The Funeral

The Funeral

I hate these goddamn things. If I never go to another funeral it’ll be too soon.

Chuck’s mother is crying. She’s always crying. Everything’s a fucking Hallmark moment with her. Or do I mean Lifetime Special? My thinking gets cloudy in these situations, situations where you need to find some words of consolation, but words escape you. So I put my hand on her shoulder but it doesn’t ease her hyperventilating. It’s no use. I slip my hand in my pocket and fumble around. I need a cigarette.

I’ve smoked for a long time but I don’t need a cigarette; it’s just something you do in these situations when you can’t think of anything to do or say. It’s a distraction. There’s something comforting in the habit. I don’t even have to look; I’ve done it so many times I can slide a cancer stick out of the package and bring it to my lips like I’m on autopilot. I can even bring fire, the lighter, to the tip of the cigarette based on muscle memory alone. I thumb for the chick chick of the lighter but there’s a stiff breeze. I’m puffing away but I ain’t getting anything. The wind is too much, fucking November. There’s nothing you can do about a change of seasons.

My wife, Becca, she’s giving me that look, that look that says, Wow, you really fucked up and at the same time is also looking through you because she just can’t deal. At least she’s not blubbering like Chuck’s mother. Nah, Becca will pull through this. We’re doing the wake at our place and we’ve got a lot of alcohol. While I worry about how much she drinks sometimes, you can’t discount alcohol’s medicinal effects given the circumstances. Who needs a doctor when Jack Daniels makes house calls? Humph. Where was that wisdom when I was at the bar with Chuck?

He insisted on driving us home, stupid fuck. I told him, No way, you’ve had too much to drink. I’ve only had a six-pack. ‘Only.’ He blew me off, tried to get into the driver’s seat and turn the ignition. But I’m a true friend and a responsible adult or some shit like that so I grabbed him by the arm and tore him out of the car. I tried to wrestle him down and keep him grounded but he thrashed like a bitch. Good thing he punches like a bitch, too. I’d gotten the keys, got in the car and revved her up; told him to get his bitch ass in. I guess he’d seen me in one too many brawls, though, and he’d learned to fight dirty. I turned my head towards the window to see where he’d gone off to when the motherfucker sniped me with a rock. Holy fuck; my head swelled up like a melon. He pushed me into the passenger seat and took the wheel.

I don’t know how long I reeled from that blindsiding. All I remember is hearing Led Zeppelin on the radio while trying to sit upright and putting my eyes on the road. Immediately I thought, What’s a fucking tree doing in the middle of the road? We weren’t in the middle of the road, of course. Chuck wrapped his classic red Pontiac ’65 right around that pine. Never gonna see that beauty again. Huh, I wonder if the casket is made out of pine. Nah, looks more like oak. I guess Chuck’s mother splurged, used all the money she’d been saving for the wedding he was never gonna have anyway. Sorry son-of-a-bitch, even blow-up dolls have turned him down.

I look at Chuck. He’s wearing a black suit. You kidding me? He’s never worn a suit in his life. I doubt it was his idea; his mother must’ve insisted. Why do people do that, try to make you look as good as possible right before they put you in the ground? They say nice things, act like you were Mother Theresa. You know what I want to say to Chuck? You should’ve let me drive, asshole. And he was an asshole. He was such an asshole he could make whatever bad time you were having even worse. In other words, he made me look good. You need friends like that.

Crap, rain’s starting to come down. Figures, the one time the weatherman gets it right. At least I ain’t getting wet.

Everyone is starting to take their seats under the canopy, waiting for the eulogy. What the fuck for? Someone just died. You’d think the living should be dancing and celebrating life, not engaging in some morose metaphor for death. Yeah, I get that we’re all sad someone passed away but fuck, we’re not the dead ones so don’t double down on that shit. I don’t know how many times I’ve told Becca, When I die, throw a big fucking party. Dance your asses off. Don’t be sad. Have a good fucking time. I try to take her hand. She won’t look at me now.

The pastor is trying to light our candles but that damn wind again. If he does get the fucking thing lit, I’m gonna go have a smoke. I’m going to stand up, walk away, and turn the cigarette in my hand to ash. Chuck would understand. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. That’s what he’d want his tombstone to say, not this Beloved Son shit they’ve got going on.

