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Carcinogens

I have less potential than an aborted fetus.

I guess I wouldn’t describe potential in the normal sense though – and that’s worth clarifying. I think potential is often measured using units of caveats. Often, it is the regurgitated trope of “they have so much potential but”. This “but” is always followed by the shittiest, shallowest, most subjective description of a person. Potential is never looked at in a vacuum. It is constantly surrounded and penetrated by ad hominem attacks. Claiming that someone possesses something as optimistic as potential and then following it with a detrimental statement about the very fiber of their character is in itself a non sequitur. Therefore, pure, unattacked potential and socially constructed potential differ tremendously. I have pure potential, just not socially constructed potential. After a statement regarding my potential, many “buts” ensue.

I woke up this morning thinking things would be different. No I didn’t. I woke this morning with no expectations whatsoever. People often say that by not setting expectations, one is less easily disappointed. I’m perpetually disappointed, so expectations have become obsolete. In a way, that is a paradox. I guess I can expect to be disappointed.

I am disappointed in myself, I am disappointed in my friends, I am disappointed in a government that claims to be mine, I am disappointed in my professors, I am disappointed that liberals try to censor people from speaking because the speakers’ views don’t line up with theirs, I am disappointed in conservatives for calling themselves conservative when their policies allow the richest, least conservative people to indulge in gratuitous spending, I am disappointed in women and in men for the various ways in which they hurt each other emotionally, sexually, and physically, I am disappointed that music on the radio and the music that everyone loves is simple, devoid of thought, and manufactured for mass- digestion, I am disappointed in the media for pushing their opinions on me, I am disappointed in the medical industry for pushing drugs on me, I am disappointed in religion for confusing the fuck out of everyone, I am disappointed in people who interpret religion in their own way and judge others by it, I am disappointed that masturbation sheds its novelty more swiftly than the pornstars in the videos that I masturbate to shed their clothing, I am disappointed that I live in a country that rapes, murders, and destroys people’s lives, and I am disappointed that no one, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what group they identify with can take a fucking a joke.

That is what I thought about when I woke up that morning. Upon waking up, I walked out of my room and was slowly greeted by the sounds of my mother, father, and sister speaking in the living room. It is Saturday and everyone is home. I hear them speaking of some memory we all shared in the distant past; a memory which each person in my family was contributing their own unique perspective to. The smooth molasses flow of words was sliding between the mouths and ears of my nostalgic family members. In between different renditions of the story, sometimes boisterous laughter would follow. My family were all enjoying their cherished time together. I listened from an invisible point in the dimly lit hallway. The smell of bacon permeated through the air, crept uninvited into my nostrils, and molested them until eventually they adjusted to the scent. Everyone was happy and in pajamas. I don’t wear pajamas. You can’t be a nihilist and wear pajamas. All jokes aside, I never emerged from the hallway and swiftly snuck back into my room. I stayed there until the noise died out. I heard the front door open and close, a garage door open and close, cars start and shift into gear. I came out of my room when I knew everyone was gone. I could finally enjoy my weekend. A communal feeling within a family is just like any other familial dynamic; a vinyl record if you will. Most of them are old, rooted in tradition, and worn out. On certain occasions, members of the family agree to put certain records on – different LP’s titled “Nostalgia”, “Argument”, or numerous others. My favorite is the double LP titled “It’s Christmas So Let’s Instantly Forgive and Forget Our Past Transgressions Against One Another”. I chose wireless headphones and Spotify that morning. I choose this combination most of the time.

With my familial unit out-and-about, each running their errands or meeting with people who were singularly important to them, I basked in the lack of ambiance permeating throughout my empty house. Although it was well past noon, I was still experiencing the leftover haze of the 300 milligrams of extended release antipsychotic I took the night before; just a little something to get me through the night. Originally it was prescribed after a hospitalization for bi-polar related psychosis, but four years later, it’s prescribed for bi-polar related psychosis. The weight of my eyes were like the weight a child’s eyes feel while riding home in the backseat of their parents’ car after a long day at Disneyland. The only difference is that as the weight of their day finally pushes the lids closed, the last thing they remember is the fun-filled excursion that was their amusement park experience while the last thing I remember before I slip into sleep’s oblivion is the screaming of my thoughts; reminiscent of the wallowing of the masses that Dante passed in one of the latter Bolgias of hell. As I focus on literally nothing but keeping my eyes open, I receive a text from Kimberly, a beautiful, smart, independent, lovingly eccentric, and well-intentioned woman I’ve been trying to fuck since high school some three years earlier. I completely forgot that I told her about the all-day absence of my family the night before and how she could come over if she wanted to. I told her the night before that all she had to do was tell me whether or not she wanted to come over; either scenario was fine with me. While the scenario where my penis submerges into the soft, welcoming caverns of her wonderful anatomy is more favored, I lied and acted as if my intentions were to “just hang out anyway”. Kimberly told me that she would be over around two and asked if she should pick up some alcohol. I replied “yeah sure” and an hour later she was on my doorstep.

