Breakdown

It’s Monday. I told my readers I’d post every Monday. I had some good shit ready to go. But we broke up this morning. 4:00 a.m.

It was me. I wanted to. I wanted to be alone and miserable again. I had to tell you that I love you. I love you deeply and it burns to watch you struggle. I love you. But I love myself more. And I have to let someone else love you, and hold you, and fuck you, even though that will burn me too.

Truth is agony. I’m so tired, so weary of hurting people. But there’s no way not to. When I lie, I hurt someone. When I tell the truth the same thing happens.

***

You said I was going to get a good blog post out of this breakup. I did. But it’s not for me, it’s for you. It’s your tribute.

***

In the morning the sun was bright and clean and hot. Like the afterglow of a bomb. First day of a new life. I felt drained and dehydrated.

We’re both still in the apartment; lease complications. We ate cereal and acted like pals who’d never fucked before. Talking to you is soothing. Even when we’re trying not to cry.

I did cry. When I was in Starbucks later with the laptop open, drowning in work. Too much work to be sad. Or so I thought. I had to put my sunglasses on, but people heard me sniffing. They kept staring; people loathe you when your emotions leak out in public. Sometimes you actually feel yourself breaking.

I got back home. Rested my head on your lap. We have to wean off each other. As I got dressed to go to work I got the email from the publisher in Singapore. They’re going to give me the book deal. No contract yet. But it’s going to happen. They said, “We’re definitely keen to have you on board for the book, what do you think of the submission deadline?”

So what if it’s a tiny book about Vietnamese culture. It’s real. I’ll leverage it to get more real books printed with my name on the front. They picked me. My dream came true.

The message that changed my life, it had to come today, the day I left you. I read it and felt absolutely nothing. But you cried when I told you. You’re so happy for me. When I think of that I break down again.

I’ve never had a day like today. I can’t imagine I ever will again. I’m stunned.

***

I’m going to move to Saigon to finish the book. I want you to be there with me. But what I want more than that is to do it alone.

The right thing is to let you go. So you can get your old self back. Be a girl again, find some virile little boys. Me, I’ll just turn 30. Get worse hangovers. Become professional. Stay stuck in 2011 for the next 40 years. Blow out a hip, devolve into a potato, become one of the old white guys in Asia who young white backpackers make fun of.

You meant everything. Please remember that. Take me back in time, I’d do it again. Thank you.

***

We promised to get back together in 10 years if we’re both single. You won’t be. I will. I’m building a romantic career out of being the ex-boyfriend the husbands hate. And they should. I’m special, I’m talented, I’m lucky. I’m going to get what I want. Whether that will satisfy me or not, I don’t know yet.

Back when it ended, early this morning, I held you. You came to me. Wrapped up in the comforter. You can’t sleep without me, even when I’ve just killed you. When I held you, I forgot I killed you. I forgot that I had already left you and that I loved myself more than you.

And while we were about to fall asleep, I was truly, desperately in love with you. You’re my girl. It was simple and obvious. If I could, I’d stretch that moment out for the rest of our lives. I closed my eyes and tried to do that, one more time. But when I woke up it was gone.

 

This Post Is Pretty Good

For the rest of 2016 I’m only going to be posting on Mondays. No time to do any more than that. I have three jobs. And also I’m writing a new book.

I have a memoir/travelogue I need to get out of my system. Pretty much all my Asia stories. What happened to the dumb little boy who broke up with God and moved abroad. I wanted fun, adventure, money, girls, respect, money, girls, attention, money, girls, fulfillment and peace. And also money and girls*. I thought that living in China (and then Korea, and then Vietnam) would be a shortcut to these things. I was right. I’ll tell you all about it. I thought: why tell a story or say something meaningful about the world and the agonizing problems it faces today when I can just keep talking about drinking beer under neon lights?

I’ve been in the East for a while. Living through every possible story there is. I’ve been a king and a slave. I’ve also been dumb and smart, adored and reviled. Also a booze-blooded heathen and a spiral-eyed fundamentalist cult member. It is literally impossible for my story to not resonate with you. I mean, we all have the same life and live out the same stories. Except I feel the same feelings you do in Tokyo or someplace like that. I imagine that makes them more interesting. And it kind of does?

Despite that fact that my debut book (and also my debut novella) blew up on the launch pad, and that my readership shrinks by the second, I’m still going to spend an unforgivable amount of time and money on this new book. Everybody should be allowed one stupid thing to waste their lifeforce on, and this is mine.

