I Was Charles Bukowski’s Life Coach

1969
A grizzled man comes in. He reeks of booze. Calls me a con man bullshitter snake oil scumbag.

He says he works at the post office but he wants to be a writer.

You can be anything you want to be! I say.

Are you out of your mind?

You can, I insist. But good personal hygiene really helps.

He gives me a look. I’m sure usually he’s the one who gets the looks.

But… money, he says.

I ask him if he thinks that identity is provided by a paycheck.

A paycheck means money to drink. And write, And screw.

I nod.

And fuck you for the hygiene remark, he says.

It came from a place of encouragement, I say.

He makes another appointment.

Life coach, he says. What bullshit.

1970
He walks in with a black eye. I quit, he says.

Smoking? Drinking? Fighting? I ask.

The post office. Work. I’m just writing.

I sniff the air and think: and drinking, too. Instead I say, That’s great! I am all about grabbing the brass ring.

I’m going to write, he snarls.

Yes! I say.

I can grab that brass ring and fucking throw it down the sewer! Or give it away. Tell a girl it’s jewelry.

Absolutely! You can!

What a crock of shit. Is that your job? To cheerlead?

1972
The phone rings. I answer.

The judge wants someone responsible to get me home, he says.

Okay, I say. I’ll get my jacket.

Don’t be a pussy, Pep Squad. Just come now, he says.

1973
He brings over a paperback with his name on the front.

I’m proud, he says. And broke.

I ask about goals for the book.

I want to document a life not well lived that feels real. Honest. The brutality. The pain. The sex. Put life’s hangovers, bloody noses and blow jobs on the page.

Excellent! You really seem born to do that.

He nods

Do you think showering hurts your writing?

Fuck you, he says. You are nothing but a yes man.

No, I am not, I say.

Yes, you are, he says.

I look at him.

Silence.

Bow-wow bow-wow, bow-wow-wow-wow. he says.

1976, 3:47 a.m.
My phone rings. He is bawling. When he stops bawling, he starts braying.

What can I do for you, I ask.

I want to get cleaned up, he says. I’m a mess and I want to be sober. I want to do something good with my life!

What about a life not well lived? You’ve been fantastic with that! I’m really proud of you. You should be proud of you!

I want to stop this! You’re my coach, right? Why don’t you fucking do something, you scumbag!

What do you want to do?

I want to help people.

Help people? You do! With your writing!

You lie like a rug, you dirtbag. I want to help the world. I should have been a doctor. Or a nurse. I fucking love nurses. The best people in the world.

You are at the top of your game. This is drunken self-pitying nonsense. Just like last week. Remember? You called and said you wanted to be priest!

A teacher. I should have been a — STAY IN SCHOOL KIDS! YOU HEAR THAT, EVERYBODY?

Listen, this is really worrying. I’ve made note of your feelings. I’m going to hang up in a moment. Why don’t you sleep a bit, and then have a few drinks in the morning and come by my office so we can discuss why you want to wreck everything in your dead end life you’ve worked so hard to build. Or not build. Okay?

YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE MY CHEERLEADER!

Goodnight, Charles.

Go hug your pom-poms, you pansy.

1979
He is waiting outside my office.

Hello, I say. Nice to see you.

Fuck you, Pep Squad.

He comes in. There’s an ugly gash over his forehead. It’s as if he was cut by broken glass and needed stitches but didn’t get them.

I got a big check. From Germany, he says.

Congratulations.

I spent it. On booze. And the wrong women. That’s what I’ve been doing these last few years.

Fantastic, I say. That’s great! A life not well lived, but expertly so. That was the goal.

He looks at me.

And writing, I say. That was the other goal.

Sex. That was the goal, too. I spent the money I owed you.

That’s okay. You’ll get more and send it to me. I trust you after all these years.

Then you’re an idiot.

1981
He’s got a bottle in one hand and two shot glasses in the other.

I’m dead sober, he says.

That’s a lot better than just being dead, I say.

Oh, you’re the comedian now,

You’re dead sober, but you’ve got a bottle, I see.

That’s right. It’s 5 p.m.

And you want me to drink with you?

That’s right. Time for my coach to walk the talk.

I listen. You walk the talk. None for me, thanks

Why? Is it in violation of the hypocritical oath that all pep squad coaches take?

No. I just never drink with my clients.

But I never pay you.

You do in your way. You’re my great success.

Ha! Pom-Poms, don’t flatter yourself. You’re nothing but a yes man.

No, I’m not.

Yes, you are.

Silence.

` He pours the drinks and hands me one.

I throw it back.

It’s a big drink. Really big.

Bow-wow bow-wow, bow-wow-wow-wow, I say.

You can grab the brass ring, Pep Squad, he says.

I think the drink is fighting gravity, I gasp.

Or in your case, Pom-Poms, you can grab the porcelain bowl.

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