Thursday, November 30, 2006

OXFORD CONFIDENTIAL:
Sweet Dreams Aren't Made of These

OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- The grey dawn viciously tore up my bedroom walls like an army of demons. I hadn't been able to sleep a wink, my stomach and other guts writhing from an allergic reaction, my forehead sweaty and cold from the vomiting, arms slightly red with rash.

Somebody had mistakenly put a slice of roast beef on a sandwich I'd had for dinner.

I've developed a rather peculiar allergy to the stuff - the only beef I can eat, apparently, is that which is fresh slaughtered or imported frozen from Ethiopia. Even the few times I've tried "organic" beef, I've developed some sort of upset stomach. Since there are very few Habesha and even fewer Brahma cows in Oxford Fucking Ohio, and since I don't eat red meat anyway, I avoid the stuff like the Plague.

I'd caught the mistake, or so I thought, while the guy was making the sandwich. He begrudgingly remade it, but seemed to think my dislike of roast beef had more to do with being a vegetarian than a health concern.

Homeboy swapped the bread and removed the beef, but left the remaining meat. That's the only possible explanation as to why it took almost five hours for my stomach to turn into living vileness. It hit me like a brick in the balls at about 1:30 in the morning, while out with friends.

As I laid there, staring at a cold white ceiling, praying that the coffee I'd just chugged, my normal five cups with breakfast, stayed down. It didn't.

It was 5:46 a.m. I'd already hit the snooze button four times. And I still had to get up and send an email saying I was going to be late for work.

Late. No days off. Both of my staff scheduled to work were already out sick. I'll probably end up using most of my sick days when I'm dead.

* * * *

For some reason, while staring at that goddamned pulsating whitewashed plaster casket, I thought about something - someone - I hadn't thought about in ages.

Q. Whatever happened to Q? Oh that's right. D___ told me some punkass motherfuckers had drilled him years ago, sometime not long after I'd left my hometown. Rifled slugs to the face. One even tore out a chunk of his Afro, shattering the pick he used to wear.

He hated that I played in a punk band. He thought I should steer clear of white girls, keep writing, get the fuck out of the Ol' Hometown, was stupid for not choosing a free ride to a local college. He thought I was one of the meanest, hardest nerds he'd ever met. I drank too much malt liquor, cooked mean-ass spicy collards, his mom thought I was a good influence, and he was convinced that our stoned-as-hell-tripping-balls dominoes tourneys were as close to Enlightenment as one could get in impoverished rural Virginia.

He was a good guy, a good friend. He could've been the next Biggie Smalls, the next J. Dilla, the missing Tupac. He could've been the next Medgar Evers, the next Malcolm X. Instead, he now haunts men's minds as they do.


Q. was a deep thinker, an ebony-skinned genius who hadn't caught the breaks I did in life. While I had an escape from the Hustle, he didn't. I was a fuck-up by choice, a hoodlum for hoodlum's sake. He was a thug because being poor and black, written off by teachers and administrators and caseworkers, leaves one with few opportunities beyond such a life.

W
hat did he say the last night I saw him? - i was "a bald-ass white boy" who he'd expected to, one day, "change this muthafuckin' world so niggas 'round here ain't having to run an' shit."

Was Q really dead? Did he really go out like that? So violent, so young, while I was off in Colorado, dicking my life away?

Where was it those bitches took him from this world? Was it Richmond? Or D.C.? Baltimore? Atlanta?

Was it...

Cincinnati? Or Cleveland? Or Charlotte?

* * * *

I got up and threw up again. This time, it wasn't the consumption of beef. And by 11, I was at work, bitching and moaning about having projects to complete with unrealistic deadlines attached.

Later on in the day, I got into a rather heated debate with someone, spurred by the fact that I have this apparently annoying tendency to say things like "Are we having fun yet?" even when there is no fun to be had.

Apparently, I ask a lot of questions to play Devil's Advocate, to egg on debates, to change the course of conversations.

I keep forgetting that 99.9 percent of those here in Oxford Fucking Ohio don't share many of my life's experiences, that for most people, what I've experienced in life makes me just as much of a foreigner here as most of the migrant laborers that nobody seems to bother noticing.

