“So word to all y’all serial monogamists,
stop hiding and try to face the lonliness,
Existance is a bitch, but you just gotta persist,
True love is out there, but not with everyone you get with.”
“Catharsis,” Karen told her class, “The release or purging of unwanted emotions — specifically fear and pity — brought about by exposure to art. The term was first used by the Greek philosopher Aristotle in his Poetics; when referring to the desired effect of tragedy on spectators.”
“Fuck this.” Cole stood up suddenly, in the middle of class.
“Where are you going?” His English teacher asked.
He found Jeffrey sitting under a tree, on the grass, facing west.
“Hey, Jeff,” Cole greeted him.
Jeffrey opened his eyes. He smiled wide as he looked upon Cole, who sat in front of him, with the same crossed-legs and straight-backed posture.
“How joyful to look upon the awakened,” Cole recited, “And to keep company with the wise.”
“Follow then the shining ones,” Jeffrey intoned, “The wise, the awakened, the loving. For they know how to work and forbear.”
“But if you cannot find,” Cole said, “Friend or master to go with you, Travel on alone—Like a king who has given away his kingdom; like an elephant in the forest.”
They fell silent then, as they looked into each other’s eyes. And then, as Jeffrey realized Cole had never intended to speak past those words, Cole stood and walked back to his class. Jeffrey was surprised Cole would know the sayings of the Buddha. But, as he watched Cole drift farther into the building, he couldn’t help but suppress a smile.
“Catharsis,” Jeffrey said. Then he closed his eyes and began breathing again.
So, I had been dating this guy for close to three months now. His parents are cool. My parents are cool. We tried to introduce the two sets, but our mothers were completely incompatible. So we never did it again. Too bad, too, because our fathers were a lot alike; they’d probably have gotten along. C’est la vie, it goes on. The mother held that family captive. The guy, Roary, told me his mom would get so messed up sometimes that she would go into a blind rage and start throwing shit. I can’t even begin to wonder what other kind of fucked up shit she does to them.
What’s deeper is that something happened with the credit cards, a long time ago. So, when I met them, they were already in a lot of debt. Well, they weren’t using it right. Or someone wasn’t. I don’t know if there was any one person at fault. So now Mr. and Mrs. Todd and Erica Awlbrik are bankrupt and scraping their way through, making barely enough money to come above the poverty line. Just enough to still be dirt poor. Erica was simply an angry, unhappy and compulsive person, period. And Todd, I don’t know too much about him. I don’t know why he stayed.
It was summer time. Right after the rains, when it was dry and the sun wasn’t such a burning ball of gas yet. “Mom” tells Roary she wants to talk with me. Roary tells me it’s going to be bad. He warns me that she’s held a grudge against me ever since my mother brandished her words with an alcoholic fervor. There was supposed to be dinner, yes. My mother offered to make it. This is where the semantics are brought in. Bottom line was, whatever my mother did or didn’t do wasn’t my fault. And neither was what she said. I’m sure you could imagine.
But that wasn’t it. Apparently Erica—or, “Mom”—had a whole list of shit she was pissed off about. In more categories than I could think of. I knew I was walking into a trap. I knew she was going to pull some heinous shit. But whatever it was, I thought I could talk through it with her.
Our talk started civilly. We greeted each other and did the small talk thing. We got a feel for where the other was. I was clearly in a boxing ring. Todd and Roary were the spectators. But Roary was going to try and stand up for me. It wasn’t his fault, either. That was between his mom and me.
So I plead guilty, to everything. No matter how big or small, I was guilty. I figured that was my best way out. I apologized and asked her what I should have done instead, and what to do in the future. Just like tribes, every family is different. Even though I thought I was being completely respectful, I might have done something wrong.
Then I asked her why she didn’t tell me earlier. She distracted me with her fancy footwork and next thing I knew, she slapped me right across the pride with a low blow. Then she continued. And she got me all the way to the ropes. Until I told her she was wrong about those things. I told her she was just insulting me then, by calling me names. I’m the only one who gets to call my mom rude or an alcoholic. And, stop it with that fucking footwork; I didn’t call you a bad mother, you crazy fucking bitch. Of course I didn’t say that last part. But I thought it pretty hard.
