L – A – N – C – E

By Galen Hoffman

It was 1983, so I would have been 22 years old. I am bi-polar, and in those days I was having 1 or 2 substantial manic episodes per year. A manic episode would last 1 to 4 months alternating with periods of mild to medium depression. The depressions basically involved doing little other than sleeping and eating ……. and working only if absolutely necessary. But the manias could be a wonder to behold.

I often describe a manic episode as a sudden loss of fear. My episodes go something like this: I start feeling great. energetic, gregarious, adventurous. Pretty soon 2 hours of sleep a night is plenty, I’m amped all day and night and the world is my playground. At some point, I drop whatever I’m doing and move to another state with little more than the clothes on my back ….. and then things start getting weird.

Galen Hoffman, from the era in which "L-A-N-C-E" takes place.

Galen Hoffman in about 1985, the era in which “L-A-N-C-E” takes place.

It was summertime in central Iowa. I got to feelin’ real good and decided to drop in on my old high school buddy, Dave, who had moved to Texas. I sold my Pinto for the price of a bus ticket, stuffed some clothes in a grocery bag, and got on a Greyhound to Dallas.

Luckily, the bus came within a mile or two of the apartment complex, and I covered that distance on foot and knocked on Dave’s door. He had the expected reaction when he opened the door, considering I hadn’t mentioned I was coming. I ended up staying for a couple weeks. At night, I slept on the couch. During the days, I played volleyball in the swimming pool with my new neighbors. I was quite the bon vivante, tanning and honing my volleyball skills.

Before long, I noticed a very appealing lady volleyballer, and decided I would try and get a date with her. The fact that her live-in boyfriend was the alpha male of the group, and not a small man, didn’t bother me in the least. No fear.

That evening, I knock on the door of their apartment. Alpha male answers the door. He looks puzzled and asks me what I want. I point past him, to where his girlfriend sits on the couch. “I want to talk to HER.” I say, matter-of-factly. A puzzled looked comes across his face and then he turns and summons her to the door. She comes, hesitantly, and stands in the doorway. “Would you like to go out sometime?” I ask. “Well, … no. I … live with my boyfriend.” she stammers. “Okay, just checking.” I say, and smile and walk away.

The next day, When Alpha Male got home from work, he tracked me down. I was at the pool, playing volley ball with his girlfriend and several other happily unemployed residents. Rather than dressing me down for hitting on Alpha Female the night before, he offered me a job on his construction crew, framing houses. I’d never done it before, but how hard could it be? “Yeah, okay.” I said, and he walked off. I guess he didn’t want me hanging around with his girlfriend all day.

He must have given me a ride to work the next morning, and I don’t remember any drama on the ride. On the job site, he started me off building headers, the support beams that go above windows and doorways. I picked it up quickly, and pretty soon I was pumpin’ out headers with the best of ’em. At some point, I noticed one of the guys toe-nailing studs into the plate in such a way as to provide a very tenuous attachment. I was no expert, but this was basic stuff, and definitely unacceptable. I went over to him and suggested that he do it the right way, at which time he blew me off, so I went directly to the boss and told him all about it. At which time he walks over to Toenail Boy and lays him low for being a fuck-up, right in front of me. So I’m doing a good job, but not winning a lot of friends. But hey! We’re talkin’ about toe-nailing studs into the PLATE here, people!

Eventually lunch time rolls around and everyone’s sitting around eating and out of nowhere, Alpha Male trumps me up on some bogus grievance or other, and now he wants fight. So I explain that I’m not really into that, “But,” I say, “we could arm wrestle.”  He agrees to it and a piece of plywood is placed across a pair of sawhorses, and the stage is set. Half a dozen of my new closest friend gather around as we square off and clasp hands.

Within the first minute of the contest, it beomes apparent that neither I nor Alpha male is capable of prevailing and I suggest we call it a draw, but he just won’t quit. He needs to beat me. He struggles so, that his face is turning red, and before long, blood begins to drip from his nose. I start to pull my arm away, but he yanks it back, as if to say, “This ain’t over ’til it’s over.” I oblige him and continue the exercise in futility, while watching a small pool of blood form on the plywood below his steadily dripping nose.

And here’s the weird part.

At some point, without thinking much about it, I dipped my left index finger into the blood and slowly painted a line on the plywood. I dip my finger again and paint another line, forming the letter “L”. Three dips later, a capital A is revealed. You see, by this time, I had learned that Alpha Male’s name was Lance, and I was systematically spelling his name in his own blood with my left hand while still wrestling him vigorously with my right. I kept thinking he’d quit, but he just kept straining desperately against my locked arm. When I finally finished the E, he threw my hand away in a rage, and looked for all the world like he was about to attack me. But after fuming and blustering for a bit, he didn’t have the heart. He cursed me and stomped off.

I don’t remember what happened the rest of the day, or anything else about the Alpha Couple for that matter, but I do remember Alpha Male’s name. I never laid a hand on him, but I did give him a bloody nose. I always enjoy telling this story, but I doubt Lance has ever told it.

(c) 2015 Galen Hoffman

Galen Hoffman is originally from central Iowa and has lived in Madison for six years. He has had many interesting adventures, due to his bipolar condition, which he enjoys writing about.

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About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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2 Responses to L – A – N – C – E

  1. patmcnees says:

    A wonderful story, well told (as labeled!)

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