that's off.

at my boss' kid's first birthday party, i made a fool of myself right from the start by asking if her husband was home sick when he was standing ten feet away across the room. she looked at me like i was crazy, and then she told me that no, he just had a twenty-four hour bug. i smiled, and then i let the adults continue talking. i handed her my birthday present to her daughter, which was a set of three sailboats for the bathtub. i remembered liking toys in the bathtub when i was a kid, so that's why i bought it. when i bought the toy, i saw my barber, holly, and she said hello to me. i said hello back and told her that i was shopping for a birthday present. in the store, i also wanted to buy these cool-looking japanese dolls that were $16, but then i thought, what business does a grown man like myself have buying these japanese dolls?

i was out of place at the party, which was nothing unusual for me. it was a real grown up party, though, a bunch of couples with their infants, and why did i show up to this thing anyway? i made a plate of caesar salad with some quesadillas and i sat at the a small table, where i ate by myself. i walked around the playground a bit, and this south korean woman introduced herself to me. she was an elementary school teacher, and she was there with her husband, who worked security for boeing, and they had a tiny daughter who looked at me and smiled. the woman and i talked about teaching in korea and the richmond night market.

i went to the basketball court where this black kid was shooting hoops by himself. i asked if i could shoot with him, and he said sure. so, there we were, shooting hoops. i made some, bricked some, air-balled more than i would have liked. i worked up a sweat and asked the kid if he was in high school. he seemed flattered, and then he told me no, that he was just gonna be in eighth grade. i tried to make small talk, asked if his team was any good, where he planned on going to high school, etc. he answered questions, but didn't say much else. only other thing he said was, "that's off" before missing some shots.

afterward, i got some groceries. i went up the escalator to catch the light rail, and i thought that i might want to be a dad some day. but only because i like my cousin's kids, and my boss seems to be happier, and my other coworker looked like he was really having a ball pushing his daughter on the swing. actually, not just having a ball. it looked like that that was it. it looked like that was about as good as it got in this stupid crazy world. he was pushing his daughter on the swing and she was just really laughing it up, and his wife was just standing there, taking it all in. and i thought this over on the escalator ride up, and i thought about how i was gonna make dinner for one, and spend my saturday night watching a lot of television. my friend has told me, it won't always be like this, and i won't feel this way forever. but it's sure starting to feel like forever.

i'm going to have to change it up real quick.
spend my whole life good will hunting.

there are so many horrible voices in the world. take this one time, for example. this old woman asked me what i studied in college. i told her creative writing. she scoffed. "haven't you ever heard of making a living?" she asked. and then there was this other time. this woman cheryl, who is my uncle's sister, asked me if i was still in school. i told her i had already graduated two years ago. she asked me what did i get my degree in. after i answered, she said, "you should've done medicine or engineering instead." and then just a few months ago, i told a good friend i planned on quitting my job to just travel. he said, "listen to yourself," and then convinced me it was a bad idea.

these people don't even know who i am, or what i'm about, yet they think they know what's best, what i should've done. can you imagine? i want to call them stupid, but i'm the stupid one for listening. surely, you've had people in your life discourage you from doing what you want. and you probably listened, too. because you want your life to make sense. you want what has been planned out for you, even though you know it's unsustainable and, in the long run, won't even make you happy. yet you do it because it's what's expected of you.

i'm ready to walk away from it. let me tell you how the trap is set, now that i've been in it for some time. when you're a grown up, or almost one like i am, you'll want your own place. because that's what grown ups do. roommates are for broke college busters and co-ops are for dirty delusional hippies. we live alone because it's more convenient, and if we're lucky, we can bring someone back to our sweet bachelor pad. but the truth is that it's hard to meet people. especially if you live in a city like seattle, and not even seattle, but the south part of seattle where people your age don't even seem to exist. so, instead of the nonstop parties you expected, instead of bringing back random floosies to your apartment, you're more likely to just feel alone. you'll be lucky if you can have a friend come over once a week to watch jersey shore.

once college ends, everyone is too busy for you. they pencil you in for coffee dates. and if you don't drink coffee, then expect to just sit at home and feel bad about yourself. there's also happy hour. you have to drink. during college, but especially after college, people don't know how to talk to one another if beers and sangria aren't involved. you can't talk about anything important, either. it's gotta be all lighthearted banter about getting laid or not getting laid and who is so-and-so and what is so-and-so doing these days and that's a nice looking jacket, where'd you get it?

