Rick sauntered down the alleyway, following his nose. His nose had an eye for trouble. He cocked his head to the side as the strains of Blue Oyster Cult trickled down from an open window high above him.
“Turn that up, will you?” His voice shouldn’t have been loud enough to carry that high, but it did, and the music player obliged. Rick carried on, headed straight for the graffiti artist near the corner of the building.
“Nice job you’re doing there,” he said, admiring the work. “I’d say, complex in its simplicity.”
The tagger looked up from his spray paint cans and squinted at Rick, trying to decide how to take that comment. He was only writing profanity on the wall, but he was trying to be artistic about it. He decided Rick was sincere.
“Alright, thanks man.”
Rick took a step closer. “I just got back from Idaho. Can’t find good work like that there. Well, maybe in Des Moines, but I didn’t spend much time in the city.”
The artist lowered his can, turning his body to face Rick. “I thought Des Moines was in Iowa.” He was starting to look a little more concerned about Rick’s motives.
Rick laughed. “You got me, man. I ain’t never been out of state.” He held out his right hand, as if to shake. When the other man tentatively reached out, Rick snatched his hand back and spit on the ground. “Pick up your shit when you’re done. We don’t like littering in this neighborhood.” He jammed his hands in his pockets, spun on one heel, and walked off.
“What a weirdo,” the artist muttered to himself, turning back to his profanity.
How on earth did people research anything before the internet?
I have a file of track listings from numerous MTV compilation CDs from the 90s to make playlists to listen to while I’m writing that memoir.
I can’t imagine how many secondhand stores I would have to visit to find copies of those CDs. And then I would have had to buy them, of course. Without internet, how would I make a playlist?
I’ve spent an hour copy/pasting and compiling lists and typing in search boxes. Listening to find the right remix. Just an hour. That’s all. Technology is amazing.
I have one CD completed.
So many songs that I haven’t heard in years and years.
And I still know all the words.
But I’m still having a hard time finding Techno Bass Crew’s Music from Beyond. It crashes Spotify every time, and that’s the only place I can find it besides iTunes. I’ll work something out.
honey hills rolling
footprints through tall, waving grass
silence is golden
Inspired by the title of Hyrulean’s Mario Maker level, [W1] Honey Hills. After I stared at a blank page the whole time I was not busy at work.
Chuck’s busted, bellicose banjo sat in the corner, the same spot he’d abandoned it before he left. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever see him again. If I’ll ever hear him croon some weird angry bluegrass song while sitting on my couch when we’re both high as shit. I doubt it. I heard he’s a tax attorney now.
It feels like I’ve been left behind a bajillion times. My friends are all broken, but none broken as badly as I am. They all find some way to heal and move on, or at least pretend to heal before they move on. Me, I’m just stuck in the same bad trip I call my life.
Sometimes I think I’m better off, though. They all change, they make sacrifices for society, taking white collar jobs or going back to school or making up with their parents who kicked them out when they found out who they really were.
I stay the same, through and through. I have what I need, and when I run out, it’s only a phone call away. People come and go, man, but who you are inside stays the same. Just have fun until you die, and screw everybody who ditches you along the way.
I grabbed the sack of chicken nuggets and headed for my closet. My shoe rack was just the right height for a seat when I swept the top row of shoes off it and onto the floor. I could lean back against the wall and be comfortable. I kept an old comforter in there all the time, for the comfort it provided, as its name may have given away. I didn’t bring anything to drink, but I never did. I didn’t need to, because this wasn’t going to be that type of binge. This was just going to be me sitting in my closet, reading a book, wrapped in a comforter, eating enough chicken nuggets for six people.
No big deal.
I kept forgetting that I lived alone; I tried to muffle the sound of the paper bag rattling as I pulled out the first box of nuggets. After a lifetime of never being alone, it was hard to break old habits.
I tapped the light stuck to the wall, and it came on, illuminating just the right area for me to read peacefully. I leaned back, cracked the book, settled the nuggets on my knee, and took a deep breath. I smelled leather and fried food and the pages of my book, all the most comforting smells in the world. It was almost enough to put a smile on my face.
