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I’d Like to Play Alone, Please: Essays



I’d Like to Play Alone, Please: Essays PDF

Author: Tom Segura

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Genres:

Publish Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN-10: 1538704633

Pages: 240

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

When Jeffrey Epstein called me in the summer of 2013, I didn’t know what to make of it. We had spent time together in Paris the prior spring.

Kidding! Just checking that you’re actually reading this.

No, but seriously. This book is intended to reframe the human experience. Where Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time fell short, this book, quite simply, delivers. You’re about to read a remarkable piece of work. Not a single other person on this planet could do this, because I have a unique set of skills. Those skills are, but not limited to, a fair but not superb grasp of the English language. I speak it fluently but am not aware of a single grammatical rule. I graduated high school with a 2.1 GPA. It’s the .1 I want you to focus on. It really highlights the fighter in me. I could have sunk, but I knew to come up for air and get that .1 in my pocket. I’m also, depending on who you ask, very funny or not funny at all. Reading the book will help you decide. I underwent three major operations during the writing of this book, four if you count the vasectomy (major because my balls are).

The important thing to remember is this: This is nonfiction. I didn’t make any of it up. I also didn’t change anyone’s name to protect them. I did the opposite. If I have a photo of them, it’s in here.

One other thing: Are the Taliban really that bad? Seems like they’re a bunch of knuckleheads, but mostly the kind of guys you want to have a beer with.

“Hello,” I answered my phone.

“Heyyyy, buddy!” It’s my father’s familiar greeting. Since I was a child, I’ve been “buddy” to him. His pitch goes up, the way your voice does when you greet a little kid. He almost always sounds like he can’t believe I answered. “I can’t talk right now,” he continued.

“You called me.

Nothing is as equally frustrating and recognizable as my dad’s absolutely insane social skills. The way he navigates phone calls and conversations in general, I have no idea how he operates in the world, never mind how he once held down a high-level corporate job.

Where was he going with this?

“I’ll call you back.” Silence.

Did that exchange seem odd to you? Well, it seems on par for me. Normal, even, if you know my dad. Ret. Marine Corps Capt. Thomas N. Segura. We have different middle names, so I’m not a junior—something he’s pointed out to me, his own son, no less than four thousand times. Almost everyone who has spent any significant time with my father has a similar story about him: “We were in the middle of a conversation and then… he just walked away.” Keep in mind that he doesn’t excuse himself. There’s no “I’ll be right back.” My dad will just walk away from what you would perceive as a “hang,” or he’ll hang up the phone during a “conversation” by injecting a simple “Okay, I gotta go.” The phone part he usually does once he’s done talking and now you are the one sharing something with him, like a thought, a concern, or a story. I wish there were an easy explanation for this, like a developmental or behavioral issue. It isn’t either of those things. He knows that we all share virtually the same experience with him.

“I get bored and I don’t waste my time once I feel that way.” Oh, so we’re boring you? Wonderful.

One spring break during college, I brought my roommates down to Florida, where my parents live, to stay for a few days. One evening, Casey, my 4.0 GPA, super polite, thoughtful roommate, came over to me wide-eyed.

“Hey, man. I don’t know what I did, but I think I offended your dad.”

“What’d you say?”

“Well, that’s just it. I don’t know. I was talking to him… and then he just walked away. He’s in another room now.” I reassured Casey that what he had experienced was normal for my dad. When I went to chastise my father, who was by then watching television, he barely registered it. “Oh, well, I was done talking. Watching this now.”

At my cousin’s recent wedding, a former neighbor who only knew me as a small child told me that at the reception my father did the same to him, only the neighbor laughed. “He hasn’t changed one bit!” After all these years I can say that I almost admire the way he disengages once the conversation doesn’t serve his interests, but I don’t. I still get upset, actually. I sometimes let it slide, but every now and then I feel like I have to call him out. To be clear, it still has absolutely zero effect on him when I do. What’s even more, he likes to say that he’s “gotten much better about that.” He hasn’t. And it doesn’t take much to convince him of that either.

“You really haven’t gotten better.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, really.”

“I’m wondering if I have cancellation insurance on the cruise in October.”

“What?”

See? He just doesn’t stay in the moment—unless it involves his ass.

When my dad isn’t walking away from you because he’s bored or hanging up the phone because he’s not interested in what you have to say, then he is probably going on about something in his digestive tract. Most, and I do mean most, of my dad’s phone calls and conversations in person and on the phone are about shitting, farting, wiping, or wishing he was doing one of those things. Countless times I have answered my phone and my father starts describing a bowel moment in complete sincerity and without saying hello.

Me: Hello.

My dad: Ya ever get some shit on your hand and then you have to reach back and wipe with the hand you don’t normally wipe with? I had one of those today. I gotta get this call. Talk to you later.

This is not a joke to him. To him, bowel movements are not simply a joy, they are criminally underappreciated by the masses, and he has taken it upon himself to spread the good word. He has named himself the head publicist of this cause, and he wants you to listen. If you’re not a believer now, please just spend a few minutes listening to my father’s convincing pleas. “It’s something we all do, but no one wants to talk about it!” is a favorite expression of his. He is making up for literally everyone who doesn’t want to talk about the seven different fart smells he recognizes from himself. Each smell, he says, tells him what will happen next. And it’s knowing that that gives him comfort and security.

“I can tell if I’m gonna be sick or constipated just by my smell.” My father also has nicknames for the different bowel movements he produces. “Sloppy Joes,” “Number Sevens,” and “Cherry Bombs” all mean very specific things to him, and if you spend enough time with him, you can learn all these cool details too! “Cherry Bombs get splatter on the cheeks, Sloppy Joes just kind of fall out of you.” He’s proud to have these distinctions and happy to discuss any and all of this in detail with anyone. He’s told some of his shitting stories so many times that he’ll refer to them by their titles: “Orlando Airport,” “The Miami Trip,” “Lobster.” As his son, I know how to crack each code. He shit his pants at the Orlando airport and had to throw out his underwear in the stall. He took, according to him, the biggest shit in the history of mankind on a family vacation in Miami, one that he swears had an adverse effect on his digestive system. Oh, he also shit his pants in the lobby of a hotel after eating lobster once.

