Things are coming to a head now.
The forces that warped my life in 2001, led up to Bekah’s and my break up, and brought us to the Battle of Normal Street are all coming together to explode on me and my soulmate at the same time. We could not be ready for it. We could not have prepared ourselves any more than we did. And we never could have survived it. No matter how much we cared for, and loved each other, we never could have made it through all of the next few pages. The rest of the 2001 story that I have to tell is a nightmare designed to destroy us both.
And it nearly did.
Once again “Tragedy of the Outcasts” became applicable. Once again, the Homeless Vet, the Hooker, and the Drug Addict applied to our life. And while all of it was coming to a head, the story entered my life again. This time in the shape of its first critique.
But first, the shoe drops.
Mumble called me one night. He sounded haunted. Sounded as if the worst moments of his life were playing out before him. “They arrested Grasp today,” he said.
My heart stopped. I wanted to be happy, wanted to celebrate and feel vindicated. But in the face of my victory I could not celebrate. I felt sick and I fought back tears. Too many things were happening within me to track, but I will try to put some sense to it for the first time in my life.
Guardian was burning. He lit up like a torch, a beacon of justice and power. It was over. The war had been fought and won. There was nothing they could do to save Grasp now. And no matter what, Grasp would see the inside of a prison. Guardian screamed in victory.
Shadow thought of his brother for the first time. He thought of the horrors that Grasp’s life would be and Shadow wanted to be happy about it, but he could not. Justice had been served, but could he enjoy it? No. It was a loss no matter how you looked at it. In the end, a loved one had become a monster. In the end, the kids had been molested. There was no victory to be had on either side of this fight. Everyone here was a loser.
Shush screamed and wept and seized and sobbed. He was overwhelmed with emotions, both good and bad, and his thrashing in the background was a hushed din of madness that filled us and did not leave us for years.
Artist lit the world on fire around us. The roof ripped off and the stars in the sky, normally diamonds, burst into tiny suns. They screamed as they burned and all we could do was sit staring at the ceiling in horror.
Servant wept for his mother, who he knew would never forgive him.
Assassin wanted blood.
All the alters had so many different and varied reactions that tracking any of them was impossible. All we could do was sit in hell, and scream.
The Child came out to talk to Mumble.
“Do you remember the hootenanny?” he asked.
“The hootenanny with Monolith and Sassy. The one with the toilet that would overflow and the quarter jar? Do you remember that?” the Child said.
“Yeah. I remember that.”
“I think we were happy then. I think that, right there, we were all happy.”
“Those days are over. None of us will ever be happy again.”
And the Child knew he was right. He knew that no matter what happened, the family was scarred forever. He did not really know who to blame anymore. All he could do was cry about it.
I didn’t sleep that night, and the next morning, I got a call from Rose. “Call me tonight. You owe me that much,” was all she said to my answering machine. I went to class and got lost in everything.
My creative writing instructor announced that my piece would be critiqued the next class period. “Tragedy of the Outcasts” was going to be talked about and it was the only thing that got me through. I knew the story was good. I knew that no matter what happened, at least half of the students in the class were going to freak out.
That night, I called Rose, and Honed answered the phone. He said she was taking a bath and I told him not to bother her. He told me she had said that if I called, she wanted the phone.
When she took it, she said, “Are you there?”
“I wanted to say congratulations. You have destroyed this entire family. You have brought a loving family to the ground and set fire to our future,” she said. “We will never be the same and it is all because of you.”
“I don’t think that is—”
“Shut up,” she said. “I don’t want to hear it. I did not tell you to call so I could fight with you. Nothing you say will make any difference. My baby is in jail right now because of you. You have nothing to say for yourself. We are done here. I will not hear your poison. I am The Mom. I do not have to listen to you.”
She hung up.
I sat stunned and paralyzed, with everything burning around me.
The next day, no sleep again, and I was a walking mess. I could not get anything done and when I came home, I dropped into a chair and stared at nothing for a long time. I didn’t eat, and Bekah could not reach me in any way. She begged me to sleep, but I could not. I had taken the sleep aids she had put in front of me, but nothing. I had laid in bed for hours, but nothing. I went through the regiment of my day with no expectation of relief.
The next day was “Tragedy” day. And I fell into a fitful sleep two hours before I was supposed to be there. I woke up exhausted and drawn, but I had to be there. I brushed my teeth and grabbed a bottle of No Doz. It’s a caffeine supplement that had been keeping me going. I checked how many were still in there and saw I had a full bottle. I grabbed the second bottle and headed for the door.
Bekah saw me and pulled back in shock. “You need to sit down,” she said.
“I am fine. I’ve got to go,” I said, heading for the door.
“You look like you’re about to die. You need sleep.” She took my hand gently and tugged it toward our bedroom. “Let me hold you for a while.”
“Today is ‘Tragedy’s’ critique. I can’t miss class. I need this.” I popped two No Doz and ripped my hand out of hers. “I’ve got to go.”
So many things would have been different had I just stayed with her that day. Had I followed her to bed and let her hold me, everything would have been different. But I didn’t stay. I twisted my hand out of hers, and I ran.
On my run, I tossed two more pills in my mouth and dry swallowed them. I got to class as it was opening and I dropped in my seat.
