Sullen Choirboy #1, Continued:
(Author's note: More of my zine from the summer of 2001. "House Arrest" is a true story ... it's been so long that I don't think of it very often, even though it was one of the most traumatic things that ever happened to me.)
After the Fifth One
And last night I could've sworn I was dying.
Shaking on a sheetless mattress on the floor.
My life so easily completed in my head.
A pact to be made, the threat response, so over dramatic.
Never ending waiting for things to get better.
Idiotic suggestions and assumptions drift in through the layers of plaster.
Our attempts to mas our fundamental incompetence.
A Wednesday, a fruitless drunken effort to answer ends counting the times you've counted tiles.
The simplest of plans is a failure as I pass out in the attic.
There can be no clarity when the only thing to save you is the ringing of the phone.
You can wake up drunk and stumble across the room to hear the inevitable bad news.
I have lost any dignity, I can no longer spare respect.
Always a worse reason to end. The deep-seated flaws can be over looked in the beginning,
In the dark and awkward first steps. In the first brush of lips.
And in the fear of acknowledging the death, we push away any sense of self.
Innocence drowns cynicism, tension held onto as an affirmation so long released in an exhale.
Turned to a tentative hope, however.
It will all be over soon enough.
When you understand the weight of dependence and the depth of illness.
And the end comes on the same jarring note as the beginning.
The delicate smudge, a drop of alcohol, the sinking, sickening weight we carry.
We feel fragile and the day is made in stale colors.
I can no longer find strenghth in the endlessness of suggestion.
Drinking cannot convince me of the lack of perfection.
And it cannot give me what I need to face this.
Protection in lover. Epiphany in a bottle.
No amount of purging brings catharsis.
And I hate the shape of my own words.
Beauty lies in the emotionlessness of type.
In the crisp reason of thought glowing on a screen.
The cold reflection of the never ending.
You cannot see the end of the line.
So you reach for the next bottle marked "A Simple Plan."
Song for Twitchy, the Bane of my Existence
There's the box with the button I found on the floor of my basement inside.
I can't hold you up, when my life is already a precariously balanced stack
Of scraps of paper, CDs, the clutter of conversation,
Paycheck stubs scribbled with phone numbers,
The words that get stuck in my head, pennies, bottle caps,
Books only half read, hairclips, pencils, pictures of people I never see,
Japanese lunch boxes and other things I've saved for reasons I've forgotten.
And I can't really get away, when Ji keeps knocking on my door.
She's the clever bitch who knows when I try to crawl out the window.
Pregnant and barefoot, she stands in the kitchen.
Full of the pauses in uncomfortable conversation.
So do you really think I could fit that ring on top of that stack?
Then we could call it the ring that broke me.
And Ji would still follow us. She knows the end is for sure.
Last night she came over, sat on my bed smoking a cigarette
While I listened to
Some miserable song fifteen times in a row.
"Structural change does not guarantee correct intellectual awakening,"
She said. "Is history determined by comprehensive understanding,
Or passion, bias, and other irrational forces?"*
I didn't answer. Ji knew the answer.
"You're an arrogant whore." I muttered and went back to reading
Today I looked around the room and wondered,
What can be saved and what can be thrown away?
Why do I need to think that at all?
Because when Ji shows up later,
I'll tell her I can be reasonable.
She'll probably just laugh.
But, I'll say, there's the box with the button I found on the floor of my basement inside.
Not Safe, Sad
I finally wrote that letter today.
I've started planning the next day every night.
I'm walking through parking lots while folding my clothes.
I wanted to tell you how I almost fell,
Watching a crane swing concrete next to my friend's house.
And how the house was dark and quiet when I got home and
Was washing my face in the dirty mirror.
And how my feet still stick to the floor.
I started to write this on scraps of paper
That mysteriously have disappeared, like cameras and penny jars.
I've forgotten my original reason for writing.
But I did want to tell you that I am safe, not sad
That silence and I are getting along fine
That I am trying to sleep more so I will feel better
And when I'm not sleeping, silence walks with me in the morning and between classes
But she won't help with the dishes.
I hope that you too are safe and not sad
And will call me tomorrow to tell me about your day
And how you saw me walking up the street
When you were eating lunch.
You were going to say hello but your mouth was full.
And it looked like silence had my attention anyway.
The waiting, in silence. I sat next to Jeremy on the steps leading to the third floor, wrapped in a blanket. The officer, David1, sat in Jeremy's chair, between the doors to Jeremy and Logan's rooms. John sat on a chair under the phone, Ty on the floor.
