Midnight Messiah – Part 1 (Story #16)

8:00 p.m. April 20

“...And I know it's hard, but bad things happen. That's life, and you just have to learn how to deal with it. I thank God every day that I'm alive and I can still live. So I make up for my mistakes and take it one day at a time. I found Jesus and he saved my life. My name is Brooke and I'm an addict.”

All the people in the room stand up and clap encouragingly. The woman, barely out of her mid-twenties, smiles at the gesture and steps down from the wooden podium. One by one, she exchanges handshakes as she makes her way through the crowd to the back of the church room where the complimentary donuts and coffee are provided. I just happen to be standing there enjoying a free Boston Cream.

“Excellent speech,” I say to her.

“Thank you. I've seen you here the last couple of weeks, but you never share.” She glances down on the piece of paper stuck to my shirt “Dylan is it? Funny, you don't look like a Dylan.”

“Umm...you got me. That's not really my name.”

“It never usually is,” she smiles and continues, “and you look a little too...” She pauses, “healthy to be an addict.”

I think she just called me fat. “Can you keep a secret?” I ask.


“You're right, I'm not an addict. I'm just here to do some research for something I'm writing” The free food was an added bonus but no need to inform her of that. She already thinks I'm fat.

“Interesting. What's your piece about?”

“Redemption and Religion. I never quite understood the correlation between Jesus and kicking a bad habit. And I figure no one can be more of an expert on the subject than someone like you. If you have some time maybe you'd like to grab a drink or two and I can ask you a few questions? Help me with my research. Drinks on me, of course.”

“You do realize that I'm a recovering addict right? I don't think drinks would be the best idea.”

We laugh and exchange numbers. I finish off the last of my cream filled donut and leave as I see her gather up the attendees in what I'm sure is a “praise Jesus, I'd be dead without him,” prayer circle.

12:05 a.m. May 1

It's around midnight and the drugs, alcohol and paranoia are beginning to take hold. I'm held up at some party in an obscure, dingy basement apartment on the lower east end, somewhere between Broadview and Pape. I'm here with a childhood friend, Terrell, who ironically is the same person who introduced me to the Narcotics Anonymous group I've been attending for my research. He was, at one time, a drug counsellor. But at this very moment, he's tucked away in a corner under some blinking Christmas lights that hang above the entire place, fiercely and manically crushing and mixing a remarkable amount of OxyContin with other substances. He's a mad scientist busy at work - no one quite knows how to mix narcotics together like a former drug addict.

After he finishes, he makes his way towards me through the sea of people, who are drinking and talking. He takes a seat between me and some stranger with a funny-shaped head that I've been chatting up for God knows how long. He offers a tray full of his alchemistic concoction to both of us. The stranger politely declines his offer. Good, more for us. We both blissfully inhale and fall back into our seats staring at the flashing, out-of-season lights. My skin warms, and suddenly I'm raving and jabbering at this poor guy sitting between Terrell and I, saying something like, “I feel good - do you feel good?”

I turn towards Terrell and he's stroking the fabric of this misplaced stranger's sweater, asking him something like, “Is this cashmere?” But before he can answer, Terrell starts laughing uncontrollably and shouts aloud, “Dude, this is the way to live!”

“Calm down man,” I say.

I turn my gaze towards this stranger who has unfortunately found himself seated between us. He's got a phony smile and his eyes look nervous. He's beginning to make me nervous. What if he leaves and reports us to the cops? What will happen then? Or maybe he wants to jack us of our substances while we're under the influence? Either way, it goes without saying that I can't just let him leave. Wait, oh Mary Magdalene, did I think that or say it aloud? Was I talking? Did he hear me?

I smile at him. He's still silent but noticeably a lot more uncomfortable. I glance back at Terrell and he's still laughing like a hyena. I think I better have a talk with this stranger. I'll explain to him that we're good guys, just out having a good time. That we're not avid drug users – there was a purpose behind our evening's drug binge. That we were actually on an essential post-existentialist journey and the only vehicle to reach that destination were these illegal substances. Then he'll understand and we won't be imprisoned. It makes perfect sense. I mean, I really can't blame him. I would have a look of absolute fear, too, if my sweater was being stroked by a six-foot-three black man delirious on God knows what chemical mixture.

“Listen here man,” I say. “This here is Terrell and he is a guru of music. Don't let his racial...” But before I could finish, Terrell interrupts and firmly grabs the poor guy's arm.

“You're not racist are you?” asks Terrell.

“Oh, god, no sir!” shaking his head.

He just called Terrell “sir”. We're screwed. Terrell's gone and done it. There's a look of absolute fear on this poor sap's face. He's sure to rat us out to the cops now. I wanted to shut Terrell up and reassure this guy of our fun-loving yet philosophical journey. But at this point, I've also become completely overcome with laughter. I'm helpless. I can't seem to get any words out. Nietzsche be damned!

The poor guy is squirming in his seat. He finally builds up the courage to get up and attempt to leave. He says something like, “You guys are cool but I gotta' go. Here, my treat.” He proceeds to buy his freedom from Terrell's demented clutches by handing him some free pills and then swiftly disappears around the living room corner.