and you blow money on these drinks, but it doesn't matter because you're finally working! you finally have money to spend on the one thing that's guaranteed to bring single adults together: alcohol. you'll blow money on other things, too: new shoes, clothes, gadgets, furniture to help your apartment (and thus your life) not look so painfully empty, high speed internet, cell phone bill (no one's calling your ass), groceries, movies, more happy hours. when you're alone and have nothing to do, you can always go out and shop some more!

the other day, while walking to my job, i took a physical assessment of how much i was worth. penguin polo, $30 (nordstrom rack); pants, $69 (j. crew); running shoes (nike), $99; duffel bag (onitsuka tiger), $45; iphone, $299; at&t 3g service plan ($80+ per month). how did i let things get so out of control? i couldn't even imagine what would've happened if i had actually made real money. i was walking around, $1,000 human being. and sure, a lot of people will say, big fucking deal, i've got the iphone 4, and my shoes cost more than your entire savings account. but how do these people live with themselves. how do i do it? honestly. my god.

i don't want to make a living anymore. i want to make a life.
yeah, a 'rir bit ronery.

i'm an only child, so growing up, i had things my way all the time. i had my room just the way i wanted it. all my books and toys were organized. whenever my cousin rich bitch came over, he would make a mess of things, and once, i even called him out on it. i told him, "every time you come over, my room gets messy!" he didn't have anything to say about that. i think he just visited less after that.

i didn't have a roommate until college. i was going to be roommates with some random dude, but the thought of that freaked me out, so i requested to be roommates with someone i went to elementary and high school with, tony meatballs. i didn't talk to tony meatballs in high school at all, but it didn't matter. he was a familiar face, and i just knew that he'd be a better roommate than some random ass dude.

tony meatballs would sometimes get drunk and come home in the middle of the night puking. i didn't mind that. i found it funny because i wasn't the one puking. he'd procrastinate a lot, too, so sometimes he'd be up until 4 in the morning typing a stupid paper. that was something i wouldn't stand for. i told him that if he was gonna pull that shit, he should go down to the basement and type his papers. he did as i asked, but that didn't stop him from waking my ass up at 5 a.m. to ask me how to print.

it was fun having a roommate. he'd tell me all about his girl troubles, and he'd look out for me. see, our neighbor, geoff, would make a lot of asian jokes, and they didn't really bother me because i knew geoff was a good guy. but tony meatballs took me aside one day, and he asked me if geoff's jokes bothered me at all. it meant a lot to me that he asked that.

toward the end of sophomore year, i was kind of over having a roommate. i was a real dick about it. i had a girlfriend, and i didn't really care about anything else. see, tony meatballs was a soccer player, and he had his dirty laundry scattered all over the floor. once, he did laundry and he didn't even bother putting his clothes away. being a passive-aggressive weirdo, i actually folded his clothes and put them away for him. he walked in on me doing this, and he said, "what are you doing?" i glared at him, and i said, "putting away your clothes." he left the room after that.

we didn't talk for a few weeks, and i decided i wanted my own place. i didn't tell him what my living plans were for junior year. i entered the school lottery to get a studio in the murphy apartments, and i remember waiting in line in campion ballroom to hear my name called. i remember tony was sitting down with his soccer buddies, and he just looked at me. it was an expressionless look, but it made my heart sink, like i had let him down in some way. i barely saw him on campus those next two years.

after college, i moved in with my girlfriend, and that was pretty much a disaster.

during my second year of americorps, i got another roommate, glenn. glenn was a tall blonde kid with a cleft lip. he listened to classical music and jim o'rourke and nina nastasia, had leftist politics, played the trombone, smoked a lot of dope, and knew how to fix cars. i was hardly ever home, since i worked at starbucks and slept at my girlfriend's place, so i was never much of a roommate to him. the house was always cold, and our fridge was always empty, so there was never much of a reason to stick around. we ate a lot of gardenburgers and stir-fry potato/onion/cheese concoctions. when we didn't have to be roommates anymore, i was pretty happy about that.

after americorps, i lived at home, did nothing, and i felt like the world had left me behind.

when i moved back to seattle, i got my own place. i didn't bother getting a couch or anything for the first six months. i didn't see the point. my new apartment was just a shelter, not a home. i still see it that way. still, it was pretty sick having my own place, at least for a little while. i could shit with the door open, nap whenever i wanted, listen to music and watch porn at any hour, play my guitar and sing songs and not annoy anybody and not have anybody annoy me. i could fart like a champ, walk around naked, talk to myself and say funny things out loud to entertain myself. it was fun. for a while.

