The BEGINNING: The Life of Catkin Key
“This is it,” I yelled at her. I didn’t mean to.
“You sure? There’s something missing, like a building,” Jillian was confused and treading carefully because she knew I was riding the edge.
I felt ashamed when I knew I was making her nervous.
“Yeah this is it. The other building you’re thinking of is gone they razed it for a new community garden,” I said looking at the flier.
There are no more GPS.
There are no smart phones.
Some people resent The Pause and the Coalition of Allegiances Front (CAF, not to be confused with the CAFF) but that cohort is shrinking by the day as life improves, for everyone.
The old media has been disbanded as well. Countless trials are underway for the thousands of Enablers and just this last weekend some of the former members of the 1% started secretly giving up The Names.
The Names of those who really sit at what I call the Demanding Heights. The ones who nearly ruled the world for hundreds of years and almost sealed the deal.
Still, some people were wild with fury at first. But like I said that group is shrinking. For starters they can’t spread their hate anymore. But I think its deeper than that.
Things will continue to improve as people eat well and live well.
As people can breathe fresh air and breathe without panic. We all got so used to panic we hardly recognized that we were hyperventilating most of the time.
We were being violently abused, manipulated, and used.
We parked and got out of the car.
Yes, a car. Another thing we almost lost and have back. And we have the freedom to move around. Of course, it requires more caution these days, but all-in-all the level of freedom is beyond anything I ever imagined was possible.
Don’t get me wrong I miss the internet too but to say the temporary loss of it and the destruction of the cloud and the chain wasn’t worth it is a sign of mental illness. A sign of someone aching to be a slave and hey, I’ve been saying all along if there’s a group of folks that feel they need that we can give them an island or a sparsely populated state.
We’re going to get those tools back and use them the right way. The Allies include everyone, and the technology belongs in the hands of the People.
Before all this most people thought that was the case. They thought it was in our hands. They also thought they were playing checkers when they were playing 10-dimensional chess. These are some of most hopelessly brainwashed humans.
Some held onto that nonsense right up until it was impossible to deceive themselves another minute and some died with the lie. Some still live with it, too. It reminded me of that old movie from the 90s. It came out when I was in high school. Catchy couldn’t understand the point of watching it. He said, “we can totally change the future because we know where shits going but the titanic hit the iceberg and not even James Cameron can undo that.”
Then he watched it with me. I knew he’d appreciate the theme. People make self-destructive decisions because they distance themselves from the fundamental laws the govern it all, they exempt themselves thinking they’ve learned. The ending for these people is never anything less than completely predictable. It ends badly.
Next week this will be where the ceremony for the tributes is to be held. And if it wasn’t for that last detail, the one about a weeklong ceremony, I wouldn’t be as put off by the space.
One giant slab of concrete surrounded by overgrown grass, abandoned buildings covered in graffiti and trees without leaves on this cool, overcast day. One of the only redeeming features are the raised beds for the community garden being built around the giant cement slab where hundreds of people will gather next week.
I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t address the depressing scene. It’s literally like they picked the most depressing space they could find. Granted its nothing compared to what we’ve all witnessed over the past several years but it’s hardly the place I would pick to celebrate a win. I think the people at CAFF feel like this spot is the perfect reminder.
I hate that, but I get it. I really do.
Still if brighter days are ahead couldn’t the venue be less a reminder of death and devastation? Maybe it could be a mixture of themes: one to remind people of what we’re honoring and what happened, and one to brighten the mood and boast the morale? Could we not all agree that despite everything that’s happened and despite the fact we have a long way to go, we have every reason to take a fucking victory lap?
I spaced out at when I realized the building to the right was what remained of the Health Maintenance Facility.
“Where is she,” Jillian asked. She was cold. I could tell.
“She’ll be here. You wanna borrow my jacket?”
“I’m fine babe thank you though.”
“Are we doing this outside?” Kristen asked, “look at the chairs.”
There were exactly five chairs in a circle. We walked up to them and sat down. 1 chair sat empty.
The four of us are:
1. Me. I am Immanuel Alvarez, everyone calls me Manny. Only one person ever called me Immanuel and it wasn’t my mom.
2. Jillian Alvarez, my wife. We met in college freshman year, and we’ve been together ever since.
3. Josiah Arn, a psychiatrist who was a medical student when Catchy and me were freshmen. Dr. Arn had found memories of Catchy Key.
4. Kristen Hill, a friend from our youth who had known Catchy since pre-school and
5. Kholaina LaFonta, Catchy’s girlfriend from freshmen year until the bitter end.
I looked around and said, “right smack dab in the middle.”
“He would’ve appreciated that,” Jillian said.
We all laughed.
“That was the idea,” a soft, sweet voice said from behind me.
Kholaina walked up looking beautiful as always. Wearing an old hoodie I recognized.
“Still has the burn holes,” I said, forcing a laugh that almost got stuck under the lump in my throat. I had to push the words past the lump like it was a real thing I could choke on.
“I remember the night those burn holes got made,” Kristen said, smiling, blushing some.
There was a moment of awkward silence.
Kristen looked embarrassed and apologized, “I’m sorry Kholaina I shouldn’t have said that.”
Kholaina genuinely didn’t care and took her seat. She told Kristen, “You have nothing to say sorry over. You guys had a thing when he was a freshman in high school. I didn’t even meet Catchy until our freshman year in college.”
“Its wild how did you manage to get a hold of it?” Josiah chimed in and asked.
“Officer Harmon, the one who liked Catchy a lot. The one who gave me his last journal. All they had were the clothes he was wearing, the journal, couple pencils, and this hoodie. It’s like most of the soldiers couldn’t wait to do the right thing,” Kholaina said.
“Ha…yeah and then you had the fuckin psychopaths ready to follow any order. Did you hear about the one unit that kept track of who had done the most fucked up shit to people in the facilities?” I asked, feeling my heartrate pick up.
“We’ll they’re either in lockup or they’re being hunted down by the CAF and the military so let’s focus on this,” Kholaina said.
She handed us each a flier from CAFF.
“So, The Fearless Five huh?” Josiah said, looking uncomfortable as Kholaina handed him his paper.
“Way too late,” I was getting angry, and Jillian rubbed my back. “Too late to give them a name like that. There’s repenting and there’s just plain fake and that shits just plain fake.”
“It is too late, but he still deserves it so we’re gunna snatch the chance to cement his legacy,” Kholaina said with wet eyes.
Looking directly at me.
I knew I had to calm down.
Kholaina continued, “the ceremony begins in 10 days and our day is the last day which means we have about 15 days to prepare. Me and Manny have been looking at the flier for the event which is being put together by CAFF. In case anyone’s doesn’t know that’s the Civilian Advocates Freedom Front and they worked and still work to promote the material of anyone advocating for freedom and they’re still taking on the digital dictatorship, or what’s left of it. They’re not affiliated with CAF, the Coalition of Allegiances Front, but they work together.”
“I’ve never heard of these others,” Josiah said looking at the names.
“That’s probably why Catchy won the vote to be the highlight,” Kholaina replied.
“What’s that mean?” Kristen asked.
Kholaina looked at me to answer. She was worried she was talking too much; I could tell. She wasn’t but I let her pass the torch.
I explained that “It means that we go last and get more time. We’re gunna do something different. CAFF wants to spotlight the life of each of these people to show that everyday people can make actual change even if it comes at great costs. They want to know about the individual lives of these folks and every tribute gets 2 hours to be honored, but we get four.”
Kholaina nodded and when I finished added “Exactly and CAFF had a vote recently which you all remember?”
“It was overwhelming throughout the entire country,” Kholaina continued, “the counterculture that sprung up from Catchy’s drawings and viral rants and all the rest isn’t anything he would’ve ever thought was possible, but it's spread like wildfire and people of all political persuasions started to be interested. It didn't mean people agreed on everything but there were breakthroughs as we are all aware as far as reaching a consensus on some basics and that's what led to the big push, and obviously where we are now with The Pause. If there’s only one thing he was wrong about, or sort of wrong, it’s that we would be where we are now. Who’d have even imagined during the Lockdown of 20, then The Easing of 2020 and 2021, then the Re-Try Campaign of late 21, the National Lockdown and The Edicts of 22, and then the Breakdown & Regroup of 23 that the chaos would be something we could push through,” she paused and then went on to say, with conviction, “I sure as hell didn’t but it’s here and we’re not letting this fall apart.”
I was always skeptical.
“Gotta love the names, The Edicts, The Breakdown & Regroup which is when they snatched Catch. Now we have The Pause. Who’s to say it’s not bullshit?” I asked, knowing full well that despite my understandable lack of faith and skepticism this time was completely different.
Kholaina needed me to be positive and gave me a look that reminded me of that.
“Manny why don’t you tell them what we have in mind,” Kholaina said, looking down at the fliers.
I pulled my shit together in my head. Do it for your boy I told myself. Jillian said the same thing last night before bed.
“In Catchy’s last journal entry he talks about his life in days. We’re gunna write a story, kinda like a story or narrative or whatever, that corresponds with some of those days. We’re gunna start with the end and work our way backwards to his childhood. Most of the stories will begin and end with a journal entry from the days the story took place,” I explained.
“All of us?” Josiah asked.
“Is that ok?” Kholaina looked up at Josiah.
“Oh, absolutely! Sure, but I’m not much of a writer and I didn’t know him like you all did.”
“Dr. Arn one story is all you man, trust me, and we’ll collaborate and all that but mostly it’ll be me, Jillian and Kholaina. Kristen the last two stories you said you could help right, since you knew Catchy since like pre-k,” I asked her.
“Absolutely. As best as I can.”
“Thank you. It means a lot,” Kholaina’s eyes were damp again. But she did not cry.
“So, the details of the stories? Where are we getting them?” Josiah asked.
“Honestly we’ve outlined all of them and written a few already so…but you, Dr. Arn, you’ll have everything you need to write and read your piece, your story doc cause it’s about your time with Catchy. Kholaina will tell you what style she wants it in and fill in the gaps since she was his girlfriend and knew just about every detail, but don’t worry we’ve got you covered,” I told Josiah.
Kholaina then presented the outline and the plan.
“There will be The Beginning,” she said. “The Beginning is this and Manny will write it from his point of view. Then there will be several stories in order of age going backwards and right now it looks like this we have: The Beginning read by Manny, then the first story here just read the list,” Kholaina passed the copies around.
