Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Viva Hate

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I'm not sure why people hated Bob. Or Healthy Bob, as he was known. Maybe hated is too strong of a word. Maybe he just annoyed people to the point of, to the edge of, hatred. All I know is people, my friends mainly, didn't like to be around him.
I don't remember how or why he was always around Donnie's and Erin's Belle Plaine apartment, but he was there a lot the summer of 88.
Oh God, Healthy Bob is here I would think to myself as I walked into their kitchen on a Saturday night, to put away the beer. We usually hung out at their place drinking before we went out. He'd be front and center, at the kitchen table, among piles of beer and wine bottles, dominating our party with his unwelcome presence, nursing an iced tea.
He called and asked to come over, and I couldn't say no! Donnie would whisper to me.
He seemed oblivious to our feelings toward him, and stuck around us despite our feelings toward him. I could never quite figure that out about him.
He would sometimes show up to our pre-party parties with glamorous guests in tow. A politician's son springs immediately to mind. Whomever it was that night, sulked in a corner til it was time to go. They all came from Planet Bob, and intensely disliked visiting our planet. Or maybe just Planet Erin and Brian, because Donnie seemed to get chummy with them after a while.
Erin and I would ensconce ourselves in her room for most of the night, drinking and putting on make-up, for being around them would remind me of certain people in my past, who I'm being deliberately vague about, and who, during the holidays of my boyhood, would position themselves as far away as possible from me, where we would then engage in our version of a staring contest: they would look at a wall, and I at them, while I would think to myself: They are just going to sit there and stare at that wall and ignore me all day, even though I am standing here, plain as day, in front of everyone, staring at them. Does anyone else see this!
Over the years they warmed up to me a bit, but you can always tell when someone has been forced to invite you to their party.

Anyway, with those past bad memories rising to the surface whenever they were around, it wasn't long before Erin came over to my place to hang out.
But sometime during those evenings with Bob, he would corner me into this inevitable conversation, apple in hand: (His constant apple eating drove Erin nuts.)
"Brian, why do you party so much?" He would ask, with the look of a priest who worked in a really rough part of town, playing upon his face. Bob was very good looking, and had a strong, muscled body, and just radiated this sickening aura of happiness and self acceptance.
"Um, it's fun?" I said back.
"You don't look like you are having fun. You look kind of sad. I used to party a lot when I was sad, but it only made me sadder."
Jody spent months trying to pry out of me any type of deep personal conversation, so I wasn't about to spill my guts to a total stranger. Maybe had I known him while he was still a sad partier, things might have been different.
"Any time you feel like you want to stop drinking, give me a call."
I don't know if Bob stopped drinking because he born again, or if because he went to AA, but I had been around both types of people before, and they scared the crap out of me. But I did spend a lot of time thinking about Healthy Bob, envying him his seemingly total self-love of himself; the self-love that he had for himself despite whatever may have happened in his past, and despite whatever was going on around him, and his ability to have a good time out at the clubs without drinking or doing drugs.
I did want the kind of life he had, but I knew it would be a while before I would be ready for it.
I was sad to hear a few years later, while in Puerto Rico, he was killed. Maybe he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he was in my life at the right time.

In the fall of '88, Maria and I signed up for a make-up class downtown, and Consita, our boss, was livid. The real reason, I think she was mad at us for doing this, on our free time, was that she was upset we didn't invite her, but she couldn't admit it. Her reaction to our taking this class is what started me resenting her. Maria and I spent hours together alone at work when we weren't busy, analysing the hair and make-up we saw in the fashion magazines, and from that grew a desire to experiment with the idea of moving our careers in the direction of make-up, by taking the class, but Consita saw it as a personal snub. She called our idea a waste of time and money. I saw in her her inability to truly see the people around her, and yes, I've been putting off writing about her. My experience and time with her is valuable to me, but for all the wrong reasons: I wanted to grow into a person that was the exact opposite of her, because here were all the things I disliked about myself, walking and talking and signing my paychecks.
But the real thing that made her tick, the main reason I grew to dislike her, and the main thing I learned from her, was her distain toward anyone who she perceived to achieve more success than her, on any level. I started to feel hindered by her presence, with no where to go but down. And down I was going, destroying myself a little more each day with drugs and alcohol, eight feet away from her, five days a week, 52 weeks of the year, for the six years I worked for her.

Earlier that year, we went to a hair cutting class in Minnesota, where the educator, John English, related a story about his experience of working closely with someone who had committed suicide, and how he vowed never to be that oblivious to the feelings and lives of the people he's around on a daily basis.
I sometimes wish we all had heard him that day.


Sarah said...

You ended on a really sad note, are you feeling okay? How's that for not being oblivious to others' feelings?

Certainly you're addictions influenced your life and choices at the time but there is always something in these stories that telegraphs you had it in you to overcome them. You're always open to learning and discovering new things. It seems like you never could numb the voice in you that said to keep moving, keep growing, you'll get to a better place.


BC said...

I called it 'Viva Hate'!
But looking for the silver lining can be a sad experience...

Sarah said...

Aw, sweetie, you're the silver lining.


Please forgive previous incorrect usage of "you're".

Anonymous said...

Just know that your thoughts & experiences written here have helped countless people. I know of someone struggling with addiction that has found comfort in your words.

And of course the silver lining is a sad thing to have to pick for and hunt down. But the older I get, the more I realize that good usually comes from the most tragic events, even if it's just being appreciative of what you have and who you are...or taking a bad situation, as you did, and vowing to grow from it. I'm sorry you have experienced these difficult things in your life, but those difficulties are now helping others cope. What could be more noble than that? 12th step, anyone?

Thank you for being you, and sharing what you have with us. I agree with everything Sarah said.

Aaron said...

I hope you're not feeling any guilt or anything...something about that last line portends tragedy...but we all see you as a ray of sunshine and a beacon! So you should be happy in knowing that we reminisce with you and learn from you.

I'm glad that "Healthy Bob" was around at the right time for you. But quite honestly, what he and his ilk fail to realize sometimes is that the reproachful presence of a self-righteously healthy person can be as destructive as a street-corner pusher on the opposite end of the spectrum. Nothing hardens a hardened addict even more than somebody preaching at 'em. Like those obnoxious non-smokers who insist on passing by and showily coughing, even when you're outdoors and the smoke is nowhere near them. The next person who does that to me gets set on fire. You'll read about it in the paper the next day. I'm serious.

David said...

I hated Healthy Bob.