By Bud Smith
0-2 yrs old— ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I was a baby and I don’t remember it. I like not remembering things.
Pre-birth— ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I wasn’t born yet. Not being born yet had a lot going for itself. Lots of potential.
28 yrs old— ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Got engaged to Rae Rae. Finished the welding and rigging training that got me the job working in the oil refinery, which I still have 8 years later, wtf. I bought a new car! Right away, I crashed the new car. Hehehe. It was funny as hell, actually. I was driving up the turnpike and it’d snowed, so there were tractor trailer trucks with snow and ice on their roofs, so sometimes the wind would hit the roofs of these trucks and all this snow would launch up into the blue sky. However, when the wind hit the roof of this one particular truck, the snow went flying up, but on the snow was also a 4x4 piece of lumber, about eight feet long. I saw it in the sky hanging there like a kite for a second and then it came down at my windshield. I figured it was going to ax my windshield and then smash my head apart and I’d crash the car at 78mph and that would be that. But! At the last second the 4x4 was redirected by the hand of God! (Just kidding it was the wind). Instead of killing me, the 4x4 chopped off my driver side rearview mirror, and I just kept going. I don’t know, I’d kind of been screaming like this: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh and then it changed like this: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhahahahahahaha.
23 yrs old— ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Met my wife, but she wasn’t my wife yet, not for many years. We had sex for the first time, sometime around midnight, on the concrete apron of a common residential swimming pool. No light but the New Jersey moon. My knees and elbows and hands were all torn up the next day and she had cuts and scrapes on her butt and knees and the sides of her legs. And we were mad about it the next morning—why hadn’t we just run over and fucked on the muddy lawn like normal people? We were having unrestricted, unregulated, unadvised fun. At first we’d been trying to have sex inside the swimming pool, and it didn’t work, but then we went to the concrete apron and it hurt, but it worked. Life is like that—it hurts but it works. The next time we had sex we did it on a couch. What an improvement. Whoever invented the couch deserves a monument. But, if you like someone enough to get completely nude and have sex with them on concrete, do it. Being irrational is the only way to survive in this supposedly rational world.
31 yrs old— ★ ★ ★ ★
I got married to that woman who I was telling you about, Rae Rae, who I had sex with on the concrete, and then later, the comfortable couch. We lived in New York City at this point, had for six years. My happiness was off the charts. Pretty times. Champagne times. But also the time when we had friends come and stay with us from California. The day before they showed up the toilet broke and I went to get the super and he was like, ‘My toilet has been broken for 17 months.’ The day the friends showed up, the apartment became wildly infested with a freak swarm of black flies, something I’d never seen happen in my six years of living in that apartment. The friends just pretended like it was all cool, ‘Black flies? Thousands of them? No bigs. A toilet that doesn’t work? No bigs.’ The friends said, ‘We are going to watch Woody Allen play the clarinet? Wanna come?’ And we said no. Rae and me hung out in the apartment and killed 863 flies while they were gone. The toilet groaned and made some aggressive sounds and started working, on its own, guilted into rebirth. Later on that year, the ceiling collapsed in the kitchen and landed in the sink and on the stove and on the floor. But I didn’t care, I was too happy to, and am still too happy to. I get the feeling that death happens in a sun-drenched field rotten with wildflowers, and sweet breeze, so it’s better to avoid classically beautiful things. A person could live 100,000 years in a tenement like this one.
27 yrs old— ★ ★ ★
I’d been planning on dying at 27, like all the other cool people, and then I didn’t. I think a lot of people plan on dying at 27, and then don’t. It’s a bummer.
29 yrs old— ★ ★ ★
I had some friends who called me Meat Bucket because I was briefly into fitness, and if I traveled somewhere for like the weekend of something, I’d bring a cooler with some pre-cooked chicken and steak in it so I didn’t wind up eating pizza. For my 30th birthday my friend Jessica, gave me a giant galvanized pail and put the words Meat Bucket on it. I still have the giant galvanized metal pail. It’s on the top of a cabinet above the kitchen sink. Jessica’s house burnt down recently, and while the house was being rebuilt she had twins, two girls, Cora and Taryn. They are tiny little babies and they are the future of this world. Sometimes I rip the sadness out of my body and I toss it into the Meat Bucket over the kitchen sink and it stays in there hollering and denting up the walls, before it evaporates and floats out the window towards whatever hell is. I’m not very fit anymore. But I have a picture of myself from Halloween that year, dressed up like a caveman. I look pretty good in the loincloth and animal pelts.