Outline for Tribute
1. The Beginning: The Life of Catkin Key- Written by Jillian and Manny Alvarez, presented by Manny Alvarez
2. They Called me Catchy: The Inconsiderable Life of Catkin Key (39)-Written and presented by Manny Alvarez
3. In a Room Like This- (21) Written by Josiah Arn and Kholaina LaFonta and presented by Josiah Arn.
4. Three Dirty Days-(17) Written by Manny and Jillian Alvarez, presented by Manny Alvarez
5. Purely, Decent, and Unspeakably Beautiful-(16) Written by Kristen Hill and Manny Alvarez, presented by Manny Alvarez
6. Set ’Em All to the Wind-(14) Written by Manny Alvarez, presented by Manny Alvarez.
7. Sane fer The Summer: Tree Frogs and Triangles-(12) Written by Kristen Hill and Manny Alvarez, presented by Kristen Hill.
8. Hickory Lane (10) Presented by Kholaina LaFonta, this is a story written for AP English by Catchy.
9. On The Way Down (6) Presented by Kholaina LaFonta, also a story by Catchy for school that seems fitting
10. The End Based on journal entries, compiled and edited by Kholaina LaFonta and Manny Alvarez, presented by Kholaina LaFonta
“Most of the work is done but we still have to review it. I know it seems like a lot, but we’ve given it a lot of thought and CAFF loves it,” Kholaina said.
“I think it’s great I’m only concerned that it may ruin his reputation. Why bring in such deeply personal information?” Josiah asked.
I understood his concern on the surface but also found it troubling that he didn’t grasp the premise right away.
Kholaina beat me to the punch. She said, “Catchy was definitely one of a kind. There’s no doubt. But that’s not what made him see the open path. And you’re the psychiatrist so maybe you disagree but I think-I know. I know it wasn’t Catchy’s brilliance or his illness that brought us here today. Those things contributed, I’m sure. It’s possible if he hadn’t bi-polar and OCD we would all be in bad shape or someone else would’ve filled the void. But I think it was his basic ability to see the plain nature of something. Catchy wouldn’t see window dressing he just saw the window. At the end of the day, he understood puzzles. He understood sequences of events and he had the common sense it took to see what was behind us, to understand any given moment, and recognize the destiny we were crafting. I think that’s where he got his preview or plot outline for what was coming next.”
Kholaina was making me dizzy now. She wasn’t wrong. Its just far less complicated than that. Some people go along to get along.
That’s most people.
Those people will come and go and have hobbies and families and routines and their lives matter but they’re unremarkable. Save for some small talk, some low-brow banter, they would enter this world and exit without leaving too much behind. I’m one of those people.
Catchy wasn’t. That’s why he’s worth remembering.
The pile of journals sat on my desk and I stared at them while Jillian brushed her teeth.
His last journal on top.
I opened it to the last page.
One drop of blood on the upper righthand corner.
#8 of 1
THEY CALLED ME CATCHY: The Inconsiderable Life of Catkin Key Age: 39.
Somewhere along the line there has to be some accountability. Some real ownership for the sins we exacted on one another in the name of…accountability.
The crowd gathered and took their seats for the last day of the weeklong set of ceremonies to honor, remember, pay homage to, The Fearless Five.
I’m not sure any of those fit.
To remember? We only pretend to remember.
To honor? It’s almost offensive after the fact but ok.
Pay homage to? This one makes the most sense for what we’re doing and the style in which we’re doing it but that only applies to Catchy.
I stepped up to the podium where I would be standing for at least two hours. Each of the 5 tributes had an afternoon dedicated to remembering their life. After they’re all fucking dead.
How gracious, right?
Seriously though what an honor, right?
It was not simply an afternoon ceremony. It was a week-long dedication, and the number one most influential person was given tribute on the final day.
I had really hoped the sun would come out. It’s been cloudy for days.
Good afternoon and thank you-all of you-for coming out. Umm, it’s just as surreal…the feeling that is, to be where we’re at now as it was when things were at their worst, at least for me…in a way.
The crowd was quiet and attentive.
Before I get started I wanna say that while it tames my angry heart and soul a bit that Catkin Key is not only being honored today but was determined to have been, and continues to be, the most influential figure in the Awakening. I regret that its posthumous, but I also regret that all the people we’ve honored this week were people we should’ve paid more attention to. In a perfect world, right? We’re in the midst of The Pause and the Awakening because these people lived.
If anyone should speak of his life it shouldn’t necessarily be me. It should be his kid brother. Unfortunately, that's not possible. And for too many reasons to get into it wasn't possible for other members of his family either. But together the five of us have put together something we believe is different and unique and very personal.
Especially if we’re remembering him in true form. I knew him well and loved him limitlessly as did countless others.
Before we go any further it should be noted that Catkin, as you all probably know by now, went by Catchy.
Despite his illness and troubles Catchy Key never needed to take a leap he just knew. Like a handful of others, he just knew. He knew to search and peel back the layers. And while he was special, like the others that we’ve honored these past few days, he was not alone.
But I bet they felt alone.
I know Catch did. They didn’t fail.
I think what’s being done today is long overdue and Catkin Calvin Key, only truly known as Catchy, deserves this as did the four others. We owe them a debt that can never be paid. We owe them courage, if only for the afternoon.
Catchy would not see it that way though.
Umm, anyways, there are a few obsessions you should know about before we jump in. Just to provide some context or insight. Call it what you’d like. There will be several stories told, or read I should say, that shed light on who Catchy was so some background information is in order, I think.
Catchy loved lots of things ordinary adults aren’t interested in never mind a teenager. From age nine or earlier Catchy became interested in philosophy and mathematics.
Seriously a nine-year-old.
I’m told it caught his mother off guard one morning when Catchy began asking his mother who was right, John Locke or Thomas Hobbes.
He also loved thinking and mapping out his thoughts. In journals, on napkins, on paper towels even, and he was truly fascinated by architecture and old buildings as well as windows and doorways.
Catchy kept a journal and his sketchbook but he would draw with chalk or pastels on any surface he deemed his canvas. Geometric shapes, the tetrahedron. Catchy once said it’s the stability and the fire. I told him he was the fire. He agreed, he said I am the fire
He loved considering things. Catchy had no love for himself or others in the typical way, which is hard to explain but maybe it’ll explain itself as we present these stories, like snapshots you could say, of his life.
Catchy was…well…he was a genius. He was also bi-polar and was in state of mania most of the time but as you’ll soon learn, if you don’t already know, it was different with Catchy. His laugh was magnetic. Frankly he was magnetic and most oblivious about that fact. People were drawn to Catchy. Even those who didn’t like him somehow liked him.
Anyway, Catchy loved the concept of ideas just as much as his other obsessions. How many ideas are brand new versus improved or reinvented, Catchy once asked to a crowd of followers listening to a midnight rant in college. He told them that ideas aren’t the same as experiences. Ideas have force he would say. Not an earthshattering revelation for a guy with an IQ of 180 but he made the case in a different kind of way. Perhaps only the way someone with his condition could. So, ideas have force and ideas come first.
Ideas are beautiful. They can wither on the intellectual vine and rot out of fear of rejection or a hundred other reasons. An idea can seem to possess potential only to be dead on arrival. And sometimes an idea can be coaxed into existence and just hang around awhile, ripening. During this time, it may appear as if people could not possiblybe interested, inspired, or moved by the idea until the day comes when suddenly they are. There are reasons for this of course, Catchy would say, such as the timing and of course the person. He wrote that in his journal nearly 11 years ago.
As I stand here today, I realize Catchy would call this a version of hope.
Like the Lamb of God acting as a key so too is the person fit and perhaps even called upon to see an idea evolve and shape something new.
Ideas aren’t experiences, but they create the reality in which experiences are had. This was Catchy’s outlook. Or part of it. And it would grow with him. Pseudointellectuals with letters after their names liked to try to pick his logic apart. It was always amazing the way he would just turn they're ridiculous brain washed rhetoric up on its head.
You see he knew the value of information. Of ACTUAL information. Catchy considered information well worth its weight in gold. He’d rather know something useful then take a $100 bill just to forget.
As a little boy it was clear Catchy was highly intelligent. It was cute and exciting at first. But Catchy had a few specific ideas he began to investigate at an early age. At first tangentially and then with vigor and gusto and propelled by his mania, he would often be at it for DAYS.
It took him down a steep, winding road. Of course, he didn’t go alone. Even if he had wanted to it wouldn’t have mattered because people wanted to be near him. Especially as he got older. No matter the scenario or if you agreed with him, nobody made you feel the way Catchy made you feel.
If you had a hole in your life, Catchy filled it.
If you felt braindead from a banal existence, Catchy reminded you of life’s inherently wild character.
It’s hard to pin down the exact moment but if you were to ask his parents, they would probably tell you there were two defining events when Catchy was small, before I met him when we were 11, maybe he was 6 or 7 years old, that served to foreshadow what was to come.
Catchy wrote in journals most of his life and the end was no different. In fact, it was all he had. His thoughts and style should not go unnoticed. Fuck that, they absolutely cannot go unnoticed. When I die and turn to dust my ideas can go bump in the night and it won’t mean a thing and I’m ok with that because it makes sense. But not Catkin.
This here was all that was given to me to reference as far as Catchy’s final days, maybe even his final hour. It was given to me by a top dog who took a liking to Catchy during his time in that building right there.
As I thumbed through the pages, I couldn’t help but remember sitting with a friend, this was years and years ago before it all. When you could sit with friends as they lay dying in a hospital and hold their hand. When you could just sit with friends, or family, like people are meant to do.
She was dying from Leukemia. Or complications of Leukemia. Probably irrelevant right? Anyways I held her hand and choked back tears a bit when telling her how seeing her like this made me feel. I told her “its not right you should go like this. It’s unfair. Things were going good.”
She looked at me a moment before squeezing my hand and said “it’s perfectly right. Its superbly fair. Things were never going to be alright. And that is just fine with me.”
Catchy saw the future before it happened. He mapped it out. And even though everyone loved him-and I mean loved him insatiably-not enough people took his message to heart. Not until it was much too late. And there are reasons for that, too.
In hindsight they’re awful reasons, but still reasons. It seems most unfair that Catchy go down the road he did. But he’d say fairness was less important than understanding. It certainly doesn’t seem right what happened but again, Catchy would say the time to debate right or wrong has passed. That train left the station a long time ago he would likely say. The notion of right and wrong is a relic from an era gone for good.
But Catchy would agree that things could have been good. In fact, I think, and I cannot possibly be alone here, that was what Catchy was trying to do with every seemingly crazy thing he said or did. He was trying to show us the good below the surface while at the same time lifting the sheets to expose the monster under the bed. Perhaps hoping that once we all saw it, we would set aside our ridiculous nonsense and band together to slay the beast.
