I was trying not to stare at the clock. I left the overhead light on. I hated the fact that it was in the office. I don’t know why I decided to pick that room. There were others. I could have put it in the basement; it was just that Oscar wanted the basement for himself. I understood why. It wasn’t too complicated. We all needed places to hide away from each other. The office was mine.
It had been a long night. I saw myself slowly dozing off every few seconds or so. It was probably from that joint. I didn’t think I should have smoked it, I was just having my own type of problems being creative. I couldn’t think of a way to thicken the plot at all. It was just dragging. My characters were becoming too much like the ones I already knew or had lost somewhere in the dusts of life. I wanted them to breathe on their own. I didn’t want them to remind me of myself, or Arthur and Ramona. It’s weird thinking about them now. I don’t even know what happened. I lost track for all the right reasons, and yet I was still silently dwelling on the idea of them, and all of us. We were beyond lost in our early twenties, spending nights in a barrage of hapless locations.
I would drink myself to death occasionally, or smoke until I couldn’t see straight. If there was something bought from out of town, I was the person taking it. Pills, psychedelics, coke, none of it mattered. I needed more than the occasional jump-start, just to piece my life back together. I suppose a lot changed once that first one sold. I ran away for all the right reasons. I knew then that I couldn’t necessarily live with the idea of the two of them. I had loved Ramona. We were parts of the same mold at times, and yet I could never see it working. With Lorna it was different. The second we saw each other at that record store, I knew she was the one. Every subtle detail of her stayed with me after I slipped her number in my pocket and returned to my small hole in the wall.
I was living on the West Side, freelancing a few things here and there. It was before people seemed to care. I took her out to a small Italian restaurant I used to walk by everyday. Michelangelo’s. The food was terrible, but offered the perfect outlet for larger conversations on the world that was inevitably spinning around us. We took off with each other that night. She didn’t pack a bag, but stayed at my place every subsequent date after that. She said she liked it better than hers, which seemed strange to me until I saw it with my own two eyes. An even deeper hole in the ground with no place to do laundry. She would take a cab over to my place, carrying a large gray bag full of dirty underwear and we would sit in the basement, sometimes smoke joints, and watch things spin together.
I remember thinking about how much in love I was when she would spend the night. We stayed up watching bad black and white science fiction on cable, sometimes turning the sound off and attempting to come up with a different plot on our own. It was a nice change from relating to fictitious characters, while thinking about calling old friends from back home. They all managed to continue living their lives without me. I wasn’t missed so much as I was simply soon forgotten, and replaced possibly. They could find new temporary solutions to fill the void. It wasn’t that small of a town.
I had mixed emotions when she told me about being pregnant. We were packed quickly. I had a few offers here and there. Part of me didn’t want to settle necessarily. We only knew each other for three months, and they were perfect in every sense of the word. It was just that I didn’t necessarily see it going that way. We found a suburb and bought a small two bedroom. Oscar was feeling cramped by ten. We all were. The teaching job was working out. I hated all the students, but just because they didn’t understand. I couldn’t explain to them what it would be like later, and I knew that all the bullshit propaganda high school teachers fed to students didn’t mean much of anything. I was exactly like the rest of them all of a sudden. Settled in suburbia, the summers off, planning trips to Disney World.
I didn’t go home much. Both my parents were dead before I was thirty. There were other scattered family members around the state, but they didn’t really care that much. My brother lived far enough away to not complicate things. Oscar only met him once. The one Christmas he drove in drunk with his new girlfriend. She was wearing a red Santa hat and a short green skirt. Oscar’s eyes were wide at nine years old, as he wasn’t used to such an emphasis put on sex anywhere other than cable TV. The guestroom neighbored his. I’m sure he heard them fucking that night, just like Lorna and I did. We tried not to say much about it. They were gone the next morning, off to the city, to meet some friends. It was a coke hook-up, I was sure of that. She was stuffy all night.
