5.14 The Grumpy Bastard Who Changed His Mind


I used to have this friend who was really grumpy. It started off all cute and stuff, you know, had a smart ass comment about everything, criticized people doing earnest work, complained a lot. A disposition cultivated in university, this friend became a pretentious bastard after watching foreign films and was almost unbearable after being introduced to The Beats. Probably, if Jack Kerouac published On the Road now, my friend would hate it. “I mean, come on, enough with the run-on sentences already.” The pretentiousness and assholery only grew once he was released into the post-university world. Sure, he was working in his field, he knew this and felt pretty cool about it. He was discernibly a most uncool person. He would soon learn this. My friend kept up the ruse, but as he became more grumpy, more pretentious, more of a complainer, something else seeped into the mix. Bitterness. A person complains enough, is grumpy enough, that toxic mix has the potential to turn into a thoroughly unbearable individual. Through it all, we kept our friendship up, but more out of obligation instead of anything in common. My fear being his grumpiness would rub off on me.

Of course, my friend ran into some problems eventually. He got burnt out at his cool job, the cool people he surrounded himself with disappeared, and relationships, well, who wants to be around someone who was travelling down grumpy avenue and taken a right turn on to the ramp for the bitterness highway? A highway that is open road and goes deep into the horizon. He soon found himself alone, sometimes stopping, frozen in his living room, forgetting why he walked in there, just trapped in the bitterness of his own mind. My friend took his grumpiness to another level, he started to blame other people for why he squandered his potential. Our time together came less and less because most get togethers consisted of him either picking a fight with me or just sitting there in slumped silence.

Finally, he told me the final day when he left behind his grumpy demeanour. Overwhelmed with the most recent argument in his head about, well, name it - politics, relationships, friends, the goddamn weather - and his body just kinda gave up on him. He collapsed to the floor in his apartment, lay down on the carpet, in the fetal position, while laying there something snapped in his brain, but this snap loosened some wiring back at the base of his skull. It’s a lot of work to be grumpy to the point of bitterness. Takes effort, takes time, takes radical displays of information misinterpretation, takes revolutionary ways of applying that misinformation. Just let it go. And he imagined that all this bitterness and grumpiness was a physical thing, wrapped it all into a ball, a bouncy ball, took whatever strength he had left and bounced that ball right out the goddamn window.

It took a while for me to get up off the floor. My body needed time to recover, after all, when a person had been bitter and grumpy for that long, it doesn’t go away all at once. Eventually, I sat up on the carpet in my apartment, realized that my shoulders felt a bit lighter. My eyes must’ve had some fog over them because it was like I could see better. Although I felt lighter already, it would take quite a bit of time to fully recover from the state of grumpiness.

Over the coming months, I rejoined society, with mixed results, with mixed feelings at times. Went to so many different events and committed to many social groups. Places with name tags, with all new people, people who didn’t know me, didn’t know my past grumpiness and I could really create whatever personality I wanted. There were times when I couldn’t walk in the door, got right to the door, closed my eyes wondering why I was so afraid of other people. Had I developed some type of social anxiety? Still, I pushed through those doors more times than not, put the damn name tag on, mostly stood by myself awkwardly, but just being there was sometimes the point.

What I found was that the more I put myself out there, the less I had to pretend to be someone else. Reached some point where people seemed to want the me that was inside of me, which still amazes and surprises me to this day. Sure, I have my moments, we all do, but the times that the grumpiness returns, I remember to take a moment and think a series of thoughts. Maybe I’m walking down the street and it’s goddamn windy outside and it’s raining and I’m getting all wet and I can just feel the grumpiness returning, I stop, just stop one second and think about how insane this all is, how ridiculous it is that water in the forms of small drops is FALLING FROM THE SKY and wind is coming through the alleyway and it has a force and shape because it is hitting with - I can feel it - force yet it is INVISIBLE, it is an invisible force smacking into my face and I think of how the stoplights turn red then green then red again because of electrical currents that are moving through wires and like wires, the roots of trees disappear into the ground longer than I could imagine and the trees are alive maybe with no personality but still alive and unable to talk of their photosynthesized pain and I’m walking along the ground and the ground seems level, it seems flat, but really, if you moved a little higher, went up into the sky, through the rain, past the clouds, just gaining a small bit of perspective, I’ll see that actually, I’m standing on a giant ball and in fact where I’m standing is CURVED and if you went even further out, a little further up, this giant ball seems to be floating in space surrounded by stars and yet - yet! - it’s moving at speeds I could not fathom and moving even more from this place up in space, going further into the atmosphere, there is a silence that exists that I could not imagine and a blackness that I couldn’t understand and it’s at this moment in the silence and the blackness that I flash back through space, back on to the earth through the clouds and the rain and snap back into my body with my wet shoes and I think, Get over it.

“You used to be quite grumpy,” one of my friends said the other night. I couldn’t agree more. Used to be.