Anyways we decided to start with what we believe to be Catchy’s final journal entry just over 7 years ago.
January 2023 (Exact Date-I don’t know)
I’m inconsiderable I know that. We all are to whatever force is responsible for all this.
I’m a little loose not cause I’m scared but because there’s no information.
I like information. Real information. The kind that makes your heart beat fast not the kind that hypnotizes you.
There’s not much left to figure out unfortunately which leaves me with nothing to cling to in this place. And the suspense is gone too. I mean each event seemed predictable enough that I know what happens from here but I’ve got it covered.
There’s no window in here. I love windows. Who doesn’t? For days I didn’t care because not all windows are created equal.
But now I want a window. Any kind will do just fine.
I remember the beautiful windows in an office I was in a couple times in college. And the old ceiling to floor windows in my childhood home. I loved the crank windows that were designed for escape in a fire. Me and my kid brother Jhames escaped in the small hours of the morning to get into mischief on too many summer nights to count.
I’m glad we did.
They always said I was like a beautiful cartoon. Wild and crazy and bouncing off walls and people loved to watch.
I didn’t resent them for it then and I don’t resent them now, either.
And so much was good. In some ways knowing you’re gunna end up in a room like this makes life even more exciting.
Some of it was better than good.
Better than sex type good. Some of it was next level type shit.
All I can do is remember stuff now though.
Time is like a monster taunting me into delirium.
The Time Monster teases me because it has information I don’t and it is not about to discuss time as a construct with me just to comfort me.
No, the Time Monster is all in. The Time Monster is dead set on fuckin me raw but I’ve got a few arrows in my quiver.
There is Space between the events that mark our passage through this wild shit. I say Space because it upsets the Time Monster.
For example, I can say unequivocally that the space, or the distance between the side yard with the climbing tree, or the half pipe under White Hollow road where we would often chill, or the courtyard where people wouldn’t stop looking at me drawing, now seems immeasurable.
All that notwithstanding I knew I would end up here. It was written into the cosmic DNA or something and the warning signs were fucking obvious. As obvious as street signs.
Anyway, its evening now.
That’s all I know.
An arrow from my quiver to put TM back in his place.
Focus on where I’m at now. The air I’m breathing now.
There’s a mirror with smudges on it mounted on the olive-green brick wall.
The floor is concrete and waxed. Like industrial grade. It shines and looks cleaner than anything else in here, me included.
The bed is small and uncomfortable, but it serves its purpose.
The room is clean enough and contains: A small dresser with three empty drawers; a metal toilet; a metal sink; and a nightstand by my bed upon which sits a food tray with an empty paper bowl and used spoon.
I hate the fluorescent lighting.
I always have.
I like orange light.
In addition to the TM now I have one of the rods is flickering. It makes me see things I’m not seeing.
There was just a knock on the metal door. I put my journal down carefully. After all it’s the only thing I’m allowed to have. Two pencils and my journal. I pray the graphite doesn’t break otherwise I’m fucked. Or if I fill all the pages up. That’ll leave me fucked too.
“Your tray please,” A man demanded. It was one of the soldiers. Not Officer Harmon, the top dog, but someone else.
And so I hopped off the bed, grabbed the tray and brought it to the door.
There’s a slot that opens three times daily.
Three trays a day come in and three trays a day go out.
A daily ration of toiletries come with the tray at breakfast:
- a small cup with a dab of toothpaste,
- a tiny bar of soap
- a clean rag
- A swab kit for testing
- a small roll of toilet paper, and instructions for what to return when they come to collect the supper tray.
Yet again I tried to get information. Who doesn’t want information? I tried not to push. I shouldn’t even need to ask because I know the answers. That’s what the backup plan is for.
“Scuse me sir,” I held onto the tray “sorry to bother you, I mean-
“Let go of the tray!” the soldier ordered. He was about all business, but he didn’t yell. The soldier yesterday yelled.
“I just wanted to know if there’s an update on my case and when, like, I mean when can I know something. Anything,”
I get short of breath when they knock.
I was hoping he would say something. He knows the big dawg likes me. He’s been as good as one could expect I guess, I heard him take a deep breath before exhaling.
“Your HSW will update you,” he said flatly.
“Ok, do you know when?”
I tried to play it cool.
Like it didn’t matter when.
Like I’m not loose in my head and on my way to getting looser.
Like I understand this is for my own good and not only forgive them but praise them.
But as fast as he had come, he was gone even faster.
I had stood there and stared at the doorknob for a moment. No point. I already went through that stage and it got me nowhere. No cell phone or laptop. No communication whatsoever with my people, or the world.
Like I ever really had people.
I haven’t even met my HSW yet.
There’s no chair. Just the bed.
There’s an outlet with a nightlight by the toilet.
I like to sit on the concrete floor by the toilet with my knees to my chest and my hood over my head writing in this journal and trying to think of something else. Like that dude in Shawshank Redemption who avoided going insane during isolation in prison by playing classical music in his mind. I don’t remember who, but it was like entire symphonies.
I have only my memories. Don’t get it twisted there’s some good ones. But some Bach or one of those dudes would bring me more peace.
Thinking about all the philosophers, thinking about the triangles, thinking about the drawings and all the times I tried only makes being in this room, even though I knew I would end up here, more difficult to bear.
Anyways 1998 is a year I favor in my memory.
My childhood house was small but safe.
Echoes of doors slamming and a woman crying down the hall.
We had a big yard with two towering maple trees in the front, a small pond, and Forsythia bushes that ran the length each side of the yard. All this provided privacy during the Spring and Summer. The Forsythias would start yellow in the Spring. An electrifying yellow with a pleasant smell, like honey, but not as sweet as honey suckles.
By mid-Summer they would be green.
Everything was green. The bushes, the trees, and the abundant plant life circling the pond.
At night the tree frogs would chirp like wild and when combined with the hum of my window fan and the croaking of the bullfrogs the result was an orchestra that had God as the composer and the conductor and I would be lulled into a deep, purifying sleep.
Every sound was accounted for. When my parents would head to sleep, we could hear the clicking of the lamps, the sound of the recliners going upright, their joints cracking-toes, knees-and the sound of our black lab’s paws on the tiles as she followed my parents to their bedroom, but not before checking on us kids.
I’m looking at the glossy cement to avoid the flickering light.
I control almost nothing.
The piss and shit that comes out of my body, a handful of other things and most important my own thoughts. For now.
It was the Autumn in 1998.
My mom was working late and my dad was making pasta. Always vermicelli with red sauce. Italian bread on the side. He would eat out of the same beige, oval plastic bowl that had been melted a little on one side. I think that was my fault, but I can’t properly recall.
My father had his routines just like anyone. On a weeknight his routine was simple: make pasta, lay on his side on the couch and watch the PBS Newshour with the dog perched by his side waiting on a handout.
Years later he would say “Back when it was actual news,” adding “not the Marxists shit their peddling now.”
That night I stood leaning on the doorframe in the kitchen as he stirred his pasta. I was rereading Brave New World for AP English for about the 10th time. The other times I read it because I had to in order to make a puzzle piece. Same thing with the letter from Hux to Orwell.
I was into the book and rethinking some things but I was distracted because I was waiting for the phone to ring. The evening had a lot of potential.
“Dad,” I held the book down and looked at him as he prepped the colander to drain his pasta.
“hmm?” he replied, looking my way briefly.
“When will we have a Brave New World? I mean how long until they get us there?” I asked him to kill time, but I also wanted his take. My father considered all those things we weren’t all that different.
“Catchy…we’re in it now. Right now. You already know that so stop burning time,” he replied while draining his pasta. His words were crisp and decisive. Like it was a done deal and I recall I felt a bit smaller as my father drained his pasta.
Lights go off in every room at 9pm. Now it’s dark and all I’m left with is a plug-in nightlight by the toilet and I prefer this. Someone is screaming down the hall. I can hear the squeaking of his shoes on the concrete because he’s being dragged. With my hood still over my head I play with the cigarette burn on the left cuff. I always do when I’m nervous. I remember the night I made that burn hole. I was nervous then, too, but it was a good nervous.
The new ones don’t always scream but this one is hysterical.
I wish he would shut the fuck up.
Screaming won’t save any of us, only the people outside of here pretending things are normal can save us. They could save us in the next 20 minutes if they had a notion to. They don’t though. They don’t know what they don’t know. That’s one reason I knew I’d be in a room like this one and that nobody would come for me.
That had not been me but not because I wasn’t scared or angry. I just knew it was coming so I braced myself. Like when you know you’re about to get hit.
I wish I could tell him he’ll get used to the not knowing. The fear.
Even when you know the ending the ride can still be wild. Looking back, it feels like it happened in a rapid succession of events. But it wasn’t like that. It was perfectly executed and only a select few with a conventional education could ever know why. They might sense it over the course of their life. An itch they can never seem to scratch.
It was a slow burn for a long time.
Countless pieces scattered far and wide.
A puzzle with a million pieces when you only have 9.
The fireworks come at the end not in the middle. Sure, there were firecrackers here and there. Maybe a mortar or something colorful. But it wasn’t the finale.
If you recognized the dominos you could see them going up, one-by-one. You could see that your neighbors, friends, and family were helping to arrange these huge things. Each massive domino had its place and purpose and you would wonder why they would help to set them up when they knew they would eventually come down, crushing everything in their path.
Some spoke out and seemed surprised when their efforts failed.
I never understood this. I knew I’d fail from the get-go. Knowing that in advance doesn't make you weak it gives you something to work with. It impels you to keep going, I think.
So, I did what I did and now I have my memories.
It’s in my memories I find some peace.
In my memories I stay correct.
So, under the dim white light I remember, and I write.
“Hello?” I snatched the phone off the hook.
“Catchy you comin over or what? We’re waiting on yer ass so stop reading whatever 10 pound book yer into and get over here,” Adam sounded rushed, like I was late. Had I missed something?
“Yeah yeah man yer house?” I wanted to see Kristen.
“Nah the pipe under White Hollow Road. We’re meeting Dips and Manny there first then we’ll go to my house. Yer brother should come too.”
I’m the second youngest of 7 kids. They named me Catkin. My full name is Catkin Calvin Key. But when I was a toddler, I couldn’t say it correctly because I talked so fast. I had a tendency to blend my first and last name together. The result was Catchy.
Soon they called me Catchy. My parents and their friends. My siblings and our neighbors. All of my friends and every single one of my teachers.
