NOTE: This might be a difficult read for some. Sensitive readers should be cautious, or maybe skip this entirely.
People read or otherwise hear about the life of Charles Bukowski and have different responses. Some will say that he was a bum and a total failure. Others will declare him to be a genius. The former will cite many reasons for their judgmental opinion, while the latter hadn’t found one clue and subsequently lean on the idea of esoteric coolness.
More and more, I am learning that your life determines what you can or cannot do, or what you may or may not be willing to do. Those people who say that the ZIP code where you were born will determine how much success or failure you are allowed to have are most definitely on to something.
Life may not be a thing worthy of examination. However, one isn’t truly certain of this status until it is too late, and they’ve already engaged in said examination.
There are moments that will stand out, such as the first time your parents fought viciously in front of you. The fierce venom and contempt that is to be found between two people who “love” each other infects those around them.
It’s the embarrassment of showing up to your first day of kindergarten, not knowing where to go, and being unable to remember your last name because nobody in your house ever wrote or spoke that name, so there was no need to know it. Mom was just “Mom,” Dad was just “Dad,” and I had no fucking idea who I was.
Some of the moments are public, such as the time your mother took you to a local store to have your picture taken with Santa Claus, and nobody listened to your complaints about having diarrhea. Santa would be the first person to take you seriously, and Santa isn’t even real.
He’s just a drunk who put on a suit and holds you because he needs some extra money for booze. You’re too young to realize that it should be concerning that this was the only person who listened and understood.
Then comes the regret you feel after getting what you wanted. Begging your dad to get you a Hot Wheels set for your birthday, and you get it. Inevitably, something will go wrong and your father will be prompted to pick up one of the Hot Wheels tracks so that he can use it to beat you mercilessly with it.
It puts you in a place where you do not want anything else. And yet more and more gets forced upon you. You have to know this and that, and go here and there, to do one thing or another. You are told that it is your “duty,” as if you are an ant who does what it does for the benefit of the hive, at the detriment to yourself.
If you want more, certainly a strong education would be beneficial to the government, in the form of taxes paid, as well as consumer dollars spent, and the strength that it would bring to your country. But if you can’t afford to purchase this education, then too bad. Then the same government will complain that you are a burden as they ask you why you couldn’t pick yourself up. All you needed was a helping hand, with none to be found.
Dance your way through it, like some clown who can’t wait for the organ grinder to stop so that he can have his next drink. And you have to smile while you do it, or else someone with money, status, and privilege will get their feelings hurt. When that happens, you can expect that they will want you to pay for this transgression. Because nothing is more important than the feelings of someone who doesn’t care if you live or die.
While you are still lacking in life experience, adults around you will spend some time asking you what you want to be when you grow up. Keep in mind that these are the same people who told you that you can be anything that you want if you work hard enough and put your mind to it.
So you tell them what you want to do. This is followed by their screeches, informing you that you CANNOT do THAT, and you must instead go to college to study something you don’t care about, so that you can make money. Happiness or aptitude be damned, your goal is to slave away and make money.
More, more, more. How do you hate it? How do you hate it?
Boy, how you hate it.
They will single you out and demand to know why you don’t fit in. They’ll ask why you are doing something on purpose. If you live long enough, then you find out that you weren’t doing ANYTHING on purpose, and that they were utter morons who didn’t understand you, didn’t understand your position, and really didn’t even understand themselves.
They didn’t care enough to understand any of it, because they had taken that same path, where they were told they could be anything, then told they couldn’t be that one thing they wanted, and ended up being funneled into a job they hate, teaching children they don’t like or even care about.
They will beat you and then tell your parents to beat you.
But eventually that door opens; the door that leads to the forefront of your dreams. With the energy, exuberance, and stupid optimism that comes with being young, you go for it.
You figure that you can make things happen, if only you could go there. So you make a plan and pack a gym bag. You have one change of clothes, a huge bag of M&M’s, and ten bucks. That oughta get you by in Los Angeles in the mid-80s.
This is where you find all of the things that nobody told you about. Your parents and teachers, who functioned under the banner of appeals to authority, would say “no” or “because” and never explain what they were talking about, so there was no way of knowing what they were talking about.
You fall in with strangers, the homeless, drunks, addicts, prostitutes, and gangsters. You are now in a spot where you rely heavily on their kindness and generosity. It’s shaky, scary, unreliable, dangerous, dirty, and yet easier to get and swallow than what you get from a rich asshole who give you a shit job with shit pay and tells you that you ought to be grateful.
