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Ginsanity; Part 5 - November 25, 2008

(Reconditioning Batteries)

A flawlessly sunny summer day. An audience of hundreds of thousands has congregated in front of the Washington Monument, all facing the same direction. They are listening to a lone speaker at a podium positioned in front of the reflection pool. The voice of the speaker is broadcast through vintage speakers in wooden boxes mounted on poles throughout the area. I was at the very back trying to get a look at the man at the podium through the tightly packed group and unable to hear the man on the microphone clearly.

I lift off of the ground and begin flying over the masses toward the monument and the speaker. I look down at the people below me. They are entranced by the speakers words; hanging on every turn of phrase and point of emphasis. I still couldn't quite make out what the speaker was saying, but it was definitely resonating in a powerful way with the people around me. I whizzed over the heads of hundreds of thousands of loyal listeners until I came within eye and earshot of the focus of the gathering.

There was a man at the podium. He was wearing a double-breasted blue suit, white shirt and a blood red tie, Windsor knotted and dimpled perfectly. He had the weathered, battle tested horns of a ram growing out of his head, and short, impeccably managed silver hair growing around them. His eyes didn't have pupils. Instead they housed a swirling grey mass that looked like a miniature hurricane in each socket. As I looked at his eyes, I noticed that tears were running down both sides of his face. When he spoke, he wasn't actually saying words in English, it was more like a series of furious, guttural grunts and growls that were being unnaturally hammered into a microphone and assaulting the ears of the audience. I couldn't understand how the audience knew what the speaker was saying, but they did. Some of them swayed back and forth as if in a trance, all while the speaker twisted and ungulated at the podium, his tears beginning to splash on the podium and stain the breasts of his suit jacket.

The speaker raised his arms out in a pose mimicking the crucifixion, the audience roared in approval and I noticed his arm was adorned with a red band. It looked like a Nazi arm band at first as it had a white circle with a black logo in the middle of it, but as I looked closer I found that it wasn't a swastika. It was a black hand sickle.

**

I woke up on the floor of my bedroom at 6:00 a.m. on a Friday morning, one day before Christmas Eve. Nine months had passed since the fight in front of Rob's grandmother's house, and I was finding myself on the floor of my bedroom in the mornings frequently. Most of the time it was because that's where I passed out drunk, but on the nights that I didn't come home plastered, I was having such intense, reoccurring dreams that I was literally tossing myself out of bed and onto the carpet without even waking up. I would have the dream with the horned man almost weekly. I didn't understand what they meant and it scared me because I know that having them instead of my typical sex dreams involving random girls from my high school graduating class wasn't normal.

I found I was withdrawing from social interaction and away from my friends. Occasionally I would notice and make overcompensating efforts to reconnect with people I cared about; a string of voicemails here, a lengthy email detailing how distraught that "we weren't hanging out anymore" there. We were at an age where friends drift apart to separately succeed in life, but I couldn't see past the fact that I was drowning in depression and only knew how to stay afloat with distraction. Mental health professionals were entirely useless to me. I had gone to a few child therapists when I was little when my mom thought I wasn't adjusting to the divorce well, and all that resulted in were a handful of scary crayon drawings of my family and me telling grown men and women that they didn't know what they were doing. My friends were always the ones to help me through things. I couldn't have been more desperate for companionship and distraction, so I begged for it and all I succeeded in doing was creeping my friends out and pushing myself even further from my lifeline. Like a million other emotionally repressed New Englanders before me, I chose getting fucked up as my silver medal psychologist.

