David Garcia lived like many barely educated, semi-skilled Americans in the beginning decades of the twenty-first century, that is a consumer’s life without purpose. If he had a purpose it was to work as a cog in someone’s dream wheel, shop for plastic wares that shine and break, shit, drink too much, and start the process over again the next day, every day, until he retired on a frugal government check and died, remembered only in some IRS role as a number for all eternity. At thirty-four years old, he worked in a cubicle—not the large, stretch your arms out with high sides so you can’t see your neighbor kind of cubicle, but the type better suited for a second grader. There was just enough space for David to tuck in his short, chubby legs, and sit forward with his knees touching the wall in front of him. He faced a cream colored wall with no windows. Just a large, blank wall that greedily devoured daydreams and future hopes. David hated facing the wall because he recently took a fancy to Feng Shui and having his back to the entire office drove his ADHD mind wild–he constantly shifted in his seat, letting out loud sighs, especially when his neighbor was on a business call. Every time he said the word Feng Shui out loud in conversation he acted out a Bruce Lee karate chop, much to the annoyance of anyone he was talking to, especially his Asian manager. On most counts David lived an ordinary life–when he took his meds on a regular basis.
“Who’s there! Who’s there! I see you! Don’t do this to me, leave me alone, leave me alone goddammit!” David, half asleep bellowed into the blackness of his room. His neighbors awoke. Shaking, with drool running down one side of his fat cheeks, he squinted as he fumbled for the flashlight on his night stand. He quickly shined the flashlight around his room. Sitting up, his hands felt large pockets of sweat about his bed. Alone and afraid, he placed his head in his hands, and cried aloud: “Oh my God! Why do you let this happen to me? What have I done to receive your judgment? Look! Look! Look at my arms dear Lord Jesus!” David shined the flashlight up and down at his arms. Small bites covered his inner forearms, dozens of them, the size of tiny mouse mouths, yet on close inspection not rodent teeth at all, but human-like with upper and lower teeth marks. David rocked back and forth violently, pinching each bite mark with loathing force, creating dark, purple bruises.
For a few seconds David stopped sobbing. He heard the faint scurrying of small feet coming from a vent next to his bed, and what seemed to be laughter. He quaked in anger and horror, his face gnarled with muscles strained, sweat streaming from his head, he grabbed a butter knife off a plate on his nightstand and pried the vent screen open. David breathed heavy, his yellowish toned skin glowed faintly off his cell phone screen. He shoved his arm into the vent, yelling “I’ll get you! I’ll get you demons you little fuckers!” He felt what seemed like roaches stream past his hands. Frantically pinching and punching his fist against the metal walls of the vent, he squashed one, whatever it was, he felt it burst beneath his large hand, like a sickly cherry tomato. The sound of a dozen, high-pitched voices cried a loud off into the distance of the vent. David pulled his hand out. The bottom of his right hand was covered in blood, about a teaspoon of thick, red blood. David screamed like a 1950s B movie starlet and ran outside his apartment into the balmy Fresno night wearing nothing but his tight, brief underwear.
“Hello, who is this?” Mrs. Garcia received a phone call early the next morning.
“Hello, is this Liz Garcia?”
“Why yes, it is, may I help you?”
“Ma’am this is the Fresno police department. Last night we received a complaint about a man running down Blackstone avenue in his underwear. When we arrested him he was incoherent, in his underwear and was muttering something about the little ones that won’t leave him alone. He gave us your phone number.”
“Oh dear, I am so sorry,” Liz Garcia said as her lips quivered, holding back her tears. “Yes, his name is David and he is my son. Lately he won’t take his meds. I tell him and tell him, but he is so strong willed. His apartment has roaches, I think some damn Mexicans moved in or something, I mean he’s a clean man, that’s how I taught him, to be clean. But he’s got roaches I think and when he goes off his medication he thinks they’re little people.”
