Later that night, or maybe it’s the next night (heavy weekend), I still don’t feel like going home, and Eddie lets me crash at his place. His mom tacked a note to the refrigerator. In the three years I’ve known Eddie, the only exposure I’ve ever had to his mother is the occasional note left around the house. I don’t think I’ve ever bothered asking about his father and he’s never mentioned the guy. The content of the note: irrelevant, apparently, as Eddie doesn’t bother reading it.

We grab some snacks from the kitchen, for some bizarre reason watch The Blue Lagoon, not once saying a word aloud, occasionally snickering at some of the more ridiculous or salacious moments of the film. I nod off, he wakes me, tells me I can sleep in his sister’s room, a person whom—despite being a classmate and the sibling of one of my few friends—I’ve only ever seen on three occasions in as many years. It’s probably around two in the morning, don’t see an alarm clock in the bedroom, doubt I have any real need for one, anyway.

Some time passes while I nestle in her bed, which reeks of an acidic, almost urine-like perfume, and by moonlight stare at the posters on her wall, mostly glam metal dudes in erotic yet threatening poses, usually shirtless, and one oddly incongruous (or perhaps not) poster of a tiger, staring with a sedate lust at something out of frame it can’t entirely understand. The occasional drunk driver whips by on the street outside, rock music trailing from the open windows. They’re all listening to the same radio station, WCAB: Cock and Balls…rockin’ with the Sack, and I hear the same song at different points in it, punctuated by the rushing sounds of cars evading DUI checkpoints. The Sack, an insufferably stupid alum of our high school actually named Jeremy Sachowitz, is the DJ with the big fucking mouth who can be heard between songs periodically “telling jokes” and “being funny” and “acting cool,” issuing thinly-coded warnings about concentrations of police patrols at bar time. Alright Cock-and-Ballsters you maybe wanna think about not takin’ 41 South after 60 if you catch my drift

There’s a hot new form of commercial music that is really fucking with his format, his image, his mindset, inducing a tremulous terror that’s audible in his speech when he is forced by marketers and program managers to include it in his playlists…hey I still wanna ROCK if you know what I’m sayin’ but that don’t mean I don’t love that new alternative sound I said HEY that NEW alternative sound…

I really can’t even imagine how fucking completely this dude’s world just got turned inside-out by all this. One day, he’s simply styling his micromullet in a county fair coke mirror with a switchblade comb, giving it a nice middle part and some balanced, layered feathering, and the next, just turning right on a fucking dime…a clumsy, simplistic guitar riff which somehow doesn’t remind anyone of Boston’s More Than a Feeling will emerge, suddenly and violently, and will metastasize into something unstoppable, will become the one single sound event in the entirety of human history even more common as the ring of a telephone or doorbell, and some kids who were not two weeks before listening to Def Leppard or Bell Biv Devoe and were doing their homework and flossing regularly now no longer cared and were shaving their heads or growing out their bangs and throwing out one type of logoed T-shirt for a different type of logoed T-shirt and rituals and symbols were changing or being discarded or even ritually burnt, or they at least appeared to be. Something seemed different. For almost a decade, nothing in his professional or social life changed in any meaningful way. It was exactly the same. He’d start his day or life or shift at the station with some Night Ranger, some Halen, some Foreigner, some Winger, some Dokken, whatever, end the shift or day or expression of life exactly the same way. For ten straight years. And now…

And now he’s in programming meetings where they’re politely encouraging him to maybe wear just a bit more flannel, and a bit more exposed thermal underwear, to live a little bit more of the grunge rock lifestyle, maybe drive a less-ostentatious car, maybe do something a little bit different with that hair, and he starts sweating copiously and quivering in the boardroom, freaking out, telling himself that this won’t last and they won’t replace him with some snobby girl wearing horn-rimmed glasses and it’ll pass, it’ll pass, Crüe will come back with another album and it’ll be business as usual. But a marketer will suggest to him that maybe when he uses the word homo in the future, he restrict it to neutral or positive expressions like homoerotic, because market research indicates homosexuality will be the hot new trend of the Nineties and they need to stay ahead of these cultural developments and he’s thinking of that AIDS: Kills Fags Dead T-shirt that he actually wore just last week and he’s choking, gasping, wondering over and over what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck why is this happening why what is going on I don’t understand what did I ever do to these fucking college kids to deserve this bullshit…but, ultimately, he’s right, and most of it does pass, very quickly, evaporated, nothing really changes and he keeps his job and feels a little bit dumb that he didn’t understand the play here, who would change what and what would change whom and whether the new really differed from the old in some real, lasting, meaningful way. When we’re bored, sometimes even when I’m all alone, I prank-call his bullshit radio station, screaming as many on-air obscenities as I can before he disconnects when he’s live, drawing it out as long as I can when he’s not. We usually record it and have even mailed the tapes to the station as well as his private home, a house which seems inordinately luxurious for his talents. I once saw his car—the only Porsche in the Fox Valley—at a Red Owl grocery store and I left a tape on the roof, hoping it would melt, consoling myself that if it didn’t, he would at least listen to it. I positioned myself on the other side of the parking lot to scope the car; when he returned to it with a bottle of Kessler’s and a box of windmill cookies, he simply got in and peeled out, shedding the tape onto the asphalt, never knowing it was there.

