Not So Graceful Exits

It was time to make a trip down Epsilon Train. I had been wearing mismatching socks in a dream the night before and went to the extreme to slide black on the left and white on the right.

After his cherry tomatoes and creamy French, Cameron made a daring suggestion. I don’t remember the bold statements that shot from my mouth, but I do recall being fueled by my hatred for The Fear of him. After countless sitting situations when we were ends apart, he sat down in front of me with a plastic sack.

He held out a half for me, and I watched him pop the bright red Jamaican Rose pepper into his mouth and begin to chew. “If you trust Cameron, you can see he obviously decided that it was safe,” said the black sock. “You don’t trust Cameron, and you know this is crazy. That’s why you must beat him at his own game,” agreed the white. I went for it.

Cameron bailed for the trash, spit his out, and briefly collapsed on the floor. With Mandi shouting like a tug-of-war coach, I chewed the shit out of mine…and swallowed. High five.

Then my head went into shock.

Dark kitchen. Cameron leaned over the sink and I hung over the counter, drinking. Bread. Ice cube. Trying to breathe. My eyes were crying and my top lip actually puckered out slightly in suffering reaction. I could hear Cameron’s sick, nasal laugh in between gulps of air and suckage. He was allowed to laugh all he wanted. He knew I’d won.

And that, dear social scientists, was enough for me.

Departure From Wisconsin Ave

As much as I would like to portray the ever-optimistic ray of hope and reason, a dark cloud has descended over our social fuse box and now, when I glance outside the sun room at the Wisconsin Avenue street sign, this gloomy haunting cannot be ignored.

Justin’s home is falling down, falling down, falling down.

My story certainly didn’t start it; the reality is no doubt a sickness that has been eating away at the base, tiny morsels at a time. Now that the situation’s decreasing health is painfully recognizable, the time for a cure has come and gone. I’m just pissed off that I took the symptoms for granted, quite physically – the rooms were collecting dirt and clutter and the carpet began to saturate with water. As we all moved across the floors, we didn’t think twice about the demolishing quality under our feet or around us; we just went about the games.

It wasn’t until I walked up to the porch, saw the front door’s hinges broken and proceeded to walk into a living room with no carpet at all- the long couch missing entirely- and admitted to be standing in a rotting, empty room that I said to myself, “Goddamn. The force is leaving us.”

I sat down in my favorite chair and Justin took his recliner. With no other available seating, it was the end tables, the two chairs and one wide-screen television sitting in an otherwise empty room. You could almost hear J’s voice echo when he instructed to Mandi, “You can sit on the floor, but I suggest using that comforter.” Good advice, as I spotted tiny shards of glass from when Jimmy foolishly broke something.

With the grey sky outside providing half-ass lighting, I spilled the beans about Mandi’s dumbass plan. You see… Mandi is leaving me in one year’s time, to join the fucking navy. You have no idea, the hurt I feel inside. Former partner in crime, illegally insane Manderz Porno is trading everything she has for some discipline, something to tell her what to do, a number and then some. I say again, you have no idea, this betrayal and abandonment I feel inside. My life has been a series of losses. I’ve always held my best friends as high as possible and then their term expired – let’s just say that Mandi had promised Camelot, directed me to Flint and then took back everything she’d said.
She was the radical I had voted for after rejecting the way things had always been.

Now she tells me that Miss Anarchy Rules is going to sign her soul on a dotted line, thanks to some recruitment officer who flirted heavily and insisted that robots could have just as much fun as redheads. The fact that she is merely planning this has caused her to begin falling in my eyes, as cruel as it is to say.

Rage Against The BubbleGum Machine. It’s eating my heart.

I’m not sure if anyone else knows what’s really going on. I sense that Justin feels it in his gut, from watching him shrug the weight off his shoulders, letting bundles of despair fill up the space around him, in masses of emptiness and absence. What concerns me most is the end of the rope around Justin and Bryce’s collective necks – this time, they swear, is the last. Unforgivables, unforgettables, lack of trust, this and that, after 15 years of friendship this pain is outweighing their life together.