Yes, I ask a lot of random questions, questions that most people take for granted. And, yes, I'll play Devil's Advocate, because I want to better understand how the other half grew up, how their minds work...

I think it has something to do with the fact that when I think of the alternatives, the possibility that I could've ended up a faceless corpse in some forgotten city like Q, even the most annoyingly bad day at work seems like a goddmaned fourth-grade field trip to the zoo.

Why shouldn't I at least see the bright side? When one has a headful of memories like I have, it's easy to find even a little comfort in just about anything.

Even the possibility of me, someone once considered so destined to be dead by 21 that rumors of my demise floated around my hometown for years after I left, being killed by a fucking sandwich seems like one big joke.

* * * *

I am less of a Devil's Advocate than I am his Infernal Archivist. Somebody has to be the one to, say, blog about people like Q. or some of the other things I blog about. Somebody has to show the world, really, that - contrary to what many in the region may think - we're not all Spoiled Children of the Damned and Entitled here in Oxford Fucking Ohio.

Some of us come from not-so-cheery places, from those dark alleys Mom and Dad told you never to go, people who've seen and experienced things they hope to God no other person has to experience. And sometimes, those of us from those backgrounds, those of us who are still alive and kicking, are going to ask questions that annoy, anger, and downright terrify you.

Sorry about that. It's what some folks call trying to gain perspective.

Am I having fun yet? Damned straight.

Life's too short, really, to do otherwise.

That's why I have no problem asking questions. One never knows when there won't be time left in life to seek answers.


# # #

13 comments:

G said...

J,

Painful reminiscence, especially written, can be pretty cathartic.

But, a little bit of catharsis is always good for the soul. You should blog about Q ... though educating people about the man, and his situation, and those who ignore others in the same situation, is really the secondary goal.

Primarily, you should blog about it for you - it's strange how an unconscious, rambling, cathartic vent can be healing in a way that nothing else can - but it's true.

Too many people bottle it up inside, be it anger, sadness, frustration, regret, or all of the above and any other number of emotions. People just have to let it out, and fuck what anyone else thinks of it. Because you know that when you do, the first thing that will happen is a bunch of comments along the lines of "Oh, I'm SO sorry you had to go through that ..." by people with no concept of what "that" actually is, which frankly is pretty damn frustrating to deal with.

But you take the bad with the good - you're not doing it for them, but for you, and for Q. That's what is most important ... just vent it out for venting's sake, and you'll be amazed at how much the burden of it all just seems to melt away.

And you know I'm not just saying this ... I do know a thing or two about catharsis, bro. But I think you already know that. :-)

Peace,
G

Smurf said...

Wow. Interesting post. I remember vaguely that you had to quit eating red meat... isn't it amazing that certain things our body gets used to not having... can be things that really make you sick later. I have had this happen, but in a slightly different way.

I am starting to feel like a broken record when I tell you that you are an excellent writer. You really are J. If you ever get the chance at some point, the ecclectic memories would make an interesting book... and even if you don't really want to write about exact things that happened to you, you have so many experiences that you could make an outrageously interesting book just off the top of your head. Ok.. lol I will stop nagging at you... take care mon ami.

G said...

Sorry about your being sick. That is not fun.

As to your writing of your "other life" and Q, I almost wish I could say I can't relate, don't understand, have no idea, but I can and I do. There are very different worlds out there - worlds that prevent people from reaching a potential, from even knowing they have one. And then senseless violence occurs and people like Q never have a chance.

Well that was a post that dug deep for me. I've never lost a friend in that way, but I know a thing or two about missed opportunities and fighting hard for a place at the table. Nicely done friend.

Anonymous said...

hey j. thanks for hanging out with me last night. long time no see buddy :-)I think you need to consider moving out of Oxford seriously. Coming back there even for a night well you know so I won't repeat it. Hard shit. I don't know why I came back in the first place really. I wanted to just hang with my girls but they apparently don't want to hang with someone who doesn't want to just get shitfaced and hook up with random guys. I'm done seriously. hope i didn't ruin your night since you said some friends had called and wanted you to go out.

