Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Early Retirement

As a child, teenager, young adult, and older adult, I tore my own fingernails apart in self-loathing and anxiety. By the time I was able to muster sufficient restraint to get little white bands at the top of the pink part, I had the shortest pink parts in all Christendom. How ironic that I should clip my fingernails and file them smooth today.

But I want to look my best. I shave with great care, carefully getting the whiskers at the latitude of my Adam’s apple that I commonly neglect. I rub Vitamin E crème into my face, and remember when, as a young man, my blackheads, the result of insufficiently diligent face-washing, quietly disgusted my first live-with girlfriend, whose great sweetness I failed to realise until decades later. I have always been a great one for failing to recognise people’s sweetness until they have exited my life, shaking their heads in dismay. 

I shower at greater length than one intent on minimizing his impact on the environment would dream of. Come and get me, coppers. I shall be as nearly immaculate as I’ve ever been. I floss my teeth. I pluck a couple of white hairs from my eyebrows. I curse the many intersecting creases that have taken up residence on my face. There goes the neighbourhood. The decades have scarred me.

I put on the suit I splurged and had made for myself in 2005 out of a shiny ruby fabric the tailor in Hua Hin, Thailand, told me was actually for ladies’ dresses. I’ve worn it maybe half a dozen times. I don’t feel very good-looking it. But of course I don’t feel very good-looking in anything the past 25 years or so. I put on the shoes with Spanish heels I bought online three years ago and wore exactly once because I forgot I had them. They are approximately the sort Rod Stewart wore in the early 1970s. I am around 6-3 in them. I re-tie my necktie because it was too short the first time.

I leave my cell phone on the kitchen counter and get the handcuffs and the most expensive vodka I’ve ever bought (Absolut). I go into the garage. I have crammed towels in the gap between the garage door and the ground the whole width of the garage door, and now you see where this is going. I handcuff my left wrist to the steering wheel, and it’s crunch time. If I toss the handcuff key away, there’s no turning back, unless, of course, I’m willing to suffer the humiliation of having to get someone to come over and free me. I’ve suffered more than enough humiliation in this life, and toss the little key out the window, bursting into tears as I do so.
I owe this to all those I’ve hurt. I have hurt most of those who’ve loved me most. The fact that most of them would surely tell me not to give my past horridness a second thought only makes it worse. Behold their loving me enough to forgive me.

I take a healthy swig of my Absolut, and then another. I curse the world for having hurt me so badly that I hurt others in a fool’s retribution, and feel my Dutch courage swelling. I turn on the ignition and have another swig of Absolut. “I can so fucking do this,” I declare aloud. What a tough guy is Johnny! What a badass! I am proud of myself, and drink a toast to my remarkable resolve.

I am feeling no pain. In a moment or two, I will exempt from it forever after. I think of a little couplet around which I was going to base a song I never managed to write. I didn’t do the best I could. I did the best I did. It wasn’t nearly good enough.

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