Monday, June 14, 2010

I Got This Bruise Stage Diving by Matt Hegdahl

Lie. It’s what I do best, the only thing I’ve ever really excelled at. I spent my childhood constantly avoiding punishment from my mother’s soft but violent hand. I had to learn the art of the lie. I had to develop my skill set and, with age, was able to fine-tune it. The lie, for me, has become a thing of beauty.


The chair in the therapist’s office is comfortable, leather and at times a bit sticky, but, nonetheless, it serves its purpose. She thinks she knows, she thinks she’s peered into my soul. She believes that because of her efforts I have realized my true desires.

Her legs cross, just enough skin showing to be sexy but not too much to be unprofessional.

“How have you been dealing with the dreams?” Her pencil taps her notepad in anticipation.

“What I’ve decided, more like the…no, well I don’t know, with the abruptness of the death and everything I feel like it, ha…I’m not sure.”

“I understand.” A strand of hair drops in her face; she ignores it as she scribbles something on the pad. “Same time next week?” She asks.


My girlfriend is a different story. She doesn’t think she knows anything. I think she knows quite a bit, just nothing about me. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about damaged goods that turn me on. If I’m walking through a grocery store I get a rush at the site of bent cans or crushed cracker boxes. Bruised fruit is my Achilles Heel. I love her—at least I’m pretty sure I do. I fake the majority of my life, and with that much faking, it becomes difficult for me to decide what’s real and what’s manifested. That aside, I’m pretty sure I love her.

She’s damaged in all the right areas. When she was little, her parents split. Not on her, just with each other. I don’t think it was so much the divorce that destroyed her, just the inability to choose a side. Her parents are extremists when it comes to pacifism. In fact, they’re certifiably insane when it comes to love, compassion and peace. The divorce is shrouded in “I love you” and “We just weren’t right for each other.” So there she is, four or five or something, and her parents split. Her dad moves a block down the street, and they agree to joint custody. She has free reign of both houses and does whatever she wants. She’s never punished, never given a curfew and always given everything she wanted. She forms issues with her father not caring enough, her mother not being overbearing enough, her independence not being inhibited enough, and her biggest issue becomes the lack of guidance.

She was given the opportunity to do whatever she wanted, make her own life decisions. Money was not a problem in her family. She had the best tutors, the best schools, the best teachers, best toys. She had everything and still could not find happiness.

It’s like karma blessed her with the curse of a fortunate life. Imagine it, karma comes down and hears a mother and father discussing divorce. Karma sees this little girl, four or five or something, and this little girl is crying. Karma, having all this compassion that she does, decides that this little girl will never struggle.

What karma didn’t know is that this girl wanted struggle; she wanted torment and pain. She tried to make it happen, she tried to date the wrong boys, hang out with the wrong crowds, and she even tried getting hooked on drugs. Everything she attempted always ended up working out in her favor. The boys she’d approach would have a sudden change of heart and no longer want to just have sex with someone. They were looking for a meaningful relationship. The groups with black makeup and cigarettes dangling from their mouths would turn to healthy lifestyles and become the model for a “good friend.” It was hopeless for her. She wanted nothing more than pain and misery in her life. She wanted to be treated poorly and know what it’s like to feel lost or confused or wrong. She thought college would fix everything.

The same thing happened to her in college, she had such an aura about her that everyone continued to change for the better while all she wanted was to be bad. She had heard girls cry about the terrible things their boyfriends would do to them, the horrific experiences that came with one-night-stands. She heard stories of the fear of having missed a period, the depression and regret of having to drop out of school because of a baby and the depression and regret of going to a clinic in order to stay in school. She heard all of these things, saw the sadness, the stupidity of it and wanted nothing more than to have to deal with it.

As expected, she breezed through college, found a great job with great pay and remained so extremely miserable that she spent all her free time thinking about how miserable she wished her life was.


