Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Untitled Start Chapter 6

By noon in Dr. Robert William’s office, Audrey Tate was reliably exhausted. Various X-rays and cavities, cleanings and crowns had taken their toll; her shoes undeniably heavy by the time she finally sat down in the back room. Fran Yost, the round receptionist in her mid-fifties, was already comfortably stationed at the rectangular white table, the contents of her packed lunch scattered in the space around her. Like many phone operators before her, Fran was more mouth than bite, but nonetheless worthy of her own brash statements and occasional escapes from reality. Audrey opened the tan refrigerator, grabbing the leftover cob salad she made Saturday night, before sitting down in front of her fellow employee, both somewhat spacey after the morning’s slow crawl.
“I swear to God, if I hear one more housewife screaming about insurance I’m gonna completely lose it,” Fran said, her eyes reliably fixated on a trashy tabloid bought from the long supermarket line.
“Who was it today Fran?” Audrey asked, forking a cherry red tomato slice.
“Lisa Davidson…” Fran half-yawned before continuing. “Her husband’s that Mike Davidson, the weatherman for channel six.”
“Oh yeah, I know her. I think she got a boob job.”
“You’re not serious?” Fran looked up from the paparazzi photo of a scantily clad new wave teenage girl singer.
“Well you only talked to her on the phone today, right?”
“Yeah, she was scheduling to get her teeth whitened, again,” Fran replied in a dull tone.
“I saw her at the grocery store on Friday night, and they looked a lot bigger. I don’t know how to explain it, but after cleaning her teeth for more than five years, I can usually tell when something’s changed, something like that anyway,” Audrey chewed a long piece of lettuce, before wiping her mouth.
“Well, I wouldn’t be surprised. Some mothers take their daughters to get them done when they’re like fifteen now.”
“That can’t be true.”
“Oh it is. I saw this whole piece on Sixty Minutes about it a few weeks ago.”
“Well, that can’t be healthy.”
“Yeah, but it’s what the hip parents are doing these days.”
“I can’t see Benji asking me for implants anytime soon.”
“Well ya never know, Audrey.”
“I couldn’t afford it anyway with all the psychiatrist fees.”
“How’s all that going for him?” Fran asked, the veil of indifference in her voice lifting, and being replaced by legitimate concern.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure if there’s been a substantial change and I’m just not noticing it or maybe he’s just hiding it from me.”
“It’s tough for everyone at that age. I mean, without everything else, ya know?”
“Yeah, I know.”
“But jeez I wish Ralph would chip in on some plastic surgery for me one of these days,” Fran cracked her neck, before sticking her large chest out like a mother hen for the briefest of moments.
“You don’t need any Fran.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You still have the same ass from college. Mine’s at least doubled since then.”
“Be glad. It’s not like my college ass is helping me out that much.”
“Didn’t the Connel graduation party go as well as you had hoped Audrey?” Fran asked, in a high pitched, slightly nagging voice.
“Ya know, I think they’re right sometimes when they say it’s impossible to get back out there,” Audrey Tate was cropping all the familiar clichés in her garden again, without much concern for their growth.
“That’s not true. My second cousin Phyllis was divorced at thirty-seven, played the field for a few years, and then got remarried last summer to this photographer in New York, I think his name’s Gerald or something. Anyway, she couldn’t be happier.”
“Yeah, but it took her years to get there.”
“Well, all I’m saying is don’t let one bad experience next door discourage you.”
“Thanks Fran, you are truly on top of your game for giving shitty advice today.”
“Hey, anytime sweetheart.”
Both women went back to their respective packed lunches with satisfied smirks on their faces, before Robert walked into the back, carrying a brown doggy bag. He sat down at the table next to Audrey, cleaning the smudges from his brown-framed glasses, before starting in on the large roast beef sandwich from the bottom of the bag.
The fifty-two-year-old, bald, Robert Williams was like all other suburban dentists, somewhat proud of his own practice, desk and chair, while still strangely longing for an adventurous alternative to the day’s cruel spin. Nonetheless, he prided himself on being a good boss, even on those days when he could very easily sense his employees’ spiteful looks directed at them in the back lunchroom. He couldn’t always be their best friend, not with all the suction he needed them for.
“So do you ladies enjoy instantly zipping your lips the second I walk in?” The dentist asked before shoving a large portion of the sandwich into his mouth.
“We were done talking, Rob.” Fran replied sassily.
“Well, fair enough.”
“So did Leona drop that off for you?” Audrey asked, looking over at her boss’ lunch.
“Yes, she did,” He said with a satisfied grin.
“And you never get sick of your wife going out of her way like that?”
“Not usually Audrey, no.”
“Remember when you used to take us out for lunch Rob, ya know, before you got remarried and turned into such a cheapskate,” Fran was hitting her under-appreciated stride that day.
“I didn’t think you missed The Olive Garden so much Fran,” Robert replied, looking up from the table.
“I kind of do. God knows when the next time Ralph will take me out anywhere.”
“Well, that’s not exactly my problem now, is it Fran?” Robert said with a certain orderly tone to his voice.
“It will be when my lack of enthusiasm on the phone diminishes just a little more each day,” Fran replied, knowing full well how to push her boss’ buttons.
“Do you want me to talk to Ralph about it next time I’m cleaning his teeth?” Audrey asked, jokingly, while still trying to cool down the both of them.
“I don’t think he’s due for another five months,” Fran responded, opening up her small one-serving bag of barbecue corn chips.
“Well, then you’ll both have something to look forward to,” Audrey couldn’t resist returning the familiar vibe right back to Fran.
“Oh boy…” She grumbled.
“Ya know, remember when this office used to be a lot brighter?” Robert said, optimistically, fully aware of both his employees eventual frazzled responses.
“Not on Monday, Rob,” Audrey said like his mother.
“Well, I guess I was the only one who managed to get laid this weekend.”
“Ya hear that, I can barely make out the multiple sexual harassment suits coming around the bend,” Audrey said, sitting up in her chair.
“Jesus, somebody must have had a bad two days,” The dentist uttered, not taking the time to think about such a truly brash statement and its effects on his employee.
“She didn’t find Mr. Right at her next-door neighbor’s barbecue,” Fran spoke out, Audrey instantly giving her a death stare.
“Well Mrs. Tate, I didn’t know you were looking again.”
“Thinking about a second divorce so soon, Robert?” Audrey replied, sarcastically.
“No, I don’t think so. But ya know, I do have a friend who’s sort of in the same boat.”
“Somehow I doubt it it’s exactly the same boat,” Fran was enjoying filling in Audrey’s blanks for her far too much.
“Who is he?” Audrey asked, vaguely interested, while still hoping for a different kind of answer from all the others she was unfortunately used to.
“His name’s Lewis Grayson, he’s my travel agent.”
“Already that sounds good to me Audrey, you definitely need to get the hell out of this town for awhile,” Fran’s wit rarely curbed at lunch.
“What’s his story?” Audrey questioned inquisitively.
“He’s in his forties, recently divorced, has a daughter, I think she’s about thirteen.”
“And you know all of this information about your travel agent?” Fran asked, plainly.
“I went in last week to get a deal on a trip to Tahiti for August.”
“Just you and Leona, no kids?” Fran went wide-eyed.
“They’ll have more fun if we’re both out of town anyway.”
“I guess so.”
“So, what’s he look like Robert, this Lewis Grayson, the macho single travel agent?” Audrey wasn’t going to let up on her hostility. It felt too natural at that point.
“He’s alright, I guess. I mean, there are a lot of uglier bastards I could probably fix you up with in this one-horse town.”
“Thanks boss, that’s reassuring,” Audrey placed the lid back on top of the salad, her appetite having diminished quickly.
“It was just a suggestion. I mean, one date wouldn’t necessarily kill you.”
The back lunchroom became silent for a few seconds as Audrey looked across the table at her confidant. “What do you think Fran?”
“I don’t think it sounds like a completely awful idea.”
“So should I make the call then?” Robert asked, his foot tapping on the ground like a nervous six-year-old.
A million thoughts ran through Audrey Tate’s brain at that very moment, the inclination of an actual first blind date, set-up by her boss seeming a bit unsettling, but at the same time, not the most farfetched of ideas. She knew that she needed to get back out there, and that possibly showing up at planned social events in and around North Shade, wasn’t the best way to go about it. Possibly, Robert William’s brain had been working on a different level of concern that day. It wasn’t just him telling all the youngsters he enjoyed torturing far too much with the drill, to floss. This was somehow different, and as the pictures became clearer around her, Audrey once again tapped into the bank of repetition. What was the worst that could happen?
“Okay Robert. I guess set me up with him.”
“Yes, seriously. I need to get out. Breathe on my own, ya know, all that shit.”
“Okay, well I’ll give him a call sometime today. What night’s are you free?”
“Jesus Rob, you act like you don’t already know the answer,” Fran said, butting in.
“So you’re free every night then Audrey?” The dentist asked.
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“Well okay, I’ll make the call.”
Audrey tossed the remains of her salad in the large light gray trashcan, before leaning back in her metal chair and taking a breath. A blind date, she thought. It was almost an exciting concept, had the principle of it not been milked to death by every brash story and connotation out there. Audrey knew that she was at least ready for the initial step out the door, however whether or not she could maintain conversation and sound interesting enough, without bringing up the worst and most provocative incident in her life, would prove to be the major problem at hand. It would always be difficult, re-screwing one’s head back on, from the bottom up.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Laika the Astro-Hound Lyrics

The Transitions Never Stop

The time I spent wasting away in college,
I gained a few answers,
but earned no knowledge.
I just caught up with some friends,
blew off a few classes,
then moved home and re-evaluated my assets;

they're not worth much,
just some sentimentality,
what a stupid mentality,
to call paper "stability"

I moved home to Johnstown to find what's important,
spent my days since in the woods remembering that glint
in my eye;
and this city is sad,
but the energy that my friends exert make it worth every effort.

Now I'm working with kids far worse off than me,
and in truth, that's what stays my mentality,
because no matter how bored,
or how lonely I get,
I know there are people
who need much more help
than I ever did.

Philip-Lorca Di Corcia

Laci, here's that really nice archive with a lot of his work. I found the link from Shane Lavalette's blog.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Untitled Start Chapter 5

Audrey Tate was scratching her brain in the small silver Ford, trying to think of things to say to her son that early in the morning. Benji was tired, and not used to having to deal with the concept of psychoanalysis before one P.M. usually. Dr. Dana Statler had a cancellation and a quota to fill, which prompted Audrey to schedule her first and only born right before she had work at nine. Two birds with one stone, almost. Needless to say, the rise and shine wake up call didn’t seem to be helping with Benji’s supposed depression. If anything, the dark circles under his heavy eyes were just going to make Dana prescribe more sunlight before something else to make him numb.
“So are you okay honey?” Audrey asked habitually out of the blue, before the familiar turn on Shenly Road towards the offices.
“What?” Benji asked softly, taking his head off of his right hand, before turning away from the window.
“I was just seeing if you were alright. I mean, you look a little out of it.”
“It’s cause I’m not used to being awake at this hour.”
“Well, I’m always up this early.”
“I know mom.”
“So there’s nothing you wanna talk about then?”
“You’re asking me if I want to talk before I go see my shrink. Isn’t that kind of like overkill mom?”
“Well, we don’t have to talk about the same kinds of things.”
“I’m fine, okay? I mean, whatever you think is the matter, it’s not nearly as serious as you think it is.”
Audrey kept her mouth shut as she pulled into the long and practical parking lot. Benji was sort of loathing another misguided visit with Dr. Statler, but couldn’t necessarily sway Audrey or the rest of the higher level over-protective adult figures in his life, to simply let up. They all figured that something as dramatic as a father’s escape and eventual suicide meant there was a lot rolling around in his fifteen-year-old brain, and that a major breakthrough was on the verge of occurring.
Benji had known better by that point, coming to the all so clear realization that everyone his age had a lot on their minds, regardless of whatever corrupted bullshit managed to pass through the double doors. However, he didn’t necessarily mind the extra attention, considering Dana’s qualifications and furthermore, long legs.
“So your Aunt Ellen’s gonna pick you up in an hour,” Audrey reconfirmed, putting the car in park.
“Yeah, I know.”
“Okay, well have fun…” Benji rolled both eyes at his mother. “Or, ya know, a breakthrough.”
“Thanks mom. I’ll see ya after work.”
“Goodbye sweetheart.”
Audrey watched her son slowly but surely make his way towards the red brick building. She felt horrible every week at around the same time, his less than upbeat steps always having the most primordial of effects on her. She wished it was all different, not necessarily that Caleb had stayed or learned to figure his life out in another fashion, but rather that simply Benji had some other kind of activity to participate in on a Monday morning. In short, she felt like a horrible mother, and the thought would no doubt stay with her the whole day, as Audrey Tate drove from one clean office building to another.

