Tag Archives: memoir

My Early Years of Apathetic Something Part 5: More Mob Stories and a Clown Suit

(Continuing my Confessions.)

The Chess Club had slowed down and JJ just sat in the mostly empty room, telling more stories about the gym.

“Did I ever tell you about Lydia Plowman?”

“No.”

“She’s this girl who worked out at the gym. She had a boyfriend who was the grandson of some really big mob guy-I’m talking big, like he was mentioned under a nickname in that book they based Goodfellas on.

“She looked kinda dykey, but I dunno man-something about her. My grandfather said ‘Wah? Why are you interested in that dyke?’ And I said ‘Grandpa, just keep watching the TV.’

“So as I’m closing the gym, she starts telling me about all these problems she’s having with her man. And she does this for like a week. I’m just chill, listen and stuff. One night she seems really distressed. And I’m not gonna lie, the thought went through my head, this is the night I could have sex. But I think ‘No,’ do the right thing and hear out her problems and tell her to go home.

“She doesn’t show up to the gym for like a week. I ask around, I say ‘Anybody seen Lydia Plowman?’ And one guy says ‘You didn’t hear? She slashed some guy’s throat with a broken bottle when they were having sex. Was all over the papers.’

“At that moment I thought to myself ‘If I’d just had sex with that woman, that guy might be alive right now.”

Eventually JJ gave up on trying to get an accounting degree after 7 years part time. He found a sales job with commission at a mattress store.


The parts of newspapers with overheard statements and anonymous confessions always fascinated me. Particularly the Eye Saw U columns. Strange and lonely with a whole set of sub dialects of misspellings. I think the ones in the local alternative weekly were submitted through an internet chatroom.

“I come in coffee shop every day and see u. U-maybe…23? Dyed pink hair. Look like a Pixie. Well bebe I wil be ur Peter Pan. Cum to my coffee shop sometime ;)”

At the time I held suspicions people only showed their “true” selves when they simultaneously thought that everyone was watching but no one could see them. I studied the columns closely. Several people I spoke to said that they’d recognized a description of themselves in one of the columns and knew who had probably sent it in.

I liked to spend time in the subway stations idling around those little booths that had all the religious pamphlets and the Scientology Thetan testers that looked like tin cans or love buzzer handles. I once took the 300 question Dianetics written test at the Scientology Celebrity Center with a friend. He scored extremely well. They were willing to give him the L. Ron Hubbard books for free. They wanted him in a leadership position.

I, on the other hand, apparently got one of the lowest scores they had ever recorded. When they took me in the office to discuss it afterward, the young Scientologist in the suit they’d assigned to me asked “You know killing is wrong, right Mr. Levine?” L. Ron Hubbard did not want me.

We took the N train all the way to Coney Island and back in the middle of the night figuring that if we stayed on the same train car long enough, something interesting was bound to happen.

While we waited for the train to start in the opposite direction back from Coney Island, a pimply boy of maybe 16 came onto the train with two girls who must’ve been 14. They were both covered in sores and wearing parachute pants.

The two girls put their legs up over my legs and my friend’s legs on the opposite subway bench.

“How big is it?” one of them said.

“Yeah, how big is it,” the other said.

The boy was holding an aluminum baseball bat.

“Depends on the spacing and the formatting,” I said.

“The spacing?”

“Yeah, it’s bigger double space than single space. And the font.”

“Is yours double spaced? Is it big?”

“I have a girlfriend,” my friend interjected and the woman took her legs off his. They sat with a space between them for the rest of the ride to Manhattan.

“Mine’s 8.75,” the boy interjected.

“Metric or imperial standard?” I asked.

“Inches. Metric it’d be 22.223 cm.”

We checked these numbers later when we got home and found that whether or not this was the actual size of his penis, his metric conversions were strong.

The rest of the way there we had a long and detailed discussion of the problems the US has had converting to the metric system and whether a pimp could ever be considered a sex addict if the activities in fact didn’t interfere with his work.

The air became less formal. He even loosened his grip on the baseball bat.


I had been undecided on whether to go to the party earlier in the evening. When I decided to, I found myself without a costume and rushed down to the bodega in my pajamas. They had a clown wig, nose, and makeup kit for sale. I put my make-up on on the train. It looked jagged, like something scratched in a desk.

This was a break from my tradition of previous years where I’d not change my clothes at all and when people would ask me “What are you dressed as?” I’d say “What do you think I’m dressed as?” and when they suggested something just said “Yes.” By the end of the night I would just reply with earlier suggestions.

