James sits at his desk in his dorm room. What was once a dirty janitor’s closet was now an elongated single bed bedroom with enough room to fit the standard plain wood bed frame and the matching desk in, assuming you didn’t mind using the bed as a desk chair. The one, small window that didn’t quite open wide enough for an average sized college student to fit though faced the side of a brick apartment building, heavy amounts of ivy snaking up the walls, trying to find a hint of sunlight. His room is dark, too dark to read in, even at high noon while the rest of the campus sparkled in the mid September sun. His desk lamp, it’s cheap black metal covered in pealing stickers advertising bands that don’t play music together anymore, is always on; the artificial light cast squarely on a blue CD case of some forgotten artist, the back too scratched up to read the track list. The shallow grooves held a pale residue, and nearly microscopic specks of white dotted its sides. A rusting straight razor lay just beneath the ritual stone of plastic, a single orange and silver corner poking its ugly head out, desperate to find the artificial sun and dive into the next snowy landscape. A reflection of the plastic shines on the stucco white ceiling, next to the circular overhead fixture that had been covered with a bleach stained green bandana, darkening its offensive glow to nothing more than a faint ambience. James likes the lamps controlled light, cast only where he wants it to go. He likes the control. A faint hum of his refrigerator, the sound much bigger than the squat machine itself, drowned out the repeated thuds of his neighbor’s headboard on the shared wall but the muffled half screams, half coos snaked around the mechanical white noise. The obnoxious bird that is getting railed next door kept getting louder and her obviously overstated pleasure is as enjoyable to listen to as the grinding spin of a dental drill. Oh, the fucking college life.
James sits in his usual black workout shorts and a t-shirt that is a size too large. The worn, burnt orange shirt used to feel tight against his developing muscles, the emblazoned logo of a hardware store from his southern Wisconsin border town stretched across his chest. Now it flowed in the breeze. He tugs at the bottom hem, his sunken brown eyes searching for the loose seam that must have caused the stretch. The walls of his cheeks, leaving their resting places against his molars puffed and flapped as he sighs at his failure. Nothing seems to fit anymore for James. He looks back, away from his window, to see if the heavy wooden door was locked. With so much wood in these buildings, no wonder they have fire plans tagged on everything. Safety first, planning last. The metal lock was indeed thrown closed, as it always is. Rarely did it ever leave its locked position, usually only long enough for him to run to the bathroom without his keys. Other than that, the door stayed closed and latched. He moves his gaze now to the electric clock on top of the refrigerator. 4:50pm. The dull glow of the red numbers lets him know that the last of the days classes are about to get out, which means show time. He thinks about the classes he is missing sometimes, but never for too long. As the last thoughts of political science mysteries he isn’t helping solve leave his head, he raids his desk drawer, searching for a small baggie. It’s smaller than it should be. It was almost full this morning, what happened? He dumps the powder contained inside on its usual resting place on the CD case, the razor filling its purpose as it dices the powder into a more manageable gauge. Finding a syllabus that he never really needed in the first place and especially since he stopped attending “Collegiate math II”, he tears off a third of the front page, rolling it into a tube. He inhales, the powder soaking into his sinus membrane, and leans back. His pupils start to dilate, his breathing and heart rate speed up, and the narration in his head stops.
A knock at the door sends James back to reality. Not the reality that most people live in, the one that actually exists the way we see it, but a fogged reality of paranoia and anger. A second knock and James springs into action, throwing the CD case under the bed a small toxic mushroom cloud erupting from the impact. The razor landed haphazardly behind the desk, falling with a ding next to the meshed metal rubbish can. As James felt like he was in two places at once, cramming what was left of his precious powder into the desk drawer, and hiding all the other evidence in what he assumed was better way than that amateur Ann Frank ever could, he managed to knock over his prized lamp, the bulb popping and going dark as it hit the floor. Unfazed, James reached up and grabbed the cover off of the overhead light, its putrid white glow filling the room with a light that made him shield his nearly all black irises.
“Hey man! What the fuck? Are you gonna help a bro out, or what?”
The overly familiar voice let James relax a bit. The sense of impending doom that was sure to befall him left as soon as it came, replaced now with an urge to hit someone. He unlatched the door, and stared at the boy before him. He referred to most people his own age as “men”, but this guy could only be a “boy”. The round, hairless face betrayed the stench of a cologne that was popular only with middle age men, the musky aroma reading “I have lead a life of strife and hardship, and all I want is to get my dick sucked by some eighteen-year-old girl. Preferably blonde.” As familiar as the boy before him was, and as often as their paths seemed to cross, James couldn’t stand him. Maybe it was the backwards hat and pre-ripped jeans that he always seemed to wear, paired with the “So Cal Drinking Team!” or other such shirts, all from the same over-priced clothing company. Maybe it was the way he always called James “Man”. Or maybe it was how he liked to be called “C-dawg”. This boy’s god given name of Clarence didn’t “get the ladies wet” but the first letter and a misspelled animal apparently did. James knew the only way C-dawg could get ladies “wet” was to throw water on them, and the sexual innuendo was certainly not lost on him. C-dog was just too… douchey… to get women. And the ones that were willing to lose part of their dignity for three minutes of passionless drunk sex were certainly worthy of the “awesome bro-itude” that C-whatever possessed. James was faced with the unfortunate position of loving money, and having things that C-child wanted, so they had a relationship that was stronger than most of the others that James had. He hated that.
