I live in a city of over 300,000 people, but in a way, none of us really live in the same city. We see our different parts of it, live our different lives in it. We all have personal landmarks, and they're rarely shared, communal ones. Other people don't drive past the Chatterbox on France and think, "That's where I had what I thought was my best date of '08. Man, was I wrong about that." Other people don't see the Figlio billboard and remember their awkward dinner with a burly guy who not only finished a plate of pasta so enormous it could feed a small village but who roughly stopped the waitress from taking his CLEARLY EMPTY plate by spouting through a mouthful of bread, "No! I'm DIPPING!" And I'm guessing (though I could be wrong, of course) that not a lot of other people think, every time they drive past that big house on Emerson, "Heh. I was deflowered there."
I was out with Carrie last night and we found ourselves stopped at the traffic light beside another of my personal landmarks. It was the corner where I had my first (and thus far only) truly angry, yelly, incredulous breakup. Previously, my only reference point for the restaurant on that corner was that it was the venue for my urban family's second annual Easter Orphans and Heathens Brunch. Now it will always be the place where I stood chastising a soulless, unrepentant manchild in the cold while his new girlfriend watched from a bar stool inside.
I'm talking about Jimmy, of course. The pothead. The damn Buddhist. Remember him? Remember what a sweet story it was originally but how spectacularly it went awry?
I still sort of can't believe that happened. It's absurd, really, and as such, I have to laugh at it. Or maybe not laugh, but at least shake my head and roll my eyes. I'm not angry anymore. I knew I wouldn't be. There's no reason to stay upset over losing a person I'm better off without. But I do still think about him. I do wonder what he's doing. And though I'm not hurt anymore, I'm also not perfect, so when I wonder about him, I'll admit that I hope he's not doing well.
It's not [entirely] that I'm bitter. It's that I honestly think the man needs to hit rock bottom. He has been down, yes. He has been broke and destitute. He's even spent the night in a jail cell at least once. But I don't think he's ever really gotten it. I'm not sure he's realized that any of it is his own damn fault. And I don't think it helps that through all of it, he's always had someone saying, "You are awesome, Jimmy. You're a great person." And I think he needs to stop hearing that. Because he is NOT awesome. He is a flake. He is a fuckup. He is a great big irresponsible child. And you know what? Children get reprimanded when their behavior is inappropriate. Children get punished when they misbehave. Jimmy got fired, skipped out on his rent, lied to his friends, and vanished on me, and what was his punishment? Free room and board with a new girlfriend and a free vacation on said new girlfriend's dime.
I really didn't mean to go into so long a rant about someone who's worth so little energy. I didn't mean to launch into a similar rant when Carrie and I pulled up to that stop light last night. But Carrie, no stranger to fuckwits and manchildren herself, didn't stop me. No, instead, she joined right in.
"It's too bad there's not a boot camp for lost boys," she said. It was a flash of brilliance. Yes! A boot camp for lost boys! We can probably all think of a few candidates for new recruits.
"Do you think it would really work as a boot camp, though?" I asked.
Carrie: "What do you mean?"
Me: "Boot camp is a short-term program for immediate results. Lost boys are driven by instant gratification, but they've also got short memory spans. We need to shoot for long-term change. It might need to be a reform school."
Carrie: "Yeah. They need to go AWAY. Maybe for a long while."
Me: "Or at the very least, an ongoing outpatient program."
Carrie: "Like social work. They'd be assigned a case number."
Me: "And a case manager. They'd have to report in on their progress. And the case manager would talk to their friends, too."
Carrie: "And their parents!"
Me: "None of that manipulating and revising history and skewing the story to make themselves the victim. The case manager would need context. She'd talk to the people who actually KNOW the guy so she'd know what's really up."
Carrie: "But the lost boys would have to meet with each other regularly, too, right? Like an AA meeting?"
Me: "Definitely. And they'd go around the circle.... I'm Adam. I'm a lost boy. It's been six weeks since my last irresponsible, capricious act. And a chorus of lost boys would reply, Hi, Adam. Oh! And they'd get chips after each milestone!"
Carrie: "Chips? People in AA get chips?"
Me: "It's like a little medallion to mark an accomplishment. 'One month sober,' 'One year sober.' That sort of thing."
Carrie: "Oh, so they wouldn't cash them in for anything... not like poker chips, or skee ball tickets..."
Me: "Ha! No, but that would be awesome. I applied for six jobs this week. Here is my chip. I would like to trade it in for that bottle of Jaegermeister."
Carrie: "Nooo! We'd have to take their alcohol AWAY, not reward them with it! Their cigarettes, too. Maybe even movies."
Me: "They definitely wouldn't be allowed to watch Swingers or Fight Club or Reservoir Dogs. And nothing that glorifies life as a manchild."
Carrie: "Would there be twelve steps? And the Serenity prayer?"
Me: "They should at least have some sort of creed. I will not be careless with hearts. Or finances."
Carrie: "I will do no irreparable harm to women."
Me: "I will take responsibility for my actions."
Carrie: "We should totally transcribe this conversation and put it on the Internet."
Me: "I'm way ahead of you on that."
Of course, gauging success in the lost boys program might be difficult. An alcoholic measures progress in concrete milestones that are easily quantifiable. "I haven't had a drink in thirty days." That's clear cut. Black and white. But "It's been six months since I frustrated a woman to tears in the privacy of her own bedroom"? "It's been two months since my mother silently wondered to herself where she went wrong with me"? These things are harder to verify. Still, it's an idea whose time has come, I say. Any social workers out there looking for a new project?