So, when the day finally came and the Contact Tracers kicked down my door, dressed in military-style hazmat suits, wielding M-4s and screaming at me to provide my ID and tell them my name, even though I had been expecting such a scene, I was still caught off guard. I said, frozen and feeling like I would vomit, “they called me Catchy.” I said “called” because right then I knew my life was past tense.
Set them to the wind, like Immanuel said more than once.
As it was meant to be.
Catkin and Catchy feel like two different guys. If only they could have taken just one.
Five months earlier during The Easing I was driving home after having brunch with my friend and saw an ad I had not seen until then for the soon-to-be thugs on a billboard that said “Need a job? Want to help your community during the Pandemic? Apply to be a Contact Tracer or a Health Service Worker today at www.coa.gov.”
Things held steady. A new normal set in. They said the miracle vaccine was in the works. Each State had different rules but mostly things were open with certain restrictions.
Across the world other nations dropped a much heavier hammer much faster.
The rules in other supposedly free countries were even crazier and protests were erupting. Some countries literally sealed off their borders and started sealing people off in their homes.
Restrictions got tighter.
People grew frantic.
A person was either rebellious or obedient. Translation: a person was either anti-science or normal.
People mostly policed each other. Even when they started playing head games with us-like one step back closer to what it was, and two steps forward into a hellscape beyond the ability of all those we warned to grasp. The hardest part for them I think was the realization that they built it, and in a way, it’s always been there.
I can hear him screaming and pounding on his door. It won’t do him any good.
Me and Jhames met Dips, Immanuel, and Adam under the street in the pipe. A huge pipe that was dry most of the time. Dips had a hollowed-out cigarette filled with weed.
I remember chiding him for wasting a cigarette. To which he reasoned, clearly concluding he was ever so clever “So if anyone comes they jus think it’s a cigarette.” He shrugged like it was as obviously stroke of genius. I didn’t waste another breath pointing out how stupid he was.
It had to have been the look on my face because Adam teased me. He knew I was thinking about Kristen.
“Scared Catch? Trust me this will help cause Kristen says she’s ready tonight,” Adam smiled, nodding. “And Catch just be cool man,” Adam put his arm around me while Immanuel and Jhames looked on. Immanuel looking serious and Jhames laughing, “don’t worry about her windows or her colonial style house. Forget about geometry and that philosopher named after the cartoon in the Sunday papers and jus focus on her.”
I wanted to tell Adam I could make Kristen interested in windows and that Hobbes isn’t Hobbes from the funnies, not really, but I didn’t.
Immanuel stood apart sullen and solo with his hood over his head and his hands in his pockets and he spit as Adam was clearly saying Kristen wanted to fuck tonight.
I had butterflies in my stomach and smoked with them. Jhames did too. We all looked up each time we heard a car go over our heads. When we emerged it was dark, cool, windy and smelled like weed and firewood.
I tried to explain the path and the destination for my own sanity especially as things started moving more quickly.
Everything started to crack.
People seemed to be waking up just as places to share the message vanished or became stigmatized to the point that nobody would find you in that corner of the infoverse anyway.
Websites vanished. Once prominent doctors became conspiracy theorists. Eventually they went as far as to label them national security threats.
Then they rolled out the vaccine. Everything was steady at first. But we seem incapable of seeing what’s directly in front of us. So, they missed it.
Some places were transformed into complete prisons on the news for the world to see and the voices of those describing the bars bellowed loudly and with great futility.
Israel went first, then Canada and New Zealand. Various US States began enacting measures that people accepted initially only to attempt to reject them with some initial successes, then it was too late.
I know they sit in rooms like this in those places wondering the things I’m wondering. Or perhaps they’re past that stage.
Its not terribly relevant to me anyway. Like I said acceptance early on is the key. It's still disappointing but a lot less disappointing when you already know the outcome.
When you already know what you can expect of people.
When you already know just how weak we can be. Just how weak we truly are. Just how weak I am, to allow myself to end up in a room like this when I knew I was going to end up in a room like this.
People like me were mocked and eventually relegated to a group called The Disrupters.
They blamed it all on us. Just as I knew they would.
So much in the world we don’t know and yet so much is pragmatic and predictable.
People just don’t appreciate how exquisitely fine-tuned the laws of the universe and of nature truly are.
Even when you see something coming. You know it’s inevitable. You know there is no way to alter the trajectory from where you are, it’s still a strange feeling.
All of my youth and young adulthood people were with me. But maybe they were just near me instead.
At first the stock market surged as they discussed the phases of distribution. The divide grew between those who would take it and those who refused. So strange it was that this divide was scarcely recognizable to those at the mercy of the Knowers who sit proudly at the Demanding Heights knowing things only they could know and people listened like it was gospel and went only to the places they were told they could go. In every sense.
I refused to comply with vaccination or testing.
Most of my friends did as well.
Most of my family did as well.
They fell like dominos. Especially those with kids.
It became almost impossible not to in all fairness to them.
The prizes, lotteries, and inducements to go and get vaccinated were simply too overwhelming and tempting to ignore but worse than that was the fact that it became impossible, despite posturing politicians, to participate in society at all. To get a job that you loved. To go to the places you used to go. To hang out with the people you used to hang out with.
No more bookstores.
No more road trips.
No more coffee shops.
No more countless other things.
Adam, Jhames and Dips all pushed me to go to her house which was just down the street.
I glanced at Immanuel’s damp eyes.
Immanuel distracted me, he affected me. He still does.
In my memories I stay correct.
“She’s too shy to tell you herself but here’s the note she passed me in Mr. Shuler’s class today,” Adam lit a real cigarette and handed me the note.
The note confused me, and Immanuel could tell. He came up behind me to read it and laughed and said “Catch I know if you wrote the note it would just say ‘lets read some brainy shit then try sex’ but girls are more low key then that. Actually, most people are. She likes you and wants you bro,” he patted my back and stepped back. I felt his hand even after he was several feet away again.
He left me with something.
We all stood under a streetlight at the corner under the giant maple tree amidst falling leaves.
The note smelled of her body spray.
I bummed another cigarette and headed for her house, the boys cheering me on in the distance. I turned around to see Immanuel take his hood off as I pulled my hood over my head to look cooler for Kristen and when she answered the door her face said it all.
Initially they said if you didn’t get the vaccine you couldn’t go to concerts.
No big deal.
Then it was restaurants.
Who cares have it delivered.
Then the supermarket.
Then it could only be delivered to your home.
They said companies had the right to do what they wanted to and so there were no jobs.
And it doesn't take a genius to figure out the requirements for collecting government help. That's right eventually they required those who wanted financial help to do what they were told. But by that point it really didn't matter for me and I knew it wouldn't which is why I didn't worry too much about all of that.
Eventually those of us who held out were holed up in our homes and every measure you can imagine was employed to exert pressure.
Loss of jobs.
Frozen credit cards and bank accounts.
Lowing the credit scores of family and friends who were otherwise compliant.
Then they curtailed services like internet and cell phone coverage.
It’s hard to explain now but it was so easy to see before it all happened. They’re pragmatists you see. Those who sit at the Demanding Heights.
Living the puzzle pieces in the exact order was an unfortunate thrill.
In early 2022 they declared a mandatory stay at home order for The Nation. There had been ebbs and flows but this was the big one.
It was the one that made it clear that anything that had already happened was a scrimmage.
A love tap, as my dad used to say.
Then came “The Edicts.”
All firsts that were reinvented firsts with the added help of technology.
The blockchains. I remember thinking of computerized chains in the late 90s and early 2000s when I was in high school, then college.
The devil is in the details I told them again and again those three dirty ass days in the courtyard as a young buck.
But denial is chicken soup for the sick, sick soul.
These developments were scary but we all still had each other.
For a time I could talk to my family and friends.
Until the day that I couldn’t.
We were in her room. I pulled back her curtain and looked out the window, over the driveway. I wanted to talk about the window design, but I could hear Immanuel’s words in my head. Adam’s too but his were less important
“My parents aren’t coming home Catch. Don’t worry,” she said sweetly, softly and clearly clueless.
We sat on her bed, knees touching, Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters playing. I caressed her cheek as she blushed and looked away, then back at me and I moved in for the kiss.
Pulsating waves of warmth and pleasure moved through me. She looked at my sleeve and said, softly, “you burned a hole with that cigarette.”
The shirts came off.
Then her bra. In that moment the grand plan, the master puzzle, all took a backseat to Kristen. And her fantastically perfect breasts. Like silver dollar pancakes and I love pancakes.
Pancake breasts smiled when she looked at the bulging below my belt.
We laughed awkwardly.
Consumed with the rapturous joy of the new experience that was technically forbidden but understood to be inevitable.
After The Edicts the QR became so much a part of routine life it was as if it ran in the background like things we don’t even think on unless they stop working. Running water, electricity, stop lights and an endless list of other things.
They limited cell phone use to certain times, then only to call certain people or places.
Not to worry, the QR had levels of permission and it was fast and easy. It wouldn’t fail you. It would always tell you where you stood.
Honestly, hand of God, I have no idea how long I’ve been here. Today I scoured the room for whatever I could find per my longstanding plan.
A small, stripped screw. It’s not much but I watched MacGyver when I was a kid so…It’ll do. I have enough experience in this area to make it work.
Near the toilet there is a rough patch of concrete. For hours I rubbed the tip of the screw back and forth with a steady rhythm, slowly shaping the tip into small, silvery, razor sharp tip. I rubbed that screw back and forth until it sounded like a strange animal in my head. Almost like a distorted chirp from the tree frogs.
Nobody will ever read this but that’s hardly the point.
We make our last stand against whatever or whoever seeks to destroy us with whatever tools we’re given I suppose.
Immanuel where are you now amigo?
Are you looking for me?
Do you wonder?
Do you think Kristen remembers I was her first? I’m sorry for that Immanuel. But you know that.
I can’t get that old Beatles song out of my head.
Something about 8 days a week.
Its funny that my life feels like it spanned an 8-day week and little else.
A simple breakdown would look something like this:
8. Yesterday I was watching the timeline play out and fantasized we might wake up use the balance wisely.
7. The day before that things were weird, but I was having brunch with friends.
6. The day before that people looked on as I drew the puzzle in college before leaving myself for dead-twice. I wound up in rooms that felt a lot like this one to explain myself but obviously the conditions were fundamentally different. Even as I sat in the big brown chair, I knew I would end up here someday. I knew there would be no arched 19th century windows or a giant leather chair. Immanuel you remember that one. Where are you?
