Pacific Review Editors
The fitted sheet dares me to move.
It’s almost 11 o’clock, which means I’ve been depressed now for my entire fucking life.
My room is lit solely by a lamp passed down to me by my mother. On the desk next to my bed are fast food wrappers, a half-drunk cup of coffee, and a half-empty beer bottle from yesterday. The floor is littered with clothes, possibly dirty, possibly casualties in my crusade to find a black top for work. The faintest hint of rose absolute oil battles the tea tree oil on my scalp—my room smells of medicine and well-maintained gardens I never grew up in.
The move here had been hard. I am never in a good mood. Even adults, especially young ones, feel unseen and unheard. I, with all my voice, with all my strength, am unable to move from this bed, for fear that I might never be heard again.
So, I sit. I sit and I sit and I sit. I jerk off. I sit. I jerk off again, this time with straight porn. The next time I try to reclaim that feeling. That undefined ubiquity of youth. To know that it’s gonna happen soon without fully realizing the anticipation of sex. Your friend will bring it up. He’ll mention some sexual escapade he’s extracted from the grapevine or he’ll turn on his laptop, only to have forgotten to press that “X”, and there it’ll be. The shining reality that beneath it all, beneath identity, pure fuckery exists. It isn’t about getting hard. Yes, you are hard. It isn’t about that. It’s about the excitement. The coy reality that is brotherhood. It’s about desire with another person. That carnal undertone, that craving for release, that energy to be passed, it was in your blood. And it still is.
Soon after I run a towel over my hip, wipe away both my ejaculate and my desire to think about my lurking sexuality. I return to my position. I look toward the ceiling. A fly. No, not a fly. Just my eyes playing tricks again. Flies don’t come here. My room is off limits to them. They respect that. Acid rises from my gut, making this the fourth time tonight I chew on Tums like stale Starburst. I should cry. I should cry right now and get it over with. Then I can move.
Tonight feels familiar. It feels like Leon. Like the smoke of his cigarette will reach my nostrils and trigger the calm of a never-satiated, never-initiated addiction if only I can be young enough again. If only I can stop being me. Being me, being this institution, it is… It just is. It hurts. But it doesn’t hurt hurt. It just doesn’t pay. And I work a fulltime job to be paid. Anything outside of that is just bullshit. But Leon worked. And so did Wardell. Yes, my grandfather and my father worked. Every day. They hated each other.
“For the first four years of my life,” Wardell had once yelled at Leon, “I thought my mother’s name was Bitch!” When Wardell walked across that street and ran from the police that my mother had called, the police that fired a bullet into his temple in front of a child’s birthday party, all that was left was Leon, a grandfather. And then there was nothing because Leon was dumb enough, inconsiderate enough, to die. Maybe work, a man’s work, isn’t a yard stick. Maybe I’ve traveled further than most already.
I could turn on the TV, but I can’t come up with anything to watch. I continue to sit in silence. Not silence. The fan is going. Marlon has forgotten to move my ceiling fan over to the new house. Either that, or he doesn’t care that I’m now out three hundred dollars for a ceiling fan I’d picked out specifically to match my furniture. Maybe he does care and that gives him some sick pleasure. Maybe I should cut my step-father some slack. Maybe I’m paranoid. Maybe I want to vilify my stepfather because father figures are a whole house of bullshit. Men aren’t built to raise things like me. There is no sculptor for this clay. And as I write this, I realize I am simply crying for attention, but fuck you, I’m broken. No one is working the controls.
This isn’t a story. Stop reading this. Stop listening to this in your head. It’s not a story. You see, a story is something with a beginning and an end. There’s no narrative arc here. This is my existence. I get up every day to eventually be forced to do this, I will do this. I will fall. There’s a fly in my room. My eyes are okay. It’s not glaucoma. Dad had glaucoma. This isn’t glaucoma. I’m fine. There’s a fly in my room. He doesn’t know the rules.
I don’t move. This isn’t a story. I move a little, maybe. Does it count? I play with the seam of my pants. I need new ones soon. Maybe tomorrow. The fly buzzes. My senses feel raw at the sound. He moves. He is unable to stop. Something in him tells him to keep going, keep going, keep going. Bzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. BzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzz. I turn to him. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! He zips over cum-crusted boxers and shoes with no boxes. He flies past a mirror with no vanity. He sees his prize. A big shining light. The bulb of my lamp, of my mother’s old lamp. This lamp, oh boy, this lamp. The lamp was made in the 90’s and the wattage is impossibly high. The fly, the bzzzzzzzz fly, he sits directly on the bulb. Smoke rises immediately from my lamp, from my mother’s lamp. A tear falls from my eye. I do not move.