To everyone I've ever known, or who has been a part of my life, however distant:
Hi. I'm Ashley Davis. Anybody remember me? If not, that's ok; I am and always have been an extremely shy creature. If you do know me, or did happen to notice me at one time or another, maybe you've also noticed the palpable waves of anxiety which exude constantly from my pores, and were or are careful to avoid those waves lest they insinuate into your own pores, or into the pores of other things close to you that have pores. Has anyone ever noticed that when in close proximity with me, now, or way back when, or whenever? I notice it all the time.
Anywho. I just had to get that part said and out of the way... mostly so that anyone who didn't know it will now know, under no uncertain terms, that I'm a dude, and not a chick. And Matt Davis is my brother. Matthew Davis. Surely some of ya'll know him, right? Ok. So, here's me; Matt's little brother, Ash. People call me Ash nowadays. Not Ashley. ASH. GOT THAT?!?
No, I've never had any issues due to the cold, hard, riveted in tungsten fact that yes, I am a guy, through and through, no doubt about that, but I'm also a guy who happens to be saddled permanently with a girlie name. I mean, when I was a little kid at elementary school, it would be perfectly fitting for anyone from a single child all the way up to an entire posse of children to point at me while chanting in a sing-song manner, 'girlie boy, girlie boy, Ashley is a girlie boy!' And after a few years, it wouldn't even bother me anymore. It's just a simple fact that being violently branded at birth with a girlie name absolutely did NOT wound and/or scar my developing psyche during my formative years.
For some reason, I'm compelled to reiterate this now:
I was in fact a little boy, but instead of having a little boys name as did other normal, functional little boys, I had a little girls name. Fortunately, it seemed as if I were seemingly perfectly ok with this. Allow me to hallucidate.
Oh, and I just made up that word on the spot, by the way. It's a combination of hallucinate and elucidate. That is... to elucidate, as in to explain in more detail, and to hallucinate, which is what I'm doing in my mind as I relive those old memories like a bad acid trip. Moving on...
AS I WAS SAYING, I WAS A LITTLE BOY WITH A LITTLE GIRLS NAME, AND THIS WAS OF COURSE THE CASE DURING MY FORMATIVE YEARS, AND NEVER EVER EVER EVER DID I EVER SIGN MY NAME AS ROBBIE DAVIS TO MY HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENTS SIMPLY BECAUSE ROBBIE IS A BOYS NAME AND NOT A GIRLS NAME, AND I WAS ALWAYS WELL ADJUSTED, EVEN THOUGH THROUGHOUT ALL OF THIS, BEING A BOY WITH A GIRLS NAME THAT IS, MY DAD WAS A TERRIFYING ALCOHOLIC, WHICH MERELY ADDED TO THE CONFUSION, IF YOU CAN IMAGINE AN 8 YEAR OLD BOY WITH A FATHER WHO RANDOMLY WENT INSANE FOR NO REASON THAT MY 8 YEAR OLD BRAIN COULD DISCERN, MEANING THAT HE WOULD OCCASIONALLY DRINK IN EXCESS, RESULTING IN A DRAMATIC AND FRIGHTENING CHANGE IN PERSONALITY, BUT TO AN 8 YEAR OLD WHO DOESN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THAT, IT MEANS THAT HIS DAD CAN JUST PACK UP AND HEAD RIGHT OFF THE HILLS OF LA-LA LAND FOR NO REASON AT ALL AND IS LIABLE TO DO THAT AT ANY OLE TIME AT ALL, JUST ANY OLE TIME, AND JUST IN CASE YOU'RE WONDERING, TO GO INSANE MEANS TO BECOME A TERRIFYING ANTI-DAD WHO IS THE EXACT AND COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF THE NORMAL, OK, AND RIGHT WITH THE WORLD DAD, RANDOMLY AND WITH NO WARNING OR REASON AT ALL, AND I NEVER KNEW WHY UNTIL AFTER I WAS ALL GROWED UP!
Whoops, my caps lock key must have gotten stuck, probably due to an ancient sodium deposit left over from all of the forgotten tears that I must have cried incessantly at some unspecified point in the past. I really don't remember. All I know is that I've always been deliriously happy, ever.
Ok ok ok. I realize that I have some issues, which naturally makes the story of what I'm about to tell - and there is a point to all of this carrying on and such - a painful process, in a life-ripping kind of way. And what's a tragic tale of woe and regret without a liberal dash of random malfukshuning chunks of human psyche? It's kind of useful actually, as I'll have plenty of material with which to be self deprecating in order to make bearable the telling of it. And confession is good for the soul. I hope.