Everyone turned and stared at me. They all looked shocked. They all looked scared. They all looked awed. They had all read the story. They were trapped under its spell. They were all just a little bit mad.
The critique was insane. No one knew what to do about the piece at all. The rules of critique in that class demanded that they say something bad about it. They were being forced to give one bit of advice on how to make it better. They went about three-fourths of the way around the room before it got to the other great writer in the class, and he curled the story up like a club and swept it across everyone that had spoken about it before him.
“You are all fucking crazy. And you should be ashamed of yourself.” He turned to me and sneered. “This is a perfect piece of fiction. I will slit your throat if you change a word of it. I have never read anything like it. I swear to God, if I have to hear one more person give you any more suggestions, I am going to be sick to my stomach, so I am leaving.” He grabbed his bag and stormed for the door. “Fuck this!” he said as he slammed the door.
“Tragedy” had gotten to him. It had driven him just a little bit mad.
The critique was a ride, and when I was done, I walked out of the class to the huge ramp outside and lit a cigarette. So many of the students from class came to stand and stare at me while I smoked. My one real friend stood and talked to me for a while before slapping me on the back and saying his goodbyes. That was the last time I ever saw him.
He was good. Very good. Better at dialogue than any writer I have ever heard of. Better at dialogue than Tarantino. He walked out of my life, and I wish I knew of a way to get ahold of him. That will never happen but he was a good friend. Cool guy. Made me feel less alone.
When I looked up, I saw Biker Bitch Barbie and a different girl standing with her.
Biker Bitch was a friend from my first creative writing class. She had black hair and was the perfect picture of a preppy girl. Very beautiful. Very fun. Very cheery and not at all what I expected.
When my first piece in that class had been critiqued, she changed seats and sat with me. She was a poet and she clomped onto me in Creative Writing 1 because she wanted to be around real writers. She became the third of our group.
The reason I call her Biker Bitch Barbie is because one day in Creative Writing 2 she showed up in a black leather mini skirt, leather halter top, tiny black leather jacket and high heel boots that went from her toes to her thigh. She looked every inch of trash and slut, and when we stared at her stunned, she smiled.
“What?” she said with a pop of her gum.
“What the hell is going on with you?”
“Oh, you mean Biker Bitch?” she said with a twirl.
“Biker what?” I said.
“Well, today I am Biker Bitch Barbie. I have to do this every now and then to shake things up.”
Well the day of “Tradegy’s” critique, Biker Bitch had a canceled class and she wanted to hang out. I motioned to her friend.
“Who is this?” I said, looking at the other girl.
She was not tall or short. She had flaming red hair that looked as if it was truly on fire. She was kind of pretty, with blue eyes and she was staring at me. I knew she loved my story from her critique, and I knew she wanted to hang out with me.
“Her name is Siren,” Biker Bitch said. “I just met her today. Seems pretty cool.”
I reached for a cigarette but was out. “I’m out.”
“Have one of mine,” Siren said. She handed me a menthol.
I smoked it and popped another pill. My first bottle was empty. I tossed it in the trash and grabbed my next. I took another pill and we walked.
I was headed to the student union. I think it has a different name now, but it was fairly new when I was there, and it was pretty cool. It had a food court with pretty good restaurants. It had a salon for hair, it had a bookstore and it had plenty of rooms for students to relax between classes. It was my favorite thing about campus and I wanted to go sit and wait for my next class.
I got there and bought a bottle of water so I would have something to take my pills with and I took two more. We sat around a table and I started to talk.
It was Biker Bitch, Siren, and I sitting around a table and they were talking about things as if the world was not on fire.
And it was. Smear Lord of Ire had set it all on fire and as I sat there Siren and Biker Bitch’s hair rose in the up drafts of the heat.
“My brother was arrested two days ago,” I blurted.
They both looked at me. Siren leaned forward and stared me in the eye. She looked excited. She looked about to burst with curiosity and desire, and she said, “Tell me why.”
Well, I told her. I told her and Biker Bitch everything. All of it, from the call, to drinking and walking the streets, to suicidal thoughts and hateful relatives. I told them all of it, and when I was done, three hours had gone by.
I had taken sixteen more pills and I was walking home. Siren was walking with me.
We got to my house and Bekah was on the front steps. She took one look at me and took the pill bottle from me. She met Siren who refused to even look at her and she looked at me and shook her head.
“You need to sleep,” she said.
“Not now. Too many pills. You know what will happen if I go lay in that bed?” I said.
“No, what will happen?” Siren said.
“My mind will break.”
“What are we going to do?” Bekah said. “You need sleep.”
“I have an appointment with Steven in two hours.”
“I will have to drop you off an hour early,” Bekah said. “I have class.”
“I can take him,” Siren said. “It’s no problem. I can take him when the time comes. I have a class real soon here, but when it is over, I will come pick him up and take him to his appointment.”
“Good,” Bekah said. “Thanks.”
“Tragedy” had bitten Siren, too. She had read that story and stated that she was going to marry or at least fuck the guy that wrote it. When she met me and heard my story, she lost her mind. All of her predatory instincts came to life and she began forming a plan. A plan that would take me from Bekah and land me in her arms.
This is the end right here. This here, in this ride to therapy. We just couldn’t see it yet.