Tonight, Justin, Mandi and Autumn gathered on the floor of that quiet, spinal cord of an address, and I thought about all of the company that had passed through the rooms. The DJ who had taken a break from his lonely radio shift to visit with Crystal, the Ecstasy fiend… Girls whose names I never caught had floundered around, many having followed Justin upstairs. Bryce had stormed in, wrestling and pantsing Justin countless times. Older brother Lance had eerily paced with tired eyes and humble secrets, responsible for the parade of sex and mystery that was his own gang… everyone tearing the house down because the mother had fallen into a deep depression and was either out of state or rarely emerging from her bedroom, anymore.

Now everything was gone, and we listened to the droning television talk about entertainment culture the way it always had, and we took turns sketching on each others’ exposed skin with ink. Justin mapped out across my arm, “bryce’s hairy ass” and Cameron’s body parts before writing obscene remarks on Mandi’s back, such as “My name is MANdi, and I can’t even get a date at the humane society”.

Jake had gotten home late for curfew, his older brother was in bed, blown out, and Bryce was victim of his job the next morning, in bed after another boring night delivering pizza. Huddled for the company, Justin, Mandi and Autumn were the outcome of the big picture – just us, still burning, still coming down, well aware of the dead end but too afraid to say anything on our minds.

Around 4-5 a.m., Mandi and I exited like senseless zombies – not necessarily tired, but more so drained of any emotion at all, and very slow. We had always taken full advantage of our energy until all desire was drained. Mandi took the wheel and I began to feel hostile towards her. I was upset at her, suddenly, for driving my car. I was upset at her CD in my discman. I was upset for the comments she made. I was upset about all of her things strewn in the back, whatever possessions those were. I hated the way she had turned the key to start the car and I disapproved at how she fumbled to turn on the lights.
Like the leaves, I was turning, too.

“Put this on number 7; it’s the best song in the world.” I hated the way she insisted that Stairway To Heaven was the best song in the world, especially after commenting, “I want to know what they’re talking about, dammit! I wonder what those hidden meanings are.” The best song in the world, because of its age and hoopla, is Stairway to Heaven, but she doesn’t even understand what she “knows”. I decided to not even begin.

Sparing the lecture, we came upon a frightening image just up the street from Justin’s house…a car, crashed into some trees, suspended from its way down into a huge ditch. The thing was totaled and its lights were the only lights on in the entire neighborhood…when no one was looking, someone had lost control.

Now fully alert, the three of us were standing at the scene, exploring. The passenger’s side door had been opened but there was no rider to be found. As Justin phoned the police, Mandi and I disappeared, shaken and hightailing as we probably should have been from the moment we arrived in Flint.

By noon the next day, I was collecting all of Mandi’s shit from around my bedroom. She had left her navy packet on the table, her watch strapped to the bunk, her tee-shirt that I gave her on the chair…was she trying to leave these things behind on purpose, maybe subconsciously? I have the bad habit of leaving items behind…like an unintentional intent to return. I wanted all of that shit out.

She bickered, “you had no right telling anyone I was going into the navy” to which I replied, “I don’t see why it’s some secret, what you want to do to us. Unless of course you don’t want to look like a bitch in case you pull out. I can tell anyone I want to.” “This is my decision” – “it sure is! I sure didn’t choose this for you”, “I would like your support” “well I don’t support it on principle and cannot help that” “it’ll be good for me” “it’ll break you”, on and on. Not a good time.

The drive to her house was quiet. The turn signal broke off into my hands.

When she stepped out, she was gone. The passenger side door had been opened and there was no rider to be found.

Pulling into my driveway, I sat for a moment, looking for a place to put the memories so that I could walk up the front porch stairs and start over. Then I left everything at Starlight, where we are all crammed into the corner booth after a pool tournament. Justin is talking about penis size, Dominic is encouraging him, Cameron is to my left, mysterious and silent, Mandi to his opposite, loud as hell. Bryce is good with the union, slapping hands with Jake over a diss aimed at Justin…the waitress is smiling from the glow everyone has brought to the place….I am watching everyone, very excited and I am thrilled at the escape that the night has been…the only good girl in a thick puddle of testosterone, feeding on their youth and outsider sarcasm. Leaving us all together, in love and at ease…

…I turned the ignition off.

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Another Mandi Visit

Good mid-morning, everyone. (well, okay – I bid you my mid-morning) This is Autumn May here, in the blank LJ box, coming to you alive from Defiance, Ohio. That crunching noise you hear is sponsored by the Purnells, thanks to their wise foodstamp purchase of Kraft Salsa & Cheddar Cheese Nips. The two flavors in one cracker!

