“I feel like I’m tangled in the thorns of faith.”
I snapped my head back as if I had been slapped across the face to see what was going on. It had probably been about six years since I had heard any Jesus-speak in earnest. It’s not a hard thing to avoid when you live in the North and aren’t a good service-going lady. But like those Wonder Ball things of the 90’s youth, the Mega Bus is always full of surprises, except it’s generally not a matter of am I getting a temporary rhino tattoo or Sweetarts. It’s more like am I going to get stuck next to the crusties or trapped in conversation with a knitting Nancy. Just my luck; I got the Saturday morning bible study ride. It wasn’t led by no Rick Warren – just two girls about my age dressed in Nationals jerseys and denim shorts cuffed to well below the booty.
“Well the Jews, like, don’t mix their dairy with their meat. Jessica told me that and she’s, like, a Jew-expert.”
Why did I have to forget my headphones? Oh yeah, because there is no god.
In front of me were three early high school-aged girls, clustering their legs in the isle so they could all turn towards each other in conversation. Every eighth grade field trip ever. My view facing forward was obstructed by a thick pony tails held together by a giant baby pink bow that bounced during the talk-shout.
“OMG, you can’t air your dirty laundry on Facebook. That’s what Tumblr is for.”
The quiet black man with grey in his stubble sitting in front of me, and sadly, next to one of them, turned around and shot me a look like are you hearing this shit? I shot one in return, a heaviness in my eyes, silently apologizing on behalf of white girls everywhere. But then again, as I sat there listening to the younger girls make plans about which museums in D.C. they wanted to tour first, I felt a little bit guilty for being too quick to judge. Whether we’re trying to make sense of an archaic text and the social media realm, or just sitting there jadedly reading about an equally jaded Priscilla Presley (got to pass the time somehow), we’re all chicks with our own insights, own styles, and own passions – and that’s pretty rad. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a relief when it was time for their stop.
After a fight nearly broke out moments after taking off from our Washington layover because someone was looking at someone funny and an hour delay from that construction on the surrounding highway that will probably still be going on the day I’m lowered into my grave, I finally made it to the Confederate capital, even though Richmond is probably the most un-Southern of the Southern cities. I hesitate to even really call it a city – more of a well-developed town. I hiked my 15 blocks along Main Street to my hostel where the only happenings I encountered were a funeral procession and a crackhead that told me I was pretty. I didn’t trust it. In Baltimore, we seek safety in numbers, in bustle, in life. Silence is too good to be true. Silence is only waiting to be broken by a gun shot and a police siren. It is a mirage in a place of desperation, just waiting to be beaten out of us all until it’s reduced to blood in the streets.
I finally made my turn onto 2nd, eager to get to the grit and comradery of your friendly local youth hostel, but to my too tired and too sober surprise, I was only met with more deafening silence. Just the mere sound of my Vans rattling across the hard wood floors nearly shook through the place, like I was a neighborhood kid imposing on an abandoned house. Just when I was about to call out a hello, a young wide-eyed gentleman came out from behind a big ass white desk, like the fascist leader in that one episode of The Twilight Zone. He was nice enough, but was quick to ask me what had brought me into town, as if I had to have some sort of clear purpose to come to Sleepy Hollow. I explained how my plans to go to Brooklyn with my sister had fallen through, so I had decided to change direction and go to where my favorite band was happening to be playing.
“Who might that be?” he asked. I hesitated the way I always do before I say the name “Eyehategod” in front of a stranger. Actually, probably even more so than usual since the Bible bus still had me spooked. Fortunately, the lad seemed pretty unfazed by the blasphemy, and even mentioned how he loves Acid Bath. I haven’t always been so lucky. Before I got my wisdom teeth taken out they pumped me full of nitrous to chill me out enough to get an IV in my arm. I was seeing all sorts of shapes and colors, and for some reason, one of the nurses thought it was the perfect time to chat me up about my old NIN shirt from the ninth grade I had thrown on so I could bleed and drool everywhere without worry of ruining something nicer. She asked me if they were my favorite band, and all I said was no, which only led to the inevitable question, “well who is?” Even through my stupor, I clearly remember letting out a sloppy “EYE HATE GOD!” It cut through the staleness of the florescent room as I watched the staff recoil. Some Hannibal Buress lookalike standing by the door just smiled and said “ohhhh, alright.” Lord knows if he was real or just a figment of my imagination at that point.
