You Can’t Punch Gas

I decided the other night that I wanted to be more vague.  Really want to cultivate it as a quality.  You can do that you know.  Reinvent yourself. Not just for credit fraud either.  But as an exercise in character building.  Become a different person.  One with new super powers.

Being nebulous as gas is a good one.  To be able to disappear into vacuous vapor.  And leave them swinging at air.

It’s a power I’m only beginning to harness, but it’s already yielded rich rewards.  The power to be vague.  With long periods of silence in between.  Vague and laconic.  Somewhere in that quiet, your next move becomes clear.

It’s an important skeleton key to freeing yourself from the cage of modern life.  No wonder I blew it.  I always tripped myself up with specifics.  Tried to tell the cop too much to prove I wasn’t guilty.  That worked great.

Like a charm.

Fucking specificity.

Always talked myself into a corner–one I could only break out of by clawing like rat set on fire with oil.  Very ungraceful.  Unladylike.  Screeching and scratching my way out of  life’s jams.   It was all so unnecessary.  A fool’s errand.

I should’ve been hiding in the foofy cloud of an ambiguous response.  Don’t try to explain anything.  Just smoke-bomb the room with a big cumulus question mark.

It’s getting yourself out of the most ass-burning trouble with a “Hey, it is what it is,” as your only defense.  And maybe a shoulder shrug.

It is what it is.

How can you argue with that?  Locked in logic.  Universally applicable.  Bullet-deflecting smoothness of surface.  No traction at all for a counter.

It is what it is.  If that is my only assertion during any conflict, short of a shank attack, I will win.  Simply by default.  Because what I claim is true.  Something is what it is.

That leaves them with having to argue that it is what it isn’t.  And that’s a harder row to plow.

Trust me.

It is.

Really amazing what can be achieved with a simple hunch of the shoulders.  And a blank look.  Gotta have that.  Essential.  If you can  toss a pinch of  boredom in that’s even better.  Not like you’re in a chemically-induced stupor, but existentially resigned.  Like apathy.  But more spiritual.

The trick is to become one with the wallpaper behind you.  Blend into nothingness.  Pretty soon people forget you’re there, and then why they were pissed at you.  If the heat gets too much, I’ll disappear into Oneness.  I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I’ll cease fighting everything.

“Maybe.”  “I don’t recall.”  “That might be true.”  “I don’t know.”  “I’m sorry.”

These are not the responses of an obtuse idiot.  These are power words.  Words that open the Gates of Heaven.  And the Door to the Palace of Slack.

These days, I don’t want to fight with anybody.  I just want to be left alone.  To be able to enjoy time with friends.  To eliminate as much drama as my housecleaning skills allow.  I want to Aikido any bullshit right past me.  And move on.

Whether it’s some paranoid fanatic screaming some insane and offensive political diatribe in my face, or somebody accusing me of the most heinous character deficiencies, I  just nod.  Regardless of how pissed I may be, or how much shit I have to throw back in their face.

Go slack.  Give slack.  Get slack.

“You may be right. ”

Put hands in pockets and shrug.

“But I am right!”

“Maybe.”

That’s it.  Don’t say anymore.  Let your eyes slowly roll up white like Lurch, to let them know you’ve left the building.  Stand there like a propped up corpse.  Go mummy on them.  Just be.  Listen  to a distant siren.  A dog bark.  A fly buzz.  A radio from a passing car.

It’s hard to argue with wallpaper.

Eventually they run out of gas and shut up.  And maybe even leave.

Anyway, it’s just another skill set I’m working on in sobriety.  Then there’s total honesty.  That’s the ultimate mind-fuck.  People don’t know how to handle it.  Really freaks them out.

A few years ago when I was personal training at a gym franchise, I came into work at 8 AM for my first client.  I see the owner training a lady.  He’s never there that early.  And he rarely trained people at that point in his career.  So I knew right away.  I was in trouble.

My first time ever.

I go to train my lady and as I’m passing by the owner, he says to me, “I’d like to see you in my office after you’re done with your client.”

