What do I write?
This is why I needed him. This is why I need you here, you fucking fuck. Out of the two of us I certainly had the ability to be more diplomatic and tactful, but there are times when I just didn’t want to be. Or maybe I wanted to be, but Jeb’s insanity gave me a launching pad for which to start the process of finding diplomacy and tact, or a happy medium between what I thought and what I said, or what I wanted to say and what should be said. Whatever the mechanics, the fact is that it worked and the process usually started with him punting me in the right direction. “Every kick in the ass moves you a step forward,” I was told by young Romanian in Amsterdam once. “I have a guy for that,” I responded. I had a guy for that (past tense).
The eulogy that I wrote was originally suppose to be printed out with various pictures of him starting as a baby and going through to his last residency at Oil Can’s. That didn’t happen, so I decided to place the story with photographs online on a blog I had… a blog through which he and I communicated through. When people started to Google “Jeb Stuart Mobley” or “Jeb Mobley,” my blog would pop up with the announcement of his death. This is how everyone else outside the realms of family and the bar found out he passed away. The story that had no logical information but a series of cute, intertwining song lyrics with historical generalities answered no questions at all. There was no mention of how or why, when or what happened. Like the man himself it was just a sequence of riddles, an array of allusions. In fact I should say more people were confused about the posting then anything (although very complementary of the writing, I should add). Naturally, the course of action of a concerned reader would be to email the writer and find out what is going on… or what had gone on (past tense).
What do I write?
Despite the glamorous sophistication that comes with alcoholism, there is also a remote hidden down side of dependence during times of stress. It is well known that at a certain point anything and everything can become a ‘time of stress,’ the wind changing becomes a ‘time of stress’. In the weeks following Jeb’s death I found myself settling into the new job quite well. And I know myself, I need some structure outside of my own sometimes. The job was nice enough, but they were not ready for me, the real me… the Excel spreadsheet noting the amount of children born, their cost, and the savings this country would glean should Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” be implemented on non-English speaking households me. That James was going to stay hidden for a while which meant I was pretty quiet at work. My apprehension had to do with my bosses being new in owning a business and new in the business. I had been in the industry twice as long as they had been out of college. I was slowly working magic in streamlining all of their newness, making the drawings clearer so there was less confusion in the field (less phone calls to ‘explain the drawings’). They also had a complete lack of understanding when it came to human emotion. “I’m attending a memorial service for my best friend who passed away” was met with blank stares and large question marks that inflated over their heads. This is the point where you say you are sorry and offer a handshake or other neutral form of human contact. Instead it was, “Okay… are you going to be back tomorrow?” “No.” Still, they were nice, they were sweet, and they were giving me structure.
Curving the alcohol was coming at a most frustrating time. I had been in a mood for a while as Jeb’s parents were invited down for the bar’s memorial service, but like Christmas just a few months prior they found the trip too difficult to make in such short notice. It was understandable they didn’t want to be around a group of people who didn’t even know their son’s name. The memorial service was for Scot Free, not the kid his mother protected from a bully with a tire iron. I got that as I would sometimes become nauseous straddling between the Jeb and the Scot worlds. The memorial as it stood was all about Scot. Even though there were only a handful of people there who knew Jeb, we were all there to grieve the passing of a remarkable human, however it was he functioned in our lives. In the end it didn’t matter to me, but it was understandable if it mattered to the blood relatives.
Also in the bag of woes was the curious case of what to do with the ashes. I had stomped my foot quite forcefully: The most appropriate action would be for Brian to take the ashes and fly to Scotland to dump them… anywhere… privately and by himself under the cover of darkness… right then. The more we talked about it, the longer it was taking. The ‘grumpy’ DJ who faded from Austin into the shadows, the person who kept everyone at arm’s length, the son who kept everyone in the dark, and the very private ‘no one knows what I’m up to’ character that he felt comfortable being deemed it applicable to have the ashes disappear without fuss or discussion. Their location… like the man… one big mystery, maybe even a joke on some levels. The country where he was stationed for so many years in the Navy, the country who took the kid from a small Texas town and morphed him into a world traveler, the country where he took his DJ name seemed like the perfect place to lay this man to rest.