What would I want my tombstone to say? Here lies Jerry, died from not forwarding an email to ten people. Because what’s not a joke anymore? Even this pastor; this pastor’s a joke. He’s talking about what great friends we were, like he knew us at all, like he knows me. Sure, Chuck and I were best friends. Yes, I fucked up when I didn’t get the keys from him. At least I tried. I tried to do the right thing so give me a fucking break. I think that’s what the pastor’s saying. I don’t know. I’m really not paying attention to him anymore. I tune out the second people start talking shit about me.

I keep waiting for him to finish. This is Chuck’s funeral after all. Say something about Chuck. Who give a fuck if I’m married and got a ki…aw, fuck.

“Hey, man, what’s up?” Chuck asks me.

“Chuck,” I stand up, “Just when I think you can’t keep going on being the biggest asshole forever, you pull this shit.” A warm smile spreads across that pear-shaped head of his.

“Do you think we’re going to heaven now?” he says. With all the shit we’ve done how the fuck would I know? I don’t like our odds.

“We’re gonna try,” I reply, getting off his mother’s lap. “At least with you standing next to me, I got a shot of getting in.” Chuck’s smile turns upside down.

“You know what?” he chews, his tone a little salty. “If I’m such a big asshole, it’s because I learned from the best.”

I look down at the cigarette that isn’t even there. Going to heaven? Like I said, I don’t like our odds.

 

All Rights Reserved © April 2020 John J. Vinacci

The Forgetting

The Forgetting

The face

In this picture

Looks sort of

Familiar

The eyes I have seen

But the name rather distant

When was the time the immeasurable date

Echoes of a standing ovation?

 

A lover

Stranger than fiction

Dragged by the winds

‘Til barely a whisper

The years are a museum

Ancient and inconsistent

When was goodbye? It escapes all my guesses

An eternal sunshine of repression

 

I’ve forgotten it

Don’t remember bliss

Too long ago

Too far away

It all slipped away

If we ever kissed

Memory’s a ship

That sailed long ago

So far away

It all slipped away

 

A voice

On the phone

Sounds like

I haven’t heard it before

The words I all know

But their meaning non-existent

Why are we speaking about magic defeated?

Don’t make me relive history retreated

 

I’ve forgotten it

Don’t remember bliss

Too long ago

Too far away

It all slipped away

If we ever kissed

Memory’s a ship

That sailed long ago

So far away

It all slipped away

It all slipped away

It all sailed away

So far away.

 

All Rights Reserved (c) November 2019 John J Vinacci

Throwing Roses

Throwing Roses

I’ll meet you at the wedding

All dressed in black

By the seaside

For what our friends have,

Unlike our ride

Before the swell crashed

They’re guided by something

In the stars we never had.

 

This is their time;

We’ll never find a way, so,

 

Let’s throw our roses

Into the ocean

Into every drop of water

That surprised us,

Let’s throw all of our roses

Into the ocean

And one of us can

Swim for the horizon.

 

Do you hear their

Undying love be cast?

Stronger than the waves

That crush the sand,

Unlike their vows

Our undertow lasts

To pull us out unexpectedly

Far from the land.

 

This is their time;

We never could find the way…

 

We never could swim

Against the facts

But right now it’s still

Polite to raise a glass,

We’ll wait until the

Winds are holding fast

To throw our roses and

Toast the never-will-haves.

 

This is their time;

We’ll never find a way, so,

 

Let’s throw our roses

Into the ocean

Into every teardrop of water

That surprised us,

Let’s throw all of our roses

Into the ocean

I promise I’ll wave to you

From the horizon.

 

All Rights Reserved (c) Sept. 2019 John J Vinacci

The Ballad of Evil Kim

The Ballad of Evil Kim

[A true story, and excerpt from my forthcoming autobiography. #WIP]

…My only real life post-Frenchy was the gym. I eventually worked my way up to assistant manager and I’d taken up bodybuilding, making me more confident about my looks. My sister was getting ready for her wedding to her terrific fiancé in six months, too, so I was feeling good about my family as well. Yes, I was feeling quite good about many things even though none of the many women at the gym were relationship prospects until I met Kim – evil, Evil Kim. Did I mention this girl named Kim was evil?

When I met Evil Kim, the young lady was 10 years my junior and the sound of her voice was enough to turn me into a quivering mess. When she first walked into the gym I was working at, that was the first time I’d ever seen and woman and based on looks alone said, “Wow.” To me, she was the physically perfect dream woman. As I mentioned, her voice was practically angelic (or demonic, in hindsight). And like Leila before her, she had that girl-next-door vibe that shut down any defense mechanism you might have had. But this quality of hers had its downside – every guy wanted to be with her.