It’s fourty five minutes after the hour and I am wondering how many more moments of peace remain before the hellions that are Mandi and her siblings tear down the staircase and torture me mercilessly! Autumn, Autumn, Autumn! We’ll gnaw the stringy leftovers from your bones and still scream at your dismembered skeleton for more.

***

“Dad’s remodeling the van, so excuse the mess,” Mandi announced, as I tossed some random clutter from the passenger seat to the floor and hopped in. The ghettoliscious vehicle had practically no interior – wires hung from top to bottom, and the thing had already been an eyesore before this brilliant “makeover”. With no a/c, I fumbled for the dangling gadget that was the door’s control remote, and rolled down the window.

Blasting Pantera through weak, fuzzy speakers at too high of a volume, there was a lightning storm to accompany us the entire way down from Shiawassee County. Never truly satisfied with anyone else’s driving skills, I found pressure building up in my chest from body tension and it took nearly an hour for me to get situated and begin realizing my condition. I felt for the arm rests and pulled them down. I began reading the green and white signs. I realized I’d just gone from throwing some things into a bag in my kitchen in Michigan to… the middle of a severe storm as construction lights challenged the electricity in the sky.

Mandi coaxed the van to not give out and I tried my damdest to leave the conversation in my head. An online debate over abortion had started to tear at the insides of my journal worse than any doctor’s carving tools. It had been utter shock to me, seeing her from over my laptop, walking through the front door. The last I’d known, we had been sending meaningless instant messages back and forth. Had they been real? Had all of those “yep”, “that’d be cool”, “we’ll laugh so hard”‘s truly driven her all this way?

Quiet and confused, I managed to explain my brother’s condition, my father’s condition, my mother’s ongoing wrath, and my own personal hell. And although my mind was jumbled, my heart was clear and lightning began to streak sideways across the sky. Nice touch.

Life mimicked the jogs in dream sequencing as the next thing I was truly aware of after dark curves and double yellow lines, was some strange guys’ borrowed house. Now we were borrowing it, too, just without the whole monthly rent aspect. Yellow Mustang, black Cobra, sleeping outside. No one home and an unintentionally unlocked door left. These were the boys from Solid Rock Computers. (Their business card has the images of both a PC and a cross, for those holy users who want friendly, Christian tech support.) Tired much earlier at 22 than any other year before it, I crashed on a couch and woke up freezing, later.

Turn to the back of the couch. Try to bury yourself in it. Tell yourself this position creates more warmth. Try to go back to sleep. Fail to.

The next morning, I used daylight to observe the room and tried to figure out what day of the week it was. Christopher has similiar trouble such as this – some very basic realities, we’ve struggled with. His speech therapist was not pleased to find that she could not use her well-crafted method for testing memory, because he hadn’t learned the months in the year. He can’t always read a clock. He can barely recite the days of the week. Go to the swampiest land in Mid-Michigan. Grow up there and only there, between Motown and Mininite Reserve, where your brother swears up and down that demons are blocking you in at your property’s perimeter at night, and see if you can get the year right.

I have a tendency to forget how old I am, already. I’ll forget having turned 22. But ask either of us about the brown recluse spider and we’ll give you an earfull.

Desmond and Chad have different empty liquor bottles lined up above the cupboard, marking memories and passings out. There is a bench press in the living room and a Siamese cat who is blind in one, cloudy eye. It smells like new cupboard furnishing and sawdust. The place, not the kitty cat. On the mantle is a model car and no other photos or figurines.

“Why are two young men taking care of an old Siamese?” were the first words out of my mouth, sent across the room to a Mandi who was just stirring. For some odd reason, it didn’t seem like an idea of their own, from the look of all of the video games and other clashing priorities lying around.

“Ex-girlfriend. Couldn’t take it with her.”

I nodded.

Soon we were sitting in the office of, as she calls it, “Solid Cock”.

“You’ll take these calls while I go out for a smoke, right?”

My God! One person calls, and another person calls, and as you’re talking on the phone it rings again! And little, black triangles start flashing at you and there can’t so much as be a big button that says HOLD, right? Nooo. But there are plenty of orange buttons to guess from. And my mother wonders why I never responded to any secretarial classifides?!?!