“I’m a retired pirate who wants to keep it low key.”

“I’m your neighbor.”

One year I went around saying I was going dressed as the decline of western civilization. I showed up in my normal clothes and no one noticed the difference.

I arrived at the party and there were three other clowns. They all looked more professional than I did.

A guy in an ape suit took off his ape head to smoke a joint. He passed it to me. I was in a clown suit and when I walked inside I met a woman dressed how I normally dressed when I wasn’t in the clown suit. She drunk, I in a clown suit. We started living together soon after. We weren’t sure what else to do.

(Tomorrow: Further misadventures and fanservice!)

My Early Years of Apathetic Something Part 4: I Ate a Lot of Cheese and Got Home at 6am

(Excerpted from my unfinished opus From the Belly of the Other Thing: Letters From Places That Aren’t Prison. Pt. 1. Pt. 2. Pt. 3)

I met two women who lived down the hall. They’d both come to college from the same small town in Indiana and had worked at a coin-op laundromat in a strip mall together when they were younger. They told me around Easter one year, the CVS on the other end of the strip mall hired a guy to stand near the road in a giant rabbit suit.

“Well, at the time there was this thing that was big…well maybe it was only big in Indiana, some things were. Anyhow it was called ‘dooring’. So these guys would drive by places at like 15 miles an hour and open their door on people. So we heard a scream from the parking lot. ‘Somebody doored the bunny! Somebody’s doored the bunny and the bunny won’t get up!'”

“Did somebody have to call the ambulance?”

“I can’t remember.”

One of them called me in the middle of the night and told me to turn on the television. A documentary was on showing two men with pregnancy bellies and mullets screaming at each other near a drag racing track.

“That’s Indiana! I know those people!” she proclaimed.

She was a nursing student. I used to go to the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market a lot back then. I saw a box of Cabbage Patch doll legs there. Just the legs, like a bucket of fried chicken. Another time I saw a cardboard box of disconnected rows of teeth.

I wasn’t sure if they were dental school examples or souvenirs from the war. I never asked the man behind the card table how much they were.

I told this to her when I got back to the apartment building. She was disappointed. She would’ve liked them to help study for her nursing exams. “How could you see a cardboard box full of stray teeth and not think of me?” I think she said.

I had no answer.

Our relations were terse thereafter.

I still however, was invited to a party her father threw in a room at the Chelsea Hotel. I ended up talking with him for some time. Both of us were very drunk. Afterward he said “This kid’s a genius! And I’ve been in advertising for 30 years!”

I ate a lot of cheese and got home at 6am.


My Early Years of Apathetic Something Part 3: Bad Blind Dates and the Poker Table

(This part 3 of an excerpt from My Life and Harder Times. Pt. 1. Pt. 2)

I tried to date again. I met a woman in one of my journalism classes. Her name sounded vaguely like an item on the Taco Bell menu but I couldn’t remember which item. I seemed able to gauge my interest based on what I’d accidentally call her when I mentioned her to friends. It started out a something like Chalupa. I knew I no longer held any interest when I once accidentally called her Soft Taco, Hold the Lettuce.


We went out to a bar. She told me she had trouble making decisions on her own. I asked her how she made decisions. She dumped a wad of 60 fortune cookie fortunes from her purse onto the table. “When I have trouble making a choice, I pull out a fortune. My mother eats all the Chinese food.”

I think we did karaoke drunk once. Wherever she is, she has my copy of The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People, a hardcover encyclopedia of rumors about things like size of WC Fields’ penis and how many male sexual partners Cary Grant had. I’ll probably just find another copy.

I remember little else about her.

I’d been quoted the previous week at a school event sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The event, a hoax beer pong tournament, had been stocked with non-alcoholic beer. The student government president and a MADD representative spoke at the end. On the line in, a reporter asked me why I went. I replied: “I’m here to drink until I forget I’m at Baruch College.” This line was printed with attribution on the front page of the school paper the next day.

I’d developed quite a business in the back of the chess room selling papers to Asian kids who couldn’t speak English and just wanted to get their accounting degrees and leave. I wrote about topics from migrant farm worker relations in the 1930s to the Du Pont company’s work in the Manhattan project. Because I did this, all these guys owed me favors and I had a little gang of tiny Asian guys who’d keep an eye out on goings on within the club hallway while I read and typed and played internet streams of Delta Blues 78s.

