Guest Fiction: Almost a Person by David Catney
I woke up that morning with a hangover that could kill a platoon. I was at my father’s house. It was the first time I had been there in nine months. I spent the night before out in his back yard, smoking joints, writing and drinking his beers. Before that I had eaten dinner with him and his wife and afterward we talked for a few hours. The topic of conversation was my byife. This is always the topic of conversation when I see my Dad. I hate talking about myself but with him that’s all we can talk about. Maybe that's the only reason we can speak, maybe if I pulled my life together, graduated school and got a decent job, like my brothers, we wouldn't have anything to talk about anymore. That might be why I haven't come to his house in nine months though.
I don't know.
I do know that these shitty conversations make me want to kill myself.
Him always trying to “improve” me. That’s why every time I see him I have to numb my brain with a lot of beer.
That’s the only reason I visited him that night. I wanted to drink beer and he wanted to improve me. He was going to take me to get my G1 drivers license in the morning. We talked about it for a bit and by the end of the conversation it seemed like a good idea to me.
The problem I've always had with my father is that he is not a very realistic person. He has a pretty good life, financially. He makes more money than anybody I know and does less work. It hasn't always been that way though. When I was a child we didn't have much money in the family. I have four brothers and both my parents were working part time jobs. You can't feed a family of seven very well with that kind of money. There were nights that we didn't have any food. We had to share clothes because we didn't want to wear the same stuff every day. Eventually, my father kept on getting promoted by the company he works for and ended up with a very high paying job. My mother also got herself a decent paying job and then our family had enough money to buy all the useless things people want.
Like I said though, my father is very unrealistic. Every time I see him he goes on about how every generation in a family is supposed to do better, meaning financially, of course. This means he expects all of his kids to become millionaires. This doesn't make much sense to me. Why would you have five kids if you expected that? He's unrealistic. Besides, I look at it a different way. When he says that he expects our lives to be better, I think the person who leads the happier life has the better life. So, with that in mind, all I have to do is be happier with how I'm spending my life than he was. I can't see myself being happy going to college or university, then working some crappy job eight hours a day, so I can have a bunch of money but be unhappy and not have time to do anything I want. Besides, my chances of getting into one of those schools is not very high, seeing as I don't even have a high school diploma. I dropped out of high school when I was fifteen. I couldn't see the point in it anymore. All I wanted to do was write and have a good time. I didn't see how a high school diploma was going to get that for me. I'd never heard of any publishing house rejecting a great piece of work because the author didn't have a high school diploma. I felt school was holding me back. Writing all those shitty assignments and having all those crappy subjects forced down my throat didn't leave me much time for my own writing. I’ve never been obsessed with money. You don't get into writing if you want to be a millionaire. You get into it for the craft, or something. To throw your hat in the ring, with all the great writers who have written works that have changed your life. I only need enough money to pay the bills, and to buy weed, food, books and beer.It doesn't take a lot of money to sustain a lifestyle like that.
When I woke up in the morning my head was pounding and my stomach was churning. The sun was ripping through the window and piercing into my brain. It was terrible. I had to throw up, but for a minute I had forgotten where I was. I opened the bedroom door and remembered, I was at my father’s house. I stumbled through the hallway and just made it to the bathroom in time to save the hall carpet from vomit stains. I got some of the puke into the toilet bowl but mostly it was on the wall and the floor tiles. With my head throbbing like it had a concussion, I wiped up the bile from the walls and tiles as best as I could, so no one would notice. While wiping up I periodically had to crane my neck over to the toilet bowl and puke some more. After I had thoroughly wiped up the bathroom, I walked down the stairs, to the fridge, to get the only thing I knew that could cure a hangover like this. A beer. I opened the fridge. Then I realized that I had drank all my fathers beers last night. Not good. There was only water to drink, so I settled for that. Not like I had a choice.
I took my water to the backyard and joined my father back there for a smoke. We just sat around not speaking for a while. Just smoking. Him on his laptop working and me just sitting there, staring at the sky, thinking.
Eventually he spoke, “You ready for the driving test.”
“I guess,” I said.
“Alright then, I'll get washed up and then we make our way there.”
He went upstairs to get washed up. I smoked a joint. Then I went inside, had another glass of water and got washed up. I packed my bag up and sat on the front porch waiting for him. He came down after five minutes and we got into the car. It was a sunny day in his neighbourhood, really nice and clean. A lot different from where I live.
