He keeps telling me he'll do it. He keeps telling us all. I'll do it, I'll do it! I'm crazy!
Over and over again, any time someone new wanders into the room. "I'm crazy man, I'll do it!"
Of course he will, but not tonight, not like this.
"I'll do it, I swear to Gahd!"
He'll do it the same way so many of us will. Is it a small town thing, I wonder, as I take a sip of my Budweiser. Is it because humans, by nature, are programmed for something better, and when it doesn't happen, we're programmed to self-destruct?
"I'll do it! I'll kill myself!"
Some people try to reason with him, some people plead with him. Most people ignore him, float off to another part of the house where there's something more interesting going on, maybe some chick flashing her titties.
I sit on the couch and sip my beer and I watch him. I don't know how long he's been drinking, but it started way before he arrived at this party. The guy's smashed, got dried puke on his shirt that's probably been there since noon, at least. He can't sit up. Someone put him on a wooden stool over in the corner, and he's been propped there for over an hour. When he gets really fired up, he'll peel his head away from the wall while he screams. He loses steam quick though, and then it's THUMP, skull against sheetrock, eyes unfocused and arms flailing. Like an infant, really, confused and frustrated and ignorant.
"You don't believe me?" He screams at a passing girl. She's what? Eighteen, nineteen? Too young to be drinking, just like most of us here. Too young, but this is the kind of place she belongs, you can tell. This kind of party.
Small town, and the losers that can't get out, it takes them a while to realize that they're too old. They have parties, they drink and puke like they're in the frat house, but where they're at really is a regular house, their house, and instead of frat brothers or sorority sisters, they have desperate high school kids who will party with anyone if it means they'll get their buzz on. They have other losers just like themselves. They have over-the-hill burn-outs who want to pretend like they're still alive.
The girl, I'd know her name if I remembered that kind of thing. I know her, or should know her. Had a couple classes with her my sophomore year. Kayla? Kylie? Something like that. Doesn't matter. She's carrying around a bottle of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill that she probably got by giving some dude a hand job on the way to the liquor store.
"Shut up, Rusty," she tells the guy on the stool. Rusty. I knew it was something like that.
"You never loved me! You're nothin' but a busted down snatch, you know that?"
She flips him off as she leaves the room.
"I'll kill myself!" Rusty screams to no one in particular. His head is bobbing around, rolling like his neck has ball bearings. When his eyes finally manage to focus somewhere, he's pointed in my direction. "I'll do it, you don't believe me?"
"I believe you," I tell him.
"I'll fuckin' do it!"
I shake my beer can and realize that it's empty. "Get on with it then," I tell him as I walk to the kitchen. "I don't have all night."
I don't see the cherry of the cigarette until it's too late. The stream's already flowing, and I'm a little too buzzed to give a shit.
Out in the back yard, no moon, so it's mostly dark, or maybe that's just because my eyes haven't had a chance to adjust. For all I know, I could be pissing in front of an entire crowd. There's a little light from the kitchen window, and a crack of black light coming from the bedroom window, but aside from that, just darkness.
A breeze blows, and I smell the first hint of fall. There's a freshness in spring, when everything's coming alive, but there's also a freshness in the autumn, when everything's dying. I never understood that. But I like it.
I twist my head, stretching the muscles in my neck, bending my shoulders back until both blades pop.
"Shit that looks nice," she says. A girl's voice, from the direction of the lit cigarette.
"Why thank you," I say, and a part of me wants to be embarrassed, but so much just doesn't care.
"Don't flatter yourself. I meant it looks nice to be able to just piss outside."
"Anyone can piss outside," I tell her.
"You know what I mean."
"You wanna piss outside, piss outside. It's not that hard."
"It is when you're a girl. You pee all down your leg, all on your pants."
"Take your pants off then."
"It's that easy?"
I finish up, zip up, and walk in the direction of the burning cigarette. I take out my own pack of cigarettes, put one in my mouth. I'm about to spark my lighter when she says, "No, here, use mine."
The glowing tip moves in my direction, and I take the cigarette from her. I put them end to end and use the burning end of her cigarette to light my own. Butt-fucking, we call it, because we're kids, and sex is funny and dirty.
"Fucking lighters are too bright for me right now," she says as I pass her cigarette back to her. I sit down beside her on a weathered railroad tie, maybe part of a flower bed at one time, but who knows. Just a gnarled piece of wood that's good to sit on, never mind that it probably has a million bugs creeping through it.
"Is he your friend?" she asks.
"The guy on the stool." Ah, him.
"The kill-myself guy?" I ask. What's her name? Kylie? Crystal? Something.
"No. Not his friend. I just watch him."
"You watch him? Like a stalker?"
"No. Just when he shows up where I am. Parties or whatever."
"So you're a party stalker."
"I just wonder what it'll be like when he snaps."
"Like when he kills himself?"
"No. That guy isn't gonna kill himself, not like that. Not like how he threatens."
"Same way we all do. Life."
"Life is suicide?"
"You do it, it kills you."
She laughs, and it's annoying and lovely at the same time. High-pitched and ugly, but at least it's sincere.
"You're a weird guy."
