A Walk in the Ocean
One time I took a walk— straight into the ocean,
Fought back the sea
Like it was never gonna kill me,
Settled on heights no further than the misty foam,
Thought I was tough,
Turns out I had it pretty rough,
Couldn’t see past the salinity that stung my eyes,
Glass tinted teal
Shattered against me and all things real,
Wouldn’t be half as hard if I were not alone,
The seabed wrenched
Like death’s cold fingers and left me drenched,
Poseidon himself would have shown me more mercy,
Bought long, white scars
For prices greater than all the stars,
Left every friend behind… to watch me fall apart,
Drowning in shame
For pointing fingers when I’m to blame,
Lost all sense of purpose in this advancing doom,
Here comes a wave,
But there’s nothing left of me to save,
Closed my eyes so as not to feel the icy sting,
Tears fell like rain,
Then I drew a breath… never again,
Last time I took a walk—straight into the ocean,
Died in the sea
’Cause, it was always gonna kill me,
Pen to the Paper 22
"Yeah, what's up, Caleb?"
"Why have the food prices gone up?"
I gave Nick a look. "Not that, dumbo. Have you checked the menu?"
"Oh! That! Yeah, it's pride month, man," Nick said with a shrug.
"What does that have to do with anything?"
Nick disappeared into the concession stand and came out with a bag of rainbow colored popcorn. "This is all that was in stock. Businesses like to use the fact that people are gay to make extra money, so they just didn't stock up on everything properly. So, this month, every concession stand is selling pride themed snacks and beverages."
"Oh. Well, is there any way we can bring the prices down?"
"I mean, if you want to lose money this time around."
I waved my hand dismissively. "If I cared about the money, Nick, I wouldn't be selling everything for less than a dollar. Well, most things. Besides, that check from Buccee’s when I sold out should cover that."
"Cool, cool. Now, walk with me. We have to get you to the dressing room and into the suit I had specially ordered for tonight."
I nodded my head and followed Nick to the dressing room. When we arrived, he pointed to a bag on the back wall. Unzipping it, I said aloud, "Oh, you've gotta be kidding."
I turned to see Nick beaming ear to ear. "Wait until Willow sees this…"
Rainbow lights flashed across the stage. Smoke bombs, also rainbow, burst through the air. In the middle of it all, I stepped out and looked at everyone who was drinking their rainbow slushies, eating their rainbow popcorn, and throwing around Skittles, which were gray for some reason. Seems like they could have just smacked "Pride" on the box, maybe put a flag on there, and called it a day. But, I suppose it's pretty cool. And the symbolism is a nice touch.
Everyone started cheering when they saw me. I was wearing a rainbow suit—a full suit with a vest and everything—with a rainbow bow tie and rainbow fingernails. Willow, the accountant, painted them before I put the suit on. Everyone started screaming louder when the screen lit up behind me.
Turning around, my jaw dropped. It was an animation of a closet door opening. Then big words popped up on screen with arrows pointing at me. The screen, in bold font, said "GAY." Fireworks exploded throughout the arena.
"No, no, no, no!" I called out. "I'm not gay! I swear!"
The crowd started chanting, "COME OUT! COME OUT! COME OUT! GAY! GAY! GAY!"
"Pen to the Paper is out, guys!" I said, then darted out of the arena, through the corridors, and down into the dressing room.
Inside, Willow and Nick were rolling on the floor laughing.
"NOT funny!" I said furiously.
"You're… right!" Nick said between laughs. "It was… hilarious!"
What I Hate About Writing
I've uh, taken up writing again. It's been a while. I guess it's different for everyone but here's the gist.
I've always admired the places writing can take you - sometimes to the point where you'll snap back to reality and have to spend a good second remembering (ah yes, this is me, I am here, hello, I've come again, oh-for-the-love-of-god-why-does-that-person-still-exist).
Except, when I try to do that for myself, to take myself somewhere new, it never works. I describe snow peaked mountains and end up imagining myself sitting on the floor trying to convince myself that painted cardboard shapes can be mountains. It doesn't work. The cardboard pieces fall flat in a second and I'm left moving on to something else.
Or it might be the timing of a scene. The seconds and moments between one gesture and the next, between pieces of dialogue and character development. Usually it takes too long for me and I rush it, and, in reading it over, I think to myself 'now there's no way that would every happen, XYZ would need to happen first before that, that and that....'