I’m stuck on some of the details, including what to call it. But for now the working title is This Book Is Pretty Good: Stories by Fred Colton. You’ll have to take my word for how good it will be, because I know you’re not going to buy it. That’s OK. I’m not doing it for the money. When you weigh my bills against my income, I already make more money than almost every other person in the world. I know this book will not save me, this book will not kickstart a hallowed literary career. That’s OK. This book merely needs to exist. And it will. I want to put it out (read: probably won’t have time to put it out until) early next year. Just in time to miss the holiday shopping season! I never said I was good at marketing.

Until then: Mondays. I’ll use the little writing time I have to edit my posts more, make them as tight and bright as possible, because most blog posts are pretty bad.

Maybe everyone should do that. I mean, have you been on the WordPress Reader lately? Jesus.

***

*Dear Girlfriend: now I only want you. Mouah.

What Happened in Thailand

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were mostly bad things. We got scammed by two tuk-tuk drivers, then my girlfriend’s jewelry was stolen, and then I lost my ATM card. Then the monsoons washed out a few of the good days and kept us trapped inside, ordering coffee refills and running out of stories to tell each other. Good practice for being retired.

Our indecisive travel buddies vacuumed up the rest of the time. Instead of saying what they want to do, everyone instead insists they’re down for whatever. What is whatever? “Whatever” is nothing, “whatever” is evil; stop saying you’re down for it.

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At least my girlfriend got to see Bangkok. I’d been there once before, five years ago, but I didn’t own a camera back then, and I was usually drunk during that trip, so most of the details have dissolved. But remembering less makes the return a little more vibrant. On the bus ride into town from the airport I saw the PC café where a pickpocket lifted $200 off me back on my first trip here. I figured later that he had cased me as I was leaving the ATM across the street. And you know what, good for him. I hope it turned things around for him.

I mean, I certainly wasn’t worried about myself. I had white parents; I was going to be fine.

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I won’t talk about the many, many golden palaces and temples in Bangkok, because average writers would latch onto those details, and I am not them. Instead I’ll tell you about the thing you see the most of in Bangkok: British men with Man Utd jerseys from 2001 who have pierced eyebrows and leathery skin that could stop bullets, who drink beers at the airport at 11:00 a.m.

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Also I’ll tell that you can find lizards and birds hanging out on the sidewalk by the Grand Palace. And that the top of the city’s tallest building has a scrolling neon banner that says LONG LIVE THE KING. The King’s portrait is truly everywhere. Some people have Instagram; he has a country. He ascended to the throne after his older brother died of a gunshot wound in 1946 under mysterious circumstances. I got curious and read a little about the situation. I’m not saying that the current king killed his brother to become king. But I am saying that he was, according to palace logs, the last person to visit his brother in his quarters before the murder. I had to wait until I left Thailand to type those sentences. People go to prison for less. He’s ruled longer than Queen Elizabeth. He’s always frowning.

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Told you, about the lizard.

We were down in Krabi most of the time. Up north, it’s Buddhist country. Down south, where we were, you see a lot of Muslim Thais. Or is it “Muslim Thai”, with Thai being a collective term, like fish. I don’t know. I don’t go to places to learn.

What’s in Krabi? Well, lots of beaches and Asian-esque rock formations. Endless miles of oceanfront property crammed with tour company kiosks, which all manage to stay in business. I don’t know what else to say. There are pictures.

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like this motherfucker right here

But overall the trip was a fail. The rain. We went to Thailand to do pretty much nothing but live in backpacker purgatory for a week. I was fretting because I was relaxing too much. But I also didn’t feel like not relaxing — you don’t go to Thailand to run around all haggard. Do you? Eh, who fucking knows.

It went so badly that my girlfriend wanted to break up. We didn’t get out enough when the weather was good. I would have taken more initiative to go do things, but I was depressed again. It comes and goes. It’s terrible. It’s like my mind gets hijacked by a teenager. You wish you could schedule these things, so you could not be depressed while in the tropics, but that’s not how it works.

Endorphins weren’t even an option. I hurt my foot when I was running, and had to stop working out. A week of the vacation diet made me hyper-aware of the fat in my neck when I turn my head.

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Not having a smartphone for a week reminded me how boring and frustrating life is. Escapism is a multi-million quadrillion dollar market for a reason. Maybe if life were a little better and smoother, we’d be able to stay off our phones.

