A coming to age story about an Asian American boy in college.
|“Pass me the blunt and start breaking up the weed Brad”
Brad hands the flavored cigar to Tyler casually. We’re sitting around watching an afternoon baseball game, it’s some game played by two shitty teams which doesn’t even matter so I won’t bother to get into the specifics of it. The television set is huge, bulky, and a piece of shit. It’s a hand me down, twice over. The furniture in the living room doesn’t match and there is garbage strewn about the entirety of the floor. The room is decorated like any other guy college apartment/house/dorm, it’s littered with posters of half naked chicks, Tony Montana, and sports heroes.
Brad grew up in Silicon Valley knowing that he would end up right back in it, glasses and kid chub and all. He always wears these old, haggard looking shoes and grimey blue jeans, but bragged that he had banged chicks half way around the world in them. His parents had also come from Taiwan for the same reason my parents did. Pretty much a happy go lucky kid, with a penchant for hardcore studying and partying. Fucking nerd, the one difference between Brad and the rest of us, was that he actually enjoyed the work. He didn’t pine through studies and sulk during exams, he just did it, your stereotypical Engineer Asian.
“Hurry the fuck up Brad, we haven’t got all day dickweed.”
“Fuck, I’m trying to go as fast as I could, where is the grinder?”
“Lost it somewhere.”
Brad hands the broken up weed to Tyler on the cover of a magazine. Tyler deftly splits open the flavored blunt and empties the contents into the trashcan. He carefully places blunt into his left hand and promptly begins to fill it with the weed. His fingers work quickly out of routine and within a minute the blunt is neatly packed, rolled, licked, and dried. Tyler inspects him own work and deems it worthy by putting it to his lips. The expertly rolled blunt is ready to be smoked.
Tyler came from a very broken family and it is amazing that he actually escaped from the pandemonium and made it all the way to college. He can afford to go to school because a rich dead relative had left him some money for school. I think he might be the first one here from his family. I’m surprised that he made it to college, no less a BioSci major. Unlike the rest of us, he grew up the product of neglect, not of care and overburden.
Tyler’s basically raised himself since he was twelve, his parents being pretty big deadbeats and all. Tyler probably has about a half dozen half brothers and sisters. He worked as a line cook at his hometown taqueria starting at fifteen and sold forties and alcohol to local high school kids with his fake id throughout high school. He lights up the blunt. He puffs twice, gulping down a huge cloud of thick pungent smoke and passes the blunt to the left. We pass it round and round the circle until it is all gone.
We sit around watching baseball, stoned out of our minds. It is barely 4pm and I am already swimming in a haze of semi-consciousness. Still a young boy who is not yet ready to grow up, still clinging onto the last rungs of childhood, immaturity, irresponsibility, and just general malaise: a last refuge before the pitfall which is adulthood and accountability, something which I was highly dreading.
“Where the hell is Jack, I haven’t seen that kid for days.”
“Not sure, I think he just got back with his girlfriend” I answer.
“God, that girl is such a bitch. Why doesn’t Jack just give that up, she’s not even good looking.”
“What’s it matter anything to you?”
“Well, first off it’s like she’s got his balls in a vice. We hardly ever see the guy and when he comes out he’s not even any fun. She’s always with him and he won’t even stand up for himself anymore. He’s so whooped it’s sad.”
“I have two to one odds they’ll end up getting married.”
Marriage for most of us seemed like a distant surrender in which our manhood would eventually be curtailed.
“God I can’t believe Jack, after all the shit that bitch has put him through. He could’ve banged Melissa last week. I don’t know how you could stay with a girl after she cheats on you. What the fuck is he thinking?”
“Maybe he really loves the chick, you never know. If it really makes him happy then whatever, it’s different for everyone. You’re just misogynistic.”
“Said the pot to the kettle.”
Jack had told me last week that he thought his girlfriend was cheating on her. They had been on the rocks for awhile, I thought it was best if he just take a break and relax and hang out with the guys. I liked Julia well enough, but she was pretty overbearing if you know what I mean. She also did cheat on Jack, I just didn’t have the heart to tell him.