“Well Ma’am we can’t have him running up and down Fresno streets at night scaring folk. In that state of mind he is likely to cause harm to himself or someone else.” The police officer stated.
“Oh no, he wouldn’t hurt anyone, I swear.”
“Well, he kept going on and on about how he finally killed a little one, now perhaps he goes and kills a real person thinking they are part of those made up little ones in his head? We will release David after you arrive at the station and fill out appropriate discharge papers.”
Still feeling groggy from the chill pills the police department forced down his throat, his mom helped him into his apartment.
“Oh my David, your apartment is filthy! I didn’t teach you to live this way. All those dishes, your clothes thrown about everywhere, I mean what if you met a nice girl and she saw this?” His mom’s voice seemed like a sharp buzz saw boring into his skull, sending irksome vibrations through every nerve in his body. He zoned his mother’s voice out until she sounded like a buzzing bee. She helped him to his bedroom. On his nightstand stood the antipsychotic medication vial his doctor prescribed David. His new prescription remained unopened.
“David! You need to take your medication son,” she said in a scolding but loving tone,” as she picked up the full vial of pills. She took two out, handed them to David with a glass of water, and said “David takes these two son, before you know it you’ll be an adult and wont need to take them anymore.” She caressed his head like she had for three decades to calm him.
David reluctantly swallowed his pills and laid down for sleep. As Liz placed the vial back onto his nightstand she noticed the vent screen torn from the wall. Sheetrock dangled from the edges where David had violently torn the screen away. On his nightstand, a large roach carcass lay smashed and smeared. Beer bottle caps covered most of the area.
“Ma,” he uttered while falling asleep, “Ma, I am an adult.”
Liz giggled, “I’m sorry Davie, I forget sometimes, you’ll always be my baby.”
The next day David felt as normal as any low-grade working citizen. Navigating beer bottles, pizza boxes and soiled underwear, he dressed and went to work.
David’s constant fidgeting, tapping, shuffling in his seat, looking over his shoulder, and sighing, drove the other cubicles workers to his right and left, mad. His desk area was three feet wide and two feet deep. On his desk sat a land-line phone, covered with a layer of David’s grease, sprinkled with his dandruff. Of course he was totally unaware of how unsightly that phone looked to anyone who peered his way. On his left, he had only thing that his little space would allow—a framed photograph of his mom, holding him when he was a baby. Everyday he took the same thing to work, a large burrito his mom made for him. Every Sunday his mom made him five large burritos, each a different type—asada, carnitas, bean, cheese and rice, chile verde, and numerous other combinations of Mexican stewed meats and sauces. She placed each one in a freezable zip lock baggie. Every Sunday night he dropped by his mom’s to pick up his week’s lunches.
David was overweight but not obese, and with an inherent distrust of women in power, they scared him. His face was pudgy, with hamster-like cheeks, his eyebrows bushy, with thick lips and large ears. He parted his thick, black hair on the right side and combed it over, like a 1960s square. He wore thick glasses. David carried himself with an air of an educated man—he had received an Associates Degree from Fresno City College and he was damned proud. He was the first to graduate college in his family. He watched the History Channel every evening and talked about the programs he viewed to anyone who crossed his path (often about WWII, the Nazis or some new Viking archaeological finding)—usually it was a one-sided conversation, with the other person waiting for that split-second open window to leave his presence, but he talked so fast, with each word running into the next, that victims found it hard to escape his monologues.
In the 3rd grade, teachers, school administrators and his parents all agreed that he needed Ritalin to function as a normal boy in school. Half the kids in his class were already on the drug, and it worked just fine for them. With only a couple servings of the wonder substance a day, teachers were able to keep all their students well-mannered, with legs forward, hands folded and lips closed tight. Parents were able to go about their business at home after school, cooking, working in the garage, talking to neighbors, and all the other things parents do in the evening, without even a peep out of previous rambunctious children. With Ritalin, boys became model children, who just sat and sat for hours wherever parents placed them, like large stuffed animals that ate and shit.
