I attended a Catholic liberal arts college. The following is a variation of an essay I wrote for some sort of creative nonfiction class which ended up being one of the examples the professor used in future classes to show how to do the assignment properly.
This essay was put in my portfolio along with an unnecessary amount of other things I’ve written. In 2009, when searching for positions with two potential employers, interviewers at both meetings happened upon it when flipping through my work. The piece both landed me a job and was the cause for not getting a job because some hypersensitive department manager apparently lives in the past and interprets expletives as personal attacks. Unfortunately the job I didn’t get was the better of the two (financially), but in all honesty if you’re offended by the word asshole, you’re not someone I’m going to get along with. After all, the piece was praised in a school where nuns teach. For Christ’s sake.
You are an asshole.
No matter who you are, where you’re from, what you had for breakfast this morning or what you named your cat, you are an asshole. At some point in time, in someone’s eyes, you really suck.
When the sun rises and the earth heats up for the first time in spring, you just can’t wait to get outside. Even a hermit like myself gets excited for the warm air and how the threat of dying from driving into the side of a pizza shop thanks to icy roads disappears for a few solid months. This is, unless this springtime cheerfulness is soiled because the first spring day’s agenda consists of moving furniture, food, and all of your belongings from one apartment to another about 100 yards away, as was my situation a few years ago. It is imperative to tell you that I was facing this task alone, accompanied by help for only a tiny fraction of the total hours. Everyone was too busy being an asshole.
“They don’t make them like they used to.” If you’d have seen the loveseat in my apartment, you would agree with that old phrase. According to the sticker inside, it was made in 1976 in America by real people earning real money. Its upholstery was a rough, Tabasco-colored nightmare with dark wood trim up the armrests and along the crown. Hidden in its bowels was a foldout bed full of spider egg sacs that was possibly a tad less comfortable than being crucified naked in the automotive department at Wal-Mart. This loveseat weighed upwards of 400 pounds and was easily one of the ugliest pieces of furniture still in use by human beings outside of drug dens in 2008.
I called a friend for help with moving my loveseat, and he happily agreed. That asshole. Not long after helping me lug it over (which, by the way, was a 45-minute process that removed a load of paint from several walls and tore a hallway door off its hinges), he left to go to work, and despite the fact he planned to quit his job that day, did not want to blow it off in fear of “looking bad.” I bought him lunch as thanks and sent him away to his stupid job.
Woman who has many cats really crazy about pussy. Not a proverb, but it should be. It perfectly describes the lesbian who lived diagonally from me. Maybe she wasn’t a lesbian, but she was butcher than a guy named Butch, had spiky hair, lived alone, and had many feline friends with whom she could hold endless conversations while listening to her African religious gospel Jesus Lordy Lordy Hallelujiah jukebox classics at full volume. She also enjoyed rooting through the dumpster when she thought nobody was watching and obviously peeped at people from her sliding glass door. Despite the fact she was out of her mind, she had arms, hands, and lesbian muscles that could have been helping me instead of rooting through the BFI treasure chest looking for what the elderly couple threw away that morning. Asshole.
A lot of my stuff was in boxes, and a lot of stuff wasn’t. A big blue bag from Ikea was filled up countless times to bring over miscellaneous bundles of knick knack pattywhacks. The bag contents were dumped in piles all over the new apartment floor like I was laying the props for Home Alone, even though I (thankfully) haven’t looked like Macaulay Culkin since I was 9 years old. It is no secret that in the physical fitness department I was as fit for this job as a six-year old paraplegic with a hunchback and seven fingers.
So I tried to pep talk myself.
Come on Jeff, the building you’re moving into is named after William Henry Harrison. The noble William Henry Harrison. The legend. The asshole. If he could kill all those Indians at Tippecanoe and become the second oldest president ever elected, you can carry this stuff to his namesake building. Even if he did die a month after taking office.
Once the middle of the day rolled around and a mere 25% of the stuff had migrated across the sea of grass, another asshole emerged. This one looked like a TV star standing on his balcony as he observed my progress. By TV star I mean one of the guys Chris Hansen would be pulling out of a 16-year-old girl’s pool house. He had a cat whose eyes were so wide it looked like he fed it a bag of weed every day for dinner. The man looked down from his balcony and asked me the obvious stupid questions you ask someone you don’t know but feel the need to talk to when watching them perform manual labor.
“Are you moving?”
No, asshole, I’m stealing bags of shampoo and pillows in the middle of the day.
“Is your new place cheaper or something?”
Why, do you want to move in with me and touch me while I sleep?
I’m not great at talking to people.
I snuck away and made a half dozen more laps between the buildings when he finally offered to help me carry “heavy stuff.” I told him the large items were moved already, and he said “Oh, I was going to help you with the heavy stuff,” as if that wasn’t obvious from his original statement of “I can help you with the heavy stuff.”
Fairly sure he just wanted to do me.
I was, however, growing increasingly sore. If I stopped moving for more than a few minutes, my muscles would tighten up and become useless, which forced me into a robotic state of movement. Meanwhile, assholes were all around. Sports-playing assholes. Jogging assholes. Driving assholes. Doing-nothing assholes. Tennis-playing assholes. Little Chinese kid on his bike asshole. But I was there, back-and-forthing all day by myself. Unstoppable. Unstoppable until at 8:45 P.M. when I collapsed. Literally. Mentally. Physically. Half the stuff was moved. I sucked down a pot pie, texted a friend the simple message “I am going to die,” and admitted defeat.
None of this is really important. I’m just trying to help you understand why you’re an asshole.
Because it’s bound to happen. We all come off as assholes at some point. Even the best, well-meaning people. It’s just what happens, and it’s often just outlook. This day, I didn’t have anyone to help me and didn’t want to do all this work myself. Ergo, everyone else is an asshole. It’s terrible human logic.
There are only two reasons why a person should get offended or upset by anything – A lack of understanding or a lack of humility. People either go on the defensive due to ignorance or an inability to laugh at themselves. And for the first of those two reasons is the main reason why people see each other as assholes. Someone cuts you off in the car, you call them an asshole. They might be the nicest person alive and just made a mistake. Everyone has been at fault in the car before, but it’s what we say.
You’re an asshole only because I said so. That’s how this works. Because my situation was troubling me and I blamed you, despite any lack of responsibility on your part.
Maybe the balcony rapist guy was actually just being nice and wanted to help me. Maybe the lesbian had a husband who died young, leaving her alone in the world with only her cats as companions and a heartache she couldn’t quiet, and now she’s too shy to speak to people. Maybe doing-nothing asshole had a bad back and can’t lift things. Then I’m the asshole. I don’t know these people’s stories. They don’t owe me anything. They aren’t assholes simply because they didn’t sacrifice their days for me.
But yeah, I’m an asshole. We’re all assholes at some point, through some lens, in some situation, due to some miscommunication, resulting from some misinformation. Which means we’re all just fine. Because you’re probably not an actual, complete asshole. You’re probably not reading this on your cell phone as you walk up to a skyscraper roof to start popping off heads with a sniper rifle. You likely didn’t sit down at your computer to read this after punching an old lady in her mams and setting fire to a day care. You’re just a person, trying to do what you want and make yourself happy. You are just going through your own days, worrying about your own business, pleasing a couple others along the way. Just like everyone else. The best you can do. The best you should do. The best you need to do.
So please – keep on stinking, asshole, because you’re doing just fine. And you’re probably a pretty good person.
As long as you’re trying to be, you’re doing it right. Let’s hug.