To make a long story short, I was in the hospital this morning. The being sick part isn’t what this is about. As always, you cannot step foot into a medical establishment that caters to broke people without something strange being said near you. A few notables:

I was in triage, being asked the usual questions, when a man was seated a few feet from me to talk to the nurse.

Nurse: “So she says you have a history of brain damage? What happened?”
Patient: “I don’t, uh…”
Nurse: “It’s ok. It’s all strictly confidential here.”
Patient: “But, uh… I can’t…”
Nurse: “No, no… c’mon. You can tell me. Should I ask your daughter?”
Woman with him: “Oh, we’re not… related…”
Nurse: “… Ok!”

After the nurses lost me for a moment and the doctor pointed it out (ehhh…) I was taken back. Along the way I was greeted with a large, angry woman speaking to two cops:

Woman: “She hit me first! She hit me first! She hit me first!”
Cop 1: “So you broke her leg.”
Woman: “She hit me first!”
Cop 2: “And you felt the need to push her down the stairs?”

… finally at my bed. Waiting for the doctor, head covered in my hood because fuck you bright hospital lights, while an old lady complains…

Old lady: “This place is shit. I don’t need this shit, I’m fine.”
Daughter: “Ma, you’re hurt.”
Old lady: “I don’t need this shit. You think I’m so fragile an—“
(Doc walks in)
Old lady: “Owww. Owww… ohhhhh.”
Doc: “In a lot of pain, huh?”
Old lady: “Owwww…”

Another guy near me apparently works with pools. He seems like a decent, hardworking kind of guy. He’s covered in rashes and hives, so…

Doc: “So you work with pools… have they changed the chemicals recently?”
Guy: “Nope, they have been the same for like eleven years since I got there.”
Doc: “Well, sometimes the manufacturing company changes the additives in the pool chemicals without notice, and if you grab the same bottles everyday without checking labels…”
Guy: “I don’t get paid to read ’em, I get paid to make green water look blue.”
Doc. “Ok… well, with the amount of Benedryl you’ll be on, you can’t go back to work, but you should find out if anything has changed in th–“
Guy: “I have to work.”
Doc: “I know, but–“
Guy: “Need the money.”
Doc: “You need to breathe to do that.”
Guy: “I don’t breathe with my arms.”
Doc: “See how that rash is creeping up your shoulders to the neck? Slowly, but surely, it’s going to get there. You may only have a rash THIS time, but nobody likes to find the pool guy dead in their yard.”
Guy: “Well, it… how many days off.”

Note: I’ve had that doctor before, and I love him for the way he talks to people.

Doctor gets to me. It’s fairly quick once we get to that point, but before I am processed to leave, two nurses are talking.

Nurse 1: “So they’re going to make us wear pink from now on.”
Nurse 2: “What’s wrong with our blue?”
Nurse 1: “We’re apparently not faggy enough to suit the city of Hollywood anymore.”
Nurse 2: “What about Memorial South?”
Nurse 1: “They’re already taking it in the ass.”

Hey… if you had to handle gunshots, the mentally ill and people with glass bottles up their asses all day, you’d be bitter too.

On my way out, passing the main area again, I was treated to one more thing:

Patient: “I have to … pee.”
Nurse: “The bathroom is across from the nurse’s station.”
Patient: “I think you took too long to tell me that.”

I don’t know exactly what happened after that, but I can imagine.

When the rape van approaches…

Sometimes, the creeps you find are burned into memory like a bad bout of food poisoning. You’ll never forget the face or their mannerisms, and once they show up again– BAM!– reminders of their previous disturbing behavior comes flooding back.

Close to ten years ago, I was graced with the presence of a very distressing man at a Starbucks. I was still in my “HOLY CRAP PEOPLE NO! TOO DAMN SHY!” mode, so talking to anyone was enough to make me panic. I spent most of my time writing or drawing pictures after making sure to remove any extraneous chairs from my table. This didn’t deter everyone, sadly. One such fellow (we’ll call him Steve, since I don’t remember his name) decided that he must know me, and what I was writing. Every day.

