Category Archives: Stories
New Year’s Eve 2010
It is now January fourth. I’m watching the return of the snow that melted last week; drunk week.
Drunk now…No longer January fourth. I’m now further down the road of winter, 2011. My friend Jon, how I love the man. Sure knows how to snap a poor old sap out of gloom. It takes skill to do what he does. I’ve recently come to know him, even though we’ve been friends for about a decade now. Whatever, drunk now; El Dorado Rum. Jon lets out one of his casual burps and continues talking. He doesn’t talk as much as me, but he’s talking now, and I’m drunk, getting drunk, listening intently.
He says, “Great fucking documentary!” (Emphasis on great, for Jon is a great guy.) “I watched a bunch of movies this week. Sunset Boulevard…”
“Yes, yes,” he burps and continues, “Carlos the Jackal.”
“Haven’t seen it.”
“It was alright…but I saw this documentary called The Cove; it’s this place in Japan where they trap and slaughter dolphins.” He drops his head slightly, taking in a deep breath. “I cried,” he sighs, “I cried for the dolphins.”
I reach for the bottle, “The Cove,” I mutter. He sighs.
I can still hear him as he sighs. A few days have passed. Days pass, it’s what they do. Sober now, closing my eyes on the Japanese spears and faces, on the open waters where dolphins are slaughtered. No use closing my eyes; “I must write this,” I think, “All of this, one day…My scattered young life, and how it has passed. There’s always a naked notebook nearby, and pens are plenty…I wonder, is it courage that’s faded?”
I am worrying now in my sober state, out and about since early in the morning, dreadful morning.
At the Wexford restaurant, they never fail to mention how long they’ve been around. “Since 1958,” says the menu, “280 million eggs cracked, 3.3 billion oranges squeezed.” I’m now nursing my sixth cup of coffee, wondering why she hasn’t called.
I never noticed the time passing, and how everybody grew up. I think I did too. I saw one of my uncles tonight, after about four years or so. Looking at his grey hairs, I realized that indeed change has us. The time that doesn’t exist continues to mock us. But it’s fun to be…to realize every once in a while that it’s still turning.
“How are you?” he asked me. I smiled in reply, nodding my head. “Really,” he continued, “Are you well? Are you happy?”
“Yes uncle, happy…In love.”
“Do not forget God,” he said, “Understanding is God.”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“He couldn’t even keep his eyes open. That’s how drunk he was. We all think there is something wrong with him. He’s on one hell of a bender.”
“We all need a bender from time to time.”
“He spoke with a therapist recently; he might have a mood disorder.”
“Ha! Yes, mood disorder; and he’s probably bipolar as well.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Why not? It’s the truth…and this truth is rather trendy these days. Ha! Mood disorder…We all have moods; cliffs and falls…We all venture into some bender from time to time. We all have moods, and our moods fluctuate constantly, so we sit down with doctors who stamp us with disorders…We’re all fucking bipolar! I’m sick and tired of hearing this. None of us know who we are, and we struggle daily to nest ourselves in the hearts of those we know, we’ll do anything to not be alone…all the while, in the heart of all that is cold, upon the peaks of our silences, we end up taking refuge in our bottles and our mood disorders. In fact, these days, it is our disorders that keep us comfy. I am so sick of it.”
“I’m sorry I brought it up,” she said, turning her glance away from me and out of the window of the cab. “I didn’t know you were a doctor.”
“No doctor…but I’ve been diagnosed as bipolar myself. Why? Simply because of my silences, because I often felt the need to flee, because some mornings I didn’t wanna get out of bed, because sometimes I felt rage for no reason. Simply because of having a mood, because of being human, I was told I was bipolar as well…Either way, I can’t feel sorry for anyone, because they’re bipolar. We’re all insecure, that’s the one thing I have learned. We are the greatest of contradictions. We all like it when people worry about us. We all somehow take pleasure in our depressions and being stamped as ill. The worries of friends don’t change us. We’ll glorify our habits, cloaked in our disorders…We’ll laugh for all…”
“My friend,” said the cab driver, glancing at me timidly in the rear view mirror, “Some people really do suffer, in their heads. May God be with them.”
“Hell, even our god is a bipolar god,” I wanted to say, but Katie placed her hand on my thigh ever so gently, smiling with such satisfaction. I nodded and smiled at the driver, but I no longer saw a point to the conversation.
