I am not Jesus. If I were I would be ashamed. 2000 years ago he filled up people’s heads with a bunch of outrageous nonsense about paradise and eternity and drinking blood and eating flesh. He got really carried away there at the end and who could blame him? They were calling him the Messiah, for crying out loud. Any guy would start believing his own hype at that point. Of course, we all know how things worked out for him.
The sad thing is that now people who are in trouble or desperate all cling to this idea of Jesus and what he can do for them. They find it comforting, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why. As far as I can tell Jesus has never done anything good for anybody that I’ve ever seen. I don’t ask him for anything and my life is a lot better than most of the people that pray to him everyday for just a little relief from the hell they are going through.
Maybe everyone should let Jesus off the hook. We’ve all had friends that shot their mouth off and then couldn’t deliver what they promised. We rib them a little and say “Oh that’s Joe for you.” Then we let it go and realize not to torment the guy about some statement he made when he was drunk that he possibly couldn’t live up to.
That’s what we should do for Jesus. Tell him we understand. He was talking out his ass and we’re not gonna hold him to it anymore. Think of how relieved he would be. People keep waiting for him to come back, but why would he? He must feel like a dick and the people who supposedly love him the most can’t just cut him some slack and tell him it’s okay. Try to do better next time.
Then maybe Jesus would come back, start hanging out with his followers again. Maybe he could do little things here and there; house sit for somebody, pick someone up at the airport. Then people could appreciate him for the things he does to make life a little easier for them.
If he started getting a little nuts again with the rhetoric about salvation and eternal kingdoms one of us could pull him aside and remind him that’s what got him in trouble the last time because that’s what friends do. Apparently apostles don’t, but friends do. They watch out for the people they care about, and maybe that’s all Jesus needed in the first place. We all need someone to watch out for us, and I’m just saying, maybe a guy you never met and only read about in a 2,000 year old book isn’t the best option.
Although I’m not sure how many people alive right now might be any better.
So if I’m not Jesus, who am I? My name is Brendan and I’m twenty years old. I’ll get right to the important stuff. I’ve been drinking since I was 12, which was when my mom got remarried to some bastard who used to beat the shit out of her and me. He was a drunk and my mom became a drunk and it seemed like the only way to survive what was going on in that house.
I started sneaking sips from the liquor cabinet, and by liquor cabinet I mean the kitchen cabinet where they kept the booze, right next to the cereal. I got caught pretty quickly and after that beating I used to get my alcohol elsewhere. Some friend’s older sibling, paying some guy outside a bar, or just stealing it from the local store.
Of course I soon started taking drugs. First smoking pot, then sniffing coke or crank. Now I’m 20 and I mostly smoke crack. It’s easier and fucks me up quicker. I can also function on it better if I have to. I’d much rather sit somewhere and relax and do it, but if need be I can go out in public, even drive somewhere if I have to.
Don’t think I’m telling you this so you feel sorry for me. My life is not spiraling out of control, I’m not robbing stores and blowing guys for drug money. I’m an electrician and I make pretty good money. A friend of mine got me in the union when I was 18 and I turned out to be good at it. I’m a functioning part of society. I’ve put the abuse in the past where it belongs. At least I think I have. Of course, it that were true and I had truly put it behind me maybe I wouldn’t be smoking crack a couple nights a week.
I keep it under control, though. I don’t stay up late if I happen to do it on a work night. Even on weekends I don’t stay up for days like some people I know. I know a lot of people who smoke crack. I know a lot of people who do all kinds of drugs, and they are people you know also. I know teachers, police officers, lawyers, bus drivers, construction workers, housewives…you name it. They all do drugs. Real drugs, I’m not talking about coffee and cigarettes.
A lot of the people who smoke crack are annoying. I can do it and sit around with my friends and talk and play video games or whatever. Most people tend to get paranoid, or they freeze up. They will do a hit and get wide-eyed and stare around the room and swear they hear people in some other room that aren’t there. I never understood why people who get that way even do it. What’s the fun in that?
I knew a girl that would do a hit and immediately stick the hot pipe down the back of her pants in her butt crack. She showed me one time how the top of her ass crack was scarred and blistered from years of doing it. Now if smoking crack meant sticking a hot pipe in my ass after every hit, I think I would find some other drug to do.