And writing. Is. Bloody. Meticulous. An adjustment here means an adjustment there (and there and there and oh god scrap the whole thing and start it over). Like throwing a rock into a pound and seeing all the ripples, all the changes that need to be made. That's what drafts are for, I guess.
...I don't have patience for drafts.
Challenges are great, I guess. I'm only responsible for a small little thing and I can deal with all the details. Longer stuff is a real nightmare because everything needs to be taken into consideration. And I'm a real stickler for details.
I don't know where this is going. But, uh, yeah, that's only a (short) list of why I hate writing.
first step: die
The night is dark, the sky is empty, and I will die tomorrow morning.
The birds stopped singing long ago, and an unbreakable silence has replaced the sounds of the day. It could be a peaceful night, it could be pleasant, but instead the emptiness presses down upon my chest until I can't breathe and I'm stuck suffocating, stuck waiting. Everyone is waiting for death, but I think it's different when you know you're going to die, when you know your time on Earth is up and soon you'll be dead, cold, gone, away. It's an awful feeling, waiting for death, and I almost wish I could get it over with. I almost with I didn't need to wait. Almost.
Tomorrow, I am going to die. I forget why, I forget what for, all I know is that my expiration date is set for tomorrow. Perhaps I'm lucky—not everyone knows when they'll pass on, and I've always been a planner.
I've never died before, and I doubt I'll ever do it again. Once I'm gone, I'm gone, and that thought consumes me. I'll be gone, I won't ever experience the sorrows and heartaches of life. I won't need to worry about relationship concerns, financial issues, whether or not people like me—I won't need to be so anxious all the time, I won't feel that crushing sense of inferiority and my eagerness to please will fade away into oblivion. In a way, I'm escaping the miseries and maladies of life, and I almost feel sorry for everyone who must go on, who must endure. Almost.
The desire to live is a characteristic so deeply engrained within living beings, something conserved throughout the long line of evolution. Once life began, it brought with it a strong will to continue, to persist. I feel that drive, that desire, and I know I want to exist. Existence is the only state I've ever known, and trying to comprehend the idea of not existing is a pointless exercise in existential misery. If I think too much about it, I'll throw up.
I think I'll miss the people in my life, but my memory is not what it once was, and I cannot recall the names or faces of anyone. I can see blurry silhouettes in my mind, I can imagine a warm smile or the sound of laughter, but my memories are too worn out and I am no expert in photo reparation. I've heard that hindsight is 20/20, but my past is a blurred-out mess, an empty slate for me to fill with my own projections, with nostalgia.
The night continues, and I know my death is set for dawn. I'll never see another day, I'll never see another sunrise. It's terrifying, you know? I know that my end is inescapable and I know I'll be gone and dead and it's all happening so suddenly and I just wish I had more time, I just wish I had more time to live and exist and enjoy the world and experience everything life has to offer—it feels so short, my life has been so short and now I'm getting so close to that knife that'll snip me off, that'll sever me from this world, that'll send me off into oblivion.
My lungs ache from rapid breathing, but I'm breathing, I'm breathing right now and soon I will not be. I'm seeing right now and soon I will not be. My heart is beating right now and soon it will stop, soon the blood will stop flowing and my brain will stop functioning. Once my brain goes silent, I will be gone. I will exist in the memories of other people, my name will persist as I fade away.
Dawn is nearing, I can feel it, I can sense it. The tangled knot of emotions in my stomach is writhing and seething, and I feel nauseous.
I am about to embark on an adventure I'll never return from, I'm about to depart to oblivion. If I think about it like that, if I think about death as just another journey, then maybe it'll be okay. If death is a journey, then dying is a necessary first step. I am a careful person, I am an organized person—I like to be prepared, and so I really ought to strive to die.
Death is a journey and I am a sailor, an explorer, a traveler. That seems right, I think. Death is an adventure, right? Death is an adventure and I need to die first, I need to die and I'll die soon, dawn draws near, dawn approaches, dawn and death and done—I'll be done, I'll be done with life and off to a new future.
