And Then I Thought I was a Fish

IDENTIFYING INFORMATION: Peter Hunt Welch is a 20-year-old single Caucasian male who was residing in Bar Harbor, Maine this summer. He is a University of Maine at Orono student with no prior psychiatric history, who was admitted to the Acadia Hospital on an involuntary basis due to an acute level of confusion and disorganization, both behaviorally and cognitively. He was evaluated at MDI and was transferred from that facility due to psychosis, impulse thoughts, delusions, and disorientation.

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Observations of a Straight White Male with No Interesting Fetishes

Ever wondered how to justify your own righteousness even while you're constantly embarrassed by it? Or how to make a case for your own existence when you contribute nothing besides nominal labor to a faceless corporation that's probably exploiting children? Are you clinging desperately to an arbitrary social model imposed by your parents and childhood friends? Or screaming in terror, your mind unhinged at the prospect of an uncaring void racing to consume the very possibility of your life having meaning?

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This is the story of a boy, a girl, a phone, a cat, the end of the universe, and the terrible power of ennui.

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A Leg to Stand On

Composed on the 20th of September in the year 2005, at 2:02 AM. It was Tuesday.

We don’t have a lot of furniture in our apartment yet. This is because I don’t make a lot of money. It’s also because my roommate makes an impolite amount of money on a nightshift job that works him to death six days a week, so he has no time to spend it, particularly on things that have to be moved by more than one person. Say furniture.

We need it. Our bedrooms are cozy, our kitchen elegantly spare, but our living room is a vacant floor with a couch and chair that are growing a second coat of cat hair in preparation for the winter. A small table sits between them, and serves as my bedside table when I can’t face the futon and need something wide and soft. Add the notes and pictures stapled to the wall and the very first impression you get from walking into our apartment is that there are three heroin addicts who swear they’ll finish the open philosophy book on the table, just after they get another fix and write half a poem.1[1]

The only way around this interpretation is to walk guests into the bedroom, but that isn’t always the first thing you want to do with guests, particularly if that’s exactly what you want to do with them later in the night, and you’re both being coy about it.

I thought about this, lying awake on the couch again last night, leaving the philosophy book conspicuously open next to the book I was actually reading, which was a battered science fiction book dug up from my secret stash. The windowsill is the length of the room, and at a height that is just begging to have a bar nailed to it. Pardon, a bar and workspace. Or just another thing on which to shock the neighbors.

And there’s a table leaning against the windowsill.

After buying a surprisely expensive futon, with mattress and frame, I had to replace the mattress, which was so dead it was worse than sleeping on the bare bars. The day after I dropped another hundred dollars to replace the mattress, we saw a frame in the street. So I said fuck it, and apart from my desk, I get my furniture on the street. My roommate picks up furniture on the street because the only time he has the furniture bug is when he’s walking home from work, and one morning three weeks ago, he brought home this table.

And it’s gorgeous. Dark wood, sturdy frame, and no screws to hold the legs on. Well screw it, thought Jake, so to speak, we can find screws, right?

Well, I tried. I eyed the sockets and went out for some screws. I bought three or four different sizes and tried them out. This was no trick. It’s not easy to find a hardware store around here, despite the fact that we live about five blocks from the warehouse district and are surrounded by big polish men with tool belts. Not only is it hard to find a hardware store, half the hardware stores around have a little less than half a shelf of screw sizes.

I’m joking, right? No. “You gotta be fucking joking,” I said, aloud, in three of the stores, before I learned to shut up so they would let me back in. I mean, when I lived in Hancock, Maine, a town so small that people three miles away have never heard of it, I could find any screw I needed with a ten-minute drive. Now I’m in Brooklyn and I have trouble finding thumbtacks.

So anyway, none of the screws fit. Yesterday, a week after the first foray, I picked up a table leg and went hunting.

Now I looked good yesterday. Just finished laundry, bought a pair of pants with no obcious holes in them, washed my hair, shaved, and generally got ready to hit the town. Or at least, Greenpoint. So, bursting out the door, comes a savvy post-college young professional with a table leg.

Now, there’s another way to phrase that, which runs along the lines: So, bursting out the door, comes a tall, darkly dressed, thin, unsmiling white boy carrying a heavy stick, wearing dark shades, and walking quickly.

This occurred to me about halfway through the park, when a bunch of kids stopped playing and became quiet as I walked through them. It took a lot to surpress the urge to say, “Don’t worry, kids. Daddy’s just gotta punish some suckas.”

I noticed that instead of the usual experience of not being anyone’s problem in general, I was now specifically not the problem of anyone in my path. This had benefits. I reset the ringer on my cell phone, which is very hard for me for some reason, but today I did it on the street, completely confident that everyone was going to get out of my way while I sifted through menu options.

I tried to find a non-threatening way to hold it. There is no non-threatening way to hold a table leg. It’s like a baseball bat, but definitely isn’t. It’s just a big, heavy piece of wood. There’s no way to hold a big piece of wood that doesn’t make it readily available for swinging. A passerby might think, “Now there’s a guy who needs a screw, I hope he finds a hardware store,” but that passerby might just as easily think, “Now there’s a guy who needs a fuck, soon, before he kills someone, because he’s carrying clubs in the street, and I’m getting the hell out of his way.”

Now, in Maine, nobody would blink. I could walk into a gas station with a table leg, and the attendent would say, “Oh, what size screw do you need?” And if, perchance, I bashed in his head and robbed the place, nobody would have blamed him. Partly because he’d be dead, but mostly because everybody’s fixing something in Maine, so carrying table legs is only a little more surprising than carrying mufflers.

To make a long story longer, I didn’t find a screw.

I’m not sure I’ll ever find the right size at this point. Eventually, I’ll have a full time job, and thus less time to spend searching for hardware to make this table stand on its own. It’s too bad, because it’s the next and first step to making this place a little more welcoming, and a little more home.

So the table is still leaning on the windowsill, only eight screws away from making the apartment a better place.

Who can blame it. I feel the same way sometimes.

1 With lots of dashes and no capital letters.

There is nothing tastier than baby panda meat.

Hi there! You should totally go buy my book for the low low price of 6.73! It's like buying me a beer at an out-of-the-way dive bar in Brooklyn! Not in Manhattan. Manhattan prices are ridiculous, though there are a couple of decent Irish dives where you can snag a drink for five bucks. Otherwise, you're looking at a two or three book beer.