Male bonding, it’s pretty funny how it works. We always went over the top and it is nearly always never in good taste. It’s not like we really think of women as just whores or charlatans, well some really are, but for the most part we were really quite respectable young men unless we’re drunk and out of control. It’s hard when marks of maturity are actually detrimental to one’s reputation and none of us are going to let in to the fact that we are nice guys, or at least have each other find out. We perpetuated our own image of the stereotypical male chauvinist and it only gets progressively worse as time goes on. We were in constant competition, trying to outdo one another, trying to take it to the next level, all really in the name of bad taste.
The conversation sputtered along the same lines through the rest of the afternoon, the sun slowly creeping across the room. And we just continued to sit and smoke, wasting all our potential, talking about meaningless things, basking in our safe little world.
I couldn’t help but feel jealously seep through my body as I sat at the dinner table. Gabe had just received some certificate for something or other and my parents were replete with satisfaction and pride. I played with my food as I listened bitterly to the play by play of the competition from my dad.
“I couldn’t believe you actually pulled it off Gabe, that was fantastic” my father beamed. “This will definitely help you get into that private school next year. I heard Wilton is a great school and with this prize you should definitely be a shoe in.”
“Your father and I are so proud! Aren’t you proud of your little brother?” I looked across the table and I could swear for a split second, Gabe’s face had alighted jovially.
“Yeah mom” I stammered.
I couldn’t help but feel as if my parents were rubbing this in my face. They were purposely trying to embarrass me. I stared at the food in front of me. I distinctly remember what my mom had made for dinner that night, oxtail braised in soy sauce, stir fried spinach with garlic, and deep fried mackerel sprinkled with salt. My face flushed and all I wanted to do was smash the goddamn plate in front of me.
“You know that if you just tried a little harder, you could do the same thing too son. All it takes is a little dedication. You know how much hope your grandparents have placed in you. We all see your potential, now it’s time for you to fulfill your destiny. You were both born to do great things, remember that.”
Thanks for the tip dad, I’ll remember to try to remember that one next time. “Destined”, was always such a funny term to me. My parents had raised me to believe that I was bound to do something tremendous. That somehow the universe was aligned perfectly for me. Think about the effect that could have on a young impressionable, young boy. Think about the inflated ego, think about the quixotic expectations, think about the enormous obligation. Think about the stupidity of it all.
I looked at my brother who was sitting across from me. Gabe at only thirteen years old had already far surpassed most high school graduates, a regular fucking savant. I hated him then; they were all laughing at me. If they didn’t think I was good enough, fuck them.
“Who’s buying beer tonight?”
“I guess I’ll go, what do you guys want?” Brad answers.
“Get a case of the Miller Hi-Life’s, can’t really go wrong at ninety-nine cents a bottle. And also get a round of Sparks.”
For my generation the concoction of energy drink with alcohol has taken a huge spike in popularity. The perplexity of mixing a stimulant with a depressant is inane at best, but produces a quick dirty drunk with the ability to help us stay awake through the night, often causing a “black out” drunk and about as twice as much damage to the liver.
“Alright, I’ll see you guys later.”
“That is a good man to have around.” Sean says as Brad walks out the door. “He is always willing to pull one for the team and jump on the grenade.”
“Definitely.” What “jumping on a grenade” refers to someone who is willing to talk to the fat or ugly girl in a group of friends.
“At least someone’s willing to do it.”
“You think if any of us could actually make it in war and come out okay?”
“Well, how do you know? We’ll never be put into a situation like that.”
“Our generation has grown soft. Boys are just not growing the same as our fathers.”
“Our fathers actually had to make an honest living. They lived hard.”
“And here we are.”
“Here we are” I repeated.
“We really don’t have much to define our generation.”
“Maybe except to protest, maybe for consumerism. We’re the tweeners.”
“Raised on cartoons.”
“Wouldn’t you like to know what it is like to go to war?”