I would always tell her, “Leave my room the fuck alone!” It usually didn’t take much for me to lose my head. After a while, I’d lock my door whenever I left the house, just so she couldn’t clean and rearrange everything. I remember one day, I got into my car and was about to drive off, when I realized my wallet was up in my room. All was quiet when I went back in the house. I think my father was taking a nap. As I approached my room, the door was wide open and there she was, with a bottle of all purpose cleaner in one hand and rag in the other, swiftly wiping the dust of my habits, lifting the papers on my desk and stacking them in one neat pile. I couldn’t have stood there for very long. I was furious; I remember my fury, the same fury that now arouses in me laughter.
“What the hell..?” I shouted. She screamed, startled, but ready to laugh. She dropped the all purpose cleaner. “Are you serious?”
“Sasan, I thought you were out,” she giggled.
“I was. What the hell are you doing?”
“I just thought, while you’re out…”
“Yeah, perfect opportunity, right? I’ve asked you so many times mother, I’ve begged you to just leave my room alone. This is all that I have, this is all that I am! This room…I’ve asked you to leave my papers alone!” I continued yelling my bullshit at her.
She only laughed and said, “Okay, okay, you caught me…Scared me half to death!” and she laughed, and she laughed…as she left my room. She couldn’t have been in there for more than five minutes. I looked around; the goddamn place was spotless. I sat down in my fury. She had even cleaned out my ashtray, and if the ashtray could’ve talked, looking at me it would’ve said, “Tsk, tsk, you’re a fucking asshole…”
The other day, while I was cleaning the apartment and changing the bed sheets and duvet cover, I felt as if she was watching me. I’m sure, she would’ve loved to see the sight. I remember her laughter. I picture her smiling at me, all purpose cleaner in one hand and rag in the other, saying, “Dear Sasan, you missed many spots.”
“It was amazing. What a feeling. For the first time I was actually proud of my work.”
“I read your last two stories. They were great.”
“The newer ones have definitely come a long way.”
“You’ve come a long way,” said Jon.
“The funny thing is, sometimes when I read my older stories, even the ones I consider well written and worthy of publishing, I find so many holes in them and overall they seem rather flaky on the page; I feel the need to edit them, cut words and shorten them, cut them in half, perhaps even kill some characters…but I don’t. It’s funny because all of the ideas I have now keep me from editing any old work. The pen in my hand is greedier now, but greedy only for now…you know what I mean?”
“No, I don’t.”
“I am very attached to some of my old stories, and even though they are flawed and trapped within my youth, riddled with holes and flaky on the page, I choose to leave them as they lie. My mind today, or perhaps my pride for my work, for how far and long my words have come, doesn’t allow me to sit down and edit a story I wrote six years ago, just so it’ll resemble the ones I write today. I feel that I am much cockier now, in choosing not to edit, in leaving them as they are, reading them every once in a while but changing nothing, perhaps even thinking to myself that literary historians one day will have all of these works, and it’ll be easy for them to see the evolution of my words, my aging upon the page, my lifetime.”
“You’ve always been cocky,” he said, reaching into his jacket pocket for his smokes. For a split second, I thought he would pull out a gun and shoot me, shaking his sinister bald head, swaying inside his thick leather jacket. “You’ve always been cocky!” Bang! Bang! “You son of a bitch…” I got a headache for a split second. I’ve watched too many movies over the years.
“Maybe I’ve always been cocky, but not proud.”
“Ah, you’re still a cock. Pour us some shots will you…”
We drank just as the sun was making an appearance in the backyard. “So many characters,” I said, “It’s ridiculous.”
“Big city,” he exhaled.
“I can never look at an apartment building and not be baffled.”
