It’s about 10:00 am. I’m sleeping on my left side, wearing jeans and a grey t-shirt from the night before. My right leg is kicked out in front of me, making a 90 degree angle with my other leg. A younger version of me sits on the corner of the futon. His hair is shorter, fuller, neater, and he’s clean shaven. He’s wearing a hand-me-down suit. His tie is red, the color of passion.
“Wake up,” he says, as he shakes my foot urgently.
I grunt and make a feeble attempt at swatting the young fellow away.
“C’mon, wake up. You’ve been saying, ‘When I’m 30’ for a few years now. It’s time.”
I straighten my right leg and slowly roll over onto my back. Eventually my eyes flicker open, my gaze fixes upon the ceiling.
“C’mon,” he continues.
I tilt my head forward and glare at the youngster sitting on the end of my futon. “Please go away.”
“I’m never going away,” He tells me.
I make a concessionary sigh and slowly sit up. “Yeah yeah.” I put my feet on the floor, elbows on my knees and I bury my face in my hands.
“You gotta write!” He says. “You gotta write everything! How can you be so lazy? Not now! Remember Vegas?”
“Sure. An escalator in Ceasar’s Palace. The epiphany.” I’m rubbing my eyes intensely.
“Yeah! You were going up an escalator, and you realized I…you had something, but you knew it was gonna take time. Your voice was still developing.”
“I know the story, buddy. I walked around all day drinking complimentary Heinekens, high on that new revelation. I told myself that I wasn’t really gonna get going until I was thirty, like a lot of my heroes. I could have fun for a while. I romanticized it.”
“Yeah yeah- you had a lot to absorb. Well, you’re 30! What do you need now? Who do you need to read?” The kid’s getting excited. “Do you need to move again? …I don’t think so. It’s time!”
“Whom. Whom do I need to read.” My face is still in my hands. “I’m hung over. Maybe I don’t wanno do anything. What do you think about that? Why can’t I stay here in Somerville, work my job, keep playing the bass and just do whatever I want?
“But you’re supposed to write.” He stands up. “You were born to write. That’s what you say.”
“No, buddy. That’s what YOU say. I wasn’t supposed to do anything, dude. You know something? Dad was Catholic. Grandma still goes to church every Sunday, no matter where she is- vacations and everything. She goes by herself. That’s devotion. I’m half catholic, you ever think about that?” I stand up, throw my arms in the air and yawn. “Half catholic!” I proclaim, satisfied with myself. I look at the bed on the opposite end of the room where a young man, about 20, wearing only boxers, is passed out. His name is Turvis and he’s real. I glance at a dresser to my left, the table on my right. I ask nobody in particular, “where’s that little piece?”
“What piece?” The young fellow asks. “…Anyway, that’s garbage. You never stepped inside a catholic church. Grandma lived across the country your whole life. You saw her a handful of times.”
“I’ve been inside a Catholic Church,” I argue.
“When you were on your MISSION. You went to midnight mass, for fun– for curiosity’s sake.” He begins pacing the room. “But your whole life was MORMON. Your friends were Mormon, you went to a Mormon college, and you went on a Mormon mission. You lost your faith and they lied to you and you need to write about it. You promised. You always said you had no fallback, like Tarantino. He went to film school, not films. You love that quote more than you love his movies. You’re supposed to write about everything and you know it.”
I take a break from searching for the pipe and look at the kid. He’s wearing a charcoal suit cut in the late-eighties. The coat’s length is relatively short and has a wider lapel than is currently fashionable. “You love that suit, don’t you. Was a bummer when the crotch ripped. Anyway, who are they? And what did they lie about?”
“Exactly. This world ain’t black & white. Look, lots of people left the church- I’m sorry, you want that in capitols, right? Hoards of people left The Church because of Prop 8 and all the other shit, and you know what they did? They fucking moved on! Can you believe it? They felt no need whatsoever to write about it. They just moved. They tell people they’re glad they ‘got out when they did,’ like that guy from the party a few years back.”
“The party in Seattle, where there were two guys dressed as missionaries?”
“Yeah, that party.”
“But then you bumped into that real ex-missionary.”
“Yup. Nice guy. He’d also lost his virginity while on his mission.”
“His dad was a bishop.”
“Mmm hmm. Well, he’s married now and he sells houses. He’s not writing about anything.”
“Yeah..” The kid slows down a bit. “He wondered if anyone would ever want to read about that kind of thing.”
“It shook you up, didn’t it buddy?”
“…Before that, you never used to wonder.”
“That’s because I was an idiot.”
“An idiot?” He looks at me blankly.
“…A little naive. Ignorant. Silly. Self-obsessed. Entitled.”
“Maybe” he offers- “Maybe you’re different than that guy at the party because you can see into the future.”
“WHAT? …oh, you mean I have vision?
“Yeah,” he says hopefully- “you have VISION. That guy at the party was smart, sure, but you have vision.”
“Visions of grandeur buddy.”
“Who are you?” He asks me. “I don’t know you anymore. You know for a couple of years there, the title of the book was Delusional Degenerate, but it was because that’s how the family made you feel, or how they felt about you. But it wasn’t true. You knew it wasn’t true.”
“I thought it wasn’t true, and yeah, it was supposed to be ironic, but maybe the irony is that it was dead-on.”
“But” he insists “…but you’ve gotten better! Remember, on the stoop the other night, Marci was talking about that literary term and she couldn’t recall is, or who came up with it, or talked about it. You said “Hemingway, Unity of Affect.”