35 yrs old— ★ ★ ★
Got really shitfaced and went on the internet and ordered a case of sardines. A huge case of sardines. I don’t like sardines. At all. I don’t know why I bought them. It’s all fuzzy. Is still fuzzy. I didn’t remember I’d ordered the sardines until I opened the box from UPS, whistling and happy, and then yelling down the hall to Rae, ‘I ordered sardines. I ordered a lot of sardines.’ She said, ‘I know, I told you not to. You had a whole convoluted plan.’ I tried to get her to explain the convoluted plan and she walked all the way down the hall and came into the room just to smile and shrug, and say, ‘I don’t know, man.’ The next time I was drunk I decided to give everybody a can of sardines for Christmas. It was my full intention. But I messed that up, forgetting them in the pantry, so I bought my family lottery tickets, instead. They decided to put all the lottery tickets in a big pot, and we, the whole family played dice to decide who would get the entire pot of lottery tickets. My brother won. My mom said, ‘Come on, share with us.’ And he shook his head and said, ‘No no no no no.’ He sat at the kitchen table, in solitude, and did scratch off lottery tickets for two hours and won two dollars and he was so mad. Rae said, ‘That’s karma. If you had shared with us, then your luck would have been different.’ The whole family agreed to this logic. All things hidden below the surface of average reality, things yet to be revealed, would be dealt out on the understanding that if you were a good person, then good things would happen to you. Because my brother did not share with us, he alone, won practically nothing. If we had shared the tickets, then we, as a group, would have won about a thousand dollars apiece from those same lottery tickets. All these people in this house on Christmas morning, all these people I love/loved, mad about the losing lottery tickets they lost. All these lovely people—I should have given them sardines.
8 yrs old— ★ ★ ★
I’d been anxiously awaiting becoming eight years old for two years. Now that I was eight, I was in the big leagues. Mom said, ‘Welcome to the big leagues, Bud.’ And Dad said, ‘Welcome to the big leagues, Bud.’ This was it. I was in the bigs. I was living it. Life in the bigs. Beat that.
9-12 yrs old— ★ ★
What a shitty time to be alive.
20 yrs old— ★ ★
My girlfriend, Jane, broke up with me and bought a red pickup truck and adopted a pit bull. She got in the truck with the dog and drove across America. She’d call me sometimes from a payphone. ‘I’m in Texas,’ she’d say. And then she’d call me and say, ‘I’m in Kansas now.’ She was just aimlessly driving around. And then she’d say, ‘I’m in North Dakota now, I miss you now that I’m in North Dakota.’ I was on unemployment at the time and didn’t have a job, so I bought a plane ticket and flew to Las Vegas. Then Jane came to Las Vegas and we bought a bottle of rum and snuck the pit bull into the hotel room at the top of Treasure Island casino. We got so drunk we let the dog climb inside the hot tub with us. The next day I won a little money, twenty bucks or something, from a slot machine and Jane wouldn’t cash it in for me. She was a real stickler to the rules. I had to wear a condom and everything. I don’t know. I’d never seen America before. And I was young. And I was calling in my unemployment insurance from a payphone in Laguna Beach, a payphone in Seattle, a payphone in North Dakota, again, and my home state kept paying me six hundred dollars every two weeks to zig zag around the U.S.A. These were miracle days. But the miracle days also just felt doomed. I’ve been doomed worse, of course, but this was not ecstatic, open-armed doom. This was that gummy doom that gets stuck on your lungs and you wake up in the middle of the night in a humid tent, trying to cough it up, but you can’t for five more years. Jane didn’t hardly like me, let alone love me. I didn’t meet anybody who really loved me till I met Rae. But Jane and Bobby and me drove around un-lovingly for seven weeks. We didn’t have money. We snuck into state campgrounds after the park rangers were gone, and avoided the ten-dollar campsite fee, we’d leave in the morning before they got there. I washed my body in cold rivers, or coin operated showers. On our way back, driving on I-80 though Ohio, one of us said, ‘When we get back, I don’t think we should see each other anymore.’ She parked in her driveway and I said goodbye, I took my acoustic guitar, and my army duffel bag, and walked down the steep hill, and across the busy highway. I called in my unemployment insurance from the payphone at Vintage Vinyl Records in Fords, and then I went inside the store and made a list of things to illegally download from Napster once I got back to my PC. I either took the bus home, or I called my mommy. I don’t remember. It was an hour away. When the knights shuffled back from Jerusalem, the Crusades all buttoned up, and the rutted path back to the damp family castle ahead of them, I wonder if they would have called their mommies if they could.