If there was one thing I could count on as a constant throughout my childhood, it was the ritual of my dad watching television in bed, wearing his paper-thin boxers. He’d be lying on his side, and from time to time he’d reach back with one hand, grimace, fart, then bring that hand immediately to his nose. “Why are you smelling that hand you farted in?” I must have asked hundreds of times.

“So I can tell what’s going on inside of me.”

More fun than pointing out what’d he done was pointing it out to my mother, who no doubt had trained herself to ignore what she found repulsive. It was my self-appointed duty to remind her. I loved upsetting her as a child and continue to want to horrify her to this day. Truly, nothing makes me laugh harder than seeing my mother recoil with utter disgust and bewilderment. “Why does it give you pleasure to be so disgusting?” is her mantra with me.

My honest-to-God, hand-on-the-Bible answer is “I don’t know.” I really don’t know why, but I love to see people, and especially my mother, aghast at what I have said or shown them.

My brain registered early on that my mother and father didn’t entirely seem like a match. Not the way other parents seemed to be. First of all, there was definitely a communication issue. My mother married my father when she was thirty-one years old. She had spent her first thirty-one years in her native Peru. Her English-speaking level was, in her words, “shit,” or “chet,” as she would say it. They’re both old-school Catholic and often point to that when all their glaring differences come to light: “But we have God.” I mean that’s great, but shouldn’t you line up on a couple other interests?

My dad is a barbarian. He was a three-time state champion Olympic weight lifter. As a lieutenant in the Marine Corps, he led a platoon of men in battle in Vietnam (he retired a captain). He loves street jokes. Bad ones. He’s basically a savage: burps, farts, chicks, and guns.

My mother married him as a virgin. I’m sorry I know that. She came from an era and a place where that wasn’t unusual. She prays the rosary anytime a car ride lasts longer than ten minutes. She likes petting dogs, playing bridge, and worrying a lot out loud. She has exemplary manners. She’s anxious, paranoid, and often hilarious. She’s legit funny. Some people are just born with it. She knows how to tell a story; she knows to build tension, exaggerate certain details, add color to characters, and give commentary throughout the story. She honestly does it much better than a lot of comedians I know.

As a kid I put together that my mother would disassociate when my father was being gross. She would either physically leave the room, distract herself, or, my favorite, yell at him. Whenever I was in the same room as the two of them and he was doing something repulsive, I felt the urge to point it out. I wanted her to notice. This way I could see the disturbed expression creep onto her face and maybe get one of her hilarious verbal rants going.

“Did you see what Dad just did?”

“Ay!” she would say in her heavily accented English. “Iz so deesgusting! Tom, please! Animals don’t do what you are doing.”

If you think that unsolicited conversations about farts and shits are the only thing my father talks about, you would be gravely mistaken. He’s also a big, BIG fan of talking about war. All wars are a thrill to talk about, but the Vietnam war is the one my father participated in, and he will talk about its atrocities without warning, with a straight face, like he’s mentioning which barbecue place makes the best coleslaw. Some vets need to feel comfortable with people to be willing to share stories of the most traumatic experience of their lives with them. My dad just needs you to be near him. I’ve introduced friends to my father, and within moments: “So we’re coming over hill sixty-five, and let me tell ya something, the Vietcong were known for mines. We come down the hill and boom, guy next to me stepped on a mine. Lost both legs and his torso is blown wide open.”

“Uh, Dad. I think the server is waiting for us to order.”

As I’ve gotten older he’s shared more and more about the war. I can’t imagine what it’s like to keep that stuff inside. It’s without question one of the worst things a human being can experience, and I’m certain it forever changes who you are. I’m glad he feels comfortable enough to continue telling these stories. His timing, though, is almost always odd. Many car rides with him have bouts of complete silence and then, “A fifty-millimeter gun is really a game changer. We knew the enemy was over this bridge and they thought they were safe. Didn’t know we had a fifty on us. With a fifty, you can hit someone in the shoulder—dead. Let’s stop for gas soon, buddy.”

No person or setting is too sacred for my dad’s death stories. We once got together for a rare extended family gathering. Cousins, uncles, and aunts were seated and eating. My father actually waited until people were settled in before he decided to bring up what a “sucking chest wound” is. “Sometimes when a guy is shot in the chest it’ll create a hole in his lungs and their lungs can collapse from the added pressure or they’ll just take blood in through the wound and drown in their own blood.”

Care to pass the mashed potatoes?

War stories are one of the few things my dad actively tries to shield my mom from. I don’t know why he thinks she can’t handle them but a stranger can. I do my best to get those stories into my mother’s head, once again, to upset her. I also love telling her about horrific crimes I hear on the news. The more disturbing, the better. The goal has always been and continues to be to get my mother to react the same way she did when I was a kid and had just pointed out that my dad had smelled his own fart: physical repulsion followed by verbal displeasure. “Ay, Tommy, why? Why does it make you happy to be this way?”

It just does.

I should note that even with all his talk of bowel movements and brutal war stories, the savage I call “dad” was as tender and gentle as they come. He always said “I love you” and always hugged and kissed me. He died just weeks after this manuscript was handed in, after a long battle with cancer. I’ll never get to hear another story about farts or Nam. No more absurd phone calls that just end without warning. Days before he passed, he asked me if I knew what happens after someone dies.

“What?”

“The world goes on.”


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