Driving out of the street my stomach started to feel weird, so I asked if we could pull into a Tim Hortons, so we could get some breakfast. I could live off the breakfast sandwiches there. I almost do already. Pulling into the drive-thru, I started to get excited. This was going to be the highlight of my pathetic day. We got up to the voice box and I ordered. I was told they were all out of sandwiches. My heart sank. I was angry. I decided not to order anything to spite them, or myself, or something. I don't know. My father got food though, and he ate it as we drove to the driving test.
Driving there, we spoke a lot about the test and the advantages of having a drivers license. I told him I had the test memorized and would ace it, easily. He seemed proud that I was finally going to get my drivers license at the age of twenty-one. Those are the kinds of things that make him proud. This story could win the Pulitzer Prize and he wouldn't bat an eyelash. If I graduated high school and started working at the airport, then he would start telling people about me. Regardless, he seemed proud. He seemed confident that the next time he saw me I would be legally able to drive. So was I. We arrived at the building where you take the test and he dropped me off out front.
“Call me when you're done and I'll come pick you up,” he said.
“Thanks,” I replied.
Then I walked up to the front doors of the building. I entered. It smelled like death in there. It smelled like no one in the room had showered in months. The place was filled with people. It seemed like at least a hundred of them. It was crazy. I stood in line. I waited for ten minutes. Then I was told that I was in the wrong line.
I said, “Really?”
The lady just pointed toward the right line up. I walked to the other line. While walking there, I thought of all the ways I could kill myself in here. There seemed like very few options. I joined the line. That line took twenty minutes to get through, with me holding up my elbows the whole time, to keep people from cutting in front of me. Everyone was pushing and shoving and trying to cut in front of each other in line. It was hell.
I was finally about to get out of this line. The guy in front of me walked up to the lady at the counter. He was supposed to take a number from her and walk away. He didn't do that. He spoke with her for a half hour, explaining how he was from India and he had a drivers license in that country so he should be able to get one in this country, without going through all the waiting and tests.
She said, “That's not how it works.”
He wouldn't listen, he kept on trying to persuade her. It went on like that, while I fantasized about snapping his neck. Finally, he took a number and walked into the other room. I walked up to the lady at the counter, she gave me a number and told me to listen for my number in the other room. She said the wait would be around three hours. She might as well have said an eternity. It sounded like an unfathomable amount of time to wait in a room with all these people. I walked to the other room and went in. It was even smaller than the last room and everyone was crammed in there. It smelled far worse than the last room too, it smelled like foot fungus, sweat and grease. I could taste it in the air. There were about thirty chairs in the room so we could sit. They were all taken. Everyone else stood around shoulder to shoulder. Some people sat on the floor. The only available place left to stand and wait was right beside the bathroom doors. So I went there, stepping over people as I walked. I stood there dreaming about suicide. Life seemed so pointless. It was all bullshit. Look at all these people sitting around wasting their days. For what? Some government approval? Why do we need them to say if we can drive or not, that seems ridiculous. If you can drive then you can drive, if you can't then you die in a fiery accident. That's fine. More car crashes are fine. That would solve the over population problem, maybe. As I was standing there the guy next to me took his shoes off and started wiggling around his bare toes, picking lint out from between them, airing them out, or something. As if I didn't hate everything enough. Humans are fucking disgusting. This is what I'm forced to stand beside. This is what my life has led up to. Fuck. I waited some more. Than the unthinkable happened. My stomach started kicking. I had to take a shit. There was no way on this god-forsaken earth that I was going to enter that bathroom. If it smells this bad out here, in there the stench is probably enough to send a man to the mad house. No drivers license. No car. No Money. No woman. Nothing. Nothing could ever convince me to walk into that bathroom. I heard the number eighty-four get shouted out, then I looked at my number. My number was Two hundred and Sixty-four. KILL ME.
Just then my father texted me, “Gonna go to work for an hour or so, its an emergency. I'll be back.”
I texted him back, “Just come get me now. I'm not doing this. This is shit.”
I threw the slip with my number down and walked out of the building. My father drove up and I got into his car. I gave him back the money he lent me for the test and said, “Thanks, maybe next time though.”
“Maybe,” he said.
Then he drove me home.
When I got home I smoked my bong, and drank a few beers on the toilet, with music playing in the background. Then I went to my bedroom and got into bed.
I slept for the rest of the day.
I dreamt of many things, including flying around with a giant flame thrower and setting fire to everyone on earth. Also suicide.
But they were only dreams.
David Catney is a writer from Brampton, Ontario. He spends most of his time stoned, staring at things. Look him up on Twitter or something, if you want. https://twitter.com/davidcatney