I was walking down the street and I saw this guy on the other side of the road and I thought that maybe he was making a threatening face in my direction so I put my head down because I didn’t know if that threatening face was in my head or if maybe he was just getting all pissed off because maybe he was one of those guys that doesn’t like getting looked at but then I saw him crossing the street but I still had my head sort of down so I couldn’t see if he was still making that face or if he was still looking at me but then he shouted, “Hey!” and so I thought I guess he is making that face at me but I still didn’t want to look up so I put my head down even lower and shoved my hands into my pockets even deeper and I didn’t want to make a run for it but I did start walking really fast and he screamed, “You!” and again I was just getting so freaked out so now I did start to run a little bit but it wasn’t a full blown sprint because I didn’t want to use all of my running energy at once like what if I started running and then I got tired or maybe there might be an even bigger emergency on the other side of the street and so I thought it best to only trot just a little bit just lightly and that way in case there was any sort of other danger or emergency I’d be able to pick it up a notch run a little faster and then he screamed “Hey, you!” and this time I picked my head up because I could hear him getting closer and I started to panic and I knew that panicking wasn’t going to get me anywhere and so I lifted my head up determined to face this situation and if he was going to yell at me or mug me or whatever then fine just do it already get it over with and so I picked up my head and I said “What is it? What do you want from me!” and as I lifted my head and said all of those words I made eye contact with him just in time for me to realize that he wasn’t looking at me or walking toward me or even talking to me at all but there was another guy to my right standing in some driveway and that was the guy that he had been trying to talk to all along and so they were both there on either side of me and they were staring and I guess they were surprised that this random dude just started yelling at one of them and so I put my head down and started walking again faster this time and I heard one of the guys say, “What the fuck what that about?” and the other guy said, “Fuck if I know.”
My wife and I spent the weekend upstate in Buffalo, and while we were there, we saw the Sabres play the Boston Bruins. Besides a few Rangers games at Madison Square Garden, I’d never been to any NHL games that weren’t the New York Islanders playing at the Nassau Coliseum. And so it was like being in a parallel universe, watching two teams playing that I’ve never really followed.
Everything about the Sabres is pretty cool. They have cool jerseys, their arena is cool, and it was really cool that they could pack their entire arena on Saturday night. Because the Sabres are a pretty terrible team, and they got crushed by the Bruins. I say that not as knock, because I know what’s it like. I’ve been an Islanders fan my entire life, and, aside from this year’s impressive start, they’ve been pretty terrible for about as long as I can recall.
So it was cool that the fans showed up. But I couldn’t help but notice a lack of energy from the people in attendance. What I mean to say is, based purely on my experience of watching hockey games at the Coliseum, Islander fans have a way of cranking up the energy. The participation, at the beginning of every game anyway, is always nearly universal, people chanting “Let’s go Islanders,” and, “Rangers suck.”
And maybe it’s not fair, because the Sabres wound up losing four to nothing, so maybe they could have gotten excited. But people just kind of sat there. It was like they were expecting to get blown out right from the beginning. When the Bruins drew their first penalty, four ushers started waving these giant white Sabres flags from all corners of the arena in anticipation of the power play. As the stadium speaker system blasted the guitar riff from Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade,” I thought, OK, finally, maybe now we’ll see some excitement. But no, everybody just kept sitting there, not cheering. Maybe every now and then a dozen or so fans would join in the artificial “Lets Go Buffalo” suggested by the Jumbotron over center ice.
And then Boston started scoring goals. I never figured out what kind of a reaction a goal would draw from the home team, but there was actually a pretty decent wave of applause for every Boston goal. Boston is like six hours away. I have no idea how they got so many people to make the trip. The periods dragged on, whatever existed of Buffalo’s energy disappeared, and gradually that power-play-flag-waving Rage Against the Machine ceremony twisted into this sort of mocking joke.
Again, I’m not trying to dump on the Sabres. It’s really hard to get pumped up about a team that doesn’t do anything year after year. But I was expecting some of the obnoxious blind faith that I’ve seen at Islander games even toward the end of last year, when it was clear that there was no shot of them finishing above last place in the division. It was a fun night, and I’m happy I got to experience a game from a different market. But yeah, hopefully the Sabres pick up a little momentum or something. Because I kind of felt bad watching the stadium empty out after they announced the fifty-fifty at the middle of the third period.