“I assume this is about my promotion and raise.”

He just gives me a pained, tight-lipped smile, with nostrils flared and high-tension eyebrows raised in maximum pissed-offness.

Alright.  Whatever.  If I get fired, I’ll be okay.  If I wasn’t going to be okay, it would’ve been long before this.

This is nothing.

I finish with my client and head up the stairs.   I knock on the door and he tells me to come in.  He’s sitting on his leather throne behind a big desk.  I look around.  There’s lots of golden trophy statues of muscley men in Speedos surrounding him.  Plaques and honors of some sort nailed on the walls.  An entire wall of CCTV monitors.

“What time were you supposed to be here today?”

“I thought eight.”

“When was the last time you checked the schedule?”

“I don’t know, maybe three years ago.”

I was serious.  I never looked at the schedule.  I kept track of the appointments without the posted “schedule.”  And unless they threw in a surprise early ringer like they just did, everything went along just fine.   So I told him the truth.  Well, not the whole truth.

“Scratch that, I’ve never checked the schedule.  In the six years that I’ve worked here.”

That was the whole truth.

He just looks at me.  He doesn’t know what to say.

He starts sputtering about how they just signed up this new client for a few grand yesterday and put her with me at 7AM, how she got there and waited for me, and how she finally called him and made him drag his ass down to the club to train her.

Well nobody told me.  I have a cell phone.  Holler at me, bitch.  Make sure I’m dialed in.  Don’t dry-erase it on a greasy piece of yellow plastic curling up behind the microwave in a filthy employee break room after I leave, and expect me to somehow know.  Even if I was Johnny Check-The-Schedule.

Which I am fucking not.

You guys sold her the training after I left for the day, and nobody called me.  This is a major fuck-up on your part, dude.  No way to run a business. You almost lost a big account.  My God.

I bet it hurts, too.  Especially since…well…you pride yourself as being Mr. Business man, and shit.  So losing big accounts is the fucking worst.  I bet you’re a little frightened too.   Frightened and angry.  Like a teen rehab chick.  There there.  Don’t worry.  I’ll cut you some slack… this time.  In fact, I’ll even fall on this sword for you, fraidy cat.

“Well, it looks like I fucked up.”

“Yes! Yes you did! YOU FUCKED UP!”

I nod along.  Agreeing.  My face pleasant and happy that we can agree.  At least we all agree on one thing.  I fucked up.  On the same page there.  Seeing retina to retina.  We all vote “yes.”  I fucked up.  More than once, actually.

“Yep.” I said, “Looks that way.”

“You almost lost us a big account!”

“Wow.  That would’ve been bad.  Sorry.”

“It would’ve cost this club a lot of money!”

“Good thing you came down and trained her,” I said, bending down to re-tie my Converse.

He goes blank.  He can’t process this.  I’m completely at ease.  Frankly, I was looking forward to the early nap I’d get to take if he fired me on the spot, so I wasn’t entirely indifferent.  I was leaning for a certain outcome-but trying to stay neutral.  Trying to stay Zen about it.

I finished tying my sneaker, stood up and pulled my workout pants out of my crotch.  Gave them a little straightening pat.  Okay.  What’s next?  What do we do now?

“Well, like I said before, I’m sorry.  Is there anything else?”  I asked him.

He’s looking at me.  Looking at me.  Looking.

I look back.

Both of us looking at each other.  For a long time.  A pyramid erodes into sand.  Rocks grow.  A galaxy implodes.

I stare at the shafts of morning light illuminating the dancing dust across his desk.

The silence is peaceful.  I let my mind drift.

I picture a red balloon floating through the streets of Paris.  A girl in heels and yoga pants chasing after it.  I contemplate death.  How it’s really  birth.  And how that’s really worse than death.  Then I remember a redheaded kid in third grade whose constantly snotty nose made it look like he carried peas in his nostrils.  God, haven’t thought about him.  I look outside the window.  A bird flies by.  Have to gas up the car before I leave Oxnard.  Grateful for the decent mileage it gets.  Love that car.  Paid for too.  Suzuki Esteem.  Fuck yeah.