Benji was only in the waiting room for roughly ten minutes before Dana’s office door opened, and an overweight housewife in a bright pink T-shirt stepped out, blowing her nose like the war had just begun. He sprung up in his seat at the sight of her, the twenty-nine-year-old physician always managing to wear something strangely attractive. Benji wasn’t sure what it was about Dana Statler that got to him either.
Sure, she was conventionally pretty, long black hair and a physically fit body, always wearing large dress suits with shoulder pads that were anything but intimidating, yet there was something else to her too, something that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. It wasn’t just that she listened either. After all, that’s what she was paid to do, and a lot of people could very easily pretend to listen if the money was right. It was the advice she offered that somehow seemed to stick without completely sticking, and the way her dark brown eyes would occasionally light up past her thick black-framed glasses that truly drove the already unstable Benji Tate over the edge.
Her office was obsessively spotless. The desk was as spic and span as the brown leather couch where supposed bigger concerns where meant to be touched upon. That particular Monday was somewhat of a long drag for both Benji and Dana, though, neither one really picking up on the subtle clues they both meticulously left for each other. Benji was desperately trying to make Dana realize that nothing was wrong with him, while the good doctor oddly enough, enjoyed dropping hints about the larger issues, before scratching the bare minimum off the surface of her patients supposed problems. It was simplistic and supposedly elaborately educated at the same time, but Benji Tate wasn’t necessarily picking up on the point of it all.
“So why do you think hiding in your room is more productive than being social Benji?” Dana asked, before fixing her glasses. It had taken roughly forty-five minutes for the both of them to get there.
“I thought I already explained it. It’s not like I’m necessarily anti-social, I just don’t like the majority of the people I know.”
“Well, you’re not gonna see anybody if you just hide in your room.”
“I bet to differ Dr. Statler,” Benji said, an unrequited smirk lining his face.
“Are you referring to your next door neighbor Lorene, because I have to say, that’s not really healthy behavior.”
“What is healthy behavior then? Dating some girl I could care less about?”
“No, not necessarily. You’re fifteen Benji. You don’t need to be searching for anything so serious right now.”
“Right… So is that how it works? I come and see my reliable shrink, probably one of the most serious activities out there, and you tell me not to be so serious?”
“No, I didn’t say that. I said, that at your age, you shouldn’t be obsessing so much.”
“Says who? Obsessing is like a normal thing. I mean, I think I’ve seen enough John Hughes’ movies to know that.”
Dana took a long sigh, before shaking her head and setting the small green notebook she had been continually taking notes in, down on the table next to her. She then took a sip of her coffee, watching Benji’s eyes wonder around the room, fixating on the random hardbacks on her cherry bookshelves in-between the looks he aimed directly at her available skin.
“So, what’s the prognosis here doc?” the patient asked, sarcastically.
“I don’t know. I mean, do you think we ever get anywhere Benji?”
“Kind of, I think. I mean, maybe if you and I went out to dinner, we could discuss less important matters other than my life.”
“Don’t do that.”
“What?” His smirk grew wider.
“Don’t act like you don’t know, either.”
“Listen, Dr. Statler, Dana, all I’m saying is that my mother and all my teachers and whoever else have been worried about my so-called anti-social behavior, and it’s your job to remedy that, right?”
“Benji, it’s my job to help you whichever way you see fit.”
“Alright, well if you and I went out, A. I don’t think I’d be nearly as anti-social, and B. it would be like two birds with one stone.”
“Not really. It’d be illegal.”
“What about that thing, though? Uh… what’s it called? I’m trying to remember.” Benji scratched head for half a second and then snapped his fingers. “Doctor-patient confidentiality.”
“Yeah, it doesn’t work like that.”
“So what you’re saying is that I’m not attractive enough, right?”
“Just stop it Benji. This isn’t getting us anywhere.”
“Yeah, I know, and I blame your lack of people skills. I mean, maybe you should get out more.”
“I get out plenty, trust me.”
“Oh yeah? Well then how come you’re closing in on thirty and not married. I mean, that’s not normal, is it?”
“It’s normal for me.”
“Ya know, once you cross that line, it’s just gonna get harder.”
“Well, I’d say I’m more or less prepared for whatever happens.”
“Alright, I guess that’s what they tell you to tell yourself when such a touchy subject comes up.”
“Believe me, it’s not as touchy as you think.”
“Well, okay.”
“So I think I’ve completely lost where I was trying to go with this whole session today.”
“Really, because I’d say we made a lot of progress. I mean, more than usual anyway”
“Ya know, if you wanted to, you could probably get out of coming here. I mean, it’s not like you’re fooling anybody.”
“I’m not even sure what that means Dr. Statler.”
“It means talk to your mother. Tell her you’re okay.”
“Oh, believe me I tried. The whole thing is, she’s not exactly okay, which means I don’t really want her to feel out of place in our house because of it, plus I gotta say, I really do enjoy talking to you. I mean, it’s nice to get a women’s POV on the whole messed-up stitch that is my life.”
“Well, glad I can be of service Mr. Tate,” Dana said in a monotone drone before slouching in her chair. Regrettably she knew it had been their best session in months.

Benji Tate sat on the front steps of Dr. Statler’s office building with both his ears finally tuned in to the sounds of I See A Darkness. The music was less than appropriate for such a warm sunny day, and yet he knew it would soon suit his surrounding atmosphere upon her arrival. She was always late, and the reasons never varied.
Caleb’s sister, Ellen Frear, pulled into the parking lot, reliably in front of her supposedly solemn nephew. Benji slowly arose from the stone steps, opened the front passenger’s side door, and entered into the reasonably messy dark gray minivan. The loud screeches from the seven-year-old twins, Alvin and Lucy, sitting in the back, instantly drowned out all sounds pounding directly into Benji’s ears from his headphones. He took them off and looked over at his aunt’s flushed face. It was only ten fifteen and already Ellen looked like she was having the longest day of her life.
“Hi Benji, how’d everything go?” Ellen asked, faking optimism, before she backed out of the lot.
“About the same Aunt Ellen.”
“Well, is that good or bad?”
“Don’t worry about it. It is what it is.”
“So do you have a belly ache Benji?” Lucy asked from the backseat.
“No Lucy, why would you think that?” Benji asked, turning to the blonde devils in the back, both, at seven, beyond ready for separation anxiety.
“Mom said you were just at the doctor.”
“Oh…” Benji turned to his aunt who looked far too stressed for an explanation.
“Lucy, I tried to tell you. It’s not…”
“I’m getting the new Spider-man today Benji!” Alvin interrupted his mother, holding up the faded red and blue action figure, Spidey’s left foot having been chewed by the Frear’s family Saint Bernard, Boba.
“That’s pretty cool Alvin,” Benji said, upbeat without sounding condescending like his aunt had to him moments earlier.
“Yeah, I know. It really is, isn’t it?” Alvin replied, before making his action figure scale the car window.
“So do you have diarrhea Benji?” Lucy asked inquisitively, her younger brother by three minutes starting to giggle, a few snot bubbles forming out of his left nostril. Benji couldn’t contain his grin as Alvin wiped his nose on the tail of his green Incredible Hulk T-shirt.
“Yeah, ya know, I think that might be it.”
“Eww… Gross.” Lucy responded, scrunching her nose up and sticking her tongue out.
“I’m sorry about all of this Benji. You know how they are.”
“It’s alright.”
“So, I hope you don’t mind, I was going to stop at the mall real quick, to get a few things.”
“That’s fine. I don’t really have any big plans for today, Aunt Ellen.”
Benji turned back to the window, remaining mostly silent as the twins started arguing again. All their fights were simplistic, never rounding the corner to the verge of logical sense. They were common scrapes over this and that, items and objects quickly spotted in passing or thought about at random. While Benji would usually become strangely aggravated by such a clear and present display of sibling rivalry, for some reason that day was different. Nothing was getting to him in the way it used to, almost as if the repetition of certain therapy sessions and car rides were unexplainably sinking in. North Shade mall wouldn’t prove to be so beneficial. There was no escaping everybody in such a small town.

From the back, back seat...

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I am currently using my dad's computer. It's an old computer, I'd say about 5 years old. I use it from time to time, but not so much anymore since I have my own apartment. However, I used to use it constantly when I was a college dropout and lived at home, and for about 2 months after I came home from Georgia and didn't leave the house because I was A.) friendless B.) miserable and C.) usually drunk. I was snooping around and found little ideas I wrote down during these times. And by little I mean really small and incomplete and most of them don't make much sense. I don't remember writing any of these and I don't think they are really any good, but at the time they were important enough for me to save in Notepad and you know, sharing is caring.

I haven't had a meal that's moved me in the longest time. Always disappointed. Never any depth to the flavors. No texture. No seasoning. No heart, no guts. With everyone so obsessed with cooking these days, why doesn't anything taste good?


but i love you, you know. this is good
yeah yeah, ditto. it is. this is great.
but i'm scared to lose this. i mean, you can say you won't get sick of me and i won't get sick of you all you want but... it happens. i don't mean get sick of but you know what i mean. things get... too comfortable and you lose the excitement. you know?
yeah, you lose the freshness of it all. i get that. definitely.
and... you, you've been in serious relationships for like, 8 years. i don't want to do that to you. you're young! we're young! and fuck if every one of our friends' relationships aren't completely fucked. we're still honest with one another. the lying hasn't begun yet, or it never did. and we didn't have that "getting to know you" period where you just put your best foot forward. we knew the good and bad getting into this.
yeah. yeah, you're right. i mean, this isn't a burden. you aren't a burden or anything. this is just really new.

Laura and Rick had been dating for 2 weeks.
"You see that man over there," she said with a confident grin. "That's the one."
He was wearing a red flannel and was looking at the jukebox. Laura was pouring two glasses of beer. "Mark my word, boys." She looked back at him and then back at us. She had a huge grin on her face. She gave us a quick wink and left. She brought him his beer and they danced to "The Gambler."


complimentary, supplementary. more of a craft, more of a science than any sort of art but it reminds how i'd imagine a musician feels about a certain song. every element. most are deliberate, but sometimes the unplanned is better than you'd ever expect.

Parks filled with reindeer and the Bernstein bears. The dollhouse grandpa Jerko made for me when I was 6. Tiny brown plastic glasses. Niagra falls and forts to take naps in.

and this one must have been written within the past year.

It's so nice that my best friend gets stoned and writes us haikus.