There were these guys in the club hallway who would set up a poker table and hold Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments with surprisingly high buy-ins for a commuter school. The school finally cracked down on them, and they came to JJ. JJ offered to rent the chess office for these illegal poker games to these guys for $250 a day. There were two gym rats who ran the table, a jacked up Asian guy and a black guy. This was when 50 Cent was more popular so they’d go everywhere in basketball jerseys, wearing bright red flat bill baseball caps and band-aids on their cheeks purely for fashion.

A meeting was had with all the members of the chess club. $250 was a lot of fried chicken. A unanimous decision was reached wherein the members of the club would now take the timers and chess sets into the hallway for a couple hours a day and the rent money would be spent on promotional events and fried chicken.

JJ had problems collecting rent from the poker guys. JJ didn’t sleep much, because he lived with his senile grandfather and would put in late nights explaining to his grandfather that the women in the Girls Gone Wild infomercials were not in fact talking to him. I told JJ to just change the channel. He said his grandfather always turned the channel back.

One night, JJ sent a group FB message to everyone in the Chess Club to confront the poker guys and get the money that was owed. It was extremely long and unhinged.

An excerpt: “If that nigger with the shitty teeth tries to fuck with you, tell him he’s ugly. Tell him his teeth are shitty. If the chink comes at you pull that fucking band-aid off his face. You guys know what I mean by chink. You know, there’re Asian guys and there’re chinks. If they come at you, tell them you’ll fuck their grandmothers. And rape their mothers.”

Eventually the deal with the poker guys fell through and we all ate much less fried chicken.

I’d moved into a different apartment by then, situated in a floor of an old YMCA that was done up to resemble a dorm hall for kids attending the commuter schools in NYC. I’d struck up a friendship with a Stuyvesant graduate who lived down the hall and spoke like the announcer on the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. I’ll call him D.

D rarely ever left his apartment, spending his days and nights in bed listening to Opera recordings and lurking on College Quiz Bowl internet forums. He read so much Victorian literature that his natural temperament-easy-going, conversational, approachable-was hard to distinguish from behind the wall of slang phrases I have only ever heard him say. I presume they have not been in common usage since the late 19th century.

He’d express surprise by exclaiming “Oh, mother.” He’d express mock-surprise by chiming in “Oh, and they serve decaf in restaurants now.” By some perfect storm of circumstances he brought a girl from a party home one night and in the morning told me excitedly how they’d “necked.”

D was extremely politically conservative and fairly racist. A popular practical joke in the dorm hallway was to go in and ask him about the change of US immigration since 1924 and hear D’s 20 minute rant on the subject while mixing cheap liquor into soft drinks. He was possibly the only person in NYC still giving scientific credence to phrenology. It was far more entertaining than I’m getting across. He seemed like such a relic out of time, like a man dressed up in one of those medieval age theme parks who spoke with the politically incorrect bawdiness actual era. It was hard to take offense because to take offense would be to see Doug as little else besides a strange relic that had happened to float in from another age.

On the weekends he would go to Quiz Bowl tournaments on his own and register as the entire CUNY team. I went with him one time in Boston. We were team CUNY. I got 3 questions, one about Lenny Bruce and one about Neil Young and another one I can’t remember. They asked a lot of questions about the opera. We beat the West Point Academy team 400 to -20.

Doug described Stuyvesant High School-a giant holdover from the 60s or a Larry Clarke film. The students scored drugs in the park late at night. They had sex and did laughing gas in the hallways between classes. He’d been at the heart of a student controversy after releasing a fake magazine cover of him naked on a bed wrapped in a giant flag of Ronald Reagan’s face. He says I would’ve liked it.

His friends were all young Republicans. I was the token communist. His friend Jeremiah always dressed like a rich old man with pinstriped suit jackets and ties. Jeremiah stole a $50 bottle of vintage wine from his father’s basement and gave to D and I. That night we pulled out the large box of paper Dixie cups we kept in the one area of the bathroom that wasn’t covered in hair. We drank 3/4ths of the bottle, shot style, out of these Dixie cups. It was alright.

We were both pretty heavy drinkers and shared an appreciation of bottled champagne leftovers, the champagne they legally can’t call champagne, Andre. When we became roommates, we would refer to Andre as “the third roommate.”

We had neighbors and we’d go to movies with them. Well, one of them. I spent most of my time reading obscure comic books and watching Robert Bresson and Jerry Lewis movies.