I almost feel bad for the people left on Earth. They'll get their chance to venture onward someday, but my plane is departing shortly and I am standing at the gate. It's like an airport, like an airplane—the execution is like boarding an airplane, if that makes sense, if that seems right. I don't know what seems right, nothing seems right, so maybe I ought to veer left? Left was never my favorite direction, but maybe I should explore it, maybe the left path is the smart choice, the wise choice. Left, leftover—I'll never eat leftover pizza again, I'll never feel like a leftover, like a last choice.
Ah, well, I suppose the end is here. There's a feeling of impending finality, and the drive for life that festers inside me is wilting but screaming, the will to live is behaving like a cornered animal, snarling inside me, but we both know that any struggle is pointless. We both know that it'll be over for us soon.
At least we'll die together, I suppose—me and my will to live. That drive kept me going for so long, kept me ambitious and successful, kept me sane. It did the best it could, really, and I don't blame it at all for this situation. I'm not sure why I'm dying, I'm not sure what I'm dying for, but it can't be all that bad, it can't be—I'd never hurt anyone aside from myself, I'd never harm anyone aside from myself. Maybe I was unjustly imprisoned, but it's too late for changes, it's far too late.
My memories are hazy and death is growing close, so close, and I just wish these seconds would stretch into minutes, hours, days, years—like taffy, I wish I could stretch time like taffy so I could enjoy my life. But I can't, I can't, and I know I'll die so soon, the time stretches and stretches and it feels like I'm walking in marshmallow fluff, in spiderwebs, in a bowl of jello.
Death is growing near and I've been wondering how I'll die—will it be by gun, or injection, or electrocution, or beheading, or stabbing, or choking, or tearing me apart piece by piece as my consciousness is flung from existence? I don't know, but I'll know soon, I'll know soon enough.
I wish I had just a little more time. I wish I had a little more time but death is a journey and dying is the necessary first step. Dying is the first step and I am prepared, but not really—no one is ever prepared to die, I'd say, I'd say that no one is ever really truly ready to die.
Dawn is near and I see death now.
They stand in front of me—when they got in, I do not know, I cannot recall—and one holds a gun in their hand. The gun is small, but it looks efficient, it looks like it'll do the job. It looks like it'll pierce my skull and shred my brain and paint the wall red with blood. It looks like it'll send me away quickly, easily, messily.
No one says anything as the gun is pressed against my temple. I do not make eye contact with these people, these people are gray and unimportant, these people are just helping me complete the necessary first step on my adventure. I could thank them, but I won't, the will to live would forbid that, the will to live begs me to scream and cry and fight back. I won't, I won't. There's no purpose, really.
I hear a click—the safety is off. I feel the cold metal circle pressing into my head, pressing against me, and this is a new experience for me, I've never died before, I've never been shot in the head before—hell, I've never even been shot before. This is a new experience and this is a necessary first step for my adventure.
I think I'm ready to go. I think I'm as ready as I can be, I think I'm as ready as is possible.
I close my eyes, and—
smell like roses
i wrote you in silence,
i expected things to be easy
when i had nothing to say
you didn't mean a thing
then why do i smell like roses
and when did the flowers outside
my window start to bloom?
i wrote you in silence,
cause it was all just fantastical :
a bubbling stream out of reach
you weren't supposed to mean a thing
but now i'm walking on torn petals
just don't leave don't leave don't
leave without me, i don't know you
i wrote you in silence,
but now i have the words, maybe,
if i'm not too afraid to speak
somehow you mean something
just peel the rosebuds off my skin
i smell like roses again, and
it's because of you.
My Return To Writing, And Reflections About It....
Clear the mind, write without thinking.
The process isn't natural, because since I started writing again a couple of years ago,
I'm always thinking.
I used to make up stories in my head about characters, but they were based on fictional dudes that already existed in my favorite stories I watched and read.
These copycats went on similar adventures that I'd already journeyed on in already existent fictional worlds, worlds already created by other writers.
But now, I hardly journey with those not so original characters anymore.
Now the characters I've created live in my head.
And thanks to writer's block and the busyness of life, they are impatiently waiting for me to put the adventures they are experiencing in my mind into written word form.
After all, putting them in a format that others can read makes those stories canon, right?
Although the characters that forsee themselves getting killed off probably don't mind some writer's block.
