"i got this."
the man picked up the giant heavy rectangular cardboard box filled to the brim with all of my old cassettes and cds, the tape was fraying off, that thing was wobbly and looked like it would bottom apart from all of its weight, must have been 100 pounds, but Mystery lugged it up above his shoulder with one finger like it was nothing, strolling along up the stairs to my second-floor room. he wasn't showing off, he was happy and strong.
Mystery was old-school hippie, not quite with the Grateful Dead t shirt on, but his shirt was wavy-gravy with all the cool colors. pattern pants, neon green and lime green, disheveled beard, handsome man behind the beard, loose triangular earring that didn't quite mesh with his face, permasmile on that face, open-toed sandals. it required both Dad and i with both our hands to carry that box from our house to the trunk of the car to now here at college, a long boring million-mile drive. something must have been fueling the happy hippie.
the apartment was dungy, not the best, but it was the best to me, it was the first time i could experience true freedom at college. last year as a naive frosh with two roommates in a cramped dorm room nearly drove me to suicide. that is not hyperbole, i almost killed myself out of suffocation. by the end of the first week, i couldn't stand my one roommate's easy cliched Latin charm with every woman he came across, and i couldn't stand my other roommate's toenail fetish. i spent the rest of the year sleeping in libraries or otherwise staying up all night at parties to avoid them. i rarely came back to that dorm room, i essentially disappeared from the entire dorm experience that is so lauded in the brochure, i became a frequenter at raves and hacky-sack meetups and ultimate-frisbee tournaments. finally i could live alone, a loner's paradise, i could have real privacy, and hey, my grades would improve from the silence, that's how i sold it to Mom and Dad. this was mine, my little piece of real estate at this campus i could return to peacefully each night, a place i didn't have to share with anyone, a space to live.
Charin was the type of woman who believed the world was her playground. she had the looks to pull off such an attitude, and the attitude to charm suitors and haters alike. she would have been nicknamed Charmin for her charm, but that's toilet paper, she said no to that.
first night at my new solitary place wasn't solitary after all, i had visitors of a sort, my directly-upstairs neighbors were visiting me. well, visiting their fucking session upon me. Mystery and Charin were having sex so loudly you could tell they were doing this for effect, they had to know they had crossed the muffled line and were broadcasting their love to all the world, all the apartment complex anyway. her grunts of pleasure were patterned perfectly, i could imagine each up and down of Charin's hips on Mystery's hippie penis from her squeals. every night, this went on for hours, what seemed like hours, they always cummed in unison of course...this would have been more annoying but i liked these two...sure, it was a constant reminder that i wasn't getting any, but...
...wait, that last one wasn't a squeal from her or a moan from him...it was a moan, a shout of pain, of horror, of a man looking at the other side...and then a deep disturbing thud, and silence of the bad variety.
next morning, i peeked inside Mystery's room through a swarm of cops. i saw him by his bed spread-eagle on the wooden floor, eyes closed.
a cop came up to me and took off his peaked cap with one hand, using a finger of that hand to scratch his forehead, "this is the strangest thing in the world. this poor creature died of an overdose."
"drugs?" i inquired. so that was the fuel.
"no. marijuana.," replied the cop, "he's the first person in the history of humanity to die from a pot overdose." the cop thought a moment then said, "we just got his birth certificate. do you know what his real name was?"
i shook my head.
"Mystery." the cop's eyes lit up and he broke out laughing heartily. "sorry, sorry, you see so much tragedy on this beat, this world is so crazy, you've got to release it somewhere."
