Light Your Dick On Fire

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Friday night we got hammered and stole a Vietnamese fisherman’s boat from a hamlet on the Red River and went out floating. It was 3 a.m. We got down to boxers and unlashed it from the bamboo pylons, then slid it silently through the reeds like Navy SEALs. The boat was made of hand-cut planks and had an aluminum roof. Probably been in the family since the French were here.

I spent the whole time in abject panic. Imagined rowing back and finding the cops arrayed on shore with floodlights. Had visions of life in a Vietnamese prison, being power-raped by all the rice dicks. You know the terror you feel when you’re skidding in a car and about to hit something. This was that terror, but sustained for about forty minutes. Like you’re on fire inside and out. I enjoyed it.

I’m rich white and fat: the essence of fulfillment. I want for nothing, but still gotta do something. There’s an obvious parallel to Ryan Lochte/Rio to be made with this.

***

Being boring is a sin. A famous man said that, and I am in agreement. So, do more things so you’re not boring. Live while you can, basically. Because who knows how long that will be. I think about cancer all the time. Mostly because of the air here in urban Vietnam; you sit there boiling in motorbike traffic and breathing in the little smog particles. Trillions of them every second. They accumulate deep in your nasal cavity and over time form a semi-hard gob that you’re always kind of vaguely aware of, that ever-so-slightly changes the timbre of your voice. Every three months it accumulates enough mass to suddenly break loose and slide down your esophagus. It’s pure poison death. Also: salty and kind of satisfying.

Since I’m still alive and can do things, I’ll go hike this weekend, because Vietnamese Independence Day is this weekend, and everything is closed so they can gloat about the war. And you know what? Good for them.

But. It also happens that when I read about said Vietnam War, I fantasize that if Nixon had authorized just a few more bombing raids, it would have all turned out differently. Because the only thing I hate more than America’s deplorable foreign policy is knowing another country can say they’ve beaten us.

***

I work on my book in expensive cafés because I’m an asshole. It’s going pretty slowly. But these other goddamn writers keep me motivated and chopping away at it. This girl I know writes for a magazine and drops little writerly phrases into conversation like, I rested last week, and feel like I’ve recharged my personality and allows herself a smile afterward.

Other people wouldn’t catch that the phrase recharged my personality required some brainpower, but I’m a writer, and I sure as hell fucking did. That right there is purposefully refined thinking. I know exactly what happened. She wrote that line down in a journal and workshopped it. Then slyly deployed it while out at the bar. Don’t do that. Leave your shit at home. Have the decency to do what the rest of us do, and pretend we don’t even write. You’ve got to hide your writing like you’re Batman.

And this British kid with Leo Titanic hair who read a Brexit poem at the open mic on Sunday. Kept intentionally stretching and warping words because he thinks that’s how Artists are supposed to talk. Kept the mic close to his mouth like he was giving it a blowjob and kept hitting the p’s too hard so they detonated in the subwoofers and made everyone wince. But the poem itself was good. Kind of. Good, but only on a basic level. He’s not a genius, like I am. Like I think I am. Really I’m just mad when someone else dares to do the same thing I do. No matter what that thing may be. It’s always such a rude shock when it happens.

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The Gentleman

Still in Vietnam. Still on a bender. Four straight weeks of too much to drink and too few vegetables. I’m aging by the second; under my eyes it’s just lizard skin. If I smoked on top of all this then I’d look like Tommy Lee Jones already. Too much poison and sugar – I gotta downshift. There should be an app that shows you your liver damage in real time.

I have a long nasty beard that looks like a toilet brush and I piss in the sink in the hallway of my boarding house because the bathroom is one floor down. This is what a man looks like in the aftermath. When he does the right thing, or maybe just the more honest thing. Maybe there is no right thing. I hope she’s OK. I know she’s not, but I still hope it anyway.

***

It’s not as bad as I make it sound. My Puritanical background keeps me from sliding too far into hell. I have good habits. I get home from this stupid fucking glitter club called Hanoi Rock City and watch action movie clips on YouTube and drink water until I’m sober. I floss and moisturize. Then get eight hours of sleep and then 90 minutes of exercise and then study French and Vietnamese. Then I read Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicle before I go to work. At work I am white and therefore collect more money in 90 minutes than the locals do in a full week and blah blah…

All right. Let’s get to the sex stuff.

***

Put my jersey up. I could just retire from sex now. I’ve fucked enough for an army. Plus, I’ll be 30 soon, and I’m white. Past my prime. I have no business being naked anymore. White guys are gross when they’re old and naked.

I still have a high sex drive but just jack off constantly. I prefer jacking it to actual women now. I’ve come (heh) full circle, am 14 again.

There have been a few women who made it clear that they were down, who I could have smuggled up to my 5th floor flophouse. But the problem is that they wouldn’t cease to exist as soon as I came, which is what I want, which is what all men want but just won’t say. And there’s an added dimension of difficulty when it comes to kicking someone down out of a 5th floor walkup. That requires a level of finesse I don’t have the energy for. So, I jack it.