We all drank a lot. I would get reports from a friend back home that a woman who lived down the hall from him, heir to a notable sports fortune, had taken a strong liking to Franzia boxed wine. He claimed that before recycling day she’d have the boxes of it piled up around her room that resembled a homeless shanty. She supposedly smelled like fish. Jokes spread around the campus about rumors that she and her boyfriend had decided to name their first child The Fronz. I didn’t stay in touch, and for all I know this may have happened.

(Tomorrow: Strange happenings at the flea market and Coney Island)

My Early Years of Apathetic Something Part 2: Chess, Fried Chicken, and the NJ Mafia

(Part 2 of Further Beneath the Underdog: A Fictional Autobiography. Pt. 1 here.)

After this life ends, there’s a special circle of hell reserved for writers. In this circle they spend eternity living the lives of all their fictional characters, and the ones that appeared in the non-fiction pieces twice.

I sometimes have dreams I’ve gone to this place, or at least awake with a sense I’ve been in it-that in my sleep I’m living the life of a fictional character I hadn’t put on paper yet. And like the strange predictive movements of molecules in the Feynman diagrams, I eventually find these characters returning in my flction. They seem more at home there. They anticipate leaving my head.

I was always unsure when I was making the art whether the activity was more spiritually akin to giving birth or taking a shit. If it was giving birth, it was most truly akin to child slavery as I would immediately pop something out without as quickly trying to sell it to any serious bidder. But it couldn’t be taking a shit either: America has many places to take a shit but no place for artists.

Sitting, listening to old radio broadcasts and drawing, I hoped to make my bold entrance into the world of alternative cartooning. I was never actually very good. I took to writing papers…well you know where this is going. It bought a fair share of groceries.

Baruch College, where I got my undergraduate, was touted as the diverse school in the nation, and this was probably true. Rather than ease tensions, this mostly seemed to lead to a lot of clubs with isolated rooms separated by ethnic group or religious denomination.

I spent a lot of time in the Chess Club. I didn’t actually play any chess, but found the characters interesting and the room confortingly dingy. There was a hole in the wall that had been filled in with a wadded up ball of masking tape with a smiley face drawn on it. There was a computer with internet access. I would sit in the chair playing streams of scratched up 1920s blues 78s researching random things and reading all the books the school library had on Lenny Bruce, Neil Postman, Ben Katchor or Lewis Mumford.

The president of the Chess Club at that time was a guy named Thomas. He looked like if Vladimir Putin had hair. Thomas had a key to the clubroom and had been taking “those Ukranian skanks” (there was an odd hostility in many of the clubmembers toward Ukranians) and having sex with them in the room before lunch when there weren’t people there. The janitor caught him once. Thomas, his administration not especially popular to begin with, was now embroiled in a pathetically small stakes sex scandal.

Revolution was in the air. The bulk of the club took him over to Popeye’s one day to give him the news of the coup. I wasn’t there. I heard he got a lot of extra grape jam packets with his chicken.

Thomas now ousted, the new favorite for club president was a guy I’ll just call JJ. JJ was a large Jewish man who had spent much of his life on a small pig farm with his senile grandfather in Puerto Rico. His accent was unusual; part coked up mobster, part well educated latin immigrant.

JJ was a small time con man. He had the sort of wits where if he’d ever applied himself he could’ve pulled something bigger than the 2008 crash, but he never was that ambitious. He used to tell me about flim-flam operations he’d operate on old ladies in Puerto Rico.

“Well, hehe,”-he’d chuckle confidently a lot in conversation-“what you do is you use a really common name and you go to all those retirement apartment complexes with the buzzers. And say ‘Tito! Tito! It’s about yout nephew.’ Most of them have nephews or grandchildren. And you say the car broke down down the road and you need like $60 to get gas and help getting it out of the ditch. Usually at least one will give you the $60. Then you go out and spend it on…you know…a good time. $60 bucks’ll get you a lot in Puerto Rico.”

He had an incredible charisma and an endless store of bizarre stories and observations about sexual politics that might be somewhat scandalous to publish.

His best stories were of his time working in a fake gym as a low level operative of the New Jersey mafia. The gyms would be set up and signs would advertise that they’d open in 90 days. Then after 90 days they’d go out of business.

“The secret to selling gym memberships is to make them think it was their idea to join. So you act really low key and just say stuff like ‘You look better, you feel better’ and ‘People in shape are always more attractive.'”

He also sold hypodermic needles meant specifically to shoot up cycles of steroids. You needed a specific smaller needle to shoot them or else you’d just get this bump on your arm. We’d eat Chinese food and watch baseball games on the television in the restaurant sometimes after class and he’d always point out when a guy would go up to bat and there was that puffy bump on his arm.

