Days Post-New-Jerusalem: 3
I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, I’m gonna be honest. Pooch is off…somewhere. I dunno. He’s probably with Jolene and Pooch Junior. The lucky bastard.
Not that I resent him, I guess. For having something to come back to. For having someone waiting for me.
You were supposed to be that. For me.
You fucking bastard. You…
I still don’t know what I’m doing. But. I read somewhere that talking is supposed to help? Or maybe one of my therapists said that. Back when the Army subsidized my mental health care.
Man, you remember that, Cougs? You fuckin hated your shrinks. I never could get you to tell me why. I guess you just weren’t the type to talk about shit.
I mean. I knew that. But I guess me and you, we didn’t really talk so much as communicate. Smoke signals, your eyebrows, your fucking hat.
…I wish I had something to remember you by.
I don’t even have your tags. I don’t even rate a military widow, huh, buddy. All I’ve got is a few shaky videos of you and fuckin. Memories.
I dunno if I’ll keep doing this. It hurts, Cougs.
You’re fuckin’, fuckin. You’re gone. I fuckin. I hate you for that. You rat bastard. You said…
Goddammit you fucker…
I just wanted… I thought you wanted…
But then you…
I’m too fuckin drunk for this bullshit.
I guess I got drunk last night. I dunno what I was expecting, huh, Cougs. I mean, seriously. Look at me. I’m a massive fucking mess. My therapist would cry if I could go to a fucking therapist without being arrested for a million different trumped-up charges.
If you were here, man. If you hadn’t…you know. I think I’d be okay. Y’know? Clay would still be dead, but that’s… That was gonna happen. We all knew it, yeah? You could see it on the guy. He was gonna wipe out Max or die tryin’. An’ I guess he ended up dying.
That wasn’t supposed to happen. We were supposed to go to Antigua and sip piña coladas on a beach while you picked up every señorita around and I watched. We were supposed to…
I think I’m always gonna hate you a little for making me leave you.
I think it hurts more than just staying would have.
I didn’t even hear your last…
It’s been a month. Four weeks. Thirty days. Seven hundred and twenty four hours. Forty-three thousand, four hundred and sixty minutes.
I won’t go down to the second. I could, though. I can still see my watch dial from when I jumped in that pipe. I made it out in record fucking time, you asshole. If the sheik hadn’t skipped out… If that asshole Fahd hadn’t shot you up…
Did you know that there’s a watch in a museum somewhere that stopped at the exact minute the Titanic sank? It’ll forever mark that moment in time. No matter how long it’s been, you could measure time as post-Titanic-sinking. That’s how I feel about all of this, Cougs. I’ve been marking time post-leaving-you. Post-leaving-New-Jerusalem.
What even was Max – the Maxes – whoever the fuck they called themselves thinking, naming that place New Jerusalem, man? It doesn’t even scan. As if he could ever hope to be holy or some shit. Or maybe it was all supposed to be ironic. That’d make more sense.
Pooch is worried, I think.
I keep losing time, a little. I’ll be staring at him, or he’ll be talking to me, and I’ll just be gone for a little while.
You remember I used to do that when I first got on the team?
Yeah, of course you do. You’re the one who got me out of my head every damn time.
Consequence of a genius IQ I guess. Can’t keep it all straight sometimes.
But now you’re not here, and my head is all fucked even more than it was back then, and Pooch is worried. He keeps asking if I need to find a fucking, a fucking shrink. Like a shrink can help.
“Hey mister, I get lost in my own head thinking about my bes– my… about you dy– not coming back. It’s been happening since I was a kid. Not about what it’s about now, duh, that’s recent, but how do you diagnose a guy who just wanders around his brainpan for a while, huh.”
That’d go over well.
Look at me, man. I can’t even say what happened.
Maybe I do need a shrink.
This is getting fucking long.
Jen called. She said she and Beth were okay. Beth wants to see me.
I don’t want Beth to see me, Cougs. I’m a fucking mess. You’d give me that eyebrow of yours, that one that you only pulled out when I was making a fool of myself and being generally unhygienic. You know the one. I can see it–
I don’t think I’m fit to see Beth.
She doesn’t need to see what happened to her Uncle Jay.
If you were here we could be coaching the Petunias right now, you know? I bet you’d be a really good coach.
Pooch called an intervention. Literally called, man, he’s fucking crazy. Beth is showing up in two damn hours.
Fuck, I have tequila bottles all over my floor. This place smells like a bar. A sleazy-ass bar.
I never could hold my tequila like you could. I dunno why I buy it. I don’t even buy limes. I just … I dunno.
Shit, I gotta clean this place up.
Jen would kill me if I got Beth drunk on tequila fumes, man.
So Beth has left.
I forgot how. How. How happy she is. How good she is.
That sounds weird, but you get me, Cougs. You get me.
Beth is just. The best thing to ever happen to the Jensen family. Jen got all the damn luck.
Beth asked about you. About Tío Cougar. She said.
She said she’d been practicing Spanish for you. She said something, sounded like “Quieres jugar fútbol?” She said she was asking if you wanted to play soccer. She said that soccer is football everywhere else and America is stupid.
