His name was the very definition of who he was and will always be, so long as he lives. When he was younger than his days of hard drinking and heavy drug usage allowed him to remember, the word would come from his lips with a softness that wouldn’t allow others to recognize its purpose and now with age and some inkling of maturity, he pronounced it with the boldness of a firecracker. Quickly, it began to carve deeper into the scarred curse that he claimed it had embedded into his heart. Sitting outside of his home, a small apartment complex, within a patio mostly used for smoking cigarettes, providing an escape from his cave, a boy was freefalling in his thoughts.
He asked himself, “Where am I to go?” A twirl of his cigarette butt coincidentally timed to a gust of hypnotic yet sparse wind allowed him to calm. “The hospital cannot fix a man who has tried everything in his meager power to escape his upbringing. My manhood is that of my father, that of my brother … that of a sensitive monster enraged by his shadow who chooses sorrow over joy with so much of so little to take control.”
It was nightfall, but he hadn’t seen the sunlight in days. Unfortunate for a man who had at one time in kindergarten been given the Native American moniker of Boy Who Likes Sun upon an expert of native studies visiting his classroom of strangers, each were given a name that they’d likely no longer remember, but for some reason he didn’t forget. His real name isn’t so ironic.
His trembling knees began their dance as he lifted himself from the empty cooler that he sat on, smashing his flame into the ashtray. He didn’t feel fit for a chair. “She’s right,” he said with tears forming above a line of wetness already formed over his cheeks. “I am dramatic. Why can’t I stop it?”
It was the second night of the new year and he missed his girlfriend. Not a particularly unique scenario, and he knew this, he knew this like he knew it was a long shot that the university in San Francisco that he applied to was going to accept him for the Spring semester. He wasn’t a filmmaker. He wasn’t much of a writer, he told himself.
“I’m 27,” he said. The distaste in his mouth from the sentence wasn’t surprising. He had felt this way the year before and the year before that and the year before that and, well, and so on.
His stomach bulged from his blue striped sweater and gurgled. He had barely eaten. This was unlike him, but of course his moods so obviously sway his everything. His mother had awoken him just as nightfall began to place a plate of turkey and mashed potatoes upon his bed and his stomach wasn’t ready for it.
He walked inside. Looking to the floor, pulling his beanie down, and away from his mother and aunt watching television in the living room, he went into the restroom and took a piss. His strength didn’t allow him to go earlier, but his want of a cigarette fortuitously provided the opportunity. After he flushed the toilet, he went into his cave, closing the door quietly behind him. He saw that one doorknob was brass and the other was silver, never noticing that before. Again, he was safe so long as he didn’t think.
Awaiting the call of his girlfriend made him antsy. They had said they’d talk after an earlier argument of sorts, the type where loneliness and jealousy take over without any root of good judgement. They had also said that they’d call each other upon the new year. He was a few states away, staying for the holidays, they told each other, and with the time difference they would have had two chances for a loving kiss across the cellular connection.
All of a sudden he felt okay. He felt relief and strength all at once. He’d felt this deceit before. He often wondered if he was bipolar. Not in the way that people on the internet say that they’re bipolar, but in the way that his younger brother was diagnosed and perhaps even the way his father was. That would explain his memory of an unrecognizable monster bursting through the window, pushing him aside to do unspeakable things to the rest of his family.
One thing he did know was that this was all unfair to those around him, to those who love him from afar, to himself, and to the great work he had produced, to the good people he’d touched, to anyone he protected, and to his greatest love of all.
With his lamp on, an empty bottle of Gatorade that he used to save himself from his regretful nature upon the new year aimed its bottle cap to the ceiling, to the sky, from the empty dresser that his grandmother left him upon her death. A dirty plate, coins, glasses, headphones … His coat and beanie were thrown atop his floral pattern chair, his thrown of unuse, among his sweaters. He kept a picture he took of his girlfriend in the breast pocket of his favorite coat. He used to have it leaning against the lamp. The world was blurry without his glasses on, but it was all too real when ever he wore them. He ruffled his hair, scratching his forehead where he had created blemishes from doing just that.