I’m not an avid follower of the band “Anal Cunt,” but I do enjoy the crowd that they attract. It’s similar to watching a white supremacist inspect himself for fleas while his sister scrubs his back with a dead porcupine that soaked in moonshine for the last three days then adding a death metal aspect to the whole ratio. These guys know how to let a crowd enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Circle pits, mosh pits, thrash pits and anything else you could ever wish to find at a death metal concert. I find myself at times, searching for a beating. Not the kind of thing you get from one on one punishment but the thing that just happens when there’s nothing more than a group fists flying through the air, and they don’t care if it’s your face that stops them.

She shows up simply because of the band name. She saw a poster at some obscure coffee shop. The name screamed at her, but she wasn’t sure until she checked out the music. After seeing songs with titles like “Hitler was a Sensitive Man” and “Van Full of Retards.” She knew she would not be disappointed.

I crawl out of the crowd, bleeding from the nose. My face was raw from other people fists. On my hands and knees, I grope for the wall or whatever and what I grab is her. She helps me to my feet, and I see it, the beauty in her eyes, the suppleness of her lips. Her hair, it’s amazing.

She looks at my face and started dabbing the blood away from my nose with a handkerchief. Next thing I know I’m in a car with her, she’s driving, it all goes a little blank. I wake up, partially undressed, blood-free, in a bed.

“I’m assuming you were on something, some sort of drug.” She says as she walks into the room with a cup of coffee.

“Whiskey.” I say bluntly as I gladly take the cup. I put it to my lips and drink in the darkness.

“I’m worried about your face. What happened to you last night?”

I look around for a mirror. No luck, so I used my coffee cup, the black liquid reflects a face that had been beaten badly. “I got this bruise stage diving.” I tell her. It would be one of the few times she hears the truth from me.

“Does it hurt?” She asks.

I gently put a finger to my swollen cheek, fight the instinct to wince and say, “Nah, it’s not bad.” I give her a smile, a wink then a nod. “You’re a sexy little thing. Why would you bring me home?”

She smiles, moves toward me and says. “I felt sorry for you, and I thought you were cute.”

And that was that. The easiest time in bed I’d ever had. After that, a week went by, I didn’t call. She didn’t call. Eventually, I hit a dry spell, so I called her. She was down, so it was golden. This went on for a while, and I thought I’d scored the lottery.

It wasn’t three months after we met at the concert that we went from “friends with benefits” to “full on relationship.” I haven’t changed shit, and she likes it that way. I still go to nasty metal concerts and bang even nastier metal bitches. I make my way home and sometimes spend the night with her afterwards. I lie to her constantly.


I’m at the therapist’s office.

“Okay shrink,” I say, “What am I supposed to do about this dude that keeps wanting the same thing, and he never cares that I can’t deliver because of some lame excuse I give him?”

Pen in hand, she taps the notebook. “He knows you’re not telling the truth?” She asks.

“Of course he knows, there’s no way he couldn’t know, he’d be a moron to believe me!”

“You’re positive he knows you’re lying to him?” She asks again.

“Yes!” I can’t help but put my head in my hands.

“I wish I could help you, but our time has ended. Take a few moments throughout the week and reflect on what you’ve told me. Give it some thought, and try to decide if, in fact, this man truly knows you’re lying to him, or it’s only that you wish he knew. I’ll see you next week.” With that she closes her notebook sends me out the door.


Later that week, I’m at the bar with Bukowski, drinking beer and reading poetry. I’m thinking about women and taking advice from the master. There are parts of me that want to smack the shit out of myself, other times I feel like I need to smack the shit out of her. I’m torn because I don’t know if she knows. I decide to test it.

“Hey babe, I’m going out with some friends of mine from the gym tonight.” I tell her.

“That’s nice, who are they?” She asks.

“Just some of the girls from the yoga class I enrolled in. You know, real flexible and in really great shape.”

“That’s nice, you coming back tonight or staying out all night?” She asks me as though it’s not a problem.

“I don’t know, we’ll see where things lead,” I say. With that I walk out of the house and down the street. I get less than a block away, and I’m practically screaming on the inside. My inner-self is joyous. My soul is confused, and my conscience has resurrected. I feel free and terrible and bored and angry. I’m pissed that she knows but happy that I can do whatever I want. That night I sleep in the backyard. I avoid the house just to test her.


