In 1992, I was twenty-two, hard bitten before my years, and entitled to a cynicism which I didn’t rightfully earn. I looked toward an uncertain future and a horizon that scrolled further away as I came near. Will I be famous before thirty? Am I the one who will change the world? How can I get that dark haired hippie chick in the Phish t-shirt and hemp ankle bracelet’s phone number?
There was one truth about dating in the 90’s—a young man with long, straight hair had twice the chance of getting laid than a guy who did not. A friend of mine with long, chestnut hair would approach his inevitable conquest, smile, throw his hair back and leave the bar with her while I was still ordering drinks.
Until he cut his hair short after an argument with his father. Then he looked like a carnival tilt-a-whirl operator who cleaned up for a court date.
I too had long hair. Hair that radiated in uneven patches like blackened cotton candy. Florida’s open air sauna puffed out my do, and split ends made it fray even more. My hair was long not because I wanted patchouli-scented girls to look my way. My hair was long because I was a true rebel.
I may have been on academic suspension from community college, but it was because my genius couldn’t be quantified by a grade point. My interest in a class couldn’t be graded on how often I showed up—I was Gen X, the undecided major in the school of life.
Even at my job sacking groceries at Albertsons , the shoppers were ignorant of the threat I posed to their canned and processed reality. Of course I didn’t follow the training video’s advice on how to properly bag groceries. Cold with cold, hot with hot? I desegregated food and packaged it according to themes and yet unheard of concepts.
I packed Roach Motels with your store brand French Vanilla ice cream as a play on Kafka’s Metamorphosis and the bourgeois meaningless of life. I packaged a bachelor’s single can of Beanie Weenies in the largest 20 lbs. bag to underscore the vast alienation of single adulthood. I did a Burroughesque theme by bagging Naked flesh tone stockings with Alphabet Soup. Naked – Lunch. Random word paste up in your mouth. Language is a virus, one that Robitussin can’t cure.
And how were my artistic merits rewarded? Customers reported me to the front end manager, who informed me that I need to follow proper bagging protocols, and I am never to make comments like, “Paper or plastic, like our culture.”
Every day, I’d storm home to catalog uncaring America’s latest affront in sketchbook. I kept it brief:
Life sucks. Duh. (Drawing of me with head in hands. Question Mark hovering over my head).
Got a coupon for free Arby’s potato cakes with purchase of a sandwich. A sign of great things to come? (Drawing of a potato cake, or a sponge. Whatever!)
Coupon is expired. Fucking figures. (Sketch of crumpled coupon).
I lay on the couch, watching Who’s The Boss reruns until inspiration struck me. Summer’s heat lulled me into a daydream, where destiny and fortune snapped together like two Lego pieces.
When the golden lights displayed my name, would the faux-hippie girl who dumped me recall how she had the ticket to ride with me to glory, but bummed a ride with a line cook in a Red Fiero?
Would the couch where I lay sweltering in the midday heat be housed in a museum?
“And here is the couch where he lay, letting the coil of his imagination tighten before eventually springing with full energy. Yes, this threadbare Dacron couch with Grape Chek soda stains, is where it all started.”
I wanted to write, but I stared at the blank page. Visions of Alyssa Milano in biker shorts, Wynona Ryder, and the dirty blonde haired girl who worked at Circle K tortured me.
I was exhausted. Life was exhausting, and it was only 4:32 pm. I needed a distraction. I reached for the Entertainment section of the Bradenton Herald. Alien³ was in theatres.
Sigourney Weaver perforating xenomorph skulls in a bikini bottom. That ought to be good. This time, the aliens were coming to Earth. Meanwhile, I couldn’t even make it off my fabled museum-ready couch.
It would take two hundred years after the events of Alien³ for Ellen Ripley to be cloned and have an Alien queen surgically removed from her body. It only took me 20 years to remove my own alien sense of self-entitlement.
In the coming years, coupons would expire, and relationships would fizzle. I reached thirty years of age, and fame stood me up. I found more joy in unplanned events. I never expected to teach in Prague for two glorious years. I never expected to meet my future wife and best friend after being stood up on a blind date.
I realized disappointment is just opportunity that got stuck in traffic.
I guess when the truth bursts through your rib cage, it may hurt, but in time, you’ll accept it like an old friend. Unless you’re Ellen Ripley. Then you’ll perforate its skull. Or your clone will. I don’t know, what do I look like, Corporal Hicks?
Alien 3 was released in theaters May 22, 1992.