At first slap I hated Diary of an Oxygen Thief with a passion I usually reserve for people who shuffle when they walk. And I say slap because I was reading it in bed and it fell on my face, effectively bitch-slapping me. I took it as a sign that I needed to read the damn thing.
About 17 pages into it I started to get that “Oh sh*tballs” feeling. You know the one: it’s kind of like a toothache. It’s the most consuming pain but your tongue, that floppy idiot traitor, seeks out that toothache and pokes at it for the thrill of the hurt.
Diary of an Oxygen Thief is by an author who decided not to use his name. I say “he” because the writing is eye-squintingly masculine (in good way). It’s about an alcoholic Irish man who would drink the Thames if he heard a rumor that someone dumped a bottle of vodka in it. The more he drinks, the more he decides to hurt every woman who falls in love with him:
“I liked hurting girls. Mentally, not physically.”
He seduces women into his world by pretending to be THAT guy: the one who’s a good listener and leans in further as if to catch every word that falls out of her mouth. He makes love with his eyes wide open all the while snickering at how he’s going to tear a woman’s life apart. Just when a woman exposes her heart to him he cuts them loose. He ghosts on them. I came across the term ghost a couple of years ago. Ghosting is when you don’t actually break up with someone (be it a friend or lover) but you ignore them until they’re hurt, baffled, and finally disappear for good. Anonymous sits down to a romantic dinner at a pub with his girlfriend of 4 1/2 years. While she’s smiling with that idiot smile of love at him he begins his destruction:
“This is what I look like when I’m pretending to be in love with you.”
He gets off on seeing the confusion swirling in her eyes, the half-smile melting from her lips like cheap lipstick in a heat wave. What follows after this break up is a gift from the karma police.
He drinks and drinks and becomes sick of his life. I mean, he’s just OVER it. He decides to get sober, becomes a faithful AA attendee and doesn’t touch a woman in 5 years, terrified he’ll regress and hurt someone. Besides, he’s gotten his act together so why screw it up with a complicated relationship?
And then he meets HER. I have to spell it as HER because she’s the one who coaxes him out of celibacy, both physically and mentally. She has a name but it might as well be God in his eyes. No description of her does her justice. She’s every gorgeous painting that caused the looker heartache. She’s every song that is played on repeat. She is God, life, sex all rolled into one. Our poor narrator becomes insecure, a man who once beguiled dozens of women and is now so unsure of himself. He’s imagining a life together with her: suburban house, picket fence, rug rats running around with a dog. She’s non-committal:
“So, you want to get together for dinner?” He asks.
“Um…..yeah,” she replies and then shows up 45 minutes late.
He finds himself in too deep and has to restrain himself from calling her 30 times a day.
Let me regress a little. I mean digress. Who hasn’t done that, developed some super heavy feelings for someone and then made promises to ourselves in the name of dignity and sanity that we won’t fill up their voicemail with uncertain false cheer:
“Hiya. Thought I’d call and see how you’re doing.”
Translation: “I haven’t stopped thinking about you, everything reminds me of you. I saw a plastic bag floating down the street in a frisky breeze and it reminded me of that scarf you wore that matched the green of your eyes and I’m counting down the minutes until I can accidentally brush your hand with mine and die in suspense wondering if you’ll thread you’re fingers through mine.”
Oh God. I related to him so hard that I had to put the book down, flip my stupid heart the bird, and try to repress wanting to vomit thinking about what I’ve done when I’ve had a crush on someone. I was into this guy once for all the wrong reasons. Since I am socially retarded and not used to men giving me compliments I couldn’t exactly do what I did to Joe Clifford in second grade: I pushed him to the ground threw a rock at him and screamed “I REALLY LIKE YOU. DO YOU LIKE ME?” and then ran off. That kind of crap will get you arrested nowadays. Nah. This time around I would leave little notes for my crush, telling him I was thinking about him, wondering how his day was going all the while behind the words I was asking “Do you ever think of me?”
Being human is crap sometimes, folks. For real.
Our anonymous Irish recovering alcoholic has a streak of paranoia in him because he thinks that since he’s screwed over so many women, the universe is out to get him. It kind of is. The universe is whispering to him “Karma’s a bitch, dude. Assume the crash position.” The object of his affection barely makes an effort to spend time with him, breaking last-minute plans, not even trying to get to know him. Well, ladies and germs, that’s the hardest lesson I’ve learned in my 39 years twirling around on this planet like an idiot. If someone doesn’t make an effort to be with you, can’t be bothered to even call you, cut them off like the tags to a mattress (don’t worry; they don’t really arrest people for cutting those tags off).
He decides to write everything down and calls it Diary of an Oxygen Thief:
Ultimately, he doesn’t rage about how she’s treated him. He has reaped what he sowed and though it sounds clichéd, he finally understands all the soul scarring pain he’s caused other people. While I’m not reeling over the crushes I’ve had ten years ago, I’m a lot like a two-year old who stuck a fork into the wall outlet: I’m definitely not doing that again.
But our Irish drunk believes in love. That’s something good to hold on to.
I, however, would rather have a candlelight dinner with my cat who doesn’t care how my day went as long as I have the food on the table in a timely manner.