Five minutes after she passed through the entrance to my home, I was passing in and out of her. It seemed that Kimberly harbored similar feelings in high school and was just as eager to act them out. I thought I was the one who was manipulating the situation, yet after our sacrilegious escapade I was the one who felt used. I also felt great.

As we laid naked in my unmade and bodily-fluid covered bed, and thought for the first time in the past hour of something other than our own sexual gratification, Kimberly noticed the three prescription pill bottles neatly standing beside one another on my desk. She began reading them and pronounced them all incorrectly. She remarked, “I don’t recognize any of them.”

I asked “Have you ever had chlamydia?” to which she replied “What? No.”

“Then why would you recognize them?” I asked with a wry smirk.

She stared at me with her mouth wide open for about five seconds, fully believing that I was taking three medications for a sexually transmitted disease. After about another ten seconds she asked in all seriousness, “You’re kidding, right?”

“Yeah I’m kidding, I’m bipolar,” I admitted in a tone of voice which suggested I did not advertise this piece of information often.

“Oh, okay good, thank God,” she exhaled in a sigh of relief.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“No…I mean, not like ‘Yay you’re bipolar’ but like…’yay you don’t have chlamydia’, you know?”

“I understand. I wish they were for chlamydia though.”

“What the fuck, why?” she asked in a way that almost seemed like she was offended.

“Because insurance would probably cover more of it,” I said in a joking tone of voice that was backed by a state of mind that was completely serious. “And it could be cured in a week or so.”

Sensing the truth and pain-laden nature of my statement, she then commented “That’s true, but if you had chlamydia, I wouldn’t be able to do this.”

She forced my legs open and attempted to console me with quite possibly the best fucking blowjob I have ever received. I finished about fifteen minutes after that and we emptily kissed goodbye and promised to see each other again soon just as we did three years prior, as evidenced by what we signed in each other’s yearbooks. It would probably be even longer than three years before we saw each other again. I returned to my room, stripped the soaked sheets from my bed, sat on the floor beside my desk thinking about the fucking I just participated in and looking up at the three bottles of pills, still wishing I had chlamydia instead.

As my post-orgasm moment of clarity was nearing its end, I realized I should wash the vaginal fluid off of myself before going to work. On Saturdays and Sundays I work 3pm-9pm at a residential facility that houses young adults with autism, and although the job carries virtually no dress code, I still felt the need to clean myself before clocking in. Especially after a sinful act as the one I just indulged in.

I showed up to work around 3:01 and walked in the house. The house is in a regular neighborhood in San Diego. Why wouldn’t it be? They have autism not leprosy, however the neighbors would probably prefer the latter. Everyone likes to jump on the autism bandwagon because it’s the hip thing to do. Everyone’s child who hasn’t talked by the time they’re 13 months old is fucking diagnosed. But not many know what true, unbridled, profound autism looks like. They don’t fucking care to know either.

The house is old; most likely built in the 50’s. Little renovation has been completed since its initial construction, however the adjoining farm and nearly industrial sized garden have seen recent remodels. In the garden and on the farm, people with disabilities tend to the various plants, chickens, pigs, and in certain seasons, turkeys. They do all of this under the supervision of non-disabled caregivers and/or volunteers. All of this, obviously, is contingent upon whether or not the person’s disability allows them to complete these activities. The six young men that I work with are not really ever taken to the farm or garden areas. There are too many would-be weapons. The men I support have a tendency to be aggressive and self-injurious, so a regular old garden shovel could transform into an instrument of death in the blink of an eye. This is what I meant earlier when most people think they know what autism is yet have not the slightest fucking idea.