"I don't try to be."
"Maybe that's why it's so cool."
"Is it? Cool? I don't know."
"It's kinda cool."
She snubs out her cigarette against the weathered wood, and looks at me. I can see now, even with the limited light. "So."
"It's that easy, is it?"
"I just take off my pants?"
"You still might pee on your leg."
"I don't need to pee," she says. She stands up and unsnaps her pants. I take another deep drag of my cigarette. I hear the unmistakable sound of denim sliding down flesh as I grind out my cigarette. I'm careful not to crush it too much--still over half of it left--and I place the dead butt in one of the grooves of wood.
There's enough light to see her shimmy out of her panties, and I think they might be baby blue, although I'd never swear to it. Also, no pubic hair. I stand up and our lips meet at the exact same time as my hand finds her crotch. Her fingers stumble around on my thigh for a second before working their way to my zipper.
"You think I'm kiddin' around?"
Still yelling. I don't know how he manages to stay conscious, much less summon the strength to yell. I pop the top of my beer and take my place on the couch. The front room is empty except for Rusty and the stoned little Mexican guy in front of the TV. I can't remember his name, either, but I'm pretty sure it's Juan. Or Jose. One of those stereotypical names, I've got a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right, but I've also got a fifty-fifty chance of looking like a racist asshole who can't be bothered to learn the Mexican dude's name.
It doesn't matter anyway--all the guy ever does at parties is get stoned and watch The Crow. If there's anyone in the room with him, he'll make them stop what they're doing to show them exactly where Brandon Lee died.
"Look! Right here? That's him. But this guy, see him over here? He's the one that fired the gun that had the real bullet. So in this next scene, see how the hair's different? That's because it's a stand in."
He gets really excited about it, which I've always found odd and uncomfortable. Even if you tell him that he's told you before, even if you tell him you don't care, he just keeps on explaining it to you. I make it a point to never be in the room during that scene. I glance at the TV and see that I still have forty minutes or so.
"Do you?" Rusty screams at me.
I stare at him while I drink my beer. I'm thirsty as hell, all the sudden. The carbonation brings tears to the corner of my eyes, but I drink until the can is empty. "Nah, man. I just think you're full of shit."
"You sumbitch, I'll fight you!"
"You can't even stand up right now."
"You think I'm kiddin'? I will fuck. You. Up!"
I light a cigarette and lean back on the couch. My shirt's sticking to my stomach a little, where the cum's still drying. It's annoying, but it also feels victorious. Feels like another thing I'm doing right and doing wrong.
This whole summer, that's how it's been. Fast and stupid and amazing. Living life and taunting death, the way only young people can.
It was unprotected sex, fucking like animals in a barnyard. Except at the end, she pulled my cock out from inside of her and jacked me off. To her, that's probably safe sex. To me, it's just another piece of life-loving self-destruction.
It's a strange time. For us all, I think. Too young to understand, yet we think we know everything. None of us believe we can die, not really. Mr. Kill-Myself over there, he'd probably put a gun in his mouth right now, if one was handy. He'd even pull the trigger, I bet. And when he woke up in Hell, he'd wonder how it happened.
The stoned Crow guy has a full beer in front of him on the coffee table. Unopened, forgotten.
"Hey, man," I say to him, "Will you hand me my beer?"
I point. "My beer. Pass it to me?"
"Oh. Yeah. Sure thing, man. Hey, did you know Brandon Lee actually died when they were filming this movie?"
"So I've heard."
"I'll show you the part."
"Can't wait. Beer?"
"Oh. Yeah." He grabs his unopened beer and hands it to me. I pop the tab and turn back to Rusty.
He's staring at me with bloodshot eyes. Glaring at me, really.
"You think you're better'n me?"
I just stare back. I take a drag of my cigarette and a drink of my beer. Everything about this scene feels so perfect that I can barely keep myself from giggling. I don't know what we're doing here, I don't know what the hell's going on, but this is so dumb-fuck ridiculous and perfect.
And then she walks in, Kylissa or Kelly or whatever her name is, and she smiles at me. I nod to her.
Rusty's off the chair in an instant, and on top of her. He's punching her with one hand while he chokes her with the other. He's screaming you stupid slut whore bitch. He's yelling you never loved me, you told me you loved me you heartless slut bitch whore.
I stand up and it's like the entire world has gone black, with a spotlight on the two of them. Her blood is hypercolor, so red and vivid that it almost seems to glow. I put my beer down on the coffee table, and it feels like the wrong thing to do, but I can't help it.
I feel like I should be dashing to her rescue, flying across the room in a violent tackle to get him off of her. Instead, I walk across the stained orange carpet, and I take another drag as I cross the room. When I'm close enough, I kick him in the face.
My foot catches him just under the jaw, and his head snaps back. His face smashes into the wall furnace hard enough to dent it, and he's immediately unconscious. He crumples on top of her.
I use my foot to push him off as people rush into the room. They're all asking what happened. Asking is she okay. One of her friends pulls her up and hugs her. She stares up at me, tears and blood pouring down the back of her friend's shirt. Glares at me, really.
