
"Fuck you. No, I'm not. Most girls wouldn't even have picked out an outfit by now. Go smoke, honey."
"Jesus Christ. I'll just wait, if I leave, you'll take longer," I give her a smile, she winks.
"Hey, do you see my bobby pins? I can't find them anywhere. If I could just find three more bobby pins, my hair would be fine. God this place is a mess. I swear! I'm cleaning tomorrow."
"Here you go, babe." I hand her the cardboard holder of hairpins. She grabs a few off, eagerly, and sticks them in her mouth. I hate watching girls get ready; they're so weird about everything they do. They always stick the hairpins in their mouths. When they finally get around to using them, they have to keep one hand on top of their head to make the hair stay until they can stick the metal in. Girls always use their mouth to spread open the prongs of the hairpins; you'd think it would be sexy, them using their mouths like that, it's not; it's rather forceful.
"Elle, you know, I love you."
"Oh, you're sweet. I love you too," she says as she sticks the last pin into her hair. She turns around to face me, "Tell me the truth, do I look like shit?"
It's times like these when I'm not sure what to say. Elle's hung-over and hasn't slept more than twelve hours in the last week. She looks good (really, really good) under those conditions; otherwise, she looks fairly average; understated even. She doesn't dress up like other girls really, usually just jeans and a t-shirt.
"Alright. Finally. I know. I know. I'm done. We can go. Where are we supposed to go anyway?"
"Where do we always go?" I roll my eyes at her, I don't think she notices.
Elle passes me and walks into the hallway. I follow behind her. I blow on a piece of hair that hangs down by her neck. She swivels around and punches me lightly in the arm. She giggles, almost silently, and then turns around after making a "kissy face."
The bars are going well. Tequila, vodka, bourbon. Elle is well on her way to drunk. I'm drunk. I know that I'm sulking somewhere, but I'm honestly not sure where, or why. Elle disappears to smoke a cigarette or five. By the time she comes back, I've successfully downed four more beers. She seems kind of mad at me.
“Elle, what’s wrong?”
“Don’t pull that shit with me. You know what’s wrong. When you say you’re going to do something, just fucking do it!”
I reach out to touch her arm; she shrugs away a little bit. I ignore it, and try to pull her to me.
“Seriously, honey, how long were you going to let me stay out there by myself?”
“Oh lord. Was I supposed to go smoke with you?” I ask.
“You said you’d be out in a minute.”
“Oh. Sorry,” I know that saying sorry isn’t enough just yet. I know that apologizing for it will probably just make it worse, but dormant. I’ll hear about it in either five drinks or on the walk home.
“It’s okay. Just don’t do that.”
“Okay, well, what do you want to drink? Anything you want, it’s on me tonight.”
“Stoli Around the World.”
“Jesus. Planning on getting lit, are we?” She can handle them though. Six shots or more or vodka in one drink with just a splash of juice, it goes down like Kool-Aid, and she drinks it like it’s nothing more.
Elle wanders over to one of our friends. They both look at me and lean in towards each other. I know they’re talking about me, but it doesn’t matter much, I suppose. I go to get her a drink.
“Who’s this?” I ask Elle while pointing towards someone she’s talking to.
“Oh, you know, it’s this kid I used to go to highschool with. I’ve told you about Ryan.” She turns to Ryan and continues her conversation.
“Oh fuck you then.” I hand Elle her drink and walk away to talk to someone else.
“FUCK FUCK FUCK!” She comes after me, looking slightly sad, and mostly pathetic. “What?” She asks.
“What do you mean ‘what’?” I say, staring at her matter-of-factly.
“What’s wrong with me continuing a conversation that you interrupted?”
“Oh. Sorry. I guess I should have waited politely by your side until I was allowed to talk to you. Perhaps I should have sucked his dick for you too. You would have liked that right?”
Elle walks away. I know I’ve messed up terribly. I’ll be lucky if I get to go home tonight. I’ll be lucky if she talks to me again. I’ll be really lucky if she doesn’t dump me and kick me in the nuts. I put my drink down and head outside to smoke. I can see her through the window from where I stand outside. She laughs and leans in to hear what this Ryan guy has to say. I start wondering if he’s got something I haven’t got. I’m sure that he doesn’t. But, I’m also sure that right now it doesn’t really matter because Ryan’s not being a total dick to my girlfriend.
I flick the cigarette into the street, and run back inside. Elle’s not talking to Ryan anymore, she’s ordering another Stoli Around the World.
“You sure about that?” I ask her. I smile, hoping that she’ll smile back.
“What do you care?” I’m not surprised that she doesn’t smile back. I wish she would though. It’s always better when I’m not an ass to her.
“I care because I’m a jerk. I’ll stop. I’m sorry.”