“Oh yeah people with autism can all play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata blindfolded on piano with no musical training” or my personal favorite: “All of them lack social skills”. These overpaid, under-informed, Autism Speaks-esque assholes have never interacted with someone with autism in their entire life. You know how people like to constantly state how different they are from other people? Well, we’re not. We’re all the fucking same. Every person with autism I have ever worked with, and there have been a lot, demonstrate exactly the same wants and needs as non-disabled people, just in different frequencies and degrees of severity. A young man I work with wanted his toenails clipped. He is nonverbal and was not using any of his speaking devices so this went unnoticed. Since we lock the nail clippers up due to their makeshift weapon potential, he could not do it himself. I did end up finding out that he wanted his nails clipped though. At the end of my shift, I went to mop his bathroom floor and found a trail of water and blood mixed together upon the dark wooden floors. The blood was almost invisible due to the dark backdrop upon which it sat, save for the few photons that reached it from the recessed lighting scattered in a seemingly random manner across the slanted ceiling. I followed the trail in the same fashion as a police K-9 dog follows a scent; just in a less racist way. When I reached the bathroom, the blood trails flowed until it reached the toilet and stopped.

I walked out of the bathroom and into the adjacent room. I walked up to the individual who wanted his nails cut and could taste the iron in the air. I shifted his comforter away from his feet and found two, 6-inch diameter blood spots on the white, linen sheets by where his feet were resting. I lifted up the sheets and saw that he had completely ripped off both of his big toenails and one pinky toenail. I provided first aid and then cleaned the bathroom. After I threw some paper towels away, I found three toenails neatly stacked atop the pile of trash.

This story is not meant to represent all people with autism, but it is meant to show that people with autism often have the same wants and needs as every human but go about getting these wants and needs satisfied and fulfilled in “non-traditional ways”. The ‘non-traditional way’ in this case being ripping one’s fucking toenails off. The moral of the story is that when any person is unable to communicate their wants and needs or their wants and needs are not respected, they do some ripping-their-fucking-toenails off type of shit.

Nevertheless, I entered the house at 3:01 and greeted the six men who I support. They are predictably scattered across the house in their favorite places so I know exactly where to go to find them. I greeted two-of-the-three coworkers who I will be spending the rest of my shift with, and who I spend most of my shifts with, each with a greeting that our prior interactions has deemed socially appropriate. These greetings change, as they do for every person in the history of humanity, based on the current evolution of their respective relationships. The third coworker, the one who I did not greet in a way that suggested frequent, prior interaction, said hello to me and shook my hand. As the men I support require, at times, very intensive care, and since they have the capacity to become incredibly aggressive, I always worry for their safety when someone new comes to work here. They are often not well-versed in how to deal with these behaviors which can lead to an unsafe environment for staff, but most importantly for the six men I support. This alone causes me to be skeptical of any new employee that works here. After working this job for over three years, I have more love and respect for the six men that live in this house than I do for most people. Honestly, I would much rather spend time with these uninhibited, sensitive, and smart individuals than the parasitic population which most of the world consists of. Essentially, because of the familial-like qualities that my relationship with these six individuals possesses, I am very protective over them. This is what causes my skepticism of new employees who come to work here. Sometimes this skepticism turns about to be unfounded, however it usually proves itself to be justified by the stupid actions of undertrained people. The new staff ended up burning himself on the stove and went home early; the best possible outcome for all of us.

This shift was like any other and after six hours, I clocked out and entered the liquor store down the street. At the storefront, three men seemingly not together were smoking cigarettes and it made me think of my father – how when he held me as a child I felt weightless; almost buoyant as I floated when he walked with me in his arms. I remember how he would often have a cigarette sticking between his lips – half-smoked when I would come out into the garage to happily say hello to him. He would stick the cigarette in the little carved-out portion of his red ashtray that had “Budweiser” wrapped around it and pick me up with ease and ask me how my day was. I must have been the cause of hundreds of wasted cigarettes. Love can be measured in numerous ways and in this case it was measured by the unsmoked cigarettes left to smolder into the ashtray; smolder just like our relationship did as I got older and more distant. Sometimes I buy cigarettes just to light and smell the smoke as it gently drifts from the ashtray into my nose; the smoke evidently becoming invisible and disintegrating into thin air until a thin strip of light shines toward the garage ceiling and reveals that it never really left. It reminds me of when I felt as though our family was a unit. Before therapy, before school suspensions, before the late-night calls from the police to pick me up from some empty park in the middle of the night – all of which caused me to stray further and further from the family.