it gets scary, though, this business of living alone. there are moments, sometimes when i wake up from a nap, and i am very aware of my body, very aware that one day, i am going to die. it's very easy to go a full weekend without talking to anybody. i think about how my parents are aging, how they won't be around forever, and why the hell am i living so far away from them? i talk to my mom on the phone, and she can annoy me, and sometimes, i'll be really abrupt with her. i tell my cousin that sometimes i feel like i'm in the movie moon, or else living in the hatch in lost. i'm an introvert, probably have social anxiety disorder, am not good at making friends, lack confidence, don't know what to do with my life. now is not the fucking time to be living alone.

i thought that there was something wrong with me, but there isn't. there are now more people in america living alone than ever before. i checked out this book from the library, the lonely american: drifting apart in the 21st century, and it's the most important book i've read in a long time. it talks about how the concept of loneliness is stigmatized in our society, and how just admitting you're lonely is a faux pas. more people are more comfortable admitting they're depressed than admitting they're lonely.

i think about what this all means. how, rather than trying to get along with my roommates, i just walked away from all of it. i got my own apartment because it was more convenient. when my girlfriend and i moved in together, and it didn't work, i easily gave up on us. i thought: well, there goes any chance of us ever getting married. the bottom line is, it's easier to be alone than to have to work on relationships. cutting people out is pretty standard, and more and more, it's becoming the norm for people to just admit, "well, we've lost touch. that's just a part of getting older."

the book also says that men who live alone tend to be lonelier than women. people who live alone are less likely to socialize, less likely to ever have roommates again. the book pretty much called me out on my shit. so now i'm rsvping to every facebook event i get invited to, calling/texting/emailing people more and, if i can help it, i'm never going to live on my own again.

similar to working in an office, human beings just weren't meant for this shit.
good for ten years!

i'm sure i've told you about the doctor i had as a kid, dr. dentinger. he was an old man, 6'6" and had to have been well over 250 lbs. a giant of a football player of a monster. he talked in his big, booming voice ("how's my old buddy, james?") and he scared the crap out of me. he'd jam the tuberculosis test into my forearm, ram instruments into my ear, press his dead cold hands deep into my abdomen. my mom wondered why i cried each time she told me it was time to see the doctor.

i've had other doctors since dr. dentinger, but none i really liked until i recently met dr. kawamoto. i went in today for a physical and because i was concerned about depression and anxiety attacks. i told her it ran in the family. she said she'd give me a brief screening from the a.m.a., and she read off questions like, "how often do you feel bad about yourself?" and "have you ever tried to hurt yourself or commit suicide?" i answered as honestly as i could, but i also thought the screening was a little ridiculous because, at the same time, even though i didn't know her well, i wanted her to think highly of me. there was also the fear that one wrong answer could lead to a lifetime of stray jackets and a daily dose of prozac. at the end of it, she declared me depression-less, and free from anxiety attacks, but she still gave me a mental health referral, in case i just wanted someone to talk to.

toward the end of the physical, she asked me the question i had been waiting to hear: "are you sexually active?" i told her the truth, and she made it seem like it was okay that i wasn't. because in reality, it probably is. she told me that if i do become sexually active in the future, i should use condoms and birth control. i just smiled. she then asked me if i had any questions about sex, and if i had a sense of humor i would've said, "yes, how do i get it?" but instead, i just told her no. finally, she started to say something along the lines of, have i given any thought to getting married? but she didn't finish her sentence. she trailed off, and it was like something my boss had done to me before. i didn't get it. older women's fascination with me getting married, but being too embarrassed to ask.

i had to get blood work done and then a tetanus booster shot. the girl who gave me the booster shot was pretty hot, and her name was katie. she stuck the needle in my right arm, and i remembered zack from saved by the bell getting a shot from the hot nurse. the whole thing took less than twenty seconds, and when she finished, she said, "okay, that's good for ten years!" i easily did the math. i wouldn't have to get another one of these until i'm thirty-seven years old.

i went to work, and it was pointless.

after work, i went to the library because i was amazed it was open. they usually close when it's too hot outside, and this afternoon was about 88. in the nonfiction section, i found this book, the lonely american, and here's a sample passage:

so josh came to therapy sessions and regularly complained that he had had a disconnected, lonely weekend in which he slept too much, watched too much tv, and ended up disgusted with himself. what emerged in therapy was that josh's life was so empty because he didn't want anyone to know that he had so little to do. he avoided social situations because he did not want anyone to ask him what he was doing. the reason: he had a nine-to-five job that did not interest him. the kind of crowd he was afraid to face were friends and relatives who were passionate about what they did, who boasted about their sixty-hour workweeks, who were busy all the time. josh had made his life emptier because it was not busy enough to feel like a high-status life. when relatives and friends who hadn't given up on him pressed him about why he hadn't shown up to a particular social event, his usual excuse was that he was just too busy.

