Just Another Victim


An Essay by Andrew Prenger

There is something about me that makes crazy, obnoxious people flock to me. I don’t know if I give off some pheromone that these people can sense or what, but I am often forced to deal with people I would prefer not to. Why can’t hot chicks come and talk to me? What did I do in a past life to warrant this?

I started thinking about this because Cinco de Mayo is coming up. I saw an advertisement for a Cinco de Mayo party…being held on the 7th, but whatever. It reminded me of what I did last Cinco de Mayo: I went to my neighborhood bar with my friend, Kevin. Nothing surprising about that. At some point he got up to take a piss leaving me alone. So, of course, an old guy sits next to me and starts talking.

“Fucking Mexico, am I right? I don’t know what the holiday is about, but I like that I have a reason to celebrate!”

Noticing that my Corona was half empty he bought me another. When Kevin returned from his piss the old man bought him one too. Now we were obligated to chat with this man. Barroom code, nothing we could do. I mean, hell, nothing was going to get us out of this situation now so we might as well have a beer. We end up chatting with the guy about the finer points of Cinco de Mayo. It went as well as you could expect.

Somewhere along the lines we started talking about jobs which brought up this gem of wisdom, “I work harder than a nigger and those boys work themselves to death!” There you go. Most young men go to bars to meet women, that’s often my intent, but I mostly end up meeting old racists.

Before I had time to come up with a polite way to terminate the discussion without getting stabbed, he downed his beer, slapped me on the back and staggered off, telling us that he couldn’t stay because he had three more bars to celebrate in before the night was over.

Only I can meet these types of people. I go to this bar all the time. When I hang out with my dad or my friends who are not Kevin this doesn’t happen. If my dad sparks up a conversation with someone they get to talk about sports…or sports. Okay, the conversation is limited. Sometimes politics may crop up, but it’s always civil. I don’t hear racial slurs when they talk!

As much as I am cursed my dad is blessed. He makes friends at the drop of the hat. No matter where we go he’ll find someone to talk to. So I don’t think my condition is genetic, I didn’t inherit it from him. There’s just something about him that he gets to meet nice people.

I meet crazies.

A few years back I went to a Catholic bookstore to buy my sister a crucifix for her birthday. Should be simplicity itself. I went some weekday afternoon when I thought it would be dead. I was right. There was only one other customer in the store. I would grow to hate her soon enough.

See, I identify as atheist. That’s simpler than stating what I really am: apathetic. I just don’t care one way or the other if God exists. If I just say atheist people understand that. It tends to shut down any conversation about my faith, which is good for me since I just don’t care. I’ve got bigger problems. Actually, I’ve got smaller problems. I have some obsessive tendencies so I am already anxious enough worrying about if my toilet is clean enough without worrying God is going to slap me down for committing some sin I didn’t know was a sin. Though I am often reluctant to speak about my lack of faith in general. It’s personal.

I say this to clarify my position. I was in a Catholic bookstore. I went there of my own free will. I’m not like other atheists who feel the need to preach their belief structure. I can attend services without constantly thinking “this is so stupid.” Respectful is the position I like to be in.

Being respectful means I got to talk to the crazy guy. As I waited in line I saw him waddling towards the front door, smiling, covered in buttons with slogans and crosses. If the pope ever failed in his duties this guy would be willing and ready to step in as God’s right-hand man. He opened the door, heartily greeted the cashier then made a bee-line straight towards me.

I got to talk about Jesus. A lot. The man didn’t seem to be in the market for any of the items at the bookstore. He just came down to chat. Since the cashier was busy with the old lady in front of me I was the target. I got a look of sympathy from the cashier. It was obvious that this man came in often and she knew what it was like. If she was really sympathetic she would be ringing up the old lady’s items quicker so I could make my escape.

“Isn’t Jesus great?” he nearly shouted at me.

“Yep.”

“We are all better for having him in our life.”

“Sure.”

I was quickly running out of non-committal phrases. It didn’t matter if I encouraged him or not, he was going to keep rambling. By this point I was at the head of the line and the cashier was ringing up the crucifix. That didn’t stop my new friend explaining to me the wonders of Jesus. As if I had never heard of that miraculous man before.

I was about to leave when he put his arm on my shoulder and started praying for me. This is another thing about the people I attract: they seem to know that I hate being touched. I wouldn’t shake people’s hands if I could get away with it without seeming rude or crazy. But invariably these complete strangers pat me on the back, touch my shoulder, crap like that. I am deeply afraid that one will try to hug me. On that day I may snap.

The only solution I can see to this problem is to never leave my house. If I don’t go outside then I won’t have to suffer through an endless conversation with a crazy person. I can just stay in my apartment and be safe. It’s perfect! No crazy people in here!

Then I look in the mirror.

Fuck.

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