5. The day prior I helped build a bonfire in the woods one mild winter evening in 2000.
4. And day before that I was in a giant pipe under White Hollow Road, then with Kristen, my first, on a crisp Autumn evening in 1998 while my clique and kid brother cheered me on. Immanuel I never said it, but I know I fucked up. I’m not heartless. Just off kilter and in my head.
3 & 2. The first days I remember the wind in my hair and gasping for air as my mom stood over me. As if looking at her face from just below the surface of water she was blurry before coming into full view. Saving me and making everything as it was supposed to be.
1.But today…today this is where I am.
Where the fuck are YOU?
In a Room Like This Age 21
Dr. Arn took the stage and was clearly nervous. Dr. Arn had always been tightly wound which was weird considering his profession.
“Good afternoon everyone. I want to begin by stating the obvious which is the I’m not a good public speaker. Also, while we’re giving disclaimers, I think it’s probably a good idea to tell you I’m not a good writer either but with Kholaina’s help we put this together. This was my one and only 1-1 time with Catchy and I attempted to tell the story from the 3rd person.
Catchy found himself in my office on his birthday. Just before that he had been hospitalized again for trying to take his life after recreating what he drew originally during his freshman year. The Catchy that sat in my office was, from what I am told, a different version of himself.
Anyway, Kholaina provided a journal entry from that evening following his session with me and we end the story with an entry made two days prior before his release from the hospital. My job was to get Catchy on his meds so he would graduate number one, but I wanted to reach him. The reality is Catchy was out of my league, beyond my depth. I'm just grateful to be here today.
February 9, 2005
Happy birthday to me,
to the one and only Catkin Key,
happy birthday to me
Off I go to therapy.
They’ll ask me the same questions and they’ll all miss the point. My kid brother always used to tell me Catchy, he’d say Catchy, not everyone rides the same rail. How much can you expect from people? I’ll just answer the questions for Kholaina. Hopefully things don’t go the way they did the last time but then again, the last time I didn’t have her. I had Immanuel. I always have Immanuel, but that’s different.
He found himself in a room. Just as he knew he would.
The room was small and had high ceilings.
He liked high ceilings.
He wasn’t happy about being in this room again but compared to the rooms he saw himself in down the line this room was a good room. A great room.
He loved designs and patterns just as much as he loved puzzles, words, and ideas.
Catchy did not love rooms quite the same way. He had a knack for seeing the full potential in just about everything. So, a room with four walls and a door could be a saving grace or, to put it mildly, problematic.
It was white. The room. And the windows had curved tops and opened onto a balcony that overlooked the courtyard.
Catchy loved old windows. He loved the architecture of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Neoclassical style buildings and windows struck his fancy despite what the braindead designers of today say. Catchy loved the domed roofs, the triangular pediments, and countless other features he found pleasing to his eyes but above all else, he loved the symmetry.
After all, who wouldn’t?
Doors were a funny thing to Catchy.
Whenever he walked through one, regardless of the style, he would often forget what he was doing, where he was, and what was on his mind.
Naturally he tried to avoid doors when he could but for obvious reasons it was all but impossible. Not to mention a monumental waste of time insofar as planning and such was concerned.
Catchy stood by the beautiful window overlooking the courtyard.
Donned in torn jeans, army boots, a white T Shirt that was crisp and new, and a zip up hoodie that was light grey with a dark hood, Catchy stood like a statue gazing, waiting.
His long dark hair was wild and two thick bangs framed his piercing blue eyes and animated face while a third, smaller lock of hair fell in the middle of his forehead.
He had been in a small room just like this a few years back. After “the incident.”
“He’ll be with you in just a moment,” the receptionist said from the doorway. She had a soft yet raspy voice. The kind you find comforting, even while she’s taking your money for “services rendered.” Catchy liked her voice because it reminded him of the waitresses at iHOP at 4am. Catchy contemplated saying so but nodded instead. Raspy voice nodded also and went back to her desk. Catchy promptly resumed his observation of the courtyard.
It was strange. There are things you swear you won’t repeat but then you do and even though there are reasons-good reasons-people reach a breaking point where they’re no longer interested.
Catchy could always laugh at a situation. Even a tragic one. He never intended to hurt anyone or antagonize someone in pain. That notwithstanding Catchy would laugh in situations where if it were anyone but him, people would understandably take great offense.
And even though it felt like a lifetime ago, like the past was safely sequestered and never coming back, Catchy always knew he would end up in a room like this again. He did not consider this resignation to an outcome, and he rejected the notion that it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Universe did not work like that.
Karma was bullshit.
Patterns were a different story.
Change is one of the only constants in life, Catchy had always been told. But where do these changes come from? Some are obvious and others come with an explanation, a narrative, which we accept and integrate into our reality, Catchy said to the empty room.
Catchy could be heard talking to himself from the waiting room.
Regardless, some changes occur faster than others.
Some changes occur in tighter spaces than others.
And that’s problematic in a room like this.
Catchy never worried about time. He knew it would hound him at the end and thinking about it only ruined the good parts.
You would think his indifference to time would bother people. Perhaps inconvenience people and maybe even make them angry. For most people that would be true. But for the most part people accepted this as part of the package if you knew Catchy.
And everyone on campus knew him or knew of him.
Catchy was a naturally unassuming young man. This was rarely the initial impression he gave people, but they caught on quickly.
Years down the line people of all persuasions would sit in all types of rooms lamenting about how “Catchy saw the writing on the wall,” or capitulating to admit that “I can’t believe Catchy was right.”
Catchy wasn’t prescient he just excelled at solving puzzles and saw life as little more than a puzzle to be solved. And to solve that puzzle some fundamental questions had to be answered. He wasn’t crazy in his mind and yet there can be little doubt that his bi-polar disorder coupled with his brilliant mind shaped him almost entirely.
Catchy did acknowledge to one person that his illness landed him back in the room with the big brown leather chair. It was his illness this time just as it had been three and a half years ago.
“Enjoying the view?” Catchy turned around to see a young man wearing creased khakis, a pink button up dress shirt and a pink tie. His voice was high pitched and a bit shaky. He was nervous.
Catchy stood a moment at the window and looked down into the courtyard teeming with students, all walking around the edges and he smiled while walking over and taking a seat.
“So you rock the Ralph Lorenz Polo,” Catchy said sitting in the giant brown leather chair, which seemed wildly out of place in this office, while at the same time extending his hand to Dr. Arn “I’m Catchy Key.”
“Ralph Lauren,” Dr. Arn said, forcing an awkward, uneasy smile.
“Your Ralph Lauren?” Catchy moved side to side, assessing Dr. Arn’s features.
“No, no sorry, just playing.”
“Me too, Catchy smiled.”
“Yes indeed. Umm,” Dr. Arn was shifting in his chair “well you’re certainly better at it.”
Dr. Arn realized he was still engaged in the handshake with Catchy. He realized he liked the feeling of Catchy’s hand in his and found himself recoiling a bit when he realized it.
“And I like your getup too?”
“Sorry?” Catchy asked, somewhat confused. Catchy knew he could not have just been outwitted in a simple introductory conversation. Not acceptable.
“The slightly baggy torn jeans, army boots, white T Shirt and zip up hoodie with the two cigarette burns. Very 90s.”
Catchy stood and posed with his hands in the hoodie pockets, his head titled to the side and a sly smile as if he was impersonating a model from the 90s.
“90s in full effect doctor,” Catchy smiled, sitting back down. Ready to get started.
“You know we’re not playing speed chess, right? You can relax?”
“People play speed chess or chess on speed?”
“Probably both actually. My point is take a moment to settle in.”
“I don’t play chess period. And you know my background doc c’mon now. Settle in?”
“You really don’t play chess?”
“That’s what’s really important to you?”
The good doctor laughed awkwardly, revealing his mild embarrassment.
“No. Of course not. I just figured-well I’m sort of surprised that you don’t is all. Do you play Go? Or Risk?”
“I’ll play any game,” Catchy replied with a cunning smile.
Dr. Arn was a psychiatrist. A student still but he gave himself the necessary pep talk in his head to remind himself that he could handle this patient. He was a well-trained student with nothing to fret over. And he had the chart and in that chart was all he would need to get the ball rolling.
Dr. Arn’s advisor made him take Catchy’s case because she said Catchy would make for a fantastic learning experience.
“But everyone knows who he is,” Josaih had told his advisor to which she replied “yes that’s true and still nobody knows who he is at the same time. But the real issue here is that the University wants him to graduate. More to the point, they want him to graduate number one. And to do that he needs services. And you’re in need of a real test,” she paused right then as she packed up her laptop and looked up at Josaiah, “plus there’s nobody else. Don’t get me wrong there’s interest, I just mean there’s nobody else. Do you understand?”
Catchy sank into the easy chair. He watched as Dr. Arn nervously walked over to his desk, situated to the right of the window, and gazed a moment into the courtyard. He looked at Catchy and smiled before wheeling his desk chair over to sit across from him. A small table between them had two coasters and a copy of Psychology Today on it.
“Nice chair,” Catchy said reaching into his backpack to retrieve an apple. He took a bite and continued “looks all ergonomic and whatnot. Good lumbar support. That’s good. I ought to get one too. Neither one of us is gunna stay this young and beautiful for very long. Entropy’s a slap in the face man.”
“Umm, thanks,’ Dr. Arn laughed as he held a file and a legal pad for notetaking. “For the compliment and the lesson on entropy. And now that we got those two things out of the way shall we go ahead and get started?”
This was Catchy’s favorite part: the ‘rapport building.’ Although this time would be different after the incident.
“We shall,” Catchy replied, now on the edge of his seat again. Smiling. Eating the core of the apple as Dr. Arn looked on and winced a bit. He knew it was supposedly good for you but the texture of the core and the seeds? He just couldn’t do it.
“You eat the core too huh,” Dr. Arn laughed as he readied his notepad.
“Yeah man there’s a whole immune system in that apple. Plus, I don’t waste food. Leave no trace know what I mean?”
Dr. Arn nodded.
“And its good fiber so I’ll have a nice robust bowel movement.”
“That’s,” Dr. Arn was derailed for a second by that, “that’s fantastic. Gut health is good! Now let’s talk brain health.”
“Fuck yeah lets really take this shit apart doc,” Catchy was on the edge of his seat rubbing his hands together in anticipation. He took his hoodie off as if to make a gesture that he was there to get down to business. That he was committed.
“So,” Dr. Arn began, ready to take notes during this, their first session. “Tell me about this incident.”
“That’s how we’re to begin?” Catchy asked. He expression turned from one of intrigue and excitement to disappointment.