I couldn’t think much that whole day or any others for that matter. I used to have the highest intentions for my life, even after we moved. I would mow the lawn and dwell in the past. She was someone I eventually forgot about, and then all my writing turned to shit. Ernie said he couldn’t sell any of it. I needed to make it more real. I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly. I suppose it needed some sort of new appeal. I jumped back into my past. It was going well. I was surprised how spiteful I still was towards the two of them. It was so long ago, and I was happy, despite everything. I listened to both discs of The White Album, before I turned on Blue Lines and smoked the joint. Nothing new was coming to mind. I was enjoying the alone time too much.
Lorna worked at Ralph’s till late, and Oscar said he was over at Harris’, which could have meant a number of things. For some strange reason, I figured that my parents believed everything I told them when I was fifteen. It didn’t seem wrong for me to believe that they were undeniably naïve. Things were different then. New waves of discourse were sweeping over all of us, and I felt as if I was comfortable, right in the middle of it for awhile. Ramona and I would see new bands right before they were signed. It felt exhilarating to be in the front row, the two of us holding hands and making sure to stay close, each knock from the people behind us, only bringing each person closer together.
Part of me missed college. I had no responsibility and all the time in the world to consider things that happened in high school. Some of my earlier stuff seemed like the best things I had ever written. It captured an essence of who I was. I was still thinking about cheerleaders and girls in the back of the library. There weren’t any parties or crazy nights really, just stoned excursions in friends’ basements. Arthur’s was the biggest. I remember the night he finally had sex with Lisa Geiger. He said she almost cried while the both of them were losing their virginity. These were the types of things he would pass off as normal conversation. It would always be grounded in smelling fingers or talking about how she would swallow cum like it was coffee. She would get a strange caffeine high from it. I hated listening to all of it, but we were friends, always giving one another the benefit of the doubt.
I didn’t see it coming. I tried to write my character that way. I wanted him to be completely oblivious, so when I did ultimately got to the climax; it would be somewhat different. The reader couldn’t put it down then. It would be fucked up and hard to stomach, but that was the way our lives were. The reality of it wasn’t so dramatic. She broke up with me, and started dating him a week later. They moved to another city together after she graduated, and I met Lorna soon after. I wouldn’t call it a rebound, though. I loved her more than Ramona, for the simple fact that she had been there. She had listened to my bullshit. I didn’t have to play it cool with her at all, and yet she was increasingly hard to write about, because it fit together too well. People wouldn’t buy it. No relationship starts like that and continues in a similar fashion. I could say it was due to the space we both allowed ourselves. When we needed to be alone, we would go to our rooms. Oscar became the same way. He was a child who inherited both of his parents’ neuroses.
I stared at the computer screen with no logical path for where it was all going. I spent the entire month of June stoned in my office, and nothing of substantial quality managed to surface. Maybe it was the drugs, or just the fact that I forgot about what it was like to be in love with somebody like Ramona, to be young and free, lost in the complete idea of somebody else, to trust old friends like I could a TV schedule. I was having problems falling back into it. Luckily Oscar interrupted me as I heard the front door open. Lorna still had another hour at the diner. It was always the late shift on Thursday nights.
I lit some incense as he stepped past the office. I stood up and turned the music down with the remote. All our lives had become too much about convenience. I thought about it as I stepped into the hallway. He sighed and turned around, full of too much teenage angst. I hated him for being young. I missed it all too much. It was dark. He didn’t want me to know how fucked up he was. It was easy to tell, and it wasn’t as if I cared. I just wished we all didn’t try so hard to hide it sometimes.
"Hey, I didn’t think you’d be up."
"I’m always up."
"Right, well I’m home now. I’m gonna go to bed."
"Alright, goodnight dad."
"Goodnight." It felt strange being a person of zero value to his life. I tried not to make comparisons to my own father all the time. We had an all right relationship. He only really hated things on holidays, and that became the only time either of us would see each other. My brother didn’t come to the funeral. My mother wasn’t there to make up an excuse for him when she died. I didn’t answer any of their questions. I thought about running away then. Oscar was still young. We could have set up shop somewhere else, and yet I became too comfortable. I would have conversations with gym teachers about how the sex ed. program had changed; silently whispering to myself that this isn’t my life.