“I was hoping you could cut me a deal, Man. I’ve got mad hunnies coming from back home this weekend, and they all wanna trip with the C-Dawg! I bet this broad Suzy would totally suck your dick till it hurt! I can set you up if you give me ten for eighty…”
C-twat was pathetic in his naiveté, and James hated that as well. His molars were grinding, and his purple eye sockets were twitching, the euphoria gone and replaced with a bitter rage. But thinking of the last packet of dried, chicken flavored noodles that he had, and practically drooling over the idea of dinner with a side dish, he decided not to break C-bitch’s jaw.
“I’ll give you ten for a hundred. And never offer to have one of your friends give me syphilis ever again.”
His resolve was made plenty clear by the fire that sat deep in his eyes. His stoic face twitched at the cornered of his dried lips in his desperate attempt not to find the knife that he kept hidden in his microwave.
“Ninety and I’ll let you watch her suck MY dick.”
The negotiations were making James empty stomach turn, and as visions of C-unt bleeding out on the carpet flashed before his eyes, he decided it was better to have money than a court date. James went to the miniature freezer and remembered the panic that set in by the boy’s unannounced arrival. He thought about shorting the young asshole, or soaking in as much of the acid off of the tabs through his fingers as he could, but decided that he just wanted to get the transaction over with as soon as possible so that he didn’t do anything that he would later regret, like contracting one of the many, many diseases he was sure swam in C-dawg’s blood. The freezer opened with a hiss and fog spilled out into the room. The tiny squares of paper, covered with Scooby Doo, were plucked from the icy terrain, wrapped in foil, and handed to C- in exchange for some folded bills. C-kid tried to be smooth and sneaky, but ended up looking like a crack addict in an alley, trying to get a fix, when he could have simply made a trade. James thought he was finally done with this kid’s annoyance, when C-dawg said, rather loudly,
“What the fuck happened to your leg?”
James looked down at the bottom of his thigh, exposed by his shorts, scars that spelt out “This is” and “faul-”. James wouldn’t look Clarence in the eyes.
“Get the fuck out.”
A few hours later and James room was a different scene. The light was covered by half of the bandana, hastily thrown up on the ceiling in an effort to stop his eyes from burning. The baggie that was filled at the beginning of the day was now turned inside out, covered with still bubbling saliva from being licked more than once. James laid pant less on the floor, tracing his scars with his fingers over and over and over again. He was seventeen when he put them there. In his parent’s basement, he stood in the bathroom, staring in the mirror as he swallowed pill after pill after pill. His mother’s addiction to Quaaludes made her life more bearable, or at least she said, and after two years of feeling totally alone, he decided that they would help him too. Except instead of the two she would take every morning, he tasted every last one of the almost full bottle, washing it down with the rust flavored water that ran freely from the bathroom sink. As his stomach dissolved the first few, his vision started to blur. The purple walls of the bathrooms seemed to breathe in time with him, each inhale made the room smaller, and the exhale made it vast and made him feel small. His father’s whiskey sat unopened next to him on the back of the toilet, the porcelain pedestal immortalizing the bottle for the rest of what was to be his eternity. He only had a few minutes left to leave his message for whoever found him, and with the straight razor that he now used to cut up his new found joy, he carved his note straight into his thigh.
“This is no one’s fault but my own. I love you, but I hate me.”
When he tried to ensure that this would be his end, and tried drinking as much whiskey as he could, he found his stomach was too young and not used to alcohol. He sat retching, the grey ovals filling the toilet, and while he hoped there would have been enough of their chemicals in his blood stream to do the job anyway, he work up the next morning with a headache and a set of scars.
As he traced each letter, James thought of how far he had come since then. He now had a crippling addiction to coke, a failing acid dealing business, no friends, and thousands of dollars in debt for a school he didn’t really attend. There was a knock on his door, but he didn’t get up. He looked over at the clock; 10:32pm. The red glow was muted by the horrid white light. The interloper knocked again. James muttered to himself that he didn’t give a fuck. The serial knockist now yelled
“Jay! Don’t be a dick! Open the fucking door! You’re going to ruin my weekend you prick!”
Let him yell, James thought. His body had started shaking with a craving around seven. At eight he laid down and didn’t get up since. He had money, he had a contact, but the pain and anguish comforted him. It reminded him of being a teenager. There was so much to lose back then. He wanted that back. As the angry customer continued to knock and yell, James reached for his razor blade that had once again made it onto the floor. He dragged the edge across the scars, opening them back up, and enjoying the razors sting. The knocking started to fade out, the sound of James’ heartbeat echoing loudly in his head. He smiled, knowing that whoever was trying to get to him, whoever needed him right then, would be disappointed, not just at the lack of product, but at the fact that something they wanted was being taken from them. Now they knew how he felt. Something was taken from them, and while it was just some LSD, to James it was the same as his loss of heart. The soul crushing emptiness was short for this world, and as the razor made its last incisions, cutting from his wrists down towards the elbow, each cut following the purple guidelines of his veins, James felt content. The knocking slowed with his heartbeat, the warm, sticky wetness producing the same rust scent that the sink had years ago. James had a familiar hum in his ears,
“This is no one’s fault but my own. I love you, but I hate me.”