Best friends forever
These two shirts were worn by Beavis and Butthead between 1993 and 1997, though one may presume that our friends still wore their shirts in our collective consciousness following the show’s end — through spin-offs King of the Hill and Daria, via ones Tom Anderson and Daria Morgendorffer, respectively — to this very day, we among the kids who unwittingly grew into near adults, the thick riffs of the invoked bands still sawing away at our heads, some distant drum roll ready to lift our arms in the tethered rapture of a limb. Watching MTV into the night, I always wished I had someone to share my feelings about the death of masculinity, or rather just feelings in general. The odd effeminate misogyny and the perverse coital nuances of their guitar holding were misguided directions to manhood, so I had no choice but to look towards my father, who picked up dog feces on the lawn with his bare hands. I told him to wear gloves and he called me a girl.
Our aesthetic triad is completed by Stewart Stevenson’s taste in Winger, a late 80s hair band best though barely known for “Seventeen,” a song about the qualms of statutory rape. Fearing the respective snarl and australian accent of Metallica and AC/DC, I fashioned a Winger poster in my adolescent bedroom. Idolatry begins at home. I had a best friend, but he was far from forever. He blasted Master of Puppets from a cheap boom box, had a job in a mail room, and was obsessed with shitting inside his next door neighbor’s pool, contributions which floated to the surface in subtle curves as the hint of a smile. I loved him.
I loved her. Which is what every guy in this world can say about someone — and it matters less and less who she is, if she’s beautiful, or mean, or broken, or any of the myriad of ways in which one, post hypothetically, may be left with nothing but words like these, too hurt or embarrassed to say hello or goodbye, each letter a deformed insect around the chronic imminence of our corpses. “You are what you love, not what loves you,” says Donald Kaufman, the Kaufmanesque twin brother of the screenwriter, before his death in Adaptation. I got shivers the first time I heard that line, and I hereby congratulate every cynic or critic who thinks I’m, or it, or this, is cheesy. I’m going to fucking drown in fondue bitch.
Every face is a cartoon, a line drawing filled in with pale expressions that hope for more, to be twisted into love or hate, and the grimace of an orgasm may be God’s way of telling us something, that the closest thing you can share with someone is similar in emptiness to a sneeze, the grand expulsion of an irrational cry.
The bff, like any contract e.g. a lease, a marriage, a mortgage, is either designed or subject to end, thus the attribution “forever” is more than a euphemism, it is a lie. Primarily used among women, the bff is the practice of relationships save the ponderous logistics of a dong. Forever is an inadvertent caveat, a necessary disclaimer (USPS’s “forever stamp,” Gmail’s “delete forever”) as if time were a straight line, a thing you could dump feelings into, and not just the spray of atoms. Infinity is a nice idea, but bent time whirlpools down the funnel of our Black Hole, which only seems like a good time to insert a sodomy joke. That we all have TP for our bunghole is a Cornholion auto-epiphany embracing free will. Like Stephen Dedalus, Beavis’s epiphany — while not exactly remembered on “green oval leaves, deeply deep, copies to be sent if you died to all the great libraries of the world” — suggests essence before existence, and is hence post-existental, in a word, sweet.
I may or may not be kidding. Someone explain to me what an essay is. Yesterday I walked into American Apparel in hopes of buying a horizontally striped shirt to make me look french, and came across one for $58.00. The cashier, a beautiful woman with a tattoo crawling up her neck, had sunglasses covering half of her face and an attitude sheath around her heart, and all I could see was myself in her reflection. I saw a man too old to be shopping at American Apparel, too cynical for the cynicism of American kitsch. Then I remembered who I was, before the precluded cool, the Cape Cod douche pastels, the rise of irony, the bad loud music, the ghost blush of coke on an idiot’s cheek, where I dressed for less at Ross only to dream of owning a Winger t-shirt. Hello, my name is Stewart Stevenson, and I’m about to skin your face when you sleep.
When I was 17, you had to physically go to a store and buy a physical cassette tape or CD, physically insert it and listen. I blew my allowance on this shit, hoarding cheap middle-class suburban culture because that’s all I had. I regret knowing about John Zorn, Steve Reich, Cecil Taylor because I feel like an asshole listening to them, weird ass notes and a glass of wine in my condo like some bitch. The truth is I loved Winger more. “Seventeen” (1988) goes she said I’m only seventeen, but I’ll show you love like you’ve never seen. She’s only seventeen, daddy says she’s too young, but she’s old enough for me which are horrible lyrics, but in our world of essence before existence, perception is all we have. Youth is not wasted on the young. It is a blank canvas waiting for the next Pollockian bukkaked masterpiece. As for our underage tart and lyrical suitor, put a 17 year old girl in a hotel room with a 27 year old man (Kip Winger’s age in 1988) and guess who comes out with a hundred holes in their heart? The dude. Pussy don’t need feminism. Just give them a bed, and the women always win.
There’s a problem to this best friends forever story. He, the pool shitter, already had a bff, John. John’s father, a morbidly obese man whose every breath threatened a heart-attack, had a box full of Penthouse back issues in his garage. We knew John’s family’s schedule pretty well, when they were gone, when they were back, intervals during which he, the pool shitter, and I would steal/take (and replace, so the stack’s height remained the same) 2-3 issues for our own more “elaborate” use. The glossy pages tucked under my belt, sticky against my abdomen, were some of the most sensual experiences I’ve ever had, my pulse felt in my temples, a possessed bike ride home until the next explosion of boydom. She’s so near me, I thought. If I only knew (or maybe I did) that what I wanted, simply, was some intimacy — a smile frozen from 1985, the amber light through her hair, a single bead of sweat as a salty diamond soon proposed by another man. Riding my bike home for a jerk off fest, I thought these things, past the strip malls, elementary schools, and wheeze of dry yellowed Californian grass. One day, of course this would happen, we heard the car come up the driveway fuck fuckkk his mom entered the garage, a stoic concession of her cognizance to the entire situation, and asked us to put them away and please leave. The human eye, it its greatest capacity, is to look hurt. Put two of them together and you have a broken heart. I hurt John’s mother, though she never called mine. This was my first lesson in empathy, never mind the pathos hidden in that word. Things were never the same between John, me, and the shitter. The latter two became bffs, and former went on to struggle to be cool, was marginally accepted, graduated, majored in something that actually made sense, in some college town with streets named after trees, got a job, married, kids, you know the drill, and though I google him I never find him, because his name is too American, his plight as well.
There are two ugly people in this post. I imagine them Sunday on a park bench asking each other “what are [they] going to do today,” a question as vulnerable as a baby bird in a leafless tree, unabashed beak agape, hungry, because though life is cruel, it begs to be lived. Death may be the best thing that will happen to us, but we will have to wait, a little while outlast the tears, and hold us in plagiarism¹. The answer is they aren’t doing anything today. Small hands are put into larger ones, and they walk off in the same direction. In the spiritual whirlpool of beer, or margarita, or well vodka, we have seen the human race continue. The transcript of every bed argument is a love letter between devastated parties. Uh huh huh huh on repeat is the Bible and Koran. I really hope there’s a God and the Rapture does cometh. I’d be willing to go to hell for that. Someone once told me the difference between forgiving and forgetting, but I forget. So instead of skinning your lovely face I’ll skin mine. Mortality’s expression is speckled in red, the failure of flesh which once tried to smile. Sorry.