Untitled Start Chapter 4

Brady Connel awoke Monday morning with a hangover rivaling that of a seasoned alcoholic. He hadn’t grown nearly as used to the spin as he had hoped he would before the continuation of the rest of his academic career, the regurgitated yellow watery mess filling up the toilet in the upstairs bathroom, a further inclination of such. Brady’s loud coughs had managed to stir Lorene from her light slumber, the bathroom wall bordering her own. She laid in bed, strung out, contemplating if it was at all possible for her mind to shut down, and sleep to continue. After roughly five minutes of her brother’s frantic movements from one room to the next, she decided that possibly the day would pass much faster if she simply arose and went through all the same motions again.
Victor and Joni Connel had both risen at the same time, with satisfied smirks on their faces. The sex had been rather adventurous the previous night, despite the exhaustion from both following the cleanup of their son’s graduation party. Possibly it was the fact that two responsible adults had been drinking for the duration of the day, the hormonal tension that still roughly existed between them even after close to twenty-one years of marriage, having become slightly harder to handle with each passing in the kitchen, each look before their parental duties took over again. It was either that or Victor’s own boost the second he started thinking about his next door neighbor Audrey Tate’s get-up, while drunkenly setting a path with his own wife. Even if Joni had known the truth, she wouldn’t have necessarily cared. It had been years since she thought about her husband when the two of them were making love.
However, the smiles still rang true that Monday morning as Victor sat at the kitchen table, drinking his familiar cup of Joe, waiting for his son to get a move on. Joni, completely fatigued from cooking the previous day, sat at the chair across from him, eating a bowl of Cheerios, and blinking harder than she was used to in the morning. Her headache was vaguely present, but nonetheless pulsated at the slightest inclination of a sound above a certain decibel level. Victor yelling up the stairs wasn’t helping anything.
“Brady! We gotta get a move on son! You don’t wanna be late, do you?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m coming,” Brady shouted down from upstairs, in half a raspy voice. It was coarse from a lot of things besides the alcohol.
“We should have had the party on Saturday,” Victor rationally said to his wife, before taking another sip from his World’s Best Golfer mug.
“We couldn’t. Sandy Martin was having hers, remember?” Joni calmly replied.
“But Brady isn’t even friends with Sandy Martin.”
“Yeah, but they have some of the same friends or something. I don’t know how it works exactly.”
“Well, still. I’m just saying because I don’t think any of us are too tiptop for the ride to Clearview.”
“Do you want me to drive, hon?” Joni had asked it out of marital habit, despite the fact that she was in no condition to signal before changing lanes.
“No, that’s okay. I’m fine. I feel fine.”
“Well, okay.”
Lorene wandered down the stairs at that moment, her blonde hair a mess, her eyes red from the drops shed the previous evening. She sat down in the chair next to her father, groaning, before coughing up a smooth sounding chunk of mucus in the back of her throat. The Connel Sunday Barbecue and subsequent hangover had been contagious throughout the house.
“Good morning sweetie. Do you want any breakfast?” Joni asked her one and only daughter, picking up on a slightly unsettling vibe shooting off of Lorene, that only a mother could notice.
“No, I’m okay ma. My stomach’s kind of all over the place right now.”
“Well, maybe you should put something in it then,” Victor said, offering the best advice a computer aficionado could.
“I will when I’m hungry dad.”
“Okay, just saying,” He paused, loudly smacking his lips together. Joni felt instantly agitated by the sound. “So what the hell’s taking your brother so long?”
“He’s got the bug apparently,” Lorene said, dully.
“Well, he better get over it pretty quick. We gotta go soon.”
“Yeah, about that guys. I was thinking maybe I’d just stay home today,” Lorene said in a miserable tone, trying desperately to sound worst than the rest of them. In a lot of ways she was, but there was no denying that Lorene Connel was probably in the best condition to drive Victor’s blue station wagon that morning.
“Oh honey, don’t you wanna see your brother off to college?” Joni said is an almost perfectly played sentimental motherly tone, the truth behind such standard performance being that Joni didn’t want to be the only one forced into the car.
“It’s not even college. It’s more academics before college, for the smart kids. I mean, all the cute boys aren’t going to be moving in until the end of August.”
“She’s got ya there Joni,” Victor replied with a soft smile.
“Alright fine. What are you going to do, though?” The mother asked, out of the blue.
“I don’t know. Hang out for awhile this morning and then maybe I’ll apply for jobs somewhere later.”
“Well that’s good thinking,” Victor’s economically sound view of the world was taking over.
“Yep, that’s me. Always thinking ahead,” Lorene sighed.
Brady’s fast-paced steps halted all early morning breakfast conversation. His sweaty forehead and feverishly perplexed looks, didn’t necessarily help the cause which was cautiously popping up, over and over again in the back of his head. He didn’t want to go, didn’t want to leave home, and wasn’t sure if more knowledge was necessarily going to help him all that much in the grand scheme of things. It was a cliché that had somewhat lost it’s meaning in the three weeks between high school graduation and the next logical albeit forceful step in the proper direction of growing up. Brady regrettably knew that, unlike his little sister, there were no educated excuses to get him out of such a situation. His bags were already packed.

Brady sat in the backseat of his father’s station wagon; the bumpy abstractions on the highway not offering his head any kind of solace. Victor and Joni were both trying to hide the same effects on their own noggins, but at that point in life, had grown more than used to a few unleveled mornings full of vertigo.
Everyone in the car was mostly quiet, letting the soft sounds of Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits replace any discussion the Connels might feel like having with each other. It was possible that they had been through it all before, not in the same fashion, the trips having been for family vacations or to drop somebody off at camp, but in any case, it didn’t feel like much of anything was changing.
Victor and Joni had been patiently waiting for at least one of their children to finally vacate the premises, even if it wasn’t permanently. They were almost sick and tired of the bullshit that went along with it. All the school-sponsored events, chaperoning at dances, donating, selling and purchasing, made their star student of a son, seem more like a business partner as opposed to someone who was a spitting image of their union.
In short, Victor and Joni Connel were almost disappointed by Brady, and the fact that he was so goddamn perfect. He hadn’t fucked up in any sense of the word, but rather simply and truly went through all the proverbial public school motions and requirements, filling in the blanks as beyond satisfactory. It almost made them cringe inside as they thought about it on the drive over. Wasn’t it supposed to be harder? Weren’t there supposed to be drug problems, or aborted grandchildren somewhere in the mix? Wasn’t it supposed to be more stressful than a hungover drive across the state? Neither one could necessarily find the answer they were looking for.
In this same fashion, much like their headaches, Brady shared a similar trait with his family. He was confused, and not by their supreme parenting skills or possibly lack thereof. He wasn’t rolling around in thoughts of why he had been such a fully fleshed example of the administration at North Shade High School’s dream student. All the A’s, volunteer academics and extracurriculars had come natural to him.
Instead, much like all the other recently graduated persons, Brady Connel was simply wondering why the next step was necessary. He hadn’t learned a shred of what he thought was important from assignments in high school, his eyes eventually turning to the red lights of the digital clock on the wall much like everyone else. From what he knew of college, sentiments crafted in horror stories from former class presidents and returning heads of the student government, Brady wasn’t in the least bit up for wasting his last summer free of a greater life purpose, with more pretentious opinions from seemingly adult men and women, who far too much enjoyed the idea of spoon-feeding younger more impressionable minds. It wasn’t exactly something he was looking forward to.
Yet Brady Connel had filled in all the empty spaces of the application and sent it out with the hopes of wasting his time in such a lackluster environment of timid fakers like himself for the majority of the summer. It wasn’t like him to doubt his previous actions, and yet, much like all the other larger than life situations occurring every day in the world, Brady knew why he was all of a sudden the lost and frightened intellectual in the woods. It was because of a girl, and if nothing else, it just made sense to blame such newly discovered indifference on her.
Brady had known Halle Gibson for a long time before even the inclination of the two of them as something other than just lab partners or study buddies came into the picture. She wasn’t like all the other girls in the school. Halle wasn’t the girl who grabbed every one of his thoughts as she strutted down the hallway in something tight and low cut. She wasn’t the girl who was searching for anybody to drive her home, or possibly away from the elaborate mess in her life.
No, instead, Halle Gibson was exactly like Brady. She was a lawful abider of the rules, her homework assignments always in on time, her extensive list of civic duties to the North Shade High community meticulously completed to a tee. In short, she was the girl that Brady Connel had a hard time coming to terms with as somebody who would obsessively fill in the contemplative holes for him. However, by senior prom, she did just that.
They asked each other out of common sense, each one knowing that the people they really wanted to go with would probably only end up disappointing them in the long run anyway. Then the preparations, the dance, and finally after each willing participant had a better time than they expected, the subsequent drunken intercourse in Will Leidy’s parents’ upstairs guestroom. Suddenly a world of pent up sexual frustration took over as both Brady and Halle soon disregarded their assignments and final reflective papers for a chance at making up for lost time.
It had been an incredible month in Brady’s eyes, and one that he hoped would continue and make him all the better, but there was just that one tiny little problem. He was accepted into the Clearview College summer scholars program, and unfortunately attending seemed like the right thing to do. People were expecting it of him. Brady’s parents and family, all the teachers and counselors that were so proud of him, his ambiguous list of friends who were pretending to be jealous. All of them wanted Brady to be that guy. All of them except Halle.
They had been drunk in the backyard the previous night, everyone else having retired to other various houses of North Shade, Illinois; their porch lights still vaguely lit. He held her hand gently and tried to think of another solution, a way that would make it easier for him to just stay and act like all the other dim-witted lovesick kids who spent their summer on a whim. However, for the first time in Brady Connel’s life, no answers were coming to him, and he simply didn’t know what to tell her other than goodbye, a sentiment that continually popped up over and over again with each song and bump along the road. He was angrily and legitimately turning away from one of the only things he ever cared about, one of the only things he hadn’t been told to care about, and it was killing him.
The green and white exit signs started coming closer and closer, and then finally the long turn off from the straight path with all the other cars. Part of Brady hoped his father would get so lost that eventually both parents would mutually agree on their son’s bigger ideas. It wasn’t a day for academics and self-discovery. Instead, it was a day to return to the normalcy, to let all the stuffy noses know that it was far too beautiful outside to do anything but think about falling in love. They wouldn’t get it, though. To those expecting Brady Connel’s intellectual presence in their program, it was as much of a foreign concept as God. Logically he couldn’t exist to them. They were far too busy thinking about other sanctimonious forms of folklore.
Traffic was at a bare minimum in and around the campus, all cars of the overachievers and their parents’ filling a small portion of the street in front of Anderson Dormitory. The amount of thick-framed glasses, collard shirts, and “I’m a proud parent of a ‘fill in the high school’ honor roll student” stickers were at an all time high. The overabundance of such a strangely pervasive and highly similar group of less than amused eighteen-year-olds made Brady’s stomach slowly sink for the second time that day. He wasn’t quite ready to meet new people again, to form all the remedial bonds of illustrious college friendship, before the pull of reality set in. Everyone was kind of an asshole, even if some were better at hiding it than others.
Brady first moped in through the front doors, past about two dozen other early arrivals, already obsessively checking their lists of required items for college living. After waiting behind six or seven other kids, slightly more angry with their parents than themselves for being late, the short and chubby female resident assistant behind the front office counter, handed Brady his golden key. It wasn’t shining any differently that day, or offering the former occupant now instant visitor to 1469 Derby Street any bright concepts of opportunity. Instead, Brady felt like he was once again falling into the familiar pull from a single-filed line, everybody waiting their turns like robots on a conveyor belt.
The process of moving in with Victor and Joni didn’t necessarily help Brady discover what the point of everything was. There was unfamiliar arguing between the three of them; some of it about lifting heavier objects the wrong way, while the rest just seemed like an offshoot of lingering human emotions which couldn’t necessarily be explained at that point. Neither Victor nor Joni felt as if they were about to go rolling down the path of empty nest syndrome, and yet the sentimentality of seeing their first born son, stand in the middle of a plaster-chipped walled dorm room, compliments of his academic scholarship, waiting patiently for both of them to leave him alone to his thoughts, was, as the commercials often say, priceless.
“So are you all squared away here Brady?” Victor asked, taking one final introspective look around the enclosed space, bringing back memories that in this day and age could never reform again.
Times had changed. It wasn’t like the golden age of experimental drug use where everybody desperately clung to the notion that enlightenment was only a hit away. Instead, everything had been cracked down upon to the point where fun was a beyond highly ambiguous word. The smiling and excited faces slowly but surely starting to fill the first three floors of Anderson Dormitory weren’t in the least bit sure of its meaning, having been force-fed morals and inspirational sayings since the onset of their supposedly gifted minds. It wasn’t ever going to be like it was before. The mixed bag of drunken overly sexualized drug-induced collegiate frivolousness had unfortunately died off with the likes of all those over-achievers.
While some would inevitably drop out, give up or give into peer pressure, the majority of them would continue to walk the path set in stone for them by their own diminished will power, until death. The entire thought of a world full of people like those, who would be surrounding Brady Connel for the duration of the summer, made him contemplate variations of escape and suicide. Neither one would necessarily hit home, though, as both concepts seemed, quite literally, overused at that point.
“I think I’m good dad,” Brady replied upon his quick snap back to reality.
“Well then I guess we’ll head out of here. Let you get settled.”
He hugged both his parents and listened to their steps as they eventually faded out down the hallway. Brady Connel then sat down on his unmade creaky dorm bed and mattress, the springs offering a screech that would do more than just resonate in those first few days of common procedure. It would start to sound oddly refreshing as every afternoon and evening came to a close. Brady wouldn’t be the same person upon his triumphant return weeks later.
It was as if I'd not seen a beautiful creature until that very moment when I first met eyes with her. If love is divine chicanery - simply the gods' way of tormenting us by bestowing a gift upon the mortals that we could never truly receive (or understand) - then I had fallen victim; I had played the fool.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Untitled Start Chapter 3