Erica snapped so hard I heard it. She shot up out of her chair. Her face filled with red and you could see the beads of sweat forming behind her glasses. Then she started screaming. Not the “oh help me!” scream, but a terrifying onslaught of curses and threats. I’ve never been subjected to such a thing by a woman of that age before in my life. It didn’t hit me until later; that’s what she gave Roary every day. No wonder he liked Disney so much. No wonder he liked suicide, cutting, drugs and eating disorders, too.
I tried to get up calmly and not pay attention to her. I knew that would piss her off more, and I knew it was the only stand-up-for-myself I could do. Roary followed me into his bedroom, where my backpack was laying against a wall. I picked it up and shoved my things into it. Roary closed the door, but his mom was still kicking and screaming behind it.
I was trying hard to build myself a brick house so the big bad wolf would blow it down when I looked at him. He was scared and little. Looking at him made my heart stop. I dropped my bag on the floor and we hugged each other hard.
“I’m going to miss you.” I told him.
“I’ll miss you, too.” He told me.
Then we kissed. I never wanted to leave him. But my heart was still pounding. And there was the big bad wolf. So I picked up my bag and opened the door. His mother had moved down the hall and to the front door, still yelling, waiting for me where I would have to pass. I walked down the hall, all the while looking her in the eyes. Then, I passed her. But I stopped dead, and looked her straight in the eyes. She gasped and stopped screaming for a second. Then I kept walking, and she kept screaming. Todd was holding the door for me, gentleman that he is. And I got into my car and left.
Once safely away from the house, I pulled over and cried.
So I kept a box in my head, too, for him. I probably should have just forgotten him. But I couldn’t. I was the lost ox, still sniffing the yoke, and remembering, wondering. I shoved everything I could remember into poetry and stories, just like all of the others, and all the photos into their boxes. I missed him long after the memory of his touch had faded. Long after the pictures were abandoned. It’s not healthy to keep those around sometimes. But I still missed the feeling that I had when I met him. I still miss love. And now I’m even beginning to forget it.
Maybe it’s just a teenager’s short sight. But I cannot help it.
So I started hooking up; which didn’t feel so good unless it was with someone I liked or someone who was really attractive. Love was a strong word that I wasn’t ever going to use freely again. And that’s something I jumped away from if I’d stayed too long with someone who was beginning to get feelings I couldn’t reciprocate. Call me a slut, call me a heart breaker, but don’t call me a player.
I found lots of guys who were looking to fall in love with anyone, for all different sorts of reasons. They wanted their first to be special. They had never experienced love. They were confused about what it was. Then I found the guys like me, who just wanted to fuck around without the bullshit of those words, “boyfriend” and “love”. Because those words just didn’t mean what they used to, to anyone, anymore. It is too sacred and too misunderstood. So we never used them. And we fucked around. If we met someone we clicked with, we would know. That feeling would be there.
That moment. I’d never been happier. The moment that my aching heart realized that another’s only a step away. Then the first time my heart fell into another. Compounding the first realization. My best friend. Right under my nose. Something that comes from dreams. I didn’t know I was awake.
Jerry standing next to me in the shower. Somewhere, the playlist I made was playing Incubus. All around, steam.
Staring into each other through soap-sudded eyes.
Right under my nose.
Mom in Nevada, selling books. She copyrighted her plan, and a local publishing company printed it as an educational reference for school counselors. Sales in twenty states, so far. Helen Throburghe Pysc. D. it said. She was beaming. Her photograph on the back cover showed it, too. She was ecstatic. Macy even took a break from her dive to come back and celebrate. Even better, the publishers marked up the MSRP, so mom was getting a nice percentage.