Oh yeah, I used to think that the Islanders had a good fifty-fifty. But after participating in the fifty-fifty at Buffalo, I realize that I had no idea what I was talking about. Whereas the jackpot at the Coliseum might be a grand or two, Buffalo was able to collect thirty thousand dollars in fifty-fifty tickets. They had vendors walking around the aisle with little printers that spat out lottery-style tickets. We should do that, because it was awesome. In fact, for a while I was positive that I was going to win. I could just feel it. I didn’t win, but whatever, neither did the Sabres. I bet you a Boston fan won the fifty-fifty.
I’m away for the weekend, and I forgot to set my blog to update automatically, and so in an effort to continue my two-year-plus streak of having written something every day, I’m just going to write a bunch of filler.
I drove up to Buffalo yesterday in the middle of the night. The ride itself was smooth, except, in what can only be a problem unique to today, I hadn’t even bothered to check where I was going. A six hour car ride? Whatever, I just plugged it into Google Maps and mentally checked out.
And then when we were like two hours away from the city, I was told to exit the major highway to a smaller one, and then from that I was directed to a side-street. All of the sudden we were on these back-country unlit roads. I kept thinking, well, Google Maps is definitely operating pretty mysteriously tonight, but there has to be some sort of reason for this late-night detour.
It was raining and there weren’t any lights anywhere. Finally we got to the end of what could only have been described as one of those out-of-commission back roads that the dumb main characters blindly follow in the opening scene to every horror movie ever made. The road got bumpier and bumpier until it just stopped. “Road Closed,” said the big sign blocking our path.
I turned around and tried to make my way back to something resembling a major highway, but Google Maps wasn’t happy with the idea of suddenly being ignored. Every step of the way, it kept saying, “Rerouting, rerouting,” in an effort to lead me back to that dead end. Finally I had to just open up the map and use my finger to trace out a path back to the New York State Thruway.
So that’s about it. The rest of the drive was uneventful. Definitely next time I’m at the very least going to look at a map. When we arrived at the hotel, it was like four-thirty in the morning, and try as I did to fall asleep, I kept having this semi-lucid dream where I was still barreling down the highway, and every time I was just about to drift off to sleep, I’d jerk the wheel and the car would go flying off-road, which would wake me up fully. I can’t wait for self-driving cars.
I guess that’s it. Sorry if you actually read this.
Most of my socks have holes in them. Every time I need a pair of socks, I have to go through this giant pile, they all look identical, and I have to try to match a sock that’s equal to another sock. It’s my own fault, I’ve dug myself a pretty nice sock hole here. Every time I go to Costco, I buy another pair of socks. Right out of the package, these socks are great, the elastic is really snug, the fabric firm. But after a month or two months of use, they get a little thin.
And so my problem is more than just socks with holes. My problem is that I’ve been buying new socks every month for the past two years or so, without ever having gotten rid of any of the old socks. I’ve got a huge pile of socks, all with varying degrees of wear and tear. When I’m trying to find a pair of socks, I’m laying them all out, and again, they all look exactly the same, so I’m trying to feel a seven-month sock against a five-month sock, and then after going through twelve or thirteen potential pairs, I finally get a good three-month to three-month match, but then I put them on and the left one has a premature hole, and so I’ve got to throw it out and start from scratch.
All of my pants smell really bad. I’m six four and I have a thin waist, so buying pants isn’t the easiest. Every time I go to a clothing store, I always try on a pair of jeans. On the rare chance that there’s a decent waist-to-length combination that actually makes it all the way down to my feet, I’ll always buy them right there.
But I can never put them in the dryer. Clothes shrink, jeans especially, and I’ve learned the hard way that the only way to ensure that right-from-the-store fit is to make sure that they never go in the dryer. So how do I get them dry? I have to hang them up in the basement. And for most of the year it’s not a problem. I take them out of the wash, hang them up, and then a day later they’re dry.