i lay in columbia park a short while after reading this. in the distance, some band was practicing "when the saints go marching in." cars with their headlights on whizzed down rainier ave. i could see television sets in windows. i thought about myself in public, always with my headphones on, always tweeting or chatting, never available for anyone immediately around me. i thought about how i invited my neighbors out for drinks one time, and then when no one else ever planned anything, i got frustrated and gave up on ever trying to hang out with them again. i thought about how i have a very small group of friends that i see on weekends if i'm lucky and all the people i've just completely shut out of my life for one reason or another. i thought about how, over the past two years, i've completely disconnected myself from people, only left to wonder why i am so alone.

and then i tried to just not think at all. to get the voice inside my head to just shut up, if only for a minute. it was a challenge.
humans weren't meant to.

see, i was just visiting family, and my cousin, he kept on being like, what are we gonna do, what are we gonna do? fool just couldn't shut up. he couldn't help himself, you know. and i remember that, i remember those days, even from just a few years ago. it'd be one of those days where there just wasn't a goddamn thing to do, and it was maddening. it was like, what are we gonna do, what are we gonna do? and so this is what we did: we went to the mall, we went out for ice cream, and then we went home. and that seemed like enough for my cousin who has two kids, and my other cousin who is just in high school. but it wasn't enough for me. it just wasn't. so i left.

and then there i was on this rooftop with a couple of friends, and more friends of friends. there were beers going around, and there were white people everywhere. and i should just get over the race issue already, right? if it's such a big deal, why don't i just go out there and make some asian friends, right? well, i don't know how to do that, so i just drank and kept quiet. and i've seen pictures of my cousin's facebook, and i see his red drunken face surrounded by mostly white people, and i've thought to myself: cousin, what the hell are we doing in this strange, strange place?

it didn't matter much because my legs had felt heavy, and i just wanted to go to sleep anyway. earlier in the day, i had hiked eight miles roundtrip up and down mt. si with a friend. i was all ready to go up the mountain with just a water bottle, but the jew told me to get some trail mix and a power bar or something. he said spending five hours in the heat with just a water bottle, well, that was just stupid. and he was right. it was a hell of a hike and a damn good thing i didn't do it alone.

that's what i've been wanting lately. remember office space? of course you do. well, the line that sticks out the most is where peter says something like humans weren't meant to sit in cubicles all day. and he's damn right about that. when i went up mt. si, i felt more alive than i've felt in years. because that's what we're supposed to do. we're supposed to move around and push limits, physically exhaust ourselves. we're not supposed to just sit around and ask, what are we gonna do, what are we gonna do?

today, i didn't do anything. i woke up late, ate, did the dishes, did laundry, called my mom, watched friday night lights the tv show, played guitar, chatted online. it wasn't much, but it beat doing something just for the sake of doing something. and that's what it felt like at home. going to the mall or out for ice cream just because we couldn't bear the thought of just sitting around looking at one another, or going out on a saturday night with the hope of having a good time. call me crazy, call me ignorant, but it just reflects poorly on us. it says something about how we don't know how to be with one another unless we're consuming, drinking, gossiping. it says that we don't think much of ourselves. the way most of us live is downright appalling when you really think about what we're doing.

hiking up mt. si made me realize how out of touch with nature, reality, humanity i am. why didn't my parents ever take me on a hike? why is it that, at twenty-seven years old, i've only seen beautiful scenery from inside a car? we'd go up to some of the most beautiful spots like lake tahoe, donner pass, marin headlands, and what would we do? parents to the casino, me to the arcade, all of us to the all-you-can-eat buffet. why didn't we ever set up a tent, and why didn't i get to play flashlight tag and go exploring the woods with my cousins? why was my only summer camp experience a week-long basketball scrimmage?

it's starting to catch up with me now, how much i missed out on. and now i'm doing everything i can to make up for lost time.
dear alicia.

dear alicia,

my stupid cousin used to make me listen to new kids on the block with her. she'd put on one of their ballads on my aunt's stereo, and we'd sit against the speakers and listen. this would usually happen late at night, and when i think back on it, i don't necessarily cringe or anything. i just continue to think about the absurdity of life. anyway, whether it was nkotb, atlantic starr, hi-five or whatever ballad was hot on ksfm 102.5, you were the person i thought about while listening.