Dr. Arn paused and stared at Catchy a moment. He looked at Catchy’s piercing blue eyes, somewhat obscured by his long, dark hair.
“Yes, actually. I feel it’s important because-“
“Please don’t interrupt me Catkin.”
“Nobody calls me Catkin. They call me Catchy. Everyone. Always. It’s probably even in the notes you got from Amanda Fry.”
“Ok then Catchy its important because it was the incident that caused a break in your care the first time.”
Catchy sat back and ran his hands through his hair. Catchy’s shrewdness and even-keeled temperament, at least for someone suffering from a bout of mania, made Dr. Arn nervous. Everything about the situation was off.
By all appearances Catchy could tell Dr. Arn was anxious and doubting himself. And by all appearances it seemed like Catchy liked it. He didn’t love that he liked it. He didn’t have a need to like it.
Catchy possessed the ability to size a situation up no matter the variables-at least thus far in his short 21 years. It just was what it was. When Catchy inferred that Dr. Arn could tell that Catchy saw right through him it only compounded the young doctor’s anxiety.
Catchy figured he could walk and chew gum at the same time. He could be the patient and do it for real without compromising himself. Just by doing that Dr. Arn would get to do his job. It’s a win-win, Catchy thought, feeling a surge of excitement until he remembered: there is no such thing as an actual win-win situation.
Not in the big picture.
Not in this Universe and not with its non-negotiable rules.
But he plowed ahead anyway.
“A break in my care,” Catchy said, leaning back in his chair rubbing chin. “Am I terminally ill?”
“Well, you are bipolar and you told the receptionist when you made the appointment that you had stopped seeing your last psychiatrist and thus taking your medication after an incident-the one this last week. Which is why you’re here. But I want to talk about what happened freshman year first.”
“Well actually to be precise if we’re talking about this latest ‘incident,’” Catchy said the word incident mockingly, “I stopped taking my medications before and I knew there would be some kind of event. Besides Dr. Fry was an outstanding notetaker, surely all the juicy, salacious details surrounding the first incident are somewhere in there,” Catchy said, smiling still and examining his fingernails.
“They are but reading notes isn’t the same as talking to a human and look Catchy I know they seem separated, but over three years ago one incident led to the other in a span of under a week so…”
“Jesus doc I’m losing track how many incidents are we talking about here,” Catchy leaned forward and flipped his hair back.
“You love math surely you can count.”
“I love the philosophy of it,” Catchy stood and paced. Dr. Arn’s eyes following him. “I love how interconnected everything is and I loathe the reality that knowledge like that is kept from us.”
“To what end though?”
“I dunno,” Catchy said, staring at the Buddah on Dr. Arn’s desk. Catchy put his index finger on the Buddah’s head and held it there. Dr. Arn watched Catchy and found himself in a trance.
Catchy looked like a statue himself standing there in the evening light as it streamed through the windows with his finger on the buddah, “I dunno, control I would think. Power?”
Dr. Arn wanted to be agitated by what he would consider resistance if it were any other patient, but there was something about Catchy that made it ok. Something tough to describe.
Dr. Arn couldn’t place it. There was a growing sense of attraction that made him feel intrigued and, as a professional, confused, and anxious.
The line was still in front of me, Dr. Arn repeated in his head. It’s in front of me and in front of Catchy. It’s between us where it’s supposed to be.
Dr. Arn took a deep breath.
“I want to talk about the first incident your freshman year before we talk about the latest event.”
“Sounds like you’ve come unprepared then.”
“This isn’t a game Catchy. You’re out of control and in order to remain a student and remain on course you have to take this more seriously.”
Catchy locked eyes with Dr. Arn.
Dr. Arn felt a sense of warmth. He found himself scooting his chair closer to Catchy. Dr. Arn looked up to see that Catchy noticed this and although Dr. Arn was embarrassed, and blushed even, Catchy didn’t judge him. At least not in the traditional sense. It was ok and everything in Catchy’s body language said just that.
For a moment Dr. Arn appeared squeamish, as if he wanted to apologize and it seemed like Catchy knew it.
Memories of apologies hounded him.
People say sorry for themselves his mother had always told him.
“Oh I take this seriously just do me a favor, no matter how this shakes out please do not apologize.”
“Alright.” Dr. Arn agreed, albeit somewhat confused.
“I take this shit very seriously sir.”
“You do now?”
“Are you kidding me you know what I put into this,” Catchy stood and paced but calmly “and not just this time but that first time too. You know, the one yer like obsessed with talking about even though there’s things just like it that are happening now, right here in the here and now? But yeah, fer sure, lets definitely talk about me at 17 as a freshman first. That totally makes sense.”
“It does,” Dr. Arn said in an unwavering, uncompromising manner.
“I say it doesn’t and who’s smarter? Hmm? Who, jus tell me who, between the two of us, mono on mono, tell me who’s smarter?”
Catchy began to look a little lost if only for a moment. Dr. Arn knew that without Manny or Kholaina Catchy had a hard time staying in the lines.
Dr. Arn clicked his pen and set his pad down on the table that was between the two chairs.
“I want and need to hear it from you or we’re done. And Catchy, you’re obviously smarter but smart doesn’t always equal right and you’re so smart you’re the one who said it. So, start where I say we have to start, or we’re done.”
“Ah I see you have a prescription pad and a mountain of student loan debt, so you have to show some flex. After all you’re important.”
“Catchy that’s enough,” Dr. Arn was trying to reel him in.
“Do you tell woman at cocktail parties that you’re a doctor? That sometimes you have to get tough? Do they say ‘oh that must be so difficult,’ while you pretend it’s a burden that someone’s gotta carry? I’ll bet bottom dollar you’ve gotten yer jimmy wet countless times behind this MD thing, even if you’re using it as a head doctor.”
Catchy wasn’t trying to be malicious, it wasn’t inherent in his nature, no, all Catchy was doing was taking detours to avoid that dreaded destination: Pain.
“Catchy what’s it gunna be?”
“Ah now he’s leveling with me!” Catchy shook his finger at Dr. Arn playfully. “Or you’re a trust fund kid who has to pretend he understands what it’s like to fraternize with regular people. You have to show some dirt under those fingernails.”
“We both know there’s nothing regular about you and I don’t mean that disrespectfully and I’m compelled to ask, you know I just have to ask, do you understand?” Dr. Arn asked calmly, wanting to be annoyed. Knowing he ought to be annoyed. Instead, he found himself dreading the end of the session. He realized he resented time constraints and boundaries and lines in the sand.
Quick assessment: where is the line now? Dr. Arn started to look before Catchy spoke again.
“I shop at thrift stores dude.”
“It’s Dr. Arn, or Josiah. Not dude. And what’s that got to do with my question? I’m not talking about growing up without money or pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Catchy,” Dr. Arn leaned forward and was no more than 12 inches from Catchy’s face,
“I’m talking about what’s outside that window.”
Catchy seemed to really take this in for a moment.
“Right on dude. Well yeah, I guess I think I understand a little more. Otherwise, why would I go to all that effort? Hmm? Jus cause I’m bi-polar and a little manic?”
Dr. Arn cleared his throat and adjusted his tie.
“You love games Catchy. Puzzles. Schemes. But from what I know you do not suffer bull shit. The games, the puzzles, they all matter as far as you’re concerned. So, forgive me for being a bit confused” Dr. Arn winced, recognizing his part in this. “And I’ll admit I’m enabling you. So, we’re done here,” Dr. Arn stood up.
Catchy sat and smiled. Dr. Arn could feel Catchy’s eyes following him. Dr. Arn stood at the window now with his back to Catchy. He couldn’t show his face just yet because he had acted emotionally. Why did he stand up? Why was he offering ultimatums? He didn’t want the dialogue to be over. Did he want to show Catchy he could somehow match him? One-up him? If so, that was a foolish notion. He might have a small win here or there if this wasn’t a psychiatric evaluation and a battle of intellect instead. But he’d never win the war. And the fact he’s even thinking these things…what does that say about him as a doctor? Could Catchy sense all this and piece it together, in essence read his mind?
The answer was yes. Like it was nothing. Most impressive was that Catchy would do that and rarely, if ever, do so intentionally. It just happened. He would much prefer to be left alone to think and figure.
“Very doctorly. I’ll be sure to leave a stellar review on yelp.com. Actually it should be called help.com,” Catchy said laughing as he stood and grabbed his backpack off the floor and pulled a hand rolled cigarette from his ear.
He stood a moment and smelled the fresh tobacco.
Dr. Arn could feel Catchy’s mood. Its like it seeps out his fucking pores, Dr. Arn thought to himself. Dr. Arn felt like he was under the influence. It wasn’t indifference, or anger. It was acceptance. If Dr. Arn was truly done with Catchy then Catchy could and would accept that without any animus. Yet Catchy knew all along Dr. Arn was not about to end the session. It took Dr. Arn a moment to conclude his patient had already known the outcome.
Dr. Arn felt antsy and full of energy all the sudden. But he continued playing his part.
“So you’re not going to do anything to save yourself?” Dr. Arn asked, still staring out the window into the courtyard with his hands in his pockets. Catchy watched Dr. Arn look down into the courtyard and mumble the word “remarkable.”
“Hard to stop a moving train. I’ll just have to contend with inertia. I’ll pay my bill on the way out.”
“Don’t bother,” Dr. Arn said gently but with an edge of assertiveness, trying to play it cool.
“Ok cool I don’t have any money on me anyway,” Catchy replied in a tone that conveyed both relief and perhaps sarcasm. Dr. Arn couldn’t tell. If it were any other patient he would say sarcasm.
Dr. Arn turned around. His youth and inexperience stood out in that moment. Catchy saw the boy in him. Dr. Arn sensed this as Catchy stood by the door looking directly at him. The moment seemed to last forever and Dr. Arn needed it to end.
I’m the doctor he thought to himself. Catkin is the patient. I don’t need his help. He needs mine.
“I’ll play your game if you play mine Catchy but only because I have a fiduciary obligation to see this through and see if we can right the ship and stabilize you.”
Catchy gave an easy smile and walked back to his comfy, albeit out of place, easy chair and let his backpack slide off and onto the floor as he sat, ready to reengage.
Ready to play.
“You’re pleased when you use big words aren’t you? It’s cool I love big words too. Seriously. It’s the most thrilling thing when you can use them correctly and make it cool at the same time.”
“Do you know what it means?”
“To care for, I think. Do you know what epistemology is?”