I used to long for the summers. When it was just the three of us all somehow bonded. Lorna would take a week off and we would go somewhere and smile like the pictures that are in the frames before they’re bought. I suppose it sort of shifted once he grew up. I couldn’t offer any answers, at least nothing I could say out loud. I tried to be honest, but it was hard. He always had a better relationship with his mother anyway. They somehow understood each other, and I felt out of place from time to time. It’s weird to think about it like that. I guess drifting apart is an inevitable part of life. It seemed like something I should write about, but I wouldn’t necessarily know where to start. I saved my document and started to browse a few saved porn sites. Lorna wouldn’t mind if she found out. After all, it was my computer.
I didn’t think he had noticed. We didn’t talk enough for him to take the time to see how bloodshot my eyes were, and even if he did think I was stoned. It didn’t matter. I had become too aware of my father in the past few years. The second I started to care about the same thing, we inevitably ended up somewhat hating each other. I would borrow his records and he would try to act like it wasn’t a big deal. He would steal mine sometimes, as our collections became competitive. The same thing happened with movies. I would buy something older, him something newer, and sometimes our excessive addictions would cross paths. I never really enjoyed watching anything with him or anybody for that matter. I sort of always liked the idea of being alone and watching a movie. It’s a much better experience. There aren’t opinions everywhere then.
Rosa wouldn’t shut the fuck up the night. After Harris and Elisha lingered upstairs, she just kept on talking. I thought about kissing her for the first fifteen minutes or so, and then just gave up on the notion. Rosa wasn’t the one for me. She had just been somehow inflicted on me. My best friend started regular make-out sessions with a girl, and I inevitably had to pick up the remaining pieces and entertain her best friend. It was weird. I mean, I felt out of place not making-out sometimes, until I thought about just what it would be like if I was a person who dated Rosa. I would end up killing myself. I didn’t want to have to buy her birthday or Christmas gifts, or whisper sweet nothings and pretend like I cared about her problems.
Sex would have been okay. I felt more than a little pent up before going to bed. I starred at Elisha’s cleavage for awhile when it was the four of us. I could have handled being with her. It would have been a lot easier. Elisha didn’t fuck around. All I would have had to do was pretend like I cared, and maybe say something remotely funny, and then all of a sudden an instant blowjob, like out of thin air. Rosa was more prudish. Her Catholic school ideals hadn’t quite fallen apart yet. I didn’t understand it. After a year of public school I figured, she would have been up for sucking off half of the basketball team, but I suppose it’s different for different people.
That was the one good thing about Jude as a parent. He didn’t give a shit about things like God. We weren’t atheists, just subtle nonbelievers, which was good. I didn’t think I could handle praying to statues or thinking about hell every time I masturbated, which had become far too frequent. I would double click on all the pop up menus after looking at Gina’s Myspace. She always changed her picture to match the season. It was summer, which meant a barrage of bikini and beach pics. I enjoyed them too much. I was sure her hit counter was so high because of me, which seemed a bit unsettling the more and more I thought about it.
I wanted to sin with her, though. I had been thinking about a barrage of different sexual escapades with Gina Gearhart the second I saw her walk into the computer lab, my freshman year. She was a year older, more developed, and at good at getting to people like me. I liked her fall pictures the most. She would wear sweaters and embroidered hats. I thought about long walks we would inevitably take while leaves fell, like it was a scene in a movie, just a nice little getting-to-know-you scene, though. Nothing huge. We wouldn’t talk about the idea of an abortion yet. That would be much later, right when she was deciding exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
I was too much in love with the idea of her. I knew her hours at Vanity Video like it was a bad addiction. I was always dragging Harris there. We would rent movies both of had seen a thousand times over again. Some of them we owned, while others were inevitably free Ondemand at either one of our houses. I just wanted to see her. We would converse briefly about whatever I was renting, and then let the thoughts and words linger until the next day. I loved one-night rentals. They always managed to serve their purpose with the exception of the days when she was off. Those were the worst, because then I had to take the time to think about what she was doing. Probably unwinding in some douchebag’s hot tub, going under water and coming back up for air, a mouth full of semen.
