Let’s say our guy is Thom, and he is a thin white duke on his way to adulthood and independence. Our guy Thom looks like he has a decent brain in his skull. And, though poor on pathos and weak in regards to ethos, he is not a hater.
“I’d like to introduce you to hard drugs and alcohol,” someone tells Thom the summer before he goes off to University X. He abides. You don’t get far in life without having an open mind, Thom’s inner land-developer says.
During these warm, lucid weeks, Thom constructs mental condos that would resemble the best of Mid-Century modern if it were not for the need to have to pay for drink and drugs. You get the picture from here: Thom is the middle-aged hipster at Starbucks with the ‘90s tribal tattoos who always reads Chuck Klosterman on a stool under the track lighting, nibbling a butter croissant and nodding his head to Fleet Foxes.
“Hi, my name is Thom,” he tells his group of peerless peers in their rows of metal foldout chairs (decidedly un-modern and formless in function). “And I’m an alcoholic.”
Thom bought a Bulova watch one day for his mother, a Mother’s Day gift. Crystal face, silver links, pink numerals, and hands that moved with the grace and determination of Arthur’s broadsword. He had it wrapped in fine paper (gold with thinly delicate black stripes) and a tulle box that wafted about like a maiden in a Fragonard.
He presented it to his mother at the seaside brunch where mint juleps and bloody marys were floating about like pollen. Young Thom – a fourth-year sophomore barely keeping his GPA above water, but all the while operating a lucrative dorm-room cartel – fell under the spell of intoxication before the sun arced its full afternoon shadows across the yard. He fell into the sea oats and they knew of his heroin troubles when they wrenched him clear of the brown grasses and saw the needlework on his arms.
His mother unclicked her watch and stuffed it back in the box – clamp! – and our poor guy Thom spent the next few years challenging his liver to a duel.
Barista. Thom writes this on his tax forms and frowns when he licks the envelope. Better were the days when he could lie and say he was a mogul or a day trader. Now they make you narrow it down to the truth, based on your W-2s.
He reads The Sorrows of Young Werther and listens to the slurping growl of the cappuccino machines. He bobs his head to Beach House and dog-ears the page when his rickety Casio places the big hand firmly on the 2.
He nestles his Pinarello into a slot at the apartment he shares with Alex (not her real name, because her real name is “too Southern”) and they drink the Pike he has brought home and then walk along the alley to the Tex-Mex joint where Alex waits tables (not tonight).
Thom smiles when Alex orders her entrée and she thumbs her hair behind her ears and sips her water while he says thankyou, I will have enchiladas rancheras, señor. The heavy white women at the booth near them are old enough to be grandmas. But one of them pinches the camarero’s fanny and they all cackle and hoot like a Suddenly, Last Summer revival is in the works.
Thom remembers the thin white duke used to say older women were hot. They had knowledge and means that could benefit a younger man. He looks at Alex and Alex is texting secretly to someone about getting drinks later. Sober is not her thing. Not that sober.
Thom has a tattoo of a dancing monkey on his bicep. He has no earthly idea what it means.
Reading Tess of the d'Urbervilles at five before nine, Thom watches a young professor breeze in to his Starbucks. Much like a guitarist for Bon Iver, or Bon Iver himself. Or Arcade Fire, he decides. But either way the guy has to be at a liberal arts college. He has a ring, a big ring, a king-ring … graduation ring from eight years ago … University X.
“Go Wildcats,” Thom says jokingly, putting his finger in the book to keep his place.
Our professor nods and takes his mocha from Thom’s colleague Rose (no real buddy of his) and looks around.
“Smells like failure in here,” our pedagogue says.
To wit: Thom.
“Hi, my name is Thom and I’m a serially depressed loser.”
Thom goes back to his Hardy. Almost with tears in his eyes.
This hobble of being alive is rather serious, don’t you think so?
Causes Sean Jackson Supports
PFLAG, Amnesty International, AA, Catholic Social Services