“There’s this great place overlooking Edinburgh…” Brian thinks aloud.
“No, not Edinburgh,” I huffed.
“You said, ‘anywhere,'”
“Anywhere but Edinburgh.”
The family, of course, did not see things my way, but they did think Scotland was a great idea. Brian conveys the message about a week later that we are all going to travel to Scotland in one year… and everyone can participate as one big happy clan… in Scotland… to distribute ashes… together. Everyone. I personally had this platinum rule of kept away in life, keep away at death mentality. I have to remind myself that we are dealing with Jeb and though his influence on people was dynamically thin at times, it was compoundedly strong and resilient. I had learned right away to never doubt the little influences you have on people… it can change lives forever. Nowhere is that more applicable than with a family who fears they may not have known much about their son as they wanted, now being dictated to by someone they didn’t even know. They knew Brian… they trusted Brian. James was just the guy Jeb watched movies with, nothing more. So it probably goes without saying that the Scotland trip never happened.
With all that I will make the declaration that not drinking sucks. Rather, not drinking as much sucks (I’m not the one who’s dead here). I would still drink on the weekends, but not as much, I didn’t feel like drinking even with my spiraling pity-party. It’s hard to smile with a cocktail in your hand when you just lost your favorite drinking buddy. I couldn’t even walk into the bar after the memorial service… I couldn’t even walk near the bar. I didn’t know how to handle the loss of the person I knew while handling everyone else’s loss of a person I didn’t know. And I was trying to work out some compromise while staying predominately sober. It sucked. I can’t help but wonder how much less Jesus would have complained while nailed to the cross if the sponge had been soaked with Jack Daniels instead of vinegar. If one can’t drink while feeling sorry for oneself, whats point is there in drinking at all? I guess to feel sorry for each other, I reason. It was a clash of process verses sentimentality.
It was after that I noticed my email inbox. It started very slow, as if a few marbles were placed onto a suspended paper towel. Unbeknown to me there exists people who still communicate with their high school classmates, even after decades. Rod Serling would be needed to reveal the next part: They actually still communicate… on a regular basis… because they want to. My mind was blown with fascination as a few marbles turned into a few more, then a few more. The volume of inquiries busted through the suspended paper towel and buried my tiny fragments of brain matter under curious wonderment as long-lost parachutes of Jeb’s past suddenly deflated with a grand exhalation. Then they were looking at me to bring light to the enigma, to carry the story back home where they felt safe and secure. And there I sat, staring with a screen that is as blank as my mind.
What do I write?
“Fuckity fuck fuck.”
The first person I had in my email is not the first person who found out, I was told later. It was Traci who Googled Jeb’s name first. Traci told Jen. Jen told Hillary, Hillary told Antonio, Antonio told his brothers, and the wildfire spread like a manic disease. But a cute disease. A Franklin Mint disease that comes wrapped in silk paper with a pastel pattern and a note attached in ribbons with just one word written in crimson calligraphy: “Love.” Different than the evil disease of AIDS that just gives you a scarlet letter “A” in Helvetica Bold on the back of a box of cigarettes. Everyone wanted answers to very difficult questions and they were all looking at me like I’m some sort of a elocutionist of situational interpretation… and I would stare at the damn blinking underscore on the screen that mocks me with rhythmic consistency like some sort of silent Chinese… cursor torture.
As varied as the people asking questions were the questions themselves, and that is what had me in a state of pause. There were the extremely religious angle hoping that Jeb found God before his passing. There were the touchy-feely hugs of a spiritual blanket, warm with soft gooy chocolate chip cookies. There were the cut-to-the-chase no nonsense ‘what the fuck’ emails. Then there were the worried but shy trepidatious emails of those who didn’t want to write… but were compelled to because of who the man was and my manner of writing made them feel comfortable to do something they had never done in their lives: email a stranger (these were the ones that broke my heart the most). There also came a variety of inaccurate information that seemed to pepper the river flowing out my inbox. The word “cancer” was thrown around a lot more than I liked. And who was this “Jen”? She seems to be cheery ringleader of the group. I thought I should keep my eye on her for fear I may be attacked with streamers and Bundt cakes.