“All the different people!” I exclaimed, my hands also rising with my voice, “So many different people, in one building, side by side. The differences behind each wall are mind boggling; the variety of lives, the habits…And it’s kind of funny, ‘cause you can live in a building for years and never know, never know who was right next door, or what was going on upstairs, or what they were selling down the hall.” I pointed at the building across the parking lot, “See that condo? Can you even imagine all the kinds of people that live there? Couple of years ago I experienced it all. Well, I got to see it; the variety of life in buildings scattered across town. I was doing fundraising work for a charity, going door to door. It was a strenuous job, with a grasp that tightened one’s hatred to the world; but oh the people I would see! You have no idea. One day, myself and a few other fundraisers, all dressed to impress, were deployed in Cabbage Town. We split up the buildings and got to work. We’d start at the top floor, going from one end of the hall to the other, then down the stairwell one floor, then down the next hall again door to door. I’ll never forget that day in Cabbage Town. It was only my second week of fundraising; we were fundraising for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and even though I was kind of on a roll and had been getting a decent amount of people to sign up, my nerves hadn’t quite yet settled. Anyways, halfway down the building, I think on the eleventh or twelfth floor, I waited at the door of a corner apartment after having knocked several times, swinging my Uniball pen in my hand and slowly beginning to realize that I was drenched in sweat underneath my trench coat and the scarf that was neatly wrapped around my neck. I was about to walk away when the door opened. He was a giant old man and he coughed as he opened the door; the stench of cigarettes and empty liquor bottles reached out from inside his haphazard apartment, grabbing me by the sides of my head. For a moment, I forgot all about the script and what I had to say. ‘What’s this?’ he grunted, and again I came to feel how profusely I’d been sweating.
“I said, ‘Hi, sorry for interrupting, my name is Beni. My colleagues and I are in your area today on behalf of the United Nations High Commission…’ The giant tilted his head at me and inched out of the door, peeking down the hallway. I stepped back as calmly as I could. ‘High Commission for Refugees,’ I continued, ‘So far several of your neighbors have signed up.’
“He said, ‘How’d you get in the building?’
“‘Your superintendent let us in,’ I whispered, glancing to my left down the hallway; I was alone on that floor, and his super hadn’t let us in. We would usually just buzz up to a bunch of apartments, until someone opened the door, out of kindness or ignorance, it didn’t matter to us; we worked for a charity.
“‘I doubt that,’ said the giant, ‘No canvassers allowed in this building.’
“‘Sir, I can assure you, we have spoken to your building management,’ I lied, ‘We’ve been in all the other buildings as well.’
“‘How old are you?’
“‘Twenty two,’ I said, wiping the sweat off my forehead as casually as I could.
“‘It’s not every day that such a good looking young man comes to my door.’
“‘Oh,’ I said, wiping my forehead again, stepping back a bit while chuckling awkwardly. It seemed like he kept eyeing my scarf. His stare hovered from my scarf to my eyes. It was all ‘cause of that scarf; goddamn colourful scarf my mother had bought me, the scarf that held every fucking color in existence, every color in its brightest form…Rainbows had nothing on that scarf.
“‘Come in,’ he said.
“I took one step inside and the stench that had numbed my senses took form and enveloped me from head to toe. My eyes darted about his apartment, from empty cigarette packs and pill bottles, to scattered pieces of gay pornography and articles of clothing and empty trays of microwave dinners that lay around his couch, facing the television like the ghosts of decaying days inside a manmade swamp. Anyways, I tried to carry on with the script, as nervous as I was.
“Here now, I don’t remember much of what I said. I must’ve stuttered on about refugees, and I probably lied about myself having been a refugee, out of war-torn Iran. But I remember clutching my Uniball pen in my hand as I would a dagger or icepick. His stare hadn’t changed a bit, and my eyes also continued to leap about, occasionally glancing down at my feet to make sure I wasn’t stepping on anything.
“He asked, ‘Do you smoke?’
“‘I do, but…’ Before I could finish, he was holding out his large pack of cigarettes, politely propped open, with the winking orange filter of a Dumaurier poking out. ‘Sure,’ I said, taking the cigarette. He then started looking around for a light. ‘Don’t worry, I have one. I’m sorry, what was your name again sir?’
“‘Peter, I’m gonna sing you up. What do you say?’
“‘I’ll give you ten bucks, huh? Huh?’
“‘I can’t take cash. Peter, you do understand, this is a monthly donation, right? I can sign you up for ten bucks a month. I can only take a void cheque or credit…”
“‘Yeah, yeah,’ he said quickly, moving closer yet again. I swear, for a second, I felt the pen jerk forward with my hand. The stench of his apartment seemed to have found its way into the most secret compartments of my lungs, where one’s soul may come and go. ‘I have cheques round here somewhere,’ he said, as he turned away from me and began to move around within the chaos. As I lit the cigarette, I might’ve wondered how long this giant had gone undisturbed. ‘Around here somewhere,’ he said. I’m sure I wondered why I had entered his apartment. It was only my second week of fundraising.
