Suppertime (by Stephán Amery McKenzie)

 Besides an insane amount of coffee shop time, Angelenos are required to punch-in monthly with the only other thing we do – personal work.

I am not talking “Tool Time” or power tools. I am talking about two infamous, chalkboard-screeching, guru-touting words that have swept the self-help world into a tsunami of self-righteousness. The two words = Finding Myself. Now do not get me wrong, personal work is good, GREAT. It started from a good place. Just as Columbus sailing to a new land, scientists creating the atom bomb, The Vietnam War, or Hitler unifying Germany. Ask the Native Americans, Japanese, the Jews or the rest of the world how that turned out. My point is, you cannot meet anyone in LA who has not done some seminar, listened to some tapes, bought some program, went on some spiritual journey, seen a therapist, or paid a bunch of money to sit in a room and do nothing but not think.

It has gotten so out-of-hand, that…let me paint you the picture…

I have come to a point in my life where I am wandering. Wondering, what is next? Is this it? Is this all there is? And if it is, then what is all the hubbub? Because seriously, if this is it, what is with all the fighting, killing, and dying for? I am here at this bar telling some friends my thoughts. When I say friends, I mean people I drink with, talk about the weather with, and make fun of other people with. But not ‘invite them over my place or drive them to the airport’ kind of friends. This hotter-than-hot girl, that could be Kate Upton’s God-sculpted younger sister, chirped, “What did your therapist say?” This question, or a variation, comes up one out of three conversations. If there is no alcohol involved, or its wintertime, it comes up in EVERY conversation. If I put a thought-provoking real-world cause and effect commentary up on Facebook with accompanying articles it gets maybe five or six likes with two or three comments. For shits and giggles I posted, “Thinking of seeing a therapist. Should I? Any referrals?” I got seven-hundred and sixty-two likes with one-thousand, one-hundred and eighty-nine comments. I would have accumulated more but the absurdity of it all caused me to delete the thread. I had to delete the post THREE TIMES because some numbskull kept restarting the thread. They thought Facebook was censoring the conversation. So, when Miss Hotty-totty haphazardly tossed out a live grenade and all eyes were on me, I knew it was time to fake an injury to vacate the premises. I started my eye-thing, blinking a ridiculous amount. I do this when I do not know if I should take a dump or faint. Everyone thought I was having a seizure and that was that.

See, I have had this catastrophic conversation before. It ended up like the end of the latest Superman movie—a complete mess. To the effect of someone saying, “You don’t even see a counselor or a motivational coach or something?” And I said, “You see all of them? You cannot think for yourself? Who runs your life?” It continues, “I don’t trust anyone who hasn’t done the work.” I drew a line in the sand with, “I do not trust someone who has. I would rather hang out with the possessed girl in “The Exorcist”, Lorena Bobbitt, and the lady who wore the adult diaper sixty miles to kill her boyfriend, because at least they knew who they were, what they wanted, and went out and took it.” BOOM. I. De-clare. War. I began to wonder, “Am I being resistant? Am I scared? Am I missing out on this ‘Finding Myself’ gold?”

I caved.

​That brings me to where I am now. Sitting in this King Arthur-type, plush chair. Its massiveness makes me feel that if I clapped my hands, half-naked servants would rush in to do my bidding. I like therapy so far. But I keep eyeing the couch in the corner. It is like it is whispering, “Come to me. Come lay your troubles down on me. I’ll make you feel good, so good all over.” The same type of whisperings the sailors heard from The Seirenes of the deep blue sea. The Therapist—no glasses, perfectly arranged hair, sophisticated-sexy underneath super professional attire, a voice that feels like a chef decorating a cake in frosting—says, “If the couch calls, don’t hesitate to fulfill your desire.” It is this kind of talk that kept me from coming here in the first place…but the way The Therapist said it made me want to strip-down, run over to the couch and rub myself all over it. To play it safe, I will stay in the king’s chair. I CANNOT explain how hard it is for me to not clap my hands.

The Therapist says, “Tell me about your family.” I know I could not talk about my mother and that shit. Buffet and Gates do not have enough combined cash to cover that conversation. I opted for this one family meal that occurred with The Therapist dubbing it, “Suppertime”.

My mother ran out to buy more alcohol, which she did every time we had Family-Dinner, even though we had not run out of alcohol and she had a fully-stocked stash underneath the house in case of “emergencies”. It was my pussy-popping father, proudly racist uncle, suicidal quote-spouting older brother, penis-admiring grandmother, amnesia-Tourette-faking grandfather and my ball-busting hammer-carrying younger sister sitting at the table. These are not euphemisms or exaggerations. I would like to think you know me better than that. Oh, and of course, I was in attendance.