I had stopped shaking, not because of the blanket's warmth, but because of its familiar comfort. During the winter I had sat wrapped in it, watching TV and doing my Japanese homework. Jeremy and I smoked desperately, one every fifteen minutes. The blue ashtray filled up. I remembered walking up the stairs and being relieved that the officer was smoking with Jeremy and John. I hadn't dealt with cops very much.
A couple hours ago, Sean had come home from the grocery store where he worked third shift and brought us the cigarettes, because we couldn't leave. That's what house arrest means Sit there till you get the call. Don't sleep.
We had a short conversation every hour. What's going to happen to us. The officer didn't know. Jeremy talked about getting arrested for jumping the El in Chicago. A police photographer came and went. Our criminal records were checked. Silence. It had finally stopped raining. Jeremy asked if we could listen to some music. "It's your house." The officer had replied. Fuck. We're in trouble. Jeremy turned on the Weakerthans. We listened to the whole album.
I remembered. Someone came into the living room and said, someone fell. Off the back balcony. I ran out - raining - saw a kid in white laying on the concrete. Called 911. "I don't know, I can't see, I can't get down there, I don't have a cordless. Why do you need to know, just fucking send someone." Then standing in the mud. Uncomfortable boots, the medics hovering over the body. Flashlights picking up the rain like diamonds. Yellow lights - topaz. I was dumb - as dead as he would be in a few days. I was arms crossed, a knot of why ... why did you do this, kid? A stranger's arm around my shoulders, shaking. Talk to the cops. "Anyone know ____?" No, no one knew ___. Everyone left. Curled up in the armchair, shaking, vacant. Having to tell Keith "Go stay somewhere else, there's been an accident, the cops are here." when he returned from the bar.
And now the waiting, in my smoke-filled hallway. I deal with this well. I was exhausted, not like ever before. I wanted it to be about 6 p.m., yesterday, before the party. I wanted Patrick not to pull through with the kegs. I wanted to be sitting on my porch in the cool of the afternoon with my roommates and Gloria and punk rock Nick. Tallking, happy - no one's gonna show up, where are the fucking bands?
John had gone downstairs. After a few hours, Jeremy and Ty went down to check on him. He had passed out on the toilet. They moved him to the couch.
The detectives came, we have to take you to the station. Wake up Johas. How did you sleep through this ... through me screaming into the phone "Get off the fucking phone, Jonas, I need to call 911." The squad car, the metal grating between back and front seats. No leg room. 6a.m. the sun was out. To be twelve hours ago. Sitting in the police station for three hours. The metal bench had holes in it for handcuffs. John and Jonas had both slept. The detective gave me coffee - flavorless, scalding hot. I remembered what Jeremy had said about jail food in Chicago. We tried to talk to Jonas about what had happened, but the cop told us to talk about other things. He stared at us intently every once in a while, as if we might run.
The interview with the detective. I got a ride home with the officer who had been assigned to my high school. The sun was out, everything was still damp from the rain. Standing in my driveway at 9 in the morning. I hadn't slept in 24 hours, and faced with the possibility I couldn't go into my own apartment, I started to cry. I remember clearly every time I cried that week. The officer asked me if I was okay. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I just wanted the silence of my empty house.
They finally let me in. I slept for three hours, not bothering to change clothes or take out my contacts. I woke up shaking and went to work. I couldn't stand it ... customers kept asking me how I was. I couldn't face people. I left early. Talked to my roommates. Every conversation that day trailed into silence and blank stares.
For weeks afterwards, we all followed the same regimen. I smoked a pack a day, didn't eat. Just drank coffee and slept, badly, when I could. I had dreams that would wake me up.
The last week of class, Jeremy and I were standing on the fire escape on a sunny, warm day. We were smoking. "I want to go to Philly now ..." I exhaled. My shoulders ached. "Get the fuck away from here and this house."
And months after the accident, Jeremy and I were sitting in a diner in Philadelphia. We had done nothing that day, just overslept. Excessive coffee and hunger put us in a strange mood.
"I think we all played our roles perfectly that night." He said. "It's funny how that works."
We both stared out the streaked window, at the Philadelphia skyline, the careful sunshine.
the opening and closing of doors.
The sullen refuge in isolation.
can i find solace in the pointless.
The sinking sickening feeling,
its like waiting for the phone.
You've got to hang like nothing else.
You've got to stay far away.
Don't let it stick inside you.
Unshaking faith in my ability to fail.
Tomorrow won't be spinning this much.
A delicate decision. Innaccurate calculation.
It can only get better.