Authors: Blair Mastbaum
A novel by Blair Mastbaum
ISBN 978 94 91318 00 9
© 2011 MERC Books
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Alone in my room
Island storm shower passes,
Raindrops = company
I wake up. Aloha. I have to piss really bad. I stretch, stand up on my bed, and pee out my window. Blue sky, fluffy clouds, golden sunlight, a soft breeze, exotic birds chirping, and the scent of plumeria flowers in the air--another fucking beautiful day on Oahu. I flop back down on my uncomfortably hot bed and trace crisscrossed lines on my chest from sleeping on my bunched-up sheets. I jump down to the floor--to the scratchy sea grass rug my mom made me get last year because the carpet was so wrecked from hair dye--crawl over piles of haikus I wrote last night, and look around for something to wear. All my cool punk clothes are dirty—and not like worn only once and then thrown into a pile. I wore them probably 10 times each ‘cause I’ve only got a limited number of T-shirts and shorts and pants that are cool and make me look like a skater instead of some young Republican fashion victim, my mom’s dream.
I crawl around naked, smelling T-shirts till I find one that’s not so bad, then climb to my feet and rub my eyes. I look in the mirror, half-covered with my best haikus from the last year all taped up around the edges, and mess up my bright blue spiky hair--to make it punk--and hold my arms behind my head and pose like a model. I’m trying to look sexy or whatever. It doesn’t work. My arms look like twigs and my ribs stick out like a stray dog’s. I rub the hair in my armpits and smell my hand. It smells good. It reminds me of having fun. I pull on the thin line of hairs below my bellybutton. It’s the only new part of me that I actually think looks kind of cool. I flex my arm muscles in the mirror, then pull down my T-shirt, which has this cartoon of a couple on the front. The couple holds on to their knives and forks in front of a dead pig with an apple shoved in its mouth. Above and below them, in little kid handwriting, it says:
STOP THE LUAUS! STOP THE INSANITY!
I like it ‘cause it pisses people off.
I shove my bare feet into black suede Etnies and step into a pair of long camo shorts. I jump up on my bed and throw my skateboard--and my green backpack that has my haiku notebook, a banged up carton of cigarettes, surf shorts, skate tools and some other junk--out the window and jump out after them. I can’t take the front door ‘cause I don’t want to see my parents and explain where I’m going or any bullshit like that. I try to miss the brown patch of grass caused from pissing out the window all the time, but wind up landing right in the wet spot of where I just peed.
I strap my backpack on, drop my board on the street, and skate off, passing houses like a bullet. People couldn’t see me if they tried. I’m just a blur. I don’t want people thinking that they understand me or can get a handle on me from what I’m wearing or my haircut or anything like that.
The sky is light blue with dense, wet clouds sticking to the sides of the
, sharp green mountains lined up like a huge eroded dinosaur spine that divides the island in two. A giant cloud-dagger slices into one of the mountains. A waterfall cascades down its sheer cliff like blood from a gash into a narrow valley where the rusty twisted pieces of a crashed Japanese Zero still lie.
Cars drive by me. A couple Hawaiian guys in a brown pick-up truck screech past, honking and staring just to act tough. They make me feel like I shouldn’t be here, which really sucks ‘cause I already have a hard enough time leaving the house without being totally stoned.
I look away from the mountains, down to my board, which is slowly veering onto the road. “Fuck.” I jump off. Just two more revolutions of my skateboard wheels and I’d have been dead meat, a smashed-up pile of road kill. When my board stops, I watch the passing traffic and I feel insecure immediately. I pull my shirt down and notice there’s a streak of dried cum across the bottom. I scrape some off with my fingernail. I spit on it and rub it in. My camo shorts have blue splattered all over them. I lean down and sniff it. I think it’s from when I dyed my hair Bright Aqua Ocean Mist--at least that’s what the Krazy Kolorz jar said--a couple weeks ago. I’m so trapped inside my mind I didn’t even notice this shit all over me.