i still remember your birthday: january 24, 1983. i thought it was cool that we had birthdays in the same month, even if we weren't the same sign. later, when i watched the o.c. and seth cohen admitted he knew summer's birthday, i didn't feel like such a freak anymore.

ms. crawley paired us together on the last day of class, and i thought that it meant something. there are few things i remember from kindergarten. one of them was doing good deeds to get feathers to be indians on thanksgiving. another was when i threw dirt at some girls and got in trouble. and then there was the time i told ms. crawley i could count by fives to a hundred, but i messed up. i didn't see you much, since you were in the morning class and i was in the afternoon one. but i do remember that last day. i remember thinking: i'm going to marry this girl.

but of course it didn't happen that way. after college, your dad died and you married this other guy i didn't even know. at that point, anyway, i had assumed i was going to marry someone else, so what did it matter? i didn't marry that girl, either.

i watched this video recently called how to be alone. you can find it on youtube. the girl in the video makes being alone look easy. you had three sisters, so i wonder if you ever knew what it was to be alone. one of your sisters even went to college with us.

that was another thing. of all the colleges in this country, we ended up going to the same one in a totally different state. i thought that, too, meant something.

in the second grade, i did my best to make you laugh. i fell out of my chair, dropped pencils, cracked jokes. one day after class, you told me that it was the happiest day of your life, and i believed you. because it was mine, too.

i was really down one night in bellarmine hall. school was overwhelming, i was homesick and still a virgin. you just looked at me and gave me a hug.

whether you know it or not, you got me through elementary school. it was just a big joke, putting on the stupid white and navy uniform, sitting still all day, dealing with a bunch of kids i didn't even like. but then there you were, and i'd get to hear your high-pitched voice, see the way you threw your head back when you laughed. how you would lean in and poke your head out when you got excited or surprised by something. was your hair going to be down and curly today, or up in a bun?

in the sixth grade, a group of us boys wanted to impress you, so we took turns stepping inside the girls' bathroom just for your amusement. me, i went all the way in. back in those days, i swore i would've gotten expelled for you.

this one time i tried to give you a bag of bouncy balls that i couldn't sell. you must have been having a bad day because you just said no and looked at me like i was the stupidest person in the world.

i'm doing it all wrong, aren't i? my timing is off. it's just important these days for me to tell everyone everything.
pornography, pt. 2.

back in the america online days, this is how it would work: you would go into a private chatroom, something called avis, and there would be a server there. let's say sickboy77 was the server. you would type: sickboy77/send list or something like that, and then you would get the list of titles in your email. you would scroll down, choose the files you wanted, and then you would type, sickboy77/send 24, 34-57, 68, 89. and then you'd get emails with attachments accordingly. you would download each file separately, and there were programs that could connect the files.

when the internet got faster, and america online was no longer the only option, it was all about passwords. the best way to do it was to google the @ symbol with the website name. for example, if you googled: back in the day, you would get all kinds of random sites that had lists of usernames and passwords. while not all of them worked, most did, and it was a satisfying thing. essentially, it was hacking, and it was just about as illegal as you could get. i got into many websites for free, and when i showed my cousin how to do it, he told me, "not a lot of people know how to do that."

i had downloaded so many files that it filled up my hard drive. i started to buy blank cds to burn the data onto them. soon, i had whole cd spindles, and it was getting out of control. i bought an external hard drive that i soon filled up, too. a classmate came into my dorm room once, and looked at what i had. he laughed at the absurdity of it. "why do you need that much?" he said. i didn't have an answer for him. our r.a., rebekah, once saw me hand off a spindle to another guy who wanted to copy some files. "is that porn?" she asked. jason laughed, told her no, it was to install a video game.

soon, my cousin told me about torrenting, and that brought downloading to a whole new level. basically, you install a program like utorrent or azureus, and then you go to a torrent site like or, and you have at it. sometimes, people will post a megapack, which can be as much as a couple hundred gigs. my other cousin told me that you could stream files from your xbox to your tv. he's usually good with technical stuff and computers, but when he tried to set it up, he couldn't figure it out. i had it figured out in minutes. when porn is involved, i am continually surprised by what i can accomplish. i could probably cure cancer if the reward was right.

i read this short story in an issue of adbusters once, and it's stuck with me ever since. this young man wrote that he had watched porn all his life, and even though he had a beautiful girlfriend he loved very much, she still wasn't enough.

