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.
What 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?
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.
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