By Christopher Brown
I'm writing this on a broken laptop at a boring job while guzzling my 15th cup of coffee. I'm all alone in this tow yard in the middle of nowhere, while the rain creeps down, making me anxious for the ride home. A year and a half ago I was living in my car in a Wal-Mart parking lot, listening to the rain creep down the side of my Toyota Yaris. I was losing hope for the future, money was non-existent, I was getting sick of the same expired protein drinks for every meal, and my friends were more concerned with Rick & Morty references than giving emotional support. I needed to get out. So I started doing cocaine.
I had a friend, let's call her Hannah. Hannah and I lost touch after I had a falling out with some friends (long story short, I'm a prick. You look so shocked.) We would send messages occasionally, always saying how we needed to hang out. I was in the midst of getting every credit card I could get my short-sighted mitts on and it was looking like I'd be able to afford a room soon. Hannah and I would swap jokes or talk shit about her ex while I was desperately calling my parents, seeing if they'd gotten any mail (“wait, if you're living in your car, why didn't you just move back with your parents?” BITCH YOU DON'T KNOW MY PARENTS) and today happened to be my lucky day. Capital One, Mastercard, Visa, it was raining plastic and I was ecstatic.
That night I stayed in a motel, bought a Baconator from Wendy's, and had my first shower in over a month that wasn't at a YMCA. I ate shrooms and watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians. I drank a 40 on a bridge. I was on top of the world. The next day I called in sick (because I clearly think ahead) and ate in a RESTAURANT, an honest to goodness RESTAURANT. I tipped $50 (noticing a pattern here?) I called Hannah. Nine hours later we're both wine-drunk, wrist deep in paint, watching the newest episode of Shameless. Life could not get any better.
I got a room in student housing, after a bunch of crafty lies regarding references and some sob stories to soften my features, my roommates were cool, I could smoke weed indoors, and I was writing a lot. YET ANOTHER CLICHE PHRASE ABOUT HOW LIFE WAS NOT SHITTY AT THIS JUNCTURE. Flash forward to February when I quit my job because I wasn't making any money. I also kept calling in sick. Yeah, I’m dumb, okay? I hopped on Indeed and applied for every job I was even remotely qualified for. After submitting resumes to every listing, I headed over to Hannah's.
Cue wine. Cue paint. Cue Shameless. Roses by The Chainsmokers has been playing for three hours straight. The night is in full swing right as we run out of wine. We try an after hours delivery service to no avail. I remember Hannah mentioning cocaine once or twice before, and I'm just drunk enough to blurt out,
I nod my head and she's already dialing. One coded conversation and an hour's worth of “15 mins” later, I'm staring at a broken mirror as Hannah's cutting up the rock with an Air Miles card. We roll up some bills, toast to the good life, and I crank some of that soft into its matching tissue. I shake my face like a dog after a bath, rub some coke on my gums (I'm not sure why, but I saw Hannah doing it and then ohyethatnumbnessboinowigetit), and we finally switch the song after four hours of Roses.
Ultralight Beam by Kanye West is grooving through my cerebellum as Hannah and I are on her porch having a smoke. I've never felt so excited about the future; this is the best time to be alive, I can do anything, my dreams are within my grasp. Fuck, I should have saved some better cliches. We're having the realest conversation of our lives. She's decided she's going to road trip across Canada instead of paying rent and I've decided that comedy is going to take a backseat to my rap career. We're both doing great.
The night ends around eight in the morning; I wake up around noon. I check my phone and I have an email from Fred Astaire asking me to come in for an interview. It's that ballroom dancing place that had an open ad seeking instructors “NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY”. They want to know if I can come in at three o’clock. I brush my teeth, throw on some deodorant, Visine my eyes, and head on down.
I'm on the bus and I am sweating like a cool drink on a hot day. My eyes keep darting between the bald guy sitting in front of me and the peeling vinyl of the window cover. My brain feels like it's overcast. I'm quickly tapping all of my credit cards, the bills keep getting higher, and this is the only job I've heard back about besides landscaping grunt work or door-to-door sales. I could really use this money. I could really use a fresh start. I could really use some more cocaine. I switch the song to Ultralight Beam and try to relax. Breathe in and out. In and out.
“Next stop: Main at Cline,” the robotic lady warns.
I pull the cord and let myself drop down into a glass office inside of an old building.
“Hi, you must be Chris! I'm Samantha.” A confident, pleasant, no bullshit person is extending their arm. I shake their hand. So far so good.