I'm thankful to God, for bringing me back to writing, beginning with Bible journals with my church community.
And I'm thankful to Hugh, a character I created back in high school, who decided to age with me and go on new adventures.
I'm thankful for these Pen To The Paper challenges, that encourage me to write without a plan.
It's so hard to do, because I am constantly thinking about what to write once I'm done putting it off.
But this challenge is so fun, so I want to do my best to write off the top of my head for this.
As always, thanks for reading!
I looked over my chipped teacup, wondering all the while what the point of this conversation was. I think I thought I was enjoying myself.
Maybe I was.
Maybe I was playing into the witty banter of getting to know a handsome stranger, not caring how in this moment nothing we said actually held any substance.
But I suppose substance on the first date is a rare occurrence. When I go on dates, which is quite also rare, I feel like I am 16 years old girl- not a 29 almost 30 year old woman who has traveled, seen the world, fought many battles, and has lived to see another day.
When I think about dating I think of a maze that everyone wants to enter, that everyone needs to enter, but no one can actually find their way out.
It is probably incredibly pessimistic of me to believe this concept. But my mind immediately goes to this image- are we all mice trying to find the prize we see in our mind, feeding our ego that maybe, just maybe, there is someone out there that you mesh with enough to want to see them everyday of your life?
I hate dating. I can talk to a goddamn rock, but as I have gotten older I realize there are so many fucking rocks to sort through. And every time I feel like an egotistical ass for believing this, yet here I am. I am trying to flip the narrative in my brain.
Short circuit these images of no hope and paint the new story of an Anna that is learning what she wants in a partner, she is interviewing for the position, she is in control... when for so long I let others have power over me.
I am trying. Ooof let me tell you I am trying to flip this narrative.
Another date, another "no", another stab to the ego,
I am still here smiling.
Even if I don't believe what I am about to say, I nevertheless say it to the clear eyed woman in the mirror,
"Well goddamn Anna, on to the next shall we?"
"What are you drinking?" I had to yell over the music, the crowd.
He looked quirky.
I pointed to the flask in his left hand. It had a picture on it I couldn't really see. I missed his reply, and someone elbowed my ribs, so I yelled back asking for clarification.
"Hold out your hand," was his reply. So I did, and he poured out mini M&M's into my palm. I laughed a little.
He was quirky.
He gave a sly little grin, then took a swig of his chocolate secret, chewing slightly afterward.
"You don't drink?" I wasn't much of a drinker myself, but this was a party, after all.
"Not in this sort of setting," he gestured as well as he could while crammed in this throng of people, to the house we were in. I looked around. The music was shockingly loud with one of the hosts' dj friends tripping out on his own party in his head near the corner with his equipment. On the couch, three people were viciously and simultaneously making out while beside them sat someone lazily staring into space, repeatedly hitting their vape. A Christmas tree doubled as a chair for someone lying on the ground too drunk to keep their head from wobbling about. People stood on the coffee table and others danced in any available crevice of space between the bodies crammed into the living room. Someone was organizing the cups into a grid methodically on the kitchen counter, and another person screamed as they were the seventh unlucky member to enter the hand-hit-fan club thanks to the oddly placed ceiling fan in the dining area. It was a small place, certainly too small for everyone in it. In any case it was a perfectly suitable and no doubt expected drinking environment.
"So why are you here then?"
"I was invited by our friend-"
"No no I mean, why come if you aren't here to party like this?"
"I like the people. The stoners in the basement have some very interesting conversation topics."
I think I must've cocked my head or something, because he laughed at my reaction, rather than his own joke.
He was cute, I decided to see what was up, "Did you come here by yourself or are you DD'ing someone?"
"Not yet but someone generally needs a ride by the end of these things."
"So that your plan then? Come here sober pretending to be drinking so you can flirt, then take the randoms that somehow missed their ride wherever you want to do whatever you want to em?"
His face sorta sunk, and he looked at the baseboards intently. The drinking musta got to my head. Why did I say that? Why did I say that? I don't know how much time passed. I was all in my head, regretting being so accusatory. Guy looked like he was gonna cry.
“Hey, it was a joke!” I put my hand on his arm and he startled a bit, snapped out of his daze. “Not a very funny one, sorry.”
