Chapter 1 “Tick. Tock.”
Tick. Tock. Tick Tock.
I stopped paying attention to the monotonous voice of my algebra teacher a long time ago. I’m pretty sure he hates me, but not a malevolent hate. No, more like a pity. You see it’s not that I’m dumb or anything—I’m quite bright in fact—I’ve just never found any motivation. The shit they teach us in school just doesn’t interest me. But, nevertheless, here I am. Waiting for the bell to ring and free me from the seemingly infinite confinement of this classroom, and this monotonous drone that I have come to find soothing. Isn’t it fucked up that one of the things that I loathe the most can end up being one of the only things that can put me to sleep? His damn voice booming above all the independent little groups of chatter that have taken over the classroom is my lullaby, the thing that brings me peace and the ultimate blankness of sleep. I can’t sleep at home. Maybe it’s the constant pressure that my parents put on me. Or how I can never live up to my older brother, whose academic excellence and his position as the starting quarterback have loomed over me, despite that he is now long gone from the halls of this school. Or maybe I’m just crazy. I can’t tell.
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how ignorant people can be. This blonde bitch behind me won’t shut up about all the guys she fucked this weekend. I wonder if she understands that the more of her personal life she unveils, the more people talk behind her back. That’s one fucked up part about high school here at wonderful North Central High, everyone knows everything about everyone. With a graduating class of 100 per year give or take a few, once something happens it’s pretty much public news. That same blonde bimbo—whose name I have never come to learn since everyone always refers to her as slut, or tramp, or whore—has always been this way. She goes out Friday night looking for some new action, and fucks him all weekend, then tosses him on the street like some insignificant animal and tells all her friends about her whorish escapades.
That’s another thing that always promises to stay true. People never change. The dicks are still dicks, the nerds are still nerds, and the whores still whores. But it’s not their fault. In this town there is no such thing as change. It’s almost like a fucked up storybook utopia where you are born into your place in the food chain.
It’s these things that will never change. It’s these things that I always seem to run back to day after day in my scrutinizing rants and abhorring tantrums. It’s these things that I find a kind of fucked up comfort and peace in. These things, like the ticking of a clock that will never change.
If it wasn’t for the bell, I might’ve killed somebody. I can usually suppress all my miserable loathing and innumerable hate for my so called peers but today’s incessant blabber almost pushed me over the edge. All of my classmates were—as cliché as it sounds—saved by the bell.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I would never do anything as dumb as killing someone. Now, I’m not saying I’ve never thought about it. We all do at some point in our lives. But no, no matter how insane I may be, I will never be crazy enough to kill someone.
As I left the class and slowly strolled to my locker, the same old routine that I go through every day, a sudden outburst from behind me made me jump.
“Hey you!” it was that whore from my algebra class, “Why did you keep turning around to stare at me during class?”
I quietly closed my locker and walked away, hoping she would understand that I did not want anything to do with her.
“What the hell! I asked you a question!”
Apparently she didn’t catch my drift. I continued to walk away and luckily the bell rang, signaling that I was being forced into another pitiful excuse for a classroom, with another pitiful excuse for a teacher.
I turned and looked back before entering the room, and could only try to imagine the thoughts that were running through that whore’s mind. Standing there in the middle of the hallway while the rest of her classmates passed her by like every other person in her life, she almost appeared somewhat human and a trickle of regret dripped like a broken faucet inside of me.
My Spanish teacher is just as bad as my algebra teacher; the only difference is that she pretends to care about me. I guess it’s not too bad. I don’t understand half of the things that come out of her mouth.
Sometimes she would rattle off a slur of Spanish sentences that would pass right over my head. I would occasionally respond with a meager, “Si señora,” but she was never satisfied. She would try to encourage me to speak to my classmates and do my work; much to her chagrin, I never did. I was just a disappointment in her eyes. I’m used to that though. No matter what I do, no one is ever satisfied. You would think there would be at least one person that I could turn to, but there’s not. My parents incessantly badger me about what I want to do after high school. My teachers never stop pestering me about my grades and my life. It gets really old, really fast. I don’t know whether or not they know it, but the more they bug me, the more I want to just run away. I’ve always wanted to run away, just pack up my car and never look back on this shitty town ever again. Then again if I did that they would most likely come find me and hassle me about that too.