I shrug, not because I don't care, but because I don't understand, either. She bites her lip, trying hard not to cry. I feel like I should say I'm sorry, but it won't come out. She begins sobbing, and my apology is no longer important.
I leave the room, draining my beer can. For some reason, the kitchen lights are off, except for a green lava lamp in the corner. I grab a fresh beer from the refrigerator, uncomfortable with the bright light that pours out when I open the door. I stand in the shifting shadows and watch as a couple of guys pick Rusty up off the floor and pitch him out the front door. He lands on a broken tricycle in the yard, but doesn't wake up.
I grab another beer and then head out the back door.
I'm sitting in the park when I see the pickup pull up. The driver is obviously drunk--the truck jumps the curb and smashes into the dumpster. No great mystery who it is.
I should have just gone straight home. But I was out of cigarettes, and then I figured I should sober up some before trying to sneak into my house. I saw his truck when I left the gas station, but I figured he was too drunk to recognize me or my car.
He kicks open the door and stumbles into the gravel parking lot. His dome light is on, and I see that he's alone, so that's good. He gains his footing and reaches into his truck.
Gun rack. Shotgun. Fuck.
I want to run, but for the second time tonight, my body doesn't do it. Instead, I take out my cigarettes and light one.
"You sumbitch," he says as he approaches. He's got the gun in one hand, a plastic bottle in the other. Something clear. Vodka, gin, whatever. How the hell is this guy even standing?
I hold out my pack of cigarettes.
"I don't want one a-yure fuckin' cigarettes."
I nod, and tuck my cigarettes back into my pocket. He points the shotgun into my face.
"You think you're better'n me?"
I want to tell him no, but something inside me says that will get me killed. "Yeah," I tell him honestly. "Just a little bit."
He throws the bottle away, I hear it land somewhere, I hear the liquid glugging out. It's weird that I'm paying attention to that, because it seems like all of my attention should be concentrated on the gun, which is still pointed into my face.
"You fuck Kara?"
"I don't even know anyone named Kara."
"That bitch at the party. One that got me thrown out."
Kara. I knew it was something like that.
"Are you really going to kill me?"
"You think I'm kiddin'?"
"I don't know what to think. But if you don't want to kill me, you should point that somewhere else. You don't want to accidentally do it and then spend the next twenty years in prison."
"You don't know what I want!"
"Is that what you want? To kill me on accident and spend the next twenty years getting ass-raped in prison?"
"Goddamnit! Why you like that? Why you always gotta do shit like that? Like you ain't scared a-nuthin'!"
"I don't know, man." I'm staring into the end of the gun, I want to look away, you don't know how bad I want to look away, but I can't. I stare up into it, and I feel like I might shit my pants any second, but instead, I take a drag of my cigarette and I say, "Because I'm all fucked up, I guess. I'm scared, we all are. We're all scared and fucked up, and we all handle it a different way."
The end of that gun, it's a circle of everything. I look in there, it's so black, and I swear it's growing. And everything I've ever seen, it's in there. I know that sounds stupid, but there it is. I all of the sudden smell candy I ate at the swimming pool when I was seven years old. Purple Laffy Taffy. And Bugles chips. I hear children laughing.
"I'll do it! I'm crazy, man, I'll fuckin' do it!"
"I know, man. I know you will. But why? Why do it?"
And just like that, it isn't in my face any more. The giant circle of death, it's gone. And Rusty's crying and running back across the park, past the big toy and the slipper slide and the thing that I forgot the name of, but you sit on it, and someone spins you, and at first it's fun but then you just feel like puking and you yell stop it, stop it, but it's going too fast and they can't stop it.
He throws his shotgun into the back of his truck and there's a deafening roar as it fires. I hear him screaming obscenities, but he seems fine. He gets into his truck, and squeals into the street, out into the night.
I want to sit there and think about what just happened. I want to learn a lesson, maybe. But I can't. Someone heard the gunshot, they're already dialing the police. I sprint across the park, cupping my cigarette in my palm so that no one will spot the burning cherry.
I pull into the street and don't turn on my headlights until I'm blocks away.
The next day, it doesn't seem real. Whatever lesson I might have learned, it's washed away with my dreams in the glare of morning light and a morning hangover.
My mom knocks on my bedroom door twice and then opens it before I have a chance to tell her come in.
"I don't know if he was one of your friends or not," she says, "But Rusty Laney died last night."
"He wasn't one of my friends," I tell her. "I just party-stalked him sometimes."
"He was drinking I guess," she continues. It's like she didn't even hear me, because she probably didn't. Just like I expected. "He hit a tree out on Marshall Drive. The paramedics say he was probably dead on impact."
"He was dead before that," I mumble, and climb out of bed.
"You know not to drink and drive, don't you?"
"I know a lot more than that."
"I know you do. I'm going to Pampa to pick up some flowers, I should be back around three or so."
"Okay." I stumble into the bathroom and shut the door. I stare into the bathroom mirror. Glare, really.
"I love you," she says from the other side of the door.
I see it again, that giant circle of death. Of life. Of everything. I close my eyes and I try not to puke, and I feel like crying for the entire world. "Have fun with your flowers," I say.