“No, you're good!” he nodded and then laughed, but it was super fake. He raised his flask in a sort of ‘cheers’ gesture and said, “Nice meeting you!” Then he pushed his way through the bodies toward the basement. Didn't look like he wanted to be followed. I took another drink and right after, the dude who kept making out with whoever was willing kissed me and I blacked out after that.
Isn't too hard to spot the only guy with a flask at a party, and he was tall anyways. This time I spotted him earlier on.
“Hey Wonka,” I tried to slide up next to him all sly, “spare any chocolate?” Looking back it makes me cringe. I was already a couple shots in, friends of the host, so we’d started early. He still smiled though, genuinely even.
“Sorry, gin this time.”
“Oh, stepping up to the big leagues?”
“When in Rome, right?”
I wanted to apologize for the last time I’d talked to him, it didn't seem like the right thing just then. It was awkward after that, for me. Tried to segue all smooth and his signature talking point wasn't even available. I didn't see him much after that.
I forget what I dressed as for the Halloween party, but he was dressed as a drunken pirate, and he came already drunk. It made sense at the time, it was his costume after all, and it was funny when he stumbled through the door. Plus he was playing some of it up, all jack-sparrow-like. We all had a laugh then went to the basement and smoked some grass. He cleared up after that actually. I thought he’d pass out, it's what happens to most drunk people that decide to smoke. Thought he was being flirty with me, passing smoke to my lungs after he took a hit, he called it shotgunning or something, but nothing more really came of it.
That party went on and I didn't see him for a while. Then he surprised me by seeking me out, “You gotta try this thing!” he said. Thought he grabbed my shoulders kinda rough, but the guy was wasted. Brought me out to the garage with the beer-pongers and showed me the beer bong like it was some new invention, made me laugh.
“It's cool, huh?” He belched after demonstrating how it works. Found it funny at the time, so I laughed. He insisted I do one, so I was like alright fine, when in Rome right? I hate beer, but it made him happy.
We got separated again, somehow. Saw him when he joined the hand-hit-fan-club. Another tally mark for the fridge, they never bothered with a whiteboard. I was in the kitchen at the time, sorta spacing out I guess, don't really remember what I was thinking about, just remember that I smiled at him and he did some silly grin and waved super excited. We talked after that. Couldn't tell you about what, was too busy looking at his eyes, ya know? He was so into whatever he was talking about, thought I was real into it just cos I kept nodding and smiling. It was cute.
He didn't have his flask for that one.
I only ever saw him at that house, he didn't really go to other parties. Fancy mustache party this time around, and he was dressed the part too, even though it was just an excuse to put mascara on our upper lips. Of course I had a cop mustache. He had like a thin French one or something… No it was Dali, I remember. Nice gray suit, I was worried he’d trash it. When he saw me, he was laughing in the corner of the basement, and he waved with that same enthusiasm as he had in the kitchen that last time. I sat next to him on the couch. Him and a host were talking about plans for some bong that you could light with a laser or the sun or something. I tried to pretend like I was interested, but the way some boys obsess over weed, I just don't get it.
Ended up getting bored and wandered around for most of the party, less people there, but I think he stayed in the basement most of the time.
Post-banquet party was wild, always was. Hosts gave out their own awards, separate from the school’s, obviously. Things like Most Shots, Worst Alcohol Taste, Biggest Stoner, things like that. Neither of us got an award, and I saw him by the stairs, in a corner, holding some dude’s drink that was just handed to him, and he looked stressed. It was hot, and his eyes were shut real tight, so I went over and rubbed his shoulder.
"You good?" Had to yell over the excited cheers. Don't know how that place ever avoided noise complaints. He opened one eye and I felt him relax a little when he saw me. Caught me by surprise really, don't know why I had that effect on him, only ever saw the guy at parties.
"Lotta people!" He opened both eyes and glanced around, tensed up again. There were a lot of people, too many. Way more than that first time I met him, crammed in to that living room, plus it was hot, we were both sweating, and it was impossible to stand anywhere without touching at least one other body. Someone grabbed my ass, but when I turned it was impossible to tell if it was even on purpose. Just a sea of heads, constantly moving, pushing each other around, yelling, kissing, vaping. It was a lot, easy to be overwhelmed, and it looked like he wasn't drinking as much.