The bartender comes up to her. “Can I get a Stoli Around the World please, and a,” Elle looks at me expectantly.
“Sorry, fresh out of Pabst. How about a Heineken?” I nod agreement to the bartender.
Elle turns to me, grinning from ear to ear, and yells over the rock ballad starting on the jukebox, “Heineken? Heineken? Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!”
I grab her, and kiss her. What other girl would quote David Lynch movies to you?
The bartender comes over with our drinks and a smile that I barely notice, until I notice that I didn’t notice yet.
“Here you guys, that’ll be seven dollars.”
“Seriously?” I ask her.
“Seriously.” As she picks up the money on the counter she looks at me and winks. Elle doesn’t see it, or doesn’t care. I like to think that she would care, so I’m assuming she didn’t see it.
I walk behind Elle to where our friends are waiting for us. She separates the crowd, I keep the palm of my hand in the small of her back, so that I can stay in the wake of the waves of drunks.
“So, did you notice the bartender winking at you back there?” Elle asks.
“Yeah, I guess. No big deal though.” I wonder if she cares. She doesn’t seem to care. Maybe she does and won’t let on.
“I dunno. I say go for it…”
I just look at her. I’m slightly dumbfounded by this. I can’t tell if Elle is serious or joking or what. I take a big swig of Heineken. “I might just do it, you know.”
“I know baby. I know.” She smirks into her drink and sways while she looks at me. I look into her face, and meet her eyes.
“Don’t you fucking look at me!” she yells loud enough for the few people near us to turn around to.
“Jesus Christ! Have you no shame?” I ask.
“Nope. None. It went away a long time ago when I learned that my bladder wasn’t big enough to hold a whole drink. Will you hold this for me while I go piss?” She hands me the drink before I can respond and walks away to the bathroom.
I carry our drinks to the table our friends are sitting around. I put Elle’s vodka down, and hold on to my beer. Dave and I chat about the bartender. Her name is Dana, apparently. Dave has a crush on her, but won’t ask her out; instead he leaves her huge tips and pretends to be drunk so he can stare at her. Elle’s friend comes up to us. Dave intercepts.
“Yo. Ryan. What’s up? You doing okay lately? I heard about your buddy going off to Chicago or something. You doing okay?”
“Yeah, I guess. I mean, I miss him a lot. This long distance thing is really wearing on me.”
“Hey, Ryan, I’m Louis. Sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier. I was just in a bad mood.”
Ryan reaches his arm out to shake my hand. I’m always sort of thrown off by this gesture. I look at the palm of my hand and wipe it off on my pants, and extend my hand. Ryan just glances at me through this. He’s got a good handshake as far as I can figure. Firm, but not harsh.
Elle comes back, picks up her drink, gets about an inch down before she realizes Ryan is there with all of us.
“Hey darlin’. You met Louis, I assume?” She glares at me a little bit, nothing too angry, just agitated. I wonder briefly what it is that I was supposed to have done now. I decide on nothing.
“Yeah,” turning to me, Ryan continues. “So, Dana tells me that you read a lot?”
“Oh, definitely. But nothing compared to Dave here. He’s crazy with his reading.”
Ryan and I laugh at Dave’s expense and he ignores us, looking at the bartender. Elle leans over Dave’s shoulder and whispers something to him. He nods. She drinks another inch or so from her drink and puts the glass down. She makes a motion to me that she’s going to go smoke.
Ryan and I chug our beers and follow Dave and Elle outside. She’s shivering, and exhaling smoke. I can tell she’s trying to look suave about it. She’s shaking so much that the smoke shakes too.
“Honey, I’m kind of bored of this bar. Can we go somewhere else?” she asks.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“If you don’t want to leave, I can just meet you at home. If you want. I just don’t like it much here tonight.” She scratches her head, then her shoulder. “That didn’t really make sense, did it?”
“I don’t know, honey,” I tell her. Right away I know that that was the wrong thing to have said. I should have said that I knew what she meant.
“Well, I’m going to smoke another cigarette and then head off to wherever. You should come though. It’s no fun without you.”
“Yeah, I guess. Whatever you want.”
“Hey guys, well, I’m gonna head back in, I’m getting cold and sober, and I think Lizzy’s just sitting in there by herself. Poor thing.”
“Take it easy sugar,” Elle says as she waves. Dave flicks his smoke and walks back in.
“I think I’m gonna head home for the night. It was great seeing you again Ellie. Nice to meet you Louis.”
“Have a good one Ryan,” we both say at the same time.
Ryan smiles and adjusts his sweater before he walks down the road.
“So, Louie, where to?” Elle asks.
“Wherever you want,” I say. I don’t really want to leave, but it’s probably better this way.
“What about buying some bourbon on the way home and drinking when we get back?”