It was then that I finally decided. I was going to change my life. After working at the theater for the past year, I had amassed enough money to fulfill my dream. It’s not like I had any ties to this shithole of a town. All the people that matter—my parents, my brother, my teachers—I could forget. I would feel no remorse severing all the useless ties that trap me in this bleak prison.
I’ve just never fit in her in Kershaw. It’s too clustered and shut in. There’s no room for individuality, no room for change. Kershaw’s really no different from the rest of South Carolina though. I want to get out of the South all together. All these so called down-home southern values that are really just about as moral as that whore’s last Friday night. You would think that with al the fucked up shit that has come from the South people would have abandoned all those old ideologies and moved on to more modern, practical values. But no, that’s just one more thing about Kershaw that will never change.
Chapter 2 “Night”
I never understood why some people refuse to accept any other views on religion other than their own. I guess it isn’t their fault. They’ve been brainwashed into believing a bunch of old fables designed to keep the population entertained.
My faith has dwindled over the last four years of imprisonment in the bleak, grey halls. With all the time I’ve spent meticulously observing and forming my opinions, I’ve come to realize that if there really was a higher power, then everything wouldn’t be so fucked up. There wouldn’t be any of these wars that persistently shake the entirety of the world. There wouldn’t be any of these drugs that are transforming our entire country into a heaping pile of addicted morons. And there sure as hell wouldn’t be a town as monotonous and close-minded as Kershaw.
Everyone always tries to tell me that I need faith to survive, that everyone needs something to believe in, but truthfully, I’m perfectly content without entrusting my life to an ill-thought-out fantasy. I used to believe in God—that is until I got to high school. After seeing firsthand how fucked up all the people imprisoned in this castigatory complex, I have figured out that the idea of God, of a higher power, is completely and utterly senseless. I’m not one of those idiotic scientific bigots either. They’re the only ones worse than those close-minded, religious fanatics.
Sometimes I think I’m the only level-headed person in this shithole. People here just don’t comprehend change; they don’t possess what is needed to function at the fast-paced speed of today’s society. They are all just idiots. That’s the one thing that sets me apart from the rest of the ignoramus that inhabit this wasteland. I’m ready for change. I swear one day I’m going to get so fed up with all this bigotry and I’m just going to leave. I just want to go someplace normal. Maybe New York. Maybe Chicago. Anywhere but here.
The one thing that could restore my faith will never happen. If this town would change and somehow become less ideologically retarded, then that might restore my faith. That, however, is impossible. So I’ll just continue to live without faith, without any uninformed delusions of grandeur and wonder, and without any fairytale bullshit.
As I sat in bed, contemplating these very thoughts, I couldn’t help from feeling as if I was chosen. I know most people would find my inability to sleep to be a curse, but I think it’s a gift. I don’t mind not being able to sleep; it gives me time to write down all of this ridiculous shit that I come up with during the day. I think that’s what I want to do for a living when I finally grow up and leave this hell on Earth. I want to be a writer. Writing is my one escape from the world. It’s the one time in my life where there world is completely mine. I can escape from the life that shackles me to the unfortunate reality in which I live and be free to do and say whatever I want. I can express all my innermost thoughts and opinions, without the pressure of the world around me. It’s just me, my paper, and my pen. Nobody else. That might be the reason I like writing so much. No one has a say in what I write but me. There’s no judgments being made, the only person I have to impress is myself.
An old English teacher of mine once told me I should write a book. I thought she was crazy at the time of course. I’m not good at anything, so why in God’s name would I write a book? I told her once that if I did write a book, it would be the single most dull and depressing book she had ever read.
And when she asked why, I answered, “Because the books that everyone else writes are filled with made-up fanatical crap that just ruins the whole novel. In reality, life isn’t a perfectly bright and exciting adventure, it’s filled with a ridiculous amount of pressure and perfectly imperfect problems that push against every one of us like millions of tiny needles until one day we get pushed over the edge and can’t take it anymore.”