"Come on!" I squeezed around the banister and onto the top step with him.
"But I'm holding this drink for ------" he held up some bottle of trashy tequila, mostly gone. I shook my head, quirky dude, pushover too, apparently.
I took it from him and set it on the banister, "There, he'll find it!" He looked sorta worried, but I grabbed his hand and we pushed our way downstairs. If upstairs was sweaty, downstairs was just wet. Marijuana smoke mixed with the humidity so it was hard to breathe, and it clung to you too. Felt like walking though a wall of dust but the dust was damp weed. A circle of smokers sat on the floor while too many bodies pressed against the walls, in corners, on the couch, people were sitting on the television stand. Host room doors which were usually closed and reserved sat open with more people still crammed into the corners of those spaces.
I could tell with the way his hand kept tensing up and accidentally squeezing too hard that he didn't like this sort of proximity, and I elbowed my way through, dragging him along as quickly as possible. I could feel his anxiety creeping into my arm and I, too began to grow hyper-aware of touch and the din of music, laughs, shouts, kisses, groans, and shatters became overwhelming. Finally at the back door, I lifted the stick behind the sliding glass, then stepped out into the cool night, pulling him out of the dense throng and closed the door behind us. A host noticed and kicked the stick back into it's place as someone tried to open the door, also seeing some relief from the crowd and the host shook her head and pointed upstairs, indicating this door wasn't to be used.
"You looked stressed," I turned to him, and he had his hands on his head, and his elbows out, breathing deeply.
"A little, yeah."
"Want one?" I offered him a cigarette. He considered, then accepted. I lit mine, "Remember that party trick you showed me? Shotgunning or something like that?"
"Oh yeah! That was you, I remember."
"Here, this is called monkey-dicking."
He laughed before I showed him, "Monkey what?"
"Put it in your mouth, look," I grabbed his chin and brought our cigarettes together, "suck in." He did as he was told and I did the same. After his was lit, he took a couple of drags and smiled.
"Monkey-dicking," he laughed again. He looked up at the porch, crammed with people, and at the yard, empty. We were around the main part of the yard, and not very visible from the deck. On either side of us were some bushes, and we were standing on a small concrete pad. For the most part, this area was rarely used, except the bushes for the occasional piss when the only bathroom was taken and the person hadn't lowered their inhibitions enough to just go at the bottom of the porch stairs.
"Woah," His voice snapped me out of whatever I'd been thinking about, "your eyes look cool in the moonlight."
"Thanks," I'm sure the dark hid my blush, if not I would've blamed it on wine or called it my rouge. Didn't think I really liked this guy in that way. He was funny, quirky, cute, sure, but not really my type. Looking at his eyes, they were glinting the light of the full moon in such a way that they appeared to glow while the darkness of the night and the angle of the porch shadowed the rest of him, "Yours do too. Super green."
"Like weed, hah," he chuckled at his own joke.
I smiled, and shook my head. Silly boy, totally oblivious, "Sure."
Don't remember much after that.
He was already there when I arrived this time. He and a host had bonded over the past couple months. They'd ride longboards on a trail behind our college and find new smoking spots. I'd even seen him here in passing a couple times. Each time, he'd do that same goofy excited wave that it seemed like he'd only use on me. Maybe I just hadn't seen him recognize anyone else. Part of me didn't think he even remembered any of the times we met, but he talked to me like he did, and even referenced a couple things we said and did, though I couldn't validate some of it. Like I said, only ever saw him at those parties.
Him and a host were having a little drinking game. He wanted it to be old fashioned, consecutive shots until one of em drops, the host had a party to tend, so they settled on highest number of shots throughout the night, and kept tally on their arms with the hand-hit-fan-club marker. After a few rounds, they decided to have fight club, and went to the garage to 'brawl.' I was here to see the other host so we didn't go with them, and instead talked and set up or put away things for the party. They'd done fight club before, so it wasn't too shocking, they did have a split lip and a black eye between them when they came in this time though, and while they didn't really care, we insisted on helping.
"Does your jaw hurt?" I dabbed his lip with a damp washcloth and eyed the side of his face, turning darker by the second.
He shrugged, "Can't really feel too much right now anyways," he held up the tally marks on his arm; by the looks of it, they were already five drinks in. He grinned all goofy, then winced slightly as his split widened.