Elle starts walking towards our apartment complex. She’s walking fast because she’s cold. Her hands are making fists and then shaking them out, I watch her for a moment before it occurs to me to walk away with her.
When we get to the gasstation, Elle goes inside first, I follow her, stumbling on the steps. She graps a fifth of bourbon from the shelf, and puts it on the counter. I get some chips and a can of chili. We wait for the cashier to come out of the stock room. It isn’t happening. Another ten minutes and we decide it’s best to just leave cash on the counter and take our stuff with us.
As is usual for us, on the latter end of our walk home, we pick out somewhere to sit down and have a heart to heart. It’s ridiculous. I can’t remember the last time we walked home from the bars and didn’t sit down somewhere to talk. Elle starts crying. I know it’s just because she’s drunk and bored, but I feel bad. I melt to her. We sit on the curb of the sidewalk. I grab a cigarette before I ask.
“Elle, honey, what’s wrong?” I ask just before I light my cigarette.
“Nothing. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I don’t know what my problem is tonight.”
“Oh, it’s okay, I’m really sorry about earlier. I was jealous of that guy. I didn’t know he was gay. I didn’t know that you weren’t flirting with him.”
“It’s not that. I love you, you know?”
“I love you too.”
“No you don’t, you’d leave me for that bartender if she asked you to.”
“Oh, Jesus! No I wouldn’t. Not in a million years.”
“Yes you would. If I were you, I would. You seem to like her. Well, I don’t know about that. But she seems to like you an awful lot. You should just go for it.” She wipes her nose on her sleeve then reaches into her purse for a cigarette. I hand her one. When she stops sobbing, I light it for her.
She exhales. “Oh. I’m so sorry. I’m never drinking again. Why am I like this? Why don’t you ever want to know about my day or my past, Louie?”
“Doesn’t matter, Elle.”
“It matters to me. I want to know why. What do you want from me? What do you want in life? What do you expect? I’m so lost.” She’s sobbing again, but she’s struck a nerve.
“Mainly, I am sick of it. Want to know what I want? I want some form of existence for myself, where I can interact with people in a meaningful way, where the confirmation of existence is not necessary, freeing up actual existence, closeness.” I glance at her. I don’t think she gets it. She’s digging further into her purse now. She looks at me with swollen eyes. The tears are being forced to stay in her head, I can tell. She’s biting her lip. She just nods.
“I really don't care what you say, what image you want, all I am interested is in you, yourself.” She looks at me. Her hand comes out of the bag, holding the Jim Beam. She looks at me while she diligently unscrews the cap. “Your opinions do not matter in the fact that they are expressed, only to understand you, as you are.” She makes a smile form, then takes a slow swig out of the bottle. She doesn’t even gasp when she’s done. I take her silence as an invitation to continue. “The only time friendly self-reference is important is when it is meaningful, only when it is needed to understand. A play by play of your life is not needed, you are not your past events. I don't care what you did today, I care about who you are now. I need people who can at least try to be themselves, simply just be. When you constantly refer to yourself you try to push yourself onto me, into me. Knowing is a form of flow, not rape. It’s natural, not forced.”
Elle stands up, and walks slowly away. I follow her.
She slows down for me, and when I reach her, says, “I can’t believe you feel that way. I’m so sorry that I make you feel that way.”
“It’s not really you, Elle. Well, the bit about what I care about, that is you. The rest is rhetorical. It’s everyone. Don’t take it so personally.”
“It’s hard not to take it personally when I’m the only one here.” She wipes her nose on her sleeve again and walks a little faster.
“Can’t. If I stop, I’ll cry.”
“Stop. Just stop. Look at me.”
Elle stops, her body sways and chatters in the cold. I reach out to her, she moves away a little bit.
“Why do I like you more than you like me, Louis?”
“You don’t. You just think you do.” I can never understand how this sort of thing comes up. I am so frustrated, I could throttle someone. If it were anyone else here infront of me but her, they’d have my hands around their neck. How does she have this hold on me? I don’t get it.
Elle turns to the chain link fence she’s stopped by and hits it as hard as she can. Her fist nearly goes through the hole. I grab her arm. She stares fiercely at me.
“If you don’t quit this Nietzschean stuff, I’m going to have to leave. I can’t handle it.” Or, at least, that’s what I think she said, I can barely hear her. I pull her in to me. I hold her head against my chest. She sobs and I can feel my shirt starting to get wet.
“Elle, stop it. Please don’t cry. Please?”
She looks up at me, her eyes are squinting as though I’m standing a million miles away from her. Her face shines under the street lights from tears and frustration. She shakes her head.
“Please don’t cry. I love you. I love you.” She looks up again, but brings her hands up between her breasts, separating her body from mine.
I take her face and lean in to kiss her. She won’t kiss me. She says she can’t breathe. I kiss her anyway.