A smartphone is better than a trip to Thailand. Don’t listen to anyone who has been anywhere. They’re lying to you to protect their investment – they at least had to get some bragging rights out of their $4,000 trip.

The curse of fancying yourself a writer means you only go places or do things so you can have the authority to write about them. To go places and do things requires money. Which brings the budget for this blog post to somewhere north of $400 (we flew in from Vietnam, stayed for a week). So all I have to say is that you better have fucking enjoyed it.

 

 

The Workaholic Manifesto

Freedom will not make you happy. Don’t listen to anyone who says so. If you have to keep your Instagram fresh as a reminder of how good your life is, then maybe it’s not. Your social media game is the equivalent of North Korean propaganda.

I had a pile of money and was free for a while, and it wasn’t that great. All you do is ruminate over the myriad ways you could possibly lose your freedom. Lightning could hit me and I’d be bedridden. Or my mother and grandparents and siblings and cousins could all die on the same day, and I’d be stuck raising my nephew. Once you start doing that, your freedom is already gone.

Freedom is not the magical time you hope it will be. But there’s still magic to be had in this life. It’s just that the only people who experience it are the guys in Dover, NH who have fed themselves into the blue collar maw, wear flannel, and have feet so swollen after thirteen hours on the clock that they have to cut their boots off. Quivering with joy on the drive home just because they’re sitting down. Floating down the river of the sweet narcotic that is the first beer from the fridge. Getting into bed and being too tired to move your jaw to say good night, that’s magic.

***

The dream is dead. I no longer exist as an artist. I’m working again, every single day. I come home so tired I fall asleep halfway through taking my pants off. No more Saturdays, but that’s all right. I can’t remember the last time a Saturday actually lived up to the hype.

What I do is teach IELTS English exam courses for Vietnamese adults. Lots of security guards and college students and some doctors and soldiers and managers, too. The salt of the earth. I interact with them in the way that politicians pretend to. And I care about their success in the same way that politicians pretend to. They work hard. If I close my eyes I can hear the gears in their heads turning. They bleed from the eyeballs as they try to memorize our idioms. Native knowledge of English is a golden gift. And what have you done with it, other than run around creating perversions like bae.

It’s nice to arrive at work and not want to die from the minute you punch in. Nice to feel valued. It’s also pretty nice to get paid. I make more money teaching a single 90-minute class than I have from an entire lifetime of writing. All cash, under the table, no taxes like I’m a drug dealer.

Not that it’s amazing money – nightclub bartenders still make more money in a night than I do in a week… except wait, actually they don’t. You have to apply the exchange rate. A US dollar earned in Vietnam is like three US dollars earned in America. Because in America you have eight kinds of taxes and three kinds of insurance, and also car payments and gas for the car and probably a mortgage and a nonzero amount of credit cards. And plummeting stocks courtesy of the financial fuckery of Brexit. And probably kids. Not having kids is like writing your future self a check.

Don’t listen to the artists. You should just go to work and stay there forever. Expression feels good but the pleasant simmer of having stockpiled money is much, much better. It’s definitely preferable to writing yet another gorgeous blog post that’s simply here and gone like a firework.

Just be at work, always. Be too busy for anyone else’s bullshit. Be a pillar of virtue, be a bitch in a building. Be like Jay Z and not even notice the money piling up. Be grateful that your long shots didn’t work out and you don’t have to worry about sustaining your impossible luck.

I finally have this life thing figured out. And all shall continue to be good, as long as I don’t get inspired again.

 

Back to Vietnam

Tomorrow I’ll write about my Thailand trip. I’m too tired this evening. We spent last night homeless on the leather benches of the 24-hour Burger King in the Bangkok Airport. There was a FIFA match playing and these two Chinese cunts kept all us backpackers wide awake by hooting every time Ronaldo was on screen. So I got a series of mico-naps; maybe 20 minutes of sleep in total. Then I couldn’t sleep in coach on the way back to Vietnam, and I had to go to work after I landed. I was drifting across lanes on my motorbike, knowing I had to turn the handlebars but finding myself physically unable to. Driving drunk is easy.* Fatigued is where the trouble’s at. I remember swinging easy all-nighters at 22. Fast forward to a mere 28, and you already feel like an invalid when you’re sleep deprived. In summary: I’m fall-down tired. 

Well, this post is pretty bad but I get anxious when I don’t write something. See you tomorrow for some more.

*what my friends tell me!