"Well you can feel that at least," I dabbed up the blood forming around his split.
"Are you using vodka?"
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"It'll disinfect it."
He laughed, then winced, "We just got done punching each other," laughed again, lighter this time.
I saw his point, so shrugged and doused the rag with vodka and covered his mouth. His eyes got really wide, and he turned red. He grabbed my wrist, not hard or anything, and not to move my arm, more in a oh god what is happening sort of way.
"Yeah," I grinned at him, "stings more than punches, huh?"
He nodded slightly. The rest of the party was uninteresting.
I forgot when or how I got his number. Or maybe I gave him mine, I don't know. We'd texted a bit, smoked sometimes, he was interesting, again, quirky. I guess I could say we were becoming friends. So there was nothing strange about him asking to come over to smoke a bit. Honestly he was a pretty big pothead, forgot a lot of stuff, his novelty had worn off.
When he got to my apartment, he was wet from the rain and also blood dripping from his right hand, in his left was his longboard. He did that goofy wave, which I was able to confirm that, yes, he only did for me, and flung some blood onto my door. His eyes and stupid grin told me what I already knew before he could say:
"Yeah I can see that. What the hell happened?" I grabbed his wrist to stop him making more of a mess, the dark red drips leading from the elevator to my door were bad enough.
"Oh it's Not that bad-"
"This is a lot of blood, come here."
"This way, over to the sink, now," I pulled him along, and he reluctantly stumbled after me, not as much by choice. I began rinsing his arm, looking for the source, his arm was torn up near the elbow, and I rinsed it with a cloth that immediately turned red. I glanced at him, checking for any signs of pain registering. He was looking at the painting above my sink.
"Klimt," he mumbled, nodding in approval. I'd have been more impressed if there wasn't his body fluids to be cleaned off my door still. I put soap on the washcloth.
"Does this sting?"
He peered around at his elbow, "Can't feel shit." Charming. I shook my head.
"So, how'd you manage this?"
"It's slippery in the rain, and I was eating a cob of corn on my way here. Board slipped out from under me on a crosswalk and before I knew it, I was on my ass."
I smiled despite myself, then shook it away. Corn on a cob, why? Why was that even relevant to the story?
"Couldn't chuck the corn, just kinda watched it happen," he laughed, like he had been reading my mind and found my surprise amusing. I just shook my head again.
"Feels fine though, just hopped right back up and chased my board down."
I finished cleaning his arm and led him into my bathroom where I put a bandage over his wound. We smoked on my balcony, talked a bit. I was worried about him.
Maybe I should have told him so.
There's a time and place for everything, right? Sometimes it can be fun to break the mold, be a bit daring, ignore a responsibility or two for a day, whatever, I get that. Breaking all the molds seems a bit much. Getting your ear pierced in a dorm room twenty minutes before the school banquet which you dropped acid for seems like a cry for help. Drunkenly riding a longboard on a highway overpass to be brought home by a police officer just to go out and try it again is a bit much. Burning down a random fucking barn is way too much. Yet here I was, in this dude's car, honestly a little scared of what he was going to do next, as he showed me, beaming with a twisted sort of sick pride, a large charred oval in a corn field a few miles out of town.
"When ya do it?"
"Last week, had ta show someone else, ya know?" Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him glance at me in his rear view mirror, and I think he noticed my expression, which I wasn't exactly hiding anyway, because he quieted down after that. His partner in literal crime was more talkative anyways.
"It was nuts," they said, totally oblivious to the atmosphere of the car, "got some gas, just drove around until it was like God pointed and said, 'this one right here.' It was perfect too, nothin in it, no animals, no equipment, just old hay, it was also, like, falling down inside, we probably did the guy a favor, removing that eyesore."
"Fertilized the soil," he said it soberly, bargaining with himself, almost. Didn't glance back up in the mirror again. I felt sick. I wanted out of the car, and was relieved to be back at my house after dropping off his friend. I needed to tell him somehow, that what he did wasn't okay, that he was going down a dark path.
"Hey," he stopped my thoughts as I was walking up to my porch, "sorry about that."
"I'm not the one who needs apologizing to."