***

I keep forgetting I’m a legitimate, professional human now. I’ve finally started working on this Vietnam book I’m contracted for. It is a real thing; no longer can I just jizz all over WordPress and call it a day. Writing nonfiction is mental crossfit. You’re questioning, arguing with each sentence.

It’s also inauthentic. The style is not me. The tone is not me. I’m just sitting down at the keyboard and lying.

It’s due in four months. I’m a little worried, but I’m also not. I’ve been writing for so long that it doesn’t scare me anymore. If something isn’t working, I try it again. I know I’ll figure it out. Writing is about the only thing I’ve figured out.

A Single Man, Part II

Still no fucking, sorry. (A bit of porn, though.)

***

So concludes another day as an over-privileged white man in the Far East.

I found out some of my students draw a salary of $0.85 an hour. That’s the level of income that forces you to make your budget tighter than a cat’s asshole. Even for Vietnam. The company they work at is Japanese. They outsourced their plant over here because they can get away with paying slave wages. (It’s not only the Long Island Illuminati tycoons who do these things). And these workers are smart. The corporate complex is like a sweatshop for geniuses. I make 40 times what they do. They’ll work triple-overtime, save 100% of it, and still never escape.

Not even thinking about this makes me feel lucky. To be human is to be an animal and to be an animal is to be unaware of your advantages. We just happen to only be aware of what we lack. That’s the evolutionary force that keeps us moving.

I drive past a bunch of Vietnamese bricklayers on the way home. They’d all kill their own families to be me. Tall white hilarious cisgender American male with a book deal and cash in the bank and heaps of pussy waiting for him whenever he gets out of his funk. I am to them what a Saudi prince is to me. But then again, when I look at them and their low-BMI manual laborer bodies with the eternal six-packs, I’d kill to be them. No one gets it all.

***

Not that I’m fat. I’m gaunt, even though I drink too much.

About drinking. I can have a good time without it. I was raised in preparation for a lifetime of sobriety; I grew up Southern Baptist and was told having a Bud Light was a Satanic ritual. So I can go out sober and laugh until I cry. But I’d still rather do it while drinking.

I don’t gain beer weight because I work too much. My schedule is such a Bataan Death March that I’m inadvertently forced to fast most days. And it’s also because I work out like Michael Phelps. Except it’s worth noting that I’m better than Michael Phelps, because I still put in the hours even though no one will ever give a shit.

It’s OK. The workouts and the workaholism are working for me, they’re getting me through the emotions of the breakup, or past the emotions of the breakup, without having to confront them. Helping me neutralize thoughts of her in the future having nice sweet moments (or sweaty, naked moments) with other dudes and their dicks (even though I let her go and therefore I have no right to whine about it). The mental image I have of myself these days is that I’m holding on to a bomb really tightly so it won’t explode (because that is a thing that’s possible to do), and if I hold it long enough it’ll deactivate and I can put it down. That’s not how human emotions work, but I’m trying it anyway.

It’s not just the breakup. In general, I don’t really like myself, thanks to whatever chemical soup is in my head. I have to hype myself up to start thinking kind thoughts about myself, and it’s unsustainable. It’s like an arranged marriage. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think everyone is like this. But that doesn’t make it easier.

***

Anyway, it’s summer in Asia. That means we either live in an end-of-days downpour or nuclear-hot sunlight. Take your pick. No middle ground.

These days it’s the rain. It always hits while I’m driving my motorbike. Never before, never after. Always exactly during the time when I’m driving somewhere.

Saturday I got off work at 9:30 pm. At 9:31, the typhoon hit. I was going to have a night out but Mother Nature said otherwise, reasserted her existence, sliced through everyone’s neatly knotted little plans. Whenever the rain comes I glare at the Vietnamese like it’s their fault. As if monsoons are a feature they opted in for.

***

The rain keeps me pinned down inside, where I don’t write, and instead wrestle with the Y2K-speed internet connection. But tonight it let up. I went out and let people annoy me. The other expats. They’re loud jackoffs, bargain-bin degenerates, white trash cretins. Their noise fills up my head. It’s loathsome. It’s irritating. It’s insipid. It’s what I need.

 

A Single Man

dog kissing male owner

Now I live in a hot room in Vietnam, like the guy in Apocalypse Now. Except I have Winnie-the-Pooh bedsheets. Landlord went shopping and chose them, for some reason.

The AC gets fixed, works for a day and then breaks again. Spews flaming F-16 exhaust into the room while outside the sun blasts the life out of the city. The heat is such that it wakes you up at 5:00 am. It’s the only reminder I need that God doesn’t exist. Because there’s no reason for it to be this hot. For the sun to sear and boil you and melt your DNA strands down into cancer. An intelligent designer would have modulated this shit a little.

***

This breakup burns. Even though I was the one who did it. I see her around the city all the time. She’s alone, and she doesn’t want to be. It’s not fair.

