Written by Lawrence H. Levy
Ego’s a weird thing. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell yourself something. It doesn’t matter how much you rationally believe it. It still comes right back and bites you in the ass. And my ass was missing some major chunks.
The day started out all right. Awesome, really. My asshole boss called me into his office and told me what a great job I was doing. Not such an asshole. And if I kept it up, I’d be getting another promotion by the end of the year. A goddamn prince, really.
I couldn’t wait to tell Shelby. Definitely in person though. Lunch would be good. I wanted to see the look of pride on her face. It would be enough to keep me smiling at all those pain-in-the-ass customers at my job who were bitching about the stuff they were returning.
“Sure, Kyle, but I only have forty-five minutes. It’s really busy here today.”
“Here” was the law firm in which Shelby worked. “Great,” I said. “Forty-five minutes with you is better than forty-five years with…” And I couldn’t come up with anything that would complete my spectacular compliment. “Well, you know,” I finished. I should’ve known I was off my game and fate was about to take a major dump on me.
We met at Baja Fresh, not exactly the most romantic setting but I hadn’t gotten my new promotion yet. I ordered the Diablo Burrito (which would totally prove to be prophetic) and Shelby the Mango Chipotle Chicken Salad. When I safely had our order number in my hand and we sat down, I decided it was time to lay it on her. Only she spoke first.
“Kyle, the most wonderful thing just happened to me. Mr. Beever, my boss — you know, the managing partner of the law firm? As I was leaving to meet you, he called me into his office. It’s amazing, Kyle, just amazing!”
“Yeah, he must have a pretty nice office, but I have…”
“Don’t go all 404 on me, babe. Listen. He told me the firm is willing to pay for my last year of law school if I agree to work for them after graduation. If I agree. I’da killed for a job there. Isn’t that amazing?”
“Wow, that’s more than amazing,” I managed, shocked to my bones. “It’s unreal, fabulous, stupendous.” And it made my news seem unimportant, trivial, inconsequential. That meant in a year she’d be making six figures and if everything worked out for me, maybe I’d be pushing close to forty grand. It was like two baseball players. One was about to get his first start in rookie ball and the other got called up to the majors.
Anyhow, I never told her my news. Instead, I plastered the biggest smile on my face for forty-five minutes as my Diablo Burrito lit a fire in my stomach like it was laughing at me.
Okay, I admit it. My ego’s way out of whack. I should have felt only joy for her and not the unrelenting sorrow I felt for myself. But I couldn’t help wondering if our life was going to be like that — slap singles vs. power-hitting phenom. Pretty soon I’d be known as Mr. Shelby Seymour.
I stopped on the way back to work, parked on a side street in Van Nuys, and sparked a joint while listening to a K-EARTH Beatles marathon. John Lennon’s “Imagine” started blasting on my radio. Ironic? No, just plain fuckin’ pathetic! I suddenly felt the need for a road trip to Vegas or Big Bear or anywhere but where I was. Before I did, I called in sick to work. The reason? It’s against the law to talk on your cell while driving and I was such a loser I couldn’t afford a car with Bluetooth. God, I sucked big time!
As I pulled onto the on ramp of the 101 freeway, there was a guy hitchhiking. I never pick up hitchhikers. They can rob and kill you, bore you to death or just plain stink up your car. But I decided it was time for me to shake up my life, so I stopped, opened the passenger door and waved him in. Jeez, I was a regular fuckin’ rebel.
When the guy got in and I took off, I offered him a toke. I mean, any guy that’s hitchhiking has gotta smoke, right?
Suddenly, I heard a Liverpoolian accent. “Thanks, but I don’t fancy any now. I’m already ace.”
I turned and got a good look at him for the first time. It was freakin’ John Lennon — long shaggy hair, wire-rimmed glasses and all. I never thought I’d ever say it, but I screamed, “Thank you PSD! I’ve got psychotic-schizophrenic disorder and I’m lovin’ it!”
“Careful, you’re still driving, mate.”
And he was right. I had swerved across two lanes of the 101. I got control of the car, but I couldn’t say that about myself. I’m kinda a John Lennon freak. I know everything about him and meeting him was about the only thing that could take me out of my mood. I turned down the music and words started pouring out of my mouth.
“John, why did the Beatles really break up? Was it because of Yoko? Did Linda and Yoko hate each other? Do you really think Paul makes bubble gum music?”
“Pull over and let me out. The sooner the better.”
“Sorry, John, I was just curious. I promise I won’t ask you any more questions. Please stay.” God, I sounded wimpy, but it was John Lennon.
“You are the saddest bugger I’ve met in a long time.”
“Sad’s just the tip. Still, no offense but you couldn’t have met a lot of people lately. You’ve been dead since 1980.”
“Stop being so bloody blinkered. Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”
“I need the blinkers. My imagination’s starting to ring a death knoll.”
“Are you pondering the imponderables or is it materialistic rubbish?”
“I’m a rubbish guy.”
“And more daft than a cuckoo,” John sighed. “I know I’ll regret this, but lay it on me.”
And I told him. Everything. He shook his head, sighed, almost puked once and then I was done.
“As usual,” he said, “there is a great woman behind every idiot.”
I corrected him as I took another toke. “My fear is it’ll be the other way around. Behind every great woman, there’s an idiot.”
“So love isn’t the problem and neither is being an idiot. You’re worried about billing.”
“Kinda,” I exhaled. “Wasn’t Ringo? Isn’t that why he finally wrote a song?” He didn’t dignify that with an answer then I got to the truth. “I’m really worried she’s gonna find out I’m bringing her down and dump me.”
“Got it. I’m getting pretty bummed myself.” John collected himself then started again. “Look, Kyle, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. And you’re so busy making plans it’s going to pass you by.”
I had to admit he made sense. He continued, “You need to live in the moment more. Eighty-six the weed and find the Maharishi.”
“Love to, but he’s dead, too, in 2008. Guess they don’t pass that info around up there. But then you’re just a part of my screwed up brain, so…”
“Stop, I’m gettin’ a bloody headache.” My joint was down to a roach and I tossed it out the window. I figured I was pretty stoned if I couldn’t have a peaceful discussion with myself. John seemed to think it was the right move. Go figure.
“Look, Kyle,” he said. “Yoko and I had astronomical pressures. The buggers blamed her for breaking up the Beatles, taking advantage of my success. They’d have blamed her for causing the bleedin’ Vietnam War if they could.”
“Yeah, I read about all that stuff.”
“You had to live it, man. If they liked my songs, it was because of me. If they didn’t, it was because of her. When Yoko’s album bombed, the vultures were all over her. Yet we stayed together. You know why?”
“Because you were making a shitload of money and were really famous and… No, no, no, just kidding. I get it.” And I did. I really did. A relationship should be a partnership not a contest. John and Yoko faced a shit storm, and they supported each other. If Shelby and I truly loved each other, we could work anything out, even my screwed up ego.
I turned up the music and we heard the intro to a song. The two of us started singing, “Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done…” And we were belting it out as loud as we could, John in his still fabulous voice and me with my ear piercing sound. But who cared? I turned toward the car next to me on the freeway and opened the window.
“Hey, look at me! I’m singing with John freakin’ Lennon!”
It was a cop car. He pulled me over and gave me a ticket for doing 73 in a 65 zone. I was full of love. I would’ve kissed him if I didn’t think he’d smell the grass on me and bust me for a DUI.