Authors: Blair Mastbaum
“Shut the fuck up! I have an announcement to make. I won’t be ignored!”
The party goes dead silent and some people look up at me. I feel so fucked up I might pass out. I don’t see Tammy. Maybe she left. That would be so excellent. I hold my chin up and take a deep breath. I try to harness power from the room. I’m the center of everyone’s existence. I’m a dictator. “Clay Anderson doesn’t give a shit about Tammy Black.” I hear a gasp, I think, but it could be in my buzzed-out head. I avoid looking at the faces of the people watching me. It’s a power trick I learned about Hitler in school--never let them have eye contact.
Tammy walks in from another room and immediately looks straight up to me. Her face mangles up on itself. She stares at me like I’m a rabid dog with poisonous drool hanging out of my mouth.
My body tightens. My hands start shaking. I imagine her coming up here and hitting me, but she stands perfectly still, holding a wineglass by its stem. Her black dress makes her look like an evil seductress.
I feel all my confidence, all my power and potential fall away from me.
She’s the one person I can’t fool.
I’ve seen her control Clay, tell him what to do, make him repress himself. I’ve seen her emasculate my idol.
She beams the confidence out of my body.
I might crumble into little pieces. I’m a fucking disgrace. In a flash, I see this situation from outside myself. I’m skinny, shirtless, barefoot, dirty as fuck, lacking sleep, hungry and dressed in a stupid Naval uniform.
The jacket’s shoulders are too big and clown-like. The hat makes my head look small and shrunken. The sleeves are too long, hanging over my hands. I look like a young kid dressed up in his father’s clothes. I’m pathetic. I’m a delusional psychopathic liar. I can’t believe I convinced myself I was real, that I had power. I stand out like a homeless guy at a charity gala. I feel dizzy. I hate her. I have to use my own voice.
“Clay’s my boyfriend. Right now, he’s on the Na Pali coast on a Native American dream quest. When he comes back, he won’t be the same person...” I feel faint. “He’s... not interested in your shit and... he even has my name tattooed on his arm…” I can’t even think of anything else good to say. This is fucking disgraceful.
Manny runs at me with his arms out.
I fall forward down the stairs, not gracefully and athletically like Clay would fall, but dramatically sloppy, like me. I’m outside of my body. I feel myself land in Manny’s strong arms. My navy hat tumbles down the stairs.
Tammy runs forward. “Drop him, you dick!”
Eyes on falling leaves
I get lost in the patterns
Of bright red and orange.
I wake up on the floor. I’m sweaty and I have no idea whose fucking room this is I’m lying in. My chest has lines on it from the grass floor mats. A tropical leaf patterned sheet lies crumpled in a ball at my feet. I stand up. My head throbs with a dull headache. My muscles are sore.
Bamboo shades hang crooked, halfway covering the window. A pile of surf magazines lies on the floor by the bed. On the desk, there’s a framed photo of a pretty, dark-haired girl with flowers in her hair and a puka shell necklace around her neck.
I walk to the window, stubbing my toe on a surfboard leaning against the wall. The board falls sideways and slams on the floor. It makes a loud, hollow-sounding bang. It left a waxy line on the wall. I try to rub it off with a dirty sock, but it just makes the scrape more obvious. I try to put the board back but it falls again and makes an even louder thud.
I look out the window. The house is in a grove of banyan trees, blocking out the sun. The trees have hundreds of complicated trunks and roots hanging off the branches, some reaching the ground forming new trunks. They look haunted. A blue plastic tent covers lawn chairs and a couple old couches and tables made from old phone-wire spools.
I hear the voices of Hawaiian boys speaking pidgin. I duck down under the window.
Did someone take me hostage?
Guys that speak pidgin hate me. I don’t belong here. I’m a white kid. A fucking
. Why did Europeans ever invade the islands? Native people hate Europeans and I can know why. They bring their suitcases of money and their machines and arrogance and religions and force them on the locals.
I should have locked myself in my room last night and shut the fuck up, maybe smoked a joint, or called someone normal like Jared. I pace the perimeter of the room. I’m thirsty as fuck. I have to piss. I need out of here. I need a phone. I lean down to see under the bed. Only some shoes and an all-girl porn magazine. I open it part way and see a naked girl licking another girl’s nipple. I check a row of shelves. There’s a big square box covered with a Hawaiian tapa printed cloth thrown over it and some college-looking books. Business 214, “A Better Way to Do Business in a Multi-cultural Environment.” A notebook with nothing written on the pages. A couple glass-dolphin figurines that look out of place, dried leis, and a framed photo of a young girl doing Hula at some contest. I take the tapa fabric off the box to see what’s underneath.