“I got lucky. Hills Like White Elephants. The only thing I ever read by Hemingway. It’s like two pages. Oh, and it’s EE-ffect buddy. Unity of EE-ffect.
He shakes me off. “You remember other things though, like how passive characters rarely work, and Show, Don’t Tell and stuff.”
“Show, Don’t Tell is like 4th grade.
“I don’t like your attitude,” he says.
“No shit. You’re exhausting. Remember when I had the class read that thing about visiting Tyler’s grave with Amy? I couldn’t find the grave. I searched everywhere. I found myself hundreds of yards from the site. I knew the general vicinity. I knew he was buried near the gazebo. But I couldn’t find him. I ventured far off, until I was football fields away, frantically going up and down the rows. Amy was way back by the gazebo, just patiently waiting.”
“Yeah, it was good,” he insists.
“No, it wasn’t. I had the class read that whole thing. And you know what I found out later? I’d written semetary. With a fucking S. A story about looking for my brother’s gravestone and I wrote Cemetery with an S. I’m a joke.”
“You know how to spell!” he exclaims “…it’s cuz when you write sometimes, you just go. You say that’s the only thing you do where you don’t question things. Everything else you do, you’re always analyzing things. People tell you that you need to live in the moment. But you live in the moment when you write, like how your buddies play guitar.”
“They’re sick of the parallels. They think I’m delusional.”
“…Nah,” he mutters reticently. He sits back down on the end of the futon. “You have perspective. You can relax now…sometimes.”
“Speaking of-” I look down at Turvis. “Turvis! Turvis, you seen that pipe?” Turvis doesn’t make a sound. I look back at the youngster. “Anyway, what were you saying? Perspective? Oh yeah genius, I smoke weed now. It helps uptight people with shit like that.”
“Maybe you don’t need to smoke weed anymore, by the way, maybe it’s worked its course.”
“Maybe you should pipe down. I should have discovered it sooner. Then I wouldn’t have put up such a fuss.”
“You always used to say that maybe sobriety gave you a better view of things, being sober for so long. Because everyone else was drunk.”
“Lots of people are sober. You’re not making any sense, buddy.”
“Nah, I think I am,” he says desperately. “Look, you gotta write, you promised! You gotta at least try!”
“Why?” I ask the youngster. “How do you know there isn’t some other kid who went on a mission, got all sad about it, and decided to write? Maybe he or she’s writing something better. Maybe he’s properly read. Shakespeare and Proust. More Hemmingway than just Hills Like White Elephants. More women, you ever think about that? Maybe he can seamlessly insert french phrases into his writing. Maybe he or she is down at the other end of the square. Maybe Jamaica Plain or Chicago. I’ll read about his or her new memoir on the train, in the metro. If he’s better, he’s probably better at drawing parallels. He’s not writing a lazy-ass memoir. It’s a brilliant novel with actual metaphors. Maybe The Church is a giant monsoon, and the main protagonist is a spider.” I take a breath and look at the bookshelves above the fellow in his underwear. “Where’s that piece? Turvis, Turvis! Where’s that piece?” To my surprise, Turvis lifts his arm and points across the room toward his guitar amp. I head over.
“It’s not here, Turv.” I look back at Turvis but he’s resettled into his coma. I stare down at the amp. There’s a mesh PBR hat on top of it. I lift it up, revealing a small marijuana pipe with a couple of hits left in it. “Aha.” I take the piece and return to my seat at the edge of the futon. “Lighter…lighter.” I check my pockets and find one in my jeans.
“Wakin’ & bakin huh?” The youngster asks. “You didn’t drink for a year and a half to show em’ that you meant business. You used to mean business. You could get people all worked up at parties. They said you were passionate, and that struck you, cuz before that, you hadn’t considered yourself passionate. You were just you. You were gonna write about everything, because everything was absurd. It was natural. It wasn’t a good idea, it was just… I don’t know, normal.”
I clarify, “It was a reaction.”
“Yeah, it was a reaction!” He repeats. “That’s cool! They hit you and you were gonna hit them back! It wasn’t an idea. It wasn’t a great little story idea that you came up with while sitting on the toilet. If anything, it was their idea. They gave birth to it! They gave birth to you, you say, literally and figuratively.”
He stands up, off his end of the futon. “Last year when you were thought about moving home- remember that?”
“You didn’t shave. You were gonna move home, you were gonna quit, like you always threaten.” He shakes his head, “and I’m an idiot? Im an idiot? You were thinking about going home and making cabinets! THAT’S STUPID! A wood worker! You were depressed, but the thought of quitting and going home made you more depressed and you did that dramatic stare-at-yourself-in-the-bathroom-mirror thing, a silly moment of reckoning. You thought about cabinet-making or cabinetry or whatever, and you just looked at your pathetic two-weeks growth imitation beard and you just stared, and you saw a writer. For the first time you really saw a writer and you laughed. You like, believed it, after almost ten years, you really saw it.”
“Look,” he continues, “what did you used to say? You’d say that it would be worth it if only ONE kid read your book. It would be worth it if you made it just a little easier for ONE kid to leave The Church or his church or her church or whatever church.”
“Alright,” I tell the kid. “You make a good argument. But listen, it’s different now, it isn’t black & white. It’s not going to be all roses & vindication, you understand?”
“Yeah, yeah I got it,” he says, eagerly.
“No, you don’t- not completely. But that’s okay.” I’m holding the piece in front of my my mouth with my left hand. The lighter is poised in my right. “Let’s go. Let’s fuck ’em up.”