I took a prescription medication on an empty stomach, didn't read those pesky do not drink alcoholic beverages instructions, and ended up puking my guts out for seven hours straight.
As punishment for my very, very stupid mistake, I was sentenced to two days sick leave, in order to recover from dehydration, extremely low blood sugar, and overall ickiness. I'd already been recovering from an upper respiratory infection, so the added stress on my system pretty much guaranteed that I'd be forced to take time off for - gasp - health issues.
I don't do sick days very well. I'm a lousy patient. I'd rather just work through it, keep chugging away until something breaks beyond repair. I'll rest when I'm off the clock or when I'm dead.
* * * *
By the time I could finally hold down anything solid, I was too jittery to sit through any DVD, too annoyed to listen to music.
I wrote long-winded emails, responses to comments on the ol' blog, and caught up on just about every open access journal in my research area.
Well, that killed a whopping five hours of my life.
Boredom is my enemy. And nothing screams boredom like five hours' worth of LIS literature.
* * * *
I crawled out of bed Thursday at around 10 (I normally get up between five and six), had one Lean Pocket and a cup of coffee for brunch, took a shower.
I started to get dressed. Couldn't do it. I crawled back into bed, defeated. I felt like the main character in Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun, a helpless cripple damned to an eternity of dreary solitude, waiting - begging - for sweet death.
As I stared at the ceiling, my bedroom too bright to sleep, I decided to do what I used to do as a kid when I'd get sick, those lonely days when I'd be left bedridden back on the family farm, 20 miles from civilization and with only three snowy network television stations to keep me company.
I'll play a game.
Hmmm... what sort of game?
For shit's sake, dude! Got it. Let's play Interview!
Interview was one of my favorite sick day games as a child. Actually, Interview was more of an an exercise in imagination than a game.
I'd pretend to be a reporter, a regular Walter Cronkite, interviewing an older, famous version of myself. The television studio was completely within my mind, laid out like those old network news desks, clocks from a hundred time zones covering the walls. I could see clearly the cameras, the Teleprompter, the shining lights.
When I had chickenpox, I'd interviewed Jason, the famous scientist who'd cured cancer. Once, when I was in middle school, I'd interviewed retired Rear Admiral Jason, the hero of the Cold War who'd single-handedly destroyed the Soviet Empire.
In junior high, I even interviewed Jason, winner of three Academy Awards... and husband of Cindy Crawford (we had 12 children, I believe.)
I laughed out loud with what was left of my stomach-acid stripped vocal chords.
Dude, this is gonna be fun.
But I think we'd better mix this shit up a bit...
* * * *
Instead of interviewing my mythological older self, I decided, for shits and giggles, to interview my younger self.
Honestly, the idea of interviewing the 48, 54, or 68 year-old versions of me didn't seem appealing.
I mean, for chrissakes...
Did I really want to think about the divorce back in 2014, the sex scandals of 2043, or that dead hooker in that Vegas hotel room in 2051?
Or what about the possibility of that love child, the one living down in Mexico in 2032, the one I never knew I had, from that very real one night with that daughter of migrant laborers, back in in a very real 1997?
Dude, you'll have nightmares for a week if you interview Future Jason.
You're too damned pessimistic and paranoid to have an imaginary bright future...
* * * *
So, as I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, I let my mind wander into that dusty, long-forgotten newsroom one more time. I put on the ol' anchor's blazer, tested the microphone, cleared my mental throat.
I thought I'd share summaries of my first round of Interview in more than 15 years:
* * * *
The Motherfucker was 17, a passionate kid with a huge chip on his shoulder. The Motherfucker liked to fight, smoked way too much weed, played in a punk band, and had a taste for MD 20/20.
"Man, I remember once, at this party, I was so fucked up I couldn't see. We was all outside, all jus' chillin' around this bonfire. Me an' ______ snuck off with this one chick, 'cause she had this dusted bud she'd picked up in Charlottesville. She got so fucked up, she like pissed on herself an' shit. Fucking hippy rich chicks, man. She offered blowjobs if we'd give her a ride home, but I was all, like, shit, white girls from private schools carry all kinds of diseases."
