Part X

Why we write

A lot like the content of this brief capsule in history, I had no idea where I was going to end up when I began writing it. It started in a small parking lot at some random show venue in Rancho Cucamonga, and it ends here, with me sitting in a chair on the back patio of my apartment.

If there is anything I have learned as I spanned this timeline — from spring 2008, to May of 2016 — it’s that I’ve discovered roughly as much about the real world as I have myself, the token of my love and pain. Which is really to say: I know significantly less now than I thought I knew then.

I was alive for 18 years before my life really got started. This has been that story.

* * * * *

I started in the casino in January of 2014. It was a tiny place, a break-in joint for new dealers. I crashed the audition, asked the table games director if they would give me a shot, and that day I interviewed and auditioned and passed my drug test. I got the job.

If gambling is my favorite thing to do, then dealing is a close second. It’s easy and it’s fun, and the money is disproportionately strong for the minor amount of effort it requires. There is some math involved, but it’s 95% customer service. I am basically a bartender, except instead of serving drinks to alcoholics I deal cards to degenerate gamblers.

I love it.

In July of 2014 I bought my first car, as opposed to the Ranger my parents originally got me — it was a black Subaru STi. My dream car.

However, three weeks after buying it, I lost control of the wheel and totaled the poor fucking thing one early morning after my shift. I smashed into a couple barriers, did a complete 360 in the middle of the freeway. I thought I was a goner.

I called and woke Trey up, and he offered to come get me as my tattered car got towed back to my parents house. I had been sober for 6 months, but that morning I drank three of the most satisfying glasses of Jameson when I got home. I never felt more alive, because I had never come so close to not being alive. Trey went home.

After several months of not being in communication, I bit the bullet and sent my ex a text that morning. Told her I crashed my new car and almost died. And that, no matter what bullshit there had been between us over the years, I still cared about her.

She didn’t write back, which would have stung more if I wasn’t already anticipating it. She had a boyfriend and it’s me and it only makes sense. I didn’t mean to come off as if invoking potential death was a reason to start talking to me again; it was just something I needed to say. I usually believed she was already aware how I felt about her, so the immediate existentialism in that text to her likely came off as superfluous. It didn’t really matter either way. I was still alive so I took that as my win of the day.

In October of 2014, I bought my second STi. This time a white one. In November, the day before Thanksgiving, I auditioned at a larger, better casino — the one I currently work at — and started on the graveyard shift on Christmas night. I would last two months on grave, then began dealing craps on day shift.

* * * * *

2015 was a good year. With a job I loved, the car I always wanted, and no serious roadblocks in sight, I hadn’t been so content since I was at Virginia Tech. Back then I couldn’t have imagined that, somehow, eight years later I would be a craps dealer, and be okay with that fact. Because I was the person who went to school to be a writer, who thought I would graduate in 2012 and start a journalism career earning $100,000 a year — because somehow there would have been actual money for me in writing — and start a family shortly thereafter.

That wasn’t how it shook out.

But at least I was in a better psychological state. Even when I was working at the break-in casino in Coachella, making a fraction of what I make now, I could see myself headed in the right direction. I know depression better than I ever wanted to, but I never lost my optimism for the future.

That’s the best description for me: I can be the most self-deprecating fatalist, but I’m also convinced that I am the best, and that I will find a way to make everything work out just right. It’s a love/hate thing.

In November, Trey married his girlfriend, my ex’s best friend. My ex brought her fiancee, a guy she had been seeing for a while by then.

The weekend went by quickly and without an issue. Her fiancee and I spoke briefly a couple times, and he seemed fine. My ex and I were paired in the wedding party, which was about as appropriate as it was surreal. I had not spoken to her for the longest stretch since I’d known her, and so many of my drives through the desert on my way to work revolved around what was the “right” way to approach the inevitable moment I saw her again.

I decided the best course was to do nothing at all, to just be a man and exercise some self-control for once in my goddamn life. I knew she had a boyfriend and was presumably happy, so what was really there to say at that point? Over the entire weekend the only time we were alone, just the two of us, was after the ceremony when we walked down the isle. We exited the scene, briefly walked arm-in-arm about 100 feet beyond, then released. I asked, “How are you?”

Sure, somewhere in there was that child, yelling at me to tell her how I really felt. But this wasn’t the time for that. This was my best friend’s wedding. If ever, in the many months we were out of touch, she wanted to catch up, it would have been so. It said something that she didn’t do that, so I got the picture.

For all I know, that wedding will be our last encounter, or communication. I would bet against ever hearing from her again. And I have to be okay with that.

In every other aspect of my life, from my job to my car to my living situation to my overall worldview, I was moved on. I was not a child anymore. She represented the last token of my childhood, the scared and confused years where I didn’t know who I was, or how to love. She became responsible for my across-the-board improvement, if only because it took something to bring me so low in life. She was it.

It took a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of conversation, a lot of booze and a lot of drugs. But when I made it out to the other side, I turned into what I wanted to turn into. What the people who loved me hoped I would turn into. I am still everything and nothing, all at once, but at least now I’m a good person.

* * * * *

I’m fine with how this has unfolded, because I do like this version of myself. It’s sad, really, when I think about how easy it is to be this way, and how I fought so hard to be a stubborn asshole when I was younger. I could have been happier and exerted less energy at the same time.

But these are just things. They don’t really matter. You and I don’t live in a world of what-ifs, or of time machines to cherry-pick all the best moments. We are here now. The old days are dead, even if they don’t ever leave.

I write this with the confidence that nobody I know will read it. That’s specifically why I wrote it here. For all I know I’ll post this, the final part, and take them all down tomorrow. It’s the end to one chapter of my life that I made last far too long.

Was it all worth it? Of course it was fucking worth it. I can lament all of my wrongs until I’m blue in the face, can apologize ad nauseam, what have you. And it’s true that I feel sorry for the way I had to handle some situations. But the people I’m in debt to know that I am in debt to them. Which is why I would still do anything for any of them, unconditionally.

I love my life, and I love who I am. I no longer require surrounding objects to make myself feel more complete as a person; I don’t need praise or love or whatever other good things people have to offer. Some day they will come around again. And I’m sure it will be a nice addition when it happens.

We made it all the way to 26. It’s been forever since I found out I got into Virginia Tech, but I won’t forget that moment anytime soon.

It was March 21st, 2008, a day after my 18th birthday.

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