Thus far, all I knew of this guy went as follows: He was in his 50s. He wore see-through mesh shirts and tweaked his nipples when he spoke to you. He owned and basically lived in a huge white van with no windows, and he never wanted anyone to see in the back. One Halloween, he was kicked out for wearing shorts so tiny all of his manly bits decided to flop out at the kids coming in. It wasn’t until later that I figured he probably intended that.

So, after he kept peering at my writing, he eventually decided I had to see his screenplay. Now, this was a Starbucks– it’s not like he was the only guy writing one there. He was, however, one of the first to ask me to edit it. After he gave me a long description of this and offered to pay me, I said I’d look at it. Holy shit. Vagina. Rape. Vagina. Also, vagina.
It was all about a serial killer that got off by tying women down and eating them, while they were alive, from the genitals up. It went on like this from page to page, in horrible spelling and confusion interludes that involved a puppy or some crap. I didn’t know what to make of this… thing. To top it off, his actions made me wonder if this was less screenplay and more autobiography.

It was around this time that he started trying to date a fifteen year old that worked at the now-defunct Wild Oats store. He wrote her long, rambling love letters and spoke of marrying her. The mother of this girl worked there as well, and somehow didn’t make him go away BEFORE the stalking began. It was well before this point that I couldn’t really handle him anymore, and told him I would be unable to assist with this manifesto of rape. He seemed utterly bewildered as to why, but accepted it. That was until I started working for the Starbucks down the road.

He found me there one day, and seemingly never left. On and on he spoke of his screenplay and how it “would be seriously helpful if you could assist me in this most important matter.”
That sounded awful.
So due to circumstances I can’t possibly recall, the police showed up one day. Nobody knew if it was because of his love for the young girl, his actions or his special writings– but he was hauled away on the spot after a search of his van. It was an odd moment all around.

So today I came to the other shop. I wander inside, as usual, and what do I see before me but good old nipple man, alone in a corner and creeping people out. There was an odd sense of wonder and nervousness in me at that moment, seeing this deviant so near me. I carefully and quietly skulked past him, hoping he wouldn’t notice. If he did, he never said anything, which was fine by me. I came back out to regale my companions with the story of how I met such a fascinating creature, when he magically removed himself from his seat and slid out the door to his van before I could notice.

At this point he simply looks like a slightly broken old man gazing at porno in a coffee shop. Nothing new there, they do it all the time. This one is special, though. This one is insane.

So remember, kids… sometimes that weird old guy that wants to talk to you about your feet actually hopes you’re fifteen and willing to be a snack in the back of a van on Alligator Alley.
It always amazes me what some people really are underneath it all, and that no matter how long they hide, SOMEONE remembers what they’ve done.

Cat’s in the cradle

This is a different kind of run-in with a crazy guy.
It was purely by accident, and I’ll have to remember this forever, despite my best interests. The hard part about it is that I’ve never even met him.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the crazy, drug-fueled people that have crossed my path in the past, and certainly in the future. I know previous drug addicts, and many I call friends. I know current drug addicts I call friends. Some are alcoholics, other turn to pills, and more snort their choices. I still care about them, and can only hope they will be alright with what they do.
Some, though, I cannot be around. They’ve gone beyond function, roaming the streets and generally just causing havoc. They’ve ruined themselves, families, and even taken lives– or tried to. This man happens to be one of the dangerously ruined ones, the kind that make me look on in fear when a friend confesses a drug “adventure.” You’re only really a few adventures away from being like him.

It was disheartening to hear the first half of the story. I had actually asked a private investigator friend of mine to look into this, to find out anything I could. All I found were things I half expected, half hoped I’d never see. Drugs. Abuse. Felonies. Broken families, children left with restraining orders instead of a decent life. Nothing I can say was surprising after the stories I had heard, really, but still. Disappointing nevertheless.