You reallyshould write something about what else you've gone through recently. THAT pissed my shit off dude.
I hope she's reading this too. notevery woman who's well been written about on this sight throws a shitfit about it or bitches that their friends have seen it and OMG the world's gonna end because they know certain things. Fuck I KNEW about what happened halloween because one of my frends was sent me a fucking text telling me that she'd saw some shit go down and recognized you from the site. I know from FIRSTHND experience how much thought you put into concealing people's identities but if somebody's going to go all drama queen about it they probably don't really want to be concealed.

Okay probably should have sent you an email so you can delete this if you want or think it reveals too much. I just got home and I'm tired. Probably should have just spent the night but hah yeah don't think my bf would've liked that too much ;) Driving through fucking sleet rain and snow sucks ass really.

Anonymous said...

Oh and tell th wombat that i'm sorry i interrupted your chat last night too. forgot you can't talk and im at the same time ;-P ~ ME

The ZenFo Pro said...

G (Library Bitch G):
Very true about bottling emotions up. I used to do that constantly, to hold things in until they rached the breaking point. But what's the point, anyway? Who exactly is one sparing? Sometimes, its best just to let it out. Honestly, I have no clue what's worse - the fact that I have these memories or the fact that there are people in the world who go "I'm so sorry..." I understan that, yeah, it is rather difficult to grasp that, yeah, not everybody grew up the same way, had the same experiences, lives in the same box. That's why we ask questions, explore the world, look around us for new directions.

Thanks, dude.

Smurf:
Maybe one day, I'll write a book or three.

G (Simply Said G):
The having-to-fight-for-something out of survival is something I've noticed seems to be something a lot of people overlook these days, or write off as some kind of sign of weakness. It's anything but for those who've had to do it. I've been thinking lately, too, about how I've noticed in myself, the more comfortable I get, the farther removed from that old fight I get, the more tolerant I seem to get. But I've also been appalled lately at the amount of stuff a lot of folks take for granted - it's not really anybody's fault par se, but I really do feel for people who who grow up too insulated from the the various harsh realities of the world. If one hasn't known, say, junkies or been a junkie, then its easier for one to be overly critical or to blindly experiment. If a person hasn't known a gay person, it's easy to become homophobic and scream things like "God hates fags."

Lord...way too deep for a Friday morning :)

Anon:
Lol, no worries. I think you handled that comment rather well, actually :) And you really didn't keep me from anything - I'd planned on taking it easy last night anyway. Plus, it was kinda nice to have some company - even under the circumstances ;)

As for the other stuff, well, I'm still debating a way to address it in a post. Get some sleep and, yeah, ya don't hae to be a stranger :)

Miz BoheMia said...

Oh I know the dark side well... but you know that already and so I understand playing Devil's Advocate, appreciating the here and now, making of life what we can... to survive the dark side is transforming, though the ghosts may come back for a good haunting now and then but then well, we get a chance to kick some ass post-event and here, amigo mio, your words do just that oh so brilliantly...

There was a magical and musical flow to this post... at times quite film noirish... loved it FO SHO! And more importantly, loved the meaning they conveyed so beautifully... I applaud you my friend!

Steph said...

You are such a talented writer. Reading that was like peeking inside your head.

The ZenFo Pro said...

MizB:
It is indeed a transforming experience. One cannot look at the lighter side of things, even the ones that require one to be annoying at times. It's so funny, actually, what some people get offended by, take for granted, etc...

And hauntings aren't bad - great reminders of who we were, pushing us to where we're going...

Steph:
Muchas gracias :) And, well, your writing sorta his me the same way - I added you to my blogroll for a reason, chica :D

Had nothing to do with you sporting a photo of a bra on someone's ass...but it helped.

Joanna said...

Hope you're feeling tons better!

The ZenFo Pro said...

Joanna:
Thanks, chica :)

sassinak said...

and that my dear? is why i like you and your blog.

i always ask annoying queestions and am forever being asked 'can't you just take my side for once instead of always seeing 47 others?'

[answer? not on your life, but i can pretend if you ask first...{for about 2 minutes worth of mmm-hmmm}]

i hope he isn't dead

sassinak said...

i love asking suburbanite girls what they mean when they say 'my girlfriend' and they go 'duh my girlfriend patti' and i go 'oh your lover? cause in my 'hood when one girl calls another girl her girlfriend they're fucking'

'*gasp in rage* how dare you blah bla blah bla etc'