Time does little to diminish my memory. I can still see the sky in my head, all cloudy and dark, except for the moon peaking out. The stadium lights cut through the shadows like a knife, and there we were, the four of us, walking to the stadium. I was exceptionally dapper that night, trying to make up for the frenzy inside my head by wearing a three-piece suit to a football game. I was trying to get with a new girl then, but it didn’t take someone half as observant as me to tell she wasn’t interested, and I might as well have gone to the game alone for the way I felt. She sat separate from me and the new girl, one row ahead with her new man, a friend of mine, I guess you’d say. The new girl kept getting up throughout the first quarter and talking to her other friends, running into her ex-boyfriends, chatting away carelessly, and me? I was left alone there, one row behind her and him, watching them talk to each other, joke back and forth, and I watched one of them put an arm around the other and pull them close. Without a word or companion, I stood up and walked out. Just before I got to my car, my phone rang; it was my friend, asking me where I was. I told him I was leaving because I couldn’t take it, it was all coming back to me and I had to get out. He told me not to do anything stupid, and I told him it was too late. In retrospect, that might’ve been a little too dark.
She called me a few minutes later, said they were leaving the game and going to Chick-Fil-A. I told her my car had blown a tire because I’d swerved off the road and hit something, which was the truth. I said I had to change my tire, but then I’d see them there. I distinctly recall being unable to see what I was doing changing the tire because of all the tears in my eyes. Goddamn thoughts, they’re all the worst, I composed myself and got in the car, listened to music loud, exactly what I’d probably prefer not to remember. The air was strange that night, it was too cold for October, and the way things looked, way too blue, illuminated by the moon. I only watched the road directly in front of me, brightened by a yellow glow, like a shot from one of those neo-noir films. I pulled up to Chick-Fil-A with my windows down, hoping they’d hear what I was listening to and get a feel for my mood. I grabbed a Steno Pad out of the glove box and found a pencil and met them at the table. The girls sat together and I sat next to him, which was the way I wanted it, I guess. The waitress was familiar to me; she’d flashed a bunch of us at a party, a year or so prior. We were all too young to drink then; we didn’t know what that poison was supposed to kill. All throughout dinner, I wrote furiously, filling page after page with senseless thoughts, and every time someone tried to drag me into the conversation, I’d jump right out with a two-word response laced with hatred. It wasn’t long after that night that I swore I’d never talk to her again.
A year and a half or so later, I’m sitting in a hallway outside a classroom in the General Classroom Building at Georgia State University, waiting for class to start. I reach into my backpack and pull out a Steno Pad I’d found in a Reebok shoebox I hadn’t opened since moving. Though the box had six or seven of these things in them, I’d chosen this one because it didn’t have anything stupid written on the front of it like “Don’t read or you’ll judge,” which I’d probably put on a bunch of notebooks after reading Kurt Cobain’s Journals. I open it up and see a bunch of scribbling in pencil, and begin to read. At first, it makes no sense to me, I wonder what the fuck I was when I wrote it and what the hell I’m going on about, and then it hits me as I read one line:
“Andrew’s a terrific writer.”
The memories come rushing back, enveloping me like I’ve fallen into a body of water, and suddenly it becomes a little hard to breathe. The words burn through the page, postmodernist flames with no compassion or mercy, and I close the Steno Pad and put it away, opting to stare at the wall instead of face the past. So this is how it’s always going to be, then? The expectations become harder and harder to live with, as more people begin to assume them.
The days slip away faster than ever before now. Sometimes I don’t even listen to music when I’m sleeping; sometimes I don’t even turn on the TV for that reassuring glow it’ll fill my room with, sometimes I don’t even fall asleep in front of the computer, the way I used to when I had something to sit in front of it for. Sometimes I lie there for hours and stare into the empty part of me, remembering the days when it was full, and thinking about how much I’d like to fill it up again. Sometimes I curl up into a ball and fold over inside myself, and others it’s like I’m being crushed from above and I can’t tell if I’m moving towards the ceiling or if it’s coming down on me.
I used to explode all of the time. Feelings would well up inside of me and build and build until finally I’d burst, and tiny pieces of me would go everywhere and touch everybody and everything. Now, that sensation has been replaced with something else entirely, I crinkle and flatten like an aluminum can. Sadness is strange, one weekend in Athens I was watching a movie with my friend and I felt the stabs at my heart, but instead of breaking open my rib cage and tearing my inside out, all I felt was a boot to the chest, stomping down. Even bliss is different now, Transmissions from the Satellite Heart fills the rooms of my basement apartment and surrounds me on all sides, but nothing ever gets in. I only leave the door unlocked downstairs when I’m not at home, and I bet if The Man Upstairs found out, he’d be quite upset.