It’s no wonder that after that day she shied away from me. People just never understand where I’m coming from. They all enjoy their fairy tales and their love stories, but I’ve never been one for the made-up. The only time I take pleasure in the surreal is when I am the author, when it is my world that I have created. The world that I create, the one in which my characters inhabit each night as my words flow from my brain onto the blank white pages, is—if you can believe it—even worse than the world we all live and die in. It’s a world where the problems that people face make our everyday issues seem remarkably unremarkable, significantly insignificant, and luxuriously worthless. I pity the characters that inhabit the world of my prose. They’re the only people in the universe whose lives are more miserable than mine.
It was then that inspiration hit. I stood up, threw on some shorts and a t-shirt, and sat down at my little mahogany desk that my mom had gotten from some antique store a few years ago. The ancient mahogany was pockmarked with tiny chips. The surface of the wood had lost its color over the years and had deteriorated to a battered, faded brown. Even the once intricate deep black carvings on the now decrepit legs have faded to an undistinguishable gray. Nevertheless, I opened the antique drawer where I kept all of my papers and pens, and as soon as my pen touched the paper the words began to flow uncontrollably from my mind. They quickly filled the entire page with the story of the ironically tragic experience of a recent college graduate. As I reread the obscure prose that I had just born into this world, the images of the young man’s life replayed over and over in my head; his thought became my thoughts; his life suddenly became intertwined with mine, until I had finally merged completely with the young man and I was him.
Sitting at my desk inside the empty office building where I’m enslaved for eight hours of every single day, I started to try to figure out the circumstances that had brought me to this situation. I knew the obvious reasons for this self-imposed imprisonment—I needed the money of course, and it was the best paying job I could find after just graduating from NYU—but the one question that came to my mind as I sat pondering over this seemingly simple dilemma was what would be different if that one night had turned out differently. In my mind, it was that one night out of all the other nights in my life that had affected me the most. That one night was the only reason I could think for how I ended up here, lost in a sea of uninhabited, indistinguishable, grey cubes that lined the office floor.
I remember that night so vividly, so lucidly, that it feels like it was just last week, but I know that it was many years ago. It was a Friday night. My friends and I were just a bunch of clueless college freshmen that had been sheltered by the utopian mirage that our parents had told us our lives would be. It all happened so fast.
We walked into the frat party unaware of the unfortunate events that were to befall on us. I remember one of my friends immediately walked onto the dance floor and began to dance with some older girls from one of the sororities and my other friend headed straight for the kitchen where he proceeded to take more than enough shots of Jaeger for everyone in the whole party. I, being the levelheaded one of the group, decided to chat up some of the girls standing near the stairs—I figured if I could find one drunk enough I might get lucky.
After a while, we were all completely intoxicated to the point where even the half-dead crack-whores passed out on the front lawn seemed liked reasonable options for a lay. We started to walk down the empty driveway. We thought we were being responsible. We knew we were drunk, and we weren’t going to drive.
It felt like it took us forever to reach the end of the driveway. The party was at one of the member’s summer cabin, hidden in a small town nestled in between the city and the rest of the area of New York that no one seems to care about. As we began to hike down the deserted country road that led to the town, we could hear the roar of the party becoming softer and softer, and we could feel the shrinking presence of civilization around us, growing smaller and smaller. The air was becoming thin and our breathing became more and more shortened with every step we took. We were too preoccupied with keeping warm in the cold, New York winter night to realize the faint lights that were slowly inching closer and closer to us. We staggered into the middle of the road, then back to the side, weaving in and out in a serpentine pattern. Before we knew it, it was too late. The SUV could not see me or my friends as they staggered along the side of the road. It plowed into us all, throwing us feet from the road. With broken bones, and a bloodied body, I tried to sit up to see if my friends were ok. The sight I saw will remain poignant in my brain forever, etched into my skull like a carving on a wall. They faced the same fate as the raccoon that lay beside them, flattened and bloody, crushed into the dirt, motionless and lifeless.
