Feeling Lousy on a Beautiful November Night
By Douglas James Troxell
The night my girlfriend of six years left me I was dressed as Han Solo—boots, blaster, vest, the whole shabang. She sashayed into the living room of our lousy one-bedroom apartment and told me we were kaput.
“Zander, you’re like a broken compass,” she told me. “You got no direction. You’re going nowhere in life and you’re takin’ me with you.”
I asked her how long it took her to come up with that whole “broken compass” line, but she wouldn’t answer. Unfortunately, everything she accused me of was true so the argument was kind of one-sided. I was going nowhere in life, but I hadn’t thought she had figured that out yet.
I didn’t really blame her for leaving; I just thought the timing of it all was real lousy. We were supposed to be going to a Halloween costume party dressed as Han Solo and Princess Leia. I knew something was up when she walked out of the bedroom dressed as Raggedy Ann. Do you know what it feels like to have a giant doll break up with you—to have to stare at those rosy cheeks and painted-on smile as someone tells you they want nothing to do with you?
It felt lousy—real lousy.
The cruelest part of the whole thing was that she knew having sex with Princess Leia was a fantasy of mine. It was really the only reason I had agreed to go to the party in the first place. And I’m not talking about Episode IV Leia with the crazy cinnamon bun hairstyle; I’m talking about Episode VI Leia when she’s in her metal bikini at Jabba’s palace. I thought that was kind of rude, ya know? Depriving me of my opportunity to have sex with Princess Leia. All she had to do was wait another day and then I could at least say, “Sure, she left me, but at least I got to lay Princess Leia.” Now I didn’t even have that.
After she left, I thought about going to the party anyway but then I realized that it was being thrown by friends of hers from work and she’d probably be there. Then I realized that if she was dressed as Raggedy Ann, it probably meant she had already found some other guy and he’d be there dressed as Raggedy Andy. Honestly, no one would go to a party dressed as Raggedy Ann unless they had a partner dressing up as Raggedy Andy. That made me kind of angry—the fact that she would rather go to a party with some guy dressed as a doll than a guy dressed as Han Solo, the greatest badass in the galaxy. They would probably have sex, too, and the guy, in essence, would be having sex with Raggedy Ann and nobody has a fantasy about having sex with Raggedy Ann—and if someone does then that’s a real lousy fantasy.
I tried to think what normal people do when they’re feeling lousy, but I could only come up with two things. The first was get drunk at a bar, but I didn’t have any money so that option was out. The second was find comfort with friends or family. A quick scan of my mental rolodex uncovered that all my friends were actually my girlfriend’s friends; I had no friends of my own anymore. It took me a couple minutes to remember who my best friend was. It was this guy Derek Longley who had been my college roommate and then we lived together for three years in Ocean City, New Jersey after graduation. He lived in the ‘burbs now with his wife and kid so that’s where I headed, feeling lousy and still dressed like Han Solo.
I drove out to the neighborhood where Longley and his wife lived, but it took me forever to find his place. They lived in one of those townhome communities where all the houses are attached and look exactly alike—like someone took one lousy house and just cloned the shit out of it and sold the same place over and over again. Everything was beige and real depressing. When I called for directions, Longley told me the address and advised me to just plug the address into my GPS and it would lead me right to the front door. I told him I would even though I didn’t own a GPS.
The first door I knocked on, an old guy who wasn’t Longley told me he lived next door so I went next door, but a woman who also wasn’t Longley told me he lived next to her. I thought it was kind of lousy the old guy didn’t even know who lived next door to him. Finally I knocked on the third door and Longley popped his head out, looking tired and pretty much like he had been squeezed out someone’s ass. I greeted him by saying, “How’s it going, Long Dong?” which is what we used to call him back in college because his name was Longley and he wanted everyone to think he had a big pecker—which he did and he was proud of it, too.
He shushed me and half-closed the door like he wasn’t going to let me in—which I thought was kind of a lousy greeting.
“You can’t curse like crazy while you’re here,” he said. “I got kids now.”
I couldn’t figure out why he said that until I remembered that I used to curse all the time back when we lived together. I picked up the habit when I used to wrestle in high school and it continued into college and beyond, mainly because I just liked the way people would perk up and listen to what you were saying when you used ‘em. But Lucy—that’s my girlfriend’s name, by the way—didn’t like my cursing either and made me quit for my New Year’s resolution last year. Since then I’ve taken to calling everything lousy and that’s become kind of my new thing but from now on when I say something’s lousy I’ll think of her so that’s ruined for me, too.
Longley ushered me into the living room and there were two kids—girls, I think— rolling around on the carpet. I had no idea where the youngest one had come from. I thought he only had the one little girl, but apparently she had multiplied. That’s when I realized it had been nearly two years since I had last seen my best pal.