“I said, ‘This is a great cause Peter. I appreciate your support.’
“He came back with a blank cheque. I was busy filling out the form, with the cigarette burning still in between my lips, when he said, ‘If only you were gay…’ I remember laughing, as nervous as I was. ‘It’s not every day that such a good looking young man comes to my door.’
“I said, ‘I’m flattered Peter, but…’
“He said, ‘I give one hell of a blowjob, you know? I can take my teeth out. I love to suck dick and take it up the ass. What do you say?’
“‘I’m flattered, but I’ll have to pass,’ I said, squirming inside my trench coat, damp to the bone, with the Uniball pen turning into an icepick again in my hand. ‘I have a busy day of going door to door,’ I said, as if that was why I’d turned down his offer for a toothless blowjob.
“He smiled and said, ‘I’ll make it quick. You won’t regret it.’
“‘I’m gonna have to pass Peter, but thank you…’
“He said, ‘I’ve been all over the world you know; I’ve sucked dick everywhere I’ve gone. I was about your age when I went to Sydney.’
“‘Australia,’ I muttered, ‘Beautiful place, I hear…’
“‘I blew some bartender behind the bar, my first night there.’
“I said, ‘Wow,’ letting out a laugh and hurriedly filling out the form. I signed him up for ten bucks a month, for which I made twenty dollars in commission. I gave him his copy of the form and thanked him for the cigarette. I’ll never forget his smile; as nervous as I was, damp to the bone, I found his smile to be the sincerest I’d ever seen. I’ll never forget him saying, ‘I can take my teeth out for you. You’ve never gotten a blowjob like this before.’ Ha! The giant gay man, Peter Cutten; what a character! For a couple of years now, I’ve wanted to write a short story about it all. That character deserves a story. Recently, I’ve been thinking about it a lot, thinking about writing it and putting it on my site, along with some other twisted tales.”
“Why don’t you?” said Jon.
“My mother seems to be an avid reader of my work, and so, I tend to leave some stories out. You know, stories concerning drugs and homosexual men. She reads everything, and sometimes she’ll message me after reading one of my stories, saying, ‘I hope this is strictly fictional my dear Sasan, Please, always be safe and healthy.’ Hell, I have no doubt that she loves me. I wouldn’t want my stories to hurt her. You know? She’s so far away. But then, there will always be something to write about, right? I mean…”
At first glance, Jon looked like he was trying to conceal a yawn, but then, out of nowhere he exclaimed, “Ah! You really talk too much. Just write what you see. Your mom shouldn’t care and neither should you. Pour us some shots, will you please?”
When people look at us, they probably think, ‘Aw, that lady has brought her retarded cousin to the park on this beautiful day.’ They look at you, with your crossword puzzle on your lap, while I’m humming, as violently as I can, the theme song to Rocky. Unfortunately, I have to be obnoxious, for reasons unknown. Genetics maybe…Perhaps, now that the sun seems to be back for good, I must amplify my being and all that I am; everyone in the park must hear the Rocky theme, and so forth…Please don’t feel bad sweetheart. I’m aware that my frantic feathers may be hard to handle, depending on the time of day or the light in your eyes. I’m aware now, how desperately your mornings yearn to be silent. But here now, it is the early afternoon, and my blood is acting up again; captive breaths seem to be rattling the scrawny structure of my being. Perhaps this cage doesn’t even belong to me. Believe me, I know; it’s all energy, and energy comes and goes.
We all have an urge to conquer, and you seem to have conquered that crossword. I wish I could’ve helped you, but very few blanks…What’s that? Forty two down…? Mordecai Richler Novel: Solomon ——– Was Here. Ah yes, great book! Gursky. Solomon Gursky Was Here. I did help you after all, I did help you! Would it scare you if I screamed? It has become even a finer day now because of Solomon Gursky, and the sun is definitely back for good, and people looking at us now must think, ‘Aw, she’s letting her retarded cousin help with her puzzle!’ as I return to banging my head and screaming the Rocky theme. Yes, screaming! Dunah nah nunah naah!