I have too much history now. Too many cute, flirty stories racked up by this point for me to offer someone something genuine. And too many fuck stories for me to offer someone something innocent. Dating gets sick and nasty after a while. We wouldn’t buy a car with fifteen previous owners, but we’ll take a person with that many.

When I go out girls ask me if I have a girlfriend, if I want to go somewhere with them. I don’t. Which only makes them ask again. They only want me because I don’t want them.

That’s the only thing you need to know about life. By the time I decide I want one of the girls, they’ll all disapparate. Look at me with disgust for having a desire.

I’m worried about my empathy levels, I’m worried I’m too detached. I’m outrunning my emotions. I never sit down; there’s always something pressing. I exercise and then I go to work and then after work I have some drinks. Then I pass out and purposefully wake up late enough that I have no time to do anything but get ready for work again. Which leaves me no time for anyone’s bullshit. Vietnamese managers ping my inbox with threats in Google translate-level English: “you sending the spreadsheet now.”

I say no. And they apologize for asking. I’m Genghis Fucking Khan. On Gmail, at least. I keep hoping they’ll fire me. But they can sense that I don’t care, so they keep me around.

***

Someone stole my helmet from the bar parking lot last week, because that’s the kind of thing happens in Vietnam. If it’s not cemented to the Earth, it vanishes. I didn’t get a new helmet. But it’s safer to ride this way, because I’m far more vigilant. I treat every ride like it’s war.

I saw a dead guy on the bridge near my work. The side of his head was smashed flat. Motorbike crash, no helmet. I know that that’s not going to happen to me. Not these days, anyway. I’m safe and I’m lucky. And things will stay that way until I get more excited about life.

Change

Everyone recognizes that my book deal is significant, except for my mom. She said it sounded “neat.” I’m not sure if she knows what a book deal is. That it’s a hard thing to get. For most people.

For me, it just fell into my lap. I knew a guy, that was it. I didn’t knock on a million doors for this. But I still congratulate myself as if I did.

And I have proud thoughts such as: hey man, see, life will work out. God will give you your dream, your hard work will pay dividends, and brilliant joy will be yours. As long as you’re white.

Jesus. I’m getting pretty cocky over what will just be a travel book. Cocky that someone, anyone!, who works in an office has told me that I don’t suck.

They’re lying. It’s all business. They just need a semi-literate ape who’s willing to only use chopsticks for a year and sign a lowball deal in exchange for his name going on something.

And with me, they got it. I’m a millennial; I would rather have attention than income. I spent three days working on the Facebook status. And now I keep re-reading the list of people who liked it. People from high school. Allison and Erin who both married other dudes and had kids. Now everyone knows. They were wrong about me!

Besides that guy from high school who was like 5th employee Uber ever hired or something, I’m now the most successful person from my class. But come drive through Hampton, NH and you’ll see why. Not a lot of sunlight, jobs, or teeth.

***

I’m single again. Although that hasn’t stopped me and the ex from fucking three times, including once on the glass tabletop in the kitchen. I just noticed we haven’t wiped up the sweat smears yet.

Tomorrow I move into a 5th floor room with a busted AC in a house filled with seven other rootless wanderers. $180 for the month. In September, I go to Saigon. She’ll keep the apartment. Have Couchsurfers keep her company. I’d rather not describe the composition of the emotional cocktail my brain has been marinating in since the breakup, but I do know these things:

  • I don’t want this to be ugly.
  • I want her to win.
  • This is the kind of thing where even though she’s going to fuck other guys, she’ll still always be mine.

She’s afraid I’m going to go fuck everyone I can now. Well. don’t worry love. The women of the world have not been waiting for this day. They’ve all been too busy fucking. And not guys like me. I’m traditionally handsome. But every girl now only wants to fuck guys who look like they live in caves. Topknots and pale inbred visages. No longer do they respect a precisely-tailored suit and a visible bicep vein. The sloths now rule. The world changed while I was away. She’ll find dudes, I will find no one.

Friday night my friends wanted to go to this bar that’s out in the woods by an ancient Confucian graveyard. I had to give this girl a ride on my motorbike and she weighed more than me. The springs under the seat kept giving out and I was paranoid about the tires. She dropped a hint like an anvil: “my boyfriend and I are open.”

Later on as we all ate at the flower market she told me to check my white male privilege because I said something about not being turned on by lesbian porn. That made me angry. And I’m still not even sure what it meant. The world changed while I was away. I’m old and white and I don’t know how to connect. It’s enough to make a man vote Trump.

The next night I went out for an hour. I spent thirty minutes of it in the club bathroom flushing out of my eye after a drunk girl threw glitter in it. The other thirty minutes I drank on the stage by the speakers while a Vietnamese club rat with huge cheeks hit on me. I wanted to leave, but I felt like I had to stay at least an hour, so the night felt like something.

“What do you do?” she asked.

Hey! I thought. You’ve been waiting for this. Now you can say it.

“I’m a writer.”

“Wait, so that’s your job?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow, that’s awesome.”

And she meant it. I think.

The world changed while I was away. Everything that used to be cool is now shit. Everything except the thing I love the most.