He actually believed that his writing would set him free

from his job, responsibilities, religion, and social conventions

but all it did was give him excuses that he wrote down

so that he could behave badly and do whatever came into his head.

I liked to talk to him

but

my other friends weren’t inviting him around, anymore.

As his best friend, he told me his struggles,

“I don’t know if I want to keep working my job,” he said. “I don’t want to get a harder job. My parents keep asking me, if I’ve taken out any girls, and when I tell them how horrible girls are these days, my dad tells me, boys are just as bad—and my mother feels better when he says this, but they’re both in their mid-70s—they don’t have a clue, and my dad doesn’t have any sympathy for me—he never does. He blames me for my life not working out—like I have any control over that. I apply for jobs and get rejected. I get published, but my dad says, ‘that’s not a real publication—did they pay you for it?’ ‘No.’ ‘Well, see—it’s not real, unless they pay you for it. What they’re saying is, your writing isn’t worth anything. Now, as an engineer, I made twice what you’re making, at 30. I climbed the launch towers and built rockets. I did what I wanted to do with my life.’ My mother tells me it hurts her feelings, when I tell her the way women are. It’s like my parents want me to ignore reality, and start having success—as if, by some miracle, everything will change, if my attitude changes. ‘Learn to like your job,’ my dad told me. ‘When I was about your age, I was feeling the way you are, and I prayed that I would love my job. The next day, I did. The union man was trying to fire me. He busted me down to the machine shop because I wouldn’t protest for better wages. I just prayed more, and God saw me through until retirement.'”

We were in the Mexican restaurant, and I spoke a little Spanish to our waitress. She looked tired.

“Do you speak Spanish?” She asked me.

“No,” I said. She laughed.

I could tell my friend was getting fatter. Eating was the only thing that made him happy. When a man endures too much failure, he turns to his addictions to deal with his helplessness. He has to hide his addictions, so his parents won’t find out. Pretty soon, he can’t control himself, and when the people he knows find out, they say wisely, ‘Never eat too much, son—or you will turn-out like that, obese.’ But they never realize, there was a reason for him to start eating in the first place. It’s like the man who beats his wife. Society says, there’s no reason to hit a woman, and they may be right about that, just like there’s no reason to hurt a child, but it happens. A woman says something, and then she says something else, and something else, and he hits her. Maybe, he feels lousy about himself—who knows. People want to be famous, until they are—and then they want privacy, but they can’t get it without social failure. To have money, and then to lose it, hurts more, than being chronically poor.

I was getting depressed, listening to my friend. I wanted him to change the subject.

“How’s your writing going?” I asked.

“I’ll get published one day,” he said. “You know, Sherwood Anderson was a salesman. He wrote Winesburg, Ohio in separate installments. The inner workings of his life were put between the pages. He was sexually frustrated. Today, you could see a psychiatrist. Back in the day, you went insane. Now, they have a pill for everything. Anderson couldn’t support himself with writing, so he went back to advertising. If you have to write to live, it’ll kill your writing. No, a person needs to live, and then write about it in their spare time. It’s funny that people try to get famous, and when they do get famous, nobody acts normal around them. All they can write about are cocktail parties and high-society functions where people celebrate them—the great writer.”

“Okay—so you have an excuse, not to succeed,” I said.

“That’s right. It helps me to feel better about myself. I don’t want anything to hurt my writing, including my success.”

“Have you asked out any girls?”

My friend looked at me, as if he thought, I thought, he was afraid to ask out a woman.

“The last five women I asked out, told me ‘No,'” he said.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I went home and jerked-off. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Whenever I get rejected, I jerk-off. I have a sore down there because I’ve been putting myself out there.”

“I see,” I said. “Why do you have to jerk-off?”

“It’s important to associate something bad with something good. In that way, you will keep doing the thing that hurts. You might even come to enjoy the pain.”

“Aren’t you worried that you might hope for rejection, so that you can enjoy the pleasure afterward?”

“You know, I haven’t thought about that. Maybe, I’ve been failing so much, so that I have an excuse to jerk-off?”

“It could be,” I said. “It doesn’t do anything for you.”

“But it makes me feel good.”

“No arguing with that. Do you want desert?” I asked.

“No,” my friend said. “I’ve got the check. Your dime-store psychology works, or maybe it’s just that you listen to me, without judging me.”

“Are you going to change?”

“I hope so.”

The End

6 thoughts on “My friend, the Jerk-off Poet

  1. The conversation touches on my ,life . I’ve published 27 poems so far in twelve ‘Zines. No money so far, but my poems are liked and that’s okay, affirming my skill.

    Thank you for liking my poem! I’m on SSD (Social Security Disability) and I’m 74. Was writer/editor now just work at home poet.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s