The carpet was covered in toys and games and puzzles and shit and there was a purple dinosaur dancing on the television screen. The whole scene made me laugh because I remembered how we used to live in Ocean City with porn magazines and dirty movies all over the place.
“Remember how we used to have porn just lyin’ everywhere in our place in Ocean City?” I asked but he shushed me again and pointed to the kids on the carpet like I hadn’t noticed them or something.
I thought it was a pretty lousy thing to do considering they probably had no idea what porn was, and, if they did, then that was pretty lousy parenting, if you ask me.
Longley’s wife, Laura—this real nasty brunette bitch—sort of stomped into the room and gave me a dirty look. She hated me. The last time I was there I brought this bag of pot for everyone to smoke and just kind of mellow out and she threw a huge fit about the whole thing—which is why I stopped coming over now that I thought about it.
“Why are you dressed like that?” she asked.
I told her about the costume party and Lucy breaking up with me.
“It’s the second week of November,” she said, completely ignoring the most important detail of the story. “You look ridiculous.”
Then she collected her two girls like she was pickin’ pumpkins and left.
It’s amazing how anyone can look as ridiculous as he wants in October, but as soon as the calendar hits November it’s ludicrous to see someone walking around in cowboy boots, a vest, and a movie-licensed blaster. I wasn’t the one who had scheduled the party in November so I didn’t know what she was giving me hell for.
With Longley’s lousy wife out of the room, I figured he’d be a bit friendlier, but he wasn’t—he was just as lousy as she was.
“There’s no way you’re staying here,” he said.
I had no idea why he said that until I realized that Lucy owned the apartment and I was probably going to have to move out so she would have someplace to have sex with Raggedy Andy. That made me feel even lousier than I already felt.
I swept a stuffed hippo off the sofa cushion and plopped myself down.
“What happened?” I said. “Life used to be so great. Remember when we lived down in Ocean City? Why’d we ever leave?”
“You can’t live like that forever,” he said.
But I was sure we could have. We worked at this bar just off the beach serving overpriced drinks and on our nights off we went and spent all the money we made buying girls booze at that same bar and we’d invite them back to our beach bungalow and have sex with the girls who would let us and I remember thinking I could live like that forever just fine. The only reason we left was because some local girl was claiming Longley knocked her up so he left town and I couldn’t afford the rent on my own.
“You should do like I did,” Longley said. “Find a good girl, settle down. It’s not so bad.”
But it looked horrible. It looked like he lived in a prison where the bars were made of stuffed animals and blankies and diapers. The guy had a whole rack of Disney movies next to the television. I remembered when we roomed together he had an entire rack of porn next to his television. The worst part was he wouldn’t close his door when he was in there jacking himself off. I’d walk past his room and there he’d be working himself over with the door wide open (this is how I knew how big his dick was, by the way). And I knew that somewhere he still had that rack of porn and when his wife and kids went to bed, he’d sit in the living room next to his children’s stuffed animals and do the exact same thing.
People never really change—not really. Really Longley had always been a lousy son-of-a-bitch, and it depressed me to think that I considered him my best friend, especially since I hated his lousy guts.
I went to see my parents after I left Longley’s. I figured if my friends couldn’t help then maybe my family could, and, since I hated my brother’s lousy guts even more than I hated Longley’s lousy guts, my parents were my only option. Besides, my father tried to run my life for most of my adolescent years so I figured maybe his knack for butting in would finally come in handy.
My parents were arguing about the dishwasher when I walked through the door. My father was trying to watch television and my mother wanted to run the dishwasher, but my father said he couldn’t hear the television when she ran it because it was too loud.
“If you don’t want to hear the dishwasher then you’re doing the dishes tonight,” she told him.
I don’t think they even noticed I had come in. Eventually they did, and I explained what had happened and why I was there.
“Of course she left you,” my mother said. “It’s a miracle it took her this long to do it. Where are you going in life? What are you doing with yourself? Look how you’re dressed, for Christ’s sake!”
I almost gave her my usual line about working on my screenplays, but I hadn’t written a screenplay in over two years now. I had my Masters in Creative Writing, and it had always been my dream to write science fiction screenplays like George Lucas, but I lived 3000 miles from Hollywood and eventually I figured out the whole thing was a lousy idea to begin with. When I used to tell everyone it was my dream to write screenplays for Hollywood back in college they were real supportive and told me to follow my dream. No one says that anymore. Now all I get for my dreams are dirty looks and suggestions to get a real job. What the hell is that anyway? A real job? I figure any job you get paid for is real enough for me.
“Did you even think of marrying the poor girl?” my father asked. “What exactly were your long-term plans?”
My long-term plan was to live with Lucy and have her support me as long as she was willing—which apparently was six years.
“Seven,” my father corrected. “You wasted seven years of that poor girl’s life. I just hope this whole thing doesn’t spoil her opinion of men for too long.”