In truth, I don't really know to what extent having a girlie-boy name had to do with why I've always been morbidly, psychotically, and pathologically shy, to the point that I've turned to drugs as viable solution #1, and possibly maybe even suicide as viable solution #2 if solution #1 becomes untenable, or if a life just naturally tilted toward the path of least resistance - that is, straight to hell in a hand basket - doesn't get me first. I do remember however, that being a little boy with a girlie name caused me quite a bit of distress growing up. Maybe I'm just defective, and would have turned out this way inevitably, even if I'd been named something manly like DickJackson Jones. Who knows? Anyone? Seriously, if anyone knows, tell me. It won't change anything, but it would at least be funny if that were the case, and I'd get a good guffaw out if it.
So, if I do happen to bumble comically like a cat with no whiskers into my own gloriously inept self destruction, please let it be by falling out of an airplane, high over a populated area, strapped to a grizzly sized teddy bear stuffed full of dynamite with a five second fuse, and with no clue as to how I wound up that way. Then I guess my problems would be gone... not solved though, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Gone ain't the same as solved. That would be like simply erasing an incomplete equation for eleven dimensional string theory from the blackboard. Voila. No problem. And no solution, either... because, you know, I really don't wanna die. I'd rather live and be happy. Wouldn't anyone? I know Jerral would have.
The reason why I went off like a lunatic like that with a mad exposition of my life and development and my insecurities and everything is because in describing all of this, I have to describe my part in this horror story I'm telling, and and to do that I need to describe myself, with all the ugliness intact (and that was just an introduction, by the way). And also, I dunno... I might uncover something good. Maybe that's the reason I'm really writing all of this, because honestly, hating myself is killing me, slowly.
The other character in this little midden heap of memories is Jerral Wayne Johnson. Anybody remember him? He's dead, by the way. Jerral killed himself, and I understand to a large degree why he did it... and although I know that the responsibility for his death does not lie squarely upon my shoulders, it's impossible for me to simply ignore the part I played in it, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive myself for it.
I didn't know Jerral personally until the spring semester of '90, when we ran into each other at NTCC. My grandma had taken me there to register for art classes. My grandma tried so hard to guide me and to make sure I started out life on a good path. She taught music to me and gave music to me for twenty years, she tried to teach me the value of an honest days work and an honest dollar earned and saved, she tried her best to help instill in me good Christian morals and habits, she helped me to buy my first car... and she paid for my first semester of college. That's what we were doing that day. She did so much for me, and tried so hard doing it. God, I'm so sorry, grandma. I miss you.
Like I was saying, I didn't know Jerral until the day we actually met at the community college in Mount Pleasant; although I knew of him, of course. Practically everyone I went to school with did, because the man could draw. He had skills that I can only dream about. He was an amazing artist, while I was merely good; although he consistently claimed that I was better. What a considerate lie. I was in awe of him, and I still am, even though he's gone now.
Another thing about Jerral is he was one scary, intimidating son-of-a-bitch, who would just as soon squash you like a bug as look at you... dammit though, that wasn't really him, it was just an image he'd created to deal with his shyness. Yeah, as it turns out, down underneath, the big scary monster was just as shy as I was.
That's why the two unlikeliest people in the World - or at least the county, which is still saying something - came together, and beyond all reason and expectations we actually got along, the two of us. I never would have imagined it back then, that this monstrous human beast, armed with a level infinity pencil and about a hundred pounds of muscle (did I mention that Jerral was only about 5' 7", but really really really really bigly, as in muscularly gigantic?), embodying everything about a certain type of person that it's possible to be afraid of, could ever be anything to me but a source of terror to just get away from and be in awe of from a safe distance.
After I'd registered for all of my classes, which included - let's see if I can remember - Drawing I, Design I, Art History, British Lit, and... is that 12 hours? Yeah. Those. So after I'd registered, and as I was standing there with my newly minted class schedule in hand, who do you think would come barreling into the Registrar's Office like Thor, Odin's son, but Jerral Johnson. Did I mention that Jerral had long blonde hair, like some sort of demigod straight out of Norse mythology? I gotta say, the whole Viking warrior look was a big part of what made Jerral so intimidating.
As soon as we locked eyes, he strode toward me without any hesitation at all. My stomach dropped to the floor as I watched this monstrous tidal wave of legendary status advancing toward me like an unstoppable wave of inevitability, and with a sinking feeling of dread, I understood the truth of it. 'The Jerral' had just registered for art classes. I saw the schedule in his hand. I knew that his was an exact duplicate of mine, in all but ownership.
"Hey Ashley, hey man, hey! Dude! Wow, I finally get to meet you! Are you here registering for art school? Lemme see your schedule... hey, we've got all the same classes! We can ride to school together! Dude, you're a great artist! I can't believe we finally got to meet!"
And that's how it began.
To be continued...