But it’s been so wet lately, so rainy and humid and gross. I’ve been trying to wash my pants for weeks, but every time I leave them to dry, I come downstairs the next day and they’re still kind of wet. And then I come down a day later and, maybe they’re a little dryer, but they’re still kind of damp. After day three, I need a new pair of pants, and even through they’re not super dry, they’re dry enough, and so I just put them on.
And then I notice that smell. It smells like an old basement. It’s that smell that you get when you put a load of laundry in but you forget to move it to the dryer. So I keep it there in the washing machine for like four or five days, and then later that week I’m out of underwear, so I really need to do another load, but that first load is still sitting there in the dark, wet washing machine. I don’t have any time to run it through again, and so I just throw it in the dryer, whatever, I tell myself, maybe the heat will somehow make things cleaner.
But it never does, it’s gross, that smell is worse than just regular basement. It’s regular wet dirty basement, and maybe I’m in a rush and I’m late for work and so I take a shower and I’m running even later than I thought, and so I don’t have any time, I just grab something to wear, anything, and then when I’m finally out of the house, I finally make it to the subway, it hits me, what’s that smell? It’s me. I stink. I smell like gross dirty laundry that’s been sitting in a wet, dark corner of the basement for a better part of a week. And there wasn’t enough time to match a pair of socks, and so one foot feels great, just really bundled up in that brand new sock feeling, but other one might as well be going commando, there’s a hole at the tip, my big toe can’t stop moving around in there, squirming, trying to fit itself through the hole. And did that guy standing next to me move because he can smell the laundry smell? Is it really that noticeable? Am I really that unpleasant to be around? Of course I am. I wish I could walk to the other end of the subway, but it would just follow me, because it is me. It’s me. These clothes smell horrible. My socks are the worst.
I was walking to the bus a couple of weeks ago when I saw something metallic on the ground. I picked it up. It was a ring, a weird beat-up metal band with this featureless bald head sort of engraved on one side. It was just such a weird object. I thought to myself, who would have made something like this? Why would anyone ever wear it? What kind of a statement are you trying to make wearing this type of jewelry?
That doesn’t really make any sense. I’ll try to describe the ring a little better. It couldn’t have been more than a quarter inch thick, and it’s not like the face was drawn in with too much detail. Imagine that at one point, the right starts to bulge, like it’s a quarter inch all around, except for at one point it’s a little thicker. That’s the head. It’s a circle-shaped bulge. And in the middle of that circle you can see the eyes, but again, really simple eyes, just two small dots, a sort of indentation for the nose, and then a straight line for a mouth. Maybe it’s not even a face, I don’t know, but that’s what it looked like.
And I don’t know why, but I put it in my pocket, where it went unnoticed and un-thought about for the rest of the day. Until I pulled all of the stuff out of my pockets at the end of the day when I took off my pants to change into my pajamas, I totally forgot that I still had it. Yet there it was, right next to my pile of crumbled up bills, my keys, the little plastic sleeve that holds my credit card and driver’s license.
That night I went to sleep and I kept waking up. I’m only kind of putting this together with the benefit of hindsight, but knowing what I know now, I could definitely feel whatever is in that ring there with me that night. I couldn’t go to sleep right away, which isn’t totally out of the ordinary, but I kept waking up, looking at the clock and noticing every hour, almost like I wasn’t sure if I ever really fell all the way asleep in the first place. And it was more than just a restlessness. I couldn’t explain it at the time, but there was this vague sort of dread, a feeling I hadn’t had since I was a little kid, wrapped up inside of my blanket, unable to shake a scary story or a particularly creepy episode of The Twilight Zone. It didn’t make any sense, but I didn’t feel right that night, I had this weird sense like something was right outside the periphery of my vision.
I woke up in the morning, or, at some point I rolled over and it was light out. After I took a shower, I put on a pair of pants and went for the pile of stuff on my dresser, the same pile that moves from pants to pants. And there was that ring. Again, and probably for the last time now that I’m thinking about it, the ring had escaped my conscious thoughts. I held it in my hand and studied that face again. I thought that maybe I was experiencing something, like when you look at an object or a pattern for a long enough time, your eyes will start to see things that might not even be there, moving lines, weird patterns. But yeah, the ring still looked pretty beat up, but the face seemed more defined almost. Like when I looked at it the day before, there was a part of me that doubted whether or not was a face. But not today. The eyes looked like there could have even been some pupils faintly etched in the middle. And the lips, whereas the day before I could have sworn it was just a straight line, now there were definitely two.
