Last Friday I had a show, a reading of a bunch of poems and monologues that I’ve written over the past three years. The Dear Little Fish Project. It’s the most personal stuff I’ve ever written because two years ago I slid down Alice’s rabbit hole and I’ve been trying to find my way back ever since.
So I’m at Ken Sanders Rare Books, and I’m in the middle of the monologue that details my meltdown at 24 Hour Fitness (a humbling, deeply ironic, and snot-filled experience), when Godzilla Brad crashes in. The guys at the bookstore know him. Ken Sanders books is right downtown and Brad’s halfway house is just blocks away. Brad comes in a lot. He’s never violent, but he’s usually ranting about how he’s a superstar author in China. In China, they love him, but in the U.S., we’re f***ing communists and won’t publish his work. The guys at the bookstore, Travis and Chase (two very kind, pretty brilliant, but highly unimposing guys), say that Godzilla is his street name, his nick name, because the guy’s so huge. And he is. From where I stood, he looked to be at least 6 foot 5. With one of those ubiquitous dark grey hoodies that lend a bit of the sinister to anyone who wears them.
I’m at the beginning of the monologue. It’s the part where I describe the absolute weirdness of fitness gyms. The floor to ceiling mirrors, the bright, aluminum glare, the rows and rows of Stairmasters, Ellipticals, Treadmills, weight machines. And I’m talking in particular, about the hoisted islands of entertainment. The TVs. Floating trash to keep you company, and always one having a running loop of infomercials. In particular, homoerotic body sculpting infomercials. This is where I am when Godzilla Brad barges in. I’m talking about the Shake Weight and he kind of lurches, slides in like Kramer on Jerry Seinfeld and the very air changes. He doesn’t have to say much, because his body is so huge and so rattled with rage, that your heart races a bit with adrenaline. And I don’t know if the homoerotic body sculpting infomercial conversation has set him in a new direction, but he’s furious about the death of his brother. And we all have to pay for it. Some $500,000 to be exact. Each one of us.
Everyone in the room got quiet. I’m standing up, and I shut my book and I just wait. Travis told me later that Brad gets like this when he goes off his meds, and that night he was bleeding so, “He had something else going on too.” It was one of those moments where fear and heartbreak and recoil mix in an instant and we’re all wondering what to do and hoping that someone knows how to handle him.
And here’s the nitty gritty of it all: Godzilla Brad is human. He’s just like me. He’s just like you. He has a heart that beats sad stories in his chest and something has made his mind get loud and confused. I didn’t think this at the moment. I just felt sad. He needed someone to help him home, but in his state, none of us could, I think, help him home. He was a wild, angry cat. Travis kindly herded him out and we all were relieved and I had a little bit of heartbreak. What do you do when you can ‘t help? The guy was tripping and we could not help him. We could only say “Yes, Brad, yes.” And, “You need to go home now.”
And honestly, I’m glad he came in. Maybe seeing people calmed him, or halted the trajectory of what was happening to him. I can only hope.
So, the reading went well. Laughing, crying, hearts pumping. It was good. And I thought of Brad. If only we could have given him this goodness, redirected, given him some iron to bend, say, “it’s okay.” Because he was a lot like my daughter on a given day. At 2, Jonquille has no qualms about ranting and sometimes it makes no sense at all. She’s afraid of alligators in the toilet. She turns of all the lights and then runs wildly through the downstairs until she runs into a wall. She knocked out half a tooth the other day.
Maybe Brad’s like that, only bigger. He just needed a strong word, some redirection and someone to get him home for a timeout. I don’t mean to diminish. I only mean that we’re closer to another than we know and we all need a little help once in a while.
So, good luck to you Brad. Best wishes. I hope you found your way home.