The four drawings in this series were all completed following (what I guess I’d call) a “break-up.” We weren’t officially dating but we spent virtually every night together for a month straight. I was the one to end the relationship but I wasn’t happy about it. I don’t think I even realized it at the time but – in hindsight – it’s hard not to recognize that I was outright mad. At what exactly, I’m not sure. At the time, it was easy to fault her drinking for all of our relational issues but (while I definitely think it was a factor) I think my own emotional insecurity and low self-esteem was just as much (probably more) to blame. Maybe that’s what I was so mad about – my inability to feel okay in a relationship. The slightest bit of criticism or the slightest disagreement would push me over the edge and I’d find myself instantly packing my things until she was able to soothe, comfort, and calm me. The night she was too drunk to manage (or too drunk to care) was the night I finally left for real.
This is the angriest of the four drawings – the one in which I really get mean. It says:
What about any of this [me, my lifestyle, my personality disorder] made you think that I’m boyfriend material? Enjoy me for what I am or don’t.
I don’t wanna come across as one of those “I wouldn’t belong to any club that’d have me as a member”-types but – seriously – if you wanna date me, something is seriously wrong with you. Your emotional issues are worse than mine and that’s saying something.
If your past is littered with broken friendships, there’s a reason your past is littered with broken friendships. It’s got nothing to do with the universe. It’s YOU. It’s the people YOU choose to surround yourself with. It’s the way you behave and the kind of people that behavior attracts.
I’m a bit of a broken fuck-up but I’m not so broke to stick around for this. You could’ve chosen to be better. You’re on the precipice. You chose not to. You chose old habits.
Enjoy “drinking [your] dinner.” It makes me sad but not that sad.
I finally understand all those straight edge songs on the radio!
For those of you keeping score at home, here’s the “Hindsight’s 20/20 Recap.” 1) When I got to Chicago, I was in no fucking shape to be any kind of a partner to anyone. 2) We attract (and are attracted to) people who are about as emotionally healthy/sick as we are. 3) I thought I was leaving because I was too well for this girl but we were probably at just about the same level. 4) I might be flighty and insecure but drinking (as a coping mechanism) sucks and will only ever make everything worse; it precludes so much as the initiation of any real, lasting solution.
It’s worth pointing out that this drawing was finished in August and the relationship to which it refers is not the one I bailed on last week. (This one ended a day and a half before that one started).
I painted this in April. I like ants. It’s expressive art and the story behind it is enough likeamillionothers that it’s not worth telling. Instead, here’s the story of my life in April 2011.
When Taylor finally called me back, she sounded weird. “What’s going on?” She wouldn’t say. She was being evasive. I just came out and asked – “are you done with me?” She didn’t answer right away but – when she did – yeah, that was pretty much the gist of it.
Six years… I was in total shock. I had just gotten into my first “treatment” program eight days prior. (Methadone maintenance). I was cured! How could she break up with me now?!? Life was about to become a dream! This is preposterous!
Not to mention, I was in the middle of my final exams. My final final exams. She couldn’t wait two fucking weeks to do this? I was gonna be so busy for the next few weeks that, at most she might have seen me once. By breaking up with me now, it was guaranteeing that I’d fail my exams, not graduate from law school, lose at life, and DIE. What a selfish, miserable human being. (Her, I mean). (I’m really cool and great).
Granted, her timing was a little poor but I’m obviously still alive, and my interpretation of things has changed with time. Taylor didn’t leave me that day – because I had already left her – when I let heroin overtake her on my list of priorities. For the last eight months, I had barely existed in her life. I spent all my time hiding from her, out all day, out all night, shooting up at school or the basement of our building, ignoring her phone calls. Now that I had a couple pleasant days I thought everything was gonna be okay again?
But I couldn’t see that; I couldn’t see anything. I just hurt. More than hurt. I was fucking leveled. I didn’t want to use but… I had to. If I didn’t relapse, that’d mean I wasn’t really hurt. And I was really hurt so… I had to shoot some heroin to prove it. To myself. To Taylor. To the world. (I’m not really sure). And I had to buy a lot (two hundred bucks’ worth) ‘cause that was the best deal. (Money management’s an important skill!) My little bundle lasted me through the day with a few caps left over for the next. And then I put it out of my head and got back to the task at hand.
I hadn’t been to any of my courses all semester (I never even bothered to get textbooks). I logged in to the school’s website, found out which classes I was enrolled in, and settled into a couch in a (usually) empty room at school, where I’d spend the next few weeks, trying to learn as much as I could and just maybe graduate. When I couldn’t stay up any longer, I’d put my computer in my backpack and sleep on that same couch where I was studying. I didn’t get up for anything. Almost. Every six or seven days, I’d walk to the closest store to stock up on bagel bites and apples, which I kept in the fridge of a student organization to which I (of course) didn’t belong. There were three other reasons I’d occasionally leave the couch: to smoke a cigarette, use the bathroom, and (most importantly) – once a day, between the hours of 6AM and noon – go get my daily dose of methadone.
At one point, I saw myself in the bathroom mirror and was pretty impressed with how strung out I looked. (I guess the methadone / Adderall / sleep deprivation combo will do that you). I took a picture for posterity.
“Barkmarket Fuckacy” by House Boat is my favorite song on the last record [The Thorns of Life CD/LP] to bear the Traffic Street Records logo.