“He just won’t sit still. He gets up and wanders off while I’m trying to teach the class, and he often blurts out laughing for no reason at all. It is very distracting to the other kids who are there to learn. I want to help David, but the amount of time that is necessary to deal with him one on one takes away my time from the other kids, and that is not fair to anyone.” Mrs. Jantz, David’s third grade teacher explained to his parents at the meeting when they all agreed on Ritalin. She spoke as most teachers do, in a soft, articulate, patronizing tone she used for students and parents alike.
“David!” his mom screamed at him after a month of giving her son Ritalin, “Mijo, I told you to stop running up and down the stairs! Come here now!”
His mother’s hands were shaking. She just arrived home from working in a local greasy spoon diner all day serving tables, her keys still in the door. David caught a strong scent of her sharp body odor—she was stressed out. It was a sweltering hot summer day in Fresno. “You smell like tacos and Chinese food!” he yelled at his mom as he slid down the staircase banister. The trunk to her car was up, and half the groceries still waited to be carried inside—bags with melting cheese and warm milk lined the kitchen counter top. The temperature that day reached the century mark. She had a long day at work, the last thing she wanted to deal with was a hyper kid who would not stop running up and down the stairs pretending he was Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker at the same time. “John me Luke,” David would peer down from the top stair with his right hand extended down, “together we can rule the universe.”—he then breathed hard like Vader. Then he would switch characters and jump down a couple stairs in frantic haste.
“No, I will never join you!” then he ran back up to the top stair, panic on his face.
“Luke, I am your father!” David said in his deepest guttural voice.
Back a few stairs down, David let out a loud “Noooooo!” and rolled down the rest of the stairs. He landed on the hard, tiled floor and starting crying.
“Come here now!” his mother grabbed his arm tight, dragged him into the kitchen, and while red-faced with anger, yelled, “OK David, you don’t want to listen to me, you’re going to get a double dose of your candy.” Candy, or ‘The Candy,’ was the euphemism David’s parents, and teachers, used to refer to Ritalin.
“Now sit on the couch and don’t you dare move!” David’s mother yelled at him through her clenched teeth. I need to put these groceries away and start making dinner before your dad gets home.” She played a VHS copy of The Empire Strikes Back, David’s favorite movie back then, and into his adulthood. He sat there mesmerized, silent, pretending his was a Jedi, in his mind.
“Oh you wouldn’t believe how David has changed,” his mother told everyone she came into contact with, at the store, at church, leaning over the backyard fence.
“He’s an angel now and such a huge help to his father and I. If I tell David to sit with his hands folded and watch TV while I cook and clean, well it’s the darndest thing, he actually sits there and does what I say.” Everyone she told was happy to hear that this miracle drug worked so well.
A few months after David began receiving double dosages of Ritalin daily, he became deathly ill. One night at dinner, David sat characteristically with his feet perfectly pointed straight ahead, his back straight, his hair well groomed and combed to one side. His face showed no signs of life. He was now the ideal child. He said nothing except when asked, and then only “yes” and “no.”
“David, you haven’t touched your Mac-n-cheese, it’s your favorite, what’s wrong?” His mom Susan asked.
“I don’t feel too good.” David remarked.
“My god, he’s turning color Dan,” Susan exclaimed. David grabbed his sides, and started to cry, “It hurts mommy, it hurts so bad.”
David’s kidneys were failing. For two weeks David stayed in a hospital bed. The double dosages nearly brought his kidneys to the breaking point.
For the rest of his life David took pills everyday to aid his kidneys to function.
In later years, like most adults with ADHD, David learned to cope with his hyperactive mind. By his early twenties doctors diagnosed David with schizophrenia. As long as he took his medication on a scheduled basis David coped with society.