I was exhausted, and I didn’t like the way I was starting to freak myself out, so I dropped the ring on my dresser, walked down the stairs and left for work. All day, and again, I guess at the time I just chalked it all up to lack of sleep, but all day I was on edge, tired but all revved up at the same time, like when you drink a bunch of coffee and then try to take a nap, that feeling. And now I couldn’t stop thinking about the ring. And I’ve always considered myself very mentally grounded, no really weird moods or episodes, I’m not the kind of guy to dwell on anything in particular for too long. So why couldn’t I shake that feeling? Why didn’t I just throw the ring out that morning? The idea that I’d have to go home and confront it again, it was starting to rattle me a little. Like I said, I’m not used to feeling this off-kilter, and so even though I tried to make it through the whole day, once I got back from lunch, the anxiety or whatever it was that was making my heart beat faster than it usually does, I gave in, I told the bosses I needed to go home.
The ride home was even worse. It was like, imagine that scene from old cheesy adventure movies, or even better, from the original Star Wars, where they’re all trapped in that garbage pit, and the walls slowly start closing in. You know what I’m getting at, right? Like, that feeling, imagining yourself trapped in the middle, knowing what the inevitable outcome is going to be, yet just stuck there with enough time to really force you to consider it, the almost unbearably slow movement of the walls, the infinite feeling of what it’s going to be like the moment both walls make contact with either side of your body.
I felt like I was actually kind of scared to go home. I didn’t want to admit it before, but I guess I’d been pretty freaked out the whole day. And now here I was, on my way back to my house, I mean, where else was I supposed to go? Getting off the bus, walking the two blocks back to my place, putting my key in the door, turning the doorknob. And then I was inside.
And I don’t know what it was like when you were a little kid and freaked out about something silly in your head, but whenever I was forced to confront a dark closet or the scary basement, once I actually found myself in a situation that drove me crazy with fear, those feelings of dread would always subside at least a little bit once I realized that nothing was happening. But this was the opposite. The front door closed behind me and my skin started tingling.
I looked up toward the top of the staircase, almost positive that something crazy or sinister or, I don’t even know what, I didn’t have any concrete images in my head, but I could feel that something was just around the corner. And I so I stood there for a second before kind of forcing myself to run up the stairs.
I turned into my bedroom and there it was, just where I’d left it, that ring. Every part of my brain was telling me to get away, but I just picked it up and ran my fingers along the engraved surface before bringing it close to my face. Had it changed? If it did, it was almost imperceptibly different. Like, was this a smile? Was it smirking? Or was the carving just off? Was the ring too worn for me to even make out an emotional state?
And why can’t I get rid of this thing? I know that I need to throw it away. I fantasize about walking far away from my house and dropping it into the sewer. Yet I can’t get myself to take the step of actually leaving the house with the ring in my hand. My sleep has been horrible ever since. More than a few times I’ve woken up in the middle of the night, standing up, right beside my dresser, running my fingers over the face. There’s this image in my head where I’m wearing the ring, and the ring has a really evil looking face on it, but I can’t tell if it’s something my imagination conjured up, or if it’s a bad dream I had.
This whole sense of fear and paranoia is out of control now. I don’t feel like myself anymore. It’s like there’s a tangible sense that there’s always something right behind me. When I close my eyes, I feel like it’s half an inch away from my face. I try to force myself to go to sleep at night, I’ve taken pills, you name it, and when I’m lying down, my mind races, I’m seeing figures lined up around my bed, just staring down at me, faces in the closet peeking out, dozens of hands covering the light switch so I’ll never be able to see. I can’t shake it. It’s only getting worse. And I can’t throw it away. I can’t even bring it out of the house. I don’t know what to do. I won’t look at it anymore, because I don’t want to see some demon face, and I don’t want to see that it’s nothing either. What’s the end game here? How does this ever make any sense? Because I can’t see myself getting through, real or not, I just … I don’t know anymore.