I’m sorry sweetheart, I’ll try to keep it down. All of this is really hard to explain, but we seem to have time; an abundance of moments waiting in the fresh field of grass beneath us. Your crossword is nearing it’s glorious end, and hopefully by then, the Rocky theme will have ceased to beat from inside me.
I knew this guy years ago. He’d frequent a coffee shop in my neighborhood. An intelligent looking young man, always hovering over his crossword puzzles, swinging from row to column, leaning back in his chair to light a smoke, then diving again into his sanctuary of squares. That was his world, and I often watched him, and I often wondered how exactly he saw the world…Was it one giant crossword puzzle? Was he always counting letters? When I met him once and we spoke, I was surprised that he was so human, and that he treated me as a human also and not just as a five letter word. He also had a very gnarly mustache.
Dunah naah, Nunah naah!
Hey sweetheart, check out that topless guy by the baseball diamond. What is he, tanning? People are weird, but you gotta love it. I mean, there are kids playing baseball, and this guy…Ha! I kind of wanna go beside him and yell, ‘Dunah naah, Nunah naah!’ and wish him a good day. Ah sweetheart, it’s great to see you laugh…Smile…Grin…Whatever; I’ll take what I can get.
Unfortunately, I have to be obnoxious to give birth to something new. I’m not out to scare anyone, but if I happen to provoke any stares of confusion, I will surely put them to rest with the sincerest of smiles; smiles of a retarded person. I’m loud, but far from harmful. Sweetheart, you do see my sincerity, don’t you? Something new is restless in my voice, can you tell? Sometimes I can’t figure where you are. Ah, crossword complete, the world is turning again, and that topless weirdo must be asleep for I haven’t seem him move for a while, and I can almost hear the distant echo of a school bell, and inside me, Rocky is taking a break, but I want to scream some more, or sing another song, be retarded in another way, but for some reason I am empty. Ah, but the crossword’s complete and the world is turning, and soon enough something new shall surface again. I hope something new, something soon, will make you laugh…Smile…Grin…Whatever; I’ll take what I can get.
“He just sits there, like a bag of bricks, with the same expression on his face the whole time.”
“He’s a dudd,” said Jane.
“That is a great word!” I exclaimed.
Kate went on to say, “I can’t stand him, asking everybody for cigarettes. He chain-smokes his whole pack, then starts bumming around for smokes. I’ve told this guy,” she pointed at me, “So many times I’ve told you not to give him any cigarettes. Don’t be an idiot! The man is…”
“Reflexes,” I said, scratching my forehead.
“You really shouldn’t,” said Jane, “He’ll just keep asking everybody.”
“Hell, we’ve all given him a cigarette at one point in time. A couple of nights ago, when Laura and I were at the bar, he comes over and asks if he can sit with us. We say, ‘No, we’re waiting for someone.’ Then, he goes on to sit right next to our booth. I mean, we’ve all been nice to him at one point in time. I don’t wanna be a bitch to anyone, but when he sits there and shortly after, he asks us for a smoke, and both Laura and I immediately say, ‘No, sorry, we’re out,’ he starts yelling ‘Liars! Liars! Both of you are liars!’ I mean, what are we supposed to say to that? And then this guy,” she said, pointing at me again, “This guy walks into the bar, and before he can even reach the booth, the dude is asking him for a cigarette, and…”
“The dudd,” I said, chuckling under my breath, “The dudd…”
“…And you gave him one, like an idiot! You should never give him any cigarettes.”
“His reaction was priceless though,” I chuckled again.
“What did he do?” said Jane.
I was about to tell the miniature tale of his reaction, after all it had been born out of my cigarette, my idiocy, but Kate beat me to it.
“As soon as he gave him a cigarette, the man-child turns to us and says, ‘Ha ladies, I got one! Ha ha..'” She exclaimed, sniffing ferociously at the imaginary cigarette in between her fingers, running it under her nose like the man-child had done. ” ‘Ha ladies, I got one!’ What a fucking loser.”
“This guy is really getting under your skin,” said Jane, and I chuckled as I normally do, nodding my head in agreement. “I’ve never seen you so worked up.”
“I let him get to me. It’s just, seeing him every day takes a toll; every day, sitting hunched over, bag of bricks, with the same expression on his face. Every day asking people for smokes…Not to mention, he’s racist too.”
