ten years forward and back

the short story is i don't have my keys.

if it were raining it would be worse, but it’s still pretty fucking awful. i’m trying to get in touch with someone who doesn’t want to hear from me with the vague expectation of a different result - there isn’t one coming, but it feels productive.  i forget which way the place i'm not wanted is, and i won’t figure it out because i shouldn’t be there. turns out there was no one there to open the door, anyways. 

there is a small comfort knowing exactly where the keys are. i know where to get them, no matter what happens in the next twelve hours, that’s half a day to only ask people who cannot help because the idea of actually getting help is too humiliating to consider. still, there are motions to go through. i can get them in the morning, nine sharp, no sooner.

in junior high i thought about running away from home, but didn’t know about many places in my immediate area or how to get to any of them. i did know was that 12345 is schentectady, new york, a fact i wish i could replace with someone’s birthday or phone number or the name of a movie when i’m trying to impress someone better looking than me, but you don’t get a say when it comes to what sticks. except in the case of these keys. ten years ago, my aunt’s house four miles away felt far enough to make a point.

there were a lot of notebooks i carried around this time, not in a charming way but like a thirteen-year-old most likely to plot the murder of a computer teacher, a profession i don't think exists anymore. in one of them, i write out the plan for my escape, not in maps and buses but in how much it will fucking hurt the parernts who dared deny me of something or other. maybe they deserved it, i don’t remember. i have the hardest time remembering some things, but ask me the zip code of schenectady, new york any fucking day. after some consideration of how far a walk it is, i decide to forewarn my oppressors.

when my mother is informed of the Master Plan, she cries. for me, this is enough, and the relief of not having to go through it drops through the floor, into the living room and out the door, where she buys me a six-inch sandwichat subway and apologizes for whatever it was, rightfully or not.

ten years out, two six inch subs are required, which isn't to say in two different sittings but shoved through the mouth-hole at a horrifying pace, the idea being that you didn't know when another was coming. the answer is the next wednesday, on a break at work, 'the homeless incident' tucked away in an email draft to be written about the following week (hi). 

it’s not late enough to cry yet, but is late enough to whisper under my breath as i’m mistaken again and again for a prostitute, which i tell myself is a compliment in passing then go on about on the phone later, isn’t that disgusting, who do they think i am. not a hang-up to take on tonight, more pressing things to worry about, such as who to consider calling before not calling and how much sandwich is required for one night of crisis. i text a few people in offhand terms - would you happen tos, by any chances, don’t push the subject because it’s really your fault this is happening.

ten years ago, the problem with running away was that there were only so many places to go. there were friends with crawlspaces in their houses, but that sounded dirty, and the fear of enraging a mother that wasn't my own was enough to stave off the desire. that left the woods, where noises came after dark that i thought were animal languages but were actually neighborhood kids haphazardly fucking on 'makeout rock,' the shelter of an aunt's house, or waiting in my closet until they figured out i was gone. i chose the option that would get me a free meal.

on this night, the list of people that can help is even shorter - 1-2-3-4-5 people who are out of town or not answering. after a few minutes it's just me, and i'm waiting for 1 of 3 buses to cart me back to the neighborhood that has a series of disparaging nicknames it doesn't entirely deserve but sometimes i walk around too late and a voice in the back of my head gets the gist.

the neighborhood is bad, i allow myself to think for the first time at the fifth hiss at the sight of an exposed leg. it's bad, and everything is closed. and every sound isn't a firework but you can't just assume that, i mean, some of them could be, but they sound pretty close and it's a sunday. it reminds me a little bit of home, but home people have keys and comments about how i never remember them and yeah, they were probably fireworks but let's wait another half hour to go and get chinese food just to be safe. i have a meeting tomorrow, something a little bit bigger than me but tonight i am sleeping on the hot tile outside my apartment, a little bit smaller than me. 

'do you remember when you tried running away?' my aunt asks ever once in a while, laughing over bad coffee. 'you couldn't navigate a couple of miles away, we would have lost you.'

ten years later i am back at my small stoop at the top of the stairs of my apartment building, without keys, setting up a tiny camp that's me, a laptop wrapped in a cloth shopping bag, and five hours to kill until sunrise. the people below us are throwing a party and i am able to arrange myself just so behind a pole, maybe twenty paces from where my bed lies, and sit rigid until the sun rises.

i think about writing about it a little, then decide that rewarding stupidity like this is too muic. i'll change my mind later (hi). it feels better to write it out and look at it before it's gone, replaced by another carbon copy of the 1-2-3-4-5. sometimes i want to keep stupid things like this to myself but other times this approach, tospread it out on your floor like iused to with tonka trucks and barbies and doing a little inventory makes sense. 

ten years before ten years ago, there was a dirty old green carpet in our den that i’d perform this on, putting blocks that spelled my name out in front of the whole thing and pulling on my mom’s leg until she took a picture of me in front of it, smiling with sharp little teeth. exhibitionism is adorable at this age, but it gets old. i see it getting old in myself and in the other people taking inventory and insisting a picture be taken, our teeth growing a little duller at the tips.

this would be a great night to start reading david foster wallace like i've half-lied about doing a million times and having a transformative experience, but there's nothing on hand and i can't run up my data bill this early in the month. when it gets too late and i realize there's nothing worth writing about and the book i have on hand is so fucking stupid, why do i have it, i lay down with the lump on my head touching the front door. i am officially homeless for a night, tourist by way of being a huge fucking idiot.

i pray that no one notices me here, the same way i remember to pray whenever i need something. they can kill me, but i'm more afraid they'll make fun of my stupid book.

'audrey hepburn and william holden?' they'll ask, examining its pink spine. 'are you fucking five?' or they'd shoot me. either way, embarrassing.

but it ends. it does not feel profound and i do not learn anything. i wake up every twenty minutes or so and sit upright, once banging my hip on the hot tile, and pretend to read the bad book again in case anyone passes. around four in the morning, i call it quits and we (the bad book and i) leave the hot tile stinky and apprehensive with about a half hour to go until the sun comes up.

someday there will probably be a coffee table book about this time (in history, not me) and i will have enough money to buy it, and to buy a coffee table, and coffee to put on it that isn't from a 7/11. i will, if i'm lucky, look back on the time that i used to wake up from good dreams with ants crawling on my face because i could have bought a bedframe but did not find it necessary, and fell asleep in the middle of a jar of frosting. in ten years this will be a very depressing way to live, and it is now, too, a little. 

the bus is dirty. the coffee is bad and overpriced. the keys are where i left them. and i don't take a nap as punishment. sometimes i wish i had just ran my mouth and got a cheeseburger.

Jamie LoftusComment