“Please, God,” he said, not known as a religious man. “If you really are there – Please help me. I don’t know what to do about myself and I don’t want to be a burden to anyone any longer. Get me into school! Or let me die in my sleep! Help me! I can’t do this to my love. My mother did her best, but I am not enough! I’ll make films starring women, blacks, Mexicans, Asians, everyone! Both in front and behind the camera. If I get accepted into school, I’ll never give up again.” His tears streamed down his face. He didn’t even notice the puddle forming at his feet above the tile. “I can’t find any way out of this, God! I’m writing this to you! Please save me.” His whimpers turned to rushing waves of the ocean.
In the middle of writing this his girlfriend called. She did what she could. He told her that she didn’t have to, but she did it anyway. An hour and a half later, he continued to sniffle a little, but she had told him to keep a promise.
“No more crying, baby. Stop the crying,” she said, masking her yawn with an overextension of her meaning. The night was becoming morning. “Just go to sleep with me. We’ll meet on a tropical island or something.”
“That sounds nice,” he said. After having told her so much already, he wished that he could say more, but he saw dark forces pushing against him. His feet were getting wet.
“Doesn’t it? Our toes in the sand. Sunbathing and oily.”
He laughed. “And oily?”
“Oh, yes,” she said, giggling his heart into a state of peace. His shadow was shrinking. “I’ll meet you there soon, babe,” he said.
“Yes, we’ll meet there and I’ll have little coconuts covering my boobies.”
He couldn’t help it, but keep laughing. His eyes burned, but there he was. He thought of a joke about a loincloth, but wasn’t brave enough to say it.
She continued, “And when you wake up, do you know what you do?”
“Just … smile?”
“Think of me doing something stupid or whatever that can make you happy.”
“I’ll try,” he said. He didn’t believe the words coming from his mouth and she surely didn’t, either.
“What about the time you said you heard me fart when you were going going to work in the morning? Think of that! Be silly.”
Again, he laughed. “I’ll do my best.” He kicked his feet up from his puddle of tears and onto the bed, crossing his legs.
“And promise me?”
“What is it, babe?”
“Promise me,” she said, “that you won’t cry when we get off the phone. It’s not worth it, baby. Do I need to remind you of all the talented and beautiful things that I love about you?”
He swallowed. It didn’t taste good.
“Good,” she said.
A silence erupted, but many silences had happened already before and in a relationship as long as theirs was, silence meant nothing.
“Babe,” he said. “I hope you know that I’m not just trying to find things to be mad at you about. And I’m mostly the way I am right now because of me. I’m –”
She interrupted. “No,” she said. “Stop it. I don’t think that way and you’re justified. You’ve only been mad recently and for good reason. I know I suck –”
He snapped back. “Wait, don’t –”
“Let me apologize,” she said. “And I’m sorry for being aggressive with you earlier, but maybe that’s what you need, just a little tough love, I think”
“You’ll always be what I need, babe.”
He knew she smiled at that one. He could practically see it: the Big Bang. Life had begun. Space was expanding. Stars were born. Light had become a friend to the darkness.
She said, “Now, we’re going to that island and you’re rubbing that oil on me soon, right?”
“We’re getting a tan in the sun,” she said. “And tomorrow you’re gonna get out of bed and workout.”
“That’s the plan,” he said.
“And,” she said with a final yawn. “You better call me if you find out about school tomorrow. I’ll text you when I wake up in the morning.”
There were many failed attempts at hanging up, but his uniquely qualified girlfriend commanded that he hang up first – a feat he rarely attempted with her. He said he would after the usual and third and fourth goodbyes.
She said, “I love you, Tristan – so fucking much. You’re not alone, baby. You call me if you get this way. Don’t make me have to figure it out like this again.”
“I won’t,” I said. “I love you, too. I can’t even say. You’re everything.”
“Bye,” I said, lingering still.
I fired back with gusto. “Muah!”
She laughed and then I hung up, finally obeying her command. She was the boss. The General. And she settled her lieutenant down. There would be no more chaos. I would see the sun.