He was philosophical about it. “I’d always skim a little bit off the top sure, $20 here and there, but I’d never take a bunch. That’s how you get caught.”

Strange things would happen at the gym and be explained with shrugs.

“There’s this guy in the gym. Everybody calls him ‘The Master Apprentice’ because somehow he sawed off his ring finger in a woodworking accident. How do you do that? We never really figured out how he did it.

“Anyway, I’m cleaning the basement of the gym one day, and I see this person sized bump under one of the mats. I look at The Master Apprentice and I say ‘Is this a dead body?’ And the guy starts pointing around with his hand that was missing the finger-‘Dere’s a dead body, ovah dere’s anudder dead body, just shut up kid and staht mopping.'”

JJ became president of the Baruch College Chess Club when Thomas was ousted. JJ was the best chess player in the club. He had a ranking of 2200 or something. JJ soon started scheming up ways to make money renting out the Chess Club room on the third floor of the building. This money was then redistributed in the form of fried chicken for members of the club. They all loved eating fried chicken.

Around this time my friend Zach stayed at my apartment to get to a funeral in Queens. The funeral was for a  guy who’d been in Zach’s dorm hall. He’d been smothered in an avalanche in the Alps. Zach needed me to get him to Queens, so though I’d never met the deceased, I would attending his funeral as a plus one.  I had no dress clothes except a corduroy blazer I wore mostly for the extra pockets, a pair of wrinkled khakis, and a button down dress shirt with large black splotches from when I’d put it through the wash with a sharpie.

He’d gone to a ritzy college. The rest of the deceased’s classmates showed up dressed to the nines. They sat, choked up, telling stories of how good the dead man had been at playing Super Smash Brothers on the Gamecube. “He had such quick fingers,” said one mourner. “Yes, he would always get the most damage per game.”

After an awkward eulogy delivered by a minister discussed the “avalanche of God’s love”, it came time to line up to view the corpse.

My turn came. He had thick makeup like a wax doll. I looked closely at his thumbs. I thought. “These are the thumbs, the thumbs that were so good at Super Smash Brothers on the Gamecube.”

After the casket, at the end of the line, the dead man’s parents and an adolescent boy stood shaking hands with mourners. The father faintly smiled. The mother looked devastated. The boy looked confused. When I shook the grieving mother’s hand, she held onto it for longer than she had with the other mourners. She wailed and said “I have no son. Do you understand? I have no son.”

I took another look at the boy and realized it was her other son.

After the service we all had Subway sandwiches for lunch.

(Tomorrow: The Chess Club heats up. Strange blind dates. The seedy underground of Quiz Bowl.)

The Man Who May Have Been the Gerber Baby

(This is a selection from my as yet-unpublished fictional memoir “The Great Poet of Garbage”. Enjoy.)

There were rumors, millings about, theories, whispers, whispers that he may have been, possibly was, had hidden his past as the Gerber Baby. No one was sure. But no one mentioned him without mentioning that.

Someone in town whose name escapes me said they’d seen him enter the National Bottle Museum, and noted the deferential whispers of the employees and volunteers that turned to an awed hush when he finally walked in. His past sat most comfortably at the threshold of local mysteries; interesting enough to mention but not enough so to ever actually check.

We weren’t sure who’d first said it, where the idea had come from, and if anyone we knew who had spoken to him had asked the story had never come to light. And we’d never seen him at a distance without squinting, without pondering what might have once been, and seeing somewhere in his gruff countenance, his curved posture, some semblance of his possible past.

We never saw him smile. We weren’t sure he did. Not anymore anyway. We suspected it a cautious move, a defensive calculation lest we might see in it somewhere the hungry grin of the Gerber baby.

He lurched tall and bald, but bald the way old men were, bald in ways the Gerber baby wasn’t, but that was a long time ago, if it ever was, wasn’t it. He lurched tall and bald through the days, through the bars and cafes, through the suburban duplexes on Lake Avenue and sometimes we heard him discussing book projects, collections of pictures of the town.

All the antique dealers had him on their shit lists for the times he’d taken photographs of old postcards without permission.

And he always had that small dog on a short leash with him, the dog that had since grown notorious for climbing on tables at soirees and eating whatever blocks of cheese were in the offing.

And the brewery supposedly kicked him out one night when he’d pretended to be part if a reception in order to take food off the catering table. We figured that’s where the dog learned it from.

He didn’t have many friends left. Or so we heard.