No bum, drunk, junkie, or whore ever said or did anything that would lead anyone to feel badly about themselves. They know what it is like to be judged.
The boss doesn’t pay you to work. They pay to you take the abuse.
Women will ignore you if you’re lucky, and laugh at you if you are not. All the same, you go looking and trying, and not just because your second head is doing all of the thinking. Everyone warns you about the dangers of being alone.
They talk about how married men live longer, as if that’s some kind of special selling point. Who wants to be in this bullshit longer than absolutely necessary? And you have to do it with another person in the room. No, thanks.
The women who shoot you down bear the brunt of your frustration. But the women who accept you and pursue you are the ones who should truly earn your contempt. They’re only talking to you because they want something.
Meanwhile, your main head shuts down and your second head tells you they are there because you are truly something special. But there is nothing special about a rube. They get what they want, and you are left holding the empty bag. If you’re lucky, there is no tab to be picked up.
Inevitably, you get taken for a ride by a woman who appears nice to others, but later becomes a monster behind closed doors. Yelling and screaming for help only gets you beaten down by a society that does not care about you, yet still has expectations of you.
Society will be angry, but about the wrong things. Sure, you’re being beaten and exploited. But you deserve it because she’s a Mexican, or she’s older than you. At the same time, they have NO critique of the number of white women your age who shit on you. It’s your fault for not being better looking and not having money. That was your choice.
They will declare that you had it coming, and that it would be in your best interest to lay down and quietly take it. They’re struggling to hear the TV while they watch their favorite show, as you cry out in pain for help.
In a state of desperation, you call the police for help. They “help” you by arresting you, because you and people like you are always the bad guys, for no other reason than simply who you are.
Eventually, when your life is pretty much over, you finally learn the reason why people exploited you. You learn that early detection is key — that it should be detected by age 3 — as you realize that you missed that boat by only half a century.
So you work to get better. As you’re starting to get better, the world starts to get worse. Before long, everyone on Earth has become you, and you have become something unrecognizable, which means that you now must be them. Then comes the stark acknowledgement that you would have fit in with everything now, if only now had happened 12 years ago.
This is when you realize that you’ve officially seen too much. You can’t un-see it, and you cannot move forward with that vision burned into your shriveled brain.
Phones ring. Emails and texts ding. And every few years there is a knock on the door by someone who wants to ask you if you’ve ever heard of Jesus. That’s like going through the Middle East, door-to-door, asking people if they’d ever heard of Muhammad.
You can’t spell “Muhammad” without “ham.” Or “mad.” Or “Muh.” Language gets in the way of our ability to communicate.
And so you sit in your apartment, with the view of the dumpsters, the rain, and general ugliness of it all. The only thing that can lift you up from this is some Bukowski.
He wrote “Post Office” after he quit his job at the post office. He wrote “Women” when he had a place that was constantly full of them. He probably wrote “Ham and Rye” after lunch. I can’t write “Cats” because that title is already taken. I’ll have to check to see if “Fart” or “Sleep” are available.
I smell success already.
No, I was wrong. It’s just the litter box.
You find yourself in a place where it feels like everything is about to wrap up. Looking back, you start to realize why life sucked so bad and why it was so hard.
There’s the bad advice from adults, not to mention abuse. There’s the lie that the Meritocracy exists, and if you work really hard you’ll be rewarded. There’s the lie that you have to get married and have children in order to be successful. But by who’s standards?
There’s the lie that you have to gain wealthy and buy a house, as well as expensive things you don’t need to impress people you don’t care about.
The check’s in the mail. I won’t cum in your mouth. Nah, you don’t look fat in that. The lies vary in size and impact. The truth is that there is a “fun size” candy bar in the cupboard with your diabetic name on it. You feel a sense of contempt for the asshole who decided that this small size was “fun.” Fuck you, Mr. Fun Size Guy.
Make it a double.
The more you learn, the more you realize that you do not know. It shows you just how wrong you were about life and the world around you. You USED to believe that huge mommy milkers made the world go round. But then you realize that it’s actually greedy old men who are Narcissists, who start wars that everyone else is forced to fight for them.
That’s what you get. I told you to let the titties win, but you didn’t listen.
At least you get the opportunity to die for a Narcissistic dumbass who never cared about you. That’s about as fair as life gets.
Most of all, you realize why life sucked so much. You tried too hard. You cared too much. You had hopes and dreams. Hope is the quickest way to self-hatred, and dreams are caused by flatulence.
With that, you realize that the only thing you can do in this moment is watch an uplifting documentary about Charles Bukowski. Then, somehow, everything feels a little bit better for a short while.
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