"I know. It was fucked up," he looked away, "I'm not doing great. At life. At…"
I'd started out scared, then angry, now I felt kind of guilty, all these signs… maybe something else was going on, and all I did was watch it happen. He said something, it was a goodbye, but it was weird, in that way that you don't really remember it because it catches you off guard but it wasn't strange enough to remember the exact wording. I watched him drive away, and stood there for a minute, on my driveway. Smoked a shaky stress cigarette. Considered calling someone. Who? The cops? Don't want them around my place.
Maybe I was being too harsh. Everyone deals with their psychotic episodes in a different way, right? There'd never been anything on the news about the barn. No reports filed, nothing. Maybe they did do the owner a favor, I don't know. After a while, I forgot about it anyways. Didn't really mean to, but I didn't see the guy again for like a year. When did we last text? I don't think it was after the barn.
Him and the host hung out still, but they'd moved, and that party house was no more. There were other parties in other places, maybe he went to them, maybe he didn't.
So he texted me. Like, out of the blue. Something about wanting to hang out, so I said sure, thought it would be fun to catch up, I was a little surprised he was still alive actually. He came over, his hair was longer, there were a couple more lines in his face, good lines. We talked. Just talked, caught up. He revealed he liked me at some point, which I knew, but we'd only ever hooked up, nothing serious. He knew I didn't want anything more, and so he never pursued, which I appreciated. He was coming to me for girl advice, actually. Apparently we were friends enough for that. Don't get me wrong, I was fine with it, thought it was kinda sweet. He didn't have many friends, ever. Kept to the few he chose, guess I was one of them.
I don't think I gave him the right advice. He was wondering if I, a girl, would still like him given the circumstances he presented. Of course, being a girl, we were all the same, and would, of course, react the same way. It was silly. But he was a silly, silly boy.
Told him I’d take him back. Girlfriend of three years, he fucked up, they broke up, two years later they're still drunk-calling each other on occasion, I figured, yeah, I’d take him back. I’ve accepted worse after all. Learned some lessons. She probably had too, I figured. And who knows, maybe she did.
But she didn't take him back.
I don't think it could really be called suicide, though it's what I call it. He fell. Really. Just tipped over and bonked his head a bit too hard in just the right place. He was drunk again. Reminded me of when he'd come to my place after the corn thing. Boy was good at falling, getting hurt. He'd given up weed, given up psychedelics, given up hope, and turned it all instead, into alcohol. After he came to me for that bit of girl trouble, we did hang out a bit more, and more regularly. Not that he was interested in me, or me in him, but he was nice, he was sweet, and he was always silly.
It was painful to watch. His descent. Or, well, near the end it was; it is looking back on it. Because it was slow, and it wasn't really much of a problem actually. To other people, anyway. One day it was just like, oh damn, you're always drinking, aren't you? It wasn't even like he tried to hide it. Dude was an open book. Had wine every night, brought white Russians around with him in a drinking glass, didn't ever do vodka in the water bottle thing, cos like I said, he never hid it. Would order drinks at restaurants, no matter the time of day. Watched him put vodka in his cheerios once. Thought he was being silly, ya know? Making a cereal Russian he said. Even made a silly comment about getting every morning routine done in one go, what with the coffee liquor and all.
Tried talking to him about it once. He wasn't angry, or sad. I just told him I was worried about him, and that maybe he drank a little too much. He just said I know, and said something else that was odd, what was it? Doesn't matter or something like that. No, it was, 'Can't matter too much if you're just now telling me.' That did kinda make me think I was being a bit harsh, but thinking back on it… it's pretty sad. He was finding any excuse he had to not change, or to push it further, 'how long can I keep this feeling going,' or, 'how long can I hide this other feeling that always happens when I wake up sober,' more like. And I handed him the excuse he needed to keep the bottle by his bed, the bottle in his car, his second flask. In the end all it was that got him was falling just a little too funky.
Guess he never has to feel whatever he was suppressing anymore.
I think happy thoughts.
Sure, nothing is bad in life, but nothing is good.
I'm slowly becoming my father. My brain is rotting away like his love did.
I feel my mother's pain, I feel it all at once.
I also feel nothing, the complete numbness of myself takes over.
I simply mask it all; a small laugh coming out makes people think I'm happy, right?
I hope so.
I don't want anyone to worry.
I think happy thoughts.