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Back on the board 

Standing up instead of giving up

I did not even know it was possible to break your actual ass, but that is what I did. In fact, weeks later I am still limping around like an extra in Dawn of the Dead, complete with moaning, groaning and slobbering. As expected, I am surprised at the lack of sympathy from the collection of heartless barnacles that make up my friends, which now includes my doctor, seeing as how I lied to his receptionist to snake my way into his office ahead of all the patients who had actual appointments.

"No, really," I insisted, suppressing the moaning and groaning but not the slobbering, "we go way back. I'm just here to say hi. Go tell him he has a visitor."

I was as convincing as O.J. professing his innocence, especially since I was clutching my own ass like a toddler looking for a toilet, but still she did as I asked and my ploy, like, worked. Within minutes I was writhing around in one of my doctor's examination rooms, resenting him for laughing at me.

"What the hell were you doing on a skateboard?" he chuckled, noting a "contused left ilial tuberosity" in my file.

"Well, Mark," I said, initiating our first-name basis in light of how I went to all the trouble of pretending to be his personal friend and all, "I'm from California, and I'm very athletic."

This was, of course, another lie. Not a complete lie, because I am from California and I did used to be very athletic, but these days, to be truthful, all this limping and slobbering is not a big departure from my normal countenance in its uninjured state. But God forbid I admit that to Chris, my old flame from high school who tracked me down and enticed me back out to California by using the masterful ploy of having not changed a single molecule since he was 17 years old. For example, he was a champion skateboarder back then and he – Jesus – still is.

He is also just as exasperating, annoying and aggravating as he ever was, all characteristics that I must find fairly irresistible, because how else do I explain that he not only talked me into visiting him but he got me on a skateboard as well, for maybe five seconds before I fell off and hit the ground like a sack of wet cement. I rolled around on the asphalt, wailing like a sick sea elephant while he tried to comfort me with the assurance that if I decided to have sex with him that night he'd let me take the easy route and "be the bottom." I would probably have put him in a headlock but for the fact that he really is quick on his feet. So instead I just lay there like a mummy in a peat bog. A noisy mummy.

"C'mon, don't give up," he implored. "Stand up."

Perhaps this is just my recollection, but I remember him skating circles around me then, and this, too, is not that different from when we were kids. Perhaps this is just my recollection, but I really had given up -- not just on the asphalt right then, but back then when we were kids. I was always timid, brooding and basically tortured over any myriad of disasters, both invented and actual, and I remember Chris breaking my ass back then, too. I remember once we were on a catamaran in the tranquil waters of Mission Bay, and I was all set to wile the time away with thoughts of inventive suicide but for Chris singing "My Sharona" at the top of his lungs, which gravely interfered with my mindfully cultivated sense of despair.

It was an effective and thoroughly unintentional method of directing my thoughts from killing myself to killing him instead, which you have to admit is an improvement. I guess I will always be grateful to him for that, as well as for the fact that, because I wasn't popular enough to pick my friends back then, Chris literally picked me to be his. I don't know why, seeing as how, at the time, he was an über-adored world champion skateboarder and I was hardly more than an awkward corner ornament at parties like the one where we met. But he plucked me out of the crowd like a factory defect and we became friends, then lovers, then friends again. Now here we were, a hundred years later, with me prone like a dead possum and him standing over me, telling me not to give up.

Earlier I'd tried to push him off his board, but not only is Chris quick on his feet, it's impossible to knock him off his balance. This is really infuriating to think about when you're on the asphalt with a broken ass after just an attempt to follow suit. It was so infuriating, in fact, that I forgot I had given up. "Stand up," Chris kept cajoling, and amazingly I stood up. I got back on the board.

Hollis Gillespie authored two top-selling memoirs and founded the Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy (www.hollisgillespie.com).

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