“We’ll meet again. We’ll meet again. We’ll meet again. We’ll meet again.” I kept thinking it over and over again but never felt the time was right to say it. I used to always tell her that I was always right, but in truth I’ve been wrong for so long now that the truth couldn’t seem more false. Andrew as you and I know him is hidden inside a fortress of deception, and all of the images you’ve seen are just false reflections from the mirrors I hung. A few tabs of acid and some fuzzed out guitars and I’ve got a great psychedelic record. It might too late, though; the truth is, I’m already feeling a bit burnt out, like my fifteen minutes have passed, and I would pull out now if I didn’t already have so much invested in this.
I can’t even begin to write about these things without somehow betraying myself.
It all came to me in a dream one night, the success and glory that I’ve been daydreaming about for years now. I was there in the bright lights with people cheering me, and everyone I’ve ever wanted to impress was there in the front row, there to witness my glory and maybe finally respect me, maybe finally love me, but for some reason it wasn’t any different than anything else. Like everything else that I ever achieved, it was tarnished somehow; the way being friends with everyone I love has been tarnished by deceitful means of attaining friendship, the tarnishing of my writing because of the untruthfulness of my “experience.” I’m sorry.
I’m sorry. I worry about the afterlife, because I know that no decent God would trust me. Forgiveness is a fool’s redemption, a temporary respite from sin that never lasts and is never taken seriously. When I’m at my worst: head buried in a pillow, body curled up in a ball, I ask myself who will be more charitable, God or my friends. I always convince myself that I’m unfulfilled, and that the respite from anger I’ll receive from my friends will last longer than the one I’ll face with God, but every time the question pops up again, I ask myself why I’m delaying the inevitable. I’m afraid I’m going to run out of answers.
I didn’t think of it when this picture was being taken, but it might be the final document of the Colquitt house, the party house, the house in Little Five. They kicked out one of their roommates (for sins similar to mine), and now don’t know if they’re going to have the money to stay out the summer. Like most of my friends, I’m completely distressed by the situation. I’ll still hang out with the guys if that’s the case – I see most of them every day, and I kind of dread going to Little Five – but I don’t know if any of us will be able to form a group like that anymore. From now on, small alliances will hold precedence over large mobs. It’s a change, but we should be thankful for the little things, I suppose.
I’m thankful for my position at the radio station, and the small amounts of freedom that I experience there. I’m thankful for things to do in the morning, because if I don’t have any, I’ll lay around feeling sorry for myself. I’m thankful for music, because it’s what really kept me sane through every hard time I’ve had lately. I’m thankful for movies, the passion for which I rediscovered about a week and eight films ago. I love all of the good things about life, because it can all be so sweet. I wish I could take a picture of the good feelings, and put it up on my wall, a constant reminder of everything there is to live for. My wallet went missing recently, which wasn’t depressing so much for the money and credit cards I lost or the ID that was in it, but rather for all the completely irreplaceable things in there – business cards, phone numbers of people long gone, and pictures. One was a cut out from National Geography, a portrait of a man burned on over ninety percent of his body who had survived a plane crash in Alaska and walked seven miles in the snow to the nearest help he could find. It was life affirming, and it helped me so much to look at it when I felt hopeless. Also life affirming were the pictures of people I knew in there, especially hers, the only reminder I had of her that didn’t make me wistful. If everything else in the world was going to hell, it was nice just to see her.
She looked nervous staring at me through the window of the coffee shop, trying to tell me with her eyes not to come in, not to say hi, we’ve said everything we need to. I just couldn’t resist, I’m sorry, I love to see her riled up, on her toes, I still hold out hope that she’ll get that look on her face, “Oh, it’s just Andrew getting kicks, forget it, he doesn’t mean it, it’s cute, it’s endearing, it’s what makes him so good to be around, so good to know, so good to love.” It’s not, is it, though? I wish we’d all just grow up, myself especially. Forget this, it’s gone, let it go, it’s a stock that hasn’t been gaining in years, it’s a dot com company and you’ve still got all your shares. Any hope you hold out thinking maybe it will be a money-maker again is a mistake, abandon it now, while you’ve still got your sanity. It’s a balloon that slipped out of your grasp, and if you keep jumping high enough to get a close glimpse, soon you’re not going to be able to land on your feet when you come down. It’s a dead horse, Andrew, let’s let sleeping dogs lie. The past will only bother you if you don’t let it go, if you let it play over and over again in your head. And sometimes the past plays itself out for you. The script of every day I’ve lived the past few months has just been another rewrite of that one night so long ago, and if things don’t change soon, if I can’t get a recasting, a new ending, anything new… Fuck, I don’t know what I’m going to do.