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I made it through High School with minimal difficulty, to say the least. Then, like most 18 year olds, I was at a crossroads. Do I go to college? Do I go to work?
In Elko, many of my peers went to work in the mines the second they graduated, if not before. The options were less than limited. You could work at the mine, deal at the casinos, or work in the brothels.
I was all mined out after three summers tarring roofs and driving delivery trucks. My hands were too big and stupid to deal cards, so I took my slender legs to the brothels and tried to sell it what I was working wit’. They didn’t want me. But the hookers in Elko aren’t like the high priced Vegas call girls you see in some movies. Elko is a hard land–we like our courtesans decked out in sweat pants, moon boots, and side ponytails.
My short-lived dreams of being a prostitute having been slaughtered, I went to a semester of college in Twin Falls, Idaho. I roomed with a good friend in his grandmother’s basement. We spent most of that semester in his grandparent’s field, spanking the cows with 2x4s. They would finally get riled up enough to charge us. We’d escape onto a giant rock pile until they forgot about us and wandered off.
Even though the tics weren’t terrible yet, I was already having a hell of a time sleeping. My body was always doing some dumb little thing, even if only I knew about it. When you lie down in bed tonight, try to fall asleep while making sure that curl your toes every three seconds. It’s no big deal, but it makes it really hard to relax to the point where you drift off.
Lack of sleep was starting to catch up to me. This didn’t improve until I got into some really brutal workouts years later. If I’d known then what I know now, I would have spent more time hitting the kettlebells at five in the morning and sleeping at night.
But even now, I’m often awake in the middle of the night, twitching my merry way through the wee hours. This is lame on many levels, but even worse when you have a garbage memory like mine. I don’t lie awake and stew about things like “What if there’s no afterlife?” or “Ay yay yay, I am filled with regret over the wrongs of the past and how could I have been so shortsighted?”
Nah. What I do have is the stickiest memory for lyrics that you’ve ever seen–if you could in fact see someone’s memory. I remember the title song to the My Little Pony Movie that I haven’t seen in 25 years. I can watch a movie and memorize the words in the soundtrack without even knowing it. I can recite 95% of the words on the album Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ’em…in order from the first song to the last. It’s been years since I’ve listened to it.
So yes, the nights can be long and the company is seldom much cooler than the lyrics and tune of “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
But that was last night.
I hated most of my classes, but I was a lazy punk.
But I did take a public speaking class which was sort of okay. Once we had to give a speech with a visual prop. Mine was a first person narration as a survivor of the Donner Party. I’d totally forgotten about it and so I got my prop that morning at the grocery store. I should be an actor, because I actually made myself cry when I displayed the package of raw ribs that I’d been forced to cut from “My brother Johnny’s chest.”
Another day I was assigned to defend capital punishment. I carved a frowny face on an apple. He was society’s “bad apple.” How’s that for a mind-blowing metaphor? I had the bad apple smash a happy family of apples into mush. I put a toothpick in his mouth and stuck a cigarette on the end of it and then placed him in a cage made of Popsicle sticks–all on the taxpayer’s dime. Oh yeah, it was crazy-mad-wicked-hella topical.
Psychology was the worst, even though it was the class I was most excited for in the beginning. Our teacher acted like he hated his job and his students. I’ve had a lot of professors in the twilight of their careers who spend most of their time bragging about how hard their classes are and how proud they are of their multiple divorces. This was no different.
But honestly, I took the class hoping for some insight into Tourette’s. It started off pretty well. We read a study about a DJ who tried to go 200 hours without sleep for a publicity stunt. Around 100 hours he had to be sedated because everything he saw was bursting into flames. This made insomnia seem a lot more interesting, and scary.
When we came to the “abnormal psychology” unit, I was disappointed. The section on Tourette’s was about a paragraph long and said exactly what you’d expect: it makes people have tics and cures are forthcoming.
After reading that paragraph in the class, the professor crossed his legs and said, “Do any of you know someone with Tourette’s? Have you ever met anyone with it? It’s the funniest thing in the world.”
I could see my friend tensing up as he watched for my reaction. I was doodling at the speed of light, trying not to pay attention.
“I had a friend who would crane his neck around like a sprinkler,” he continued. “Lots of people enjoy people watching, but if you can find someone with Tourette’s, go find a spot where you can observe them and enjoy the show.”
He had no idea I had Tourette’s
Predictably, I got all indignant and tried my hand at some righteous outrage. The truth was, I didn’t know if he knew I had Tourette’s. I was enjoying a pretty good stretch and it was possible that he never noticed anything. But I didn’t care. How dare he! I muttered to myself.
After the class, my friend asked what I was going to do.
“I’m going to kill him,” I said, because that’s what you say when you’re 18, macho, and insecure.
“Oh man,” he said.
I’d put myself in a stupid situation that I wasn’t brave enough to back out of. So I found myself outside that teacher’s door a couple of days later, heart pounding and palms sweating. What was I doing? The guy was probabaly 70 years old. What was I going to say? “How’s it feel to be a dead man, suckah?” “Who’s got Tourette’s now?” This was a job for Dog The Bounty Hunter, not dainty Josh who wasn’t even good enough to work a corner in Elko.
I knocked on the door and went in.
He obviously had no idea who I was. “Can I help you?”
“Yeah,” I said, trying on my meanest face. “I hope so.”
He folded his arms. “Okay. What can I do for you?”
I opened my mouth and then closed it. “Uh…”
“You know I have Tourette’s, right?” I said, way too quickly.
“You know I have Tourette’s, right?”
“No, I didn’t know,” he said. “Are you all right?”
After maybe two minutes of silence, he asked again if he could help me with anything.
I shook his hand and walked out. He never learned my name and I never gave him a reason to. The truth is, I’m a pushover and I talked tough because I didn’t know how not to. I’m not scared of conflict but I don’t like it and I choose to be easygoing. As long as I don’t react when I’m mad or doped up on Tourette’s pills things have always worked out.
Later on a guy was mimicking me in a pizza place where I was eating with my sister Megan. I had no idea he was doing anything.
Megan came home from High School early the next day. I asked her what she was doing home.
“You know that guy who was making fun of you yesterday?”
I had no idea.
“Well anyways,” she said, explaining the situation, “I walked up to him in the hall today and punched his lights out and now I’m suspended. What do you want to watch?”
It’s always been nice to have a little sister who can fight my man’s battles. In this case, her first reaction was fine with me.
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