“This is just a rough cut, you know? I don’t have the titles in yet and the underscoring’s not in. It’s not really finished. I need more time.”
— Joe Gideon from All That Jazz
I haven’t felt a strong urge to write for quite some time now. Truth be told, I’ve been a bit busy. I’ve found genuinely enjoyable employment that pays an actual living wage for the first time in my life. It’s my first full-time job. Previously, I’ve worked part-time while in school and out of it, sometimes working two jobs at a time just to scrape by. Before I started this most recent job, I was just barely making rent. I skipped out on fruits and vegetables simply because I couldn’t afford it.
You’d think going sober would put a bit more cash in my pocket. Corporate price hikes under the smokescreen of inflation made sure that wouldn’t be the case. Even now, making the money I do, it’s still not particularly easy to get by.
Then again, I do willingly choose to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. How could I not? Where else can you go to some of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants and dine shoulder to shoulder with the distant relatives of the Rockefellers and Astors, then, that same night, bob and weave through pockets of “forgotten men” who haven’t had a hot shower in months.
New York City is the purest distillation of America, warts and all.
Today marks yet another one of the many fresh starts I have claimed, and failed, to follow through on. Another chance to right ongoing wrongs, curb my lesser impulses, follow Johnny’s lead and “walk the line.” I get it in my head that a fresh start is as simple as marking a specific date on a calendar. When that day arrives, I can simply cut out the bad and leave only the good.
No more screwing around carelessly like I’ve been impulsively doing since the moment cooties stopped being a concern. No more wallowing in self-pity and all-encompassing melancholy. No more failing to keep up with friends and family for whatever bullshit reason I convince myself of in order to defend my inaction. No more dread. No more misleading. No more temptation.
Then, I see someone new. Someone beautiful. I wake up before she does. I stare up at the ceiling. I pick a new date.
Nothing’s impossible I have found,
For when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up,
Dust myself off,
Start all over again…
— “Pick Yourself Up” by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields
Staying sober for this long (1 year and 2 months) is the longest I’ve managed to hold myself accountable to anything. To be completely frank, I’m surprised I’ve managed to last this long at all. There have been plenty of close calls.
One night, after feeling particularly down about myself, I opened a bottle of rye around 2 AM and just took 5 big whiffs of it. Not a solitary drop touched my tongue, mind you, but it was humiliating all the same. It took every ounce of my resolve not to pour myself a glass. After all, who would know? I could cover my tracks, wash and dry the glass, only take enough so there wouldn’t be a noticeable change in volume within the bottle.
I’ve become an exceptional liar and deceiver over the years — just ask any of my partners.
What did I lie to them about, I hear you asking? Nothing too serious, just the idea that I was worth investing even a modicum of their time in.
Time is the cruelest resource to deprive someone of — I’m the Jesse James of time thievery.
How do I go about my robberies? I smile, I nod my head, I listen intently, I turn on my charm, I hug, I kiss, I mess around, I wake up, I repeat, I repeat, then, when they least expect it, I yank the rug out from under their feet. By the time they’re finished picking themselves up I’ve already collected 10 more rugs.
There is no malice behind my actions, I’ve come to realize this myself more as the years have gone on. There’s things that happened in my past that might have essentially broken a few pieces here and there but it’s also entirely possible that I’m simply engineered a particular way. The new wave of sexual liberation is one of introspection and many of my partners (all significantly wiser than myself) have been kind enough to act as unpaid therapists for a clearly troubled man.
Is that not the role most men’s partners often find themselves in?
Apparently, as the kids say, I am “polyamorous.” What does this mean? Simply put, it means that I’m inclined to engage in multiple relationships at once. This is somewhat of a defining characteristic for me — one of my favorite teachers in high school used to ask how many girlfriends I was seeing at the time. I don’t mean to gloat, I’m well aware that there are folks out there struggling to even secure a date. To be completely honest, I envy those monogamous individuals out there who are completely content with just one partner — I have the unfortunate privilege of getting to disappoint multiple people simultaneously.