“Yeah, I would. Just to know what it is like to stand for something, but it has to actually stand for something.”
I stared at the television.
“What a soft generation we are.”
We sit for a few moments in silence staring off into space, enraptured by our own thoughts. I watch a fly buzz haphazardly around the room stopping every few seconds to take a small nibble from the fast food garbage littered on the floor. The sun had by now retired below the horizon and a low watt bulb is the only thing that lighting the room. Suddenly Sean breaks the silence.
“So whatever happened to Diane?”
We met at a frat party where she had mistaken me for someone else. The fraternity had been trying to recruit me, but I had a distinct mistrust and disdain for any sort of institutionalized “brotherhood” so I just went to their parties and drank their beer. Our relationship started out razing passionately and exploded into a horrendous nightmare.
“I’m not sure, I haven’t talked to her in awhile.”
Truth is I still think about her all the time. We were young kids and honestly I had never let anyone get that intimately close to me emotionally. I would just rather not get into it with my friends because they probably wouldn’t be the most supportive bastards. I know that they would never judge me or anything like that, but I keep these things to myself. No need to burden anyone else with my own insecurities and problems.
“She was awesome, you should’ve stayed with her.”
What I think I’ve learned from all this, my life and what not, and traveling, and school, and drinking, and socializing, and dancing, and partying, is that all people are alike. There really is no right or wrong way of living and thinking. The thing is everyone is right and wrong, smart and stupid about everything, it’s just your willingness to accept those different ideas and thoughts that really matter or count for anything real in the end. Because in the end everyone is a little bit crazy and there’s no way you can really change that. But it’s so hard when you’ve lived a certain life for so long and you’ve been taught to think this and that and there’s a label on everything. So all we know is that an elephant is an elephant, and that an arm is an arm, but that’s all things are still the same when you think about it in the end.
The thing is that I’m a constant outsider no matter where I go or where I end up. I’m not a real American to “true” Americans and I’m not a true Taiwanese to native Taiwanese. It’s as if I’m connected to everything and everybody and although the world is so big, no matter where I am I still feel slightly out of place.
I guess that I am just scared that in this whole stupid mess that is life, I’ll never amount much to anything and that I’ll just live a meaningless life with nothing better or worse. Dying unhappy and unfulfilled, I couldn’t imagine anything scarier.
My parent’s weren’t too excited when I started to hang out with the bad kids in middle school. By the time I had entered the 8th grade I had my first experience in alcohol and not much longer afterwards marijuana. I still managed good grades to keep up appearances for the most part. It wasn’t til around freshmen year of high school when I kept showing home wasted that my parents started laying down the law. My dad tried to put me on permanent lockdown, but by the second night I was sneaking out to Johnny’s house to drink and smoke in his parent’s basement. For some reason, Johnny’s parents didn’t care what the fuck we did down there as long as we kept it quiet. Johnny was a Filipino hip hop kid at a neighboring high school who had connections for everything from the parties down to the drugs. He was popular.
“You want to go to the rave this weekend?” Johnny asks as he takes a swig from a Mickey’s bottle.
“Sure, how are we getting there?”
“I dunno, we’ll figure something out.”
I can barely remember the nights we spent cramped down there, sitting on a pair of autumn plaid couches. There was one small ground level window facing the back yard that we would constantly keep open on account of all the weed and cigarette smoke. To be honest, it was more or less the drug den/party house for my high school friends. Those were days in which I wouldn’t swallow down a pill unless I knew if it was an upper or downer, I often wonder how much irreversible damage I have actually incurred on myself.
“You feel like dropping this weekend?”
“Why else would we go to a rave.”
“It’s not like we can drink in there, they have pretty tight security.”
“You could always just drink in the parking lot.”
“Yeah, but by the end of the rave I’ll be sober and they usually don’t let you have in and outs at raves.”