I have to scratch my chin.  So I scratch it.  Then go back to looking at each other.

Finally.

“No, that’s it, ” he says, dismissing me with a wave of his hand, “Don’t ever let it happen again.”

I stopped by the door.

“Well, I didn’t want it to happen the first time, boss.  So I can’t really guarantee it won’t happen again.  But I’ll try.”

More looking.

I reach out to shake his hand.  He hesitates, then takes it.  Shakes it.  I smile.  He doesn’t.

Good-bye early nap.  Oh well.

It is what it is.

I go downstairs.  I find out my next client cancelled sick.  The next one is at ten.  Thank you, Universe.  Good looking out for Johnny Honesty.  All is not lost.

I go outside and walk to my car.  It’s parked in the shade under a tree way back in the lot.  I know he’s watching me from one of the monitors.  I take the keys out of my sock and open the door.  I get in.

I’m grateful the rear seat folds down.  It means you can totally stretch out lying down.  Perfect for a nap.  Perfect nap mobile.

Suzuki Esteem.  Fuck yeah.

Fuck Yeah!

Fuck Yeah!

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18 responses to “You Can’t Punch Gas

  1. Yeah. Okay. That’s alright. I kinda liked this. Just enough to finish reading it. I feel sleepy now… but just enough energy to tell of the time i stole a big box of wine from Pizzza Hut, in London. No more booze on sale, so I followed a waiter, found my way downstairs, unhooked a large box of red wine that got pumped upstairs, put it on my shoulder and walked back to my table.
    My friends covered it with their jackets. We ate pizza, drunk pints of red wine and then, as we left to pay (can you believe,we paid!) I stopped at the checkout, with this huge box of wine on my shoulder. The Girl working there looked at me, kinda strange, so I said “It’s okay, I’ve just stolen this from downstairs.”
    She smiled, bent her head, counted our money into the register and off we went.
    I gave all the homeless guys outside an early Christmas present.
    Funny how if you tell people the truth, how it throws them. I used to steal from shops the same way. Smile all politely and tell them I was stealing the drill, the bottle of whiskey… they’d always just smile back, and off I’d go. Never run, never, walk quickly. Often stop to browse other goods on the way out.
    The power of ‘it is what it is?’

    • Bravo! Was this this Pizza Hut located anywhere around Nottingham perchance? You noble bandit, you. Yeah, writing the piece made me sleepy, so I can only imagine the soporific effect having to read it must have. Do not read while operating heavy machinery. Or chicanery.
      Need to keep your wits about.
      My apparent narcolepsy seems to stem from a lack of competition daytime hours put up against the option of sleep. I’ll choose a nap over anything that’s going on during the day.
      But at night, when the bats begin to flap, it’s a different story. Whether it’s from Moon madness, vampiric inclinations, or an enchantment with the dark, I don’t know. But the night time, is the right time. You won’t find this lad rubbing his eyes at midnight.
      I think Dave is even gnarlier. That dude is flat out bat. Vlad, The Romanian Impaler indeed. I start gassing out around 3am, and he’s still going strong, and there’s three hours ahead of me in time zones!
      At least you’ll find me up by 11am. Maybe pouring coffee in my open throat, so I’ll be awake enough to lean against a wall without sliding down, But up and awake nevertheless. Not like that degenerate. Dave. I’ll tell you what, having Dave awake at those hours and reachable through cybernetic cable fibers has been a Godsend. If I feel a little squirrelish and feel like talking to somebody at 2am, I know I can go to the Bat Chain Phone and he’ll be there.
      I don’t know what your sleeping habits are, Carney, but I would intuit they are very closely aligned with those of doddering Sea Side retirees. Early-bird dinner special perhaps? In bed by eight. That sort of.
      Ha. Not like you didn’t earn the right to keep whatever hours you prefer. It’s liberating isn’t it? Whatever the schedule you happen to like, to have that, instead of something you hate jammed down on you. I tell you, I can’t measure victory by any better meter.
      But I also can’t measure very well.
      My best to your brood. And to yood.
      Tsunami-sized waves of love.
      Marius

      • It was a lovely kind of sleepy… dreamy. Floating above,watching you go through your realisations and taking them to slumber in the car. You have the wizard’s skill in your fingers. To be soporific to the insomniac, and speed to the narcoleptic is a trick indeed.
        My sleeping habits are shared more with the birds than the OAPs. Up at dawn, in bed by… the time my owls fold their faces. Sleep is for the dead.