I guess America is pretty stupid like that. I mean, the imperial measurement system would attest to that, huh. You never did fully get inches down. Kept telling me shit in meters and centimeters.
Beth asked about you, Cougs. She’s learning Spanish for you. You should be here.
Jen made this face when Beth said that. She didn’t say anything. I guess she was expecting me to tell Beth what happened. That you weren’t gonna be able to play football-soccer-whatever. That you weren’t gonna come back.
I just stared at Beth for a couple seconds. I think I scared her, Cougs. I had to say something. I told her that it sounded great. Her Spanish.
And then I ran to the bathroom like a fucking third grader and locked the door. Jen tried to get me to come out, but I was in the bathtub with the shower curtains drawn. I feel like such a fucking idiot saying that.
That was safe, though, you know? Back then. As long as I could hide, for a little while. I guess I went back to that.
I don’t think Beth got it. I don’t know if Jen tried to explain it.
God, I hope Beth doesn’t think I hate her, Cougs.
Why aren’t you here?
One hundred days, Cougs.
Nice round number. What a fucking awful number. I hate it.
It’s your birthday.
I’m gonna drink to your memory. Only the best tequila for you. None of that Cuervo shit. Nah, man, I splurged on Patrón.
No limes, though. You always said that it ruined the alcohol.
I’m still pretty sure you were messing with me. No one drinks tequila for the damn taste, Cougs. Not even you.
But here I am. Drinking for the taste. For the memories.
I think the guy at the liquor store thinks I’m insane. He caught me staring at a bottle of mezcal and laughing. Remember that time, your twenty-sixth birthday, we got drunk off our collective asses on that mezcal at Mazatlán? All of us, even Clay? Good times. Not that I can remember anything beyond the second shot. But the tattoo Roque woke up with… God, that was a good laugh.
And who knew Pooch looked so good in leather pants? God knows where he found a pair, he said his money was all there so he didn’t buy them. I guess it’ll just be one of life’s mysteries.
Like how you and me woke up. Or, I guess, how you woke up and then ran for it. Or tried. And faceplanted because even you got hit by the mezcal hangover. God, that hangover was fucking horrible.
I still don’t remember what happened that night. I want to remember. I think it was good.
My shirt smelled like you for weeks. I didn’t wash it.
What would you think of that little tidbit, huh.
Happy birthday, Cougs.
I miss you like crazy, you bastard.
The holidays don’t feel the same without you here.
I almost bought you a present.
I saw this scarf. I was knit, and looked warm, and it would’ve matched your skin. It was this really great shade of blue.
Not regulation at all, but since when did you can about that shit.
Pooch said I should bring Beth and Jen to celebrate with him and Jolene.
I said I’d think about it.
You’d probably want me to go, huh.
Well. Fuck that.
I don’t have to. You’re not here. You can’t fucking tell me what to do, because you’re–
You’re fucking dead. There. I said it. I finally fucking said it.
You’re fucking dead, you goddamn asshole, and I’m never gonna get you another Christmas present and you’re never gonna appear out of nowhere behind me to answer a question I didn’t know I had again.
You’re gone, and I miss you like crazy, and.
What I mean is.
I wish you were here.
Goddammit, I wish you were here, Cougs.
*whispers* Come back. Please.
Merry Christmas, Cougs.
Or, I guess, uh … Feliz Navidad.
The holidays feel empty. Without you around.
It’s been a while.
I lost this hard drive for a while. I almost fuckin’, almost killed Pooch when he said it was not big deal. That I could replace it.
I don’t think he thinks I’m sane. I think he thinks I’ve cracked.
Sometimes I think I’ve cracked.
I mean, I’m talking to my best friend’s ghost. Or something. Recording messages to a guy who died over two hundred days ago. Two hundred and … thirty three days ago.
I’m starting to lose track of the exact number of days.
I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
It scares me.
What if I forget you?
What if one day I wake up and can’t remember how you lift your eyebrow in just that way to tell me that I’m being a dumbass and should shut up? What if… what if I wake up one day and can’t remember what your face looks like? God.
Shit like that terrifies me. The fallibility of memory and all that bullshit.
Why didn’t I take more pictures when you were still around?
Why did I think you’d always be around?
… Why didn’t you come back?
Haven’t had time to do this for a while. I’ve been coaching the Petunias! For like, two weeks. Because it turns out, I suck at soccer. A lot. Beth basically wrote the plays for me. And coached the team for me. Thank God their real coach was only out with the flu. Can you imagine me coaching the Petunias for good? I’d run them into the ground in like a month.
Beth would kill me. Or at least kick me in the shins. I think that’d hurt more.
You would’ve done really well, though. You actually fucking know how to play soccer. I kept thinking, out there, “What would Cougs do?”
It didn’t help all that much. You never did explain soccer to me. So all I had in response to that answer were varying degrees of “express judgment via eyebrows” and “react violently in some manner”. Not exactly junior-soccer-league material, y’know?
God, I’m exhausted. Kids are exhausting.
