April 10, 2003

Jesus Next to Me

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

I didn't see him sit down. The bar was almost empty aside from two regulars sitting at a table in the corner. I had my back turned for a second when he walked in. I hadn't seen him in a couple of months. Doug was an afternoon regular, someone average whom you wouldn’t be able to pick out of any crowd. He chain smoked Benson & Hedges, drank Molson long necks, and had an anxious manner in which he spoke, with a snide comment on everything and anything. He disappeared one day and I totally forgot about him until I saw him sitting at the bar. He lost a lot a weight since I saw him last, one anonymous October day last year, when he stumbled out of the bar boisterously rambling on about mindless factory workers and their obscene waiver of their ability to break free of their non-ambitious imposed slavery.

Doug was a film maker from Ohio. Maybe. He never actually made a film. He always talked shit about making a film. Yes, as my old man once said, "There are two types of people in this world: People who do things and people that just talk shit about doing them."

Doug was in between. Sometimes I saw Doug scribbling on a script. He showed me a couple of scenes one day after he knocked back six straight shots of Peppermint Schnapps. His script was better than I thought it would be. I was slightly impressed.

"You know these mother fuckers downtown protesting the god damned war makes me wonder what the fuck is going on in my world."

No "Hellos," or "Good to see ya, my favorite bartender!" Not even a fucking nod, "What's up?"

I grabbed a Molson and plopped it on the bar. Doug picked it up and chugged for a few seconds before letting out a huge sigh.

"I dunno what it is, but man, fuckin' drinking and sucking down Canadian beer is like paradise, man. Like sitting down and watching the motherfuckin' ocean. It’s like the whole world fuckin' disappears. That’s why I love drinkin'."

Doug rubbed his eyes a couple of times and just talked out loud. Depressed people go to therapists. Crazy people go to psychiatrists. Catholics go to confession. And drunks… gravitate towards me. But I'm a good listener. That's how I make good tips.

"You know all those people out there, the ones who ain't protesting and have those desk jobs. Man they got it easy, because they wake up, drink coffee, go to work for eight hours, come home, eat and watch TV. That's it man. But me, shit, in my shitty life, I have everything on the line. All the time. I don't have a lunch break, or a smoke break, or three day holiday weekends, or a fuckin' two week vacation to Tahiti sipping on those long fruity drinks with pink umbrellas and shit. Nope. My life is my fuckin' job man. My job is scrutinized all the time. By critics, by agents, by bankers. And by my ex-wife, man. I'm fucking shit up all the time and I want to stop everything and fix what's wrong, but you know, it's like I'm stuck on a crowded subway, and the fuckin' subway is making express stops and you can't fuckin' get off when you want to get off. One way express stop to hell, man. You're stuck sitting in between the fuckin' Popeye’s biscuit eating fat woman from Babooshkaville, the one with the hairy knuckles and the overbite, and the odd smelling asshole wearing socks with Tevas, who's reading my fuckin' script over my shoulder and stealing my fucking original ideas, man!! I just wanna get off, you know? And not deal! But drinkin'…" and he finally paused to take a huge swig.

"Drinkin' is fuckin' paradise man. Waves on a beach. Sun setting over my troubled life. The buzz kicks in. I lose myself to myself."

I served Doug another Molson and he continued talking.

"And I figured I gotta just keep working on my shit. My film. It's tough to get fundage for creative projects these days. There's no free money out there anymore. All these righteous religious people out there are fuckin' the world up. But you know what? If fuckin' Jesus was here, right now, serving me drinks instead of you, man, he'd be pretty cool. I think if Jesus was next to me, he wouldn't be laying on this heavy morality bullshit. He might even give me a few pointers on my script. He's cool like that, you know. But then maybe he'd let me know at the end of his friendly advice like 'Make sure some of the proceeds to your film goes to buy some blankets for those homeless fuckers standing out on the corner freezing their ass off!' or some shit like that."

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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