      • Okay, Desperado, I’m getting the feeling your holding out on some opium. Your contact at the East India Company come through again? Listen, Carnell, this is no time to go coolie hop-head sleepy on me. I need you to watch these monitors for incoming ICBMs. Can you pull yourself away from your velvety luxurious poppy dreams long enough to keep the free world safe? Here, have some fucking coffee. I soaked a Benedrix inhaler in it. Roll down the window. Let’s some carbon monoxide in.
        Sleep is for the dead? Surely you don’t mean just for them! They have enough cool stuff.
        Fucking dead.
        I guess I could quit drinking virgin’s blood and join them. But I really like the way this tux fits me. And hypnotizing high-strung aristocratic society women with my gaze is pretty cool too. But yeah, sometimes makes my eyes tired. And sleepy.
        More coffee.
        Some toe-touches.
        Smelling salts.
        I’m fading.

  2. Reading this early in the a.m., before you wake up. This piece is genius. Killer. You clean up well when dressed in vague-chic ness. Oh, to have been that fly on the wall that you were watching fly by. I can just feel the boss’s carotid strictures employ themselves as he tried to “maintain”. But, you my dear, are the King of maintain-ness. Bravo, my squish, bravo!

    • You flatter me too much, M’lady. And thank you, publicly, for your undying support. You have raised me from the depths again and again, and for that I am eternally grateful. You make a good corner man, kid.
      Kiss with spine-crushing squish, Marius.

  3. Pingback: And so my adventure continues…. | Read it to absorb my awesomeness

  4. Lol this is hilarious! People hate it when you’re being vague. They get so frustrated and say you’re being passive aggressive and manipulative. People are pansies is what. It reminds me of sumo wrestlers. You have to use your opponents momentum against them. Just step aside and let them fall on their face. You stare down at them with your hands in your pockets and a wad of gum in your mouth and say, “so.. we done here?”
    And I love naps. And love my 95 Ford Escort. Fuck yeah.

    • Double Fuck Yeah to the 95 Ford Hooker. Great back seat. Enough room for a massage table. An Escort with a massage table is a rolling party waiting to happen. Fuck yeah.
      Glad you enjoyed the article. Look forward to reading more of your work as well. Damn good blogula, ya got there ma’am. http://www.therapistmonkey.wordpress.com Kindred spirit in many ways. Clearly insane. Fuck yeah! Get on the bus. We’ve wandered in this wilderness long enough, time to take this train to Jericho a.k.a Freaky Town.
      The moon is full tonight. I really feel it. My beard starts to come in, like really fast.
      I start chasing the cats around the house.
      But as the moon wanes, you’ll find me writing Byronesque poetry to the ghosts of tubercular invalid women. Getting a different kind of weird on.
      Ah, it’s an adventure I tell you.
      Thank you very much for stopping by, and being a creative force to reckon with.
      Marius

      • Lol you’re awesome! I’ve been calling my car a hooker since I got her. Love that little slut.
        You make me smile. The world is ridiculous. I have a first class ticket to Jericho and I aint lookin’ back baby no way no how. Me and my slut are going to ride this mayhem and laugh in the wind.