As I entered the liquor store, the lights spelling out the company names of beer melded together in green, blue, white, yellow, red; a corporate, neon orgasm ejaculating subliminal messages onto the faces of all who enter. A bell clanged as I walked in and the cashier said “hello, welcome” in a way that makes me feel like everyone he ever loved just died of cancer simultaneously and he just found out. I walked straight for about ten paces, made a left, and walked another five paces (a walk I could make with my eyes closed at this point) to reach the beer cooler, more specifically where the Budweiser was located. My father’s ashtray flashed through my mind like the miniscule dot of light on a smoke-detector as I picked up the 12-pack and headed to the counter. I set the beer on the counter and the cashier, whose loved ones had evidently all just died of cancer simultaneously greeted me with the smirk of someone perpetually defeated. He managed to use the muscles in his face and mouth enough to shit out the total price of the beer. I stuck my card into the reader, entered my pin, grabbed the twelve back and left. My friend Jimmy had texted me while I was at work and asked if I would come over. I knew he wouldn’t have any beer so I picked up a 12 instead of a six-pack. He’s broke but he’s sad and it’s much more fun to commiserate with a friend and with alcohol than without them.

I walked from the storefront to my car and all three men who were just smoking had gone; dispersed back into the streets in which they dwell within the minute I was in the store. Their footprint on history stamped into the concrete in the form of cigarettes crushed by worn-out shoes. I stuck my keys in the ignition and turned it on. I gently pulled out of the parking lot so as to not raise suspicion even though no one was around. As I drove up the on-ramp to get on the freeway I opened up a beer and began guzzling. The 20 minute drive isn’t as long with the alcohol subduing my often intrusive and unwelcome thoughts. Also, I just love to drink beer while I drive. I love it so much that you would think I had some sort of personal vendetta against the mothers and fathers of teenagers who died as a result of drunk driving. I didn’t ask to be like this.

Two beers and a White Stripes song later, I found myself in Jimmy’s driveway; a familiar patch of concrete which I’ve been walking upon for over fifteen years. Jimmy and I have been friends for about that long and I have about as many memories at his house as my own childhood home. Memories of playing sports and skateboarding in the front yard, of broken skin and bruised shins, of marijuana and cigarettes, of love. I called Jimmy to tell him I had arrived and he strolled out shirtless and pale in the San Diego summer moonlight. He handed me a freshly lit cigarette and sparked his own. We didn’t speak to one another for the first three minutes I was there which is why we have been such good friends for so long. We have never felt the need to rape the decadence of silence with the cacophony of conversation. Neither of us have ever enjoyed small talk. Eventually, we walked in through the doors of his house quietly as it was close to 10:30pm now and we didn’t want to wake his parents, people who I am very fond of. For the next five hours or so, we drink the twelve pack, watch foreign films, go pick up more beer, and eventually fall asleep in the computer chairs which we bring into his room whenever I come over. I woke up around 5am, still drunk, and stumbled to the car as quietly as possible so I didn’t wake anyone up. I stuck my keys in the ignition and turned it on. I gently pulled out of the driveway so as to not raise suspicion even though no one was around. I drove through the windy neighborhood squinting one eye to quell the blurred and alcohol-induced double vision. As I wound around the turns of Jimmy’s labyrinthian neighborhood, I was tasked with maneuvering around cars and potholes; occupational hazards for the drunk driver. I kept the speed around 15mph because just as in almost every other situation in my life, I didn’t trust myself. A funny thing not to trust yourself – feelings of safety and security fleeing your mind and slowly dripping like sap beneath you; so slowly, forcing you to watch helplessly as your sanity disappears.

I reached the main road and slowly felt my eyes getting heavier, closing like a child’s eyes would close under the weight of a wonderful day spent at Disneyland with loved ones; under the weight of contentment only made possible by the alcohol coursing through my veins. I was awakened abruptly by a thundering pop sound and after a few seconds of rubbing the precious sleep from my eyes I realized that I had driven upon a concrete island in the middle of the road. Both of my tires: fucked. My alignment: fucked. My entire car: fucked. Miraculously, I was able to push my car to the side of the road before any other cars or the police showed up. No houses or apartments were around this part of the main road so no bystanders had accumulated. It was also 5am on a Sunday morning so no early morning construction trucks were driving to work. I turned my hazard lights on and looked toward the concrete island I had just pushed my car off of. I saw Jimmy’s pack of cigarettes laying there, completely forgetting that he had asked me to hold his cigarettes and lighter before we even entered his house earlier in the evening. I walked over to pick them up and felt the mist of the morning caress my face gently. As I picked up the cigarettes, I took one out, lit it, and watched the smoke evidently become invisible and disintegrate into thin air. As I sat marooned on that concrete island, smoking a cigarette amidst the early morning mist, I peered to the east and saw the sun gracefully rise above the eucalyptus trees; a symphony of colors conducted by some organic force much more powerful than myself. A thin strip of light appeared above me and revealed that the smoke from the cigarette never really left.

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