I bet if you’d have been here you’d be tired, too. You’d probably have done twice the work I did.
Beth missed you. She said that she wished you were the coach.
I said that I wanted that, too. I didn’t say the other thing that I was thinking, which was that it wasn’t my fucking fault that you weren’t there and that Beth should shut up about it.
She has the right to grieve at her own pace, too. I gotta remind myself that.
Missing you is making me mean, Cougs.
Happy fucking birthday to me.
Pooch gave me a pamphlet for AA. I threw it back at his face.
I don’t have a drinking problem. I’m not a drunk.
Jen didn’t bring Beth over because she said she was fucking, fucking worried that I would be “setting a bad example.”
I guess she has a point.
I hate that she has a point.
Maybe… maybe I’ve been drinking a bit too much.
You would’ve already dumped all the tequila down the drain by now. Hell, you probably would’ve stopped me from buying it in the first place.
Why am I even drinking tequila? You hated that shit.
I guess I just thought that it would get me closer to you.
Where’d I throw that fucking pamphlet.
*distantly* Found it.
I guess I should check this out. I check … shit, I check too many of these boxes. Fuck, I’m becoming Dad.
Getting sober sucks.
I hate that I did this to myself.
I can’t even blame you for it.
God, Cougs, I miss you.
I never realized how hard going two weeks without alcohol was before. Was it always this hard?
If you can hear me, Cougs, I need some strength. I don’t know if I believe any of that, but if anyone can lend me a little helping boost, it’s you. So please.
It’s almost been a year.
I’m doing better now. Those last two recordings. Yeah.
I broke my streak the day after that last one. It was … it was bad. But, I guess, I got through. I’m still alive, right? That’s what matters? That’s what my sponsor to me, anyway.
I wish those words didn’t feel so empty.
But I’m gonna keep living, right? I can’t die now. I’ve got Beth, and Jen, and even the Pooches. And I’ve got this streak.
I’m gonna be sober. I’m not gonna be dad.
Jen let me see Beth today.
It was. It was good.
She said that I looked better. I don’t really feel better, but. I guess it’s a good thing that I look less like a drunk.
Y’know, Cougs. I’m starting to forget what your accent sounded like.
Like. How did you roll your r’s? I know I could hear your accent in your vowels, but I forgot how.
I’m forgetting your voice.
- I don’t know how to feel about that.
The one thing about you that everyone else will forget easily. I’m the only one who probably remembers it now.
And even I’m forgetting it.
I wish my fucking genius gave me an eidetic memory. Instead I just get lost in my own head.
Not so much now, though. I guess I adapted to not having you around to pull me out.
I can’t believe I’m forgetting your voice, Cougs.
I still miss you. You asshole.
I don’t think I can keep doing these. I mean, I’m running out of disk space on this hard drive, first of all. But. It’s keeping me from moving on, or some bullshit. Keeping me tied to you.
Even if I don’t really want to let go, Pooch keeps telling me that I have to.
I can’t believe it’s been more than a year.
I still sometimes wake up and expect you to be in the doorway, or sitting at the desk cleaning your rifle. I can even smell the gun oil. I don’t think Pooch gets it.
But I’m gonna try. I’m gonna try to let you go. Okay?
I don’t know if you can hear these, man. You probably can’t, duh, you’re dead.
I guess I can see why Pooch thinks I’m too deep in this. I’m talking to you like you’re right next to me, just … invisible.
Maybe I did crack.
But even if I did, you’d think I’d be hallucinating you. Seeing you again. I mean, if I had to go crazy, that’s how I’d want to go.
… That’s morbid.
I’ve done a lot, this past year. I started drinking, I quit drinking, I coached the Petunias for like two weeks. I hacked the CIA, just to make sure Stegler backed the fuck off. Man, you’d have shot Stegler on sight, dude. I would’ve paid to see that.
But I think. I think maybe. Maybe I’ve healed a bit.
I don’t wake up screaming anymore. Or, I guess, I don’t wake up screaming every night. Or even every week.
I don’t smell your blood every time I see ocean water. Stupid connection, I know. My brain is wired weird and it wouldn’t stop doing that for a while. I don’t really know why. I just stayed away from oceans until it stopped.
I don’t… I guess I don’t turn to you to ask questions when I’m alone in my place anymore. I don’t turn a corner and expect to see you in your hat at the dining table disassembling your rifle or sharpening one of your knives.
I don’t know what all that means.
Maybe it just means the wound of it all has scabbed over. It’s ugly, if it has. I mean, there’s no way this won’t scar, you know? There’s just no way. Hell, if losing you had been a physical wound I probably would’ve lost a limb. That would be the only way to explain how I sometimes ache in the quiet, huh. Like a phantom ache but… for you.
God, that sounds fucking cheesy.
I just. Cougs…
I wish you were here.
I guess that’s all I wanted to say.
I wish you were here, and I wish that every day, and that’s never gonna go away. But I guess I can stop trying to, I dunno, resurrect you with this recording-you-messages bullshit. It’s not like it’d gonna work.
I wish you were here, Cougs.
I miss you.