In my unspectacular life, I have encountered a number of men resembling John Linnell of They Might Be Giants who either (1) attempted to wheedle money out of me, (2) continually outlined their grand plans for fame and fortune for me, and/or (3) made it clear that my taste in everything was shit. I doubt Mr. Linnell himself is this wayâ€”when I met him he was a bit stiff, actually, though acceptably politeâ€”but his twentysomething self’s mop-like hair and excessive ectomorphism is the best illustration I can provide for what these guys look like.
The first one I met was X, way back in college. X showed up in my last year at school, and at first our paths infrequently intersected. However, since he was the only other guy on the floor who listened to a few of my favorite bands and he’d seen Withnail… and I, we inevitably shared a few discussions about music and cult movies. The trouble began when X stopped talking about what we liked and more about why what I liked sucked. The usual zeta male territorial pissings. I grudgingly took it in stride, letting him blather before wandering off. Unless I’m conflating him with someone else, X was one of those jackasses who chucklingly tell you to smell his finger after he’d returned from a date. A real man of the world, you know, with girl-scented fingers. Having enough p-rock dipshits on hand at the time, I avoided him. Still, he was occasionally pleasant to me. Mostly when he wanted something.
Eventually, it came time for me to graduate (I never bothered leaving the dorms because it was cheaper than an apartment, and I didn’t feel like spending even more to share a place with six guys with whom I had nothing in common. To confess, my college friends were perfunctory. I didn’t hang with anyone who didn’t live on my floor. I went home on the weekends to work maintenance at a mall store. Surprise surprise, I mostly kept to myself because while many of my floormates were perfectly nice, they weren’t that interesting. I didn’t care about partying, and I spent most of my evenings reading at the library, attending the film club’s movie nights (never joined), or listening to classical LPs at the music building. I wasn’t antisocial, just… socially retarded. Ah, that’s another essay.
Back to X, I’d bought a parking sticker at the beginning of the winter semester (I was on the 4 1/2-year plan), and I let it be known that I’d sell it at half price for the remainder of the school year to whoever was interested. X was interested, and he paid me 12 bucks so he could park his Pacer, or whatever floppy-haired douchebags drove back then. I gave my mini-fridge to a fellow I actually liked. I graduated. That was that. I thought.
Two months into the new year, I received parking violation notices at my parents’ house from my alma mater. See, the sticker–which dangled from X’s rear-view mirrorâ€”identified his shitmobile as mine. It wasn’t the same as getting a ticket from the city of Chicago, but still, that was my name and reputation he was messing with, I seethingly thought.
So, here’s where you see a little bit of the old me. There’s no violence or grue, sorry. I was just a little off.
After I paid the tickets, I drove out to my old college.
For four hours, one way.
I was highly strung back then, and socially retarded. Sorry, I was. Give me a better adjective and I’ll use it.
I brought along a friend, who affected a biker punk persona, to give the appearance of muscle (why he indulged me, I’m not sureâ€”no bands performing that night, I suppose. I might be remembering a previous visit when I robbed a couple of books from the school library. Yes, I did. But I returned them later.). In those pre-Columbine days (hell, pre-NIU shooting days), we strolled right into the dorm, up to the 9th floor, and knocked on his door. His roommate didn’t know me, but a few guys on the floor recognized me. I’d visited the month before, and, I’ll admit, that night I probably went from “cool grad” to “creepy guy” status rather quickly.
“Where’s X?” I asked his roomie.
“He’s not here,” I was told.
“Tell him I’ll be back,” I said. I’ve never been physically intimidating, but a lot of people in the old days figured I’d shoot up a McDonald’s. I never appreciated that sentiment, but I played it to the hilt, wearing all black, a long peacoat in summer, and generally acting like I was slightly nuts. The polo shirts and All-Stars only added to my Bundyesque mystique, I’m sure. Socially. Retarded. No wonder I was only ever hit on in college by drugged-out chicks.
My friend and I took a stroll and returned in a half hour. I knocked on his door. I was getting strange looks. X opened the door, his face a dictionary thumbnail illustration of surprise.
(Not verbatim, but close enough.)
“Dan? What are you doing here?” he asked.
“You owe me 40 bucks!” I shouted, too forcefully.
I explained the situation.
“And you PAID it?”
For a moment I felt stupid. Then pathetic. Then psychotic. Then pissed off again, because I could see the smugness creeping across his bony face. Clearly, it was not only ridiculous that I’d paid the fine, it was ridiculous to pay any fine, or to expect him to answer for being a jerkoff.
“Look, it’s MY name you’re fucking with!” I said, poking his chest and yelling. “A ticket could affect my insurance… credit rating… the university could rescind my degree…. Just pay me the $40!” I doubt any of that would have happened.
“Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan… I don’t have it right now,” he said. “I just got back from Japan, and I’m broke.”
I wanted to kick his ass out the window. It’s a little-known fact that I’ve never left the country. I’ve seen Canada from across Lake Superior, but that’s it. 1980s Japan remains on my list of places/eras I’d most like to visit. It’s my own fault for never going anywhere. My parents instilled a pennypinching attitude in me, and I was chickenshit on top of it. Still, the floppy-haired ectomorph was able to visit 1980s Japan, in his teens. So, to HELL with him.
I was panting and shivering with anger then, and I think he could see it. Give uz the monnnney, Lebowski.
“Look, Dan,” he told me, laying a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “Dan, I will SEND you the money. I just don’t HAVE it right now. Okay?”
“Forty bucks,” I said. “Or I’m coming back.” It was a hollow threat, insofar as promised violence was concerned, but he didn’t know that.
“All right… all right… What’s your address?”
I gave it to him, and my friend and I left without another word. I tried to visit a group of girls I knew and had attended to like the idiot puppy-dog I was with women back then, but they’d since moved. At least that’s what the girl who answered the door said. She eyeballed me and my friend as if we were rape hobbyists. Smart girl. We drove home, and that was the next to last time I ever visited my old Alma Mater. A few years later my girlfriend of the time and I were passing by, and I decided to show her where I matriculated. It was winter break, I think, and I remember standing on the stark, unpopulated main quad, feeling moronic and weepy. Another story, yes.
A week later X’s check arrived. It was for $20. He’d scrawled out a note, “Dan, Here’s half. More come soon! X.” That’s how he wrote it: “More come soon.”
“Well, at least there’s that,” I thought. I drove to an ATM and deposited the check.
A week later the bank informed me it bounced. He never sent me the rest. More not came soon.
I chose not to visit X again, but I’ve promised myself that if I ever run into him, I’m going to demand the 40 bucks, just to see if I can make him perspire blood.
Revenge is a dish best served with shredded crazy.