But I didn’t need to feel happy; I felt safe, and that’s what really matters the most. Safety. I leaned my head to the side until it reached the adjoining wall, and with that support, I flipped pages and stuffed my face for the next hour.
I don’t remember when I started to binge eat. I really don’t. It’s there, somewhere, as far back as I remember eating. I don’t really remember that far back, though. I mean, I don’t remember much with any consistency until I was around eleven or so. Sure, there’s bits and pieces from when I was two or three and up, but that’s all it is, is bits and pieces. I can’t string days together, or weeks. I can barely string an hour together—I think the only time I can do that is when I remember watching a movie, something that lasted over an hour with a coherent story. It’s just weird to think about the people who can remember so much of their own lives. I can’t wrap my head around that, at all. And then those who can remember everything? That’s way too much for my brain to handle. I don’t think I can tell you what I had for breakfast a week ago, and that’s remembering food.
If I can remember anything, it’s food. Eating food, and cooking food, and serving food. So much food in my life. And I remember so much about it. The taste, the smell, the texture, the sound in my ears as I chewed it in my mouth.
When the chicken nuggets were gone, I didn’t hate myself enough yet. I closed the book and set it down on the floor in the closet and closed my eyes just for a minute. I didn’t know yet whether or not I was going to cry. The first minute passed, and then another, and eventually I knew that I was not going to cry. This time. I got up and went to the kitchen.
It’s hard to eat ice cream out of the container while sitting in a closet wrapped in a comforter and reading a book, but I’ve worked out a system for it. I finished the half gallon, and it wasn’t enough . I knew it wouldn’t be from the first bite, because I focused on the act of eating instead of even pretending to myself that I was reading.
I dropped the spoon into the empty bucket, and the tears began to fall.
Phil peeked around the corner to see if it was still there.
It was still there.
A figure lying in wait for him if he dared go around the corner alone. He was only six, and he knew better than to cross the street without holding someone’s hand, but he’d gone and done it anyway. Spitefully. His mother told him and told him all the horror stories about children being stolen away when they didn’t listen to their mothers, but had he listened? Of course not.
But all he wanted was to ride the swing at the park. His mother was busy cooking dinner and refused to take him, so he’d opened up the door quietly, so quietly, and slipped out by himself. He played for so long that all the other children were long gone with their families, probably eating dinner and getting ready for bed by now.
Phil imagined that his mother called for him until she was hoarse, and that now she was crying, rocking in her chair. His father was away on a business trip, and Phil wondered if he would come home early if Phil was missing. Probably not.
It was so late, so far past dinnertime that Phil grabbed at his stomach as it growled in hunger. He wanted to go home so badly. This was a poor decision, and he knew it. Still, swings. Phil loved the swings.
The problem now was that he couldn’t go home, no matter how much he wanted to. The monster was between him and home. Between him and dinner and his soft, warm bed. Between him and his mother.
He rummaged around under the picnic tables to see if anyone had dropped any snacks and came up empty-handed.
One last try. He leaned around the side of the building with the bathrooms, but it was still there. Phil sniffled a bit as the tears began to set in. He was so sorry for not listening to his mother. So sorry. He took a deep breath and brushed the first tear away with a small grubby fist. He had to make a break for it. It was going to be rough, but if he did it, he’d be home in no time.
Phil took off running past the monster, but he only made it four steps before he tripped on his shoelace and fell face-first onto the hard concrete walkway. One day he would learn to tie his shoes. He cried out in pain, reaching up to feel how much blood was pouring from his face. In truth, it was more than enough blood to warrant panic, but Phil actually felt much better when he looked to his left at the monster.
He almost laughed aloud at himself. It wasn’t a monster at all; it merely looked like one in the shadows and fading light. It was an overflowing trash can. And that claw that Phil feared was outstretched waiting to tear out his throat? It was nothing more than a rusty old nail.
Phil stood up without even brushing off his wood-chip-coated knees. He laughed at his younger self, because now he didn’t believe in monsters anyway. He ran home, where his mother was so happy to see him that she cleaned him up without a word and sat him at the table for a lovely dinner of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, his favorite.
I have no idea what my time was; I had a household emergency in the middle. It’s all good now, though.