To others, there was always something about him that was off putting. He lacked social graces that made prospective friends do a double take and decide not to get close. Usually after two weeks of getting to know him, people kept him at a distance. David was outgoing, but too outgoing. The longer someone stayed within his life, the more he crossed over into personal space. “I know lots of people, mom, but I don’t have any friends really,” became the mantra of his life. He was lonely—mentally, physically and sexually.
Despite an odd shape David was not an unattractive fellow, nor was he particularly good looking. Lately, he signed up for an Internet dating site that rated each member’s looks based on the votes of other members. David received a solid five stars out of ten. No matter how many women he solicited for dates, he never progressed further than five stars. Yet David was an optimist. He felt gratified that he was a solid five. Five was a heavy number he thought, much more important than four. Four was for losers, but five now that was a lot closer to ten.
David always bought in bulk. His bathroom cupboards were stacked at all times with dozens of toilet paper rolls. “You can never have enough shit paper!” he loved telling acquaintances, with guttural laughter, when they came over to watch the game or ‘the big fight.’ He enjoyed spending at least two nights a week walking up and down the aisles at Costco, waving to neighbors, while eating his way through all the samples, as if at the fair. He even acquired a sort of air of superiority when sampling, giving the minimum-wage earning worker his unique critique on cheap cuisine. For example, after devouring three samples of a new type of breakfast sausage one Tuesday night after work, he exclaimed to the attendant, loud enough for people twenty feet away to hear, “You know, I almost liked this new sausage but it doesn’t quite have bite. You know bite,” he made a chomping motion like a dog. He went on, “It just doesn’t have that crunch right before you land into that juicy middle. Now, for juiciness I give it a nine, yea a nine, but for crunch, sorry I have to give it a two.” A teenager a few feet away, with wide eyes, turned to her mom and whispered, “Oh my God, did you just hear that weirdo?” Her mom told her to hush, they both giggled and scurried away. He gave his opinion with a professional matter-of-factness that came from watching too many Cooking Chanel TV shows. He was oddly shaped like some men are, with wide hips, almost woman-like, and narrow shoulders. He also had man boobs, but tried to hide them by bending his shoulders inward. While talking to the food vendor he placed one hand on a hip while flicking his other wrist back and forth. For all this, he was quite secure in his manliness. Most women were repelled by his quirky mannerisms, although he had no clue why.
He was also hopelessly addicted to social media, posting constantly to his online profile. All of his selfies were taken with hand held high so that his double chin was never visible. He also never took a photo revealing below his shoulders. He wasn’t deceitful at heart, his selfies quickly evolved into those types of angles after receiving mean spirited posts. Once he posted a full body pic and uploaded it to his profile. David thought he looked great. He texted a friend he met a few days before, “Hey Kev,” he called his new friend Kevin, even though Kevin barely knew David, “check out my new pic, what do you think?”
“Fuck! This dude I met last week at the bar texts me non-fucking-stop,” Kevin told his girlfriend as they lay in bed on a Saturday morning at 8am.
“You better not be lying asshole and receiving texts from some bitch,” his girlfriend exclaimed, while holding her head from a hangover. “Let me see,” she said as she snatched Kevin’s phone away.
She scrolled through pages of texts over the last week David had sent.
“Goddamn I didn’t know you had the patience, tell him to fuck off, but don’t be too mean.”
Kevin left the following post on David’s full body pic: “Nice pic bra, no pun intended.”
That day David was out shopping with his mom. She knew David was addicted to social media and insisted that whenever they were together he shut his phone off. By the time David arrived back at his lonely, dark, apartment, there were over 100 posts of so-called friends and friends of friends and dozens of complete strangers who posted about his man boobs. David quickly deleted the post, changed his profile settings so that no one could post to his wall, and he cried. He took off his clothes, put on the soundtrack to the movie Grease, grabbed his body pillow, curled into the fetal position, and cried. He pretended his body pillow was Sandy—Olivia Newtown John—from Grease. He knew every single lyric from that album, and every word from the movie. That night he dreamed he was John Travolta. Everyone loved him, even after knowing him for two weeks. In his dream beautiful women in poodle dresses broke out in song whenever he walked into a room. Guys in leather and denim patted him on the back while exclaiming things like “Yo Davie, look at that rock hard chest! Let me hit it, let me hit it!” or, “Hey Dave, look’n sharp there! Tell us about your summer,” or “Look at that chick magnet, how do you stay so cool Davie Boy?”