I don’t mean to come off like I’m better than other drug users. I’m sure I annoy some people because I tend to talk too much when I do it. It’s just a matter of finding the right people to do it with, which isn’t always so easy when drugs or involved. Sometimes you have to hang out with people that you normally wouldn’t simply because they are the only ones that can get the drugs that night, or they happen to be hanging around one of your friends, so you get stuck with them too.
There is one person I like to party with more than anyone else. It’s kind of strange because he’s a lot older than me, but we get along and can really have some deep discussions when we party. His name is Eric and he’s 44.
I first met him a couple of years ago when I went on a delivery with my friend Marcie. Marcie used to sell drugs and she hated driving around alone so she would always turn me on for free if I rode around with her. She’s in jail now, but I guess that’s what happens when you drive around at all hours of the night smoking crack while in possession of large quantities of drugs.
Anyways, Marcie stopped by Eric’s house one night and he and I got to talking. Apparently he didn’t like partying alone because he offered to share his stuff with me if I hung out for awhile. That’s a pretty common thing. Alcoholics and drug addicts don’t want to party alone a lot of the time. There’s always some sucker willing to foot the bill so they have an enabler around. Marcie took off to make more deliveries and I spent the rest of the night, well, morning, talking to Eric about a lot of interesting stuff.
When Marcie came back to pick me up hours later Eric gave me his number and told me that now I know where he lives I was welcome to come by and hang out if I’d like. He had one rule: call first, don’t just show up.
I told him I would call and stop by sometime, but I really didn’t think I would. Drug talk is like that. You make plans but both of you know you’ll never keep them. I didn’t for a few weeks. I actually had a good time hanging out and talking to him, probably because he was one of the few people I ever partied with who liked to talk and could actually hold a conversation. There are other people who talk, but it’s all melodramatic garbage or clichés. Eric talked about interesting things, real things.
I suppose he was also like a father figure to me. I told you my mom remarried but I didn’t tell you what happened to my father. I never told anyone, except Eric.
My father struggled with depression and when he was on his meds and acting normal he was a great dad, but when the depression took over it was really hard to deal with. He would say some horrible things to my mom and to me. We were the reason he was unhappy, we dragged him down and ruined his life. Not things that a small child wants to hear, let alone a wife. The only thing that made it tolerable was when he went back to being normal he would explain that it was the sickness, he didn’t really feel that way, and he loved my mother and me. At those times he told me I was the best thing that ever happened to him.
Then one day when I was 10 years old I walked into my parent’s bedroom to find him sitting on the edge of the bed holding a pistol. He looked right at me and told me “this is your fault” and put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Now I know somewhere inside me that it was the sickness talking, but he was gone after that and he could never show up again as normal dad and tell me he didn’t really mean it. I can tell myself he really loved me and didn’t blame me, but it’s not the same as hearing it from him, and I know I’ll never get the chance.
I never even told my mother what my father had said to me. I told her I was outside the room and heard the shot. I don’t know if telling her would have made it better or worse. A year later she married Joe. He was good at first, almost tried too hard to be a great dad, but he couldn’t keep up the charade and soon he started berating me, then hitting me. He must’ve been hiding his drinking at first, but soon he gave up on that charade too. From that I learned to be cautious; if anything seems good, I assume it’s a lie.
Eric explained to me once that people are controlled by fears and insecurities we can only guess at, so it’s hard to trust them because they can’t even trust themselves. Strangely enough, Eric always seemed to give people the benefit of the doubt. He always wanted to believe they could rise above whatever internal crap they had going on. Even when the people let him down he wouldn’t get mad at them for it.
One time he explained to me how he felt about disappointment.
“The worst thing you can ever say to someone is ‘I’m disappointed in you’” He told me. “Who the fuck are you to be disappointed in someone else? They feel worse about it than you do and they hurt themselves and punish themselves more than you ever could. There’s nothing good about that phrase. It’s only hurtful and spiteful and mean and anyone who says it to you is no friend of yours.”
I have to admit, I think he’s right. I try to catch myself anytime I feel those words about to come out of my mouth and I think about how bad the person already feels with themselves.
The more I got to know Eric, the more I realized he was a mass of contradictions. He was cynical, but he was always very positive in his personal relationships. He would always pick out your good points and try to make you feel better about yourself even while telling you that the world was a cesspool and people were rotten. He hated religion and God, but he seemed kinder and more generous than most people I know who claim to be religious.