My therapist taps her pen on her bare knee. She’s wearing that cute outfit, it’s not showing enough to be sexy, but it’s showing just enough to perk up my imagination and for me to determine that she’s cute. I stare at her. I haven’t been sleeping the greatest due to my tests.

“So, did you find out if your friend knows?” She asks.

“Oh, I’ve found out plenty, more than I wanted to know.” I notice that she’s looking at me in an odd way. I’m excited about this. “He knows everything, he knows that I’m out-right lying to him and doesn’t care, I might as well rub it in his face.”

“You haven’t?” She asks.

“No. Should I?”

“Have you talked to him about the lies? Have you taken the initiative in the relationship and brought it up?” She asks. I stare at her eyes and feel like she’s trying so hard to peer into my soul, past the lies and trying to get to the truth.


Another night later down the road, she’s getting ready to settle down with a book. I’m trying to work up the energy to go out. My goal is simple: get laid. I feel like she doesn’t care.

“You just gonna read again tonight?” I ask.

“Yeah, this is really good book. Are you going out?”

“Maybe.” I’m trying to be blunt.

“What are you doing?” She asks.

“A little of this and a little of that, I might not be home tonight.”

“That’s nice, just have a good time,” she says.


The leather sticks to my arms; it’s hot outside, and my therapist is too cheap to turn on the air conditioner. I’m not happy.

“So you talked to him about your issue?” She scribbles something down on her pad.

“Sort of.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve been very direct with the fact that I’m not being a loyal friend, but he doesn’t seem to care. I feel like I have free reign, and I’m not sure what to do with this much freedom.” This is as honest as I feel like getting with her. I’m struggling here, and I’ve found myself actually trying to use my therapist for therapy. It’s shameful is what it is.

“I don’t know what else to tell you. The truth is the best.” She put pen to paper and scribbles again. “Our time is up. See you next week?”


It’s raining outside, I can’t stand it any longer. My cell tells me it’s close to 12:30 in the morning; I’m wet, cold and pretty sure I’m forming an inner-ear infection. Defeated, I enter the house and find her in bed, reading a book. The covers are pulled up to her waist, and she’s sitting up in bed holding the book with both hands, the way people sit in bed and read books.

“You’re home early,” she says as she smiles at me.

Water leaks from my shoes onto her nice white carpet as I put one foot in front of the other. I walk to the bed and don’t even bother removing my wet clothes before plopping down on the bed. “I can’t get laid,” I say bluntly.

“I’m sorry.” She says.

“You should be!” I scream at her, “I have been completely unable to be unfaithful to you for the last few months! Do you know what it’s like to try to pull a piece of ass when your girlfriend is home all alone, sitting in bed, reading some book? Do you know what it’s like?” I fall backwards on the comforter. “it’s impossible.”

She carefully places the receipt she uses as a makeshift bookmark in between the pages, closes the book and places it on her lap. Her head turns, and I see a just a little bit of a tear in her eye. She composes herself and says to me, “You’ll just have to work on that then.” The book gets placed on her nightstand. She turns off the light and goes to bed.

I’m not sure what this is. The one time I’m honest with her, truly honest with her, and I’m left in a puddle of my own confusion. There is a feeling of something inside me, love or whatever it is, I’m not sure, but what I do know is that it’s for her. I know that I want to make her happy, which means I’m going to be spending a lot of nights out in the backyard, pretending like I’m out getting shit-faced and laid.

-This title comes from the immortal Conan O’Brien. He's going through a rough patch.
-Matt Hegdahl has his BA in English and Theater from Southwest Minnesota State University. He is also the author of the play Bottle Necked .


  1. I like the idea of a good girl wanting a bad guy turning a bad guy good. It makes sense.

    I like the paragraph that starts "As expected..." because it kind of becomes a reverse fairy tale.

    - dan

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  3. Not Ozzie and Harriet but, really, kind of close. In a dark and twisted way, of course. But then, there's a dark and twisted core in most all of us. In a way it kind of reminds me of the sudden rise and quicker demise of Punk . . . hey wait a minute. Was it supposed to do that?
    I'll think about this one for a while. Thanks.