Wednesday, November 2, 2016


In middle school, Kevin wished in vain for invisibility, and died a little bit each afternoon in PE. No young man on the planet was less athletic, and he had what his classmates enjoyed calling boy-boobs. They, in many cases, were getting lovely defined pectoral muscles without having pumped so much as a gram of iron. He had significant complexion problems, no dress sense, dandruff, comically undersized teeth, and a pronounced stammer, of which such wits as Lee, the  cruel classmate who could play every sport brilliantly, and whom the girls pretty much unanimously ajudged the cutest boy in school, did an hilarious imitation.

In high school, while Lee was leading not just the football, but also the basketball and baseball teams, to glory of a sort they hadn’t achieved in years. Kevin was in his cramped bedroom, which reeked equally of his industrial-strength acne medication and excessive masturbation, teaching himself to play the guitar like Ritchie Blackmore. It turned out that he'd been born to play the guitar, and after his performance at the big spring student talent show in his and Lee’s senior year, his status went through the roof. Taniqua Joyner, who was widely thought to have spurned Lee, actually invited him to the senior prom. It was as though his acne and dandruff had disappeared overnight.  

He didn’t wear his new status well, but gloatingly. When he sneered vengefully once too often in the corridor of the History building, Lee loudly wondered how he’d like having his jeans and boxers yanked down around his ankles in full view of all. Taniqua, on her way to Calculus, saved the day, advising Lee, “You so much as touch my hubbin, motherfucker, and they’ll need your dental records to identify your ass.” It was fashionable for female students of color to refer to their boyfriends as hubbins, a mispronunciation of husbands.

Lee went onto college, and then law school, and got hired, largely on the basis of his athlete’s charisma and male model good looks, by a huge downtown law firm mostly in the business of defending corporate miscreants. Kevin, meanwhile, happened to be in Guitar Center, shaming all the other shredders, one Saturday afternoon when the road manager from a very popular arena-rock band heard him and encouraged him to contact the band’s management, the band’s existing guitarist’s alcoholism having become unignorably problematic. The band hired him, and for three and a half years Kevin had all the starstruck nymphets he could copulate with, and constant requests from guitar magazines to reveal what kinds of strings and plectrums and pickups he favoured.

The problem was that none of his success made him stop feeling a spotty, boy-boobed misfit sure to have his jeans and boxer shorts pulled down around his ankles in full view of all when everyone realised who he really was. He began using cocaine, and found that it provided even greater solace than his ability to play Ritchie Blackmore licks faster and cleaner than Ritchie Blackmore himself had. Within a few months, the arena-rock band was wondering if there was something about them that seemed to turn every guitarist to a substance abuse. Lee, meanwhile, became a partner at his big evil law firm, and, after sleeping with every attractive secretary or other support staff member on the premises, married one of his fellow partners. The happy couple bought a 6000-square-foot McMansion in the suburbs, didn’t care in the slightest that anyone regarded it as a McMansion, and had two gorgeous kids, a boy and a girl, neither of whom was autistic or physically imperfect.

Kevin, meanwhile, married a fellow alcoholic he met at one of his meetings. They did nothing but fight, though, and, at what he thought must be the worst moment of his life, he pawned his 1962 Gibson SG Standard, which Eric Clapton was said to have owned, to buy toot. But it turned out that far worse moments were to follow.

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