It was the summer of 2010, I believe, and a part of me wishes that I could call it a simpler time. I lived at a place called “Madhouse,” and for anonymity purposes, we’ll just keep it at that. Why is it called Madhouse? Because the place is a fucking madhouse — don’t ask stupid questions. In actuality, it is a series of houses, and I was lucky enough to live with the maddest of the mad — the main house. Every day, I would wake up and make it a point to avoid all the craziness, while trying to piece my life together and actually do something right in my life for once.
Whoever’s idea it was to throw a bunch of crazies into a house, all who are trying to better themselves and put some order to the craziness of their lives, then expand it to a whole neighborhood of crazies, then force them to attend meetings where all the crazies come together to hear about and learn from each other’s crazy mistakes, must be either crazy themselves . . . or a business genius. Or both. Whichever it is, the place works, for most. In the end, there is no cure for this type of crazy, which sadly is a hard lesson learned for some, and for others, by the time the lesson is learned, it’s just too late.
So yes, I was a part of those maniacs. Still am actually, in a sense, but the thing that is so special about the place is that you are around so many people who have a single trait in common, no matter how insane the trait makes us. The bonds that are formed are instantly fortified by some unbreakable weld, heated up by similar aspirations and lived and learned common experiences and knowledges of our maniacal lifestyles. We share every sense of the word “crazy,” and although we are aware of our lifelong ailment and of everything that comes along with it, we embrace it whole-heartedly. The black sheep of society; addicts, most call us, or diseased, perceivably God’s little orphans in a school of the spiritually blind. Either way, both sound equally as bad, and we’re stricken for life.
Of course it’s not all so grim. I’ve had some of the best times of my life in my little “eras of reinventing.” All things are good when you can actually remember them. Adventures in life were equally memorable, no matter how senseless.
I think of all the people that I’ve met as different characters in the novel of my life. Everyone is distinct in their own way, as unique as a finger print, with some definitely more memorable than others. One such character I met at Madhouse is a man we’ll call Icepick. Why Icepick? Another obvious question. Actually, not so much, it’s because he stabbed somebody with an icepick in an argument, cementing the name to him like a granite headstone over a grave. Some might call him brash, easy to anger, or semi-homicidal through his grandiose acts, but I was lucky enough to get to know the man behind the façade — the kindhearted, generous, calm-demeanored man, and if he ever so happens to read this . . . then shit, may God have mercy on his soul enough not to condemn me to those merciless hands that deemed him his name.
Icepick was actually kind of a maniac, and he acted out at the most inappropriate of times, which was mostly when his death-bringer hands were clutching the steering wheel of his car. It is my firm belief that people who have road rage are homicidal beings to the core. I don’t get it — it’s like being angry at your dentist when he cleans your teeth and your gums hurt after the fact. It’s clearly not his fault; he was just doing his job. It’s not his fault your gums bled to the extreme because you didn’t brush three times a day, then floss. People are just doing their jobs by being bad drivers. They can’t help that they’re dumb and not as skilled a driver as you. It’s not their fault that it triggers some primal urge to yell at the top of your lungs because you have undealt with anger issues that have built up throughout the day, then take it out on the your car horn, which could mean anything from “Hello,” or “Hello? What the hell?” to “Hello!? What the fuck is your problem!?”
People generally only feel better when they can physically see their anger’s (or revenge’s) effects on their prey, like Icepick, who was one day cut off by someone who was in an obvious hurry, right after he had just picked me up from work. Like most of us crazies, he needed instant gratification from the nameless man who had just done him such harm. This man had cut him off just to spite him, and this deed could not go unpunished.
Icepick, who reacted like the man had just approached him and kicked his dog in the balls for no reason, did what any self-respectable man would do — he returned the favor and kicked right back. He swerved into the middle turn lane on the busy road and sped up to get side by side with the culprit. We both looked over and saw the man, who was normal looking by any standards and who looked over with a scowl that was equally as spiteful as Mr. Pick’s.
As we approached a red light, Icepick was forced to slow down and return behind the man in his car; about one inch behind the man in his car. We were so close that I felt like we were sitting in his back seat. I felt as if I could strike a conversation with the fella:
“So, my insane friend Icepick here was wondering why a fella like you would go and just cut us off like you did there?” I would ask.
“Well, my mother just had a heart attack, so I am in a bit of a rush to save her life,” he would most appropriately respond. “So you see, I didn’t even notice that I cut you off, let alone mean it to hurt your feelings. That is my rational explanation for this accidental misunderstanding, for which I am greatly sorry for.”
I turned to my partner and jumped back at the pure hatred in his eyes. They were glaring at each other, the man in the rearview and Mr. Pick out the windshield. He reach for the door. “What are you doing?” I said.
“What if the light changes?”
“Let’s just go man, c’mon,” I pleaded.
His door opened. “No chance,” and with no hesitation, he began to step out. Luckily, the light changed, and the man sped off as my friend jumped back into the car to continue the pursuit.
“I don’t think this guy is worth it, man,” I said. “Look at him. He’s driving a Ford Focus.” It was the best insult that I could come up with at the time, mostly because I was trying to hide all the fear that crept through my body, but then, as if he were trying to seal his fate, he began to brake check us.