Lorene Connel was drunk by eight P.M. that Sunday night, but wasn’t quite willing to admit it. It had started, as a way to drown out Gina and Quinn’s incessant chatter while she waited for Doyle’s return from the drive, and then soon escalated to the point where she was hoping it would help her completely shutdown. She didn’t want to be the girl waiting for the right moment to fill Doyle in on her lingering emotionally unbalanced feelings, and yet there wasn’t much of any other way to spin it. Lorene simply couldn’t shake the way he made her feel. It was cross between safe and reminiscent, while still walking the borderline of an obsessive and angry femme, who couldn’t quite pick and choose from the other available male examples. They were all too much like everyone else.
She stood in the middle of the downstairs green bathroom, starring blankly at her own reflection in the mirror, like all the answers were somehow hidden behind her soft blue eyes. Lorene wasn’t exactly sure what her life was becoming, the first three weeks of that summer offering about as much lackluster appeal as they had for her neighbor, the reliable peeping tom, Benji Tate.
At first, she had felt embarrassed by the incessant stares from his bedroom window into hers, but as time passed Lorene grew more used to it than she thought she ever could. Part of it was the fact that after the whole January incident, the simplistically sentimental side of Lorene felt bad for Benji and the sudden turn his life had taken. However, that didn’t necessarily mean that her blinds would always stay open. Instead, it was a flattering cross between ignorance and bliss. Sometimes she needed those eyes to stare, if for nothing else, to remind the young and confused Lorene Connel that there was at least somebody more pathetic than she was.
Possibly, none of it did make sense to her, though. Lorene was a knockout by all conventional high school standards. Longer dirt blonde hair, never completely hiding the prominent dimples and protruding grin that seemed to pop up more often than not when she was walking next to Doyle. Everybody had sort of picked up on the louder than life thumping of her heart by then, except for him, of course. Doyle Booth was too thick most of the time, too stoned or too used to the way things used to be. He didn’t see Lorene as the vibrant sex symbol like all the other pre-prepubescent boys of North Shade High School did. He wasn’t ever the type to suspend disbelief, and so with the clearest of intoxicated female thoughts, Lorene Connel flushed the toilet and stepped back into the familiar hallway lined with family photos and forced smiles.
Audrey Tate stood leaning against the wall by the same bathroom door, waiting to use the facility. Lorene glanced over at her neighbor for the first time that whole day, not nearly drunk enough to ignore the outfit, but just under the right mix of foamy keg beer to make her reaction more obvious than mostly everybody else’s.
“Jesus, you scared me Ms. Tate,” Lorene said, taking a step back from the spectacle.
“Sorry honey, I was just waiting. Are you done?”
“Uh yeah, I am, but… Well, you look really good tonight, just so ya know.”
“Yeah, don’t remind me,” Audrey replied before shutting the bathroom door behind her. She would be home checking in on Benji’s progress within a matter of minutes, before eventually retiring on the living room couch, dreading what the following morning had to offer her.
However, Lorene was beyond young enough to still have a completely full night ahead of her. She walked out the backdoor through the laundry room and into the yard. The crowd had somewhat died down, a few seasoned professionals, friends of her father and so forth, having shown their faces for the food, a few quick drinks and then quickly returned to their own depressingly habitual station on the living room couch. It was mostly just Brady’s reliable crew of scholarly deviants trying desperately to make up for four years of studying with one drunken night of forgetfulness. They made Lorene cringe inside and yet still provided the perfect cover for her to pull Doyle away from the madness.
She walked over towards the large oak tree that sat delicately in the middle of her backyard, Doyle, Gina and Quinn all mindlessly starring at the unrecognizable drunken actions of Brady and his best friend Will Leidy, both climbing opposite ends of the tree, trying desperately not to fall and break their necks. It would have been completely ridiculous to Lorene had she not seen it as a completely shallow attempt at attention. By then she was beyond sick of all the star players, and instead only had eyes for once very prominent fixture that up until that point, had been dancing to a practiced routine with her, his entire life. If nothing else, the first few weeks of that summer had made it clear that she needed a change of pace.
“Hey Doyle, can I talk to you for a second?” Lorene asked, trying not to sound as drunk or flirty as she knew she could, given the proper means to escape.
“What is it?”
“I have something to tell you. It’s like a secret, so maybe if you pull yourself away from these idiots for a sec…”
“Yeah, okay.”
Doyle confusingly followed Lorene away from the tree, Gina giving the two of them a quick and unsuspecting look, before turning back to the circle around the oak. She thought nothing of it, because she knew she didn’t have to. Doyle had been cowardly moving along since the two stated messing around in October. He was hooked, and she loved knowing it.
Lorene opened the same backdoor to the laundry room, shutting it behind her, while taking the longest of obvious nervous breaths. Doyle started to look around the somewhat enclosed surrounding; wondering what all the fuss could possibly be about. It wasn’t ever like him; even in the current drunk and hazy state he was in, to hypothesize something other than conversation with Lorene. They only really talked anyways.
“So what’s up?” Doyle asked, unknowingly.
“Nothing really, I guess I just sort of wanted to pull you away from all those morons for a moment,” Lorene replied, nervously tapping her left foot to an unknown beat.
“So you don’t have a secret, you just wanted to pretend like you did?” Doyle said with a smirk that instantly got to her.
“Yeah, I guess… I mean, no. I do. I just… Well I’m not sure if I should tell you,” Her heart began to race, the weight from the alcohol, not helping it subside in the least bit.
“Lorene, what’s the big deal here?”
“Okay, uh… Doyle, I think you should break up with Gina.”
“Why?” He asked, the confused look lining his face instantly making Lorene undecided about her answer.
“Well, just because… I like you, and not like a friend, not anymore, I don’t think anyway.”
“Wait… So you’re saying you have a crush on me or something, is that it?” Each of Doyle’s polished responses wasn’t helping in the least with Lorene’s nerves.
“Yeah, but I mean… I think it’s more than a crush. I mean, we’ve known each other for so long, and ever since Gina I wasn’t sure if I did or not, but I do, and I think I could possibly be in love with you Doyle. Then again, I’m not completely sure. It might just be the alcohol.”
“It probably is,” Doyle replied awkwardly, his eyes full of a distasteful glare that Lorene Connel was unaware existed until that point.
“But it can’t just be that. I mean, I know how I feel.”
“Jesus Christ…” Doyle spouted with a sigh. “Lorene, you’re great, and we’re really good friends, but I’m in love with Gina.”
“No, you’re not. You just think you are because she’s slutty enough to fool around with you.”
“Well apparently you are too.”
“It’s different. I miss you when you’re not around and… I just want you to hold me all the time. I mean, I think about you holding me all the time, and our conversations if we were a couple and… Man, I know all of this is kind if making me sound like some antsy little girl with a crush, but it’s the truth Doyle, and I think I had to tell you, because I’m not sure if I can necessarily handle seeing you all the time anymore unless you change,” She felt slightly relieved and at the same inhumanely flabbergasted by her words, chosen somewhat randomly out of a hat.
“I need to go. Get home, I mean. It’s been a weird-ass day, ya know?”
“Aren’t you going say anything. I…”
Lorene couldn’t quite handle the pull anymore. She knew it wouldn’t be perfect, but at the same time, as cliché messages from seasoned heartbreakers go, she just needed to see for herself. She leaned in fast and heavily; kissing Doyle’s chapped lips with her own. Both were somewhat spinning in the small laundry room, not necessarily the most romantic of places for a first anything. Yet Lorene Connel couldn’t tell if it was the space or her own intoxicated mind that made it all more than abundantly clear to her, but in any case, Doyle Booth barely kissed her back that night. He retreated up against the white screen door, both hands passively in front of him, surrendering to any forceful sweet inclinations of the two of them. Doyle wasn’t quite ready to think about it all yet.
“I’m sorry. I can’t… I gotta go, but I’ll call you sometime tomorrow Lorene, see what you’re up to,” Doyle opened the door, and quickly exited the scene, a semi-spooked member of North Shade, Illinois’ frazzled example of what society seemed to be.
Lorene sighed, and tried to hide the abundantly clear tears that were starting to slowly but surely rush out of her light blue eyes and fall delicately on the laundry room floor. She thought before such an incident, that perhaps she was tougher than all those other floaty teenage girls, the ones with dream phones and celebrity crush posters lining their bedroom walls. Lorene was under the impression that it had been her own lack of flirtatiousness earlier in the school year, which made Doyle inevitably fall in with Gina up until that very moment. She knew then, though, that it was never she or he, but rather just the way it all ran together. Doyle needed her as a friend who would always be there, and she was simply the scratching the surface looking for somebody to fill the void. If Doyle could be happy with such a flake like Gina, then why not her with someone else?
The same first floor bathroom from moments earlier helped Lorene Connel piece her life back together again. Her runny black mascara was soon washed down the drain along with the ruby red lipstick she hoped he would notice, but didn’t. A crumpled mess of tissues filled with necessary drops spun around the drain before eventually taking their leave of her that night. Lorene was sure that it was just the alcohol which made her the emotional wreck she wasn’t used to seeing stare back at her from the bathroom mirror, but as the night took another unexpected turn, she would find it much harder to distinguish between what she thought and what was clear to everyone.
The keg had kicked minutes before nine-thirty all the wealthy friends of Victor Connel having put a much greater dent in the supply than Brady and his brainy confidants. However, their youthful numbers were the ones that remained stumbling in and around the Connel’s house and backyard as the hours before midnight slowed to a crawl. Lorene stationed herself on the tacky lime green couch in the basement, flipping through the familiarly dull program choices and waiting for her heavy head and heart to both subside. The former did so rather faster than she had imaged, while the latter would patiently take its time.
Will Leidy wandered into the basement, in the most drunken of hazes, each of his distorted steps striking the dark gray carpet with a fury. He held an empty red plastic cup in his left hand, as he eyes ran in circles around the room, searching for a vice to fill it, before eventually coming to a clear and concise realization that possibly there was more to do downstairs than steal alcohol.
“Hey Lorene,” Will said in a mumble, before sitting down on the couch right next to her.
“Hey Will, how’s it going?”
“Decent. I was just looking for more booze. The keg’s kicked.”
“Well, I’m surprised it lasted this long.”
“Yeah, but isn’t there a liquor cabinet?”
“It’s in the dining room upstairs.”
“Oh. Well, shit… I don’t know if I have the strength to walk the whole way up there.”
“Yeah, well I understand. I mean, my mom’s probably keeping a lookout for the likes of you anyway.”
“Yeah, probably…” Will let out a longer breath, before he started to strut along the line of supposed off-limits territory, looking right at Lorene’s glowing baby blues, the reflection of the television set lighting them up with each channel passed by. “So, I guess we’re not gonna see each other too much this summer with Brady leaving tomorrow and everything.”
“Yeah, I guess not.”
“I mean, unless you would want to, ya know, hang out or something.”
“Are you trying to get at something here Will?”
“I think you’re really cute, Lorene.”
“You and a lot of other people,” She replied, sarcastically.
“Well, isn’t there anything that sets me apart from the others?” He turned his head to the blankness of the basement, almost ashamed by such a statement.
“You’re my brother’s best friend, Will.”
“Yeah, but with college coming up and everything, I don’t really foresee that friendship lasting for too much longer.”
“You’re point being?” Lorene asked, disinterestedly.
“I guess I just always wondered… I mean, if I was ever… If there was ever a chance that we, the two of us, that is… If we…”
Lorene looked over at the stuttering and drunken Will, trying desperately to say what she had to Doyle roughly an hour earlier. She wondered if that was how truly pathetic she sounded and looked when going there. It couldn’t have been exactly like that, though. Lorene knew she still at least had some vague shred of credibility left in Doyle’s mind. However, she also knew that possibly the familiar road of clichés was the one to walk that evening, her buzz having not completely subsided yet.
Some could have called it a pity kiss, and one that would not nearly have as much of an effect or meaning on the participants as the one earlier. Yet, Lorene Connel didn’t necessarily care at that point. She had felt so numb to the diminishing spirit in everybody she knew and saw on a regular basis, that such a raw unfiltered action didn’t have to mean anything. In fact, it almost felt easier to her upon the initial icebreaker. Brady would be gone, and she wouldn’t have to see Will for sometime after that. Lorene kissed her brother’s best friend’s quivering lips, and soon regretted it, though.
Will was far too drunk to tap into any predetermined concepts of romance or foreplay, but instead took Lorene’s initial soft cue as an invitation to get as grabby as possible. She didn’t mind his hands all over her breasts at first, and soon on her butt, squeezing the denim fabric of her jeans, hoping for some kind of upper level stimulation. Will was inexperienced, though, and with each unknown movement, each hand grazing the parts she wasn’t used to noticing, Lorene became all the more unsettled by it. She didn’t like his forcefulness, his sweaty drunken body on top of hers, the ungrateful erection quickly felt on her left knee and so it wasn’t long before the cut off happened much to Will’s dismay.
Lorene darted up from the couch, muttering a few choice words about being tired and not ready for all the newly discovered items on both their plates. She then rushed up the basement stairs, past her mother cleaning up in the kitchen, and straight to her bedroom, the door cleanly shut behind her. The tears reappeared, only this time, she wasn’t completely sure about their origin. It hadn’t been Will’s fault, and yet she knew it would be impossible to look at him the same way ever again. Even if he was taking a vacation from her tight-nicked lopsided life, it didn’t mean that he wouldn’t be back around for an occasional guest appearance. The thought of it made Lorene’s eyes water even more.
By ten-thirty her pillowcase was drenched, the small trashcan under her desk full of Kleenexes. Lorene began to pull herself slowly back together again, flipping through her high school yearbook, and trying desperately to determine whether any of the smiles and memories would matter much anymore. Possibly everything was eventually reduced to an awkward moment on a basement couch, no clear path to walk following such a happening. Lorene started changing out of the day’s wrinkled clothes, briefly starring out her one window, per chance to see Benji Tate cowardly hiding in the space between his bedroom window and the floor.
Instead, Lorene unexplainably and disappointedly simply saw his closed blinds; the flashing lights from the television set still illuminating some aspect of Benji’s own reliable fortress of solitude. She let the clothes line the floor of her room, before crawling into bed, and turning the light off. Lorene Connel refrained from telling herself that tomorrow was going to be another day. She had already known, for the longest of times, that it was going to be mostly the same.
sometimes i feel like i'm not aloud to do things. like, i didn't go to school for photography or something like that so i feel like i'm not aloud to try. i don't know why i feel like that, but also i'm afraid that if I try to do "art" i wont have a good enough reason or purpose behind some of the things that i want to do and you'll just laugh, but i'm not stupid. a lot of you haven't gone to school for anything just like me, and who cares if you guys think it's stupid if i want to do it? right? yea. maybe it was getting another tattoo i guess that makes me feel like i'm missing things. this is my life. if i want to do something i should do it. i should do it.
So, here’s something that I do every now and then. Maybe I'm too lazy to get a "project" I only capitalize words when I feel like it, BUT here is something that I do sometimes.

