Seriously, Who Am I?
by Tommy Paley
Some days start with big questions rolling around my brain (yes, they are actually rolling, though, it’s possible I am the one who is rolling and the questions are stationary). Questions like “who set that alarm?”, “why are the bags under my eyes so big and dark?” and “should I put on shirt?”
Today was one of those days. As was yesterday. The day before that was similar. Actually all of my days start with questions almost like someone is withholding the answers (I think it’s either my wife or God, or it’s highly possible they are working together — she has been staying out later on Mondays recently). Truth be told, I often feel like a mouse in a maze, searching for cheese (doesn’t help that, as a child, I could only have access to cheese in this manner). I also often feel like a mouse for other reasons too (probably should shave more often and see a doctor about my absentminded twitching of my whisker-area).
Now, I’d be lying if I said that I rarely face big philosophical dilemmas first thing in the morning. I’d also be lying if I said I was traditionally handsome. On advice of my friends who are “tired of all of the lying already!”, I’m trying to both tell the truth and more consistently wear deodorant.
From the second I flutter my eyelashes, that one ex-girlfriend once said were “delicious” right before she actually tried eating them (making her slightly-less-adorable-and-long-term-relationship-material-because-I-was-desperate), questions attack me sort of like a bunch of unhappy family members who have had enough kale, broccoli and quinoa and just want pizza. My kids often wield forks or other household implements that are vaguely threatening like cell phone bills or tubes of toothpaste as they try to “help” me figure things out.
Today’s question is really the king (queen? knight? gender neutral chess piece?) of all questions — “Who am I?”
Thank you, thank you, I am so deep.
Now, if you haven’t already gotten tired of all of the nonsensical asides and stretched your legs and, once stretched, decided to go for a walk using the very same legs, it means that you are either in for the long haul or are baking muffins and have another 21–24 minutes before it is “finally time to go to Muffin Town” (coincidentally, that is also the name of a one act comedic autobiographical play that I plan to write about my experiences growing up in a home where all of my family members dressed up as muffins for months at a time to somehow avoid paying taxes).
I’m sure that unless you actually know me (are you my mommy?) or are one of those tortured souls or psychology students who have been reading some of my writing — please don’t sue or threaten to sue or point and laugh, and then sue) — you may be cautiously wondering the same thing sort of the same way you pack an umbrella for the day just in case the roof leaks at work.
But, seriously, I can almost hear the masses now: “Who is this guy?” (don’t worry, I don’t actually believe there are masses of people, reading this piece of writing at the moment, gathered together and then all calling out the same question unless they got together ahead of time and rehearsed, and even then, why not go play softball or form an acapella group or, for the humor of all gathered, both!)
Before delving (honestly, I need to delve WAY more often in life!) into this question like it’s a pool or one of those bathtubs full of glue that you don’t recognize is full of glue until after you wantonly leap in, let’s take a moment to fully appreciate what “we” are getting into. I’m not suggesting “quitting while we are ahead” or “quilting while we are ahead” (though that would at least create one more quilt than I currently have) or “running away screaming” (unless you have the time and lozenges to spare, then why not), but I am wanting to take a breath first (writing while holding one’s breath is daunting especially when the guy next to me at the coffee shop is really good at breathing — seriously, he could go pro).
Let’s proceed cautiously (the only way to proceed according to both my overly-cautious horoscope and overly-cautious chiropractor). I mean I want the answer to “who am I?” as much, if not incrementally more, than you do (not that I’m competitive). I’d love to know what’s “going on” in my head and “under my skin” (unless it’s blood, then I’m squeamishly not interested) as much as the next guy (that guy, by the way, is super-creepy and is eating a croissant the same way some people eat muffins). It’s sort of like when you are having your bathroom renovated and the contractor suggests it would be easier tearing your entire house down and starting from scratch and you counter that maybe you don’t even need a bathroom any longer. But don’t worry, this won’t be a tell-all-because-I-can’t-afford-a-good-therapist-so-I-will-reveal-all-that-is-behind-the-curtain piece.
You have my word that I will attempt (and probably fail) to stay succinct and on point. I’m not honestly sure what my word is worth at this point ($3.25, says my oldest daughter who is skating on thin ice right now — no, not literally — what am I, a monster who actually makes a small, thin-iced rink out back each and every time I solely to make the metaphor apt? No, I am not that kind of monster, but thanks for the vote of confidence). I will try to keep it sort of brief, as I believe that if you are reading this and keeping me company, I at least owe you and myself the answer in fewer than 1500 words.
So, who is this guy/dude/cake pop/possible alien behind the writing? (bonus marks given to those who guessed either a bucket of bones and loose flesh or just an empty bucket) Is he this “drop dead funny” all the time? (very few things are actually drop dead funny, thus the quotation marks which are quite hilarious in and of themselves) Can he go more than a sentence without inserting comments in brackets? (Nope!) Does he use brackets like a crutch (once, to hilarious and crippling results)
For many years I have aspired to be more than just greater than or equal to the sum of my parts. I use to aim to be all things to all people, but it was just too exhausting and time-consuming (not to mention the sheer amount of money spent on gas), so now I am some things to some people and some very-different-almost-unrecognizable-and-indescribable things to other people.
Though I appear different (thank you, fun house mirrors!), I am just like many other pseudo-male humans you’ve met before with my pants and my receding hairline. I’ve fathered my share of children and kissed my share of babies (at last count, 3) and attempted to husband my share of livestock without drawing the ire of my neighbors (whose ire is super easy to draw both literally and artistically). Animal husbandry shouldn’t be confused with becoming someone’s husband through marriage (I learned this the hard way and it led towards no fewer than nine weird, perplexing and uncomfortable conversations both with my future wife and a consortium of local farmers).
I am what some would refer to as a “glorified clothing rack”, while others would refer to me as a “sentient sack of potatoes in the most positive sense possible”. Still others would refer to me as “sir” and they follow me around with clipboards and enough raised eyebrows to fill an auditorium. I must emphasize how much I love eyebrows — they fill me with something approaching glee (approaching slowly, like when you find yourself blindfolded in a shopping cart in a Safeway parking lot at dusk with a light breeze in the air). I also think sacks of potatoes don’t get nearly as much respect as they deserve.
And, as you know, I write, I create and I type letters on keyboards attempting to emulate the brave men and women who came before me and have also typed on keyboards. I sometimes do this sitting down and other times standing up, just to give the impression that I am taller.
And that’s it.
There it is, me in a nutshell (super-uncomfortable and not worth the time and money spent). That is who I am.