I take a cigarette off the coffee table and light it up. Johnny’s mom usually would pick up extra packs for us at the liquor store and sometimes she didn’t even bother for us to pay her back. She worked graveyard shifts at the airport, so we pretty much the whole run of the house most nights which was fine with Johnny and the other kids who crashed there. Another reason that I spend so much time there was because Johnny’s cousin was pretty good looking and sometimes I would end up making out and feeling her up right down there in the basement.
Well after two years of sneaking out and getting into trouble, my parents and I both had had enough with the situation. I still excelled in school, was put into mostly honors classes, but I just no longer wanted to be labeled as the nerdy asian kid.
“I’ve had it with those cretins that you call friends!” my mother yelled across the kitchen.
My father sat unflinching at the dinner table, reading the paper. I had just announced that I was staying over at Johnny’s and my mother was not having it. I didn’t even bother making up names or alibis on account of my mother getting smart of it right after me and a couple of my friends had to be picked up from the local precinct because we were out after hours. I would just straight up tell them what drugs I had taken. I heard my brother get up from the living room and come watch the predicament unravel.
“You’re not going out Elliot I’ve had enough of it! Do you know how embarrassing it was for me to pick you up from the police station at two in the morning??
She stood there with her hands on her hips, eyes wide with fire. The chicken in the oven no longer smelled that appetizing. Since my dad was a product of poverty, his frame was frail and lanky, so by the time I was an adolescent I was already much bigger than he was, so there was no physical fear of him. He had already threatened several times to kick me out of the house if I kept it up. It was the only card he could play.
“You are an embarrassment to this family. Everyone in church knows of your little escapades. We can’t even show our faces in this town. Is this what your father and I worked so hard for? So that you can show us this type of disrespect, you are forbidden to step foot outside of this house.”
That was it, at that point in my life I had decided that I had had enough. Without saying a word, I went upstairs and packed a duffel bag full of as much clothes as I could fit and walked down the hall and out the house.
“If you set door do not expect to come back here again!” she shouted as I left out slamming the door. I went straight to Johnny’s and lived in his basement for a week before my mom came over and told me to get back into the car and that things would change.
A little while after that I was arrested for assaulting a kid outside of an arcade me, Johnny and some of the other boys used to hang out at. I was sent off to juvie for the last two years of high school.
What happened was this kid kept on looking at my funny the entire night and when I asked him “What the fuck are you looking at” he flipped me the finger and I fucking lost it and just wailed on him until a couple of adults working at the café next door pulled me off and called the cops. It was my first time being cuffed, read my rights, cuffed, and booked. I got my own cell and everything so it wasn’t really even that bad. I would say the worst part about it was having my parents come pick me up and all and also the handcuffs hurt like hell.
My parents didn’t want me at boot camp so they spent quite a bit of dough on a lawyer and to have me stay at a correctional facility out in Nevada that promoted “holistic” counseling. Even the meals were fucking vegetarian. I guess it wasn’t so bad in the end, I met a lot of other kids who were angry at the world, or didn’t have parents, or were just plain pissed off. I don’t really want to talk about that part of my life much, my parents even had me psychoanalyzed and all, but that’s neither here nor there. I was able to graduate and obtain my GED in Nevada. I did pretty well there away from what my psychiatrist called “enablers” and “triggers”. The counselors saw that I was a pretty smart kid and all and helped me apply to colleges while I was in there. I guess my parents are okay with everything that’s going on now, since I seem to be on the right track again.
I remember the first time I had laid eyes on her. She was divine. She stood on the other side of the party with her little couture purse hanging slightly on her arm and I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. There were so many goddamn guys talking to her that I got too anxious and couldn’t think of anything clever to say to her so I didn’t. I just stuck there like a chump with sweet lady alcohol. She had on a baby t shirt that hung tight to her body, pair of low riding jeans, and sneakers and I was all hers.
I was at a frat house with Brad. They were throwing a mixer to try to get potential recruits for their frat, but little did they know we were just there because we wanted to chug their beers and stare at their ladies. Some of the frat brothers were alright guys, but it really wasn’t my thing and I already had some good friends and I just wasn’t willing to get hazed for three goddamn months just to be buddies with people. I was kinda bored and Brad was whispering into some giggly girl’s ear so I just hung back clutching my beer and sneaking glances across the room to see if there was still a group of leeches with her. She wasn’t and we made eye contact and she looked right at me and smiled and I smiled right back and she walked right up to me.