Theres 6 trees behind my house over the fence on the golf course. I took a picture just about every minute of the sun rising and want to put them all together on a slide show to see the sun rise.. just to use as an avatar or something, but i couldn't find a program on my computer to do it without a fade effect on every picture or it being too slow. i wanted it to be stop motion-ish. so I have those.

now i take a picture of them maybe 2 times a week or maybe just once every 2 weeks. i have to add another picture to the left every now and then because the sun moves a little farther over every morning. i wanted to do it from the same spot until the sun starts rising too far to the left where i can't see it anymore. i guess i just like the idea of having to wait for something. doing something that i don't have control over when it ends. maybe the sun wont even go too far to the left where i can't take the picture. maybe it'll start coming back to the right. i have no idea. I wake up the same time every day too so the sun is a little higher now then it used to be. i imagined it as a book all put together. the first page could be the 40 or so pictures of the sun rising cause thats what started it i guess, but then the next page would just be one picture and then the rest of the book would be adding another picture ever page or something like that. i know the waiting thing isn't a new idea, the sun rise isn't new, I'm never going to make a book, hah, but i like it. That's what matters I suppose.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

red, white and blue

Untitled Start Chapter 2

Benji Tate was eating and drinking to forget that afternoon, stuffing his face with all available means to postpone conversation from Brady Connel’s less than stellar group of self-indulgent intellectuals. He sat at the opposite end of the same long cherry picnic table where Frank Parks and Bill Hewitt were reliably swooning over their girlfriends Carrie Johnson and Jean Logue. Brady stood a few feet away, tossing a blue Frisbee to his girlfriend Halle Gibson, the two of them cracking up more when the round disc managed to fly right past either one of their heads. Families full of chipper children and happily married individuals wandered into the backyard every ten minutes or so, handing Brady more large envelopes before staking their place in line for the catered goods.
Benji was alone, instantly regretting first, the fact that he had left his reliably morose bedroom, and second that in the short fifteen years of his life, he had managed to fully classify everybody on the entire planet earth into two very distinct categories. There were the mostly happy ones, the ones with people to fall back on. Then there were the people like him. The people who were stuck starring at everybody else, patiently waiting for a return to normalcy.
Benji had become the person that everyone inevitably felt bad for all the time, and he couldn’t stand the thought of it anymore. He was full of other emotions besides depression, and yet it was rather difficult at such debauched social events, to shake off the substantially large chip that directly resided on his shoulder. Such get-togethers were suburban routine, everybody marking their free church calendars, before sitting down at their kitchen tables and browsing through the paper, looking for any shred of an event worth attending.
The party had a purpose, and it wasn’t necessarily to celebrate Brady Connel’s level-headedness. People needed to escape their boring living room couch weekends. They needed to dress themselves up, to show off in whatever manner they knew how. They needed the escape, and yet for Benji it was the exact opposite. He found that any forced social event, whether they be school dances or backyard barbecues, weren’t helping his supposed progress. He wasn’t like everybody else, and it wasn’t going to change, or simply subside. He wasn’t going to find an item of clothing in the back of his closet that reminded him of the way life used to be, because he couldn’t remember a time even before the previous six months where life wasn’t so goddamn horrible.
Benji had a good relationship with Caleb, or at least as good as it could have been considering the situation. They had been through the majority of the father/son motions. Fights over misunderstood circumstances, baseball games from the very top of the stadium, and yet nothing could have prepared Benji for the world his father had so firmly placed a flag in. North Shade High School was a death sentence, and Benji prowled the hallways as a marked man. Caleb was the likeable teacher, the one everybody could understand, could relate to, the one who took all the basic angst-ridden bullshit with a grain of salt. Students could depend on Mr. Tate to be there in mostly all complicated instances, and furthermore to be on their side.
However, Benji didn’t need to see his father in the hallway. He didn’t need to walk past him every day with his head down, ashamed to be living in his own skin. He didn’t need to hear from various individuals that Caleb was the best teacher they ever had. He didn’t need to see his father’s inherited shitty grin every day. He didn’t need to deal with the fact that Mr. Tate was giving Lorene Connel the same kind of looks that Benji was, and he didn’t need to be lied to that afternoon in January, when he knew that something rather fishy was going on.
None of it made sense until it was completely over, though. Benji had seen Ronna Huffman carry the large red duffel bag down the hallway that morning, and thought nothing of it at first. He saw the same red duffel bag sitting patiently in the corner or Caleb’s classroom that afternoon, and yet putting two and two together was kind of a tricky procedure at that point. Initially Benji had thought it was absolutely ridiculous. His father managing to get with a highly attractive student of North Shade High, even before he could. It was absurd and would never happen in a million years.
But it did happen, and all the subsequent looks in the hallway that followed weren’t necessarily any better than the ones that occurred before it. There wasn’t any kind of filtering system for such looks, but rather Benji Tate simply had to get used to them, and he did, just like everything else. It was amazing, the ability of certain fifteen-year-olds to adapt to such troubled times, and adapt they did.
There was one particular look that Benji would never quite live down or adapt to, though, and it wasn’t the last one from Caleb, as most people including Audrey, thought it might be. It was the look every time he saw Ronna Huffman in the hallway afterwards. Every time, without much hesitation, as if by some kind of unspeakable deal between God and the devil, Ronna would smile at him, but it wasn’t the kind of smile that put everything back together again. It wasn’t that simple.
Instead, it was the kind of smile that was subtle while still full enough to say everything both knew they never could to each other. It was the kind of smile that Ronna could only truly pull off in Benji’s presence. It was an apologetic smile, a smile that wasn’t in any way standard to the North Shade High School hallways, and yet still, it managed to make him feel better, and he wasn’t sure why.
By all accounts Benji Tate should have been cursing the day Ronna Huffman was born and strutted into his already fragile life, but he wasn’t. He was almost past the point where thinking about somebody like her and somebody like his father as anything other than two people who unexplainably and without much hesitation ruined their own lives, was impossible. It was never him, and yet even as the phrase dangled back and forth like a swinging pendulum in the foreground of Benji’s brain, he couldn’t quite shake it clean.
There was a distant and somewhat dimly faded light at the end of the tunnel, though. Benji found himself reliably dipping into such familiar clichés at that point, as if nothing else, at least they made sense to him. It was those and finally the presence of Lorene Connel in the backyard that made it easy enough for the highly confused fifteen-year-old to turn off such long and winded thoughts of his life, and instead float along with the rest of the debris. The two youthful neighbors of Derby Street’s awkwardly subversive exchanged looks always managed to hit slightly harder than most of the others Benji was used to. Lorene hadn’t ventured into the highly nerdy vicinity of her older brother’s graduation party gala for Benji Tate’s benefit, though. There was another apple of her eye on the prowl, and yet he more often than not brought company with him.
Lorene Connel’s best friend Doyle Booth coolly walked through the yard, his right hand firmly securing his girlfriend Gina Hamilton’s left. Gina’s best friend and confidant Quinn Pitman strutted two paces behind the happy couple, quickly gazing at the potentially available male graduates and then turning back to the ground. All four, including Lorene, followed Doyle’s lead as he conveniently sat down across from Benji at the table, making the supposed charity case snap out of whatever predetermined daze he was in.
“Hey Benji,” Doyle said with a thrilled-to-be-breathing look on his face.
“Yeah, hi Doyle,” Benji replied, taking the last sip from his red plastic cup of foam, before forwarding his attention directly to Lorene. It was the first time he had seen her all afternoon, like she was patiently waiting in her bedroom for Doyle’s infectious presence the whole time.
The two had been best friends since before they could remember. While some girls inevitably latch onto other Barbie-dream-house-toting clones, Lorene simply wasn’t the type. She raised herself like a tomboy. It was her own will power that, at least early on anyway, kept her grounded in what stretched past the cliché little girl princess fantasy. Lorene and Doyle’s frivolous adventures in the nearby woods behind their large white house on Derby Street, were more than just typical childhood hikes through common worn trails. They were full of what built their friendship on common experiences, and what would later center them in an equally full veil of indifference.
Around seventh grade everything would change without completely changing for the two. Doyle learned how to play guitar, while Lorene learned how to hide her boobs, as more common than not, they were what all the unbalanced hormonal boys in her class fixated on. Doyle never really noticed, though. They were both past the point where the remedial pull of sexual education had an effect on them, or at least that’s what they thought.