I knew I couldn’t just go for it with Evil Kim; I’d be just another number and I didn’t want to be that. She was special so I wanted to be special for her. I began talking to her gradually then more and more so that with each visit of hers to the gym it certainly seemed like we were beginning to become friends. Some of my coworkers knew I had other intentions, though, I remarked that I stood no chance. One of my female colleagues even had the nerve to tell me that I had no game! Although I know my coworker wasn’t trying to be mean it really got under my skin and I told her in response, “I don’t know how. I don’t know when. But some day I’m going to get that girl.” I knew though that if I was going to land Evil Kim, I was going to need a miracle.

That miracle came in the form of two other women who were interested in me. One was a coworker, Sandra, and the other was Andrea, who was even younger than Evil Kim and almost equally beautiful. Sandra I had no interest in but the attention she gave me rose my stock enough to pique the curiosity of another gym member Andrea, whom I’d always been friendly with. Being Hispanic (assuming there was a cultural thing going on to my benefit), Andrea liked that I 1) was an older man and 2) was a gentleman who was courteous, holding the door open for her and not cussing in front of her, for example. Andrea and I eventually found ourselves on some late night coffee dates after I closed up the gym which never wound up going back to either of our places, honestly because I was too hung up on Evil Kim to pull the trigger. Fortunately, Evil Kim did catch the two of us out one night getting coffee which I know alarmed the woman of my dreams.

How do I know? The very next day Evil Kim wouldn’t leave me alone at the gym. Every few minutes she looped around from whatever she was doing to check on me, or maybe to see who I was with. By hook or by crook – or by jealousy – I now had Evil Kim’s attention. A week later I asked her out proper and she accepted without hesitation.

We went to go see a movie, The Princess Diaries, which is not something I would ever see on my own. My cousin from New York who had moved in with me for the summer remarked that this woman I was going on a date with must be a goddess for me to agree to do such a thing. I had Evil Kim come to my place before the movie, really so my cousin could see why I had agreed to see the movie. My cousin just laughed that Evil Kim and I had the same spikey black hair and that’s why I was enamored with her, because I was vain. After the movie we came back to my place, after my cousin had cleaned off a whole bottle of wine by herself, which I remembered impressed Evil Kim. (That should have been a red flag.) After a few drinks ourselves, Evil Kim asked if she could stay because she may have had too much to drive.

As I got into bed with her, I thought about being a gentleman and not taking advantage of the situation. The God honest truth is that I didn’t want her to be with me just because she was drunk. But we found ourselves making out anyway which led to clothes flying off, which led touching, which led to disappointing sex. Disappointing because I’d had too much to drink and was psyched out about whether I really wanted this to happen the way it was happening. I actually told Evil Kim all this post-coitus to which she was dumbfounded. We found ourselves awkwardly spooned in that friends-with-benefits kind of way that at least one of us didn’t want. She left early the next morning.

Evil Kim called me the next day to tell me no guy had ever said anything like that to her before, about a guy not wanting to take advantage of a situation like that. Allegedly, this left quite an impression. The cat that was out of the bag, though, was that in no uncertain terms did I want to be with her. My desires appeared to be an inconvenience to Evil Kim, who was still hung up on a felon ex-boyfriend. A felon? Yes, her latest ex had recently gone to jail for grand theft auto (not the video game) and I think to her that he was what she was to me. So I got the same thing that always happens to good guys, I got mostly friend-zoned.

I say mostly friend-zoned because Evil Kim would still call me and want to hang out, or make out without going all the way. I knew she just wanted the adoration and I knew this would only end badly for me but I just couldn’t say no. It would take me months to gather the willpower to weaken her grip on me and I did this by going back to Andrea. This led to one of the most wonderful, fantastically shallow moments of my life.

It was not unusual for Andrea to flirt with me at the front desk at the gym, but Evil Kim walked in one day while Andrea was doing it. Evil Kim immediately turned around and disappeared. She came back twenty minutes later with her adorable cat which she sat on the front desk and wanted us to play with the cat together. Andrea gave Evil Kim a look and I swear I thought there was going to be a cat fight without the actual cat. For about the next five minutes the two of them vied for my attention in front of a score of people. I couldn’t help but feel like a badass even if I had no idea how I came to be the center of this situation. I savored it, to say the least.

