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  LIFE AS A LOSER #112: "WALKING CONTRADICTION."  
   
   
 

 I shoved a guy the other day. It wasnít a push. It was a good, old-fashioned, solid shove, a violent explosion, inner rage pouring out that I didnít know was there. It was like putting an empty coffee mug in a microwave and watching in shock as, somehow, water boils over.

He was just standing there. I was exiting the subway, heading over to my friendís place to watch the Tyson-Lewis fight. I was carrying my briefcase with my left hand, and reaching for a cigarette with the right. He was directly in front of me. Then, as he reached the last step on the exit out of the subway, he just stopped. I donít know what he was doing. Maybe he was a tourist, confused about where he was going. Maybe he realized heíd left his iron on. Maybe he just decided to pause and drink in a gorgeous day. But he stopped, right in front of me.

Now, people not from New York donít really understand this sometimes, but here, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk is like someone braking their car in the middle of the freeway. Here, our feet are our cars, and we apply the same rules of the road to the sidewalk. As frustrated as you get when someone cuts you off in traffic, thatís how we feel when someone pauses suddenly to answer a cell phone call, or makes a snap decision to head toward the Starbucks on the opposite side of the street, or so on. I guess Iíd call it Walk Rage.

And this guy just stopped. And I lost it. I pulled my briefcase across my body to my right side, put my cigarettes back in my pocket, and just waylaid him with my left elbow. I had some force behind me too; he went barreling into the magazine stand set up just beside the subwayís exit. My motion was punctuated with a fierce, involuntary, ďMOVE IT, MOTHERFUCKER! CHRIST!Ē

He was a smaller Asian man, I was now noticing, probably about 40, with graying hair and a pair of Hawaiian shorts.

He plunged into the magazine stand with an audible ďOomph.Ē He looked back at the source of this strange velocity. His eyes met mine. He did not see a sensitive, farmboy-turned-Manhattanite, empathetic guy, someone who just tries to get along and go along, an amiable sort always trying to make everyone feel comfortable, the guy cracking jokes at just the right times, the one who writes love letters to his girlfriend every two weeks to remind her he cares about her, the guy who calls everyone ďMaíamĒ and ďSirĒ in a slightly joking but still sincere attempt at mock formality, the one who calls his parents three times a week, the one who just wants everything to be OK, just let it all turn out OK, please please.

He saw a snarl and a twisted mouth, spitting, ďIdiot! Move!Ē

He muttered ďasshole.Ē I yelled back, ďFuck you!,Ē before storming on my way.

I had a fight with my girlfriend the other day. I have never had fights with girlfriends. Iím typically a pretty easy person to get along with, yes, but mostly, Iím a licensed pro at avoiding conflict. If I can sense it coming, Iíll change the subject to something happy, something we can both laugh about, smile about, think fondly of. Iím so good at it, typically, that you canít even notice Iím doing it. Just as soon as they were brought up, unpleasant topics are paved over and smoothly shifted to the next topic, maybe baseball, or that one movie we saw, or remember that time, when we were in the park, that was great, wasnít it?

I almost married a woman, before she left me and never spoke to me again. Even as she was leaving, we didnít fight. I didnít scream, or stomp off, or tell her she was a bad person. I tried to be mature, and compassionate, and understanding, and then next thing I knew, she had no real compelling reason to stay, because Iíd steadfastly refused to give her one. Thatís how far Iím willing to take it. Iíll suck it up if it means avoiding a yelling, nasty tussle. I can take it.

But relationships are messy endeavors sometimes. You canít give your heart to someone without feeling alone, vulnerable, and wiped out at times. Thatís when fights happen. Weíve all been through them, and Iím becoming worse at avoiding them as I grow older.

This fight was about nothing, really; they usually are. But she said something that made me feel naked, isolated, awkward, empty Ö and I reacted by pounding my fist into the wall. Then my head. Then I grabbed the covers off the bed and threw them across the room. I then said something I didnít mean. Then I left.

Saturday afternoon, I was supposed to write this column, and then meet a friend of mine for lunch, then get some job work done, run some errands, and maybe even take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, one of my favorite ways to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon, which this was.

But I couldnít get off the couch. I was out of it, and emotionally spent, and had not an ounce of energy to do anything but just lie. There was some soccer on. A tennis game. Soapdish, on Comedy Central, with all the ďshitsĒ and ďgoddammitsĒ edited out. That HBO movie with Alec Baldwin and that guy from Gosford Park playing LBJ. I had a cheeseburger delivered. I took a nap. My cat slept at my feet. Outside, kids were playing, and people were having brunch, and lying in the sun, and working, and writing, and living, and all the shit I came here to do. For the first time since I was maybe six, I simply stayed in, all day, and just watched TV and napped, alone.

I was just so tired. So, so tired.

I do not know what is happening to me. Remember that old email, the one that was supposed to be a commencement speech from Kurt Vonnegut and was actually a column by Chicago Tribune writer Mary Schmich? What was her line? ďLive in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.Ē I donít know if Iíve become hard, or angry, or bitter, or just too exhausted to think.

But I do know I donít feel like myself anymore. I donít know what I am anymore. Iím maddeningly inconsistent. I donít know whatís caused it. I donít know when it happened. And Iím not sure what to do about it.

But I think I kind of miss me. The way I used to be, whenever and whatever that was. Now that I think about it, I might not have been that bad.

 

*BT*

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