Lorene wasn’t completely sure of her true feelings until Gina permanently came into the picture the previous October, and brought Quinn with her. Two girls she loathed for no other reason than the fact that first, they were always there, and second, they had nothing in common. They were the girls who got dolled up for the backyard, the girls that would discuss and repeat all the callow bullshit spreading from peak to peak of North Shade. They weren’t the kind of girls Lorene thought Doyle would fall for, and yet his truly simplistic example of the human male sixteen-year-old experience was only further proof to Lorene that most expectations are meant to fall apart.
“So how long have you been here man?” Doyle asked Benji, with a nod.
“Maybe an hour. I’m not sure. I’ve kind of been out of it the whole time.”
“I bet.”
“So how’s your summer going Benji?” Quinn asked, shifting her weight closer to him on the picnic table. He instantly felt strangely awkward about it, his eyes first shifting to Lorene’s who were batting about over Doyle’s every movement. It was a disappointment that only a next door neighbor could pick up on.
“I’d say alright. I haven’t really been doing much of anything.”
“Yeah, me neither. I mean, I’ve been reading a lot, hanging out at the pool.”
“Cool,” Benji said, trying his best to make the more obvious stroke of teenage depression he was subscribing to, apparent with all his newly discovered peers.
“So uh… there’s food if you guys want any?” Lorene said, trying to find some place to talk in her own backyard.
“I’m not really hungry,” Gina chimed in, like she was trying to watch her barely existent weight.
“Yeah, me neither,” Doyle replied, before looking over at Benji and instantly knowing what his purpose for being there was. “So um… Benji, I think I have that record I borrowed off you from like December in my car, if you want it back.”
“Which record?”
“Uh, I forget what it’s called. Something… Yeah, I can’t remember. Come with me, I’ll get it for your right now.”
“Do I need to stand up?”
“Yeah, I think so.
Following Doyle’s lead, Benji stood up from the table, his sweaty imprint left to occupy the space next to Quinn. The two made it about five paces before Lorene and Gina both instantly picked up on what was really going on. The former was the first to speak, as she shifted to her left hip in the freshly cut grass and rolled her eyes.
“Hey! What are you guys really doing?” Lorene almost shouted.
Doyle turned to the girls, walking backwards through the yard. “I told you. I’m just giving him this record back.”
“Yeah, I don’t believe you.”
“You don’t have.”
“Doyle, we just got here, and you’re leaving already?” Gina asked in a whiny girlfriend voice that instantly got under Lorene’s skin.
“I’ll be back. You guys should just eat something.”
“What?” Gina questioned, almost flabbergasted by such an inclination.
Lorene was the last to turn away from the two as they headed towards the long line of parked cars on Derby Street. She didn’t necessarily understand why Doyle was such a stand up guy as far people like Benji Tate were concerned, and couldn’t necessarily think of it as anything else other than pity. Lorene figured that Doyle felt Benji needed a friend in the world, following the headlines and so forth. What she didn’t understand was that the two had been friends before all the pain and anguish of the winter months, and the trend would continue for some time afterwards.

Doyle pulled out onto the Derby Street in his large rundown red truck, searching for turns that would be off the radar. Benji sat buckled up front, packing small chunks of marijuana into the blue glass piece that Doyle had purchased off of Curt Allen’s older brother, Jeremy, the second to last week of school. Surprisingly enough, the escapist device had held up stronger than Doyle predicted it would, those first few weeks of summer having been full of usage. It was the first time Benji had ever seen it, though, the two of them having smoked out of a fashioned iced tea bottle in Doyle’s car prior to that afternoon.
It had been routine for them, even before Caleb’s long fall back to reality. The two had Spanish class first period for all of Benji’s freshman year, which meant that if Doyle happened to catch his reliable source for homework exercise forgery before the final bell rang, there would be a smoke-filled copying session that quickly followed either in the truck or the one stairwell where the smoke detectors were broken.
At first, Benji wasn’t necessarily sure why he fell so comfortably into narcotics, and by that point in his life had stopped thinking about it. Possibly it was the administration’s fault. Those upper level officials had become excellently crafted at drilling every single North Shade student with unmistakably familiar anti-drug banter, to the point where somebody like Benji Tate couldn’t resist the idea of a slow creeping reefer buzz. He found it much easier to deal with Caleb’s presence in the hallway, when his father would be speaking in sounds mirroring that of the teachers in the Peanuts’ cartoon as opposed to actual truly useful educational information.
If nothing else, Benji had learned too many shrill life lessons from Mr. Tate, without having to do or say anything. In this way, it would always be easier to rush off with somebody as influentially succinct as Doyle, and hope for some brand new wave of teenage enlightenment, rather than search for answers in recycled handouts and questions about the brash character development in morally corrupt fictitious participants. Right and wrong was as big of a blur as the objects that were passing Benji and Doyle both by as they high-carted around their sunny suburban neighborhood that Sunday.
“So what have you actually been up to man?” Doyle asked, before turning down the long drag of Maple Avenue. A few younger kids ran around their front yard with squirt guns, their water battle much more important than the car, filling with thick white smoke, driving by.
“Nothing. I’ve been sitting around for the last few weeks.”
“Well, why didn’t you give me a call or something? I mean, I have the whole bag boy thing during the day, but afterwards I’m usually doing something.”
“Yeah, and by something you mean Gina,” Benji said sarcastically.
“Ya know, not as much as you would think. I mean, it’s fucking weird how girls are. First, they’re like all over your shit. I mean, the first time that it happens for you, and then slowly but surely they just get sick of you. I don’t understand it either. I mean, usually I’m turned on to an equal degree by Gina every time we hang out.”
“Well maybe that’s a surefire sign that you’re losing your sex appeal at sixteen, Doyle.”
“Jesus, I hope not. That would be quite the bust.”
“Yeah, I guess… Man, I gotta say, I think I almost enjoy hanging out by myself more than taking everyone’s advice and being social.”
“Well, that’s kind of weird.”
“Yeah, I know, and don’t get me wrong, I mean, I want the whole girlfriend thing to happen, or at least the whole messing around thing, but man… I don’t see myself every getting over Lorene, which is fucked up. I mean, don’t you think?”
“I guess. I mean, I think eventually all of us have to grow out of our infatuations with the girl next door.”
“What, did you read that on a fortune cookie or something?”
“I think maybe the reliably stupid quotes calendar my dad bought me for Christmas.”
“Yeah, that’ll do it too.”
Doyle exhaled and quickly forgot what other topics of conversation he had thought about bringing up from the initial epiphany at the picnic table minutes earlier. Both thought about how strange it was that the tides of reality could quickly change from one setting to the next. While Benji Tate would never have a problem reminding himself to forget in places like Doyle’s truck, it was a bit more difficult in the Connel’s backyard. Possibly it was everything that was popping up out of nowhere that day. The unexplainable looks being the most prominent of confusing elements.
In any case, it was easily understood by at least Doyle, why Benji decided to simply walk back towards his own house that Sunday afternoon, following their leisurely drive around the block. He wasn’t quite ready for the same reliable scene, the loud guffaws echoing from the garage where he knew Audrey was conveniently stationing herself with all the other supposed adults, simply another reason why Benji made the choice he made. It wasn’t like rocket science or something, and in so many ways, he felt like he summed it up best upon his and Doyle’s reemergence into the neighboring front yards.
“So are you sure you’re just gonna go home now man?” Doyle asked, beyond disappointed that all of a sudden he was the only guy worth hanging out with at the party.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure. I mean, I don’t really wanna waste this with the rest of them,” Benji said, before hazily taking his leave, and opening the front door to his house.
His upstairs bedroom was exactly how he had left it; the red lights on the television set and video game system remaining conveniently lit, awaiting his return. He ejected the copy of Raw Power from the CD player, and placed it back the black case, before browsing the large oak bookshelf of alphabetized albums. Benji was beginning to view the perfection of his bedroom arrangement as a blessing and a curse at that very moment, all the sufficient shelf space slowly but surely becoming obsolete with the weeks that passed. Maybe there would never be enough room for everything he required to fill the void in his life, but in any case, it wasn’t worth the effort of dwelling upon right then.
Benji eventually settled on the dark red case of If You’re Feeling Sinister, placing it on the spindle, before stationing himself back in the brown recliner, mirroring the same disillusioned stare from the album cover. The night would pass in similar efforts of picking and choosing from the collection, and blowing off the sides of invading alien’s heads. Even though the often intriguing sounds from the Connel’s backyard barbecue would call out to the most humanistic side of Benji’s subconscious, he knew better than to plot a triumphant return to the madness. Doyle had been right with his stoned sentimental advice. The crush on the girl next door needed to be forgotten about.

This little guy was sent to me in the mail from Auburn, Washington.

I'm trying to look at things more closely.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Untitled and Unfinished

Never posted such an incomplete piece, but I'm fulfilling the request to share works in progress. This is an on-again-off-again thing that I sometimes add to. I'm really not sure if this is even interesting enough to keep going. Maybe you guys could throw me some input. It's in a voice I've never worked with before, too. Thanks.

