Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mortification and Sarcasm

Before I made my appearance on the Letterman show I was asked if I could tell a funny story about myself to which I thought, "Oh goody! I get to be homeless and funny." But my verbal reply was to merely squirm and say, "Oh, sure." I guess my act wasn't very good because the assistant kept staring at me as if waiting for my real answer. But I had no more words for her and finally she left. Why does everything have to be so hard?

Racking my brain as I scanned my desperate life of despair, I remembered one story that might work. Of course, it involved a moment of my humiliation - most stories about me derailed existence do. It happened back in technical school. (The thought of an actual college terrified me and, frankly, disinterested me.) I wasn't serious about it. But who could I tell? I was there because I had nothing better to do.

Staying in my three bedroom dorm was Harley and Russell. Harley and I were hanging out in a mutual friend's dorm room when he started telling this grand adventure tale he'd had. I thought it was all bullshit so I started mocking him and calling him Indiana Bert (Bert was his middle name). And the more he told, the more I mocked, coming up with a line of Indiana Bert dolls to sell, along with the famous suppository version ("Gives new meaning to the word 'shithead'!"). I was on a roll that night and Harley was caught somewhat flatfooted by my stampede - but that's not because Harley was witless.

I had highly enjoyed my needling of Harley when the next day Harley made his counter attack. Whenever I walked into the living room of our dorm, he'd boo me. At first as I was furious and was going to jump his shit but when I actually saw him doing it I wanted to laugh. He had his hands cupped around his mouth and he had a big ol' grin on his face while booing. It was completely disarming and I had a hard time coming up with my own counter attack because I couldn't get mad at him. So naturally he kept doing it - which led to complications.

I was very good at computer programming at school - as long as I didn't mind killing myself to do it. But the pressure was enormous since the tuition was on my parent's ticket and my life had no meaning. One weekend the despair got so bad I attempted suicide by taking a bottle of sleeping pills. To my eternal regret it failed, obviously. So when I could I traveled back home and came back on Sunday to avoid the alone time.

It was on one of those Sundays returning to my dorm when disaster struck. I was carrying in my little TV I lugged back and forth and about 20 paces behind me was my emotionally estranged stepfather bringing my suitcase. My stepfather was a human being I truly loathed - as he did himself. My dorm was on the second floor and sitting on the bottom rung of the steps was my roommate Russell who suddenly got a bright idea when he saw me. He thought he'd start booing me as Harley had been.

The courtyard between the dormitories was large and public so Russell's booing me was inconvenient at best. What was worse would be trying to explain to my quickly approaching stepfather why I was being booed by my roommate. ("See, it's not real. It's just a game. Uh...") So I was ready to freaking murder Russell - especially after he decided he'd call Harley down to join in the fun. "Boo! Boo! Harley! Harley!" he'd cry out to the second floor. I was mortified but furious and decided to retaliate without compunction.

It was after about the third or fourth time Russell called up with his sequence of booing and calls to Harley that I let fly with all the sarcasm and contempt I could muster: "What's that? Your mating call to Harley?" My voice was so sharp you could a razor with it. Better yet, a huge burst of laughter came from across the courtyard. Unbeknownst to me, the "gang" had been watching the entire drama unfold and delighted in my putdown of Russell, who visibly shrank and spoke no more.

Computer school was a hell for me, drowning in a sea of numbers as I prostituted my mind for desires not my own. My only survival skill was to summon all my wits to disguise my glaring social failings. I surprised even myself sometimes with my repartee but in the end, lying in bed at night, I knew the futureless life that lay ahead of me.

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