“Hey” she said.
“Hi, how are you doing?”
“Good, are you Peter?”
“Aren’t you with the frat? Your name is Peter right?”
“No, sorry you must have me mistaken for somebody else.”
She gave me a quizzical look, apologized, and walked away. I was kicking myself at first for not just saying something clever or continuing the conversation. And I thought that was that, but I saw her a little later on and mustered enough liquid courage to approach her and introduce myself.
“Hey, my name is Elliot.”
“My name Diane sorry about that earlier.”
“You don’t need to apologize.”
She smiled. And the her eyes crinkled when she did.
“So what year are you?”
“So you come out a lot?”
“Yeah, just trying to get a feel for the school, it isn’t too much fun being cramped up in the dorms all week.”
“You want a drink?”
“No thanks, I don’t drink.”
“Why would you come to a party and not drink?”
“You don’t have to drink to have fun and socialize.”
“I guess not” I said as I took tilted my beer back.
“So are you with this fraternity?” she asked.
“Fuck no.” She giggled at my answer.
“So what are you doing here?”
“Just drinking their beer I guess. It’s just not really my thing I guess, paying money to be friends with a bunch of people. I’m pretty sure I can make friends on my own.”
She nodded in acknowledgement.
“You decided on a major yet?”
“No, I’m undecided. You?”
“I’m Man Econ.”
“Ooooh, sounds exciting.”
“Yeah, I fucking love it.”
“It’s just undergrad, it’s not like you can’t just switch into something else.”
“Not when you have parents like mine.”
“Strict, huh?” I shook my head yes. “Yeah well I can relate. My mom’s already been bitching that I haven’t chosen a major yet.”
“So you’ve never even had one drink?”
“I couldn’t imagine how incredibly dull all these people would be if I couldn’t have a few drinks under my belt.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Just never really appealed to me I guess.”
She shook her head and we chattered away. My friends wanted to leave soon after and I asked for her number and she gave it to me and I gave her my best smile and said it was great meeting her which was the truth unlike most of the time I said it’s great meeting someone. I called her exactly the next morning, which I know is a huge no-no, but I did anyways and she actually picked up and wanted to hang out. We went to have pizza and watched the premiere of “Jackass”. Not that greatest first date in history, but she dug it which made me fall in love with her even more.
I was young and naïve and thought the beginning and the end of the world depended on the soft petals of her lips. We started going steady a month or two after we met and I loved her dearly like I had never loved anything else, not knowing what a beautiful tragedy this would all turn out to be, how in the end we would both be ruined reflections of our past selves.
And now that she is gone, that she’s really truly gone, that no matter what I ever do, or say, it’ll never be the same. And I miss her everyday, her innocent little ponderings, her delicate little smile. I wonder if I’ve really ruined everything. If this is really the way I’ll always feel and it seems like with every ugly memory, there will be two beautiful ones and I wonder if that’s what life is really like.
“YO! Beers here! Set up the table let’s play some beer pong!”
We quickly clear the crap off the shabby excuse for dining table in the living room. It’s funny what type of justification you will give when life goes sour. We aren’t wasting our lives, we aren’t drinking away our health, we’re just having fun. We’re not a burden to society; we’re just young adults in a transitional stage in life. We live life as if we are invincible, as if this is our last chance at life. We’ve been going at it pretty hard for the last three years and it’s already the middle of October. Halloween is just around the corner and I still have to think of a costume. Halloween is huge in college, but so are most other trivial holidays.
“Alright, me and Tyler versus Sean and Brad, let’s go pussies.”
“Fuck you, I’m gonna make you hold my pocket you little bitch.”
“Fuck you. We’ll see after this game who the bitch is.”
“Yeah, just like last time asshole.”
