The Right To Make Bad Decisions

What kind of a guy sits on the dirty floor of his tiny all-expense-paid apartment, his back resting against two dingy, sheetless mattresses without a bed frame under them, eating Ruffles Potato Chips, watching Jerry Springer? A guy who is a complete and total failure in life, like my sister’s loser-ass boyfriend!

The guy’s a jerk-off, a degenerate, weed-smoking piece of human excrement with the manners and morals of a pretty-faced sorority boy, and the work ethic of a down-on-his-luck welfare scam-artist. Fired from his proud position as a McDonalds fry cook for refusing to stop smoking while preparing food, he trucks on, hopping from menial job to trivial trade, never with a future in sight! After several years of stringing my sister along, introducing her to other oozing crackpot pustules of humanity, my sister’s life has steadily spiraled out of control.

Enthralling wonders have come her way, including getting a beating from hell at the hands of two female gang members who didn’t want her in their neighborhood. That wasn’t all! Thanks to this close-nit community of septic sadists, my sister was once drugged, then gang-raped, and her car stolen. Another time, she was choked unconscious and left for dead in an abandoned building, frequently used as a crack-house on the south side of town. Were it not for two concerned parents and a very compassionate local police unit that went above and beyond the call of duty to search for her, she would have died in that graffiti-ridden cesspool of sickness.

And still, there is more! Special thanks to this toilet-bowl-worthy team, Sis has become very acquainted with local law enforcement, so much so that it came to my attention how many of their workforce are on a first name basis with her! I found this out when they made yet another trip out to our house recently. “We’ve been called out to this house a number of times now.” “We treated her down at the state hospital some months ago,” an officer and a paramedic commented. Honestly, I felt as though I was mistakenly signed up as a supporting cast member for a new reality-based TV show entitled, “A Pretty Young Girl Fucks Up Her Life!”

With a history of repeated suicide attempts and countless domestic and public disturbances, don’t think I haven’t urgently and endearingly tried to get her help. The problem has always been that there’s only so much the system can do to help someone, and don’t think I haven’t pleaded with those in power to rescue her. “Can’t you keep her and get her some extensive mental help?” I asked. The answer I got back was disappointing, but not at all surprising: “Sir, people have a right to make bad decisions.” That they do! Yeah, I knew it, but it still hurt to hear. Knock yourself out, sis! Go right ahead and fuck up your life! No one’s going to stop you!

Little sis is beautiful when she wants to be, gorgeous in fact, a real head-turner, top-quality model material—that is, when she doesn’t carry herself like a frizzy-haired homeless wino who hasn’t bathed in a week! But as with most cutting-edge qualities, it’s a trade-off; beauty can only take you so far when you’re set back with the brains and mental maturity of a learning disabled ninth-grader, the attention span of a feisty golden retriever, and the obstinacy of a limestone monolith! We’re talking about a very lost individual here, and I don’t mean in some delusional religious since!

An insane crack-whore friend and fellow exotic dancer gives her a six-inch-long, jagged-edged dagger with a wooden and gold-plated Jamaican voodoo priest’s head for a handle, an illegal weapon to carry for sure. What does she do with it? She carries it around in her purse, of course, and uses it to threaten people, including members of her own family, then tries to kill herself!

Grueling frustration is what comes from knowing that any halfway normal person would have long since gotten a wakeup call from all this madness! You can try to stay angry with someone like this, but in the end, all you can feel justified doing is feeling sorry for that person. How can you remain angry with someone who is too stubborn and too stupid to see the need to change?

Sweet little sister needs to know I can pull a pair of scissors out of her hand and wrestle her to the ground when she tries to stab herself. I can knock 38 pills out of her hand just before she tries to swallow them in another poor attempt to take her own life. I can tackle her down to the kitchen floor when she reaches into a drawer for a paring knife in an effort to slash her already scarred wrists, but I can’t be with her always. Neither I, nor mom or dad, can stop her from doing the inevitable. The police can’t save her. The concerned paramedics that regularly respond to the numerous crises she creates time and time again can’t help her. There will come a day when no one will be around to stop what will happen, and I hope for the sake of all of us that she will not take the selfish way out. It’s a vain hope I know, but vainly hoping is not a crime. What will happen will happen. It’s her life to end if she chooses to, even though it will be those of us left in the land of the living who will be the ones enduring the grief from her doing so.

It doesn’t require Solomonic wisdom to see that bad choices have bad consequences. When you run around with intoxicated fools, doped up stooges, loaded up to their eyeballs on Xanax bars and bottles of Clonazepam, who stick 3 pounds of lean ground beef down their sagging, loaded-diaper-looking blue jeans and try to sneak out of a busy grocery store in broad daylight because they are hungry, having spent all their money for food on crack and cocaine, it won’t be long before you begin to take on their pond scum-ish ways of thinking (or not thinking I should say)! Bad habits understandably begin to pop up. A life of abject squalor becomes the norm. Rampant drug use creates paranoia, paranoia creates obsession, and the two together create needless run-ins with the police for threatening and assaulting total strangers in restaurants and stores because they “looked” at you wrong.

Yeah, sis, life is yours! Live it up! Go ahead, dear! Keep stealing prescription medicines from local pharmacies under our deceased grandmother’s name. Keep running around at all hours of the night, virtually prostituting yourself to complete strangers in shopping center parking lots for petty cash that will disappear into your arm the very next day. Keep lying to your family and friends concerning your whereabouts, and then come back home stoned off your ass, sobbing incoherently, refusing to ask us to help you get out of that private hell you created for yourself. Keep thinking we buy into your lies and don’t realize how overused the pathetic excuses you give us are as poor covers for your depraved street life. Keep on coming home high and informing us that there wasn’t enough work for you at your company, so you got laid off…again! Oh, by the way, you might want to do a bit better job of wiping that white powder off your nose before arriving home and peddling your lies!