I went to pay homeboy for my bunk when I remembered to ask him about tacking on a lock to my bill (fyi for all y’all who think you bourgie and don’t stray from the Holiday Inn, you have to keep your shit in lockers at hostels to keep the hippies from helping yourself to your deodorant). To my delight and horror he assured me that such measures wouldn’t be necessary since no one else had booked in my EIGHT FUCKING PERSON room that night. Where was I? What was this fifth fucking dimension fucking place? Had I nodded off on the Mega Bus and kidnapped into some kind of parallel ghost town? I tried not to think too hard and count my broke ass blessings for a $25 private room, but I couldn’t help but long for the constant laughter and slow beats that could be heard from every spot in the dank walls of my last hostel experience in New Orleans. Eager to start drinking, I slapped on a fresh hoe-face and rushed out of the white-walled sterility in search of some sign of life.
I took off to the famed Gwarbar that I was stoked to see was only a short walk away. I needed a beer and a veggie burger more than Kris Jenner needs an earlobe lift, and I was stoked to see some wild Gwar regalia. To my surprise, I nearly walked past the place. It’s just some non-descript-looking two story building tucked on the corner of a lot. Even more surprising, when I reached out and pulled on the front door it was locked tight. I double checked the hours. Nope, I was definitely in the right range. I could see a heavily tattooed chick pouring Johnnie Walker for two dudes at the bar. I did a walk around the building, assuming I must have come to a side entrance or something, but I couldn’t find shit else of note aside from some old Gwar costumes displayed in a dirty window on the second floor. I went back to where I started and pulled on the door again. This time it rattled around a bit in the lock, and the dudes at the bar even turned around as if to say “can someone let this chick in?” The bartender pretended like she didn’t see me.
Feeling like a dingus, I started to retreat and took out my phone and typed vegan food Richmond into my Chrome app, but then felt myself hesitate. Fuck no, this was ridiculous. I didn’t wake up at 4:00 a.m. to get on a Mega Bus just to have the same Indian takeout and 40 of Corona I would at home. I was a hangry ass under-carbed herbivore that would settle for nothing less than fake blood splatters. Like any good white person that’s displeased with a service establishment, I rattled the shit out of that door until I got the attention to which I believed I was entitled. Finally, what seemed to be a hostess came around, did something to the doorknob, and let me in. “It wasn’t locked,” she said in disgust. Well hello to you, too.
I took a seat at the bar and tried to put the awkwardness behind me and got me some pineapple ginger fucker that I sucked down in about .001 seconds. I’m a sucker for the signature drinks with the fancy syrups and floating berries. If you’re one of seven us in the Vegan Alcoholics Alliance (VAA) you are well-versed in the exhilaration of being able to get drunk off fruit. It’s a beautiful thing. Even though I was self-conscious to be stuffing my face hole while the alt Barbies behind the bar were busy being flawless, I got the Hail Seitan sammich (pretty much your meatless take on BBQ) and had all kinds of religious experiences.
It was when I started pounding back Jameson and diet after Jameson and diet that I had the courage to break out of that invisible wall I build around myself and start looking around a bit. The Gwar theme was subtle, to say the least. It wasn’t really the Rainforest Café of shock rock as much as it was the Suicide Girls show. One of the bartenders and her protruding nipples were showing off their new pink scooter helmet to a few gentlemen while another stood off to the side, displaying her Hello Kitty manicure as she gracefully poured two Jack and Cokes. Meanwhile, all I had to boast was the fact that I managed to eat about 800 calories of tater tots. I figured it was about time to slide back into my turtle shell, but it wasn’t too long until it was broken by an “excuse me…EXCUSE ME.” At first I thought the dude lurking over my shoulder was trying to get the bartender’s attention, but evidently it was me he needed to so desperately conversate with.
“Would you MIND scooting down one?”
I turned to see a giant angry beard in my face. The wayfarer sunglasses. The denim vest. The fake motorcycle gang patch. Probably had his pit bull tied up out front. It was Mr. Richmond Douche.
Oh yes, sir. Of course I’ll move. I so sincerely apologize for leaving a single seat next to me, for having the utter audacity to assume that there might be another loaner like myself in the world. Here, take mine. I insist. I know you and your nondescript brunette girlfriend really need to sit down and pretend to drink those Guinness drafts. The situation is dire, indeed.
