The night was wrapped up in music, all the old hits from the 1990s; from a time long ago when the world was still new and exciting to us. We were young and not yet beaten down and worn out. It was everywhere we went that night. Faith No More plays followed by Weezer, then Eminem. No Doubt belts out and into Beastie Boys, sprinkle in some Fugazi, and Sunny Day Real Estate. The whole catalogue of hits we once thought of as alternative but a soundtrack to a whole generation. There was even a little Cure thrown in. Everyone was smiling, dancing, drunk. I wasn’t but the mushrooms I had eaten would have canceled out anything I drank. I kept a beer in my hand to maintain appearances, and I watched her. I remembered the old days when we were new and still smiled at each other. It was years before New York or any of the other bad stuff. We’re not too far from Lyndhurst, our old house. We didn’t live there long, about six months, I wouldn’t let us. I was spiraling out of control then. I’m spiraling out of control now, but in a different direction. Back then I was struggling with the death of my grandmother and a looming prison sentence. A lot of other things were happening as well, mistakes were made, and monsters came out of shadows. It’s hard to explain without giving all the details away and some stories aren’t just mine to tell.
She had given me the mushrooms earlier, when I ran into her downtown. I hadn’t run into her by accident, I had heard rumors, I was expecting her. We talked a little at first, caught up on what we had been up to in the years since we had last seen each other (when I was last spiraling). Funny how that shit works out. I still tear up a little when I first see her but I fight back the tears and squeeze out a chuckle or two. She ask what I’m doing here I answer “being a ghost”. It’s how I felt, a bizarre apparition from the past. Ghost of Christmas past come back to haunt everyone’s dreams for a weekend. I really came for my little sister’s college graduation. I had spent all day with my family, more time than I had spent around blood relatives in close to six years. It had only been three since I was last home, but that was just a brief pop in for Christmas dinner then back on the road. I spent most of that time outside smoking and drinking than inside with my sisters. I avoid holidays like the plague; too many ghosts for me to deal with. Now I had become the ghost. I could see it on all their faces when they saw me. Most people walked by first and then once my facial features registered in their brain there was shock, then disbelief. Of course I egged it on keeping my hood pulled over my head and my brow down. Funny thing about being a ghost is that some people are happy to see you, while others not so much.
The night before I had wandered around the old stomping grounds, and ran into a few old faces that were more than happy to see me, greeting me with open arms and wide smiles. Other’s treat me with a cold “oh it’s you”, look. I even had someone tell me that I while I may have known them I don’t know them anymore. It didn’t bother me, it was true, but there were definite lines being drawn. Maybe it was the mood I was in but this night felt different. I was I already in a weird other head space before the mushrooms. I had gotten stoned a couple of my cousins at another club downtown. A brightly lit place that played that thumping music kids in Jersey pump their fist to. I was too in my own head for that. I needed good old rock and or roll, and the solace of shadows to comfort me. It was more than just the feeling of having been away for so long, or the glaring fact all weekend that I had truly gotten old. No this was more. I was coming to the end of this, the end of the person that I have been for the last twenty years. I have been trapped in a cocoon of time. The hour for me to emerge from chrysalis had come. I have been feeling that way for awhile. Like, I needed to change more than my address and my underwear. I can’t keep living in the past glory of my youth. Was it even that glorious? Things work out the way they do for a reason, after 24 hours of dealing with family that I hadn’t seen in forever, best friends I hardly talk to any more and old lovers who didn’t love me anymore. I found myself tripping surrounded by 90s alternative jams in a house full of people who passed through my life just as I was becoming this monster I grew into. Much like the 1990s themselves the irony wasn’t lost on me.
I haven’t been conflicted about making a change in my life. I am currently jobless, penniless, and hopeless in Atlanta. I have burned so many bridges in the last six months I might as well start building a canoe. No, my confliction comes in what exactly am I to become next. Who am I to become? I am not totally unhappy with myself, just more or less where I am in my life. Alone, dejected, scrounging around on rock bottom. I feel old and feeble, and when I look back at my life I see far more mistakes than successes. That is not a good feeling. It’s no longer just because my last relationship didn’t work out the way I planned, or my job didn’t pan out, it’s not because I can’t get laid, I don’t even want to anymore. No this is something else. I have no idea what I want to do with the next half of my life. I have no direction, no focus. I don’t feel particularly driven to do anything either and that is an even bigger problem. All weekend I heard from family members and friends alike that I should go to school. School would have been a good idea a few years ago, maybe ten twenty years ago. But now I was too old. It’s not that colleges all over the world aren’t filled with people older than me; I just don’t want to be that guy. Besides I can’t afford it and unlike other normal people I can’t get government loans. I never signed the piece of paper that say’s the government can draft me in to some bullshit war, so therefore I do not qualify for student loans from the government. I can’t get loans from banks because I’ve never owned anything-anything at all. I have never had a car, a house, or scarcely more than can fit into a suitcase for the last year. I’m a ghost on paper as well, invisible, insignificant.
There’s also my inability to take proper criticism from anyone I haven’t placed my penis inside of. I don’t like being judged, or graded, or told what to do. Sure that attitude hasn’t gotten me very far, but avoiding people like that is one thing, paying an exuberant amount of money for some snot nosed professor who would most likely be in my age group tell me anything. It wouldn’t be long before I found myself in prison again. And murder beefs mean state farms and I don’t like those. If I’m ever catching another charge it’s going to be a federal case so I can get the nice bath robes again. I don’t have a clue what I want out of this life, because everything I thought I wanted I had and it all slipped through my fingers, I was unable to grasp the brass ring. Failure is for some an inspiration to excel and try harder to do better, but I don’t fail very often and I never try to do anything. I simply do whatever I want and most times it’s worked out for me, but lately it seems the stars are not aligned in my favor. I never set any goals for myself, it eliminated the possibility of failure (or so I thought). I know it’s time for me to change; this way hasn’t been working for me for some time. Did it ever work? I was standing there on Trade Street (where I had stood so many times before), tripping staring into the eyes of loves gone past, and time not forgotten. I was scared I was terrified, what would become of me I asked. Still no answer came.
It was time for me to come out of the cocoon. I have been trapped by my past, by all the things I had done, not done, wanted to do, didn’t want to do. The shadow of loved ones living and dead loomed over me for so long. I am tired of the weight. How do I get from under it? Do I take off and go somewhere no one knows me? That seems like running to me and I’ve done enough of that. There’s no job or career I can have that would make me happy. I loathe work in itself, unless I can find someone to pay me for typing these words I don’t want to write what some editor tells me to write. I may not know what I want yet, but I know what I don’t want and that’s a start. The thing about being a little ghost is that you’re trapped between the land of the living and the land of the dead. I looked out into the street and for a minute I thought about stepping into traffic and joining the real ghost, but then I looked back at my brother who was sitting in front of the bar with his shoe of picking a blistered scab on his foot as if he wasn’t even in public. I decided against it.