“That’s right. Someone with an IQ of 180 knows a lot of things. Absorbs a lot of things. And yes, I know what it is and thanks to you so does the entire student body and faculty. So, the incident over three years ago? Let’s start there Catchy. Let’s get you to the finish line and then if you wanna go rogue and be on an insane rollercoaster after graduation that’s your call. Or you can hone your skills and channel your incredible mind.”
“Here’s one for ya…is there a difference between the brain and the mind?”
“Here’s one for ya…is there a point to all your efforts if you’re dead? Hmm? If you’re fuckin dead Catchy. Dead. Is there?” Dr. Arn tried to take a hard line.
Catchy’s affect changed. He leaned forward and ran his hands through his wild hair. Catchy squinted his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as if he’d been under interrogation for hours and was finally ready to break and resented the detective for their skills.
“I hate these lights you know,” Catchy told Dr. Arn. “I could say so much if the lighting was orange and gentle.”
Dr. Arn shrugged.
“I was on edge. Trying to make sense of some things. For a spell there I got in and couldn’t find my way back but I did and so we’re ok. We don’t need to unpack anything. I’m a neat packer so I hate having to unpack. It makes a mess. Then I gotta pack it just right again.”
“Indulge me anyway.”
“In 26 minutes?”
“We’ll take the time we need, within reason. C’mon please. Indulge me.”
“Can I smoke in here?”
Catchy lit his hand rolled cigarette and took a long drag. The paper and tobacco crackled and much to his surprise Dr. Arn remained silent, seemingly unphased by Catchy’s brazen disregard for the rules.
They sat, each with a confident posture, in the brightly lit office with a cloud of smoke hanging over them like an upside-down crescent, the smoke thick and tinted with a purple hue.
A silent standoff. Or a silent think off, if there were such a thing.
Catchy locked in on Dr. Arn and held steady until it happened.
The Holy Moment.
They had both changed course. Catchy’s shoulders slumped a bit as he exhaled with a lump in his throat. The lump was a sign Catchy was familiar with. It marked a transition.
“It’s like this,” Catchy struggled, gesturing with his hands upward, “it’s like we were building this perfectly horrifying prison brick by brick. It doesn’t have to be like that, but it is because we’re looking at the world through a straw, like as far as what we see and understand or whatever. Or maybe it’s like my dad always said, almost everyone has a reason not to press the red button. Most people have something too precious to lose.” Catchy hung his head, his hair hanging low, obscuring his eyes some as he sat back up.
“Sorry to backtrack but you said we were building the prison? Are we done? Is it too late?” Dr. Arn asked, seeking clarification.
“Yeah man…we were. I mean we still are, but the heavy lifting is done.”
“So, what are we doing now then?
There was a heavy pause.
An unsettling moment.
A moment that reveals the gravity of something.
A moment when you truly become cognizant that something is profoundly wrong, maybe even irreparably broken.
Catchy shook his head and then stood and paced, talking fast but not hyperverbal and with a cadence and a rhythm that seemed to somehow be in synch with his movements, Dr. Arn thought.
Remarkable, Dr. Arn mumbled.
“What’re we doing now? Seriously!” Catchy was incredulous even though he knew better than to be, “we’re, I’ll tell you, well we’re…,” Catchy lit another cigarette and leaned into Dr. Arn and Dr. Arn was unsettled by how comfortable he was with this. Dr. Arn was anxious because he felt that warmth return and with it a moment of understanding, connection, or something he’d never read about in his textbooks was materializing.
Even though he was staring into the blue eyes of a beautiful kid with an animated face, a personality one can find themselves loving and needing, and a truly brilliant mind, the fact remained that Catchy Key still had a sick brain. It was impossible to reconcile. Dr. Arn couldn’t help but wonder what in the world his advisor was thinking. He was completely out of his depth with such an atypical case.
Catchy blew the hair out of his eyes while five inches from Dr. Arn’s face, looking directly at him, and then leapt to his feet and walked back to his chair where he sat and assumed a relaxed posture, the kind of posture that conveyed he knew a thing or two about things the rest of the world didn’t and then he exclaimed “we’re maintaining it sir. We’re the gatekeepers. We’re policing each other to make darn sure all the work isn’t for naught. We’re unwittingly, and wittingly in some cases, finishing the job. The place we’re making is surely gunna be a new kind of hell, a really special kind with all the bells and whistles, and they got us to build it, to love it, and to fuckin maintain it. Isn’t that marvelous? I mean isn’t it just fantastically monstrous? Terrifically sad!” Catchy shook his head, smiling while stubbing his cigarette out on a coaster on the table between them.
Dr. Arn wanted to care about the cigarette and the coaster. But he did not. He could not.
Catchy stood up again and rubbed his eyes with his palms. Dr. Arn was taken aback that until this moment he had been so distracted that he didn’t even clocked the bandages on Catchy’s forearms.
Catchy even made the dressings look ‘cool’ somehow. Like it was natural. Like it made sense.
Catchy walked over to and stood by the 19th century style window as the evening light, now waning, trickled rather than streamed in.
Down in the courtyard things were still busy with students walking to this place or that, from here to there, and they were all walking along the edges instead of through it. And Catchy knew he should feel more.
“So, I drew this mural. Actually, it’s more like timeline. It’s also sort of a mathematical equation. Sort of.”
“Its quite a feat Catchy, both of them. People still talk about freshman year and now they’re comparing and contrasting the two,” Dr. Arn said with genuine admiration. He wanted to convey that he was impressed without fawning over his patient more than he already had. It was shameful.
“How many hours at a time did you work at it?” Dr. Arn asked, looking over at Catchy.
“Can you come sit back down?”
Catchy was caught off guard and there was a break in the dance they were doing. Dr. Arn knew he had derailed something.
“What a waste of a good question,” Catchy said with disappointment as he walked back to his chair and sat. “I mean there he is, sitting all straightlaced and uptight, honest to god, like for real, purely stultifying bro. I mean Jesus Christ,” Catchy said with a sharp emphasis on the T in Christ as he recollected scenes in his head from the drawing.
Catchy railed on, “the madness of the mind when it’s in a race to articulate its thoughts, analysis, and connections before they evaporate. Before you lose em. It’s frustrating because sometimes they come back but a lot of the time they don’t.”
There was a silence while Dr. Arn waited for the answer.
“I needed to get it out I know I didn’t change clothes,” Catchy said.
The words moved rapidly through the dense air. They moved so fast they seemed to slice the time.
“So you didn’t change clothes, you didn’t eat, and you relieved yourself in the restrooms around the courtyard?
“So how many hours? Or days?
Catchy looked at Dr. Arn cautiously. He could feel the ground shifting beneath him and what was worse was that Catchy knew that Dr. Arn was aware that Catchy was aware.
Dr. Arn stared back and realized he wasn’t breathing. If he shifted in his seat, or even blinked, he feared he would lose the tenuous grip he had on Catchy. He had worked much too hard to get here and if Catchy digressed Dr. Arn would feel like Sisyphus.
After an awkward pause Catchy began to roll another cigarette. He licked the paper and gently blew on the damp glue before sitting back. Ready to change gears.
“3 full days, I know that much,” Catchy said, staring off to the side as if contemplating what that meant.
“When did the two come along?”
“That’s your segue? It’s a pivotal part of the narrative. I’ve got that shit locked away in a psychic vault.”
“Yeah you and me both my ninja you and me both,” Catchy lit his cigarette and continued.
“Look yer tip toing! Immanuel isn’t one of the two he’s my best friend. Immanuel is my partner in the journey man,” Catchy was firm but calm. “If yer anxious or minimize important details how do you expect me to trust you? Fuckin A,” Catchy took a drag from his cigarette, “I guess I’ll have to cover us both.”
“Guess you will,” Dr. Arn seemed to agree.
“Immanuel and Jillian are the two. And I don’t remember when they came along. But I know Immanuel and I can guarantee he was there the entire time. But, but the thing that gets me, I think what gets me most is that what’s most important to you isn’t even the ideas it’s the other stuff.” Catchy looked wounded.
“The ideas matter Catchy but the other stuff isn’t just stuff. If it gets in the way you’ll be dead or irrelevant. So…you remember the encounter?”
“Are you talking about Immanuel?”
“Maybe, but that’s like 108 sessions down the road with someone else. If you ever do the work. So…the encounter?”
“Oh my God yer killing me! First of all, encounter? They weren’t aliens. Next, just say threesome instead of encounter because yer working off notes there so you already know what happened. I mean that file is red hot with details am I right?”
Catchy began laughing before descending into a strange silence Dr. Arn couldn’t figure out.
“Manny and Jillian. They’re the ones who called 9-11, correct?”
“Yes. I mean I imagine it was Immanuel but yeah they called EMS,” Catchy smoked his cigarette with a blank expression. An expression so blank if one were to take a picture and look at it at a later point time, they could tell a thousand stories about what he was thinking and doing in that moment. They could project any emotion onto the blank canvas that was his expression. A rarity for Catchy Key.
“You finished having a threesome in the dorm room and what happened?”
“I love how you phrased that,” Catchy laughed, “we ‘finished’ our threesome, like it was a homework assignment. Wouldn’t that be grand if it were? Everyone would want that professor!”
Dr. Arn gave Catchy a look that begged him to just answer the questions.
“Yeah, yes, we were done and they fell asleep, like people normally do and then I got to thinking that I couldn’t remember where I left off. So, I went out to see if it was done. In the courtyard. It was early and nobody was awake, but I could already tell, I could tell it didn’t matter.”
“How could you know?”
“Because cool shit can’t save us. Because information is all that can and the places where we can get what we need to know also distort it. It’s like getting coke from a dealer you trust just enough even though the cokes been stepped on half a dozen times by the time it’s in your hand. Maybe they mean to maybe they don’t but hey it is what it is. And even when you make it trendy and cool and it gets people’s attention, like I said, we can’t be saved by cool shit. We can’t rise above our own shit. I mean we’re literally incapable of being free. Fuckin Hobbes man,” Catchy finished rolling another cigarette and lit it.
The room was so dense with smoke Dr. Arn could hardly breathe. He knew he should have said something earlier because it was too late now. It would only amount to a waste of time.
“So what did you do?”
“So I went back inside the dorm to see them still sleeping and I grabbed a razor, threw it on the ground, stepped on it, and pulled out the blades.”
“You were feeling bad?”
“Fuck yeah it was a fusion razor those shits cost like $10.”
Catchy fingered the frayed threads on one of his bandages and tried to speak twice before there were words.
