I've often thought Vicky really blew it by marrying me - I mean, really bought a lemon. Well, this weekend helped illuminate my point pretty well, I think.
Let's start with the new book and work our way back. As you faithful readers probably know (both of you), I hit the 10,000 word mark last week. This new book is really a return to roots for me; I'm casting off all pretension in my style, bringing everything down to a basic, simple style, while amping my sarcasm up to 11. It's a lot like my writing used to be back in the days of the first My Side (which was a newspaper column)... but with more cussing. The thing is, it's such a risk for me, I'm not really sure if it's any good. In fact, as I hit 10k, I was pretty sure it probably sucked.
I asked a few people if they'd be interested in reading it for me, screening it, if you will. Enter Trish, Vicky's Matron-of-Honor, good friend, and her one link to the guy who used to write My Side. She said she'd love to read the 10k and so, in one fell swoop, she was reading something a lot like the My Sides I wrote in high school, which she might have read... now and then became one a little bit.
Then, it got worse.
See, back when I wrote My Side, back in high school, I was the guy to beat. I was voted most talented in the year book. I had teachers expect me to be on Broadway, some of them said they expected me to win a Pulitzer. There was a lot of pressure to achieve great things.
Which I did not do.
Not only did I not achieve great things, I barely pulled out good things.
It still happens today. I have actor friends who expect me to ace auditions, which I never do. People think that just because I've written 10 books, one should get published. They don't. People have this limitless capacity for hope, which doesn't help me any because I can't help but let them down.
And defeat isn't something that helps you sleep at night.
A few months ago, a guy named Eugene David, a guy I was good friends with in elementary school, wrote to me through Classmates and asked me what I'd been up to. Hmmm... failed married, dead-end job, living in an apartment, never been published, not a working actor - I didn't have much to tell him. Now, of course, I'm married to a wonderful woman with a nice home but the expectations that were placed upon me back then were never met. In short, I failed. I'm a failure.
Put that on my tombstone.
Along with pepperoni. I love pepperoni.
So, Trish is reading the book - you remember how we got there, right? - and she reads the following:
Carl Olek was a man quickly approaching middle-age who had moved to Arizona for the dry weather. He needed it because his joints would swell and ache anywhere else he lived, a conclusion drawn after living in only two other places. Carl didn’t have arthritis. He’s busted his knuckles time and again as a child, beating the crap out of people. As a child, Carl had been a bully and he’d liked beating the crap out of people a whole lot; he just hadn’t realized that it would put him in a shithole like Seligman, Arizona or that he’d end up tending bar in a place like the Log Cavern Tavern and at no point did he ever think he’d ever run into John Gabriel in such a place. Or that John Gabriel would be telling him his fucking life’s story.
Carl Olek, you see, was a real person - he may still be a real person. I was friends with him in elementary school. He was kind of a bully - I got to know him through Jeff Hollenbeck, who I was friends with for quite some time. We only stopped being friends in Junior High school, when he got more into drugs than with hanging around dorks. I was the dork. I was more drawn to reading and making up stories than to sports or drugs. I didn't choose well.
Vicky and I were in Lancaster Saturday night, having dinner at her mom's restaurant, when the topic of these 10,000 words came up. Vicky, so tired of hearing me wonder if Trish had read it yet that she wished she could have put me inside a vacuum tube that would have sucked me over to Trish & Clay's house (no, Tim. Not that way!), she pulled out her phone and immediately called Trish.
And Trish had read it.
And she wanted to talk to me.
"Is Carl Olek based on a real person?" she asked.
He was, I told her.
This came as a surprise to her and not for the reasons you might think. You see, she knew Carl Olek.
She knew Jeff Hollenbeck.
She knew these people who expected me to succeed. And, yet, she knows I'm a failure.
And, so, it all comes full circle - or, at least, it did this weekend - Trish, Jeff, all those expectations, all of my failures - there's no escaping it. There's also no way that I can hide from Vicky how shortchanged she got by saying "I do".
... pretty crappy way to start the week.