A bright green lizard sits under a gnarled piece of driftwood, inside a cage carpeted with green Astroturf. His eyes turn in their big, sphere-like sockets, almost a full one-eighty, facing me. Fuck, It’s Eddy. I’m at Manny’s house. I wonder how much shit he took for rescuing me. “Eddy!” I wanna pick him up and kiss and hug him. “Eddy, how are you, man?” I stare at him through the glass. “Don’t you recognize me?” I reach in the cage to pet him and he starts doing these miniature lizard push-ups. “I’m Clay’s boy, Sam. You’ve seen us do it.” I feel good admitting that to someone. I pull out an old telephone half-buried underneath some clothes on the shelf under Eddy. I pick up the receiver. The comforting dial tone buzzes in my ear. It’s one sound that’s always a constant, no matter where you are in America: in a prison, at a payphone on the beach, or in a mansion. I dial Clay’s number.
I know what he’s doing if he heard about last night--screaming and punching his walls and door in, throwing his surfboard and shoes through his window.
I listen to the high-pitched ringing. Nothing. I count 20-five rings, then three more for good luck, then an additional seven, just to see. Nothing.
I open the door and stick my head out to look down the hall. I see Manny’s mom in the kitchen standing over a deep-fryer thing. I smell sweet bread and sugar.
She looks up at me and smiles, like I’m just one of Manny’s friends, a normal person. Little does she know.
I nod to her, lifting my chin up and sort of saying hey with my eyes imitating what all the surfers do, and run for cover in his room. I lock the door and let the bamboo shade down as slow as I can, so he won’t notice my movement from outside. I find Manny’s shirt drawer and look through it.
I take a yellow Castle High School T-shirt and slide it on. It’s way too big and it smells like a mixture of laundry soap and weird cologne. I imagine the smells of the shirt disguising me. I find Clay’s keys on Manny’s dresser next to my wallet and a 20-dollar bill.
Manny must have emptied my pockets before he put me to bed.
I feel cared for. I hold my breath and walk out of Manny’s room and into the kitchen. The floorboards creak under my feet.
His mom sits at the kitchen table reading some kind of newsletter.
“Eh, little brah.” She looks up at the clock.
I follow her gaze. It’s two-thirty. “Hey.”
“You Clay’s friend. I’m Ana, Manny’s mom. Like
“No, thanks, I’m late for something.” I feel like a rushed, shallow
, compared to her.
She’s slow-paced and mellow, cooking inside while her son and his future wife have fun in the backyard. “I tell Manny you had to go.” She winks at me.
“Bye.” I charge through the front screen door.
Clay’s truck is parked on the grass in the front yard.
I open the door and almost gasp.
The rear view mirror is glued back on. Clay’s surf shorts are folded on the passenger seat with a package of fins on top, neatly, like my mom would set them on my bed. It’s vacuumed and polished. The scents of Windex and ArmorAll make me sad. This was the only place I know of that contained all the things that embodied the way I felt about Clay and how he felt about me. The place where we began. I want it all back. It’s our history. The useless smells and fluids and trash and dirt had meaning to me. They helped me know who I was. My blood and cum are gone. Our sweat from jerking off and arguing is no longer. The scent of our bodies has disappeared. The spilled beer smell has been scrubbed out of the seats and the floor mats. It’s a scary, generic place.
Manny wiped away the past. If he only knew.
I turn the radio on and drive east toward Kaneohe and Clay’s house. I pull into the driveway, nervous and sweating. I’m scared the house won’t feel familiar to me. I scan from one end to the other, trying to pick up on small changes, so the rejection won’t hit me all at once.
Clay’s skate shoes and Susan’s gardening slippers sit by the front door. There’s a trail of sand leading to the carport where he leaves his surfboard, but no water from recent surfing.
Susan’s gardening tools are out, sitting by a half-tilled flowerbed. Her car is gone.
I walk up to the door. It’s open. I walk inside quietly.
Clay’s shoes that he wore on the camping trip are sitting in the entry, coated with orange dirt, and his shirt’s flung on the ground beside them.
I pick his shirt up and press it to my face. It smells strong, like he was nervous or pissed off, or possibly worried, or turned on. I need more evidence.
The phone rings. I stand by the answering machine and watch the red light blink. It activates. “
Hey, if you
talk to me or Susan, leave a message
but don’t make it too long cause you suck. Aloha.”
It beeps and the tape rewinds.
“Hey, Clay. Howzit? It’s Manny-boy. You back yet? I got some pretty interesting news about your little brah, Sam. Call me, braddah. I’ll be at Leilani’s later today. Laters.”
button starts to flash.
I tiptoe down the hall to see if anyone’s home. Clay might be sleeping--he loves to sleep in the middle of the day and does it a lot. His room’s illuminated with soft afternoon light filtered through the trees. I don’t see him, but I hear a surfing contest on TV.