“I wasn’t feeling bad. You guys just can’t seem to grab that concept, can you? I wasn’t depressed then and I’m not now. Not like depressed depressed. I was feeling in the know. I was feeling like you can show people all the details and they’ll still say you’re wrong or worse they’ll say you’re right and then do nothing,” Catchy took a long drag from his cigarette, “so yeah then I slit my wrists. It felt like a rush of warmth at first. Like when we played the choking game as kids to get high. Like when I huffed nitrous in high school. The rest I don’t recall.”
“Oh I think you recall some things Catchy but let me ask you, I mean I should say confirm, that you appreciate patterns and such?”
“Well yeah. Of course, my horse.” Catchy tiled his head and smiled.
Dr. Arn felt a tingle at Catchy’s playfulness and immediately felt he crossed a line. Of course, the line that was in front of him an hour ago was now behind him and had been for most of the session.
Catchy was never made fully aware of just how grizzly both scenes had been. He had heard stories but mostly the legacy that lasted in the minds of his peers and the faculty was his drawing and the process of creating it, and what it meant. Both times.
Catchy had been stabilized between that week and this one and discovered he had not completed what he had begun.
“Ok we’ll get back to that, tell me about your first meeting in a room like this, in this very clinic here on campus, or better yet just how it ended.”
“Yer missing the big picture man.”
Catchy seemed to be despairing more and more over the gulf that existed between the two of them but despite that he still made Dr. Arn feel something that Dr. Arn couldn’t seem to put on hold.
“Its just a series of rooms. We’re in rooms when we’re born, I mean mostly, and we’re in rooms to grow up. We go to classrooms, bathrooms, exam rooms, friends’ rooms and the room of that girl with no name,” Catchy trailed off smiling, “and the nature of the room one is in is the yardstick by which one can assess their,” drawing a blank as he stood at the window again looking down at the courtyard, “assess their standing, their state of affairs. And one day a room can mean something that it doesn’t the next.”
“So just out of curiosity why stop if you’re close to solving that puzzle?”
Catchy sat back down and looked through his dark bangs at Dr. Arn. His damp eyes conveyed a confused boy on top of everything else.
“Because Josiah, can I call you that? You said earlier it was an option.”
“I’d prefer not at this point.”
Catchy nodded respectfully.
“Ok because you see, Josiah, even exposing evil and shining light in dark corners and participating in the spiritual engagement has steep market competition. Everyone is in it for themselves, even when the stakes are what they are. Its incredible.”
“Trust me it factors in you just don’t get it.”
“Oh, no, I get it,” Dr. Arn said shifting in his seat, “I just would’ve assumed that you could take the competition. Anyways we’re off the beat and path here. So, they released you from the hospital and you’re on medications and you come here, over three years ago, to see Dr. Amanda Fry.”
“I honestly can’t believe this detail is important next to everything else.”
“Ok we had a great session. At the end we stood up and I told her that her hair in that tight, severe bun thing was repressed. That it made her unapproachable and not therapisty or whatever. I told her she should let her hair down and I told her it would be ok.”
“Because you what? you read her blog?”
“Fry has a blog? Is it about hairstyles? Am I in it?”
“No, she doesn’t, well I mean she may now, but I was kidding. Forget the blog Catchy how did you know something was wrong with her?”
“I couldn’t tell you. All I know is she takes her hair down and next thing I know we’re fuckin. Believe it or not that was my first wheelbarrow. Bless her heart though she didn’t charge me for the extra time.”
Dr. Arn had decided before the session even began, in fact right after his meeting with his advisor and reading the file, that he would suspend all disbelief so he wouldn’t be caught off guard. But he was stunned. Not at the revelation. He was already aware. Rather how Catchy told the story.
“So I left and didn’t stop at the receptionists desk because I figured I paid the bill and I had my medicine.”
“When did you discover she had confessed the next morning and was terminated and lost her license?”
“Look she jumped on me.”
“When’d you find out Catchy?”
“I dunno today I guess.”
“So then three years go by on Lithium and you’re on dean’s list, you’re at the top of your graduating class, you’re in clubs, and have had a girlfriend for nearly three years. Then you decide to stop taking your meds. Why?”
“Because there was one more piece.”
“It had nothing to do with the death of your younger brother the morning you finished the first courtyard drawing?”
Catchy took a deep breath and exhaled. He was relaxed. He closed his eyes and pictured him and his brother playing in a giant pile of leaves as their father raked them one autumn day.
“No. It’s what I said. There was a missing piece.”
“Well then I suppose we'll just skip right to what brought you here this time around. That is to say let's finish talking about incident number 3 and I'll send you on your way.”
Catchy had been out of his chair for at least 2/3 of the session which had now spanned nearly 80 minutes.
Catchy paced around the room while looking out the giant 19th century style window from time to time into the courtyard below. Now he seemed anxious but anxious in a way Dr. Arn had never experienced. It was an anxious that had a style to it that only Catchy could bring.
Anxiety with pomp and circumstance.
Anxiety with a bit of swag.
“Well it didn't just come out of nowhere to be honest with you I had been talking to
Coco about it for a few weeks.”
“Coco is your girlfriend?” Doctor Arn asked.
“Yeah that's her it's actually short for Kholaina.”
“Yeah beautiful name for a beautiful girl. Woman…whatever. Anyway, she wasn't on board. She kept on telling me how the medicine made me my best self and how I didn't need to go crazy to be able to move people. But how can you explain to someone that they just have no clue what you can see that they can't see? So, I went off my meds and I finished it ... Again."
“Yes well I've been looking at it all day in anticipation of our meeting and of course everybody's talking about it and I think it says a lot that all of the students are walking around it not over it my question, which I know you've already discussed with the doctors at the emergency room and you will continue to discuss with your therapist and psychiatrist, is why try to do it again? Forget the missing piece I mean the entire process. The entire, destructive, crap show of a process?”
Dr. Arn was sincerely interested. Even with all his skills and training and the obvious staring right back at him he still could not wrap his mind around how this young man, this boy sitting before him, this incredibly good looking, uniquely brilliant individual who attracts everything and everybody to him like a magnet could possibly not see his worth in the world.
Dr. Arn realized he had a patient waiting. He couldn’t believe he had been so negligent.
“Catchy I have another patient,” Dr. Arn said and Catchy stood up. “But wait,” nearly pleading, “please just try and answer the question.”
Catchy stood a moment. From where Dr. Arn sat he suddenly felt so small and Catchy seemed like a giant as he put his backpack on and hung his hoodie over his shoulder.
Catchy puckered his lips and squinted as he ran his hand through his hair and then turned and looked at Dr. Arn.
“A doorknob question huh? Seems like you’re asking for you more than me. Be honest and I’ll try to do the same.”
“Sure. Ok. Its column A and column B.”
Catchy bobbed his head as if to a beat and then headed for the door before turning around and looking at Dr. Arn who, by that point, appeared as if he had been reduced to something other than a big shot doctor.
“I dunno man I guess because it’s so beautiful, the world we’re missing. Because people are missing out and refuse to see it even when you can prove it. And because despite all my rational conclusions in the courtyard there the irrational artist in me knows that people appreciate life only because there’s death. If only for like a minute before they go back to their lattes and cell phones.”
Catchy opened the door to see an attractive brunette standing at the receptionist’s desk. Probably asking why she had been waiting so long. Catchy did not know her or recognize her but she looked at him as if she had known him all her life.
“I’m really sorry,” Catchy approached her with some intentional swagger in his step. “I took up his time,” Catchy spoke softly, but comfortingly. “See you may have heard but I’m kind of a case,” Catchy was turning the charm up.
“Oh it, it’s totally fine I,” the girl stammered as Dr. Arn appeared in the doorway and the receptionist looked dumbfounded, “if I knew it was you I wouldn’t mind.”
Catchy chuckled and adjusted his backpack and a piece of his bandage.
“Oh my God I didn’t mean it like that oh my God. Umm I mean I love what you drew. I love it. What dorm do you live in?”
Dr. Arn interjected and tried to usher her into his office.
Catchy got close to the girl. “You’ve done nothing wrong. It was all his fault but it’s over now. You get to be you. You’re perfect. Oh, and you probably already know but this guy,” Catchy pointed with his thumb over his shoulder at Dr. Arn behind him, “this guy is A1.”
The girl’s eyes filled with tears as Catchy walked out of the waiting room.
“By the way I live in Wheeler.”
Dr. Arn and the girl went into his office and she set her things down as Dr. Arn looked out the window to see Catchy standing by the courtyard lighting a cigarette. Immanuel met him and a crowd gathered. Dr. Arn looked at the way Immanuel stood near Catchy like his gatekeeper.
“He’s just,” the girl was clearly struggling for words. “Everyone likes or loves him. And the ones that hate him hate him like a lot but it’s like different hate.”
“Different how?” Dr. Arn asked, fully cognizant of the fact it was unethical and against all the rules to talk about one patient with another.
“I guess it’s like a hate that’s a hate because they like him too. Or love him. She’ll never be the same either I mean like oh my God, you know?”
“Kholaina. His girlfriend.”
“Yeah,” Dr. Arn looked down and thought to himself that he would trade places with Catchy any day of the week. He wanted to be near him again. “Yeah, he’s really something.”
Catchy looked up at Dr. Arn looking down as his peers talked and tried to ask him questions.
Immanuel asked Catchy “what’s up how’d it go? You look like it messed with you man.”
“I would trade places with Dr. Arn any day of the week. Letters after his name, an office, stability, and every night a good night’s sleep,” Catchy said as he and Immanuel walked off and out of sight.
“Ok then,” Dr. Arn sat down. “How’ve you been since we last saw each other?”
February 7, 2005
They said I’ll be out in the morning. Into the free. Only it won’t resemble freedom at all because I’ll have to answer questions from countless people, starting with my girlfriend. But its Immanuel I’m nervous to see. Kholaina sometimes joked that I cared more about upsetting him than her but that’s not true, it’s just not the same.
I’m tired of answering questions it’s not hard to understand. It all leads to the same place. Unless people suddenly become decent and brave, I know where people like me are going to end up and I’ve known for a long time.
I don’t think I ever really thought people would be different. After all there is absolutely nothing insofar as evidence is concerned to suggest we’re even remotely capable of being different.
I missed my kid brother the moment he was gone. At first it was like being drunk with grief and then it was just like a mild buzz. But tonight, I miss him I miss him really bad. I blamed discreetly blamed Immanuel when it first happened. I blamed him because maybe if he hadn’t been babysitting me in the courtyard freshman year, I would’ve gotten to talk to Jhames but that’s not true.
Those dirty days were important but sometimes I think the two of us were meant to leave this world as brothers at the same time just in different places.
Then I feel like I got left here by accident.