Terrell immediately crushes the pills with the butt end of his lighter – again mixing them with God knows what. He commences to snort the powder, and I follow his lead. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I feel light brisk brushes from behind me like cats gently pawing at my shoulder. I frantically look around but there's nothing there.

“Did you feel that?” I ask aloud.

I don't know what was in those pills but I went from humorously paranoid to dangerously twisted. Somehow, I don't think this is what Kierkegaard had in mind. I start to feel exceedingly detached and estranged from reality. I'm seeing and hearing things. Maybe it's the lack of sleep combined with all the extracurricular activities that I've turned from habit to routine. Or maybe it's my conscience finally speaking to me. Or maybe it's just those Goddamn pills that funny-shaped head motherfucker just gave to us. Whatever it is, it's beginning to take hold. I'm trying to keep it together in the midst of falling apart, but I'm clearly unravelling. I'm tripping the fuck out.

Time is moving in snap shots: One minute I'm sitting on a couch attempting to calm myself down. Now I'm standing in front of a marble sink splashing water onto my face. Then on my cell phone, frantically panicking to someone on the other end. Now I'm in a moving streetcar - half awake - on my way to God-knows-where. And finally, I'm aimlessly walking the city streets.

Where am I? Why did I get off the streetcar? Why am I walking on this particular street? Did I have a specific destination in mind? I somewhat remember having a reason for being wherever I am now but I can't for the life of me remember right at this moment. Then, out of nowhere a car pulls up slowly beside me. The windows roll down and a soothing voice from inside the vehicle says, “Thank God I finally found you. Get in.”

Haikus, Hipsters and Morrissey (Story #15)

12:30 a.m. April 16th

It's been several months - almost at the half a year point. You've had many break ups but never has any of them hit you this hard. You keep telling yourself that you will get through this like you did the others in the past, but you really don't believe it. In the name of moving forward, you should be trying to meet someone new and forgetting about her, but instead you downloaded The Smiths' “Louder Than Bombs” album and listen to it nightly as you write melodramatic poems and post them under pseudonyms on Okcupid.com.

You are trying to keep it together in the midst of falling apart, but it's definitely not working. A clear sign of that is that your poems don't even rhyme. Instead, the words “dark” and “tormented” are unnecessarily overused. You're at an obvious low point in your life and your only comfort is the fact that it probably can't get any worse. You're just going through the motions and trying to keep some semblance of a career together.

Tonight, you find yourself standing outside a stylish Japanese restaurant-turned-nightclub in the heart of the city's “creative” district for a lame ass pseudo cool, pseudo work function. Surrounding you are the same miserably fashionable people who are at every party and who you are pretty sure know who you are, but who have yet to acknowledge your presence (possibly because they read your online poetry). In all fairness you intentionally ignore them as well. You're not quite sure why you do this, it's just the way it is. You've come to accept this and have practically embraced it as social norm.

Everyone, yourself included, is standing outside the unspoken designated smoking area, loudly expressing their mutual disdain for this party and this trendy club. Yet here you all are, as always, crowded around in the cold, pretending not to know one another. You've grown to hate these functions. You only attend them for two reasons: to network and to take advantage of the open bar. The first of the two reasons is somewhat misguided since the guest list for these events always chronicle the same names, thereby nullifying any valid expectation of supposed networking. In front of you stands a flock of your peers, heavily engaged in deep, shallow conversation.

“God I hate these parties,” loudly scoffs Monica, a freelance photographer who recently had a collection of her photographs published in a national publication south of the border.

“I know exactly what you mean,” says one of her new-found minions, eager to validate her statement.

“There's never anyone worthwhile meeting in these events.”

“I know right.”

No one says anything to disagree. The two of them take the silence as a cue to continue their condescending back and forth discourse of the people that currently surround them. Until recently, Monica hadn't done anything significant and was actually one the few people you could stand. But apparently with new success comes new attitude. But you are not at all unfamiliar with the tone of their statements, since it's often the sentiment of anyone who is marginally successful. The lack of defence to Monica's obnoxious attitude is increasingly getting you agitated. Although, secretly, you hope to one day be on the opposite end of that exchange – the snob not the snubbed.

Fear of being deemed a hypocrite or, worse, an outcast, you have, in the past, never let anything of the sort bother you. In fact, you have once or twice been deluded by the thought that those statements refer to everyone but you. You have been guilty of saying “who invited that guy,” or “they just invite anyone these days,” as though you bear any importance or credibility.

But tonight, for one reason or another, it is bothering you. Maybe it's because you've finally come to a point in your life where self actualization, like Maslow once promised you, has finally occurred. Or it could be that nightly Morrissey influence on your “dark” and “tormented” soul. You decide that you're going to write a Haiku about this when you get home. You are going to call it “The Dark and Tormented Hierarchy of Needs” and post it under “Contemporary Maslow.”

In the midst of your newfound existential awareness you, decide to muster up some courage and say something.

“If you hate these parties and no one here is worth knowing, then why the fuck are you here?”