my friend in college told me she caught her boyfriend by looking at his online history. she vented to me: "what?" she said, "am i fucking not enough?" she asked me if i would stop looking at porn once i got a girlfriend. i told her that i probably would.

my mom went to go see this movie called little children, and she told me about one of the characters in the film, about how he's obsessed with pornography. she said that he was so obsessed that it was almost funny. i laughed uncomfortably.

i've read articles from former porn stars, anti-porn crusaders. they talk about how, like it or not, it's still a form of misogyny. most girls who end up doing movies have been beaten, raped, molested, sexually assaulted. sometimes they end up doing things in films that they did not sign up to do. in post-production, editors cut away scenes involving blood, puke, or shit - anything that might break the fantasy.

my girlfriend wanted to show me her new blog that she had started. she started to type in the url for blogger, but once she had typed in "b," "l," "o," showed up because of the auto-fill feature. she hit the "g" before she noticed, and it disappeared. i hated myself then for being so weak. why couldn't i stop?

i remember this episode of sex & the city, when a guy miranda is dating has to turn on porn every time they get it on. when she finally confronts him about it, he tells her that they have just been dating for a few weeks. but he's been watching porn his whole life.

the episode of freaks & geeks where bill, neil, and sam watch porn in the garage for the first time is the most accurate portrayal of that experience i've ever seen.

my college roommate is the only guy i know who has admitted that he doesn't watch porn.

i've read an article about how it messes with your mental well being. something about how your concept of risk and reward is screwed with, something about how your body doesn't create as much dopamine as it should. it actually takes a physical toll.

i heard my mom once state the obvious. "america is oversexed," she said.

it's all related. that guess jeans peachee folder my cousin once had, those pictures of cindy crawford and paula abdul in my disney adventures magazine, every girl i've ever had a crush on, every girl i've wanted to fuck, that civilization is founded on the repression of instincts, american pie, britney spears and jeans that have juicy on the back, school girl outfits and the fires of hell, "birthday sex," "i touch myself," madonna's cone bra, lady gaga's machine gun bra, pretty much every r&b song on the radio from 1991-1996, sharon stone in basic instinct, victoria's secret, etc.

i think that pornography is best summed up in fight club, after the protagonist beats angel face to a bloody pulp. when asked why he did it, why he took it that far, he responds: "i felt like destroying something beautiful."
pornography, pt. 1.

the first time i saw porn, i was eleven years old, and i was at a classmate's birthday party. his brother had a whole closet full of xxx vhs tapes stacked in rows in his closet. he put one on for a group of us boys, a movie called general hospital, where a bunch of busty blonde girls fucked their patients. i tried to watch it, but i couldn't actually watch it. i was feeling confused. i was getting aroused, but i was surrounded by a bunch of boys, and i knew if i got an erection in front of them, well, that would be the end of me. i remember feeling clammy and my face burned, and i felt sick and excited. i can't remember how the other kids reacted, but i knew it was their first time seeing something so hardcore before, too. the tone switched a lot that night. at one point everyone was laughing, the next all you could hear were the grunts and moans coming from the television set.

i knew that what we were doing was wrong. we were watching something we weren't supposed to see for at least, legally speaking, another seven years. but there was also something very liberating about it. it was more than just a dirty movie. it was a glimpse into the future, a gateway to hell. it was so far removed from the routine of home, school, church, home. it was an act of defiance to my dad who warned me not to watch channel 44 when he got us a blackbox for cable. an act of defiance to my mom who made me feel shame and guilt when she caught me red-handed with the macy's swimsuit catalog. but it was also my first taste of misogyny, of watching a woman get fucked, utterly degraded, treated like nothing more than a stupid whore.

i remember going downstairs after viewing the porn, and mike r. was just sitting on the couch by himself. he had walked out of the room after a few minutes, he just couldn't take it. he was holding a pillow to his chest, and he looked absolutely traumatized. eventually, i got him talking, and we ended up watching some of the lawnmower man on cable. it was a strange moment we shared on the couch, both coming to the realization that our youth, in some small way, had ended the moment noel's older brother pressed play.

the following week at school, nobody talked about what happened. nobody bragged about it, nobody said a word. i couldn't look at girls the same way. it was like i knew their fates, knew all our fates. at some point, we were all going to have to do that, and it was going to be either really awesome or really terrible. a few more weeks passed, and we had to go to confession. i knew that i had committed a sin, and i was really afraid i would go to hell if i didn't say something. i told the priest, father angelo, that i had watched a "bad movie," but i didn't go into any great detail. he told me to say some our fathers and hail marys, and i felt a little bit better about it. noel asked all us boys if we had said anything. all of us said we hadn't.