The first game is usually the hardest. Chugging beer is never fun, but it gets the job done. By the end of the third game I’m holding two full cups in each hand and about four beers worth in my stomach.
“Enjoy your beers ladies. Don’t be pouring that shit down the sink now you dirty bastards, you think how hard all those farmers worked to cultivate those precious hops and barleys for our enjoyment.” Tyler says pointing his finger at me.
“There are no excuses queer” he says. “You don’t waste beer asshole.”
“My apologies” I say as I down the first cup in my left hand. Usually by the second or third game I’m feeling pretty good, a nice steady buzz. Sean, Brad, and I head out to the patio for a cigarette.
We stand around sucking down the poisonous fumes, enjoying the last few warm nights of the autumn. The weather is perfect and we bask in its embrace. The moon is full and bright, illuminating the naked trees, casting a ghostly silhouette across the small little patio which is littered with beer cans. Brad takes a seat on a lawn chair opposite the barbeque grill. A slight breeze stirs through the night, stirring a pile dead leaves and the charcoal ashes on the ground and causing the arms of the trees to sway and dance.
“Have you guys given any thought to what you’re going to be doing after college?” I ask.
“I’ve been working on my resume and looking for jobs, I got one offer at a law firm back home, but it’s basically bitch work” Sean answers. “It’s pretty scary to think that after this my parents are going to be cutting me off. I guess we all have to take some responsibility sometime though.”
“Fuck man, I hope I can find a job. I haven’t asked him yet, but I’m sure my dad can get me a job with one of his friends. Thank god, I don’t really know what I would do if he wasn’t helping me out,” Brad says.
Sean was planning to go to law school while Brad was planning to go the MBA route. Through some flash of enlightenment, Brad had started being real studious right after sophomore year. Sean had always just done real well. They were both doing a lot better than I was in school and actually loved the majors they were in. They were both going to take the respective grad school tests in the spring and they both had just began studying for them.
I’ll be the first one to admit that I am extremely fortunate. Since my father’s company took off, I’ve never had to ever worry about money. All I really have to do, is do everything my father tells me to do.
“Well at least one of you two bastards can get me out of jail in the future.”
“You figure out what you’re going to do yet?”
“Not really, I haven’t given it much thought.”
“Join the financial world? Do a little advising? Inside trading? Pretty good money in those fields.”
“Meh.” I shrug my shoulders. I tended to avoid my problems. I might as well enjoy the rest of my college days. Growing up with the parents I have, it’s hard not to feel a bit behind, a little ashamed for not having accomplished more, at least done something productive in the last few years. I have this thing with showing weakness, I don’t do it. I lift my beer can to my lips and take a small sip. We stand around idly for another few minutes, dragging at the cancer sticks.
“I’m not offended, I’ve just had a long week. Let’s finish drinking, we should get out of here by eight.” I pound the rest of my beer and throw the can out on the lawn. I feel bloated from all the beer and let out a loud belch. Things seem to lighten up, I feel a little better and the buzz is singing happily in my brain.
I was sitting at my desk going over notes when my phone rang. I reached across my desk and looked at the caller id. It was mom. It’s one of her daily phone calls to hassle me about what I’m doing with my life. She usually bothers me about how my classes are going and what I’ve decided to do after college. I sighed; it’s not that I don’t like to talk to my mother, but not when it’s about her bitching about my future. I look at the mess which is my desk and wonder what it is going to be today. I reach for a cigarette, put it on my lips, and reach for a lighter. I hit the receive button on my phone.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m just going over my notes right now for a midterm tomorrow.”
“Oh, I see. I was just calling because your dad and I have been wondering how you’re doing in school. You know you have been going to college for a little over three years now and we’ve never even seen a report card.”
She wasn’t fucking around with this conversation, she got straight to business. I knew I was in deep shit. I was able to delay this for the last four years because my grades had been so good in up through high school. After a childhood of constant work, I had convinced my parents that I would never go astray when it came to schoolwork, how wrong they were.
“Well you guys have never asked” I replied defensively.