Don’t worry about us! Just keep worrying about yourself like you’re so good at doing! Keep bringing mom and dad to tears as they lie awake late at nights, wondering where you are, whether or not you are alright, and whether or not you’ll run over another mailbox on the way home, or park out in the middle of the yard. Make them keep wondering whether or not you’ll even make it home at all, and whether or not tonight will be the terrible night when they get that oh-so-dreaded knock at the door from the Sheriff, preparing to give us the ultimate bad news.

So go ahead, keep having unprotected sex with a waste-of-skin loser with no telephone, who is too damn cheap to get a bed frame for those torn and dilapidated mattresses that lie on the floor, collecting dust. Go ahead and spend your waking hours with someone whom you know has done nothing but put you in touch with people who have thrown your life facedown in the gutter. Keep frying your brain with this deviant, watching Jerry Springer with the rest of the trailer park trash, as two morbidly obese transvestites fight for the affections of some shorthaired, albino she-male, with a tongue-ring, gothic lipstick, and an attitude! If it’s the Jerry Springer lifestyle you want, then go get it! Hell, maybe one day you’ll actually get to be on the show!

(JH)

I was the asshole!!!

"What the fuck? You fucking asshole!"

This just doesn't happen. I was headed home, staring straight ahead at the road. Surely I said nothing and did nothing to deserve these comments! The beginnings of fear had arrived, a fluttering stomach and quivering legs. Damn, these guys were ugly...and scary!

Two bedraggled men with medium builds, covered in agrarian tattoos, with shaved heads, earrings, one wearing a faded Camel T-shirt and the other a football jersey, drove up beside me and let me know - in no uncertain terms - that they were mad at me! I noticed the gottees, the unshaven, cratered faces. A shabby appearance says a lot, but a staring frown says a lot more! They looked mean as hell, and even being outside of their crappy little 1984 Chevy Citation, I could smell the overpowering waves of cigarette smoke and pot. Cigarette burns could be seen on the headrests and dashboard of the rattling and coughing, inspection-failing, automotive abomination they were driving, and it wasn't hard to notice the open Budweiser can in a cupholder. I thought to myself, "This might have been bad, but now it might be worse." Crazy low-lives bedeviled with road rage are dangerous enough, but deranged thugs who have gone high or drunk? Now I'm afraid for my life!

One of the jewels of getting older is that one becomes increasingly aware of his or her own mortality. It occurs to the partially enlightened middle-ager that any batshit moron stupid enough to pull up beside you and start yelling obscenities is just not very stable and may actually make you the next exorbitant road rage statistic and victim of a sidewalk head-stomping! Lying comatose in a pool of my own coagulating blood on a cold, hard sidewalk, having pictures taken of me by strangers is not exactly my idea of a dignified death!

The next few moments were spent scampering to do several things, the first was to try and drive while rapidly glancing over at the two fools who continued to point and swear at me to see whether or not they would decide to run me off the road! This was a moment to remember; mashing the brakes, narrowly avoiding an accident, I glanced around the cockpit of my 1989 Toyota van to find some sharp object that could serve as a makeshift weapon if the situation called for one. Since I can't outrun them in a 114 horsepower, four cylinder engine, and since they seemed intent on pursuing me through several stop lights, it seemed logical to prepare for one of those once-in-a-lifetime situations to go down. But along with the sweet, age-acquired wisdom of our own mortality comes the wisdom to calm down and do some quick thinking...

Perspectivizing, these guys aren't that big. I'm much bigger and should be able to whip them--well, probably one of them, but two? Alright, turns out I have a pocketknife. I can handle two of them, but they might have guns! If they do, I'm fucked! Can't take that chance. OK, there has to be an easier way than this! What, if anything, did I do to piss these guys off? Now that I thought about it, I did do something! Just after I exited the freeway, I cut them off, thought I had enough time to make that sharp right hand turn without making anyone slam on the brakes. I was wrong. My timing was bad. I could have unwittingly caused an accident. That was when they came flying up on my tail, honking, and giving me "the bird." These whackos may not be the sanest of ten thousand, but like it or not, I got myself into this trouble and it was up to me to get myself out.

It's kind of hard to explain; when you have a "light bulb" moment, a strange calm comes over you, an exhilarating peace of mind that eases the situation. From then on, I was on autopilot as I fessed up to the fact that I was indeed the fucking asshole they so impetuously called out! Slowing down, aligning myself directly across the car's passenger side window, I leaned out and said, "Sorry, guys. I didn't mean to cut you off. Damnit, I hate it when that happens! Sorry fellas, really, sorry."

They weren't expecting that. And much to my surprise, after the momentarily blank expressions left their faces, I saw a slight nod of respect from one of the men. I was pleased and relieved to see them turn off at the following intersection. To me, this gave refreshed meaning to the phrase, "Killing with kindness." I disarmed my opponents with a simple but formidable (and very often neglected) weapon--an apology. So if you are ever looking for a way to keep a foul-mouthed, drug-crazed hippie from fracturing your skull with a tire iron, the answer might not be found in the traditional middle-finger retorts and swear words we are so apt to use! When appropriate, a simple apology can damn a river of conflict.

(JH)

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