in junior high, i watched the playboy channel and the spice channel almost nightly. my friends always wanted to spend the night at my house because they knew my parents had a blackbox. while the porn on those channels was often hardcore, it was censored, so you could never see penetration or cum. it didn't matter, though. porn was porn, and we watched the shit out of it. i had seen enough of it that it had become normalized. i no longer felt guilt or shame, just a general need to see more. when the internet became available, i downloaded jenna jameson videos from chatrooms. i visited everyday in high school, as soon as i got home.

i gave my older cousin money to buy me porn tapes from liquor stores. i'd fast-forward through the chubby girls, the way too skinny girls, the girls with flat faces. i needed the perfect girl to do her twenty minute thing on a four hour cassette tape. when i turned 18, i rented my own porn, and i dubbed my favorite scenes. i started to memorize the names of my favorite stars: melody love, bridgette kerkove, madelyn knight, lexus locklear. all my friends and my cousin knew about it, but they all just thought it was funny. nobody ever mentioned anything about addiction, about it being a problem.

when i went to porn shops, sometimes with my cousin, i'd look at the other people in the store. they were usually older white men, and they kept quiet while browsing the aisles. i kept quiet, too, turning over those large vhs boxes or dvds with their plastic coverings. on the cover of each box, there was always a naked young woman trying her hardest to look either really stupid or really young, usually both. you know the look: wide eyed, twirling her hair around her finger, mouth wide open, dark eye shadow, bright lipstick, and with her shirt pulled up, exposing her nipples. i'd pick out one or two titles, whatever looked the most promising.

sometimes, my friends would pick out really bizarre shit and take it to a whole other level. for instance, there's this creepy old man named max hardcore with a series of films, and he does some of the worst shit imaginable. regrettably, the scene i remember most involved some orthodontic tools, a mug full of cold milk, and an extra long straw. i have seen some awful shit in my life, but i really wish i could take that one back. there were also gagging videos, where the girls cry and or/puke, gangbangs, blacks on blondes, milfs, teens, bukkake, pissing videos, etc. sometimes, i just wish i could be absolved of all of it.

my parents didn't ever talk to me about sex. teachers did, but they merely described the mechanics of it, how blood flows to the penis to create an erection, how the sperm fertilizes the egg. there was never any mention of intimacy or awkwardness or how sex changes everything. there was no talk about things you shouldn't do, how to behave, or how it feels for the other person. i didn't know a damn thing. everything i learned about sex came from poorly produced, unrealistic films.

at twenty, i somehow miraculously managed to get a girlfriend. my mom asked me if we were having sex, and i told her the truth. we weren't. my girlfriend and i talked about it. she straight up asked me once if i had seen porn, and when i told her i had, she acted really surprised. later, she asked me if i had seen anything really gross or violent. it was at that point i started to lie. she kept coming at me with more questions, and each time she brought it up, i'd get frustrated, lie some more, and then shut down. all that shame and guilt and thoughts of going to hell resurged. at one point, she told me to look her in the eye and swear to her that i didn't still watch porn.

i looked her right in the eye, and i fucking lied.
this here, this is it.

been jogging and walking home recently. you know, been reading all these articles telling me how bad it is to be sitting all day long. brings on heart disease and cancers and all that. sitting all day, it's no good. and then i come home and watch a lot of tv. so you know, thought it would be good to start running home. running is what i call it, when i've got my shorts and t-shirt on, and my coworkers ask me what i'm about to do, but really, it's just jogging enough to get my heart rate up, my head and arms a little sweaty, and then when i don't think i can handle it no more, i slow down to a walk.

anyway, i was walking down martin luther king, jr. and of course, it got me thinking about poverty and social justice and all that again. let me back up. see, earlier in the day, on the internet i saw this picture of a little girl from afghanistan who patched up potholes in roads, and she depended on tips from travelers and soldiers to survive. so then i was walking down mlk jr. and i got to thinking about what we're all trying to do. are we trying to get people off the streets and into low-income housing? if a family lives in a crappy apartment off mlk jr., are we trying to raise their standard of living? how nice does one's digs have to be before we can settle on a definition of social justice, of having it made? if that little girl from afghanistan gets a low-income house on mlk jr., have we arrived?