Oops. Apparently, that was the Piss your customers off/Hangup Shortcut button. Better luck next time…

Some hick called whose English was horrible, and he insisted he was “in business”, “at work” and demanded immediate service. He walked in later with frayed shorts on and looked about 60. Whatever.

I felt pretty bad the entire time, because I wasn’t much of a party person. After work, Mandi would blow dry her hair and get all dressed up only to come out of the bathroom and find me playing combat with the dog, while Alex and Erica mused at every scratch and bite left on my arms. She was insisting on deadlines for leaving the house to go out and get drunk, and I’d still be dressed down, complete with bruises and dog slobber, wrestled to the floor with my hand wrapped inside Lexy’s jaw. It didn’t make Mandi very happy.

We went to Hammers, which is a JJ Shakers wannabe. The “I wish I was a bad ass club” club. No where near dingy enough for the proper crowd. Just a lot of losers trying to be somewhere cool. Took all night to play so much as the Ying Yang Twins’ “Get Low” and even then, the DJ took out everything from “ya’ll these bitches crawl” to “ya’ll skeet skeet, goddamn”. One of my favorite gangsta club ballads had been brutally censored, and that offended me. You couldn’t have had a cornier party than that, out in the middle of a corn field.

Don’t get me wrong – I was never anticipating the hard core; I was in fact, dead tired before midnights, and this left additional disappointment in Amanda. As her day was just getting started, I wanted to call it quits. When she was having visions of alcohol and male company, I was thinking about Alex and Erica back home, in their final days of Summer. I remembered the ways they grabbed at my hands all day long, telling on their sister to me, “When we’re walking together, she holds us back and when you’re far enough up, yells ‘This is MY friend, not YOURS!'”.

Have you ever done something because of peer pressure? What sad thing do you call that, when the pressure is coming from people much younger than you are? Cause there was a point in time where I was falling off from a high dive at the community pool going, “Now. This just wasn’t right/holy fuck, I’m going to die.”

Bickering back and forth in the shallow end, exchanging lighthearted shut- your-stupid-face-up’s, Alex slammed me with, “You don’t act like a twenty-two year old.”

I slammed him in the back of the head with the water nurf, and disappeared.

Under water, everything shuts up immediately. Under water, the community is gone and you’re floating as if in outer space.

You can hear the creaking of the ladder pipes knocking against concrete.

You can see your comany swimming up above you.

You can get a perspective of your life inside you, and the entire world, under the water. You can have a moment to yourself with the whole planet at the same time. Brief collections of breath during which you know everything, under the sun’s magnifying glass. As soon as you break the surface, however, you seem to forget half of what you just knew.

The family broke a record for house wrecking, I swear to God. When they first moved in, that place was sharp. Now the mangy dog runs around with parts of the couch cushion in her mouth while she looks for an uncluttered place to shred at. She settles for semi-clutter. I don’t know if she’s trying to contribute, or just on the grand journey to find the last clean spots in the household.

It’s my last day here and I’ve gone from snatching up paper plates and other garbage, to reaching into the fridge and pouring milk into a gigantic bowl for drinking. I have added to the mounting dirty dishes, oh Lord, I have sinned. And as I dipped a styrofoam cup into the bowl for drinking (because tipping the bowl up to my lips had resulted in drenching the front of my shirt) it drizzled dairy product all over the counter and I failed to so much as look for any kind of paper towel.

“Fuck it,” I surrendered. “Hell. It just matches with everything else. Looks like they belong,” I thought, about the tiny puddles of 2 percent.

Now, when Lexy sneaks up and tackles my back, I’m not smiling, anymore. I’m booting and backhanding, and she doesn’t even get that I’m serious. She’s thankful for the attention. She’s a lot like the kids. And when I start to ignore her or she gets the slightest hint of a clue, she starts to back up and bark at me.

I fear for all of them. Probably don’t have to – I know they’ve gotten by many years without any of my help… but I still worry, sometimes. Not sure why. And I also have to admit that I really get a kick out of the teethmarks being imprinted on my left hand, right now. Reminds me of when you smack a cat and it turns around and sticks its rear claws into your arm as it bites you. God I love that feeling.

And with that, I’d better go wake up Mandi from her downer of a weekend, so we can ride home. I’m sorry, Mandi. I don’t know how to act, anymore.

“Autumn! You’ve been on the computer forever! Can we play now!”

“YES! OKAY! HANG ON!”