“Racist dudd,” I said, letting out a laugh; abrupt, for I was the only one laughing. I kind of wanted to repeat it a little louder, in a different tone. “Racist dudd. Racist dudd…” But I didn’t. It wasn’t all that funny.
“Moral of the story,” said Jane, smiling that mischievous smile of hers, “do not give him any cigarettes.”
“Yeah, you can’t give him any cigarettes!”
“I won’t,” I replied, dropping my head slightly as I reached for my glass of water on the table. “I won’t, I won’t,” I repeated in my head, but deep down I knew I couldn’t promise anything. One day I might be in a really good mood, and giving people cigarettes, whether dudds or not, will only make me happier; sharing is caring and that kind of bullshit, you know? One day, I might be so indifferent to the universe and all the turning that I’ll just give him the remainder of my pack and praise his dudd-ness while I’m at it. Perhaps, I will give him two cigarettes every other day, and hope that eventually one of them will give him cancer. Who knows…? There is still some humor in a bag of bricks.
He sat there reading his book. My grandmother would keep saying something like, “Lousy bastards!” or “Ungrateful kids!” and I would laugh under my breath as I let out the smoke toward the window. My grandmother would always say something. I needed some concentration. I needed to focus to do work. I wanted to read for hours on end like back in the day and have it be silent all throughout. Almost nobody in that house had ever respected the silence of a book reader. “Ungrateful kids,” she said while bending down into the fridge. “I have to make three kinds of food every day just to keep them quiet. They’re grown men for crying out loud.”
“Are you sure about that?” he said, looking up from his book for the first time since he’d started reading. I couldn’t help but let out a laugh. “Are you sure about that?”
“Well, seriously, they shouldn’t be so picky.”
“You’re the one who raised them.”
“I never raised such ungrateful children.”
“She raised a bunch of bums,” he muttered, looking at me all of a sudden.
I laughed out loud and said, “Yeah, you’re right.”
“What? What did you say?”
“I said: you raised a bunch of bums!”
I laughed again and my grandmother just shook her head and let out a sigh. His eyes fell back into his book and I put out my cigarette and wiped a few pieces of ash off the counter. “You really should quit that crap! All of you should quit. I’ll make you quit before I die, if I have to. You’re just like your uncles. Why couldn’t either of you be more like your father?”
“When is everyone else coming?”
“At around one,” she said, taking the ashtray away from me.
“I’m starting to get hungry.”
“I told you to eat breakfast, didn’t I? Nobody listens around here. You don’t eat breakfast but you sit there and smoke. Your father doesn’t smoke. You shouldn’t either.”
“Don’t listen to her. She’s raised a bunch of bums. Can you guess how long she’s been saying the same things?”
“Since she stopped smoking?” I said and began to laugh out loud.
“I never smoked! I’ve been telling people to stop ever since everyone started to become a drug addict or an alcoholic. Nobody listens. You look at the neighbor’s children and what do you see? Elegance, class, faith…and each one has a degree in something. You look at these kids and…what can I say? It’s a good thing their old man is gone and doesn’t get to see them.”
“Give it a break,” I said. My father chuckled as his eyes fell gently back into the pages of his book.
“You need to learn some manners. All of you need to learn some manners! I will teach you some manners, before I die, if I have to…”
I got up without saying anything and walked to the room where I’d left my suitcase. ‘Only one more day,’ I thought. Lying there on the bed I could hear him turning the pages in his book, and I could hear her setting the table for lunch. Soon enough my uncles would arrive, along with my mother, who would hurriedly strip herself of her hijab, walking from one end of the room to the other, fanning herself, and in her own frantically adorable way, filling us in on her shopping adventure; the traffic and summer heat of Tehran, the pollution and the prices. One of them would most definitely complain about the air conditioner being off. My eldest uncle would be the one who turned it on.
“They turn it up as high as they can,” my grandmother would say, “Nobody cares. My bones are weak; I can’t sleep in a freezer. Nobody cares…”
Here now, glued to the monitor, occasionally glancing over at my cup of coffee getting cold, trying to recollect and gather pieces of that day from twelve thousand kilometers away, give or take, I find myself at a loss. Perhaps she was right. Nobody cares. We have always been lonely, in our comforts and in our pains. We all wanted something; our own things, and all the while we pretended to need each other. Nobody did care, but one day we would. Here now, glued to the monitor, scattered embers of my father’s words come floating and find me from twelve thousand kilometers away, give or take…
“To be needed is the greatest happiness I have known. To know that people need your knowledge, that your being and not being makes a difference to your surroundings…One must be a source of impact.”