It’s very difficult for me to concentrate in my pissy mood, so I shut off the monitor. I can’t sulk and be nice. That’s just too much for me. I sat on the couch. I looked out the window. Nothing. This is… was Jeb’s couch. I go to my darkened bedroom and try my bed. Nothing. I go outside. I smoked a cigarette. I looked at the neighbors doing their thing. Life does go on. Regardless of this moment, the world spins. I think back to my grand old philosophy which got me up off my ass to lose weight, reestablish my career, and eventually leave a harmful relationship: Life, as it turns out, was not about me.
I was such a perfectionist, such a ‘clipboard-o-fun’ guy. People had to act/behave/do/say things according to my way or else they were deemed “negative energy” and avoided, sometimes chastised. I was a planner and if things didn’t go according to my continually flawless plans then I would throw a well-justified fit and sabotage any progress so as to make a grander point, make myself even more correct. I trained those around me to sugarcoat, tip-toe, and cater to my infinite wisdom and subsequent demands. Yes, everything did go smoothly and without upset (of course… because I’m brilliant), but I was single handedly making my world and the world of everyone who came into my orbit all about me. As lovely as this was (and it was lovely, I’m not going to lie) this world occasionally gets disrupted by things out of one’s control. It can come with the betraying lies of a partner. It happens with misplaced trust that leaves you abandoned in a cloud of trickery and deception. And a death of a loved one, any loved one, will do that. I’m sure it was made worse by finding out that a loved one is dead through a blog site filled with crude jokes, foul language, and pornographic obscenities.
At some point, you have to let go. I had to let go. All the arguing and bitching, complaining and sabotaging doesn’t do shit outside the world I created. I could release an immeasurable amount of energy with the biggest tantrum and lay on the ground screaming in anger barely able to open my eyes, and the World would just look at me… and without the slightest disruption in the rolling clouds… move right along. It doesn’t even stop long enough to laugh.
I spent so much time creating the perfect world to hide myself from my own insecurities I failed to see the Darwinian necessity of adaptation in order to survive. Whether things are perfect or not, the earth spins, the wind travels, and the sun gives life. Our existence isn’t perfect but the ability to adjust is key since we live in a society with fellow human beings, all neighbors, trying to place one foot in front of the other the best way they can, just like I’m trying to do. The ability to interact properly, to learn and grow, and appreciate is what life is all about. When my individual life ceased to become microscopic it was allowed to grow, be grand and vivid, exciting and worth living. The world, as it turns out, was not about me.
I extinguished the cigarette and sat back down at my desk. I turn the monitor back on. I will sulk later, before bed, maybe… I will allot some time on the clipboard. I will even have a drink to compound layers of horror that I am suffering because I am a unique and beautiful butterfly and no one else is going through what I’m going through. Yes, I’m special… that is all well and good. But there are people that are far more lost than I and they’re asking a lot of questions… important questions. Mostly, they have no path or answers to this horrible event. These were good-hearted people who did not need confusion and distance nor my own personal need for pageantry (brilliant as it may be). They were in need of facts, truth, and strength. They were in need of closure. They were not as lucky as I was in putting this to rest properly. If they were anything like me then without closure they would rotate in circles like a helicopter without a functional tail blade spinning. It is my sincerest desire, honor even, to help where I can. This world at that moment, was not about me… but it was certainly all about them.
I smiled. They needed a hand and I had two to give. They should feel a part of the process, our collective process. We are all going through this together. I think for a second. There is too much information to relay, and I wasn’t sure the comfortable levels of vulgarity allowed with each person especially when talking about gay sex, HIV, and AIDS. Best we should meet in person, I thought. And with that, I started typing:
I’m emailing you since you are the socially responsible one and I trust you to convey this over to the others however you deem fit, and because I can really only write this once….”
James P. Perez © 2014