I couldn’t d anything to save them. After seeing their fate, after feelings so helpless and worthless, I could only try to comprehend why I was the only one who was spared that grizzly fate of becoming insignificant road kill splattered upon the side of the road. The image of their bodies, crumpled, disheveled, battered, and broken lying in impossible positions in the dirt and snow still haunts me every night.
I couldn’t regain my composure. When the police showed up and lifted the crushed bodies of my companions into the dark black body bags that I could only think resembled garbage bags, I lost it. Everything changed after that night. I changed my major from pre-med to business, I changed my dorm, I threw away my old clothes. I discarded anything that would remind me of them. Despite all of my efforts, no matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to shake the memories of them from my mind.
That has to be the reason why I am stuck in this dead-end job. That has to be the reason that I gave up all my hopes and aspirations to follow a life devoid of any pleasure and individuality. That has to be the reason that I float on day to day like an unmotivated robot, in this ocean of banality.
When I was finally happy with my finished product, I tucked it away into the bottom right drawer of my old mahogany desk, like I do with all of my stories, and locked the drawer. His story will keep living in my mind, immortalized in my handwriting on the raggedy piece of paper locked in the depths of my ancient desk that sits always aging more and more in the corner of my dark room.
Chapter 3 “Empty Train Cars”
The next day was my birthday. I hated every second of it.
It’s not that I don’t like presents and money; it’s just that I can’t stand the idea of birthdays. It just gives parents an excuse, once a year, to take as many ridiculous pictures as possible and torment our lives. Then they try and bribe us with presents so we’ll do it all again next year.
Every year my family does the same damn thing. My grandparents come over. My mom pounces on the opportunity to take pictures with them, and they’re always in the same spot. She always wants to take them in the corner of our shitty little yard, on a beat-up, grey bench swing. The last owner of the house left it here—no doubt because it’s slowly decaying. The termites have gotten to it over the years and inch by inch, they have carefully whittled away at the skinny beams that make up the seat. Sometimes I wonder if sneaking out one night and having a, “bonfire” would stop the coming of birthdays all together.
I waited until the rest of my family fell asleep to pack my things and leave, careful to grab my laptop, some clothes, and all the stories from my bottom right drawer. The only thing on my mind that night was getting out. I grabbed my keys and started the ignition. My 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix came to life, and I was off. Before I knew it, I was in the train station. The thunderous voice of the lonely ticket salesman, left helpless and alone in his dirty, blue uniform and his grey hat blared over the loudspeaker announcing the final call to board train three. As I boarded the train and stared for the last time at the empty station I couldn’t help but laugh. There I was, running from the monotonous, empty town that I had grew up in, and my only escape route had taken me to a place, just as dark and desolate.
I wandered down the train, searching for the perfect place to sit, but the more I looked, the more it set in. I was the only one on the train.
Cabin 2B. I settled in and took out my papers. It had been a longstanding rule of mine, to never revisit the lives I had birthed. Tonight was a rare exception to the rule.
The first page in the heavy stack was an older piece, the paper aged and withered, smelled of my old mahogany desk that it had inhabited for so long. I delved into my surreal world and again, I merged with my character.
Chicago. Paris. New York. Madrid. They all seemed insignificant to me now. I’ve devoted my entire life to pleasure, to the things that I thought would bring me happiness. Truthfully, all they brought was more sadness. Chicago, I met my wife; three months later, she divorced me for some hot-shot businessman she met at the gym. Paris, I was introduced to cocaine; my addiction has controlled my life ever since. New York, I hit rock-bottom, arrested for possession of an illegal substance; now I can’t seem to find a job. Madrid, I checked in to Hotel Locura; here I am standing on the roof, one step away from the end.
I felt comfort in the definitiveness of my impending actions. One step and my unjustified life is finished, or one step in the other direction and I fall right back into my old habits. I refused to let myself do that. Looking back on it all, my life was worthless. Random sexual encounters filled with drunken yearnings for pleasure. Plenty of coc-binges that only breathe more life into my addiction. I never put my Business degree to use, instead I chose to waste my life away, swindling enough money to live from the unsuspecting. It was these last thoughts that pushed me over the edge.
Falling helplessly from the fifteenth story roof, I awaited my fate. The finality of that last step. I had at last found peace.