I skate up to the pizza place to meet Jared to buy pot. I’m nervous ‘cause I don’t want to have any uncomfortable conversation with some stupid surfer to get it. I wish there was a drive-through where you could just hand the 20 to the guy and get the pot in a paper bag.
Jared’s sitting on a picnic table out front with a triangle of cartoon-looking pepperoni pizza in front of him. His floppy black hair is parted in the middle like curtains and his thin eyes are squinted so they look like cuts.
I look inside at all the pizza guys holding big wooden trays with uncooked pizzas on them. They’re all blond and tan and great surfers and they have this way about them, like amazing confidence and egos that I hate, but at the same time, they turn me on.
It’s pretty fucked. I hate those dudes.
“Aloha, J-boy.” I say
all the time, but not like a normal haole-Hawaii boy would say it. I say it with satire--one of my secret weapons hardly anyone my age gets. I think it’s lame, so I say it even more than someone who really does speak Hawaiian.
“What’s up?” Jared shoves his soda over to me. “Want some?”
“Sure.” I take a big drink. “Sucky day, huh?” I prop my board on the table.
Jared laughs. “You’re so pessimistic.” He loves it here. He likes sunny days, swaying palm trees, stupid white sailboats on the horizon and beautiful sunsets. He’s so lame sometimes it kills me. He’s my best friend and we waste a lot of time together, but it’s like we’re holding on to some fragment of friendship from when we were young, like 14.
“Listen to these, man. I wrote them last night.” I unzip my backpack and get my haiku journal, a black old-fashioned French notebook my aunt sent me from Paris. I read purposely loud so all these Hawaii-lovers can hear. “Hot sand invasion. The people love skin cancer. Rats love SUV’s.”
Jared looks around to make sure no local boy is paying attention because I’m defying the “aloha spirit,” which is what everyone here calls being nice and respecting the islands and all that crap.
“Haole surfer boy. Unintelligent islands. Local just means dumb.”
A girl gives me a dirty look, so I read another: “Brown roaches arrive. Centipedes in shoes…
“You’re so predictable.”
“No, you are—I knew you’d say that.” I look across the street at the skateboard shop. It’s called 808 Skate, named after the area code for the state of Hawaii.
808 intimidates me. Most skaters are assholes. They think they’re the center of the world. I do too, I guess. But the skaters are cooler than everyone else at least. Every other dude on the island is a surfer and they all act like they’re so in touch with the island, with the waves, the tides, the moon, and the culture, and it’s such bullshit. They don’t know any more about this place than I do.
I take a huge drink of Jared’s soda and it drips down my chin.
A woman watches me as I wipe it up with my sleeve. She gives me the same kind look she’d give someone who was mentally challenged.
I take another messy drink. “How do you know this guy?” I don’t trust Jared—he has the potential to really dork out, like he doesn’t understand the social order--and I don’t want to go in there unless this is a sure deal.
“Don’t worry. My sister knows him.”
“What do we have to do?”
“Just ask him, I guess.”
“Is it that guy, Marcus?” I picture this cooler than cool guy who owns the shop. He’s slick and handsome and Japanese and super low key and he looks like he’s flying when he skates or even when he walks across the room. I don’t want to have to ask him for anything.
“No, dude. Quit freaking out.”
For Jared to tell me to stop freaking out is pretty major. He’s always the one who’s spinning out of control about something – he has too much energy for one skinny Asian kid. The closer I get to 16, the more neurotic I get. I zip my backpack and strap in.
We skate across the street and up on the shopping center sidewalk, passing the video store, the Hawaiian candy shop, and a
sign that’s been scraped-up with knives and pelted with rocks and covered with stickers. It looks like the target for aggression of every skater on Oahu. I jump off my board a couple storefronts before the skate shop, ‘cause I don’t want anyone to see me fall on my face trying to kick-flip on the 808 sidewalk. To be safe, I punch the tail and carry it by the truck.
“How do you know he’ll have it?”
Jared tries to ollie up onto the sidewalk and his skateboard slams into the glass door. Bang!
“Cut it out, dude, you’re paranoid.”
