So Now Then

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February, 2005:
Oct-Nov, 2004:
August, 2004:
July, 2004:
Winter, 2004:
November, 2003:
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September, 2003:
August, 2003:
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November 5, 2004

Alright, I give up. Yes, the only true path to self-esteem and ultimate security and happiness comes through acceptance of the self, and before you love anyone else you must love the person in the mirror, and yes, yes, yes. But you know what? Fuck all that shit. I give up. I just give up. I can't deny it anymore. Life would be better with someone around to snuggle with.

So, how do we do that? Well, we meet people through work. Except I work by myself, in my little studio apartment. (And I don't even do that, but that's not today's topic.) Or you meet people through friends. But my best friends in town have recently admitted to me that I am the absolute center of their social diapason. Me. Helpful clue to anyone who considers me the center of their social life in any capacity at all: Get out more.

Alright, then, back to internet dating for the seventeen bazillionth time. And once again, we're having the same conversation we've had for ten years:

Nondescript Internet Female: Hey! I loved reading your profile! You seem like a great guy who matches all of my stated prerequisites and then some, even though I now realize that none of those things were true because I have not spent enough time learning to be honest with myself or others! Can I see a pic?"
Ben: Sure! Here!
Crickets: chirp chirp chirp chirp

It's thus been suggested that perhaps my pictures are not quite doing my stunning handsomenosity justice. So, for today's episode of So Now Then, we're featuring, for the first time, audience participation!

Earlier today, I took a series of photos of my big old head, to obviously varying success. What we're going to do now is pick the best one! I've already chosen the one I like best, but I thought this would be fun for you kids out there who enjoy clicking the mouse on things. Just click the photo you like best, and then hit "send". You're free to include any other comments you might have, of course, but I can't guarantee to you that I'll read any of them. I'm very busy over here.

Think of it like a presidential election, but one where the outcome wasn't already rigged months in advance!

October 6, 2004

"I am the Zen master. I am the calm, quiet little center of the universe." - Fight Club

"Today, I woke up. I woke up, and I smiled." - So Now Then, August 29, 2004

The fan in my apartment which blows heat and A/C throughout P297 is a loud one. Lots of white noise. I like it. It's soothing as I fall asleep, like the wave of a carribean ocean crashing forever, curling down the beach into infinity. White noise, to drown out the sounds of dogs whining or people snoring or sprinklers sprinkling. To drown out the cars driving past, the creaking of the wood, and doors opening, doors closing. The people walking around, chatting, walking up and down stairs, giggling, chatting, whatever. Drown out any sounds you might not want to hear.

I am keeping my fan on tonight.

But let me back up.

See, the problem with August was that, without any respect for me, my life, or anything I was going through, it decided -- on a ill-considered, fanciful whim, no doubt -- to turn into September. September, 2004.

September, 2004 was not a good month. It was not a good month.

It featured such items as me going on a date with a coworker of a friend, and congratulating myself for following through with it, facing my fears, and getting out there. It featured me congratulating myself by having a few beers for the first time in nearly two months. And then a few more.

And it felt so good. When you're on the bottom, it sucks you down, but when you're on top, you are flying. Your feet barely remember what the crunching, hard, thick-piled carpet of terra firma felt like. It was good. I was good.

Life was good.

September, 2004 then featured me spending copious, and ever-increasing amounts of time with my upstairs neighbor. And a few more beers. And a couple shots of rum.

It featured us getting ever closer, testing the boundaries of our friendship in ways which were at once innocuous and insidious.

It then featured, to my great shame, me falling in love with my upstairs neighbor. Featured next was my upstairs neighbor ever so kindly rebuffing my advances.

And a couple glasses of wine.

Following that was a period of slow but steady recovery from the rebuffs, as these were long-forgotten emotions, coming back with their mean little devil eyes and their mean little demon hands to greet me again and stare at me with their nasty little devil eyes and pat me on the back with their nasty little demon hands.

I told her it was okay, I was all good with it. Let's just move on as friends and have a lot of fun.

And so we did, and I put on a good face, and she put on an oblivious face, and it was just like it was meant to be. And an Irish coffee and another martini.

Then, at 2:00 AM, in the wee hours of the morning of Friday, September 24, 2004, she mentioned to me, with my head resting gently on her lap, that 1) her ex-boyfriend was gonna be in town that weekend, and they were going to get together, and 2) on October 6, 2004, she was getting her other ex-boyfriend out of jail, and he'd be staying with her for a few days.

And then, at 2:01 AM, in the wee hours of the morning of Friday, September 24, 2004, the walls crumbled.

The planes hit the buildings.

The house of cards came crashing down, all of those Aces and Kings piled up so meticulously over the two-and-a-half months previous, all of them spiraling and fluttering down to the ground, in flames.

My life ended.

My life began, and I was a schoolboy, shunned by the other kids. I was a late teenager, eating alone in the office cafeteria. I was 23 and staring at all those college girls and young professionals who wouldn't give me the time of day. I was 28 and convincing myself it was all their loss, and not believing it.

I was sitting in Tony Roma's on Ventura Boulevard, with Shortcake, waiting for my BBQ sandwich to arrive, and knowing I'd never be able to keep it down.

I stood, cowering underneath the judge's bench, and lined up behind the bench were everyone I'd ever known, each with a gavel crashing down sharp and deafening, handing out the verdict.

Unlovable. Guilty.
Rejected. Guilty.
Defective. Guilty.
Repugnant. Guilty.
Disgusting. Guilty.
Alone. Guilty.
Pitiful. Guilty.
Hopeless. Guilty.

Worthless. Guilty.

And then a six pack to wash it down.

My life ended.

And a bottle of Bacardi, still in the brown paper wrapper.

September, 2004 then featured me holing myself up in P297, closing the door, closing the blinds, shutting the lights, creating a little dark hole into which I could crawl and die. Cutting myself off from life. Cutting myself off from everyone in it. They're better off without me anyway.

Cutting myself off from my upstairs neighbor. And apologizing for it all the while. For me. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. For this. For me. For myself. For who I am. For what I am.

At that second, never have I hated anyone more than I hated myself.

And then a shot of Stoli.

So, September, 2004 was not good.

But, as if to offer an apology of its own, September 2004 took its icky devil eyes and icky demon hands and cleared the path for October.

Get back on the horse. Cut off the booze again. Clear your head. See the sun. Feel the ground again, and it's still there, and it's still solid, and so are you.

I told my upstairs neighbor this, apologized once again for my behavior, assured her that it wasn't her, I was just drunk and confused and having these crazy, crazy thoughts, and I do hope she'll forgive me and we can get back to just having a good time.

Because now I am the Zen master. I am the calm, quiet little center of the universe.

She accepted my apology.

Today is October 6, 2004. Today, my upstairs neighbor, my buddy, is going to go to jail and pick up her ex-boyfriend, and bring him back here for a couple days. And that's cool. I'm fine with it now, really. And they're still very close, and without question they'll get back together, and he's been in jail for a year, so my guess is that they'll spend quite a bit of time releasing some of the feelings that they've had building up for each other during that year. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. And I'm cool with that too. Never woulda worked out with us, anyway. She's too into that mystical, spiritual hippie crap, anyway. So it's cool. And I'm totally fine with it.

I am the Zen master. I am the calm, quiet little center of the universe.

But I am keeping my fan on tonight.

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