Imagine complete silence within complete silence in a Buddhist temple during a vow of silence - that's what it sounds like at this very moment. Instead of being celebrated for asking/stating the obvious the crowd of people decidedly pledge their allegiance to Monica by treating you like a fifteenth century leper. Monica breaks the silence by ignoring your question and recounting a story of her run in with a marginally famous celebrity. The crowd cheer her on with their questions of validation.

“Dude, why would you ask her that?” you hear a guy from behind whisper to you.

“Well it's the truth isn't it? I am so sick of these people not saying anything. I just don't understand how they can put up with that bullshit. She used to be nice. Whatever happened to treating others the way you want to be treated?” Oh yeah, you also rediscover your Christian moral rectitude.

He laughs. “Don't you know that's been reinvented? In our line of work, the categorical imperative, the golden rule, is now to treat others as if they were about to become incredibly successful. Want to go inside and grab a drink?”

You agree and a few moments later you are standing at the bar and your new friend is handing you a drink.

“Hey thanks for saving me back there,” you say gratefully.

“It was my pleasure. Besides I've been eyeing you at these parties for some time now and was looking for an excuse to introduce myself.” He seductively places his hand on the small of your back and hands you a napkin with the words, “my place or yours” written on it. Caught off guard at the gesture, you step back a little (just a little – after all, you don't want to come off as a homophobe).

“I think you may have gotten the wrong impression of me. I'm afraid I'm still one of those old-fashioned guys who still only prefers the company of the opposite sex.”

He laughs and insists, “Oh, come on now. You're fashionably underdressed and your jeans are tighter than mine. Not to mention you're at a fashion party, for God's sake. Don't play straight with me!” He squeezes your ass to emphasize his point.

You step back even further. “Sorry dude, I don't swing that way.”

He is offended and the claws come out. He becomes all homosexually cliche and the pitch of his voice becomes increasingly higher, yet strangely, also more confident and intimidating. “Well, I don't know what all that attitude was back there with Monica, cause honey, you're not successful or gay enough to be that difficult. What a fag!” He laughs at you one last time and trots off.

At the start of the evening you were sure that you had reached a new low in your life. Well, a gay guy just called you a fag. You stand corrected - NOW, you've hit rock bottom.

You hear the people around you giggling. You are super embarrassed for several obvious reasons, the main one being that you were just called a “fag” by a gay guy. Quick to defend your manhood with its societal correlation with heterosexuality you attempt to make conversation with the next available member of the fairer sex.

You spot your target. She's wearing large hoop earrings, a beige Chloe Sevigny baby doll dress, worn-in ankle boots and a pair of unnecessary non-prescription eyeglasses. You walk over to her. The two of you exchange introductions and begin to converse. You attempt to impress her by stringing a collection of intellectual words together to describe some random nearby observation. You don't want to sound pompous, so you're quick to toss in a pop culture reference and you also curse, just to let her know you've got a rebellious side. You recall a recent observation by Klosterman and you decide to make it your own.

“What's with the people at these parties? In the past, I was capable of differentiating homeless people from hipsters. Currently, it seems implausible. Now, it's hard to even tell the difference between hipsters and retards. Take for instance that guy standing by the DJ booth wearing the grey sweat pants with the brown Florsheim Imperial Westhaven wing tip shoes, the bow tie and the straw hat. Either he is mentally disabled or he is possibly the coolest fucking guy you will ever meet.”

This formulaic combination of random observations, big words, pop culture and cursing makes you seem undeniably witty. She laughs and it seems you may have won her over. She strokes your arm and -with a compliment- your ego as well. Suddenly, you feel her mouth pressing up against yours.

“Do you mind if we slow down? I think we click,” you say to her when she finally unattached her lips from yours.

“Worried about Jennifer?”

Jennifer is the girl that you dated right after Jessica. You know, the girl that you shared with Patrick – the Devil's three-way girl.

“Oh you know her? We're not together anymore,” you respond.

She stops any seductive progression and looks at you anxiously. “So you're single?”

“Is that some sort of a problem?”

You'd think that would be more of an incentive to move forward. After all, you just charmed the shit out of her with your words and you already began writing a new poem in your head entitled “the one: the girl in the beige baby doll dress.” This poem you had envisioned posting under your actual name on possibly your own website.

“I'm sorry I don't hook up with unattached men.”

You are unmistakeably let down. For one reason or another, in the midst of the dark swirling chaos, you saw white picket fences with this stranger (probably because you're in a super emo state and undeniably pathetic. Poems... really?).

And as if you couldn't make things any worse for yourself, before she walks away you manage to blurt out, “I really like you. Didn't you feel the chemistry? I thought we had something special?”

She looks at you bewildered, as if you're some sort of stalker/serial killer/middle-aged, untalented emo singer. I mean, realistically you can't really blame her. You just imagined the next forty years of your life with a girl you literally met ten minutes ago. But she genuinely seems nice (with the exception of being the possible founding member of Ashleymadison.com), so she takes pity on you and leaves you with the following resonating words:

“Next time you're shopping for a life-long partnership, I would recommend you refrain from narcissistic places, people, and professions. Just saying.”