He must be asleep.
I run back out to the answering machine and press
. It rewinds Manny’s voice and the light goes out.
I jump and turn around.
Clay stands perfectly still, watching me.
“Fuck, you scared me.”
“Not half as much as you scare me.”
He knows and he doesn’t understand. This is my worst nightmare. He doesn’t appreciate what I was trying to do for him. He doesn’t understand how scared and sad I was, how much I’d love for everyone to just know about us and get over it already.
“Why don’t you just erase my whole fucking life. You’re doing a pretty good job so far.” He struts down the hall into his mom’s room.
I follow him, stopping in the doorway. “Why are you being like this?”
He plops down on his mom’s bed. “You know why.”
“You should have called me. I was waiting to pick you up. I have the truck.”
He takes a deep sigh and stares at the television, at a stocky, muscular Balinese surfer doing his run. Then he freaks out. “Take the truck! Go live in my room! Have all my shit! Take my mom! Just get the fuck away from me!” He stands up and walks toward me.
I don’t know if he’s going to kiss me, hug me, kill me, or punch me.
He pushes me hard and slams the door shut in my face.
“I know what you’re thinking… you’re just...” I don’t know what to say.
He pulls the door open violently and stands in the opening like a dog poised to attack. “If you know what I’m thinking, you’d know that I have no fucking interest in seeing you.”
How’d he hear about last night? Manny didn’t tell him what I did. Maybe Tammy and her friends--a secret network set on ruining my life.
“I don’t think that many people even heard me.”
“Are you fucking crazy? The whole island heard. You fucked up my life forever!” His face goes from pure anger to almost crying. He sits on the bed and retreats into the surfing contest. A tan, muscular boy gets thrown off his board like a doll. He’s taken underwater, into the power and depth of the wave.
Tears fill Clay’s eyes. He looks covers his face to hide them from me. “I don’t know what the fuck to do. Never leave my house?” His anger builds again. “I can’t go surfing or to Kailua or anywhere! I’m fucking trapped here… with you!”
“I thought I was doing it for us.”
“So I’m the laughing stock of Oahu? So I’m left with you and everyone else hates me?”
I don’t know what to do. I stare at my name in his tattoo. “I’m sorry. I love you. You said you loved me.”
“I just said that to fuck with you. I don’t love you. Leave. Get the fuck out of here.”
I stand in the doorway, afraid to leave and afraid to stay. “Your truck’s clean.”
I want him to slam the door shut in my face, so I know what to do.
He just sits there on the bed. His stillness is killing me.
I kick the wall as hard as I can. “You’re a fucking liar!”
A tan handsome guy on TV rides a perfect wave, smoothly and stealthily, without a worry on his mind.
I throw myself on the floor. I want to feel pain, so this situation has some substance, some reality outside my mind. I get up and fling myself to the floor again. I land too well to hurt myself. I learned how to fall without injury from Clay’s dumb Karate lessons, when I thought everything he could teach me was the coolest. “Clay!” I scream, like a military drill sergeant.
He pokes his head out of the sheet, his face wet from crying.
“Look me in the eyes.”
“What?” He sits up forcefully.
“I hope you die.” I run out of the room. I’ll find someone better than him. I’ll fulfill who he thinks I am. I’ll lie and make up shit and ruin lives getting what I want. Tears run down my face. I can’t stop them. “Fuck!” I run down the hall to the front door. I spot my backpack by the door, so I strap it on while I’m running.
“Sam!” His mom runs after me.
I want to run to her, hug her, and bury my head in her breasts and feel solace and comfort and like everything’s going to be OK, but I don’t think it is, so why should I? I run outside and around to the side of the house. The adrenaline in my veins feels like it’s going to knock me out.
Susan chases me out. “Sam, he’s got the flu. He’s in a bad mood. You don’t have to leave.”
I take off on my bike that’s been stashed in Clay’s carport for weeks. It’s creaky and dusty. It’s from an abandoned part of my life that I completely stopped living when Clay took over. I wave goodbye to Susan as she walks out on the driveway. I take off down the street and not looking back. I ride down the hill on my bike away from his house.
He’s done everything he could to make me go away. He told me to fuck off. He left me on the beach. He’s contagious. He’s got the flu. A virus.
A scientist could show me the reason Clay’s bad for me on a microscope slide. He could explain to me how the virus invades vulnerable, good cells and transforms them into factories for making more viruses, leaving nothing but wreckage, like a forest that’s been clear-cut. No place for the deer to sleep or for campers to pitch a tent, and deadly silt in the streams that kill salmon, leaving bears and otters nothing to eat till nothing is left but devastation and sadness.