3 yrs old— ★ ★
I learned how to read. Now I have to read things on the internet 9 hours a day. It’s terrible. I want to unlearn how to read.
I didn’t like being six years old. It fucking pissed me off.
Didn’t like seven years old either, it pissed me off, I wanted to be eight.
I just drove around the city for this whole year looking for a parking spot. There weren’t any parking spots. But I saw a lot of people sitting in their cars. I’d stop and roll down my window and say, ‘You’re not leaving are you?’ and the person would laugh. ‘Leaving? This is my guest bedroom, bro.’ Sometimes I’d see kids sitting alone in other cars and I would think, oh, that’s so cute, that car is their tree fort. When I was little, my brother and me played in the car, of course. One time, we were trying to drive the car without the keys, and just yanking on the shifter and the steering wheel and the car slipped into neutral and we rolled backwards in the heavy car, down the steep driveway, across the road, up the curb, across a lawn, and through an honest to god white picket fence, where we came to a final stop. We ran in our house and got mom and she jogged down there and drove the car off the lawn and back up into the driveway, and I don’t think we told anybody else about it. I might be the first person telling anyone about this. Right here, right now. Shhhhhh. That fence remained shattered, and unfixed for years. Some people inherit a haunted house and run from it, and some other people try and absorb any opportunity to expand their blessed domicile. Some people love you openly and secretly at the same time. Looking for a parking spot is serious, lonely, soul searching business. I spotted a fire hydrant so I parked my car there for a while, idling, listening to the radio. The sun was setting on the tenement where I lived. I’d crashed that car three more times since the 4x4 incident. Then the moon came up over the tenement where I lived. I saw Rae walking down the sidewalk from the subway. She used to say she walked like Mr. Peanut walks. I couldn’t see that. I just saw my friend, my wife. I beeped the horn. Seeing my car, she yelled ‘Yo!’ and climbed in the passenger seat and she told me about her day, while I drove slow loops around the neighborhood looking for a parking spot that didn’t exist. Everywhere I looked, there were sidewalks we could have had sex on. Everywhere I looked there were things that made me remember other things. I felt my memory was too full. I wanted to be an external hard drive for your computer that starts to smell like burning plastic and then stops recalling any kind of data, whatsoever. Eventually, we surrendered, and put the car in the garage, paying Peewee the $12. Then, once it’s too late, we find it, right in front of our building, a spot big enough to park a tractor trailer truck, the kind big enough to load full of good luck. Well this was the year the good luck was elsewhere. Whatever, I’m not mad about it. This was also the year I went to Costa Rica, and got to eat in a restaurant made from an airplane that crashed into some giant ancient rainforest trees. If you are in an airplane and can’t find a parking spot, just crash into some big ancient rainforest trees and start a bar and restaurant, I’ll come by, say hello, I’ll bring Rae Rae, you’ll like her very much.
Grew my hair down to my shoulders and looked like a doofus, because I was a doofus.
I began reviewing my life on the internet. If you would like a can of sardines, send me a note about it. Thanks. Kissy face emoji.
Bud Smith reports from Jersey City, NJ. Twitter: @bud_smith www.budsmithwrites.com. He wrote F250, Calm Face, and Dustbunny City, among others. He works heavy construction, and lives in Jersey City, NJ.