Pages in some book are always turning, regardless of those who never seem to respect the silence of a book reader.
“I see wolves,” he said. He; his name was P…Peter…Paul…Patrick…Doesn’t matter.
“What?” I said, as I continued rolling us a joint.
“Sometimes I see wolves.”
“I love wolves.”
“I see them on my bed.”
“Are they friendly?”
“So far,” he said.
I continued rolling. Strange character he was. He; Peter…Paul…Patrick…Doesn’t matter.
“They say I am excessively happy. I see things like wolves on my bed. Once every two weeks I get a shot. It brings me down.”
I roll quickly. I must’ve been done rolling.
“You really know how to roll. When did you learn?”
“Practice,” I said, as modestly as I could, and added, “Been smoking for a while…” Interesting he was. “Tell me more about these wolves.”
“They’re made of waves,” he said, “They float over my blanket and bed sheets.”
“How many do you see?”
“A bunch…sometimes just one. Sometimes they change colors.”
“Is that all you see?”
“Can you see anything now?”
“No, I got my shot yesterday.”
We smoked in silence for a while. For a short while I couldn’t stop staring at him. I knew he wasn’t bullshitting me. He was always nervous. That was the first time the two of us hung out together. Usually we’d be among other friends. He would take extremely long drags off the joint. He would suck the life out of it. I had noticed it before, but had decided not to say anything to him. He was more of a pipe smoker. Pipe smokers tend to suck the life out of things. He would look away quickly whenever he caught my eyes observing him. For a second, I felt as if he had begun to regret sharing his story with me. But, that’s just how he was.
“How long have you been on medication?”
“Couple of years,” he said as he coughed. His bloodshot eyes fascinated me. I hoped I’d be with him one day when his wavy wolves arrived. I wondered what color the walls were to his bloodshot eyes. I wondered whether the joint helped him get closer to his excessive happiness. I wanted to bombard him with questions. I wanted to know how his brain operated. I probably wouldn’t understand, but I wanted to know…but I didn’t ask.
We smoked in silence for a while. At one point, when he passed the joint back to me, I couldn’t help but smile at what he had done with it. Soon enough, our other friends arrived and our conversation, bent and crooked, was outed amongst many other moments passed within the crystal ashtray. None of us see each other any more. It was a brief summer. Interesting he was…He; Peter…Paul…Patrick…Doesn’t matter.
“Dear Lake Huron,” he whispered, his hair rising and falling, “You are the loveliest bubble!”
Among the waves, under the stars, he recalled other bubbles that he had seen; desert horizons in Iran. From one bubble to the next, at peace with the idea of being afloat in this vast expanse… No longer under the stars; he knew he was a part of them. Deserts and oceans…Earlier in the night, Jon had said, “Venture on, the wind will find you.” Among the aches and the stiffness of the universe in his muscles, he kept moving, allowing the sand to caress, for the first time, his bare feet; the bare feet that few had ever seen.
He turned to his friends. “There’s a light on the water.” He pointed and pointed. “There’s a light there. It has to be on the water.”
“Might be the reflection of a star…”
“I don’t think so,” he said, as he dug his toes into the sand. “It’s a different color.”
They all watched the light and said nothing. It would’ve been a pointless conversation, but then again, in this vast expanse, pointlessness went right hand in hand with the immensity of one’s desires. Irony smiled constantly. Among the aches, and the stiffness of the universe in his muscles, he kept moving, and he wanted to write the greatest poem in the sand with his toes, for lake Huron.
“Dear lake Huron,” he whispered, “Thank you for understanding my feet.”
“To each his own,” I said.
“Shots!” Sam exclaimed, “Shots!”
“Jon, can you tend to your duty please?”
There wasn’t as much laughter as I would’ve liked. I can’t get enough of making people laugh. I am addicted to the sensation of being humorous, and in my awkward desperation, I often ramble on to massacre jokes, painting silence, an awkward silence, worthy of me and my attire. But then again, some people will always laugh at my stupidity. Stupidity isn’t always funny; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t…Either way, I never get as much laughter as I want. I don’t think anyone does.