Nothing’s been the same since Adam left. His 5150 was moved up to a 6150, which meant that he would be spending a week in the psych unit. Well, one week became two, and two moved on to three. So I had three weeks worth of poetry and notes. But I never wrote back. And his notes hit the floor every time I got one. He started writing to Macy more. The doctors said he was going to be back soon.
Jerry spending more time with me. Making sure I was okay. His parents stopping by to make sure the fridge was stocked. Making sure we had everything we needed. Spending mom’s money on what we wanted. Video games. Notepads and blank CD’s. We bought a new microphone. And decided to save the rest. Music. Summer. Jerry brought his guitar and I broke out the bass. We started recording in the den.
Before school was out, mom said there was another boy who came out. Two gay boys and counting. Dating each other. Go figure. The first boy brought the second boy out. But, from what Jerry’s friend said, they all knew about the second boy. Funny how that happens. Being on the rebound, I didn’t fucking care. Go be happy and romantic, but stay the fuck away from me.
It still hurt some times. Adam’s leaving. But the hurt faded. And it really wasn’t my fault. So I moved on. But, like I said before, nothing was the same. There was something missing. Jerry lay next to me as I told him the story. No one else had heard it but Poochie. He was lying at the foot of the bed; any other night, he would have been in it with me.
Bass, electric, mic, to amp, to computer. I told him while were stapling empty egg cartons to the walls. My first. He knew about Chris. Then Adam. Meeting. That feeling. We took a break for munchies and sodas. Talked about other things. Namely, plans and lyrics, other musicians. Software to download. Jerry came to bed with me because I asked him to.
All the talk about the two boys from school, and all of our friends being hitched, started making me lonely. Jerry laid on his side, facing me, bodies inches apart, so close it felt like we were touching. Seemed like I told him in one breath. About Adam and how he left. How I felt weak and helpless. How I thought Adam’s situation was hopeless. How I wanted to help him. How I tried. How I cried. And then I cried. And Jerry held me.
I was a day away from being released. It had been a full month, and I had tried my best to keep my head down. But I had some administrative differences with the staff at the hospital. In response, the psychiatrists decided to up my doses and I reacted badly to one of the medications. That’s what the burning feeling was in the beginning. But they didn’t believe me until I found myself on the hospital bed again. They thought I’d tried to OD. I’d argued with them for a week, but was no use. I couldn’t hide my resentment. So they called me “defiant”. All I wanted to do was get out.
All of my wounds, except for the ones they gave me, had healed and I was ready to go home. I told my doctors I would never hurt myself again. I vowed not to, even though I’d told them so often that I was beginning to feel like a parrot.
“What will you do next time?” Carol asked me.
She was looking at me like a mother, or a teacher, or my dad, trying to drill something into my head. “Talk to someone,” I told her.
She smiled and nodded.
That was part of the release procedures. Just like Rachel told me. But what I really meant was, “Not come back here”.
My dad always said, “You can’t bullshit a bullshitter.”
But this time it worked. My release was set for that Friday.
It’s Thursday now; and it’s so hard to keep track of dates in here. I can’t wait to get home. I can’t wait to see Macy and Poochie and Victor and Sam. Macy wrote to tell me there was a conference going on at Helen’s school. She wrote a book! Helen did. And she was traveling all over the western states signing it. Macy had just finished a huge estate plan, and a few other conservatorships, so she was going to take a break for a while. Maybe forever, she said. God, forty and she was just about retired.
Sam and Jerry had set up a studio in the den. I laughed so hard when I read how pissed off Helen was when she came back to find empty egg cartons stapled all over the walls. There was a CD attached to a note in the package. Sam said he missed me and couldn’t wait to see me. The staff let me play it in the common room. It was really good. I didn’t know Sam could sing until then. Of course, he apologized for his voice before they started, but I thought they were great. They all signed the letter then, saying they loved me and couldn’t wait to see me home again.
I cried and laughed at the same time. I know I should have been worried about letting the staff see me like that, but I’m sure they understood.
Finally, I was going home.