I was named after the Blessed Mother, who I haven’t believed in since I got my braces off 3 years ago. I think that Mary just had a dick shoot inside her, and she got knocked up, just like the rest of the mothers on this planet did. Just like someday I would. And granted, the kid that came out of her ended up being a really nice guy who did a lot of really nice things, I’m not going to dispute that, but the son of God? What God? I had found none.
In high school a lot of people called me Mary Mary, like after the nursery rhyme. I liked that. I thought it made me sort of fantastical in a way, having a name passed down through ages in type. But this wasn’t high school anymore.
This was college. We were a month in. I hadn’t talked to many people. I stayed in my maple-lacquered bed and listened to The Pixies on the record player I had bought right before moving away. I thought it would make me cool, different. Mark came by and recognized “I Bleed” one day. He knocked lightly on the cracked open door that was decorated with flowers and had a dry-erase board adorned with flirty messages from sweaty boys to Amanda, my air-headed roommate.
“Hell-hello,” he stammered. His voice was meek, but still vibrating in the heavy dormitory air. I swung my head from over the side of my bunk and stuck it in front of the dividing curtains that separated the kitchen (a dirty sink and mini-fridge) from the bedroom (bunk beds and white tile floors). But I didn’t open the curtains. “Anyone in here?” he said.
“Hi,” I said, more polite than usual, wanting to be noticed. When he heard my voice, he stuck his hand through the curtains and parted them like thick hair. His hand was worn and strong-looking, looked like it had endured a lot of self-induced punishment. Hard manual labor type summer jobs, probably. It gave way to a sturdy frame, clad in a tight Nirvana tee-shirt. His trunk was complete with wide shoulders and it shot down to short, thick legs. His face was rigid, but his lips were full and solemn. He didn’t fuss with his hair, the black curls hung into his face. He had bushy, unkempt sideburns that ended with the pronounced curve of his jaw line. He was cute. It dawned on him that I was in bed and obviously in no position to entertain any guests, let alone suitors. He took a couple steps back, let the curtain fall closed. But I didn’t want the play to end.
“No, it’s okay. I was just resting before my next class.” Curtain slowly opened again. I was smiling. Blinking a couple times.
“Oh, alright. I just heard…uhm, I heard the Pixies playing from in the hall when I walked by; I wanted to see what was up with that.”
“Yeeeaaah, I’m listening to ‘Doolittle’. It’s my favorite one.”
“Really, yeah, I like that one. I didn’t know anyone else around here was into them,” he said. He licked his lips and snorted in a quick breath.
“Oh, yeah. Love them.” Neither of us said anything for what I perceived to be enough time to make the situation awkward, but fun-awkward, not awkward-awkward.
“I’m Mark.”
“Yeah? Cool to meet you, Mary. I live upstairs. In 210.”
“Cool,” I said. He was speaking nervously, but he wasn’t nervous, the opposite, actually, but his voice was meek and that made it alright. He swallowed hard, over his vocal chords.
“Yeah, I just wanted to check it out.” There was the pause again. “You like it here?”
I didn’t say anything but I made a tiny groaning noise and he got the point. He changed the subject.
“Who else do you like?”
“What?” I asked.
“Other than the Pixies. Who else are you into? Music.”
I panicked, wanted to sound cool.
“Uhm, idduno, I like a lot of stuff.” There was the pause. “Nirvana’s good.” I pointed to him and put my finger on the logo right in the middle of his chest, kept it there for just a little longer than what could be called comfortable for a first time meeting. Then I traced a line up to where the shirt ended and the flesh of his neck began. My voice didn’t change its tone. “Who do you like?” He was a little startled. So was I. It was the first time in my life that I had done anything that could have been perceived as a pass. And after the world didn’t explode, I realized that that was something I could do a lot more, making passes. It was what I wanted to do more than anything, so I did it. He didn’t seem to mind.
“Oh, uh, Nirvana, I guess.” We both shared a completely nervous chuckle. “Yeah, so,” he continued, “I just wanted to check out what was going on in here. I haven’t seen you before. You should come out more.”
“Yeah, I guess I just like listening to The Pixies too much,” I said.
“We hang out in the middle of the upstairs lounge, usually late, like after everyone comes back from homework or partying or stuff. You should come out, hang.”
“Yeah. Maybe I will.”
“Cool. Yeah, well, you should. Well, I’m going to get out of here. It was cool meeting you. Come hang out.”
“Cool meeting you, too.”
He let his hand close the curtain and he shut the door behind him. I turned back to the record player. “Doolittle” soared. “I Bleed” had ended and the next track, “Here Comes Your Man” had taken its place.

They had put me in Beech Hall. It was right next to Birch Hall, which was beside Oak Hall. All of the dormitories were named after trees or some sort of foliage. I think it was because there weren’t any around. Beech was the dorm that hadn’t been touched in years. The school had implemented a plan several years ago where they had set to renovate one hall per year, their first overhaul since the mid-70’s. Beech was the last hall to be touched, and wouldn’t receive treatment until I would be a junior and long out of residence there. It smelled of a million beers spilled into the short brown carpet-like fiber and a million showers opted not to be taken in favor of twenty extra minutes of sleep, two punches on the snooze button. The floors were hard and engrained with grime from the countless alumni.
Not long after I moved in, I discovered that my roommate Amanda and I weren’t destined to progress any further than being thrown together as roommates. She was short and had curly hair, had a really girly-girl persona. She was the opposite of what I was. Her side of the room was chiefly pink in color and her wall was decorated with a universe’s worth of pictures that came from the tabloids and drunken nights in her and her friends’ swanky houses. There were little magnets under some of the pictures that sported female speak clichés, such as “So hot!” and “Love my girls!”. She had a small stack of teen magazines at the foot of her bed. She wore sweat pants with phrases like “Cheer!” and “Hott” written across the backsides of them. She was simple. It was disheartening because I had somewhere along the line convinced myself to actually blindly anticipate a friendship with whoever ended up being paired as my roommate. I was banking on it, actually. I wasn’t a hard girl to be friends with. Never before in my life had I any trouble finding, maintaining, and cultivating friendships. Finding friends didn’t seem like something I had to worry about. Instead, I concerned myself with more important things, like the purchase of the record playing, and all of my favorite albums on vinyl.
Amanda and I didn’t clash with each other, but we did fail to make the base level identification with one another that was needed for any sort of friendship to sprout. She just didn’t make the effort. She came into college holding hands with at least four of her friends from home, and I wager that she just didn’t see any point to expanding her tightly knit group. She can’t be blamed, though. I didn’t make any effort, either. I suppose I just suspected it to fall into place, like it did for the guys upstairs.
There was Mark and there was his roommate Drew. Neither of them had known each other before getting to Beech. I didn’t know that until long after I had met them. I had assumed that they had been lifelong friends, wasn’t the case. By the end of that first month they had become inseparable. Maybe it’s just easier for guys. Maybe they just overlook a lot of the sand grain aspects that girls don’t overlook. They both smoked a lot of weed. I bet they bonded over that, and just let all of that other junk back in their hometowns. They didn’t come to college with it, holding hands.
So most of those first weeks at school, I just laid in my bed and dreamt about being Kim Deal, playing bass and spitting in faces. It wasn’t hard for me to make friends once I conjured the effort, but the hard part was that conjuring. I went to a few classes, I didn’t go to others. I hadn’t talked to any of my girl friends from home in over a month. That didn’t bother me. It didn’t bother them either, I wager. I listened to my record player all of the time, and that drove Amanda out.
“Don’t you have any albums that wouldn’t make me want to slit my wrists?” she’d say. I would force a chuckle.
I listened to “Doolittle” a lot and thought that I had seasonal depression. That album came out in 1989. I was five-years-old when it came out. I could have been listening to it for fourteen years. I hadn’t heard it until last year. That depressed me. The landscape on campus had become barren, and so had my advanced association with any other humans. That depressed me, too. So I took Mark up on his offer.

It is easier for guys, to put all that grainy aspect stuff aside, I mean. I found that out.
“Hey, Pixies girl!” Mark said. I had just turned the corner from the hallway that led to the lobby from the stairs. His eyes were small and glassy. I clutched a book by Noam Chomsky to my chest with both of my hands. I hadn’t started reading it but I had a bookmark placed about a third of the way through.
“Yeah, Mary,” I said, reminding him.
“Yeah, Mary,” he repeated, “what’s up?”
“Not too much. Wanted to read but it was too loud in my room.
“Cunning linguist, are you?” Mark said. The other people at the table laughed a little.
“What?” I asked. No one replied. I got nervous. “Yeah, I wanted to read but my roommate is playing a fucking Beyonce’ album.” Soft chuckling from the crowd. The lobby was arranged into a giant square by means of couches. There was an oval oak coffee table sitting in the middle of the square. It had a multitude of dents, nicks, streaks, scratches, and chunks taken out of it, all chronicling different nights of too much drinking and not enough sleep. I sat down on the couch adjacent to Mark and his roommate. There was a boy that I didn’t know sitting on the couch beside me. He had large headphones on that looked like grey earmuffs and he was bobbing his head to the beat they were producing, alternating his eyes from closed to open along the way. “What’s going on with you?”
“Yeah, same. We’re just hanging out. Mary, that’s Drew. He’s my roommate,” Mark said as he grabbed a hold of Drew’s shoulders and pushed him forward.
“Hi, Mary,” Drew said. He extended his hand and I shook it lightly. His grip was feeble and it made me laugh inside.
“Hey.” Drew had short cropped brown hair that lay down on top and he was as skinny as an aluminum tent pole, like I was. I could tell that he was tall, like I was, because his legs were bunched up and perching crossed on the coffee table. I peered at him over his bright white tennis shoes. He had a metal bar with metal balls on the ends going through the top part of his left ear. He was cute.
“That’s Martin,” Mark said pointing to the headphones kid. He didn’t see that we were talking to him.
“Hi,” I said. He didn’t break his head-bobbing. I chuckled thinly. Mark and Drew let out more hearty laughter. It echoed off of the old concrete walls. A boy that was studying down the hall looked up from his book and at them. He looked thoroughly irritated.
“We just met Martin tonight. He smoked us up,” Drew said. His voice was higher than I thought it would be. Then he broke into a whisper, “He’s kinda a little weird.”
“Smoked you up with weed?” They looked at each other. They shook their heads in tandem. I rolled my eyes at them, trying to be disapproving, but secretly fascinated. I hadn’t been around it before. Back home, everyone just drank to get stupid. Everyone said smoking was too bad for you back home.
Drew had on a shirt that was plastered with a nice sized picture of a horse. It wasn’t the forced irony kind of picture, though, it was romanticized and tasteful. He saw me looking at it, and pulled his jacket over to cover it.
I put my hand up to my mouth, in case Martin was a lip-reader. “Yeah, he looks like a dweeb.” They laughed. I exploded inside a little.
“What did you do tonight,” Mark asked, “let me guess, listen to records?”
“Yeah, so? I started writing a response paper I have to do for class, too, but I got bored.” My hair was pulled back into a pony tail. It was tied with a gum band, sixth grade style. They could still tell it was curly if they were looking. I think they were looking, too. I bet I looked really young, but that was okay because my skin looked really smooth that night.
“What class is it for?”
“History of Italian Architecture.”
“Whoa, smart girl,” Mark said. Drew’s eyebrows rose.
“No, just a gen. ed.. Not my choice.”
“You always take the broadest gen. ed. courses. Surveys, hun. Survey of Pre-history, Survey of Contemporary Lit, Natural Science. Broad.” Drew made the motion of stretching something, like a piece of rubber, out with his hands. “That way you barely ever get into specifics,” he said. He called me ‘hun’. I liked that. It made me have a little lump in the back of my throat. Mark was staring at the ground beside the couch.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said.
“What are you here studying?” Drew asked me.
“I don’t really know yet.”
“Well, what do you like?”
“Uhm, I don’t really know yet. I like music a lot, but I don’t play anything. I just like listening a lot.” Suddenly, I got really self conscious about my ears. They were really big, and they were exposed tonight because of my choice of hairstyle. It felt like they were the foiled wings sprouting out of the sides of satellites in space. I lowered my head, and stared at the ground, like Mark was doing.
“I’m doing business. Management. But don’t worry; you have some time. Mark doesn’t know what he’s going to major in, either.” Mark didn’t break from his stare. It bothered me a little that he wasn’t paying any attention to me. I slid down in the couch a little and ran my hands over my jeans, around the tops of my thighs.
“Do you have any ideas, Mark?” I asked. He looked at me.
“What?” he said, slightly startled. Before I could reply, he answered, “Oh, not really. Maybe journalism.”
“Oh, that’s cool,” I said. He went back to staring at the ground and Drew kept talking to me, late into the night.

