I was staying with my father that summer because I couldn’t find work and wasn’t looking and it felt better doing nothing, and what better place to do nothing than your father’s house.
The weather was terrible. They were predicting an apocalyptic storm. Any day now the earth was supposed to swallow us.
I was sleeping every night in my childhood bed. My feet hung over the edge. Cartoon rocket ships patterned the sheets, and tiny dinosaurs wearing tiny space helmets floated like bubbles in between the rockets.
In the mornings my father would say, “Okay, I’m heading off to work. Should be back around five thirty.” He’d leave me twenty dollars cash on the kitchen counter and tell me to be productive. I’d go to back to sleep as soon as his car pulled out the driveway.
Dreaming is better than sex. I like who I am in dreams. I enjoy the company of people who would otherwise never even look at me, and most of all I get to disappear into places that don’t exist, with rivers of liquid copper and tremendous mountains that each hold a sun at their peak.
The twenty dollars my father left me I spent on drugs.
There was a sixteen year old named Hector who lived nearby and got beaten by his mother. He hadn’t gone to school in seven years. He was dumber than a tin can, but he had these strips that melted on your tongue and transported you to heaven. I payed him fifteen dollars a day, and he gave me whatever he had. With the rest of the money I drank.
One day I went looking for Hector. He was sometimes down at a bar called Ladyface. A few people were playing pool. A few more were staring into the bottom of empty cups, or kissing on each other.
“Is Hector here?” I asked.
“Who the fuck is Hector?” the bartender said. “I’ve never met someone with that name.”
I put five dollars on the counter and she gave me a beer.
“Is this all?” I asked.
“You’re lucky it’s even that.”
“Bullshit,” I said. “You’re just being a cheap bitch.”
“Excuse me,” a man said, deep-voiced. I looked at him. He looked like a rhino. “What’d you say?”
“I said she’s being a cheap bitch.”
“You’re a cheap bitch,” he said. “You know why?”
“Because you’re ugly.”
“Because that’s my girlfriend. And I can’t let you talk to her like that.”
“Then I’ll talk that way to you.”
“You can try.”
“You’re a cheap ugly bitch,” I said to the guy.
He laughed at first. The bartender said, “Don’t, babe. Don’t worry about it. He’s leaving. He’s leaving right now.” But I wasn’t leaving. And the man ignored her. He grabbed a red pool ball and before I could move he drove it into my face.
I woke up at the police station. My father picked me up. He filled out some paperwork while muttering to himself in disbelief.
In the car, on the way home, he said, “Why are you doing this?”
“Throwing you life away. Why are you ruining your life, over a woman?”
“How will you get a job with a police record?”
“Maybe I won’t get a job,” I said.
We stopped at a red light. My father kept scratching at a spot on the side of his face.
“Or maybe,” I said. “You and I can go into business. And you can love me again.”
He didn’t talk to me for three days. On the third day he came home from work and said, “I’ve set something up for you, for tomorrow. It’s with my old friend Richard, you remember Richard. He’s kind enough to meet with you. You will take the meeting, at 4:30, at his office. I told him your face is because of a pickup basketball game.”
“I’ll be there,” I said. “Thank you.”
I didn’t go. I never had any intention of accepting favors from a man named dick. Good thing I didn’t go, too. My ex-girlfriend came to visit me. She died about seven months ago, so it wasn’t her exactly, but it was the version of her that I see most often.
I told her, “Life without you is like living inside an empty paint can. I want to die everyday I’m alive.”
She kissed me and left. I was aroused and stoned and bleached out of my gourd. It was 4 O’clock when I started jerking off in the living room. I was hoping somehow it would kill me.
It was about 5:30 when my father came home. He barged through the door, ready for a fight.
What a sight to behold. The labor of your loins hunched over like a gargoyle, beating on his genitals in the open air, while his face betrays nothing of how mortified he feels inside, how ashamed and unworthy and ill, because his face cannot move into expression with a nose cracked in half like a sugar stick, and bruises spreading beneath his eyes the way color takes the sky during polluted sunsets.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I never meant to jerk off like this.”
“Get out,” he said, in a flat voice. “Get out, get out, get the fuck out, get out.”
My father was sixty-seven years old. I was twenty-nine. He beat me over the head with a shoe that he removed directly from his foot. And silent tears spilled from his face as he shoved his naked son into the street and closed the door forever.
And there I saw moving in the west like the black entrails of heaven slipping out into the world, a tornado. A black pillar extending from earth to sky, it was the most magnificent thing I’d ever seen. It took my insides and twisted them up. Electric joy burst through me. What a feeling! Winds like the residue of jet engines inverted me, emptied me out. And I stood there like the skin mold of human being, naked and amazed, watching the bile of God crawl toward me.
Written at 12:25 at night, in my office, in Agoura Hills CA.