I hated the fact that I would think about her in this way. I just couldn’t grow out of it, though. Dylan Carosella’s brother told us about how she would give anybody head if she were drunk enough. The one time they paid her to make-out with Jill Martin, and the two of the ended up going down on each other right in the middle of the party like it was Girls Gone Wild or something, but no free T-shirt or beads. I didn’t believe it. I was always under the impression that Dylan and Randy were huge fucking liars. They said they double-teamed girls together at their lakehouse, and had orgies with their cousin’s friends. It was beyond unsettling, because for the most part I figured that if it were an orgy their cousins would most definitely be involved. Plus, just the fact that they were brothers seemed strange. I enjoyed being an only child more and more with each waking breath.
I put my headphones on to drown out Jude’s particular brand of bullshit. It was probably good if I would have given it a chance. I hated the fact that we were so much alike. I didn’t read his first book until I was thirteen, and I related to it too much. It was scary, and I felt useless. I didn’t have any talent, just dry cynical thoughts disguised as explanations as to why I hadn’t gotten laid yet. It seemed strange to be thinking about at fifteen, but everyone around me was participating in some kind of drunken sexcapade. I felt like The Omega Man, one of the few remaining people of substance left on the planet.
I started listening to Automatic for the People, before I inevitably dosed off. It had been a long night and one that didn’t really offer many answers. I was becoming a recycled version of my previous self every time I hung out with the other three. Our pattern had become too precise by that July. I needed some more substance. I developed too many fantasies of what could happen with Gina if she would just wake the fuck up and realize that I was worth it. Harris and I would become distant, but that wasn’t really a problem. We were already distant because of Elisha and Rosa. I just needed to get the fuck away from the other two to be a more sound person. Of course, thinking about Gina was better than dating her. I hated her friends, and more specifically her brother’s friends. They would beat the shit out of me, not giving any of it a second thought; the instant they thought it was going somewhere.
She hadn’t fooled around with any of his friends with the exception of Todd Ameroso, who transferred to Saint Mary’s the second after it happened. Brian Lucas told me that Dave threatened to cut Todd’s dick off if he looked at Gina again. This subtle fact made my life all the more difficult to stomach. I was sort of waiting for Mr. Gearhart to ship that asshole off to military school, and yet knew that it wouldn’t necessarily make things any better the second he went Waco on all of us, and climbed to the roof. I would most likely run away from it all, and hide somewhere alone. I couldn’t handle confrontations. Jude and Lorna bred me to be too much of a pacifist. That was an elegant way to say pussy.
I knew I wasn’t going to get to sleep, not right away, anyway. I stared at my ceiling and tried to picture a different tomorrow. Harris would call me early, the second both of us rolled out of bed and decided to get high. His parents worked during the day. I was always running over there. Jude would never leave the house. It was almost as if he lost all his real friends at some point, and just developed casual acquaintance relationships with some of the adults around. He would drink with Mr. Clark occasionally, but it was never a regular thing. It mostly just happened during the summer when both of them were watching Harris and I mow our lawns. They got some strange kick out of seeing the both of us stressed in pain. I would always make a playlist and let it help me pass the time. I sometimes enjoyed the lawn. It helped me to get my thoughts in order, as if there was ever some kind of distinct order to them. They were jumbled and meticulously all over the place. I guess that was the worst part of being fifteen. Nothing ever seemed simple.
I heard my mother’s car turn off in-between songs. I never said much to her after work, even if she did catch me awake. She would slowly open my door and see if I was asleep, or more likely than not, stoned and listening to music. Jude and her would stay up late talking about God knows what. I was sure she had tons of work stories, which I would later hear the next day at lunch when both of us were vying for diner leftovers and the big screen in the living room. He always beat me to it. Sometimes I wondered if Jude ever wrote any of her stories down, but they never really seemed to resurface.
He never wrote about his wife, just all the women before hand who failed to live their lives like he expected them to. I kind of hated him for that. I would have probably been able to write something perfect if I would’ve taken the time to think about it. I was a shame there were so many other things. A real shame. I barely finished "Find The River". It had been a task of shear will power. There would always be the next morning to finish up paused moments.