On the nights this life seemed especially long he’d hole up in his apartment and on his night stand on either side of his lamp sat a small bottle of whisky and a small bottle of Gerber’s peas and carrot mix. He’d look slowly at each. What was and what could’ve been. He slouched amd hit the power button in the same collapsing notion.

The record picked up where he’d left it.

“Oh how we danced and we swallowed the night,

When streets were all ripe for dreaming,

Oh how we danced and you whispered to me,

We’ll never be going back home…”

All In All We Liked the Bomb Threats

(This is an excerpt from my as yet unpublished and somewhat fictional memoir, The Great Poet of Garbage. If this piques your interest and you’d like to see more, please get in touch in the comments. There’s way more where this came from.)

The assignment was to build a bridge out of popsicle sticks that could hold a twenty pound weight. The shop teacher “sold” the sticks for imaginary currency and we were graded on a rubric with two elements: how much weight it held vs. how much imaginary money we spent on it. I extended the grading chart and realized that if I built a bridge for no money that supported no weight I would get a 98. I’d found my future dream job as a contractor. I held out on buying any popsicle sticks the first day and told him this. But he said I still had to do the project.

In a post-collegiate life spent mostly amongst self-identified communists and their sympathizers I never met anyone possessed of quite the level of apocalyptic despair at the resale market that Mr. Sova had. No sticks were produced after the initial run and each day the prices would always rise because some had been burned up (the burnt ones were cheaper but still at a higher price than the initial offering) and others had disturbing splotches we all hoped were just red food coloring but that he explained were the result of the supply trucks having an unfortunate collision with a wild herd of beefalo, some sort of animal that spent its spare time walking back and forth over Interstate-87. “Beefalo collision on the highway boys,” he explained. None of us had heard of beefalo before. We were curious whether they were just like deer or if they had some sort of mystical powers. But none of were curious enough where we’d risk hearing Mr. Sova’s answer.

The prices kept rising and the quality kept getting worse. There eventually were half-burnt sticks that also bore the bloody marks of the slain beefalo. They cost twice as much imaginary money as the initial offering.

We wondered what Mrs. Sova thought, her coming home each night to see her husband staring, never blinking, standing before a slowly dwindling pile of popsicle sticks. Meticulously taking a blow torch to the ends. Tenderly juicing the innards of the decaying beefalo carcass. He kept it there, in his garage, in the open. Only then he could perform the nightly dance. The one with the jazz hands. Where he splattered the sticks.

Only then.

Only then he could know for sure.

He was ready for shop class the next morning.

The next week the weird kid from Greenfield that sat next to me in shop class wrote “boomboom go to school” in one of the bathroom stalls. Some suspected the threat was retaliation in response to the plight of the beefalo. But they put him in detention. The school paper was never allowed to ask. His motivations were never disclosed. It happened after Colombine but before the administrators had a set protocol for such things so on finding the writing they shuffled us all out to the athletics fields, presumably so that if a bomb did go off we’d all have good seats to watch the building burn.

It was a gorgeous day. Some kids played tag, others snuck out manuals and organized themselves into Dungeons and Dragons campaigns on the lawn. We were out there for hours. The buses all showed up and we got to go home early.

I imagine if the weird kid had ever come back to school he would’ve been tremendously popular, but of course he never did.

There was a girl named Grace who used to spend most of her lunch periods daydreaming aloud all the ways she wished to torture and dismember me. While I never overheard them directly, Zach would always pass the good bits on and I was tremendously amused. Sometimes I wonder if she had a crush on me. She was a lot prettier then.

That weekend Ross was house-sitting for the other Dan and we all had a LAN party and bought a bunch of Taco Bell. Dan’s dog Teddy somehow got on the table and ate some of it and the Taco Bell remains had mixed in with the bones from the chicken wings. Ross took Teddy outside that morning to make sure he shit out all the chicken bones, and when he picked up the poop and tibias it was with the Taco Bell bag from the evening before. It was touching. The circle of life before our very eyes.
Eventually the school wised up and whether or not it was more effective at deterring school shootings they figured at least we’d enjoy them less if we all hid under the desks instead of sunning ourselves. “Lockdown Drills” they called it. So when another kid from Greenfield, which was, in the political synecdoche of Maple Avenue Middle School, the Ireland to Saratoga proper’s England, scribbled “PRINCePULL B MUST DYe” in the same boy’s room stall, a symbolic gesture they weren’t defeated, all the lights were turned off and we spent 40 minutes under our desks sneaking looks at each others’ faces, wondering what sex was like.