But of course, in actuality, Jenna didn’t throw no shade. She opened her doe eyes real big and said “oh yeah, of course” while awkwardly trying to extend into the high drop down to grab her bag. I waited for a thank you that never came as Mr. RD claimed his rightful throne. As I got on to the stool beside me and tried to pull myself in closer, my right middle finger got caught between some parts in the wood that had gotten loose. I yanked it out to see a giant splinter and blood gushing everywhere. Tthe bartenders, of course, remained aloof. I performed quick surgery on myself and wrapped it up in a cocktail napkin until finally, after, twenty minutes, the bleeding stopped. I tried to cheer myself up by thinking about the irony of spewing bodily fluids at fucking Gwarbar, but my spirit was really starting to wane. I could hear one of the girls describing the Broadberry where Eyehategod was playing to some customers, and remembered I had a show to get to. Bambi Suicide with the three foot dreads and came over and delicately asked me if I wanted another round, clearly unsure what to make of the little black-haired girl who wasn’t another wide-eyed male admirer. I declined. I was about 200% over all this shit.
I couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief when I got to the Broadberry. It was your average smaller to mid-sized venue with the black cinderblock walls and industrial ceiling. The same skeptical bouncer rotating my out-of-state ID back and forth. The same sweet generic short-haired dude pouring my whiskey tall with no complaints. Everything felt alright again. I watched Eyehategod take stage for the fourth time in just over a year. Gary and his case with the Iron Reagan sticker, Jimmy with a fresh buzz. Drummer Aaron did his rhythmic rocking thing that always signals the beginning and end of their set. As always, it felt like I blinked and it was over, and as always, any type of peace I felt after an all-over-the-map day was short-lived.
There are those people in this world that are half utterly psycho and half utterly bored. They’re the spoon that stirs up drama because it’s what entertains their chaotically vacant minds. If your one of the normals, the key to surviving this breed is to not indulge it. Walk away. Walk to the next town. Walk to the next planet. Just get the fuck out of the way. But when you’re so tired and drunk that you can hardly hold your head up, it’s easy to forget that rule of thumb. Because you know what being really, really tired gets you? Some bitch in an awkward kimono nicknaming you “benzo girl” and following you around asking what drugs you’re on and saying how much cuter she is than you. I wish I could make this shit up, but I can’t. The only further commentary I’m even going to make on this weak ass topic is this: if you insist that you are with COC and then proceed to get physically carried by security because you are not actually with COC, maybe…maybe….just fucking maybe, it’s time to go to IKEA, buy a mirror, and spend a few years looking into it. Reflect. Ponder. Revaluate. Or just get hit by a train.
Speaking of trains, I managed to let this bitch get to me so bad that I ran out of the venue and dejectedly staggered all the way past the train station where the Mega Bus had dumped me. I somehow managed to retrace my steps to the hostel again and collapsed into my bottom bunk. Two hours of uneasy sleep were interrupted every two minutes by being cognizant enough to know I was freezing but also too blurry to realize the blankets were up on top of the lockers. Before I knew it, it was a time for yet another early morning to get back home. I decided to pay out for Amtrak to get home faster, so back to the fifteen blocks once more. I collapsed into the arms of the Mayberry-esque station that I’m pretty sure only ran two lines – North and South. I couldn’t help but envy the clean clothes of the impossibly fresh-looking young yuppie couple sitting across from me as I sweated through my motorcycle jacket and shredded jeans. I was on the verge of nodding off when a man’s voice called all those Northbound to their gate. It was the one time I felt thankful for Richmond being so slow and sleepy. Lord knows what would have happened if I had actually been in 2016 and had to go read a screen or something.
Many painful hours of wallowing in my own filth while my ride bumbled along haplessly behind a slow-speed freight train were accented by continual head plunging and jolts back awake. My views of the ten million random Virginia rivers eventually turned into the urban decay of the vacant lots behind the abandoned rowhomes of West Baltimore until I finally made it back to Penn Station. Pig-Pen had returned to her dust cloud.
Whenever you return home from any sort of trip, whether it be a night in another city or a month in another country, the readjustment to your normal shitty life sucks. Even though I probably had no business driving at this point, I decided it was a good idea to still attempt my usual weekend responsibilities. I could barely stand, I could barely fucking breath, but damn it, I needed gas. My card got declined, and after a half hour emotional breakdown on the curb of Royal Farms, I realized it had only been because I had entered my pin when the pump had asked for my zip code. I also came to the conclusion that a package of Tofurky and three containers of guacamole made up an ample grocery trip.
