What is important in life?
I thought I would be happy if she loved me. Her name was Amy. She has no chance of reading this. She’s a doctor in Philadelphia. She saves lives. She never once thinks about me ever.
We dated for six months in 1991. Maybe I should remember this: when someone wants to “take a break” it really means: “I want to break up.”
I would think to myself, if I didn’t know her and I saw her randomly walking down the street, would I still feel the same way about her? Yes.
And yet, I was so afraid she didn’t like me that I also tried to move into a homeless shelter.
I wanted to move into a homeless shelter because there were a lot of women living there and…just in case…I needed an exit plan.
But the homeless shelter director thought I was crazy. He even called my boss and my boss confirmed it.
Life knifed me. The girl broke up with me and she never picked up her phone again when I tried to call. I tried to call thirty times in a day. And then the next day. And then I woke her parents repeatedly in the middle of the night by calling their house and hanging up.
And the boss who told the homeless shelter guy that I was crazy, fired me. I don’t know why. I did a good job. I worked hard. I loved it.
And my roommates kicked me out. I had to move. And the landlady refused to give me the deposit back because my room was disgusting.
So I was unemployed, no girlfriend, and I found a cheap room in an attic to live by myself.
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I gave chess lessons for $10 a day. Somehow I survived on that for awhile.
One time some friends came over to cheer me up. I was a mess. I opened the door and they were quiet for a second as they looked at me, and then they said, “Oh,” and they just sort of walked off after I mumbled something.
My dad told me he would come and pick me up and take me home but I said, “no”.
My sister told me, “just do one thing a day” and that was good advice because I still try to do that. I love you Bonnie, even though you no longer talk to me. You are always my best friend.
I found a job. But I was no good at it and I would leave early and hitchhike home every day.
And that was wonderful. To go on the road and have no idea where I would end up. And somehow make my way home.
I know not everyone can do this. I was lucky. But to just surrender to your thumb and whatever car would stop and whatever direction you would go in and make it an adventure.
Worst case someone would kill me but I didn’t care.
That felt exciting to me. And my friends would want to hear stories. So I would tell them.
One time I finished a big project for that job. Very important. I was writing all the documentation so they could ship their product.
It was horrible. The boss called me in his office and yelled at me. Don’t you have any pride in your work.
And I guess I did but the proof was that I didn’t. I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t know what pride was. So they fired me.
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I was lost, adrift, lonely, and broken. I was sad. I’d go home and read comic books and that was my main pleasure.
I’d meet my friends sometimes and we’d get drunk. I’d meet random strangers while I was hitchhiking and if they were women I’d ask them out and nobody ended up liking me.
I was pretty down and every direction seemed like up.
When every direction seems like up, this could be important.
But it could also be sad and lonely.
In the fog of everything I remembered my grandmother lifting me out of my crib and kissing me and telling me she loved me.
Maybe this is my first memory.
If I had to guess, and that’s all this really is, I’d say that was important to me. My first memory. It’s nice for the first memory to be a kiss.
All of the sadnesses along the way are just progress until the end.
And when the end comes, maybe what is important is that I, too, gave someone a kiss along the way.
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