So for some time, I hunted for more concrete information. I couldn’t find much, not even so much as a picture. Facebook was useless, and the people search engines gave me a hundred addresses. A lot of homelessness was involved, and tracking down a homeless felon isn’t as easy at it sounds with only the internet available. I decided it was time to take a new route and hunted down some of his family I never even knew had existed before. I managed to get a phone number, and from there, a little more information.

He spent time as a child in the Dominican Republic. He was a highly talented musician, picking up many instruments along the way. Natural gifted all around. Always had a very wicked temper, and a sort of laissez-faire attitude about anything of real importance. Highly intelligent, too. Perhaps a bit too much. Sounded like a rather troubled person, though. That was made obvious by his later mistakes.

Not much came of any of this, though. Not until yesterday when, on a whim, I did another Google search. That’s when the mugshots cropped up all over the place.
First was the more recent– cocaine. Then came trespassing, failure to appear, public intoxication and misconduct. Sometimes there was a home address, most of the time it was simply “at large.” I was, to say the least, in a state of disquiet. I’d never seen his face before, and this was the last way I had hoped to.

I’m a person of silent morality. I may have interesting stories to tell people, but rarely do I let much about myself out to be heard. So my general set of ideals, beliefs, and other such inner makings don’t often get to come out. It’s partially a matter of my own introversion, with a dash of utter fear. I grew up with people disappearing; seldom did they stick around. Investing in others was just a pathway to feeling bad, so I didn’t. But inside, I have a very solid set of right and wrong. I am disgusted by certain actions, like abusing an animal or cheating on a spouse. This gave me the same feeling– but it was coupled with a new sense of revulsion and dismay.

I didn’t expect anything good, to be honest. What I did expect was to feel uncomfortable. I got just that.

My family always had a bit of a problem with me. They didn’t purposefully shun me, but I was also pinned down as a bad child, no questions asked. There were some things that cannot be discussed here, but needless to say it wasn’t always pretty. My uncle was the only real male figure I had to associate with a father until my step-dad came along. My mother never married the man, but he was what I had. His drunken ravings, constant misbehavior, treating me as a horrible person and obvious outsider, and eventual proposition to me for sexual favors didn’t leave a good impression. So now, as I stare at the terrifyingly familiar, yet unseen until now face of my actual father, I am only able to wonder why.

There’s something deeply disheartening about seeing your paternal progenitor only in a mugshot. Somewhere deep in me I sense I’ve seen the face before… my recollection of my childhood is uncanny at times, remembering things from toddler-hood that some people have no capacity to recall. So in there somewhere is the knowledge that this man was in my presence at some point, a long time ago. I see hints of my face in his. The eyes remind me of my own. But what truly hit me was his expression. In most of the mugshots, he’s smirking. He couldn’t care less. In one, however, it’s rage. A rage I know I have seen in my own face, the kind that led him to multiple arrests, and ruined his relationships with family and various others. It’s in me, and I can feel it burning. His fears, anxieties, anger, addictions, insecurities and disturbances are in my blood, and I know them well.

I have my doubts that I will ever be face to face with this man before his inevitable death from his own misdeeds. I daydream of wandering around his town, hunting him down (most likely at a bar) and having a very pathetic conversation that ends in him brushing me off. That’s about the best I can hope for after twenty-six years, I suppose.

A lot of people can shrug these things off without a second thought. For me, though, it’ll eat at me. I’ve always wondered about him off and on, and it consumed me for a time months ago. My own search for who and what I am and will become has been a constant struggle, and knowing of him has been part of the puzzle. It taught me a lot about why I do and act in some ways that confounded me. It has always shown me how NOT to be as a person, for which I am grateful. The genetics in me do not define me, yet they have an impact that is subtle and creeps up on you when you least expect it. The only battle is making sure it doesn’t control you.

Yet here I am, staring at this ruined man that created me, and I can only wonder now: will I attend his funeral?