My best prank was a call to his home.

“Yelloap,” the fucking townie idiot said in his moron dialect.

“Hang up the fuckin’ phone right now,” I commanded.

“Who is this?”

“I said hang up the fuckin’ phone right now.”

“No, you fuckin’ hang up the phone. Who is this?”

“Bitch, I told you to hang up the fuckin’ phone right this goddamned instant.”

“You hang up.”

“Do you have any fucking idea who this is?”

“No, it’s what I’m tryin’ to find out.”

“Then you better hang up this motherfuckin’, cocksuckin’ phone right now,” I seethe, fangs sprouting from my gums, dripping with blood.

This went on for nearly 15 minutes until he finally fucking gave up and went to work.

Then I called him at the station, spitting: “Iknowyourfuckingroutineyoumotherfuck—”

And he hung up almost instantly this time. Some 15 years later, he was actually recruited by a Chicago radio broadcaster to be a sort of Midwestern clone of that tasteless piece of shit Howard Stern. His fan base swelled to literal millions of disgusting, drooling fucking slobs; I would see T-shirts with his bloated, misshapen face and that fucking stupid goatee, his dumb slogans and catchphrases that’s what she said and if it was in yer ass you’d know plastered on them, usually wrapped around 60 jiggling pounds of excess body fat. Some sort of intellectual property dispute erupted between his new and former employers and he could no longer go by “The Sack,” which didn’t seem to matter as it no longer related to the station’s call letters. He now called himself “The Morning Maniac”; he made “your drive to work that much more maddening.” (This is actually true.) The show itself was somewhat cumbersomely titled “The Morning Madness,” which he announced as it’s your Morning Madness with the Morning Maniac, making your…and so on.

In what would be to that point the cruelest, most vicious ass-fucking I’ve ever received by fate, one of the more popular segments of his daily four-hour show was a prank phone call skit. My prank phone call skit. He’d listened to the tapes; virtually all of them, apparently. He exploited almost every single call. Almost word for fucking word. He tapered and edited them, reduced or simplified tone or content to make for a more commercially digestible product, one that wouldn’t ran too far afoul of standards and practices and the FCC, but he was now making a living off of my taunts and depravities.

His most famous one was the “hang up right now” call. He actually included it on his sole “comedy album,” the one moderately clever component of a piece of insulting dreck which was somehow certified platinum seven times over and nominated for a Grammy as well (only to lose to Chris Rock).

Someone, an unsuspecting work acquaintance who knew nothing about my past—and evidently nothing about my tastes either—bought that “album” for me on my 32nd birthday, the well-meaning, pleasant motherfucker. It was a small, informal gathering in the breakroom with some cake and coffee, organized by some goddamned busybody in HR from whom nothing could be hidden.

The guy hands it to me, unwrapped but tied with a ribbon: “Man, you heard this yet? You don’t already got it, do you?”

I can feel myself erupting in hives: “No, man…no. I have never heard it before.”

“Kick ass, man. You’re gonna laugh your fuckin’ ass off. I listen to that dude every morning. Happy birthday, bro.”

I’m biting my tongue to keep from screaming: “Thanks…man. I…uh…I really appreciate it.”

And he won’t fucking stop now. He’s got his arm around me, pointing out all his favorite tracks on the CD, suggesting alternate track orders for maximum laughter, even offering tips to EQ it so I can better hear the background giggling of the Morning Maniac’s imbecile cohosts, a stuttering, fat diabetic also suffering from a rosacea so severe it looks like he’s set on fire every morning, and a probable sex offender with a lisp and an eye patch. My God, how I want to die, to have never existed.

But this is awaiting me in some horrible future. For the moment, I’m still languishing in the thick, fetid air of a dead summer night, unable to sleep.