Before the Train, Before Los Angeles: Part Sixteen of Angel
“. . . Sometimes, you must wonder,
Whose story is this?
Whose voice is narrating for me?
The answer is always simple; it is mine.
But who am I? . . .”
awake in bed, staring straight-ahead, at nothing in particular. Next to me
lay Jason, my acquaintance. I couldn't help but think how quaint of me, to
introduce him in this manner. The sparks we had drank that night were
beginning to wear off. And that falling back feeling I get right before
sleep was just beginning to kick in.
I took another puff from the cigarette that was, before touching my lips, lying in an ashtray beside the bed. I took another hit and listened to my ex-boyfriend, Jason, snore beside me. Somewhere, I knew, a few miles away, Jason's new boyfriend was doing the same. Funny to think, I was the one that Jason used to cheat on. I tried my best not to wonder why he does this to everyone he has a relationship with. Of course, this is rather reversed. Jason and I started out fucking behind someone else's back, then upgraded to boyfriend status. But, I quickly found Jay was nowhere close to boyfriend material. Alas, he was cheating. How predictable?
You ever notice how, when two bottoms end up getting together, the most passive of the two ends up being the top?
The more I lay awake beside him, the angrier I became. Man, why'd he have to be shady? We didn't even use a condom, because he said it didn't feel the same. And when I jumped off the ship, I know he started fucking other guys the same way, using the same lame excuse. But it's no use, I thought. We didn't use a condom this time like all the others. And if I were to look at who he'd really been with, I'd find they were all my brothers. I realized long ago that this community is an incestuous group. No matter how much I try to break away, I just find myself touching the outside of the loop.
But it's just the game. And I'm just another player, I know. Hate the haters and let everything else go. I haven't gotten dead and I don't have any STD's. I'm actually pretty proud of myself, of how I've managed to stay clean. But I know everyone's time runs out. But that's not something I want to think about.
Jason snored and rolled over, hugging me close in his sleep. That morning, I would leave and go across the country for Washington. I'd be traveling with twenty other students from my class on a journey to “Discover the History of America”. The alternative history of America, that is. The farther I went in school, the more I realized every grade below me got the story wrong. And that was the hook the teachers would use to try and get us all interested. Like they had to. We were always stuck there. For a year! Every grade, they got it wrong, this is the real story. When in truth, they just made us follow the chain of imperialism, capitalism and colonialism.
Ever since I came to The Academy I'd been soaking up all of these radical notions. My first semester I studied the Psychology of Cults, Sustainable Energy and books like Animal Farm and 1984. I guess it didn't help much that eighty percent of the students smoked marijuana, either.
My current thought process abandoned me as I flipped through Jason's journal. He was never really good at keeping his journal up-to-date. So there were always month long gaps between entries. For some of them, he would attempt to cover the things he hadn't written about. But those entries tended to stop in mid-flow. Lately, he'd been writing in it more. I found an entry from a week before.
The pain in my forearm told me it didn't work again. The blinding white lights told me I had gotten closer. But, as the voices became clearer, I still heard crying. My eyes were still blurry, but someone was next to me. He was holding my arm and crying. No one else was in the room with us.
“Cole, why are you crying?” I asked him.
He looked up at me; rouge tears streaked his face. “You almost died.”
My IV didn't look all that important. Clear bag; probably just saline. “Well, I didn't. I'm back again.” I tore the little, round plastic things from my chest and tried to stand. My head swam and felt like it was going to implode. My bed met me halfway. Slowly, the sounds of the rooms around me became clear. Telephone, receptionist, I must be near the front desk, elevator . . . football.
Cole stared at me, at my monitors, at me, at my monitors, at me. “Why?”
“I'm not happy here.” I rolled over onto my side and settled in to go to sleep again.
I heard Cole shift behind me. His hand touched my back. I rolled over. “Why aren't you happy?” A Question Product brought to you by Low Self-Esteem, Inc.
“There's nothing here for me.” Also available: `Bad Fortune Cookies'. Every Bad Fortune Cookies sees your humiliation or worst fear coming true! While supplies last. “I don't fit in anywhere.”
He tittered nervously, “. . . Nothing?”
“Nothing that I can't take with me.” I studied him for a reaction.
He leaned back and regarded me carefully.