The next time I went to see Eric was a few weeks after I first met him. I had been seeing a girl, and unfortunately when you hang out with drug addicts you end having to
choose from a dating pool of drug addicts. So I started seeing Laurie and at first it was good and we weren’t partying as much and it seemed like a whole new future could open up for both of us. Then the drugs won out and Laurie would start disappearing for days and lying about where she was and who she was with and what she had been doing.
I felt bad and the only person I could think of that I wanted to talk to about it was Eric, so I called him. He seemed happy that I called and told me to come right over.
So as we sat there smoking crack and drinking, I told him all about Laurie and our dreams and how they turned out.
“So as I see it” he replied “you’re upset because it turns out that your crack head girlfriend is a crack head. It seems like you should have seen that coming.”
I laughed in spite of the heartache and felt bad for doing so.
“If you’re any kind of decent human being you can’t be mad at her or hate her. You have to feel sorry for her because she has a problem and she can’t be happy that she is the way she is. She hates herself more than you ever could.”
And he was right. That was the most frustrating thing about it. I did love her, but now there could be no future, there could be no closure. I couldn’t simply hate her and be done with it. She was ashamed to face me, so we couldn’t discuss it so I could feel a little better.
“What you are is estranged.” Eric told me. “That’s a very horrible thing to be.”
I had never really thought about that word estranged before, but now I realize how excruciating it is to be estranged. It kind of has that same unresolved aspect to it like I have with my father’s suicide.
Talking to Eric made me feel better. He had a way of helping you realize that you weren’t nearly as horrible as you thought you were. Which, as I mentioned before was strange because he didn’t really like the human race much.
Once we were talking about spirituality and he got very cynical and depressed.
“Try to feel something, try to touch something out there.” He said “There’s nothing. No soul, no God, no love, no nothing.” In the distance we heard a train whistle and the low rumble of a long freight going by.
“You hear that?” He asked, “There’s what’s out there. A manmade beast on man-made tracks. It can only travel one path. It’s loaded up with garbage, man-made crap that one man sells to another and none of it matters. It’s just the fleeting sound of one tiny piece of a network of futility that this huge blind organism known as mankind has created for itself. It didn’t matter before you were here and it won’t matter after you’re gone.”
He took another pull from his whiskey bottle.
“You think you can find meaning or God in any of that. Well, good luck. If you try to fish something out of a toilet all you’re gonna find is shit.”
But he did believe in something. As much as he hated it, he still had some form of hope.
Once he told me “I have to believe love makes a difference. I have to believe that somehow being good and decent will make a difference somehow. It probably hasn’t so far, at least not in my life, but it’s gotta count for something.”
I didn’t tell him so, but it did make a difference. Eric actually made me feel better about myself, made me feel like there might be something better, something worth working for. I did tell him about my dad, and he told me that it wasn’t my fault and I shouldn’t blame myself, it was just the sickness in my dad’s head. All the stuff I already knew deep inside, but even though he was becoming something of a father figure to me it didn’t really help to hear it from him. Like I said, there’s only one person I need to hear it from and he’s not around anymore.
I realize that the guy you do drugs with is not the best guy to have as your father figure, and I would go back and forth constantly in my head about just what Eric meant to me. He was definitely something though. He was always encouraging, he always offered good, heartfelt advice. I suppose he was just a friend, but he felt like more than that. I would say he felt like family, but I honestly have to say I don’t really know what family is supposed to feel like. My own family had brought me nothing but pain and confusion. Eric gave me more than they ever had.
Eric and I hung out for about 6 months, but my visits got less and less frequent. I was getting tired of beating myself up for things that weren’t my fault and wasting so much time and money on drugs. Eric was actually happy for me, and he would tell me not to come around if I wanted to get away from partying. It wasn’t like I was trying to stop something that I really wanted to do. I didn’t really have much use for it anymore. I felt bad that he seemed to have nothing else, and I would try to get him out of the house to do other things.
He owned a printing business and he didn’t really have to do much with it, the employees ran it for the most part and he would just show up a couple days a week. He didn’t really have any family left, his parents were dead and the rest scattered about the country. The end result was that he didn’t have much of a life outside his house anymore so I could never get him to go do anything with me.
So we drifted apart, but I knew I always wanted him to be a part of my life.
Yesterday I got a call from the sheriff's department. Eric had hung himself and the only thing he left behind was a note for me with my name and phone number.
The note he left behind simply said “Brendan, this is in no way your fault at all.”
Somehow that still doesn’t make it any better.
© David Ferraris 2016