Jeremy Sigler: RETIRED AT 45

I’d rather die on an Amtrak, in a way, than live on one. Commuting on the toilet seat in the locked little room all the way down to Baltimore and back—between the two Penn Stations, which are about 3 hours from each other. I had so many fights with that one mousey conductor. He picked on me. Not because I look poor, but because I look like I don’t have to work no more.

I looked into the narrow corridor of empty space just beyond my eyes. I plan to collect disability. I was not capable of using Cc due to emotional illness. My shrink gave me a signed letter allowing me to bring my Emotional Support Dog on trains; but I don’t even have a dog. The letter calms my nerves though—just having a folded note in my wallet from my doctor puts me at ease. I’ll name my dog Placebo. That’s how it works. I miss the OJ trial. I still check up on it from time to time. I’ve come to believe that OJ’s son Jason was the killer. I can just feel it. I’m Hamlet. But when I acted in my high school production of Hamlet, I didn’t get the lead. I was assigned the part of the English Ambassador. I basically had one line, and it was 2 minutes from the end of the like 4-hour play. “Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are dead.” I would usually cut it pretty close, arriving at school and entering back stage only a few minutes before going on. If I’d been drinking, I’d just go out on stage somewhat tipsy and say my damn line. And then would come the obligatory curtain call. Fuckers. I’d split right away. Hop back in my Isuzu Trooper II and speed back to my place in the circle around the keg. On the matinee, I was so out of it that I forgot to get in costume. And I flubbed the line. “Gildencranz and Rosenstern are dead.” Slurring my words in gray sweatpants. And I protested the curtain call. Never went out for my bow. I just realized, when I get bored of you-tubing Eagles and Chicago soft rock hits, I often switch over to Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears NFL films from the seventies. A subconscious link. These films are extraordinarily dramatic. I also like this one where a defensive lineman is gripping Earl Campbell’s tear-away mesh jersey, stretching it to the absolute limit, and Earl powers through, running right out of his jersey into the open field. It’s a kind of wardrobe malfunction. It somehow left this impression. It turned me on, to be perfectly honest. A fetish was born, in puberty. And one day I decided to shred my underwear into a Tarzan-ish loincloth in front of the bathroom mirror. A brief experiment. Also there was Earl’s kick-ass commercial for Skoal, where he puts a little pinch between his cheek and gum and says, “Skoal brother.” Spitting into a cup is common among poets, I recently read. And wrestlers. We’d weigh in fully naked you know. Taking that one step up onto the scale. One at a time. It takes courage to go out there on the mat and pin an eleven-year-old with like B.O. and a full mustache. As I said to Kenny, Chicago may be a cheesy band, but the musicality is a miracle. Really. Listen to it some time. Great music comes in all shapes and sizes, let’s not forget. Personal preferences slowly give way, but love holds on with desperation. It hangs there like a monkey on a branch. It always does. For now my taste is broad. I crush on girls like Puckerman in Glee. I’m still in this adolescent waiting-for-my-chance-to-fuck mode. Blue balls. Blue moon. Blue Jew. I’m reminded of another play I acted in back in high school. In this one—my theatrical debut—I had one less line than in Hamlet. In fact, I played a mute, I think. He was this kind of mailroom dimwit who buries his head in a Walkman and occasionally carries a big overstuffed duffel bag across the set. At one point I provide comic relief by spontaneously asking Ceres Horn, who played this ancient office worker nearing retirement, if she’d like to dance. Now I remember, it was an IRS office! Tax workers. We had this romantic moment. It was a bit like the TV series The Office, but unfunny. I did bond, however, with Ceres, who really did genuinely waddle when she walked. She also had a bowl cut and coke-bottle glasses. She tenderly applied pressure once to my temples to rid me of a migraine during the intermission, when we were backstage in the dark preparing to go back on for the second act. Ceres died the following year in a horrible Amtrak derailment coming back to Baltimore from Princeton. The Carolinian. My theory is that your parts in high school plays come true. I did grow up to become that very person sorting letters into slots in a lonely mail room, sitting here with a crush on Chicago and a postcard from an old student saying, “I’m in Greece right now living in the house of one of Norman Mailer’s x-wives.” I forward URL links as love letters. When I think Eva I link Eva. Chicago songs make good love links. Beware, they tend to get stuck and loop in the mind repeatedly all day, which is generally not appreciated by random girls you are trying to impress. Songs that cause this “broken-record effect” should come with a warning label. Jonathan Schwartz, the weekend public radio DJ, is a real problem. And if there is ever a long NPR silence, please rest assure, I am the man who went downtown, broke into the radio station, gagged the guy and tied him up. It is default radio now in my house on that crappy Bose thing that never ejected my favorite Arto Lindsay disc. So it’s like a Joni Mitchell song “California” sung by some lounge singer taking great liberties with the phrasing of each line, just enough fussiness to make it sound, well, fussy. We don’t turn it off or change the station because our Bose doesn’t have buttons. Just a remote. But the remote has been lost for like three years. Last night I got up to get a finger of almond butter and I’m at the kitchen counter and a mouse jumps out from behind this big olive oil can and I was so shaken up that I had to pop two Xanax. But then I relaxed. And with great calm, I realized that the radio would save my life. I went back to bed and let the Bose do its thing. Funny though, I didn’t want the mouse to die as much as that preppy walrus who fired me for not Cc-ing her. I know trains. I once apprenticed to a model railroader. We smoked pipes with chocolate tobacco. We had an old scratchy album with two sides of train chugging and whistles sounding and steam. I’d rather die on an Amtrak, in a way, than live on one. Commuting on the toilet seat in the locked little room all the way down to Baltimore and back—between the two Penn Stations, which are about 3 hours from each other. I had so many fights with that one mousey conductor. He picked on me. Not because I look poor, but because I look like I don’t have to work no more. The last art opening I attended in Chelsea I was told by this sexy gallery director who is like quite good at flirting for commissions that I looked like I’d docked my yacht at Chelsea piers. My look seemed to say: I’ve been alone at sea for five days. Which I have, metaphorically. It’s kind of true, I retired at forty-five. Emotional support on the way. I plan to get one of those camper units that configures to the back of a pickup truck. Like the one that hillbilly lady lives in with her son during their month on Montague Street every year, when they park and set up to sell Christmas trees the day after Thanksgiving. I want to use a crane and install that camper on the roof of my brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. If I don’t eat much or drink I can probably keep my lavatory needs to just Starbucks, and all I’ll really need is a sleeping bag. Reminds me of the famous Carl Spitzweg painting. This big black umbrella held over the poet as he writes in bed. He heats the room by stuffing old drafts and books into the coal stove. Clever. Rain drops keep falling on his head. That’s a Jonathan Schwartz favorite. That one would put a mouse to sleep.

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