These family dinners only happened after something else happened. When my brother tried to kill himself by jumping off a bridge…I think it was the sixth time, no wait; the sixth time was when he tried to kill himself with a toaster in the bathwater. But our mother had used the money that was supposed to go toward the electricity bill to pay someone to steal the girl’s car our father was currently pussy-popping. And when I say girl I mean just that, she was barely eighteen. I lost count, but it was after the sixth time but before the tenth time he tried to kill himself. The tenth time he attempted to use the gold-plated knives at our penis-admiring grandmother’s house to slit his wrist but had not realized our proud racist uncle had swapped them for flimsy gold painted fakes. He ended up with lots of cuts, bruises and broken knives. Our penis-admiring grandmother was so angry she almost killed him because she had no idea they were counterfeits. So, my suicidal quote-spouting older brother jumped off this bridge, which is close to his favorite teacher’s house.  A truck that had been stalled under the bridge had gotten its engine to turn over and pulled out in time for him to hit the truck, then the cemented road. He broke four major bones but survived, AGAIN. He has more lives than Wile E. Coyote. Because of his recent stunt, we had Family-Dinner. When my grandmother was arrested for indecent exposure because they, meaning the cops, found her in a…let us say…hot-bed of sexual activity. Not to paint too graphic of a portrait for you, but she was caught in a famous but not publicized cruising spot known as Happy Meat. Undercover cops arrested her for hiding in the bushes, taking photos of men’s penises as she occasionally tossed her hand in the mix, unbeknownst to the game-participants already playing. We had Family-Dinner.

This Family-Dinner was brought to us by our amnesia-Tourette-faking grandfather who conveniently forgot he was married and went to Atlantic City. But first, he picked up the Asian checkout girl from the neighborhood 7-eleven who always wears a t-shirt with Asian characters on the front; on the back, it says— “Translation: I blow dudes with white pubes.” At dinner, my PRU (Proudly Racist Uncle) was declaring, “It’s all that white rice that makes their eyes like that. Hold up a piece of rice and then look at one of their eyes’. Uh-huh. Don’t fight me, fight the truth.” Hammer (short for my ball-busting hammer-carrying crazy sister) jumps up, grabs her hammer off the table that was next to her salad fork, and hit the big green safe next to Suey’s (short for my suicidal quote-spouting older brother) trophy on the mantel. He got a trophy for staying alive. Talk about setting the bar high. All the nurses at the hospital chipped in. Hammer would hit the green safe anytime she would ask a question no one answered, which was all the time. The latest unanswered question she asked? “Why do all the memories I have of myself when I was five have me in men’s clothes?” And Suey would make a profound astute assessment, in the form of a quote, about whatever vitriol anyone was spouting or doing. My PAG (Penis-Admiring Grandmother), happily ignoring the bedlam, downloads pictures of penises from the internet and texts them to everyone at the table. Faker (you get the point) would yell whenever he could get a rise out of someone. He liked to focus on my father, “I SAW YOU FUCKING CAROL! I SAW YOU FUCKING CAROL!” Carol was Hammer’s Godmother, my mother’s best friend. My poor excuse for a father would laugh it off with a retort to the effect of, “That was my friend, Billy. You know we have the exact same haircut and skin tone.” As he continued to recount stories of his ‘friend’s’ exploits. He was so dense he thought he was being clever. This was Suppertime.

“What does all that mean to you? How does it make you feel?” The therapist inquired. “There are days I laugh. There are days I cry. But that is them. I love them. But I love them better when they are not right up under me. When I can help them, I do. When they ask, I tell them the truth. When they want to put their blinders on and push the gas pedal to the floor, I get out of the way. They may not want rescuing, but I will be damned if I ever let them hold on to me like they did before.” I take a breath. “I feel as can be expected.” The Therapist’s eyes twinkle, either from the nearby lamp with the florescent blue hue shining in The Therapist’s eyes, or maybe from something deeper inside of which only The Therapist is aware. The Therapist says, “You seem as adjusted as the next guy. Therapy isn’t for everyone. Though objectively, as I possibly can be, I think it helps. I don’t think it’s for you, at least not right now. Your next thing is coming. Or maybe it’s already here and you can’t see it.” Pondering, I stutter. Then I stop trying to speak. I finally vomit, “Are you trying to say, I might be Wonder Woman and I do not see my own… Invisible Jet-Plane?”