11:00 pm, and things were looking bleak. I collapsed into my bed with a glass of pinot that I only got about two sips into. 4:00 am, and things were looking bleak. I dragged myself up for my workout, my hour and half commute, my eight hours behind a desk. By Wednesday I was already done. I went to this strip mall dive and had some dude with kids older than me buying me drinks. We went joy riding in his truck until we ended up at Taco Bell. When our faces were all warmly illuminated by the glow of the drive-thru menu he turned to me and said “you know, you’re a lot of fun.” It was all innocent enough, I guess. We were both lonely, bored, and looking for a good story to tell our friends later. But as the night grew later, all I could feel was grime and shame. I raced home and stuck one of my eyeshadow brushes down my throat until I spewed refried beans until I could do was shake and cry.
The next morning I went to the coffee shop across from my office building where my sister works. I starred at her glassy-eyed, desperately trying to tell her about the night before, but I kept trailing off and tearing up. She shot me some sympathetic look through equally bloodshot eyes. She was knee deep in another six day work week. An emptiness hung tied between us.
I kept on keeping on until Friday – the Friday I had been looking forward to for two months. Eyehategod was playing Bmore. But instead, I went home and collapsed, regretting my self-sabotage. Back at it again at 4:00, I went to go secure my place in line at the last minute Bernie Sanders rally. Five hours of standing, five minutes of getting hit on by the Secret Service, and five hundred rounds of applause. It was surreal and kind of serene, looking up at a figure that you never thought you’d see outside of a screen, reminding you that the world is so much bigger than your own petty shit. I left the Baltimore Arena as drained as I did when I had stepped on the train leaving Richmond, but no sleep yet. I was about two hours out from a tattoo appointment and I was at a pivotal point where I was unsure if a 20 ounce Red Bull would make things very better or very worse. Luckily, my natural adrenaline kicked in and when I laid down on the table, the pain seemed to dissipate as fast as it came.
To celebrate our survival of the past week, my sister and I went out for crushes and mules at a dark, ship-themed place overlooking the harbor. It was nice to just sit and be for a while, but the time constriction being imposed by the expectations of the next week cast a shadow over us. We tried to distract ourselves by taking in the waspy blondes twerking on the dancefloor in their cuffed white capris. We tried to make sense of how some of the most brooding, unforgiving waterfront industrial land in Baltimore serves as the playground to the kids that could probably afford a place overlooking Central Park, but got nothing. By the time we got our Uber, it became clear that we were both starting to lose it. She was scream-crying about how she thought it was the opportune time to tell one of her coworkers she was in love with him, and I was starting to go down the what’s-the-point mental road. It seemed like our exhaustion had thrown us into full-on existential shit, but to be fair, I think it also had been a long time coming. When I think about it, things haven’t been adding up.
It’s been when I’m texting a dude and every response to what I say is just “well when you coming over?” I can feel myself starting to break down. The anxiety begins to grip like tears welling up in my eyes. I’m at the point in my life where I need to actually feel like a person. But when I think about the mere prospect of being in a relationship I begin to drown in the fear of derailing my life goals by regressing into the inevitable codependency, and I can feel myself starting to break down. The anxiety begins to grip like tears welling up in my eyes. I’m at the point in my life where I need to actually feel like a person.
It’s been when I go back to my college and party with old friends and I can’t help but feel a compulsive urge to take the next Uber home as the night declines into floor crashing, screaming couples, and chicken wings. I just want to disappear until I’m back in my own world where I can drink white wine and watch Democracy Now and feel superior to it all. When I go to my office job, I can’t help but feel the compulsive urge to get my car out of the garage and never come back as the day declines into screaming lawyers, holes in tights, and indecipherable client calls. I just want to disappear until I’m back in my own world where I can drink Fireball and watch Bob’s Burgers and feel more humble than it all.
And when I drink it’s like the best feeling in the world until it’s not. What seems like endless adventure tires into an endless low. When I’m sober it’s like the best feeling in the world until it’s not. What seems like endless ambition tires into being just plain tired. It’s like an oscillating prison where you crave one state being shattered by the other even though it only brings glimpses of satisfaction.
And that, is your 20’s – a time when the only constant is that nothing feels right, as made possible through the lost art of sleep.