In the liner notes for the record, there’s a special “thanks to Sam North for basically ruining his life to help get this record made.”
(On our way to the studio for the recording of the album, I caught two felony possession of heroin charges and more misdemeanor charges for needles and other paraphernalia than I can count/remember). And if that wasn’t bad enough, the cops didn’t even give me back my drugs when they let me go! So on top of everything else, I had to spend the next day scrambling around Indiana looking for heroin.
Things got a little hectic yesterday morning. I’m going to try to tell this story, which involves other people, while keeping the focus mostly on myself. I’ve never stated so explicitly but there’s a reason I do that and it’s not because I think I’m such a fascinating character. Letting my focus shift to other people would make for better storytelling but less effective mental health exercise. When it comes to my well-being, the things that other people think, say, and do are irrelevant. Really, they have nothing to do with me and are none of my business (or at least none of my concern).
The Lipstick Homicide and Bloated Kat houses are about a block apart, so our crew was split between them for the night. It was about time for us to get on the road from Iowa City to Carbondale when Noelle called me and said she needed my help. “It’s nothing bad or serious, is it?”
“Andrea broke up with me and is driving back to Florida without Jessica.”
Since 2008, Rational Anthem has had an incredibly sensible rule: no girlfriends on tour. Relationship problems are bad enough on their own, but when they come up on tour, they become the whole band’s problem. This trip though wasn’t quite a tour and an exception was made. Noelle’s girlfriend rented a car to drive up to Dave Strait Fest, but also to stop along the way up and back for two of the shows Rational was playing between Florida and Minneapolis. In the car with her was a friend of Noelle’s (and – at one point – possibly of Andrea’s as well).
What happened isn’t important. There was now bad blood and Andrea didn’t want to drive back to Florida with the other girl.
Rational Anthem has three members. Their van has four seats. I was along for the whole trip and Zack’s summer in Minneapolis was over, so he was hitching a ride with us back home to Florida.
I walked over to the house and sat down with Andrea. I offered a couple different ideas/options that might make her more receptive to driving back with Jessica in tow, as planned. She wasn’t having it.
There was a point in my life where I was so desperate to be perceived as a “winner” – as someone capable of pulling any trick or fixing any problem – that I would have pulled whatever emotionally manipulative bullshit was necessary to get those two girls in the car together and back on the road to Florida. But that’s not me anymore. Andrea was hurting and I felt for her. Whatever happened to spark the conflict didn’t really matter to me. Two (or three) people can have radically different versions of a story and neither’s is wrong. Perception *is* reality. If Noelle or Jessica were mean to Andrea, if it was all in Andrea’s head – it didn’t make any difference. Emotions are more powerful than facts. I didn’t care about the problem, only the solution.
The rental car was in Andrea’s name. On paper, the call was hers. Could she have been coaxed into taking Jessica and making life easier for the other people involved? Probably. But I consider Andrea a friend and – it’s a little strange but – my empathy was stronger than my need to be the clever problem-solver. It’s strange because I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. I wasn’t willing to do anything to keep her from doing what she felt she needed to in order to feel okay.
I gave Andrea a hug and told Jessica she’d have to take a bus from Iowa to Florida. Not because she did something wrong (I don’t know or care whether or not she did) but because that was simply the situation we were in. Unfortunate but… things are as they are.
Jessica said she didn’t know what she had done wrong. I said that I didn’t either, but that it didn’t matter. She was upset (and reasonably enough so). Not being the type of itinerant punk rock fuck-up that so many of us are, a bus trip from Iowa to Florida was going to be a new kind of experience for her. I did my best to remain calm, compassionate, and supportive, and to alleviate any fears, but it didn’t go over much better than my initial proposals to Andrea. Jessica asked if she could go in the van with Rational Anthem and someone else could take a bus or ride back with Andrea.
Chris, Noelle, and I walked back to the other house. Chris wanted to keep the group intact as it was. Noelle said she felt bad about the situation Jessica was in so she was okay with Zack or I heading back with Andrea – so long as we were. I didn’t like that option, but was willing to do whatever seemed to make the most sense. Zack was too. I saw Andrea’s hurt, but there was hurt all over the place and I’d do just about anything for Noelle at this point. She’s my friend and – besides – I owe it to her. For all the times when I haven’t been a good friend to her. For all the times when the only thing she could really count on me doing was making trouble myself.
As it turned out, Andrea returned
the car in Iowa and made other plans. The five of us decided to hit the road as initially planned.
This was finished later that afternoon but drawn mostly the night before, on the way to (and at) the show in Des Moines (which was The Copyrights, Lipstick Homicide, Rational Anthem, Tight Bros, and a few others). The text is basically journaling about the situation and some other stuff that was on my mind at one point or another.
The text that stands out most to me says, “What’s to come is what matters. We roll with the punches. We’ll do whatever it is that we have to do.” It’s kind of about what is as well as what should be. Or maybe just what is when we’re at our best. Human beings, I mean.
I’m really grateful for the fact that – even when I thought it might mean that I’d have to go home early – the thought never occurred to me that I should go back and try to talk Andrea into taking Jessica after all.
And I’m grateful that I’m still here with four of my friends. And grateful that I’m finally able to treat my friends the way a friend should.