Your last/next month
By Matt Wild
Your last month has been rife with unexpected changes, moments of self-loathing and at least one severe car accident. The New Year – still so new! – has left you reeling. It would be easy, therefore, for us to look back and catalog your last month, to dredge up and analyze its highs and its lows. But let’s be honest; the past is for suckers. Instead, let’s pretend your last month is your next month; let’s rewind the Cassingle? of your life all the way back to the first yawning minutes of 2007. There you are – bleary-eyed, drunk and hopeful – kissing the strange/familiar boy/girl next to you, blissfully unaware of what will happen over the course of the next 31 days. This, in fact, is what will happen:
You will make a trek back to your hometown to spend time with your family. You will go bowling, smoke some shitty cigarettes and drink an alarming amount of alcohol. One night – while rocking out to William Shatner’s version of “Common People” – you also manage to rear-end another driver, nearly totaling your girlfriend’s car. In the ensuing 48 hours, you will learn a series of valuable lessons:
1). Never give a fake name, number and address to the 17-year-old girl you just hit.
2). Never assume, in a town of barely 5,000 people, that the cops won’t somehow track you down and impound your car at 5 in the morning.
3). Never drive a vehicle off a tow lot – even if it’s your own – without politely asking first.
Back in Milwaukee, you will decide to keep your nose clean and your head down, your chin turned away in anticipation of the next blow. You will attend any number of dreadful events: hipster dance parties, adult spelling bees, trivia nights. You will make a vow to forever avoid any event prefaced by the word “adult” (kickball, dodge ball, lawn darts). You will start taking more cab rides and keep feeling bad about your girlfriend’s car.
Your long-time East Side neighborhood continues down the fast track to becoming a condo-littered strip mall, leaving you bitter and disenchanted. You fall out of love with your city and consider hopping on the “We’re moving to Portland!” bandwagon popularized by that one Dead Milkmen song.
You will go out and see some rock shows (the excellent Candliers prove to be a revelation), smoke some shitty cigarettes and drink an alarming amount of alcohol. In spite of all this (or perhaps because of this), you feel bad for yourself a great deal, and often contemplate running yourself through with a 10-inch railroad spike. A concerned friend will eventually calm you down and tell you that trying to off yourself is “so 1990s.”
After nearly two years of unemployment, you will finally find a job – an unexpected windfall. When presented with this news, the only thing your friends seem to say is “Don’t fuck it up.” The hours are from one ‘til nine, a schedule you initially believe will facilitate a debauched, rock & roll lifestyle, though it quickly proves to be exhausting and off-putting. You will spend half the day darting through the streets of downtown Milwaukee, the other half staring out a 20th floor window at its modest skyline. You will fall back in love with the city and realize that Portland – like suicide – is so 1990s.
Speaking of friends, they will remain consistently inconsistent during your next month: they call you or they don’t, they grow beards or shave their heads, they get engaged or break up. You will learn that no matter how much you love them, writing about your friends in your monthly column is never a good idea. You call them more often for rides and keep feeling bad about your girlfriend’s car.
You’ll celebrate another birthday – calm, collected and muted over drinks at the Y-Not II – and even though you’ve been identifying yourself as 29 years old for nearly two months, the reality of that age – and all that it implies – doesn’t really set in until you see it on your own MySpace profile. You decide that to ponder this fact would be far too depressing to handle. Later in the week, you receive a crash course in unfamiliar slang and music from your new 24-year-old roommate, depressing you anyway.
Your dreams will become littered with left-field celebrity cameos: The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn making out with an old girlfriend, Ricardo Montalban taking you on a fishing trip, a bit player from Knots Landing selling you a book of phony postage stamps. You seem to fly more often in your dreams, throwing yourself willy-nilly into the air and floating back to earth hours later. Your dreams become choked with inscrutable symbolism and are almost always in color.
Which brings us back to the present. It’s here that you realize – new jobs and wrecked cars notwithstanding – that precious little has really changed because of your last month: you still defend the ones you love, mourn the ones you’ve hurt, miss the ones you’ve lost. Against all reason and good sense, you still believe you have all the time in the world, and still believe in the dumb and improbable excitement of finding out what your next month has in store. VS