Better Times

I finished reading Etgar Keret‘s collection of short storiesThe Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God – the other night, and something caught my attention. It’s the story before “Kneller’s Happy Campers” – which was later adapted into a screen play for the film Wristcutters: A Love Story. The story’s called “Pipes,” a first person narrative about a man – or woman, possibly, because I can’t recall if a gender is ever mentioned – who, as a child, is given a test. When he fails to see the problem in one of the pictures, the psychologist administrated the test classifies him with severe perceptual disorders.

He’s placed in carpentry until he realizes he’s allergic to sawdust. Afterward, he’s placed in metalworking and grows up to work in a pipe factory. After work, he builds oddly shaped pipes, not because he likes doing it, but because it’s something to do. In other words, he’s just going through the motions. One night he works on a pipe that contains all sorts of twists, turns, loops and whatnot. He starts shoving marbles into it, but they do not emerge from the opposing opening. Thinking the first few have gotten stuck, he starts shoving more into them and each one disappears. Then the idea comes to him. What if he builds the same pipe only bigger, maybe then he can crawl into it and vanish as well.

It takes him a few nights to build the pipe – piece by piece – but when it’s ready, he crawls inside only to find himself in – where else? – heaven!

I always used to think that Heaven is a place for people who’ve spent their whole life being good, but it isn’t that. God is too merciful and kind to make a decision like that. Heaven is simply a place for people who are genuinely unable to be happy on earth. They told me here that people who kill themselves return to live their life all over again, because the fact that they didn’t like it the first time doesn’t mean they won’t fit in the second time. But the ones who really don’t fit in the world wind up here.

So what happens to the cynical, misanthropic, teenage-angst ridden cliché when he grows up? Sadly, he probably looks a little like me with heavy existential issues, piecing together whatever he can to figure out what the point of it all is. Because the reality of it doesn’t make sense, but I’m being ushered into some new chapter in my life that both excites me and leaves me feeling scared shitless. I’m not sure if I’m cracked up to be the person who is dependable enough and allow the needs of others to thrive before his own.

Every relationship ends with me in such a way that I feel emotionally responsible for the girl’s sudden graduation into full-blown psychosis – though it helps that I do have a thing for the crazies, so it’s not entirely my fault. But they get over it. Some quicker than others. Me, I’m prone to walking long distances, spending money I really shouldn’t, and filling my world with so much negativity that makes the average, every-day hoarder look like an amateur collector of useless memorabilia.

And it’s not just romantic relationships, it’s friendships as well. Back in 2003, I allowed a friendship die because she forgot my birthday. That’s not the core of it, though. The relationship died because she would cry bloody murder every time I forgot hers, but did I get a phone call on mine? No. She’d fluttered her eyelids and give me some half-assed apology and that made everything better.

At least I had the upper hand when that friendship crumbled. Three years later, my friendship with Miranda was coming to a close. It was inevitable, really. Having already dealt with all her shit, I was tired of playing my hand in the proverbial poker game. Like the man said, “Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” Only, Miranda seemed to have folded her cards before mine. While she – and by she, I mean, Meester Binx – might argue that I was invited to the graduation, I didn’t get a phone call, an e-mail or a fucking Myspace message. I knew our friendship was in the shitter, but the blade cut a lot deeper than I expected. It’s a wound that hasn’t fully healed and I’m sure if it ever will.

And now that I find myself at change’s door, I feel the wound beneath my shirt. I press a hang against it and reach for the cell phone to give her a call. If anyone can usher me into this new world, it would be Miranda. For the first time in my life, I realize that the only people who are surrounding me are those I’ve hurt me. What favors do they owe me? If anything, I owe them for putting up with my shit all these years and stuck around.

Because the truth is, I’m not really that much of a misanthrope. If anything, I merely hate and distrust myself. I just project said hatred and mistrust into others because I’m self sabotage my own relationships, my happiness. Right now, while I should be saving money for the future. Instead, I’m allowing my self deprecation to weigh me down and spend it on useless items (even though books are never truly useless).

Someone commented on a post I put up at the beginning of the month. She said I should jump. Jump into what? I’ve never been one to go feet first without looking into any situation, let alone life. People deserve better than what  is handed to them, you know? Sometimes I think I’ve got it good. Good friends that take my shit. A girlfriend who’s been patient with me. A mother who looks out for me when the crushing weight of the world gets me down. And a family…well, a mother who looks out for me, anyway.

But it’s not me I’m worried about here, in the end. People never get what they deserve, you know? The good get their beating, while the bad live their lives in peace. I don’t deserve half the people in my life. These are good people, you know? They deserve better. But they get me instead.