      • I’ve always nicknamed my cars. There was The Silver Fish, Shitty-shitty Bang Bang, The Mustard Bitch, Ol’ Smokey, etc. See here for my long illustrious history with sub-par vehicles- http://mariusgustaitis.com/2011/12/16/jumping-through-hoop-rides/
        However, I haven’t nicknamed the Suzuki Esteem. It seems the name of the model would lend itself well to many good ones. Maybe I’ll hold a contest.
        The thing is it hasn’t given me enough problems to give it a colorful handle. It’s like trying to write a funny story about a good relationship or job you liked. It’s hard. Fortunately, I’ve managed to keep those to a minimum. I got plenty of material.
        Okay, give the Slutmobile a pat on the radiator cap from me. She’s sounds like a good old girl. You too.
        Marius

  5. Don’t you get tired of captivating your audience with tsunami-like powerful writing blended with the gentle spiritual touch of a butterfly landing on a unicorn? I read the piece this morning on my phone going to work and burst out laughing several times, making my fellow passengers suddenly want to find a seat a little bit further down the bus. The “unladylike” part got me there. I also loved the “Like apathy. But more spiritual.” part…in fact, the description of that vagueness that is anchored in something deeper is something that I *get*. I understand exactly what you are saying. I used to shrug and not care because, well, I didn’t care. About anything or anyone. But that sort of “meh – that’s how it is” kind of thing works for me now. Like you so brilliantly put it, it’s not about not caring, but about keeping that drama to a bare minimum. People certainly aren’t ready for absolute truth. Oh they say they are ready…but they’re not. At least not the kind of true truth that an alcoholic or addict can bring to the table.

    I used to have some of that honesty in me, even near the end of my drinking, as I now recall a subordinate (hate that word) telling / asking me- “You know what your problem is, Mr. S? It’s that you’re too honest”. I didn’t know how to take it then, but I take it as a compliment, even if it wasn’t meant as one. Or just grandmother like sage advice. Who knows. But I can’t imagine being duplicitous in any way, shape of form now. It gives me physical pain. And to imagine I lived a life like that.

    Anyway, rambling.

    I’ll get straight to the hot sauce – killer post. You nailed what it’s like to let go of things and other people’s reactions and emotions. And you do it with style that is only yours. I am blessed to be reading your work.

    Love and Light,
    Paul

    • First off, let me apologize for the tardiness of my reply. Events really did conspire this time. Anyway, I’m here.
      Now what?
      Oh, okay. Dude, I can’t tell you how exhausting it is holding the entire world spell-bound. It makes me want to go back to the jack-hammer. The pick and shovel. Tuna sandwich and cold instant coffee made from a hose for my 30 minute lunch. Vomiting in a too-full port-a-potty. Crawling on cardboard across broken septic fields.
      That was badminton by the lake compared to this shit.
      Atlas Boy. That’s the new handle I’m calling for myself. Let’s take bets on how long before my knees buckle.
      Although making you laugh out loud on a public bus, so that people ease away, makes it all worth it. Especially since I know it’s happening in Canada. I don’t know why. Just adds to it.
      Yeah, I had a hard time trying to convey the discernment between meh and yeh what ever. The boundary is an internal one so it’s hard to explain it with out getting all philosophigical. So you have to kind a broad brush stroke it. Hope somebody gets it. So now there is at least one. And he’s in Canada. Fuck…yeah.
      As per honesty-I remember when I heard the term “rigorous honesty,” and thought “isn’t all honesty?” I mean any of it is a grueling feat of strength. You’re talking about higher-octane versions of it now? Oh shit.
      I personally do believe there is a too honest. At least at this larval stage of my spiritual development. If you have to lie not to hurt my feelings, please do not hesitate. I will gladly take over any bad karma. I’ll deal with that later. I just need more time for a spine to grow back.
      I vewy thenthitive.
      Thank you for being kind, sir.
      And thanks for not dying either. Really glad you’re along for the trudge.
      Marius the G.

    • So welcome Oxnard Judy. Is that your given Christian name? Because there’s a town right next-door by that name. Oxnard. It’s a beautiful name. It’s a beautiful town. You’re very fortunate. I’m very fortunate too. To know you. Thanks right back. Like a Frisbee.

  6. Pingback: Escape Routes Along de’ Nile | ProjectEtheldore

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