Even worse, at the beginning, there’s always the voice at the back of my head saying “maybe this time, you’ll be happy. Maybe now, you’ll be normal.”
Don’t lose your confidence if you slip,
Be grateful for a pleasant trip,
And pick yourself up,
Dust yourself off,
Start all over again…
I have made a fair share of mistakes in the partners department, often after letting my brain play second fiddle to more base impulses (something I’m sure we’re all guilty of to varying degrees). Thankfully, most of my partners have truly been some of the most caring, loving, kind, and understanding people someone as chaotic as me could ever hope to meet. I thank them all, regardless of where we stand now.
Many who are still in my life operate in a similar manner, a fact which has made maintaining our relationships much easier. They know who I am inside and out and continue to help me understand that I’m not a broken individual, I just need to take more care of myself and be more wary of the actions that I take.
My biggest confession, and sincerest regret, regards those who I’ve hurt in the past because I did not have this current understanding of myself and was incapable of communicating it properly at the time. I never lied outright but I often withheld the truth. It was a general “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which works well with some. For others, it’s just a ticking time bomb.
After the Catholic guilt was removed from the equation, I became better at communicating my intentions earlier and being more upfront about my own flaws and habits. My mother always accused me of leading people on — she was technically correct. It was never intentional, nor facetious — I don’t flirt aimlessly. It’s just that the product advertised is not always the product received.
Dylan Rice — As Seen on TV!
My product would have a prominently featured asterisk and the following accompanying it:
WARNING: This product tends to fall back on cynicism as a defense when the realities of inter-personal relationships become difficult, will often allow its own personal issues to impact its relationships without providing any clarity to those impacted, has a habit of using humor to diffuse any sort of probing, and will claim to be able to self-maintain but, in reality, needs a team of specialists and a steady supply of amphetamines to even function correctly. NOTE: Product also has a habit of “restarting” itself. In reality, this is just an extended exercise in denial.
Work like a soul inspired,
Till the battle of the day is won.
You may be sick and tired,
But you’ll be a man, my son!..
Today marks a new day. Another day to follow up on those messages I’ve been avoiding. Another day to reorganize my emails, my calendar, my Spotify playlists, my clothes, my room, my kitchen. Another day to get back into the good habits (reading, writing, exercising) and kick the bad ones. Another day to appreciate the fact that I’m alive, I’m sober, I have people that care about me, the fascists haven’t won just yet, and the Yankees can always win it next year.
My younger self would not have this perspective, at least not as clearly. I think the desire to better myself was always there, it just became outright necessary more recently. I used to be in the mindset that a life well lived is short in length and abundant in chaos. I loved collecting stories, names, places, all as some sort of bragging rights that I would then use to gather even more of the same. Aimless climbing with no-defined goal in sight. I suppose that’s life in a nutshell, maybe some find something more tangible to grasp on to.
I say I’m not depressed but I think most of you would agree that this piece and most of my other writing tends to point in the other direction. I don’t know if I’m depressed — I just assume everyone feels this way.
Today’s weather is going to hit a high of 63 degrees. The sun stands unopposed in the sky, only tempered by our foolish decision to pull the clock back for half the year. I’ll be attending a strike of Starbucks workers, I’m writing an article about other Starbucks workers.
One of them, only 18-years-old, was bed-ridden the last 5 years due to arthritis and lupus. She shows up to her shift at 5 AM and deals with the uncaring reality that is life as a service worker for one of America’s many behemoth corporations. Yet, when telling her story in my article, she asked me to use her nickname that her bosses were no doubt familiar with — she wanted them to know it was her.
What do I have to complain about?
Will you remember the famous men,
Who had to fall to rise again?
So take a deep breath,
Pick yourself up,
Dust yourself off,
Start all over again.