“I know, but you’re graduating this year and we just want to know how you’re doing. What is your gpa?”
Fuck. How the hell was I going to tell her that it was hovering around mediocrity. They expected nothing less than perfection from me, especially after all the trouble I had put them through. They had a long talk with me after I had gotten out of the Nevada facility and they promised that they would take it easier on me. They had such these unrealistic expectations of me, their perfect son, and their legacy of the family name. I flick my lighter and hold the flame up to the cigarette. A few more seconds pass. I try to buy my time.
“Are you smoking?”
“No mom, that’s just the TV. About my grades, they’ve slipped a little.” I said letting out a stream of smoke.
“So, what is it?”
An eternity passes. I heard my mom whisper something off the receiver. My father’s voice comes on the phone.
“Elliot, really a 2.9?
“Dad, I’ve been trying, I know my grades are…”
“Don’t even try to explain, you don’t know how greatly disappointed in you I am right now. What are you doing? Are you doing drugs and drinking again? Is it really that hard to go to school and get good grades?”
“Elliot, it’s excuses every single time we have a conversation. I just don’t even know what I have to do anymore to motivate you.”
“Dad, look I’ll pick it up alright? I still have a year left.”
”Son, I’m gonna go. I was just expecting more from you. I thought you would realize how important all this is to your future and to your career.”
“I do dad, I do.”
“Do you know how well Mr. Hsieh’s son is doing? He’s already gotten an offer from Google to start right after college.”
I gritted my teeth.
“I gotta go Elliot, we’ll talk about this the next time you come home and I want you to bring a copy of your transcript so we can go over it.”
Click, the dial tone explodes in my ear. This was serious. I knew he was going to be pissed but this was the last thing I expected. I had done everything he wanted from me my entire life. I did it because it was what he wanted me to do. Couldn’t he see how much I detested it? I never had the heart to tell him. I felt like a failure.
I turned off my phone and gazed blankly at the textbook which sat in front of me. I closed my eyes and wondered what the hell just happened. All I really want I guess is the approval of my parents, them thinking that I am doing alright. Whatever I did, whatever accomplishments I have ever achieved seems, well, undeserved. I slammed the book shut and hurled it across the room.
Sean is getting ready in the bathroom while Tyler thumbs half-heartedly through the 200 or so channels the apartment gets through the satellite receiver. They probably spent around 5-6 hours each day on these couches, surfing through those channels, smoking weed. Or sharing a fifth of liquor.
“Godamnnit, who the fuck keeps recording Seinfeld, that shit sucks!” He throws his hands up in frustration. “Fucking Sean and his Seinfeld, douchebag.”
“You want another beer?” I ask.
“Yeah, there’s probably still another twelve pack left. Don’t mind the mess either, we’re gonna clean that shit up tomorrow.”
I pull myself outta the old armchair and walk through the hallway which leads towards the kitchen. I pass the sliding glass door which leads to the backyard and can hear Brad on the phone outside.
“Who the fuck is Brad talking to?” I should across the hall to Tyler.
“I think he’s talking to Melinda”
I chuckle softly to myself. “I got it.” Brad had been talking to this girl Melinda for weeks now. At first, we were quite befuddled by Brad’s Absences during our usual nights out. We found out soon enough though. Melinda was a grade younger than us, a junior. She was in a sorority and looked the part. She had long straight brown hair, green eyes, and a big, bright smile. She always talked ridiculously fast and wore shirt shorts and cute little skirts despite the increasingly cold weather. A cute young girl will most often time drag away a friend. Brad had met Melinda a year ago in some philosophy class and had only recently somehow managed to end up spending so much time with her. But like most the rest of us, once we had sex with a girl it was over. I hate to sound like a pig, but that’s just all we’re after.
I cross the hallway and enter the kitchen. Disaster is an understatement. The sink is overwhelmingly full and there are plates, bowls, and utensils stacked halfway up the ceiling. The sponge is well beyond use and sanitation, the garbage has skipped a few days of disposal, the faucet is leaky, and the floor is sticky and brown, covered with old stains and mud tracks. There is an old rusty mouse trap in the far corner of the kitchen, placed on the cracking linoleum and a small swarm of flies hovering over everything completes the scene with their exasperating buzz.