But now I had a choice to make. Andrea wanted to see me that night but so did Evil Kim. If I went with Evil Kim, she promised to make it worth my while. If I went with Andrea, who knows, but it’d be the smarter choice. So obviously I told Andrea I had already committed to seeing Evil Kim that night (though I didn’t say in what way). That night Evil Kim came over and I seduced her with some Jedi mind tricks I’d picked up from my sister’s fiancé’s friend, a guy who was nothing short of a scoundrel. We had sex and it was…not what I hoped for. It was kind of like being with a dead fish.

Despite all this disappointment, she was still probably The One in my eyes, though I thought it wise to pursue other women as a potential date for my sister’s wedding in a month. When Evil Kim got wind of this she wanted to be my date of course and insisted I not pencil her in, as I told her (which I should have done), but that I pen her in – she would be my date for the wedding. I thought this would turn the corner on our ‘relationship.’ Maybe the sex was bad because she hadn’t committed to us? Surely a wedding would change that.

The morning of the wedding I couldn’t get a hold of Evil Kim. I called and left two messages and thought about leaving a third but then thought that would be overkill. Had something bad happened to her? That’s what I wanted to believe because I didn’t want to believe she had simply flaked out on me. I went to my little sister’s wedding feeling awful, mostly because of the empty seat next to me. I had told my sister I had a date, to make arrangements for that, and now I felt like a fool when I should have known better. I was so mad at myself I couldn’t even be happy for my sister. I was a sourpuss the entire time. I beat myself up about that to this day.

The next day Evil Kim called to apologize but I didn’t call her back until the day after that. She explained that she (just happened to have) had a chance to visit her ex-boyfriend in jail; it was the first day he was allowed to have visitors. So like any normal person, Evil Kim went to go see him on the wedding day and didn’t tell me so that, I dunno, I might call in a back-up. (Which I tried on the morning of the wedding when I swallowed the bitter pill that Kim had flaked on me. No such luck.) I told Kim how furious I was and that I couldn’t speak to her anymore. After hanging up with her I didn’t see her at the gym for nearly a month.

When she did reappear, she was sheepish but brave enough to say that we should talk. Reluctantly I agreed, you know, as I massaged her since she asked to be stretched out before her workout. (I was such a goddamn idiot.) During our solemn conversation, we concluded that ‘we’ would never be a thing and that she was sorry for that since it was really her fault. BUT we could still be friends and crash at each other’s places from time to time seeing how sleeping alone is often so, so terrible. Would I settle for breadcrumbs? I didn’t love myself enough not to. But this idyllic arrangement wouldn’t last forever.

It wasn’t long after this that Evil Kim told me she was pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s child, who I guess wasn’t ‘ex’ enough to avoid having sex with him in jail. Upset because she was too young for this, she told me through tears that she wished it was my child. This blew me away. The sincerity was misconstrued on my part, though, as she explained a week later while I talked about us being together someday that she said it not because of her undying love for me but merely because I’d be a responsible parent. Goddamn it. I wanted things to be done with her by this point.

Some time had gone by day during which we hadn’t been speaking much. Then out of the blue Evil Kim called to say that she wanted me to come over to her new place so we could hang out, just us, which she seemed to go over the top in making clear since she often had people over. Interesting, I thought. So I go to her place and naturally she’s practically throwing a party. I was really miffed but didn’t let it show. Instead I flirted with some of the other girls with no success and chatted with some of the guys. Eventually it was down to me, another guy, and Evil Kim. Pretty drunk, I didn’t know if she was planning something wild or what, but it was clear she wanted to be with this other guy while unclear she wanted to be with me. I didn’t bother finding out. I made up an excuse and left, infuriated. I went straight home, heart torn asunder, and wrote perhaps the greatest putdown email ever written. I tore her to shreds over what a shitty person she was for lying to me when she knows how I feel about her, why no one treats her with respect, how she’s a fool for loving her felon ‘boyfriend,’ and even why her parents don’t love her half as much as her brother (which was true; she just didn’t understand why, but I did). Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a copy of that email which is still probably the best thing I’d ever written, if not the most cathartic. I’m proud to say we have never seen or spoken to each other since.

As terrible as all of it was, I learned never to let any woman (or person) have that much control over me ever again. My life – my sanity – wasn’t worth the kind of trauma Evil Kim put me through. What made it so bad is that we both knew what she was doing to me and she did it anyway knowing I was vulnerable to her charms, so as much as I still hate her, I know we’re both to blame. I’ll never allow that to happen to me again. And neither should you.

 

All Rights Reserved (c) May 2019 John J Vinacci