Charin immediately moved on to the apartment complex's landlord. no one dared call her an insensitive slut, she could pull off things like this and save face, her breeziness smoothed over any apparent dents in her reputation.
the next night after Mystery was gone, Charin and the landlord were fucking wildly in the apartment directly below me, the exact pattern from her and you could tell from his moans that he was somewhat surprised about all this but wasn't complaining.
i was having an unexpectedly hard time at school. things should have gotten much easier, i should have been grinding out those As like i did in high school, and should have been on my way to that degree. problem was i wasn't sure about keeping English as my major, and if an English degree mattered at all in the end. was i spinning my wheels here? should i just go on auditions instead of going to the next lecture? because i was always alone, separated from the college parties on campus by a two-mile bus ride, i became an inhabitant of this city by the college town but not the college town itself, i quickly became a stranger in a strange land with no friends, too much freedom, and a schedule not enforced by those pesky dorm resident-assistants. i could do anything i wanted at any time, i didn't know what to do all the time, i constantly questioned the path i was on, and i could only debate these things within my own head since no one was ever around.
my mind started to space around, space, space, like i was on pot, but i wasn't, i had a permapot bored expression on my face always. my imagination ran wild when i was in my room, alone, quiet, for hours and hours before night came, those days i skipped class and had a free day i granted myself. i tried to liven things up at the beginning of the month when rent was due. i wouldn't just slide a plain envelope with the check inside it under the landlord's door, i would make sure he knew this was from me, the student-artist stuck in a useless math lecture most of the time. i would draw on that envelope, make sure the words APRIL and MAY looked like graffiti shapes, colored brightly, adorned with flowers and rainbows. i wanted to art, i wanted to create, not go to class. i was bored, bursting to get the hell out of this space i had wanted for so long, i wanted to go somewhere, do something, really do something substantial, make something, make something of myself.
that was my highlight every month, but this time, the landlord visited me in the middle of the month. my pipes were clogged, and he needed to come into my room and inspect my bathroom.
"looks like we're gonna have to go to the hardware store for supplies," he intoned as a matter of fact, "wanna come along in my truck? it'll be easier if you're there, you can tell me exactly what we need, i won't waste a lot of time guessing."
i wanted to ask him how good a lay Charin was, but instead i asked, "what's your name again? i heard it slurred awhile back, but i couldn't make it out..."
"no, Faher, F-A-H-E-R," he spelled.
i got into his shabby truck willingly, it's not like i had a hell of a lot to do otherwise, didn't have anywhere to be, no one to see. he purchased some plungers and some other items, i wasn't really paying attention, i was too engrossed in lamenting my condition.
that night, i heard a knock at my door late at night, midnight, i was scared, but i had to open the door, what if it was an emergency? it was Father, i mean, Faher, he was there with an evil grin on his face, he pushed a plunger into my face, sucking all the air out of me, i couldn't breathe! he didn't say a word, just went about his deadly business coolly, serial-killer-style. fuck! i knew it! he was Hitler! that's why he wanted those plungers!
"hey, Phoenix, what's up? you okay?" Faher shook my shoulder.
oh, what happened? i was standing at my door. Faher was there. he wasn't a psycho, he was normal. it was daytime, not night.
"nightmare? school problems? relationship problems? pot?," Faher offered, "careful with that stuff, Mystery and all. you weren't standing here all night, were you?"
it certainly wasn't relationship problems. "for the life of me, i simply can't remember."
"turn off your light at least," Faher reached to turn off my light switch.
yellow light enters my room
yellow, Mom's favorite color
my room back home
Mom turned on the light in my room, "come on, hijo, at least eat something."
i am in my room, a year after dropping out of college for good. i am depressed, deathly depressed, so much so i don't move anymore, i stay in my bed with the covers over my mouth, with a permafrown on my mouth. the one window next to my bed is shuttered with a black sheet, i can't stand the outside light, the warm rays of the sun where everyone else has figured out life and play and pursue their dreams happily. i barely move, i look at my hands, i can barely move my fingers. the sudden application of light to my room hurts me, frightens me, i'm a scared animal.
"sorry, sorry," Mom says sweetly, "okay, no overhead light, but how about a lamp next to you?" the light from the lamp was also yellow, but it was a dimmer, less abrasive, calmer yellow.
i couldn't speak though i had tons to say.
"remember what Dad and i said to you? it's tough out there, we are the only two people who truly care about you."
