Haunted by a memory:

I don't go to restaurants. I fucking hate rest-o-raunts. I only go to diners. And I only go to diners that serve all-day breakfasts. Because who are they to tell me when to wake up? Who are they to tell us when we can eat? And I always order the same thing: white toast, black coffee and eggs over easy.

So I was at this diner, about four or five o'clock in the afternoon, and while I'm waiting for my breakfast, these two women sit down just behind me. One of them starts talking real loud- well, loud enough for me to hear her, anyway- and she's telling her friend about this dream she had.

She was on this bus in Mexico and it was full of all these gringos, right? Gringos! Like she knows how to speak Spanish! Anyway, she was telling her friend about how all these gringos were trying to touch her with their hands and how she couldn't get away. And then her dream changed and she was back in her apartment where all these men start coming out of the walls. And she says "men" like it's a dirty word, like we're responsible for every disappointment in her life or something. "Men."

And, by then, I just couldn't stand it anymore. So I turned around and said, "Listen, lady, if you wanna fuck me, why don't you just say so?!"


Okay, no, I didn't say that. What I really said was: "Hey! Would you just shut the fuck up?"


Okay. No. I didn't say that, either. But I would have if the waitress hadn't come to bring me my breakfast.

And you know what? They got my eggs wrong, too!

Or something like that. I can't remember it in its entirety. It's been years since I last heard it. My roommate back in Bowling Green, when I was going to college there (no, not at WKU), was in the theater department. His assignment was to memorize that monologue and he'd asked me to help him with it. Came to pass, I had it memorized and inflected better than he did and he tried his hardest to convince me to take his place during the exam, so that I could pass the test for him.


Anyway... that has been floating around in my head for almost a decade now and I can't get it out, like a broken record that goes on for years and years and years. And the worst part of it is that I have absolutely no idea where it's from. I know that it was an excerpt from a play, but I was never told which one, when it was written, who wrote it... nothing. Just the lines.

And it plagues my existence to this very day, like a mental cyst.

Help. Please. For the love of God, help me find this.

"When the world hates you, remember it hated me first."


Last night at dinner, after the second cosmo she said, "I was in Cheyenne for my brother. We drank a lot of Maker's Mark and talked about life," which in of itself was the smallest part of nothing. She was in one of those moods where something serious has to happen. Fell upon her like too many years at once. It showed in her eyes. Fatigue. She fought it. I didn't want her to.

"We're here..." I start, but she stops me. In my head, we're on this earth, where people fight starvation and disease every day, where wars are waged against the innocent to gain the attention of the powerful, and we sit in darkened restaurants worrying about the quality of the vintage in the glass, chewing on hardly cooked fish that was swimming in the Pacific a day ago, dragged to shore by fisherman who live on the horizon between water and the sky--what of this life? What could you say that would not be worth my time? What would make me love you any less?

How to say it to her, escapes me.

Instead we watch the wave flow by like a ridge of falling dominoes, first this then that then what if instead of what we did that night, we'd have kept going?

Then where would we be?

"My nephew. He's fifteen. He's just getting out of the hospital from trying to commit suicide the second time."

She stops and drinks some water. Swallowing keeps the eyes clear. Helps the focus. Says, "The second time."

I think to say, "Go ahead. It's ok," but maybe it never stops then. Maybe the wave flows and we get to the inevitable end of things. All that's wrong with the world. Global warming. Unbridled hatred. Do any of us really understand happiness? If we did, maybe we wouldn't be looking for it all the time.

I don't say anything.

"What does a fifteen-year old have to worry about that's so bad he wants to kill himself?"

I meet the gray in her eyes. Everything sparkling there. So strange that sad looks like love on her face. The tear that pools in the space next to her nose that makes me want to touch her.

"He's just a kid," she says.

"He doesn't know that. He thinks this is all there is."

"He doesn't know we love him."

She picks up her thick white napkin and dabs at the drop on her cheek. She apologizes.

"For what?" I say.

She clears her throat. Drinks some wine. Tries to smile.

"We're supposed to be having a good time."

"Define good."


"You're the writer. Define good," I say. "I'm going through my head, now, and everything I think about chokes me up. Maybe this is what we should be talking about."

"Maybe it's a sign," she says, now staring at her hands.

Dominos click, idea after idea falling in our minds, this leading to that to this. It takes me a while to say something and I don't notice the silence growing heavier until she breaks it.

"Have you ever been to Cheyenne?"

I tell her I haven't. Seems like a cowboy town. Merle Haggard. Turquoise jewelry and buckskin jackets.

A kid whose life hurts him so much he wants it to end.

"All you can do is keep them talking," I say.

Too late. She buries her face in her napkin. Looks up, eyes bloodshot and wet.

"I'm sorry. We were supposed to be having a good time."

She takes her purse. Opens it. Moves the contents around and then frustrated, snaps it closed and gets up. Leaves with a hand against her face.

"I was," I say, quietly so she doesn't hear me.

Last night at dinner I told them: "I have a book in my head. I think I'm going to do it for Frank. Rewrite the Antarctica book. It's going to be about a boy who gets stolen as a child, and then after eight years they get found out, and he's taken away from the only mother he knows and put back with his real parents."

"Been done," my wife said.

"I think it was, 'My name is....' Blah. Can't remember but I know I've read it," Nancy said.

Maybe I'll do it anyway.

"I have some of these scenes already mapped out," I tell them. "This guy, all his relationships fall apart. He has these memories that don't fit with the rest of his life. Like he's remembering from before he was abducted, and it becomes a whole life that didn't really exist, and so his whole childhood becomes a fabrication, so as an adult he winds up reinventing himself over and over."

"I read that one, too," my wife said.

"Me too," Nancy said. Alan smirked. He hadn't.

"Ok, I won't write those," I said. Alan and I paid the bill.

"Wanna go back to our place for French martinis?" my wife said.

Everyone said yes.

I stopped wasting people's time with books in my head.

I don't want to make this mistake but I can see myself slowly drifting towards it. I can see myself sitting alone in an empty apartment at the age of forty-five. I can see myself regretting not doing anything in my youth. Not living. Not loving. Not taking any risks. I can see myself in twenty-five years thinking back to when I had it all. I can see myself sitting in mountains of regret.

I am commited to this day forth of not winding up as I see myself winding up today. I will begin to make changes. So fucking what if I get momentarily hurt or if I feel the pains of rejection shooting through my heart. It will only be momentarily, it will be better than sitting alone at forty-five wondering what the fuck I was thinking all that time ago.

I do not want to end up alone looking back on my youth and regretting that I did not take chances, that I was too afraid to approach that girl. I will not see that girl in twenty-five years in the arms of another and me left thinking that I could have had her if only I tried. I am sick of sitting alone at the end of the day watching others go by having fun while I make snide and cynical remarks to myself only increasing my hate.

I will begin to change. I will no longer make these remarks. I will look at every man and woman and see the best in them. I will no longer just pick out their flaws based on the way the comb their fucking hair. Who gives a fuck if they are only wearing Abercrombie. I am not selling out. I am beginning to learn how to look at everyone nonbiased. I do not know when my hate started to grow towards people, but after tonight my outlook will change. I will begin to take these risks and if these risks turn out to be disastrous at least I can look back when I am forty-five and tell myself that I truly did live. Well, those are my thoughts on this night when I am reflecting maybe it was all bullshit and if I stay the same as I am now I'll end up fine. But I doubt it.

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