Heavy drinking almost guaranteed I wouldn't dream when I slept and it was keeping The Voices at bay, so I drank a lot. It was a gradual transition into alcohol dependency. I drank every night and sometimes I would tip a little whisky into my coffee in the morning. I didn't really see a problem with self-medicating. I was a functional drunk, meaning I could function at work and in my personal life while fairly intoxicated. I realized I had this ability when I was experimenting with alcohol at the age of 15, when I would always be the last kid standing with a bottle of Mad Dog at underage parties. My friends and family never noticed when I was drunk, and if I ever felt like I was slipping past the point of being able to mask being buzzed or hung over on the job, I would pop an Adderal and sit on the toilet seat until it kicked in. I would come back in to the office afterward and toil over spreadsheet macros with a moist brow and shaky hands as stimulants and depressants waged war underneath my business casual attire.

Like any other morning after one of the dreams, I tried not to think about it while I began my morning routine; cleaning myself up for another day at the energy trading desk. I still worked there despite Don's previous efforts to rifle me out. The work was still insanely fast paced and unorganized, but things on the desk had actually simmered down over the months. I used work to drown out my emotions and that came with its own macabre set of rewards. Unlike my personal life, work was better than ever. Don calmly asked me to do things and I would do them in a timely manner. The mood in the office was as relaxed and as pleasant as energy trading can possibly be. I popped some prescription Prilosec, got dressed and followed frozen brick sidewalks to work.

As soon as I set my briefcase down, Jay popped up out of his chair and surprised me with a tall paper cup of cappuccino.

"Mikey baby! Happy Christmas or whatever the fuck you goyems call a holiday!" Jay loved being Jewish on Christmas more than anything in the world. "Guess who's coming for good little boys and girls?"

"Wait, what?" I was pre-caffeine and nowhere near ready to absorb that much enthusiasm.

"Peter Claus is cominggggg - to towwwwwnnnnn!" Jay outstretched his arms in a jazz hands pose as he did this. Peter, our district manager, was due to arrive at our branch to give performance reviews and the annual raises that follow. In all the craziness at work, I completely forgot that he was due for a visit. I busted my ass over the year and knew the performance review was going to be a breeze. I was counting on the extra money to put toward a new car to replace the shit brown '87 VW Jetta I was using to putt around town. I was a professional and I couldn't be taken seriously driving a jalopy that could have belonged to Gutter from PCU. I kept an Audi A4 as my desktop wallpaper and longingly stared at it while I foraged through mountains of time-stamped carbon paper trade tickets and frantic client inquiries all day.

Snow started pummeling the seacoast around 5:00 pm and everybody but me slipped their commuter boots on and went home early before the roads got too bad. I typically stayed behind after closing time to go over the day's trade executions and made sure none of our brokers screwed up. I liked the office when it was empty and didn't mind staying longer at night to play a little music and quietly close up shop.

Peter walked through the doorway to the trading desk, patted me on the back and sat down in Don's chair to wait while I finished tying up the loose ends of the day. Peter was larger than life - a 6' 4", 300 lb. man that towered over every employee he stood next to like a Cool Water saturated redwood. He was in his early 40's, with salt and pepper hair and a wrinkled Brooks Brothers oxford that screamed 50% travel requirements. Peter seemed like an anomaly in the financial world because he was such a nice guy. I hadn't been in the industry for very long, but I was in long enough to know I always felt like I was the only person in the room that wasn't a creative black hole pretending to have a type A personality. Peter was a good guy and somehow managed to do really well among the jackals. I liked him a lot.

"Another week gone in the wild world of energy! How are you, Mikey?" Peter clapped his hands in applause. I hated it when Jay called me Mikey because it seemed condescending out of him, but with Peter it was a term of endearment and much less abrasive than the "MICHAEL" or "IDIOT" I was regularly summoned with.

"Yes sir! It was a crazy week but we definitely did a lot of business. Good stuff right before the holidays."

Peter stood up. "Absolutely. Hey, can I snag you away from this and see you in the conference room for a bit?"

"Yeah, of course." I could smell my bonus drifting towards me on heavy cologne fumes.

Peter and I walked into the foyer and took a left at the conference room. He sat at the head of the table, pulled a manila file folder with my name printed on the tab out of his briefcase and set it on the table in front of him. I sat in the chair directly to the left of Peter and leaned back, expecting a glowing review.