"i just couldn't handle it, i couldn't do it, i forgot how to live or something," i explained, "my body shut off, my mind raced with so many possibilities that it broke down and started sending phantom signals, i started imagining things about people, this is what happens when an active imagination is never tempered with actual human contact."
"also, it's all that darn coke you drink. the coke and the coffee. didn't you call us once from a klatch? they're all over campus. all that caffeine is not good for you, it exacerbates the depression, keeps you down after that initial artificial sugar-high. sugar crash is a helluva drug." Mom was a nurse.
"i am of this world but not of this world," i preached softly. "i can't do this anymore...i...can't do this anymore. how did your generation do it? how did you live? how did you function? how did you survive? how did you get up every morning and just...live, do it, go to your job? i forgot how to walk, how to speak, how to think over there, i was overwhelmed by the possibility of identity apart from you two, i wasn't able to show my intelligence. the spirit is willing, but the body is weak. my spirit was weak."
i did move, once. i was able to get up and lean toward the mini tv on top of the dresser at the foot of my bed. i used my fingers finally to wipe away the dust that had collected at the edges of the tv screen. i realized as i did this that this little tiny small screen was my constant companion growing up as an only child, my only friend, it was my portal to fantastical lands and interesting characters, this was the imaginary friend i could talk to by turning on and listening to the stories it had to broadcast. the animated ones were my favorite, though i was always game for an outer-space one. my childhood was one of escape, not one of preparedness, not one of learning skills to equip me for a real job out there, of real interaction with real people who could talk back, not cartoon characters reading lines in an already-determined written script. i knew the ending of my shows. what was the ending to my life?
in the middle of the night, i was startled by something, a nightmare or something, and i opened my eyes widely. "what am i going to do? what the fuck am i going to be? what is my future? who are my friends? how am i going to survive?"
i don't know how to live.
i'm smart, i got As, but i was never taught how to live.
and then i tried to remember a Biblical proverb i heard offhand one time about fishes and fishermen but my mind distracted itself with an image from Thundercats and i fell back asleep.
next night, Mom hugged me as i lay in my bed, long hug, no words, yellow light from the lamp illuminating the stark scene.
Dad was forced to move all of my stuff from that apartment back home to our house. it was a shit of a job because Dad's car was compact with little trunk space and i had an inordinate amount of junk for a seemingly simple boy. i was too weak to go with him to help him, so Dad did it all himself, he drove his little car the treacherous million-mile trip from home to college, boxed up all the shit from the apartment of doom, taped it all up, loaded it himself with no help, no one was ever around that place, and drove back home the million miles.
nobody else what have done that for me. it was only these two, it was always these two, it would always only be these two, these two were the only ones who knew i was still alive. there were no friends, no fellow students, no anything, i was alone in my room with a black sheet over my window.
when Dad got home, i heard his footsteps, heavy footsteps from massive work, trudge their way wearily back to our doorstep and he entered home with his key. i couldn't see anything, window blocked, but i heard the commotion. i listened to the play between Mom and Dad. Dad mentioned to her that he first saw the signs when on the initial trip from home to college when i didn't say one word to him. we always would joke around or at least have one meaningful conversation about the meaning of life over a road chili dog, but nothing. he attributed it to frosh jitters, i attributed it looking back to the fact that i would be in a dorm as a frosh, chained to other souls, tied to roommates, not on my own.
"oh darn," Dad suddenly exclaimed, "i knew i forgot something. Phoenix's rolling desk, darn it, i remember seeing it there in his apartment, but for some reason, i left without taking it, got distracted with something, everything else i had to box up."
Dad realized the mission he had no choice but to accept, no choice 'cause he was Dad and Mom and Dad loved me so: he had to put on his Kurt Cobain sweater and make another trip from home to college and back JUST for that damn rolling desk!
i fell asleep and DREAMED THIS, CLICK HERE, RIGHT HERE AT THIS LINK.
later, that night, midnight, i was half-asleep, half-in-panic, when i heard Dad's footsteps again, Dad's footsteps accompanied by the rolling sound of the desk. i didn't see anything, could only just hear the rolling and his footsteps...