a nihilistic view on people: Shan’s story

People are good. But people are selfish. They want to help others, they want to do the right thing, but only for their own selfish reasons. Whether they believe in karma or they just want someone to owe them one, people don’t genuinely care about each other. Now, a disclaimer: this is a broad generalization. I know that. And it’s my opinion. I know that, too. Feel free to disagree, I’m just saying how I’ve perceived people for the last 26 years. 

I prefer to people watch. It’s easier on my heart. I know what love feels like and I know what heart break is, I’m fine living the rest of my life never feeling either. Now, I know what you’re thinking: but Shan, what’s the point of life if not to feel? If not to see someone you love’s car drive up your driveway and barely make out their smile from the front seat as they turn their car off, collect their things, and amble on into your house? Is the whole reason we exist as humans not to feel? To love? To hurt?

My counterpoint: you don’t need other people to feel love. Or pain. Or any fleeting emotion you so desperately crave. All you need to feel is an open road, a full tank of gas, and a playlist of your favorite songs. The right song can make you fall in love ten times in those two and a half minutes. An empty road at dusk in the middle of the summer, windows down, the sun setting in front of you, hair blowing through the wind as your arm drapes down, out the window- that’s what I live for. If I could propose to the feeling that gives me, I would. Believe me. 

I have friends, I know that’s hypocritical and makes what I said kind of shitty, but they’re the same way. We drift in and out of each other’s lives, it’s kind of funny. We drive. That’s what we do. We drive anywhere our hearts desire. And once in a while, we’ll be in the same place at the same time and we’ll reconnect. Have a few beers. Share a few new tunes. Give each other tattoos to commemorate the feeling. 

That’s how we make money. That’s how I can manage travelling across the States, a new county every day. I wouldn’t call myself famous, but if you’re in the tattoo-scene, you follow me on Instagram. That sounds douche-y, but it’s hard not to say “hey, I have thousands of followers and dozens of them send me money for my services every day” without sounding incredibly douche-y. 

I have a route that I follow. It’s not like I just go wherever. Well, route is a bad word for it. It’s more of a road-trip. A never-ending road-trip. Where I get paid at each stop. I’m an artist. I’ve been called pretentious by people who’ve asked the wrong questions at appointments, but I don’t care. I’m a nihilist. It’s not deep. I tattoo, and I drive. If you take anything away from this, it should be that. 

My car isn’t anything special. I gave it a new stereo, that’s about it. It’s reliable and comfortable. It’s not too big and it’s not too small. It fits me and my equipment. A comfortable two-seater with a trunk just big enough for the essentials. I travel alone. No one else has been in my car since Julie. 

I won’t lie to you. That’s a big part of my beliefs. Lying is pointless. People lie when they’re ashamed. I don’t feel shame. 

So, on the topic of truth-telling, I’ll tell you who Julie is. Well, was. 

Julie was my girlfriend. We were going to get married, she proposed back when gay marriage was legalized nationally. We were engaged for a year before it happened. She used to sit in the seat right next to me, queueing up songs on my phone for our long trips between tattoo parlors. She was larger than life. I’d never met someone who made everyone love them so easily like Julie. All she had to do was smile at them and they’d fall victim like I did so many years ago. She was a metaphoric light at the end of the tunnel. A happy ending. I’d been so depressed before I met her. Then one day she asked for a tattoo and I fell. It was as though any pain I felt disappeared. I laughed later on, after we had been dating for a month, about how as I was tattooing her that first day we met, I was causing her pain, and little did I know she’d soon take all mine away. Blue skies and open roads for four years.

But with every positive feeling comes an equal negative one. And it made so much fucking sense to me, how could I not see that if someone could make you feel so good, they can take that all away in the blink of an eye, the turn of a wheel? 

I don’t blame her for what happened. It wasn’t her fault. I shouldn’t have let her drive. We should’ve called a Lyft and gotten the car in the morning. I never even got my things from that hotel room, either. I couldn’t bring myself to go back after the accident. I called the hotel. Told them I’d be checking out early. Didn’t even wait for an answer. 

If you’re thinking her death was the reason I’m a nihilist, you’d be wrong. I was a nihilist before I met Julie, she just took that part of me away while we were together. She was like a cold ice pack resting on your forehead as you feel your pulse thumping at your temples. She soothed me in a way no one ever could. I didn’t think it was possible to feel that kind of relief, but she knew all the right words to make any bad feeling go away. 

When the doctors told me she wasn’t going to make it, I laughed- of all things. What else would it be? I thought bitterly. Happy endings are just stories that haven’t ended yet. This story ended with an ambulance and flooded comments for weeks. Hardly any of my DM’s the weeks to follow were about appointments, they were all about Julie. She wasn’t a tattoo artist, but she was the fiancé of one that tagged along to all her appointments. And she lit up any room she was in. People knew her name. People knew her face. They knew her aura. Of course, they asked about her afterwards. They felt bad. Not for me or for our families. For themselves. People felt bad because they would never see Julie again. Someone they’d only met once or twice. 

That’s the reason I’m a nihilist. Like I said, people are selfish. It makes me bitter. They only care so they can score points to redeem later on something they want They suck-up to me because they think it’ll get them a discount. It doesn’t. I have bills to pay just like everyone. I live in hotel rooms. It gets expensive. 