"Well, you've been kicking ass the last few months, Mikey. That's for sure."

"Thank you, Peter. That means a lot. I've really been pouring myself into my role here."

"Definitely. How are things between you and Don?" Peter furrowed his brow and leaned back a little further in his chair, showing mild concern.

"Well, things were a little tense for a while after the whole bereavement thing -"

"Christ," Peter interrupted me "I'm still so sorry about that, Mikey. He had no right to do that. You know that, right? I gave him a tongue lashing for pulling that shit."

I feigned like I was just learning about Don's reprimand for the first time. "Wow, Peter. I can't thank you enough for going to bat for me. That was really cool of you. I mean it."

"Yeah...so things are OK on the desk, then?"

"Yeah" I could sense anxiety building in Peter's voice, something I wasn't used to. "Why, is Don saying something else?"

Peter took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "He says things aren't working out, Mikey."

"What? What do you mean? We haven't butted heads in months, Peter. Anyone will tell you. What did he say I did wrong?"

"It's nothing you did, Mike. You're a good worker. He says there's just a personality conflict between you two and things just aren't working out. Honestly, I don't think they're working out either."

I stared at Peter for a minute before I realized what was going on. He was firing me. Don waited until there was enough time separating him from the bereavement incident in April and fired me via Peter so he wouldn't have to do it himself. Tension in my neck knotted up like I was being strangled. My breathing became shallow and I could feel my eyes welling up. Oh Jesus. Oh fuck. Oh Jesus.

"Are...are you...are you letting me go, Peter?" I choked up as the reality of my career being curb-stomped into a coma played out in front of me. I swallowed and swallowed, but the lump in my throat wouldn't go down.

"I'm sorry, Mikey. I know how much this place means to you. Look, I'm not going to kick out into the cold. I'm going to set you up with a decent severance package. You'll be alright."

"I'm...getting fired...on...Christmas..."

"I'm going to set you up with a career counselor as well. Would you like that?"

I looked at Peter, and he looked as distraught giving me the bad news as I did taking it in. I tried not to blink as I looked him in the eye because I knew my eyes were welling up and that would send two tears rolling down my cheeks. The energy desk in Portsmouth was an anomaly; New York or Chicago were where you needed to be if you were going to have anything to do with energy trading as a newcomer to the industry. I thought about a number of jobs I could have taken with our clearing house in Chicago or as a floor broker on the NYMEX. I knew that I wasn't in a position to move, and knowing that made the realization that I was truly out of the business hit home even harder. All at once, the deck of cards that built my professional and financial future were wheeled in front of an industrial fan and blown into purgatory. I looked at Peter and blinked.

"What am I supposed to do now?"

"I don't know, Mikey. I don't know."

I walked back into the office alone. I half expected Peter to stand watch as I threw my belongings into an empty printer paper box, but he stayed in the conference room and saved me the embarrassment. Once I was done piling years my life and a considerable amount of office supplies into it, I threw my coat on and walked out into the snow storm towards my Jetta. After quickly scraping the windows, I hopped in and put the key in the ignition, wanting nothing more than to drive to the bar and drown myself in pint after pint of Newcastle; to confront a urinal and piss my misfortune away every twenty minutes.

...cucucucucucuCuCuCuCUCUCUCUCUCUCU - CLUNK

It was the unmistakable sound of a four cylinder motor seizing. I almost expected to see some kind of suicide note on the oil cap reading "I just couldn't bear to have an unemployed dirt bag for an owner. I'm sorry." I sat in the passenger seat for a few minutes after that, watching the snow accumulate on the windshield.

Michael is a monster. Michael is going to make them all feel his pain.

The Voices were relentless. I punched my steering wheel a couple times because I didn't know what else to do. I stayed in that unlit parking lot for half an hour, screaming and crying and punching the steering wheel until my knuckles bled, all while The Voices tore me apart and snow covered my windows until I couldn't see out of them anymore. A piece of me died in that car.