Two weeks later I was dating Drew. I knew that he liked me right away, and him liking me made me feel a little more comfortable roaming Beech Hall’s halls. Everyone was always running into everyone else, and I tried to stay out of my room as much as possible because of Amanda. She had a habit of watching Disney movies or Reece Witherspoon movies every night while she studied, and I couldn’t handle that at all. I felt uncomfortable being in there because it was so bright, and Amanda couldn’t stand the silence that I thrived off of. She always had to be asking me about some measly aspect of meaninglessness that felt like a chore to answer. I did most of my homework in the hallway. I did sneak in and listen to records when I knew Amanda was in class, though.
A couple of nights after meeting him, Drew walked me to my room. Our group always disbanded around 3:30 to try to smash in a few hours of sleep before waking for class the next day. He said he was going to walk me to my room and that was very peculiar. He walked closely behind me, and I could feel the warmth of his breathing on my neck, exposed from having my hair put up. He leaned in as I turned the door knob and kissed me on the cheek. He looked like a guilt-stricken child and I stared back at him and bit my bottom lip at the surprise of the gesture. He put his arm against the door, trapping me and leaned in. I felt like I was in a mammoth trash compactor; like birds could build their nests between these arms. He kissed me on my lips; I opened my mouth and felt his tongue intrude. It all felt cinematic, and that had never happened to me before. Then he weaseled his way down to the side of my neck, and the nerve endings danced back there. I threw my head back, eyes closed. I palmed the back of his head with my hand, let it comb the spry hairs, my fingers sprawled. My other hand fumbled for the doorknob, found it and turned it. The door gave way and I fell inside.
“Good-night,” I said, quickly shut it. I watched through the peep hole as he blinked a couple of times. He ran the sleeve of his sweatshirt over his lips and through his hair and his eyes squinted up and he walked away.

And thus we were hurled into this great jostling of ourselves. All at once days and nights stopped having their respective boundaries and time did slowly sludge itself into him being around and him not being around.
If it hadn’t happened exactly when it happened, this would be a drastically different account. Death had been expansive in the days right beforehand, and it had begun to slowly snake its way to be fully on top of me, constricting. From every angle surrounding, the campus resonated some deep sound of failure, aggravation, grinding missteps and rotting despair. I would look around; I would see the mud on everyone’s shoes. This feeling had chilled the city walls most definitely in those days, the college was covered in it, and it was beginning to seep into my own lungs, as well. I was lying down and I was blending myself into the wet pavement, as everyone else just kept their eyes strategically averted.

We got high almost every day, and I started not going to my classes as much as before. The school stuff piled up but I let it pile. The first couple of times they had asked me to smoke I had turned them down, but it didn’t take long before I caved. I had only resisted because I was afraid of getting caught, but Mark and Drew had worked out this complex system of masking the aroma and making any aspects of any marijuana smoking in their dorm room nonexistent. Mark was crafty when he was stoned, usually sitting over the edge of his top bunk bed constructing some new apparatus for weed use. Drew played video games. Mark made spoofs, ugly bongs, lungs, gravities, aluminum bowls, bud grinders and all the like. I didn’t know what they were, but sometimes he’d tell me about them and I’d listen intently. He focused on his tasks with great concentration while I would lie next to Drew in his bed with my elbow cocked to my head and my hand buried in my cheek, just watching. He retreated to another world while working on those pot crafts, and I just watched. He liked to listen to cassettes from old grunge bands like Helmet when he was smoking, and the way that the guitars sounded stoned to hell coated the room in sandpaper. Drew cursed at the television a lot, and I could tell he didn’t pay attention to the music.
We were ripped one day in the cocoon of a room.
“I finished it,” Mark said and he looked over at me with blood eyes. “It’s going to get us so gone.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“New contraption. Takes the keef flakes out and puts them in a nice little pile for you. You can sprinkle them on top and take off.”
“Yeah. I don’t want to use it until Sunday, though.” On Sundays we took nice long car rides past the city limits and through the outlying woodlands. It had become ritual. I loved it.
“I’ll probably ask Jess to go.” On the car rides, Drew would drive and take me, Mark and weird Martin would sit in the back and the fifth spot was always revolving for another girl Mark would ask to go, in the hopes of sparking a romance. It never worked. “Hey, Drew, look at this.” Mark tossed the contraption across the room and it landed in Drew’s lap. He paused his video game to look at it. He studied it for a while; his eyes carefully examined every facet. I looked at it, too. It looked like a red amulet with etched lines on the top and sharp projections like a possum’s teeth on the underside.
“Cool,” he said and tossed it back.

Weird Martin had rolled up two hefty joints for the Sunday car ride. They clung behind both of his ears with an amusing grace. We all had stumbled back from a sloppy brunch meal at the cafeteria, and had gotten our fill at making fun of the entirety of the attendees for moving in tiny motions, nursing crippling hang-overs. The girls would still be in their pajamas with their mascara clumpy from an alcoholic deep sleep, and the guys would be in sweatpants, keychains sporting the university’s anagram hanging out of their pockets. They would be arguing with each other about who finished their case the fastest or what team remained at the beer pong table the longest. We laughed at them all. While the girls would heavily saunter rubbing their heads and dig out a big bowl of ice cream from the white freezer, Drew would perk up and make disapproving sounds like “Huh-uh” or like he was getting punched in the gut and the girls would sneer at him. I would laugh and act like he was bad for doing it, hitting him playfully with a fist to his thigh under the table.
“They don’t need it,” he’d always say.
Weird Martin also always drove us on Sundays and that was the worst part. He liked to listen to dance music, like fluffy synthesizer and robotic drum kinda stuff. It was terrible. When we’d start smoking he would turn the car’s stereo up so much that each bass hit would rattle the speakers inside and it would make this terrible fluttering sound, like paper being ripped apart inside your eardrums. I also didn’t like that I would have to sit next to Mark’s partner of the week. He would make her sit in the middle to collect the most smoke from inside the car. He wanted to get them really high.
It was about a fifteen minute drive out of the city. On the last red light before the bridge, there was always a collection of bums waiting to wash down your windows. They would notice the young girls in the car and would stare at us, I didn’t care much. Usually whoever Mark brought would make note of it, though. Weird Martin cracked the window and put his lips to the opening.
“College kids. No money. Poor as you. Go away.” He turned around for approval, but no one said anything. We just smirked and Drew shook his head. The light turned green and Martin gunned it over the bridge. He fumbled around under his seat for a particular CD.
Leaving the city was leaving a concrete hamster cage. As soon as you crossed the bridge, there were no more high-rise apartment buildings, no skyscrapers, no swanky restaurants or mass-produced quirky sculptures. There weren’t any flashing lights, no car horns, no vagrants asking you for your phone number on the walk to class, no pedestrians flooding the streets talking obliviously on their cell phones. There weren’t any of those things and that’s why we did this every Sunday.
When we crossed the bridge, Martin took the joint from behind his ear and put it into his mouth. He didn’t light it immediately, but instead put the CD into his player and turned up the volume. It was some shitty female voice belting a single line, “Don’t come to lay me if you ain’t gon’ pay me.” Over and over again on top of a single note bass-and-drum line. Excruciating. We all were getting antsy. We drove for a couple more miles. Martin made the right hand turn and we entered Billing State Park. Drew leaned across the center consol and skillfully turned the volume knob down with his stray hand while he put an orange flame into Martin’s face with his other hand. The car started filling with smoke. I took a deep breath, let it sink in. My eyes glazed over, and I pushed a tuft of hair from them.
Mark had brought Jess this week. She had come with us once before, and she was reluctant to smoke the last time. Then when she did, she didn’t stop laughing until we returned home. It was so goddamned annoying last time. We all stared out of our respective windows. Jess stared straight ahead, moving her head with the music. The trees had lost all of their leaves a few weeks prior, and now they all blanketed the ground in a fantastic mosaic. There were just tiny bits of warm color blanketing the ground. I tried to focus my eyes on a specific leaf for as long as I could as we drove by. I tried to see how long I could keep it in my view before I would never be able to pick it out again. Then I shifted my focus to the trees. It was great to trace a specific one from root to tip and to see exactly where its skinny twig branches reached for against the expansive grey sky. They tried to reach so hard and they moved with each gust of the wind. The joint came to me and I took a long drag, held it in my lungs. I exhaled slowly and took another pull. I could hear the quiet crackling of the marijuana burning up in front of my face. The cherry glowed a metallic orange. I passed it to Jess and she took a tiny drag and coughed for two minutes straight.
Martin pulled the car to the large shoulder of the road, and eased it against the guard rail. The brakes screeched with the car’s final motion. A sign said “Picnic Area” in large yellow letters. Underneath it, it read “Please dispose properly of any and all waste materials.” We came here every week, too, to finish the other joint. We walked single file down the trampled path, crunching leaves beneath our feet. I was behind Drew and in front of Mark. Mark was wearing a big brown sweatshirt with the hood up. It covered most of his face, but he let his black hair curl out from the top. It made him look like he was a child. Drew had on my favorite jeans of his, they were tight. They accentuated his calf muscles, which were the only pronounced muscles that he had on his entire body. We made it to the Adirondack enclosure and sat at our picnic table. The table was rough, almost white from age. There were many engravings and carvings into the table’s surface, my favorite read: “Setting sun, may I ask for some more?”.
The breeze was heavy. It wasn’t conducive to lighting a joint at all. I loved how the breeze carried the smoke into the woods, though.
An old white Jeep Cherokee with red and blue roof lights had crept up behind Martin’s car. Two officers clad in tan uniforms and black jackets with badges on them scampered down the path. They had flashlights drawn but not turned on yet. We were in the middle of smoking the second joint, just staring out into Billing Lake. I watched large golden birds flapping across the surface. They were high in the blank sky but the calm water made for a perfect mirror. If I were standing on my head it would have looked the same.
It wasn’t the first time that people had wandered down the path during our time there, so at first, it wasn’t as alarming to us as it should have been. We heard the crunching of the foliage that came with each of the officers’ steps, and went into our practiced ‘interruption scenario’. Drew took a final hit from the joint and held it underneath the picnic table as he breathed the smoke into the air. Mark turned around; I saw his eyes get wide when he realized the intruders were uniformed.
“Fuckin’ cops, guys,” he whispered.
Drew snapped from his daze. “What?”
“Cops, man. Be cool,” Mark said. He hurriedly plunged his hand into his sweatshirt pocket and it emerged holding a cigarette. He put it into his mouth, lit it, took frantic breaths, exhaled all of the smoke that he could. He tossed the cellophane from his cigarette package to the ground beside him. The flashlight shone directly in his face, he squinted, looked cute.
“You can’t do that,” the officer growled, face veiled in shifting shadows like ink in water.
“We weren’t doing anything,” Drew said. His voice punched through, an unwelcome quip. Mark shot him a quick ‘shut-the-fuck-up-now’ look.
“Yes, you were,” the officer said.