Someday, I’ll settle down, get a house, a dog, maybe stick to one tattoo parlor. That day isn’t today. When things get tough, I turn to the road. I turn up my music. And I drown out the bad. As I drive down an unfamiliar road, 7 pm, mid-July, after a long shift, I ask myself: why? I’ve been on so many goddamn roads, why do they all remind me of her? 

Monument Pier (Part 2)

Missed part one? Check it out here!

Cold. A bitter, gruesome cold spread throughout Jakey’s body. He couldn’t feel his fingertips, but he was less concerned about that than where he was. He opened his eyes to find himself laying on his side on a damp and uncomfortable bed. He could just barely see a bedside table next to him, illuminated by a single dim and flickering lamp. The lamp looked to be something from an old movie. His mind jumped straight to pirates. 

Where am I?Jakey thought to himself. The last thing he could remember was jumping into Boston Harbor after that terrible fight with his parents. Was he dead? Was this what the afterlife was? Why did he feel like he was rocking back and forth? Jakey thought he would be sick. 

His eyes slightly adjusted to the darkness and noticed a window behind the table. He could barely make out a light far in the distance. Then the light was gone. It reminded him of a lighthouse, but he couldn’t think straight enough yet to wrap his head around that.

It’s freezing.Jakey thought to himself, sitting up in bed and placing his feet on the ground. Where are my shoes?His feet felt a cool breeze as he noticed he was no longer wearing his shoes and his socks were damp just like the rest of him. It was a terrible feeling, he couldn’t stand it any longer. Without thinking, he took his socks off and felt a sudden relief. 

I’m not dead, but I wish I was. This is awful. Where the hell am I?Jakey attempted to stand, lost his balance, and fell back down onto the bed. Why can’t I stand up? Is the world rocking back and forth? Or am I losing it?He squinted and looked around. At the bottom of the bed was another light and one on the opposite side of the bed, too. He was in a small room with two doors on each side of the bed respectively. Everything was wooden. 

Jakey felt delirious. He couldn’t wrap his head around what was happening until he heard a loud crash, a sound he was all too familiar with after spending years at the pier. He was on a ship. He understood that now. How he got here was unclear, but he was here now. He didn’t feel threatened, as if he was kidnapped. Hell, even if he was some prisoner on a pirate’s ship it’d be better than his old living situation. At least then he’d have something to live for. 

His mind was finally coming to. Jakey had never been on a ship before besides the time he toured his father’s boat many years ago. He knew boats rocked back and forth, but he never knew the feeling until now. Seasickness was something his father always said was for the weakhearted, but he could feel something rising in his stomach. Oh, no, he was going to be sick right now. He couldn’t see well enough to find something to throw up in, but he stood up and searched anyway. As he stood up, much too fast might he add, he uncontrollably bent over and let it all out. 

Groaning, Jakey laid back down on the bed, legs dangling off the edge and hands rubbing his temples. Voices came from behind the door behind him followed by footsteps and the creaking of an old door handle turning. Without sitting up, he watched a light illuminate from the other room. A figure appeared carrying a lamp identical to the ones in his room, but much brighter. 

“Well, I’ll be. You’re awake!” Said a deep voice in an accent he couldn’t quite place.

“You alright, boy?” A second voice said. Two figures now stood at his bedside, upside down from his perspective. 

“Mnm, got sick.” Jakey croaked. 

“Where didja get sick, now, kid?” The second voice said. The two piled in and Jakey sat up.

“Over here, sorry, I couldn’t find a place to go. It happened so suddenly. Never been on a boat.” Jakey mumbled, gesturing to the mess on the floor next to him.

“Well, that’s alright, nothing a mop can’t clean, right?” The first voice said as they inspected Jakey’s mess. 

“What’s your name now? And what were ya doin’ out at sea? We thought you were a dead man. Scared us, didn’t it?” The second voice asked, taking a mop and bucket out of the cabinet at the end of the room and began cleaning.

“Jakey. I don’t know, was trying to end it, honestly.” Jakey admitted sheepishly.

“Well, that’s not the way to go, now is it? How old are ya? 16? That’s a bit too young to be wanting to end it all, wouldn’t you say?” The second voice said.

“I’d do anything to get away from my parents.” Jakey said solemnly. 

“Is that right? They’re abusive? Guess we can’t bring you back ashore then, can we?” The first voice said, nudging Jakey. Jakey chuckled.

“Sorry for rescuing me. I really don’t want to overstay my welcome. You can bring me back to shore, I don’t care where. I’ll get out of your hair.” Jakey mumbled.

“Nonsense. Jakey. We were just talking about how we need a new shipmate, weren’t we, Artie?” The second voice said, peering up at Jakey and Artie as he finished cleaning.

“Aye. We’ve got a crew, but we could use another person.” Artie said, “Tell me, Jakey, what do ya know about the ports ‘round Boston?”

“I know a little.” Jakey lied. He knew Boston Harbor better than he knew himself. He’d spent hours a day as a kid memorizing the paths of ships and tides from his father’s charts. He would draw them on spare pieces of paper from memory in class when he’d get bored. The margins of his math homework were riddled with maps and boat designs. He could tell you where the captain’s quarters were in every boat that belonged to the harbor. 

“Don’t be modest, kid, we want to give you a safe place to live. All we ask is you help us take back what’s ours.” Artie said.