Wet slush sheeted off my pea coat when I threw it on my kitchen table. I opened the freezer, pulled out a bottle of whiskey and took a long pull. I purposefully went without eating dinner so I could get drunk as quickly as possible. I needed to be numb. I drank and drank and cried and paced back and forth through my apartment. The more I drank, the more I thought about how much I hated myself. I pictured the ghost of my dad sitting in the room with me, silently watching and shaking his head in disapproval. I thought about how right he would have been to do so. I was a scumbag. I was a fucking scumbag whose sanity was being reduced to glowing embers because I couldn't forgive myself for letting my father die before I could make amends with him. I threw the bottle of whiskey at the wall and shattered it everywhere. I wanted family and friends to comfort me. I wanted God to grant me the strength to push the darkness away. I wanted to just exist for five seconds without wishing I was dead, but The Voices wouldn't allow it.

For Michael, Hell isn't the absence of God; it is living with the understanding that God hates him.

I punched my living room wall, sending my hand between two studs. I punched the hole again and again until my hand was covered in a red paste from fresh blood and dry wall dust intermingling.

Michael needs to be broken first before he will listen. He's crumbling now, watch.

I threw my kitchen table, kicked my bedroom door off of the hinges and threw a sink full of dirty dishes on the ground, shattering most of them.

Michael is fighting it, but not for much longer. He's coming around.

I trashed my apartment until my arms were tired and beads of sweat rolled off of my forehead. When there was nothing left to break, I sat down on my couch, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. My surroundings disappeared in a whitewash, leaving just me and my shadow in an unyielding, unending sea of perfect white. I exhaled and opened my eyes.

It was at that very moment I stopped fighting The Voices -- my self-depreciating inner monologue turned personality disorder -- and accepted that I was insane.

I let them speak to me and I took it all in. I let them rip my soul to its foundation and begin to put me back together in Their image - the image of the horned man. I would use Him like Hindis use their deities and worship each facet of His being in daily affirmation. The Voices whispered things about my true nature to me and I understood them. I was inherently evil. They taught me that pain wasn't a curse, but a fuel that one could burn to reach impossible goals. They made me see that people were expendable and how to manipulate them as I saw fit. They taught me about fear and the value of having others fear you. I let The Voices dictate my new future to me as the sea of white dissipated and left me in the then present. I put my wet coat back on and walked out of my apartment to purchase what would become a vehicle of fear and a symbol of my transformation.

I came back twenty minutes later with a plastic shopping bag. I thought about how the new energy coursing through my veins as I threw a crumpled up receipt on my computer desk. I started whistling a Rolling Stones song and began putting my apartment back together.

THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING AT ACE HARDWARE!

1 BOX NITRILE GLOVES $9.99
2 GARDENING SICKLE $10.98
1 ROLL ELEC TAPE $0.99
SUB-TOTAL: $22.96
SALES TAX: $0.00
TOTAL: $22.96

ACE IS THE PLACE! 12/23/2003

"So don't you plaaaaaaay wiiith me, 'cause you're playin' with fiirreeeeee..."

Posted by KungFu Mike at 5:06 PM

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Comments

Since the day I met you I knew there was something that you weren't letting people know. I love how far you have came since that one random day :) I am proud of you mister! Keep up the amazing work!

Posted by: Sheyla at November 25, 2008 07:45 PM

Jesus. I mean, wow. You're a fucking amazing writer. I'm sorry you had to go through all this.

Posted by: lizza at November 25, 2008 09:37 PM

God dammmit. I've waited for months for this, yet you keep stringing me along...

I suppose it's your duty as a writer to keep someone interested, but this is far worse that a commercial break in the middle of some shitty TV show. It's not going to be over in 30 seconds. I'm completely emotionally invested at this point and I'm dying to hear what happens next, and every time I think that maybe you're wrapping it up, you continue to string me along, begging for the next episode. Perhaps part of the whole experience is the anticipation of the next installment, but I'm hopelessly hooked at this point.

