High Dudgeon and Low Self-Esteem – I, X – Fiction

High Dudgeon and Low Self-Esteem

I, X

by William Ham
Illustration by Mark Reusch

I feel the tug. The ineffable pull of callow irresponsibility, drawing on me to be lazy, unfocused and leave everything unfinished. Like that sentence almost was; instead of finishing my thought, I stopped, stared dumbly at the monitor for a few seconds, then went back to the anti-Gen X book I found in a bookstore among a dozen other copies for a dollar – meaning I’m not only cheap (a function of having no money from working at a job that pays even the owner of the company pitifully) but a little behind the curve. I buy my culture remaindered. I read a few paragraphs of that, then drifted back to the computer screen to talk about myself some more (which is the only thing that makes me excited to write these days). Hey, welcome back! Glad to see you in my snakepit of self-loathing again. Must have been the food, ’cause it certainly wasn’t the ambience. Or maybe it was – some of us like designer squalor these days, don’t we? Tattoos, Goth clubs (like S&M bars with a “don’t touch” policy), drinking and drugging way past the age when we can shrug it off as “an experiment,” fetishizing pain, humiliation and degradation… as long as it’s nicely packaged and presented. Gee, there‘s an original take on things. The anti-consumerist rant of a disgusted cynic surrounded by – no, even better, participating in the sale of -commodity. I’d go on about the commodification of America but I don’t want to bleed into the full-page ad with “Bomb the Corporations” emblazoned across the top, a slogan which is a registered trademark of the Sony Corporation, as is the sullen/angry performer whose latest album is now available for $2.99 at the CD Dive with the words “PROMO ONLY – NOT FOR RESALE” disfiguring his face (no wonder he’s always gazing downward), where it waits for a dolt like me to come along and take it instead of buying food with the embarrassingly tiny amount of walking-around money he has.

Fuck, just writing this shit has become difficult – I’m torn between getting all this hatred and disgust that lies within me in steaming clots out on paper once and for all, maneuvering my mouse to “no” when I go to close this file and it asks, “Save changes before closing?” like it’s my fucking mom in passive-aggressive mode – I’m surprised Macintosh doesn’t follow it up with “Okay, if that’s what you want to do, I won’t stop you” (though maybe it will now; that Bill Gates looks like the biggest mama’s boy on the planet), walking away from it and going to get some much-needed sleep, or smoking another bowl and chortling at some crudely-animated piece of shit on basic cable, nagged by the occasional peripheral daydream of creativity when the commercial comes on (though those commercials are getting pretty darned creative these days and worth my undivided attention often as not), with all thoughts of accomplishment bound to remain just that. Part of the problem is that I’m not sure if I’m contributing anything by doing it; another part is that my mind has a tendency to wander, which would probably explain my amazing, circus-level ability to digress four or five times in the space of a single sentence; and still another part is that to continue on in the tapped-out vein I’ve mined for myself is not only pointless but redundant. I’m surrounded by malcontents, self-important ninnies with the unshakable conviction that they’re right and you’re wrong and here’s a five-thousand word essay telling you why. And I’m pissed because they’re treading on my turf. If you, the long-suffering, ever-present reader, are also pissed, I can’t say as I blame you. Who likes to be told that your entire value system is defective, especially when the one doing the telling is probably contributing more to the malaise than you are just by bitching and moaning about it rather than picking it up and shaking all the sickness out of it? It’s much harder to stand up for what you believe in rather than take the sledgehammer to what you don’t – tearing down is easier than building up and construction is easier to criticize than deconstruction. But nihilism and despair are too easy and merely stating that everything sucks, whatever degree of truth that might hold, is simply insufficient. A lot of changes are in the wind right now – this magazine is going on a two-month hiatus and who knows who or what will be here by the time it returns – and whatever I hoped to achieve by commandeering the back page and filling it with the increasingly toxic exhaust from my tired spleen is still elusive. Nobody’s bothered to give me the hook yet, which means either that you’re enjoying the sight of an aging hipster in the midst of an identity crisis clucking in ill-considered distaste or you simply don’t care. Which is fine. I’m starting not to care myself. All I know is that, as therapy, this isn’t getting me anywhere, and as sociological commentary, this obviously ain’t cutting whatever mustard has been slathered onto my daily bread, which itself is growing pretty moldy and uncontaminated by even the rottenest meat. It ain’t easy to find the answers when you’re not even sure what the questions are. So we may as well chalk this up as a failed experiment and be done with it. Maybe I’ll have found something worth salvaging over the break, maybe you’ll never hear from me again, either way things will be different somehow by the time the new year dawns.

So let me leave you with the one, ruefully humorous (in the bleakest possible way) revelation I have come up with through writing this feature over the last couple of months. For all my insistent disavowals and scowls at the media’s vision of my age group, I have realized that I traffic in cheap irony, wasted talent, and aggressive, self-indulgent passivity more than anyone else I know. This is the cheap irony to end them all: I am Generation X. Fuck.