Just as the story ended, I flipped to the next page, hopping from Madrid, to the United States, from that hopeless soul on the rooftop, to an unfortunate young girl trapped in her own home.
My stepdad beats me, but my mom doesn’t believe it. My boyfriend takes advantage of me, but I’m afraid of what will happen if I break up with him. My classmates make fun of my bone-slim figure, but it’s not my fault I can’t eat or the pain from everything else in my life will make me throw the food right back up.
I need to get out.
Last week, I came home a little late from school. I was asking my biology teacher some questions before my big test on Friday. My mom didn’t care. She exploded on me as soon as I walked in the door.
“Where were you!?” she stepped closer and closer to me with every word, “School lets out at 3:45 and it is now 4:15!”
I was trembling, tears rolling down my face like emotional waterfalls, “I…I…I was talking to my teacher about my test on Friday.”
“I told you to be home right after school! You knew me and your dad had to leave at 4:00 to catch the bus to make our 4:30show! And now, our plans are ruined! All because of you!”
Her last outbreak hit me hard, “He’s not my dad!”
I walked up to my room and closed the door, hoping that they wouldn’t follow me upstairs. My wish didn’t come true. He, having heard my argument with my mother barreled into my room and quietly closed the door. He threw me onto my bed, bruising my ribs with his powerful shove.
Then, within a split-second, he was in my face, “Why the hell did you make your mother cry like that!? You little bitch!” His words flew right past my body. His blows did not.
“Please stop!” I cried, “please… please…”
I thought his abuse would never end. As he walked out my door and gently shut it again, he turned and looked me straight in the eye. My tearstained face, my battered body, the vulnerability was obvious. He pounced on the opportunity. “Go cry to your little boyfriend you fucking whore.” And with those last words, he left me alone. Like everyone else in my life. I could hear him approach my mother—she, unaware of the pain that I had just experienced from the hands that were now holding her—and tenderly comfort her. Why me?
The more I sat, helpless, alone, brooding over every possibility for escape, the more one final conclusion set in as the only option. I could not live here any longer. I wondered whether or not they would even care if I was gone forever. Probably not. It was then that I knew what I had to do. I walked down to the garage, careful not to incite the wrath of my stepfather once again, and grabbed a handful of rope. The anchor above my doorframe that once held up a wooden sign that read, “Live. Laugh. Love. Hope.” was the perfect place. I tied the rope, and slid it around my neck. I found comfort in the feeling of the prickly rope sliding down around my neck; I was finally in control of my own destiny. And just as quickly as my pain had started, it ended. The sound of my body banging against the door seemed softer than I had imagined it would be. In my last few moments of life, the only thing that flashed before my eyes was the sight of my mother and stepfather charging into my room only to see the sight of my limp, lifeless body hanging from the ceiling.
I got out.
By the time I emerged from my delusions, my excursions into my own fictional world, I had reached my destination. What had seemed liked minutes in the eyes of my characters was, in reality, hours. The conductor’s voice echoed throughout the train; I caught a hint of repetitiveness in his words, as if he said the same thing every night. Stepping off the train, the cold Chicago air snipped at my skin. I sat in the lobby of the station and rummaged through my suitcase, looking for my coat. As I stretched my arms into the jacket, the consequences of my actions finally set in. Cold, alone, and without any idea of where I was to go. I was at ease with my life. I left the station and began to wander the streets.
The hotel that I decided to settle into for the night was old, yet it had obviously been refurbished recently. I couldn’t help but smile at the obvious sense of change in this building. The outside, strewn with dirt and the wear of many years of service; the inside, freshly painted with the vanilla walls fitting perfectly with the modernistic furniture and the small TV hanging in the corner of the lobby. It seemed the perfect place to start off my new life. It seemed the perfect escape from the dreary, banal reality that had been my life in Kershaw. And it seemed the perfect place for a young man, aspiring to become a writer to live.
All great writers come from humble beginnings. This would be mine. I would change. I would become the award-winning author that I was destined to be, not because I wanted the fame, and not because I wanted the fortune. My only reason was to prove to myself that my life wasn’t a waste, that my new start was exactly that. Everything would change.