Yesterday morning started as most mornings do, I woke up. As usual, I was groggy and in need of relieving myself. So I slowly pulled myself from bed, found my flip flops, put them on and walked out the door.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, and I expect no one to actually be, we moved to Philadelphia in the beginning of October. The long and short of it was change. New Jersey was still New Jersey, even after all these years. So in the beginning of September, we found a house. I looked at it once before signing the lease. It was a three-bedroom row house in the Northeast part of the city. The inside was sparse, three floors connected via spiral stairs. At first glance, I thought, “Wow, they’re cool,” and went on looking about the rest of the house. After a quick walk through, we were out and ended up signing the lease about a week later.

Moving day came, and the spiral stairs quickly turned from ‘quaint’ to ‘headache.’ I think Dave King (the roommate) summed it up best on moving day: “Cool to look at, shitty for moving.” Somehow we both got queen size mattresses up two rows of spiral stairs after folding them like tacos, but the box springs for both remain in our dining room. They don’t bend and there’s no other space to keep them anywhere. We adjusted regardless and life’s been pretty OK since the move in. We all got the change we needed in our new surroundings, New Jersey was a good 10 miles away, life was moving on.

Which brings me back to yesterday morning.

I make my way to the top of the spiral stairs. My flip flops gripped the top of the stairs too well. I did not. About two seconds later, I had tumbled headfirst down 12 spiraling stairs. When I landed, my head connected with the corner of the door frame at the bottom of the stairs. I’m pretty sure I was out cold for a few seconds, and when I awoke, there was blood spewing from the gash on the top of my head. I laid there for a few seconds, laughed and said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me Brian,” then got up.

This is the part that bothers me the most though. What do I do when I pull myself up off the ground after getting broke off? I go straight back to what I originally intended to do, holding my head shut with my left hand while my right hand does what’s expected during a morning pee. I don’t freak out or get frantically bent out of shape. I go take a piss, then walk back upstairs to grab a towel so I can slow the bleeding down.

After about twenty minutes or so, the bleeding has subsided. I find my digital camera so I can take photos of the top of my head to survey the damage. It’s deep and long and in need of stitches, and I automatically decide that that’s not going to happen.

A few minutes later, I’m dousing my head with peroxide and cleaning out the cut. It’s burning really bad, so I jump in the shower. After drying it off, I’m told to leave it exposed so that it can scab over. I’m thinking that the wound tending to part of the day is done, and now it’s time to deal with the concussion part of the day.

Concussions aren’t fun. You sit around, you’re not allowed to sleep, you get dizzy, you feel nauseous, you can’t tell which ear is hearing what and sometimes it feels like you’re head is taking a ride down a non-existent Mongolian street while the rest of your body has the time to wonder what the hell is going on up there. It’s not fun. But I dealt with it. We went to Ikea, I lounged around for most of the day, I even took a bike ride for a little bit even though my body felt completely out of touch with my head.

At around 1AM, I figured that it would be OK to sleep. After waking up with the bed spins a few times, I figured wrong. But I tossed and turned and eventually found an avenue to slumber on my blood-stained pillows.

In the morning, over coffee, I tried to figure out what I could learn from my experience. And it went like this:

1) Pay attention to everything.
2) Ditch the flip-flops.
3) Don’t underestimate the mundane.
4) Curse the spiral stairs.

It’s now nearly two days since the stair dive. Thankfully, my head’s starting to come round. And despite the gang-inititation style welcoming of both this house and the city, I’m really starting to like it here.

Blank and the Gun

I’ll need to go back a few years to begin to explain this story. Blank was a roommate, one with an identity crisis. Half the time, I could’ve sworn he was gay. His parties were invariably full of bare chested guidos whom had NAIRed their entire bodies, I’d seen photos of him dancing naked around a Christmas tree with his friends, and whenever he did ecstasy, it was always with another dude, who we called the ecstasy friend. But that’s neither here nor there.
Blank’s identity crisis stemmed from the fact that I don’t think he realized he may have had these tendencies. Or the fact that if he did realize he had these tendencies, that he buried them under machismo, weapons mailorder catalogs and “I fucked four girls this weekend” proclamations. I didn’t care if he was gay. In fact, I would’ve preferred it. His family would kill him and his friends would disown him, but at least we would’ve had a reason for having NAIR FOR MEN in the bathroom.
Blank also had a girl that came around every so often. Well, not anymore, but at one time, she was around a few nights a week with a bag of lingerie that she would dress Blank up in. Again, I’m not here to judge. Based on the sounds coming from his room during the lingerie escapades, I think it’s safe to say that they were having a good time. But again, that’s neither here nor there.
A few months into the living arrangement, Blank and his girl went out early in the evening to a friend’s party. Blank went straight for shots and got fall down drunk pretty damn fast. His girl was in charge of getting him home, which she did no problem. Soon after, Blank passed out for the night, so his girl decided she was going to go home. When Blank, in a drunken state realized that she was leaving, he motioned for his closet. He emerged with a handgun and pointed it at his head, saying, “If you leave me, I’m going to kill myself.” Then he laid down on his bed again with the handgun at his side.
I was in the living room, drinking a few beers with my friends when Blank’s girl came in. She asked me to step into the hallway to speak with her, visibly shaken. She couldn’t even say the word “gun.” She had to make the shape of a gun with her hand and point it at her head for me to figure out what she was talking about. We went upstairs, crept into his room and hid the gun as best as possible from him. Afterwards, I escorted her to her car, gave her a hug and told her that it’s probably not a good idea to be hanging around our house. She agreed and that was that. She exited the parking lot and I went back inside. And that was hopefully the last I would ever see of this girl again.
A few weeks ahead, on a summer Saturday night, I had had a few drinks with friends. Ten miles from home and terrified of driving drunk. I went back to my car, sat inside and said “No.” It didn’t feel right and I knew I wasn’t ready. So I got back out of my car, pulled my bike from the trunk and decided to go ride around town, sweating myself up, slowly sobering. I pedaled all over the town before deciding to get a bottle of water. The time was nearing 4AM at this point, and the first edition of that morning’s Sunday papers had arrived at the convenience store. I was drinking my water and reading the headlines on a newspaper stand propped up in front of the store when I heard, “Is that, no it couldn’t be. It is, Brian Tunney.” I looked up and it was Blank’s girl, leaving the same convenience store with a bottle of juice and a new dude.

I saw that it was her and said, “Yes it is.” And then I said, “How are you?”

She smiled and responded “Good, what are you doing out here?”

“Sobering up and reading about North Korea,” I answered.

She responded, “Good” and motioned to start walking away with her new friend, then disappeared around the corner.

She had moved on, devising a surefire way out of wrong and into right. I knew we all struggled from time to time and that lingerie on men might be popular in certain bars, but somewhere down the line, things eventually cleared up.

But for the life of me, I hadn’t figured out a way to say anything about the gun til just now.