The phone rings. It's around 2:00am. I’d like to say the phone wakes me up, but it doesn’t. I’m up, watching some band whose name I ignore doing their thing on Austin City Limits. I’m back home for a few weeks because sometimes you move out and run out of money and nothing works out and then you’re broke and sad and drunk and empty and you have to come back home for a while with your tail between your legs and the best things about that is no rent and mom does your laundry and there’s food in the fridge and you have cable for a while.
Anyway, my brain jumps to terrible conclusions.
Someone died in a car crash.
The dude calling kidnapped a family member and wants ten million dollars.
Aliens are liquefying people in the streets with strange guns.
I have to get dressed and go identify my best friend’s mutilated corpse.
Someone decided to take me up on an offer of being the muscle for some project...
I get up, walk to the wall mount thingy, and pick up the phone.
“Yeah, put Maria on.”
Maria is my sister. Dudes like her. I say that to convey the fact that dudes calling and asking for her is not unheard of. Luckily, most of them call at regular hours.
It’s too late. Or too early. Pick one. I don’t care. The point is my brain is not working properly and depression is sort of hanging over me like those personal clouds that rain on a single character on cartoons. I'm trying to ignore all of it and, right before the call, was focusing on inventing names for the band I’d been listening to.
The Open Books
Too Many Strings
This Isn’t Your Band
Who Needs a Name?
The Toxic Organics
I go back to the call with only a third of my brain.
“That’s none of your business. Is Maria there or not?”
The guy at the other end of the line has an attitude. My attitude is bigger. My attitude snaps my brain away from naming the band and gets to work. I realize I’m angry.
“Listen, motherfucker, I asked you your name.”
“Who the fuck are you?”
“I’m Maria’s brother and…”
“Well, Maria’s brother, put her on or I’m gonna pay you a visit tomorrow.”
I've seen too many fucking movies. I'm good at tough guy lines. Yeah, even when some have lead to me spitting out chunks of teeth. I drop a good line.
“Nothing in this life that would make me happier.”
The guy says something else that doesn’t register because anger tends to fill my ears with marching ants. He hangs up before I can reply to whatever it is he said.
The funny thing is my voice is nasal (a smart line got my nose busted and one side doesn't work properly since then) and somewhat high-pitched. I sound small. I’m not small. Well, I'm short, but not small. Anyway, I tell folks I suffer from Mike Tyson syndrome.
A few hours later, I’m still awake. The sun is out. I'm still watching shit on TV that isn't registering. Then someone rings the doorbell. My sister’s in the shower. My mom’s in the kitchen. I can smell her cigarettes in my room. That means I have to get the door. I walk to the door wearing a ratty Bob Marley t-shirt and orange boxers with tiny blue whales on them and open the door.
The guy standing outside the door is about 6’3. He’s wearing blue shorts, a yellow shirt, and a shit-eating grin.
I’ve seen him around. He lives two blocks down. Biggest house in the neighborhood. Nicest cars parked outside, too. He’s three years younger than me, a year older than my sister.
I take a step toward him and obliterate that thing folks call personal space.
The grin disappears quickly.
I’m about 5’9, but I’ve been into bodybuilding/powerlifting for a while.
The guy is probably a buck sixty. I’m about 215.
“Are you…Maria’s brother?”
The voice tells me it’s definitely the guy from the phone.
I pop him in the nose. It's a good punch, but didn't have everything I can throw behind it.
The guy takes a step back, holds his nose. I see blood.
I grab his neck and push him back, away from the door. The guy’s defense tactic is to collapse on top of my arm.
I remove my appendage and hit him on the side of the head. He goes down.
I grab a leg and drag him out to the sidewalk.
He’s saying things, but I don’t pay attention.
I grab his yellow shirt, which now has a bit of blood on it, and yank him into somewhat of a sitting position using my left hand.
He lets go of his nose and grabs my wrist. I punch him again. This time around, I put a good dose of anger and weight behind it. Something cracks. More blood comes from his nose. I smile.
Then, surprisingly, I punch him again.
My fist smashes against the hand he was bringing up to his face. He screams.
Pop, pop. Two more. It feels really good.
The anger about the phone call is gone. I have no idea why I’m messing his face up this bad. Except I know why. I’m punching every rich asshole I’ve ever met. POP. I’m making my own frustrations bleed. I’m punching everyone who’s taller than me. POP. I’m punching the fact that I had to come back home broke and with my tail between my legs. I’m punching all my fucking class resentment.I'm punching my depression.
Then my sister and my mom are trying to pull me back, screaming things about not killing him.
I look down at the guy. He’s gurgling blood, his eyes more white than anything else.I let him go and wipe my bloodied fist on my boxer shorts. As I do it, I look down at the tiny blue whales on my underwear. That's when I start laughing at the beauty of it all. You see, depression sucks and violence solves nothing, but sometimes life gives you small treats and you end up with a rich kid’s blood all over your knuckles and cackling like a madman on the sidewalk outside your parents’ house on a beautiful Saturday morning.