The next day David rode his ten-speed bike down to the local pub. It was a brisk, foggy January afternoon in Fresno. Wet, and cold, the air hung still like a wet towel left out on a sidewalk, and smelled like a dirty blanket used by stray cats.
“David, are you awake son?” “David, are you there?” “Where are you David?” His mom left dozens of messages on his phone that day. He was an only child. David hardly drank alcohol. Today he felt he needed a drink.
As he walked into the pub, he noticed people having a good time, regular people, mostly guys but some women, laughing, drinking—genuinely happy.
“What can I get you?” A young bartender in his mid-twenties asked. He had a long red beard, handlebar mustache and a welcoming smile. David felt instantly comfortable with the bartender and the environment.
“I’m not sure, what do you have that’s good?” David asked.
“Hey if you haven’t tried the new Imperial triple IPA from Dog Leash brewing in Calistoga, man you should give it a try. If you liked the happiness of the Christmas anniversary brew put out by Demonic Waters brewery in Paso Robles last winter you’ll love this stuff,” an excited and friendly bar patron sitting two stools down from David exclaimed.
“Well there you go,” the bartender smiled, “You can go with Jessie’s suggestion or try a flight of our recent tapped brews.”
Not knowing what a flight was, and not wanting to sound like a complete novice, David replied, “Yea I think I’ll go with Jessie’s suggestion, that triple IPA sounds awesome.”
Jessie reached out his hand to shake, “Hey I’m Jessie it’s great to meet you man, I haven’t seen you here before.” Jessie was a small guy, with tight red flannel and equally tight hipster pants, pegged at the ankles. He wore a lime green beanie and a goatee.
“Hey thanks Jessie, I’m David, yea this is my first time here, really cool place, and thanks for the suggestion.”
“Not everyone likes the Imperial triple IPA. It’s not for the faint of heart, you know, especially for those new to craft brew. Definitely for a veteran aficionado like me,” Jessie laughed. All three men laughed together.
Jessie took out his smart phone and took a pic of the bottle he was drinking. “Hey David, check it out, every time I drink a different craft brew I post it to this site called ‘Cool Craft Beer Drinkers,” Jessie laughed, “Stupid name I know, it kind of plays off of the snobbery some craft drinkers have, but owning it too.” Jessie winked and took a drink.
“See, whenever I upload a pic of a new brew I am drinking, I get points, and when others like my photo and description I get points, and the more others share what I uploaded I get more points. There’s even different levels of membership depending on how many points you have. See, when you first start, you’re a ‘Noob” Jessie laughed, “but then you can rise to ‘Weekend Warrior,’ ‘Master Taster,’ and finally ‘Craft King.” I only need about one thousand more points before I become a ‘Craft King.’
“Wow that’s pretty fucking awesome!” David responded. The bartender smiled at David’s reaction, even thinking it was a little too much, but he let it go. “I’m going to set up an account right now.”
The bartender served up a tall, dark golden pint of Imperial triple IPA by Dog Leash brewery. David uploaded a pic to his new Cool Craft Beer Drinkers profile page. He took a drink. The IPA was like no other beer he had every tasted. A strong, pungent flavor first assaulted his tongue and back of his throat. The cold drink ran down his throat while leaving an after taste that wouldn’t go away, like that last bunch of drunken bridesmaids at a wedding reception dancing away the night—the pungent flavor lingered.
“Whew! Wow, what a great flavor,” David announced. He really wanted to blurt out “What the fuck is this?” But he felt this was the place he wanted to be, this was the place he could finally fit in.