this little boy on mlk jr., he was just sitting on his porch with what looked like his sister, and they were just chilling there. they might've been having a snack or something, i didn't get that good a look. anyway, this boy just waves at me. i wave back at him. see, the thing is i've been watching friday night lights and now i think that there are all these poor kids who don't have a real father figure, and how i probably should go back to teaching because i think i might be able to be a father figure, or some type of leader or something. i think that i have it in me, that i have what it takes. and so everyday i spend at my desk doing nothing, i'm just not using what i've been given, and it's not a good thing at all and it's probably killing me. literally. heart disease, remember?

on the phone with this nun once, she told me that we are all capable of so much more than we think. and i've been doubting myself for too long, listening to people who think they know what's best for me. of all the things i hear, i hear two contradictory things loud and clear: think about your future and i want you to be happy. they think they know what's best for me, so i've shut them all out. i just didn't want to hear it anymore, you know? also, these last two years are just a test. i've spent the last two years in seattle learning how to be alone. and now i know, it's not so bad. i have my good days and bad days just like anyone else, but at least now i know that i'm capable of so much more than i think.

and my cousin, he was right. he said that trying to get into another relationship was just like buying a new hdtv or getting an iphone. it wasn't going to solve anything. likewise, going back to school, joining the peace corps, going abroad to teach esl, getting an mba or law degree, that's not going to solve anything. it's just like that episode of the wire when cutty gets his job mowing lawns, and he gets that big speech from his boss who tells him something along of the lines of, "there ain't no big reward. this here, this is it." so i guess that's all i'm trying to say, that whether i knew it before or not, it's all i've been doing spending all this time by myself. learning how to be in the present, learning that this here, this is it.
get too comfortable.

she always warned me about getting "too comfortable," and i didn't know what the hell she was going on about. and then she went away, got an advanced degree, got a job somewhere, and that was that. some warning.

i know what it means to be comfortable, though. being comfortable means having a big bed that i get to sleep in, a big tv to watch downloaded pirated shows. it means showing up late to work and leaving early, playing on the computer all day, getting paid a decent wage and having no actual responsibility. tomorrow will be much of the same. spoiled is what i am.

i watched chris of the silversun pickups thrash his head around while the big screen behind him absorbed all the different colors projected by the lights above. i watched him, and i thought of the video game rock band. i thought about how his was just a job like any other, playing the same songs every night, touring city after city, but not really getting a feel for what it's like to actually be somewhere. just hitting those drums and giving the people what they want. yeah, being a rock star, it's probably not all that different from having a desk job.

i told this girl liz what i did, best i could. she said what everyone says, "oh, that's cool," and nodded, even though she didn't really understand my response. hell, how could she? even i don't know what i do. i'm comfortable, remember? she was shorter than i was, big glasses, blonde hair, the strap of her messenger bag going right down her middle, accentuating her bust line. she told me she hadn't been to europe, and we had something in common. i told her about the philippines, restaurants, and cheap massages. she repeated massages and made air quotes when she did, and that made me like her.

in the eighth grade, i sprinted better than anybody else on the b team. i wore all black to practice, and i remember some of my teammates saying, "he's gonna beat cavner!" and they were referring to this a.d.d. kid matt, who was the skinniest, fastest guy on the team. i remember doing those sprints, and even though my sides ached, my legs were ready to give out, and i could barely breathe, i remember what it was to push through all that because it was self-hatred that kept me going.

i crossed the parking lot to get to southcenter mall on a saturday afternoon, and it was the new religion. i passed champs, pacsun, zumiez by myself, knowing that i was looking to buy something, anything, in order to fill the spiritual (or whatever) void. i don't even remember when i stopped praying. there wasn't an actual moment or anything, never a conscious decision made. it was just like forgetting to water a plant. and then i walked past a church, some place on my street, and there were all these ethiopians (maybe) all dressed in white, clapping and singing one of the most beautiful songs i've ever heard. if a cult or religion wanted to recruit me, now would be the time to do it. i don't think i've ever been more vulnerable.

i wish i was driving right now, some part of the south where i could see old barns and long stretches of dead grass. it shouldn't have taken me twenty-six years on earth before i saw fireflies. that's just unacceptable. there's a whole world out there, pulsating, sweating, bleeding and screaming, and i can't even bring myself to leave the apartment some days. there's never ever going to be an electronic sign again that reads: jul 28 2010 5:26 p.m.

people are always going on and on about something, and they never give me a chance to talk. all i can ever say is, "uh huh," "yeah," and "really?"

i've always been asked about and/or criticized for being so quiet. how else am i supposed to be? my whole life, i've barely been able to get a word in edgewise.