Every now and then, Kate would look up from her book. “The sun is out again,” she whispered to me.
I looked around, nodding my head gently and said, “I’m not gonna be fooled.”
“Fooled…? By the sun…?”
“You’re a weirdo.”
“I just mean, I’m not gonna rip my shirt off and start dancing. It’ll be overcast again soon.”
Jon came back out on the porch with a tray and four shots of rye. “Well done,” said Sam. Kate closed her book. The sun was back in full effect, and despite my urge for thunder and my speckled negativity, the clouds did not return. However, I did end up taking off my shirt eventually.
“You’re way too white!”
“Yeah, you could definitely use some color,” said Kate.
Forty Creek flowed with calm. Jon said, “My ass is incredibly sore.”
“That was one hell of a hike,” said Sam.
“Are you guys down to go to the beach tonight?”
“Most definitely,” said Kate.
Soon enough, they all started slapping the air and smacking away the mosquitos. “They never bother me,” I muttered, cocky and proud that my blood just wasn’t sweet enough.
“I’ve gotten so many bites on my ass,” said Jon.
“You have one problematic ass bro!” This time I drew more laughter, but still not enough.
“They like your meaty ass!” said Sam.
They all had sweeter blood than me. I just might be one bitter ass middle eastern, and I don’t look middle eastern, which might make me much more bitter, in my blood, in my ass…None of this makes sense, but it’s funny, so laugh!
“Smart-serve us some shots Jonny boy!”
Forty Creek flowed with calm. The clouds never returned, and apparently, hunger and thirst had never left.
“You look exhausted,” I said to Kate.
“Gonna sleep well tonight…”
“Making tacos for dinner,” said Jon.
Entertained by all of our unique excitements, I started to notice our differences in unison. I noticed what the air had done to us. I started to see how our capabilities had come together. I couldn’t stop admiring the four of us, our differences in unison. The three of them were the only world I needed, and we shared everything; everything in our pockets and in the air, everything but the stingers of mosquitos.
“I miss the cats,” I muttered.
“You missed them as soon as we left home!” Kate exclaimed. “An hour into the drive up here, he turns to me and says, ‘I really miss the cats.’ An hour into the drive!”
Jon said, “It’s amazing that you’ve become such a cat person.”
“You do spend a lot of time with them,” said Sam.
I had nothing to say, but my smile was as real as it could get. I did not go on to mention that at times, even out there, in the cottage, in the woods, I could hear our cats meowing. Specially the kitten; he was always meowing. I mentioned nothing about carrying their meows around. That’s just crazy.
The sun on my skin, breathing in and breathing out, revealed my weariness and brought forth that old familiar vertigo, but it still didn’t stop me from rolling a joint.
Day-bombed to the edge of being; I thought, “If only St. Patrick could see me now!” I thought so many stupid thoughts. I pictured our cats back home, having a vacation of their own. I pictured them, confused and deprived, meowing around Amanda, who we had entrusted to feed them every day. I thought of a Hemingway short story, “Old Man over the Bridge.” I remembered that the old man had to abandon his animals during the war. He had some birds, a few cats, and four goats. I remembered how he had told the young soldier Hemingway that the birds would fly away, because he had left their cages open…but what were the goats to do? The cats would survive, I remembered him saying; cats are resilient and can fend for themselves, but his heart was filled with worry for his goats. What were they to do? Soon enough, they would surely die. But the cats, he was certain, would be fine.
Halfway through the joint, the three of them dispersed and went inside, leaving me on the porch, smoking by myself. I don’t remember what time it was. I could hear one of them doing the dishes. Sam had put on some jazz. I opened my notebook and started writing this. The floodgates propped open; I was the ocean of purpose, whatever the fuck that is…I had so much to say. I don’t remember how long I sat there writing, but at one point, Sam came back out on the porch and placed a smooth white rock on the table, in front of me. The joint had gone out in my hand and I knew all too well that all was lost.
“Found that on the beach,” he said.
All was lost on the page. I put down the pen, lowering my sunglasses as I picked up the rock. It was just a rock, and my smile was as real as it could get.