When my cousin would get drunk, he’d tell me he loves me and then punch me in the face. Whenever we’d go out drinking, I’d always get ready for punches and pronouncements of love. One time, he chased me into the back of a Kmart, where there was a bunch of garbage and swamp and gutters and concrete and it looked like the entrance to Hell and his whole goal was to punch me in the face. He was shouting, “I love you, you cock-smock,” or something like that, which meant his fist was craving my face, so I just ran, sober, because I tended to be designated the designated driver, because that’s how the night always seemed to be designed, and because I didn’t need to drink to be an idiot.

A quick side story, but we formed a thrash metal band where we would yell “Switch!” and then rotate instruments like volleyball players moving to their next position on the court, except we’d switch to another instrument and we didn’t care if you could play it because it was thrash metal and not classical, although I’d love to see an orchestra do the same thing, seeing a triangle player trying and failing brilliantly at playing the tuba and the tuba player trying to blow into a drum kit and the oboe player trying to play another instrument I can’t think of.  But anyway, I was in the role of screamer and we switched, so that I became the drummer, except I couldn’t play the drums, so my whole goal was to hit them as hard as I could, except I didn’t realize you can turn drumsticks into shrapnel if you smash them on the metal on the side of the drums, which I forgot about, and the drumsticks just exploded so that I just had basically two toothpicks in my hands, so I switched back to screaming and the drummer found some other drumsticks and I took off my shirt and just went nuts like I was Iggy Pop in Slayer and after one song, they said that was enough, but the place went crazy for us, because we were in Hickey’s Bar in Ishpeming and the bar is named after what you do to someone’s neck while having sex, so this wasn’t the Holy Vatican Drinking Establishment or the Teetotalers Non-Alcoholic Citrus Peach Cooler Bistro. No, this was Hickey’s. And this was Ishpeming. A town that begins with Ish-. And ending with -peming, which is what you do to someone’s private parts when you’re having Spirytus Stawski, the highest percent alcohol drink in the world. Although maybe I’m wrong about what –peming means, but that’s what it sounds like to me. To pem. Having pemmed. Anyway, we got done. Mad applause. Mostly because we were the opposite of boredom. Not particularly good. But the opposite of boredom. And so I went up to the bar to get a drink and the bartender said, “You’re cut off.” And I asked what he meant and he said I’d had too much to drink already and the beauty was that I was completely sober.

Because I don’t need to drink to be an idiot. You’re welcome.

The point—bringing this back to that 1980’s Kmart—was that my cousin was insisting he just gave me one single gentle harsh brutal knuckle to the cheek so that tomorrow I’d look in the mirror and see what love looks like in the U.P.; purpura and contusion and peripeteia and all the other ugly words of medicine. But I realized that drinking reverts someone to childhood. Except he was a teenager, so not exactly a senior citizen, but I realized I needed to distract him like I’d once seen this gorgeously perfect hot girl named Julie do with a little baby that was crying. She just held up something like a shoelace and pretended it was a relic of the Blessed Maria Gabriella, just gasping like, “Oh my goodness, what is this miracle in my hand,” and the baby bought it because babies are dumb and so I did that with my cousin, seeing some long, and I mean loooooooooooooooong neon light bulbs that looked virginal, just waiting to be thrown up against the wall and so I held one up like it held the secrets to the universe and my cousin stopped and I pointed to this massive vulgar forever useless wall that was the back of the Kmart and he understood immediately what we needed to do, so we picked up those neon light bulbs and smacked them as hard as we could against the brick or rammed earth or straw bales or barracuda intestines or concrete skulls or whatever that wall was made of and all I knew is that the lighting back there was perfect to see the glass like freaking gamma-ray bursts going in every direction possible, east south west north and even directions never invented yet like sest and nouth and eath and waste, and we felt like we were somebody, for once, not just small-town unemployment-oversaturated ice-village missing-on-maps northern Michiganders, not invisible-Yoopers, but with each explosion the glass screaming for us, WE EXIST TOO!