We often have themed drinking nights, such as “Liquid Cocaine Night”. Liquid cocaine is equal parts, Jaggermeister, GoldSchalager, and Bacardi 151, by the end of the night and through the three fifths, we had four out of six guys face down vomiting. Someone had puked in the kitchen sink, but no one fessed up to it. The vomit sat in the sink for three days, before Sean finally cleaned it up, but the mystery was still never solved. I guess it really doesn’t matter anyways.
I open the door to the empty fridge. There’s some old cheese that a Tupperware full of something I don’t even want to touch. I don’t even want to know what the large, orange, fuzzy caterpillar sitting in a bowl use to be. I grab the two Pabst’s and head back to the relative safety and sanitation of the arm chair. I sling a beer at Tyler and he one hands it out of the air.
I look at the blue $9.95 IKEA blue wall clock that every other college habitat has. It reads 8:45. I don’t know if I can finish the rest of the beer. Sean finally saunters out of the bathroom, steam following him out as he applies the finishing touches to his hair.
“Okay pretty boy, you about ready? We gotta go.”
“It’s hard looking this good, but someone has to do it” Sean declares as he struts across the floor. “Why do we have to leave this early again?”
“Because we’re going to crash your friends party and drink all their alcohol. You have 5 minutes Sean.”
“We’re not crashing the party. We gotta take it easy with that kind of stuff. You know how things get out of hand.”
“Relax Sean, take a joke.”
Sean switches the light off in the bathroom and darts into this room to grab a jacket. Tyler turns off the television and heads down the hallway to grab Brad.
I was watching TV in the living room, just another night of the media and popular culture being my substitute parents. My mom was busy doing the dishes and clearing up the kitchen, my dad has by now retired back into his sanctuary of numbers and programs. Gabe sits contently next to me on the plush leather couches. We flip through channels filled with material entirely way too explicit for children our age. And we watch and absorb.
“Can we watch cartoons?” Gabe asks.
“Yeah sure, what do you want to watch?”
“Ren and Stimpy, it’s channel 33.”
And for the most part, this is how my brother and I spent much of our free time, parked in front of the television, our surrogate parent. In this episode Ren and Stimpy are thrown into the pound because they have lost their tags, perhaps you’ve seen it? Gabe laughs loudly as Ren is choked out by the menacing dog catcher. And when I remember back to my childhood these were the moments I loved most. When it was just me and Gabe there was no conflicts; when we were not in competition. No mom yelling about finishing homework, no dad fussing about trying harder. Of course I felt a natural grudge for my little brother, wouldn’t you? But I never acted on it or felt vengeful. In the end, I just somewhat believed that I was just plain old dumber than he was.
“Do you know my friend Eric?” Gabe asks during the commercial.
“Yeah” I really wasn’t sure who it was. My brother was quite the popular kid, he always had a lot more friends than I did.
“Well, he’s been missing for a whole week from class.”
“Oh really? How come?” I ask half interested.
“I saw his mom talking to Mrs. Thompson about it. But I couldn’t hear what they were saying. It was his first day back at school today. He says that he’s sick and needs to take medicine so that he can study better in school and pay better attention.”
“Do you think it’s helping him?”
“Yeah I think so, just not as hyper.”
We continued watching the rest of the episode. I knew that my mom wouldn’t let us keep sitting in front of the television for much longer. I never was a very social child now that I think about it. I spent most of my days indoors (outside of extracurricular sports) and entertained myself without much effort. From a young age, I had always thought that maybe that my parents were wrong about me. I wasn’t the special child that would be great and successful. I was nothing more than an average child of average intelligence with nothing more glorious to accomplish in life than any other person.
It was such an inner contradiction, this underlying need for self-accomplishment and fulfillment and on the other hand, a yearn for self-destruction.