Here I was coming to my parents for sympathy and support and they were taking Lucy’s side—the same woman who had chosen to dress up as Raggedy Ann rather than Princess Leia and robbed me of a lifelong sexual fantasy.
I told my parents that Longley thought I should settle down with a nice girl and get married and have kids.
“God, no!” my father said. “You have no business getting married. What you need to do is find a steady job, learn what it’s like to work for a living. That’s what your brother did and look how well he’s doing for himself.”
My brother was some sort of lousy computer programmer who sold prescription pills to middle schoolers on the side.
My mother shook her head. “That Derek Longley—he was always a bad influence. He was the one with the bright idea to move down to Ocean City. That’s where everything went wrong for our boy.”
She spoke directly to my father, but it was weird because I was standing between them. It was like I was transparent and she was talking right through me.
“I remember,” my father said. “I wish I would have been more adamant about not letting him go, but I figured it was better to let the boy learn from his own mistakes. Now I realize I have to learn from my own.”
They were talking to each other as if I wasn’t in the room—an annoying habit they had been practicing since I was seven. It was true that Ocean City had been Longley’s idea. After graduation I had this lousy idea of interning at a publishing house in New York City, but Longley talked me out of it and convinced me to throw in on the beach bungalow. Really I don’t remember anyplace I’ve ever been happier.
My parents continued to argue about where my life went wrong without asking for my input so I left. If the visit did nothing else, it convinced me that the last thing I wanted to do was get married since everyone I knew who was married was so goddamn miserable.
There was this church I passed everyday about a mile from the apartment I shared with Lucy. I always wondered about the kinds of people who went there—you know, church people. I’m not even sure what kind of church it was—one of the kinds that believes in baptizing children or maybe they were against baptizing children. I guess I didn’t really know.
Anyway, I was driving past the church on my way back to the apartment and suddenly I had this urge to pull into the parking lot. The entire lot was empty. I realized that earlier when I had been weighing my options, I had forgotten one. When someone feels real lousy he can go to the bar, find solace with friends or family, or he can seek guidance from a higher power. That’s what people on TV or in movies always did and God always helped them out so I figured maybe God would do the same for me.
I pictured myself entering the sanctuary and the light would be real dim except for maybe some candles and the entire place would be silent. The sanctuary would feel real unfamiliar on account of it being so long since I’d been in one. I’d get to the front of the church and kneel in front of the altar or whatever. I wouldn’t be too sure of how to pray since I’ve never really done anything like that before, but eventually I’d get the hang of it. I’d close my eyes and hear the words in my head, but nothing would happen and maybe I’d get discouraged and want to leave but I wouldn’t. I’d stay for a few seconds more and then suddenly I’d hear a voice—God’s voice—and He’d tell me exactly what to do with my life.
After that I’d turn my whole life around. I’d start taking myself seriously and get a job and find a church-going girl and finally settle down and live life the way I was always supposta. I’d go to church every Sunday and even help serve the snacks at the fellowship hour afterwards and whenever anyone asked me what turned my life around I’d tell them about this night when I felt so lost and God spoke to me and turned it all around. Anyone listening would be real inspired and happy that that had happened to me and maybe want to do the same for themselves.
So I got out of my car, all ready to have this real religious, life-altering experience, and I got to the door and the lousy thing was locked! Can you believe that? They locked people out of a lousy church. How are people supposed to have religious, life-altering experiences if they can’t even get inside to have ‘em? The sad thing was that the locked door meant that not even God had an answer for me.
I tried a side door, but that was locked too so I just laid on the hood of my car in the parking lot staring up into the night sky. The only other place I had to go was back to the apartment, but I was pretty sure Lucy was back there having sex with Raggedy Andy and the idea of two human-sized dolls having sex kind of freaked me out so I just decided to hang out there for a while.
Really it was a beautiful night to lie on the hood of a car and stare into the night sky. Despite being mid-November, the mild weather made even a light jacket unnecessary; really the only thing one needed was a vest worn by one of cinema’s greatest sci-fi action stars. I thought about what the sky must have looked like at that moment over Ocean City, New Jersey. I wondered if any of the girls I hooked up with down there ever returned summers later looking for me, hoping I’d be behind the same bar where they met me years earlier. I tried to remember some of their names, but the few faces I could recall didn’t even offer a hint or suggestion.
A shooting star raced across the sky, and I was excited at first, but then I realized that shooting stars probably aren’t that uncommon; it’s just so rare anyone’s even looking up there. I laughed out loud, watching the shooting star disappear, dressed as Han Solo—the whole thing was kind of ridiculous. Staring into the abyss of the night sky sprinkled with thousands—millions—of tiny dots of light, I felt a little better about my situation. I figured it was better to feel lousy on a beautiful November night than feel lousy on a lousy one.