“I’m not paranoid. You almost broke the door.”
Jared flings the door open and walks in.
I look at myself in the glass over a bunch of taped-up punk fliers and mess my hair up so I look like I’ve been skating for hours.
We walk in and the electronic eye counts me and dings. I immediately notice a security camera pointing down at us from the ceiling. I duck my head, afraid of having my insecurity recorded.
Jared nods to the guy behind the side counter, then goes over to a rack of T-shirts. I hurry over to him and hide behind the rack like a rat scurrying from bright light. It’s pathetic.
“Where’s the guy?”
I look at him through the tops of T-shirt hangers.
Oh, fuck. It’s Clay.
He must have just started working here. He shouldn’t be here. He’s a surfer. He should hate it here with all the little skate-rat boys. He must be friends with Marcus, so he puts up with us for the money and prestige of having a bunch of skater boys think he’s god.
I sort of knew Clay a couple of years ago, but he wouldn’t remember. Our dads were friends for awhile – actually his pancho-wearing, goateed cult-leader-looking surfer dude dad worked for my dad – but Clay’s dad totally dumped mine after he divorced Clay’s mom and moved to the Mainland. I went to Clay’s house, though, one time when I was like 11, and we hung out in his room. He had pot even though he was only 13, so we got really stoned and I ended up hugging him and hallucinating, and he didn’t make me feel stupid. I’d never smoked before but I didn’t tell him. He was wearing a karate robe and he was talking like crazy. He had just started surfing and he told tell me all these stories about having a really hard time and being made fun of for being a skinny little Portugee cockroach – the term used for young surfers in Hawaii. And Portugees get a bad deal in Hawaii. They’re like this race that’s between
– white – and Hawaiian. Dark complexioned and black-haired, they originally came to the islands to harvest sugar cane – basically slave labor – and now they get teased for talking too much and bailing the hardest while surfing, which, of course, isn’t true – sometimes.
When I re-enter the real world, Jared is staring at me. My hands are rubbing some girly pink T-shirt.
“Man, what are you on?”
“Shut up.” I lick my hand and rub it all over my face to look like I’m sweating, pull the neck hole of my T-shirt open to show some of my chest, pull my shorts down low, and squeeze my hands together to make it look like I have some muscles in my arms. I’m afraid to talk to Clay or even look at him. I’ve beaten off to him more times than I can count.
He’ll be able to tell.
He sits behind the glass counter case with his feet up. Skate videos are stacked behind him and he’s watching one on an old TV. His arms are behind his head and his stool’s tipped back so far it looks like he’s going to fall. His left arm’s in a cast with a whole bunch of shit written on it. Above the cast, there’s a tattoo shaped like Oahu with a plumeria where Kailua is. He’s tan and has black buzz-cut hair. The veins in his forearms stick out like he’s just been surfing or something. His red T-shirt fits perfectly. He’s skinny, but with muscles, like the perfect amount--not from working out, but from surfing. They’re real muscles, not decoration. He’s got to be almost 18 by now, and he looks better than ever. He grew up to be a real ripped little Portugee boy. I heard he dropped out of school, but whatever. School’s a waste of time anyway – especially in Hawaii, where the teachers are dumber than the students.
I can’t take my eyes off him. My hands move the T-shirts on their hangers, but it’s just some rodent instinct. I couldn’t care less about them.
Jared nudges my shoulder. “Go ask him.”
“You fucking ask him. He’s
“OK, but come with me.”
I follow him out from behind the T-shirts and up to Clay’s counter.
Clay finishes watching for a second, then reaches for the remote, and pushes pause. “Eh, braddahs. Howzit?”
Jared nods like he’s cool, which he isn’t. “Nothing much. Just hanging.”
I can’t take the awkwardness of small talk. I look up at the TV.
It’s frozen on a dude sliding a monster handrail.
Jared leans over the counter. “Do you know where we could get some pot?” He says it way too loud.
“Fuck, you guys, chill.” Clay looks to see if Marcus heard, but he’s still on the phone talking about kegs for a party.