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The Self-Destruction Tango

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BoJack had been trotting the steps of this particular dance for as long as he could remember. Even in his earliest, crappiest memories, he'd found ways to sabotage himself.

"You could be a singer," Mom had told him during one of her rare supportive moments. "My mother was an amazing singer. You could be almost that good if you ever bothered to apply yourself." The moment had ended, just like that. BoJack had gone back to his own room, and turned on the radio, singing along as loudly as he could.

"Turn down that noise before I make you turn it down!" Dad had shouted. BoJack had turned down the radio and never turned it up again. Singing was dumb anyway.

The Self-Destruction Tango had a lot of different moves, but it started the same way with every song: "A one, a two, a one two oh SHIT!"

***

Part of him wanted to blame Herb. BoJack had seen what boozing did to people. He'd watched his mother chain-smoke for years. He'd avoided both until Herb told him he ought to relax a little before his shows, until he'd gotten used to having a quiet drink with Charlotte before getting onstage. It wasn't Bojack's fault. It couldn't have been.

Charlotte hadn't driven him to the next bar after his show was done. Herb most assuredly hadn't been the one egging him on as BoJack did tequila shots off some girl's flat stomach before they did it in the hot tub.

Cocaine was just another party favor, like the expensive watches and basketball tickets in the Emmy baskets. And if he was up, he needed something to get down again. And something to pick him up in the morning. And something to take the edge off later.

He had to believe it was someone else's fault. If it was his fault, that meant he could have stopped things back then. Worse, it meant he could still stop everything now. He could go to a meeting for real. He could go to rehab. He could afford a pretty sweet rehab, not some shitty Betty Ford place but some serious Robert Downey Junior rehabilitation center with hot nurses. Yeah, he could try rehab.

Rehab lasted seven hours, three drinks, and two nurses who remembered "Horsin' Around."

A One. A Two.

***

He'd visited a shrink once. He walked in thinking he'd give her the highlight reel from the "Bea and Butterscotch Horseman Were Shitty Parents Show" then she'd prescribe him a pill or six that would make all the terrible decisions stop and he would be a whole and healthy person. Screw rehab, what he needed was more drugs, the right drugs. Better living through legal chemistry.

He got as far as telling her he was having trouble sleeping.

"You're useless and weak," said the voice in his head, the one that talked to him every day. "You think you deserve someone to sit there and listen to your problems? You want to sit here and cry like a little filly? You think you're depressed? Bullshit. You've had it easy. Your buddy Paulie, remember him? He was the one whose Little League coach made Paulie suck his dick? He deserves to be sitting on this couch. Or Sarah Lynn. You know the shit that happened to her when she was a kid. You told yourself you didn't know what was going on with her mom and all her stepdads because it was easier to show up to work and not to ask questions. She's got good reasons to be depressed. Everyone has a better reason to be depressed than you do, you pathetic jackass. Your mom and dad were jerks, so what? Everyone's mom and dad are jerks. Stop whining and get your ass off this couch, you sorry sack of shit, and stop wasting everyone's time."

"BoJack?" asked the therapist. "How long have you had trouble sleeping?"

He stood up. "Since my dad and I argued about going fishing when I was ten. I've found my root cause. I'm cured! Thanks, Doc."

The ten minutes cost him three hundred dollars. If he'd still been doing standup, he could have worked that into the best hooker joke of his career.

***

BoJack lost his cherry at seventeen to a chubby ferret girl with glasses. Melinda had been grateful for a boyfriend she could put out to, or that's what he told himself later. He dumped her five minutes after he landed a date with Lisa Stevens, the hottest fox in school. He scored, and he scored again before graduation, but after Lisa he had a long dry spell that lasted him until he moved to L.A. and got his act going. The hotter his career was, the hotter the women were. For a year straight, he only screwed redheads because he could afford to pick and choose without paying, but he broke his streak the morning he woke up naked with a skunk and her best friend.

Sex made the stupid voice shut up, at least for as long as it took him to get off. It started up louder when he was finished. The silence in between was worth chasing, and the nights it wasn't, he still got his cock wet.

Princess Carolyn understood him, or as much as anyone could understand him. They dated, they slept together, and they screwed other people because that's what you did, or that's what BoJack did. He tried and succeeded not thinking about how she felt seeing him with another starlet on his arm at a club, knowing for a fact he'd take Mandi or Heidi or Traci back to his place. Anything to make him feel young and wanted, anything to stop the noise between his ears for a while, anything hot that moved.

Penny was seventeen, just like he'd been. Maybe he'd tried to tell himself things were coming full circle. Maybe he'd wanted to feel like the young man she should have been with. Maybe he'd have pushed her away before things got too far.

BoJack was good at lying to himself, but he wasn't that good. If Charlotte hadn't walked in, he'd have fucked her daughter.

A one two three four.

***

Hollyhock was his chance to stop fucking up. He'd tangoed from disaster to disaster, booze and pills and sex to make the voice in his head shut the fuck up. Hollyhock deserved better than that. She expected nothing from him, though she liked having a place to sleep, and she appreciated his help in her quest to track down her birth mother. She wasn't damaged the way he was. She didn't know those dance steps yet.

"Get a therapist now," he wanted to tell her, but he kept his trap shut and let his mom make her more coffee.

"You're beautiful for who you are," he tried to say, but she didn't want ice cream, and he sucked at dad stuff.

It was better this way, finding out she was Dad's mistake instead of his, better to have a sister than a daughter he couldn't help any more than his parents had helped him, better to know she wasn't destined for the same crazy that infected his grandmother until they cut it out, the crazy that ate his mom's brain like termites, and the crazy that told him daily he ought to drive his car off the nearest bridge. Dad had been messed up, but it was the kind of messed up you got from too many dreams stomped into the mud, not the worms inside your head. Hollyhock was safe.

***

He went back to the shrink.

"Hello, BoJack," she said. "How have you been sleeping?"

"Like I've hated myself for fifty years and want to die."

He heard her pen click. She opened her notebook.

"Tell me about it."

"Doc, do you know how to dance?"