I'm in there for an hour. I feel like a wounded soldier being interrogated by an MP, trying to figure out what exactly went down. A single stutter, a moment of weakness, a drop of blood, and this is going to be a different story. I'm being grilled about what I can offer the organization. What brought me to Fred Astaire? Bad luck on your part. Why ballroom dance? I need more cocaine, and also food. Do you have any dance experience? No, but I have really good balance from all that time spent walking on eggshells around my dad. I give some bullshit answer about “my love for the arts”, I blather on about my improv experience; I stretch the one time I substitute taught a Level One class into a five minute tale about how I want to influence and inspire the youth. After ten rounds, the fight is over. Samantha shakes my hands, thanks me for coming in, and says that they have to conduct some more interviews, but I should hear something by Thursday. I take the hint, thank her for her time, and slither my way to my bed.
It's an hour later and I've got an email from Samantha asking me to come in the next day for a second interview with her and Michel, the owner. Holy shit. Thank you, cocaine. She wants me to write an essay about what I would like to get from my experience at Fred Astaire. I wipe my ass, fax it over, she sends back two thumbs up, and now I'm smiling. Top of the world, life is great etc, etc. Time to get ready, I don't wanna fly by the seat of my pants this time. I need to workout, eat a good dinner, catch up on my sleep, and get ready...
To snort another line baby because we back in the saddle again. Who needs sleep? I fucking killed that interview, and I will kill the next one. Cocaine gives me superpowers, it enhances my bullshitting skills. Hannah and I are kings, watching the sunrise from atop the train tracks. This is what it feels like to...
Be a Goddamn idiot, holy fucking shit WHY DID I DO THAT?!? I've slept a total of six hours in the last two days. My mouth has a dry lump that I cannot seem to lubricate, my eyes feel crustier than a meth head’s teeth, and my brain can barely figure out why I'm still alive, yet alone why I'm up at this ungodly hour of one in the afternoon.
I have two hours til my interview. I gotta head home, grab a shower, comb and gel my hair (gotta look professional and apparently my luscious curly locks do not fit that description). I get it all done, throw on a shirt and tie, and haul my ass to Fred Astaire. Hey Samantha. Bonjour Michel. Let's get this over with.
Michel and I are waxing poetic about our “alternative” lifestyles. He's telling me about dropping out of med school to become a dancer. He's telling me how his parents reacted. He's asking me to write out everything I want to accomplish by the end of the year. I'm making him laugh. I'm trying to hide my sweat. I sneeze into my hand and it's full of blood. I covertly wipe it under the chair. Gotta look professional.
After all is said and done, I'm hired. They tell me I'm the first candidate selected out of fifty others. They say I'll have to do two weeks of unpaid training with Samantha and the two other people they select. They tell me about the salary. They tell me about the commission. They tell me a lot of things but the thing that I keep focusing on is “unpaid training”. I don't know if I can afford two more weeks without a paycheque. My roommates are starting to realize I've been stealing their food (did I mention that I'm a prick?)
I start on Monday (sans cocaine, as both Hannah and I are hurting for cash) and when I come in, I meet the two other instructors-to-be. One's a dude named Marshall, a nurse with a passion for salsa dancing. The other is a girl who works for TIFF and wants a change of pace. Her name is Rihanna. My name is Chris Brown. For the first time in my life, I'm making the shitty Chris Brown jokes. I'm smiling like a puppy that just shit in the house. I can tell Rihanna wants to throw me down the stairs. Fair enough.
So we go through the motions for a few days, learning the waltz, salsa, rumba, tango, and swing. After the first day, I can promenade like a motherfucker. I'm having a lot of fun, Samantha's a great teacher, I'm meeting the other instructors that work at the school, we're talking about the trips, the competitions, and other perks of working for Fred Astaire. I'm seeing a future for myself here and it is full of promise. I get a text from Hannah asking me how it's going. I tell her I'm quitting.
If I really tried, I could have found the money to last another couple of weeks until I got my first cheque from Fred Astaire. I could have gotten an extension on the rent payment, I could have done some cash jobs, I could have asked my roommates. I could have made it work. I wasn't scared of the possibility of succeeding in something (or maybe I was, it's hard to decipher my bullshit sometimes). I squandered a great opportunity with some great people, and something that's bugged me for the last year is why? Why did I do that?
About three months after I quit, I was so broke I had to file a consumer proposal and move back in with my parents. I got a different job with my old employer, saved my ass off, and now I'm on the precipice of turning that cocaine dream of rapping full time into a reality. I know right? I'm full of good ideas.
So why would I fuck myself over like that? That's the big question. Why would I sabotage myself? Why wouldn't I at least talk to Samantha and say something like “hey this isn't working out right now, maybe I could come back in a few months once I get myself situated?” I could have tried to salvage the job while I found some shitty McJob just to pay the rent; I had enough time. But I didn't. I pressed the eject button with no regard for a parachute. I have some good ideas about why I did that, but I really don't know for sure. I haven't been to therapy yet, where I'm sure this story will be a big topic of conversation, so until I get a better answer, I'm using this one: when you run out of cocaine, you just don't feel like dancing.