Congratulations, Mike... I'm thoroughly addicted to this story.

Either way, I hope the therapy is going well, if that's the path you chose, and I can guarantee that I will be first in line to pick up any work of yours in the bookstore.

Best of luck to you and I hope you're making progress in sorting through some of the shit you've been dealt.

Posted by: kendziek at November 25, 2008 10:51 PM

Come to Biddy Mulligans tomorrow night so I can buy you a beer or three. Never has anyone been able to capture my attention so thoroughly.

Posted by: TBreton87 at November 26, 2008 01:28 AM

Come to Biddy Mulligans tomorrow night so I can buy you a beer or three. Never has anyone been able to write something that captured my attention so thoroughly, I am eagerly awaiting the book.

Posted by: TBreton87 at November 26, 2008 01:30 AM

Mike,

I've been lurking on Rudius for at least 2 years, without commenting.... You guys probably frown on that. I check it out everyday, and hope to see if you've written anything. Rudius rocks, but you are the best writer I've ever read. I guess we struggle with similar things, but I lack the set of literary skills to put into words how I feel sometimes. I even double majored in Psyc in a failed attempt of 'Doctor, heal thyself'. You are part of my therapy. I just wanted you to know that you make a difference in what you do. Thanks. You ever get to my town, Everything is on me.

Posted by: Sushiman at November 26, 2008 09:44 AM

Wow. I'm glad you got fired, I doubt you'd be writing if you were still working in that shithole.

Posted by: Phil at November 26, 2008 05:01 PM

I still can't figure out what the hell anyone would need two sickles for at that hour.

That's one of the best (or worst) cliffhangers I've ever seen.

The rest of the story is just your typical "Mike's a genius" kind of writing.

Posted by: Patrick at November 27, 2008 12:44 AM

Thanks for sharing KFM (just Mike? fuck I don't know), to call your writing honest would be a serious understatement, I can't imagine how difficult it must be to channel these old feelings into your work.

Here's one more that will be picking up your book.

Posted by: Wagon at November 27, 2008 01:11 PM

Much love bro.

Posted by: Wayland at November 27, 2008 10:51 PM

Sweet fucking Jesus, that is absolutely incredible. Perfect. Not a single issue, problem, anything. I am so buying this book when it comes out. Keep writing, dude. Amazing.

Posted by: Rob at December 2, 2008 02:42 AM

"They taught me that pain wasn't a curse, but a fuel that one could burn to reach impossible goals."

Great fucking quote Mike, I like it.

Posted by: brandon at December 4, 2008 07:55 AM

Motherfucker. Bro I've been reading your shit for a while and that - that creams the cake. Brilliant. I'll buy your book.

Posted by: Nick at December 5, 2008 05:56 AM

This is awesome. I can relate to coming out alive after a fucked up period of your life, except I was shooting heroin instead of drinking every day. Honestly, though, although it is one of the most socially unacceptable vices I can fathom, it was the same thing - just an escape. An escape is an escape. I realize, of course, that this piece wasn't solely about drinking, but that part did stick out to me. I hope you keep writing this ginsanity series, I am really enjoying it so far.

Posted by: Sam at December 5, 2008 06:31 PM

Hey Mike, I thought you said there wasn't going to be a Part 5 of Ginsanity. Obviously I'm glad to read this. Just want to know what the deal is now.

Consider another copy of your book sold.

Posted by: Marcus at December 8, 2008 12:05 AM

holy shit!!! wow. can't wait to read more.

Posted by: Shawn at August 24, 2009 11:05 AM

What amazes me is your clarity for the events as they unfold. Very good story telling. Please give more of your true self.

Posted by: Mike From Cincinnati Ohio at October 5, 2009 04:24 PM

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