The Motherfucker was known to most adults as a bookish, level-headed kid. He excelled in scholarly activities, as a member of the track team, in academic competitions. But he had a dark side, a lust to be accepted, to be the badass, the instrument of God's Wrath. He hung out with some good kids, but mostly ones destined for lives of trouble.
According to legend, the Motherfucker once broke a guy's knuckles with a ball-peen hammer, gangster-style, because the poor college first-year couldn't pay his illicit pharmaceutical bill. He once took a baseball bat to some poor kid's stomach at a house party, retaliation for the merciless beating a friend of his had received on a school bus.
"That cocksucking redneck had it coming. If we hadn't fucked his shit up, he jus' would've called some brother a coon or somethin' and ended up gettin' capped. I prob'ly saved his sorry ass. Eye for a mothafuckin' eye, homes. You wanna trip some shit, I'll trip shit like a fuckin' electric chair."
The first girl the Motherfucker ever French-kissed ended up killing herself - after doing time in a women's prison for her role in her parents' murder. His childhood best friend was relocated to an undisclosed location as part of a plea agreement, in exchange for testifying against a narcotics kingpin. He knows that several of his friends from those years are now probably dead or in correctional facilities for the rest of their natural lives.
Through some act of God, however, the Motherfucker made it out of his hometown, outgrew his rage, cleaned up his act. He'd been saved only by the unconditional love his family had provided him and by the faith his teachers had in his intellectual gifts.
* * * *
Dog Juan loved playing savior to just about every troubled young woman who showed him even the slightest attention.
In high school, he'd been a late-bloomer, losing his virginity at 17 accidentally to a woman whose exact identity he'd been too drunk to recall. By the time he'd reached 20, he'd overcome enough of his awkwardness around women to be at least somewhat romantically inclined.
Unfortunately for Dog Juan, he learned too late that there were some women he just shouldn't be involved with romantically. As an undergrad, he mastered the art of the one-night stand while simultaneously mastering the art of dating women who were completely nucking futs.
"Once, I was like seeing this girl, T_____. I'd met her through one of my roommates. T____ had her problems, sure...I mean, she'd survived being a prostitute in Colorado Springs, had managed to get into college. So what if she was still stripping to pay the bills? And its not like I'd never done coke before.
"C'mon. The sex was fucking awesome. Wild shit. And she was older than me, old enough to buy beer.
"Fuck, we drank a lot. Actually, she drank a lot. And the fucking suicide threats. Yeah, those sucked.
"But dude! Wait. The fucking sex, dude. One time, I went down on her in an Italian restaurant. We did it at three o'clock in the morning, butt-ass naked on the hood of my truck, smack dab in the middle of an intersection. We're talking three to five times a day, seven days a week. Nothing wrong with that.
"I mean, I've faked it a couple of times, when she gets pushy - the fucking coke messes my shit up sometimes, but she gets it free and won't do it alone, so what am I s'posed to do?
"I mean, yeah, she gets violent an' shit. Lots of women do. And so what if my female friends hate her - they're just fucking jealous because I'm fucking happy.
"C'mon...you never had a chick pull a knife on you before, homes?"
By his 21st birthday, Dog Juan had accomplished two things that few men can claim:
He'd won his first award as a sportswriter, and he'd managed to become a certified victim of domestic violence, complete with restraining order against his one-time fiance.
Researchers have long sought interviews with Dog Juan. The mystery of how such an intelligent young man with such charm and passion could be so goddamned dense sometimes has puzzled numerous people for more than a decade.
* * * *
Talk Radio Guy knew he was in trouble the first day he'd gone into work after the Corporate Radio Juggernaut had finally cleared their FCC hurdles and had taken control of day-to-day operations of his station.
He knew he was a fairly popular sports anchor in his market, but he also knew, somewhere deep inside, that the Corporate Radio Juggernaut had no use for silly little things like women's sports coverage, Major League Baseball broadcasting rights, and colorful sports commentary.
The future, he'd been told, was in nationally syndicated talk radio - conservative talk radio. What use did the Juggernaut have, anyway, for unbiased coverage when its advertising gurus had research to show that America had no use for such things.
Talk Radio Guy knew, somewhere deep down, that some idiot would one day get the idea for liberal talk radio, the same nationally syndicated bullshit, only spun a different way, to sell more worthless airtime to gullible sponsors.