He heard his phone beep a few times. Already he started to receive points from other members’ likes on his Craft Beer profile. From this point on David visited the pub everyday after work. He learned about the craft beer industry and culture back to front. After a month he could sit for hours describing the nuances between IPA, double IPA, sours, ambers, and everything in between. He became a fixture at the local pub. People asked him questions about craft brew, and he always knew the answer. He even grew a beard, a long dirty-blonde beard.
David’s social media account completely transformed his life, at least to the outside world. Every day he posted at least one detailed blog on a new brew he tasted that evening. He took two or three detailed photos of the beer and the bartender who was working at one of several of local pubs who served craft brew. He loved to talk, and people listened. Yet, he still lacked social graces. He was oblivious to the glazed eyes of those people who started off as excited beer students but who became bored captives.
After spending two or three hours at pubs ever day, David would venture home alone. His refrigerator was filled with craft beer and processed foods. In his cupboard were stacked various types of instant ramen noodles. David sat alone eating a micro waved dinner, uploaded his pics, wrote his blog, and anxiously waited for the likes and comments to come in. Every time his phone buzzed or dinged aloud, David received satisfaction, a real satisfaction that is not only mental, but also physical. The same type of chemical reaction drug addicts feel or gamblers receive when winning big. David’s cerebral orgasms over his social media attention were small but constant. Online, he finally became someone. People actually like me, he thought to himself. I am important.
After reading and answering the many posts online ‘friends’ and followers made on his upload, every night, he went to sleep alone, clutching his body pillow, and listening to his favorite album.
One morning he woke up to an excruciating pain on his sides. He cried out loud a terrible shriek, so loud the next-door elderly neighbor made sure all her windows and doors were locked. David grabbed his phone and checked his social media page for new likes and comments. He was in pain, severe pain, but he was compelled to check his online profile.
He called his mom, “Mom,” he groaned, “mom it hurts so bad.”
“Oh God!” she exclaimed, “What David, what is the matter?”
“I’m not sure Mom, my sides hurt so bad, I can’t move.”
“O.K, David, don’t move son, I’m calling the ambulance and I will be right there.”
David spent the next two weeks in the hospital. His kidneys failed and his
liver was dying.
“David, I am surprised that you drank so hard these last couple of years knowing your history of kidney failure. I can tell you this, and you had better take heed David, you can no longer drink, not even a drop. If you value your life, you listen to my words.” David’s heart sank at those words. He slipped into a depression.
For the next week David’s social media page was filled with ‘friends’ and
followers asking where he was: “King Craft, dude where are you?” or “Hey Maestro have you tried the new sour by Catfish Brew up in Sonoma? It kicks ass! But you probably already know that.” “You must be on some craft beer road trip, let us in on your travels! You’re so secretive about your personal life, ooh so sexy,” one cute woman wrote.
After two weeks, the comments dried up to one a day, then by the third week, his social media pages went silent. After a month, the Cool Craft Beer Drinkers site sent him an email stating that due to inactivity his page would be archived. If he ever chose to return as a member his page could be reinstated for a small fee.
“Hey, what happened to what’s his name? Damn I can’t remember his name. He knew everything about craft beer and loved to talk,” a bar patron asked a bartender
“You mean he would never shut up?” another soured patron interjected.
“Man, he was a cool guy, quirky you know, but who isn’t? His name was David. Not sure where he is,” the bartender answered.”
“What can I get you today?”
In a dirty alley in downtown Fresno sat an unkempt man in his mid thirties. With dirtied face, soiled clothes and only a cardboard box for shelter, the pathetic man rocked back and forth mumbling about the little people all about his body. In his right hand David held two beer bottle caps both peirced through with a nail on one edge. A rubber band tied the bottle caps together. Up and down his arms and legs David pinched himself with the his bottle cap invention. When his body was found a week later, David had small bite marks covering his body.