“Fucking cocksucker!” said Pick. “I’m going to knock his head off and shove it up his ass!” The scary thing was, I believed him, as if it were physically possible. There are far too many threats that can get tossed about and go unfollowed-through in this world, but when a crazed ex-convict named Icepick goes about screaming them with gumption, one has no choice but to take him at his word. “Here’s what we’re gonna do,” he went on, “I’ll make him pull over and you stay in the car while I get out and handle it. You see any cops or anything, just honk the horn and we’ll bolt. Just have my fucking back, alright?”
I was shaking. The word “gun” flashed into my mind with such clarity that I could read the news headline as if it were right before me: “Mindless Road Rage, Meaningless Deaths — Three found dead in parking lot in apparent road brawl. Police blame man named ‘Icepick,’ cite steroid use or plain idiocy as the cause.”
The man began zooming in and out of traffic, no longer seeming to rush but more-so trying to escape the ‘Wrath of the Pick.’ Each second grew more intense than the previous as we kept right on his tail, coming inches from playing bumper cars with our oversized vehicles. In my mind, I knew that all the rules had been forgotten, all ethics and morals tossed out the literal window, all new lifestyle changes erased, all prior practiced principles behind some crazy steps omitted from memory, and we were on a straight crash course towards, well, a crash.
The man finally gave in and pulled into a Costco parking lot. Keep in mind that this was in the middle of the day on a Saturday, so seeing all the potential witnesses somehow gave me some relief, and I expressed to Icepick once again that this wasn’t the best idea in the history of the world, but threw in that I had his back regardless, because what other choice was there? Could I flee back to Madhouse and then later have to explain to everyone why I had left him there to die when we all watched the news later that night? Pending his victory, would I face some tortuous fate from my friend’s hands because I had pussed out from his request, which would inevitably and subsequently give him the new moniker “Coathanger” (some imagination required here)? Oh no. Not me. I held firm and braced for impact.
I stayed in the car as I had been told, but when Icepick got out, no one could have been prepared for what awaited him. I’ve written before about how I believe that some experiences in life are all just the butt end of some big joke planned out by the Big Man, with the punch line being the lesson learned by us. He can sit up wherever and laugh about all He wants to at this ultimate reality show called Life, and in this instance, I couldn’t help but laugh along with him.
I stepped out of the car to confirm what I was seeing. Icepick had stopped in his tracks as the man stepped out of his Focus, irate and yelling all sorts of obscenities that I won’t bother going into — his words not being as important as his look.
First off all, he wore a Costco uniform, solving the initial mystery. Secondly, the man had no arms, which created a new mystery in my mind. Somehow, my first crazed though was, “how was this man driving like that?” Second thought: “What does he do when he has to pee? Or even more importantly, masturbate?” Thoughts never come as they should in the minds of the crazies, and let’s just say mine were a little jumbled and out of order at the moment.
I looked to Icepick, who was still frozen in place with his jaw close to hitting the pavement. Then, life’s rules were suddenly remembered, ethics and morals were tossed back into the mix, lifestyle changes were rewritten, practiced principles were brought forth to the light, and Icepick changed back into the man that most people knew and loved; he started laughing. Most would think that this was completely uncalled for and inappropriate, laughing at the disabled, but people who attend Madhouse are far from the “mosts” of the world. When the most unexpected of all things happens, and God flips the script on you and you live out a real-life surprise ending, sometimes you just can’t help yourself. I joined him in laughing, realizing instantly that within the last ten minutes, I had broken at least three of the life lessons my momma had taught me long ago: Don’t laugh at people who are different; don’t drive with maniacs; don’t soil your pants (especially in a public parking lot of the supermarket).
“What?!” the man exclaimed, “what’s so fucking funny? You can’t fight a cripple or something? Get the fuck over here and put your hands up like a man!” I don’t know which caused Icepick to laugh harder, the fact that he called himself a crippled or that he actually said ‘put your hands up.’
Icepick wasn’t having it. He waved his hand in the air and said, “I’m sorry man, I didn’t know.” He bent over laughing so hard that I thought he may have made himself sick.
“Fuck you, motherfucker,” said the man. “You wanna fight, let’s fight.”
“It’s not going to happen today, buddy,” said Icepick. “C’mon Ryan, let’s go.” We climbed back into the car, leaving the man angry and bewildered, and drove back to the Land of the Mad.
That night we told everyone in our little circle what had happened. It became all the more laughable and absurd each time that it was retold. I realized that sometimes, no matter how inappropriate, one just has to live and let go, and laugh along with God, or whatever is leading the path through this life. He knows what He’s doing when He throws his lessons in our faces. Sometimes they are blatant, sometimes hidden, waiting to be discovered years later through remembrance, like a forgotten Easter egg deep in the bushes. Icepick realized he was in the wrong, and even considered returning to Costco to apologize to the man. He reconsidered when he remembered that the man had no legitimate reason for cutting him off in the first place. He scratched him from his ten page amends list and went on with his life, partially hoping that the man would one day get what’s coming to him (because he obviously hasn’t suffered enough with his deformity). God’s karma can be a bitch also.