He felt sorry for his listeners. He knew they were smarter than the Juggernaut's advertising gurus.
He sat in his new Program Director's office and listened to the new management's pitch for his talent, a lecture about the fame that would come with moving to FM, to an afternoon drive slot on an Urban Contemporary station that had been faltering for years in the ratings.
"We all called this pile of goatshit P.D. Mr. Backstreet Boy. Homeboy was pushing 40, single, living off tanning salons and expensive hair gel. He used words like "bro" and "hella" in a vain attempt to stay hip.
"From the first day I met the motherfucker, I knew by all of his flattering comments that, for all of his talk about me being a valuable member of the C________ Family, I was nothing more than a local personality that they were slowly trying to push out of the business. He talked about how valuable I' was, but there was no talk of a pay raise.
"I knew my days were numbered the moment I told Mr. Backstreet Boy that I had no interest in spinning bad hip-hop for imaginary listeners, waiting for Big Fucking Brother to finally install the new receivers for the syndicated shit out of New York."
As Talk Radio Guy sat in Mr. Backstreet Boy's office, he looked over at a picture on the new program director's desk - a beautiful portrait of the P.D. and his girlfriend of two years, a former cheerleader with a certain professional sports team.
He grinned from ear to ear, interrupting the P.D. to ask him a question about the woman in the photograph.
You see, Talk Radio Guy had met the Cheerleader, a sweet woman - not very bright, but sweet - at a dance club three days prior to what was to be his last face-to-face meeting with Mr. Backstreet Boy.
She'd told Talk Radio Guy all about how she loved his funny sportscasts, how he made her laugh while she was in the shower. Talk Radio Guy had pretended to be shocked when the former cheerleader claimed that she was in her late 30s; he'd told her that there was no way in hell such gorgeous woman could be a day older than his 22-year-old self.
The Cheerleader thought Talk Radio Guy was cute in person, that he reminded her of a short, cuddly teddy bear. She kept saying how her boyfriend had never once held a door for her, or bought her a drink, or even asked her what she wanted out of life. She told Talk Radio Guy that she was sure Mr. Backstreet Boy was cheating on her with a younger woman, a college student at Talk Radio Guy's Alma mater.
In fact, she apologized several times over several hours' worth of conversation for telling Talk Radio Guy so much - she claimed that the few Fuzzy Navels had made her tipsy, and that she couldn't believe how connected she felt to Talk Radio Guy, and how she wasn't sure why she felt the way she felt, the attraction...
"I think that's probably the downright meanest thing I've ever done to another man. And I don't regret it one bit.
"Feel bad about using her - I mean, she was cute, but wow, was she dumb. And pro cheerleaders are rarely dumb - I've known several over the years.
Besides, I think she was using me a bit, too - she was a new girl in town with a cheating boyfriend, and I was a voice on the radio, the guy who made her laugh, somebody who listened. Lord, I'm naive but not stupid.
"You know, that's always been the power of local talk radio. It's not about the guy behind the mike, the guy ranting and raving. It's about the listening. That's the seduction, my man.
"You should've seen the look on his face when I asked him about that tattoo on her ass.
He knew, knew instantly. I don't know if it bothered him more that, well, I'd screwed something that meant something to him in retaliation for screwing something I cared about, or that he just never thought a fat guy could ever pull one over on his overgrown Boy Band routine.
"God, California really made me an evil bastard, didn't it?"
Years later, Talk Radio Guy would find irony in the fact that he actually slept around a lot more as a fat guy than he does now, 85 pounds lighter than he was when he was at the end of his broadcasting career.
He also finds it fucking hilarious that people sometimes wonder why he just can't find anything attractive about dumb women. Dumb women are easy to manipulate; they don't make him feel the least bit self-conscious. All he's ever had to do was to just listen - there's no challenge in just listening.
Smart women, on the other hand...
Well, he's still just as dense as a lead brick.
* * * *
For some reason, after finishing my first-ever adult game of Interview, I started to feel better.
I took a rather long nap, downloaded some new MP3s, and even started to clean the wreck I'd left the bathroom.
Hell, maybe taking some time off from work is a good thing, taking time to just let old wounds heal up the way their meant to heal.
After all, time is supposed to heal all wounds, right?
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