I'd been trying hard to get the hell out of here and cross over to there-wherever there was. I made a loop out of my IV cord and wrapped it around my neck. It lay limply, ornately upon my chest. That was when the nurse rushed in. They'd put me in the ICU, most definitely. From my wrists to my forearms, gauze smiled up at me, with its tapey teeth and sleepy anesthetic feel. The nurse straightened me out again, unwrapped the loop I'd so happily wound around my neck. He cooed at me softly as reattached the sensors to my chest with hospital goop, and placed my finger back into its Pulse OX sling.
It was Brian. I'd seen him here before. The last time I was 5150'd. Certainly, this time, I would be sent to an institution after another psychological evaluation. And I would wait there, again, for as long as it took to get out. I felt bad lying to everyone. I felt bad making them all believe I was better. But, on the other hand, it felt good being able to trick those psychologists. And it felt good to trick the government out of their money. God knows, I'd never see it again.
When Brian moved, Cole couldn't meet my eyes. I knew what I looked like. I took a long look in the mirror before I did it. In fact, I was surprised to be back here, and not there. Suffocation, sedation, phlebotomization. If I hadn't cut my tendons, I would have used a gun, too. Of course, there was the problem of getting the gun. But I would have figured out that, too.
“Why all this work?” One might ask.
Dr. Kevorkian's in jail. And it's not like Cole was going to help out.
“Why?” Cole asked me.
Poor Cole, I looked upon him with as much pity as he looked upon me with. Why this time? That might have been a better question for him to ask. They were all looking at me like some injured kid who was just crying out for help. They knew why as well as I did. They knew the laundry list as well as I did.
My room was emptied out. I gave all my things to my friends. I almost thought about playing that Blink-182 song that some other kid had offed himself listening to. But I didn't want music to be blamed for yet another blasphemy. Sorry, Marilyn Manson. Sorry, Elvis Presley. Sorry, Sandy Pearlman and Richard Meltzer. It seemed the most logical thing to do. I wouldn't need those things anymore. It just seemed so obvious, back then.
Sometimes, now, I wonder if I truly left that behind. They put me on drugs. Convinced me I needed them. But I was smart. Maybe it was because I bought into Dr. Phil's Christianized, guilt-based concepts of how my mind works. Or the equally destructive, past-based, abstinence model of AA (“Keep Coming Back”).
I got out of it somehow. Maybe it was just my counselor that finally convinced me that it could be worse. Maybe she just got me to look on the brighter side of life. Perhaps she showed me a longer, more meaningful laundry list of why staying alive is so much more meaningful than being dead. Even though being dead is easier. And it's just as selfish for someone to want you to stay alive as it is for you to want to die, isn't it?
Anyway, I'm going to sleep. More later.
That was the scariest night of my life. I can still remember the phone call. Jason's mom called to tell me he had been admitted to the hospital. God, that was three years ago. But I was right there, again, when I read those words. I could see him sitting there; through my tears. Jason was so fucked up then. And I was so confused. But I loved him. Or, at least I thought I did.
I met Jason at a gay youth group. I was thirteen then; and I'd just been outted at school, and come out to my parents. Jason was feminine. They all were (the people in the group), to a certain extent. It shocked me at first. I had thought that stereotypes were unfounded, unreal. But when I walked into that room full of what I now call “queens”, I had to admit that this stereotype might not be that far off.
To use a basic, highbrow, literary description, “Jason was a gentle boy, given to the more feminine side of life. He surrounded himself with beautiful things.” Jason practiced witchcraft. He, like me, was what some would call a “survivor”. Of course, I knew him before my naiveté was taken away completely; before I became a cynic. It was a time less complicated; a time that I long to return to.
We were on the beach when we shared our first kiss. Jason was the second boy ever. I will never forget the way it was. We were tentative, touching only briefly and drawing away at once. We were fearful of scaring the other into flight. We were each a doe, laying eyes upon a human, struck, deathly still, waiting to see a glint of steel, but always hoping to see an opened hand instead. What made us familiar was that we both had the weary eyes of the deer that had seen too many friends felled by the crackle of the hunter.
We'd been felled already. But we were those things, all of them: the deer, the hunter and the opened hand. We were our own self-fulfilling prophecies, regardless of magical intervention.