Authors: Blair Mastbaum
I ride my bike down the long hill to my neighborhood and turn in by the
sign. I ride up to my front yard. My front wheel catches on the curb and I fly forward and crash on my head in the grass. My bike lands hard on my stomach and the pedal scrapes my calf, making it bleed and sting.
I can’t get up. There’s no reason to go inside, no reason for shelter. Nothing could make me feel better or worse. This is the bottom. “I fucking hate you, you liar fucker shithead dumb ass!” I throw my bike off my legs and stand up. I get dizzy and a wave of sadness almost knocks me over. Tears drip on my shoes. I’m scared to go into my room. I don’t know what I’ll find. There might be cobwebs and ghosts by now. I sacrificed myself so quickly. I didn’t even try to imagine what would happen to me if it didn’t work out. I forgot how to be me and I don’t know how to find it again. I think I’m going to throw up. I jump in on my bed and fall back, out of breath. The room’s humid and stuffy and the door’s closed. There aren’t any phone messages on my dresser like there used to be, no signs of life.
The rest of the world forgot that I exist while I was out trying to tame the wild boy, something I never wanted to do anyway.
I could have died and even my parents would have taken a week or two to notice. I hate myself. I roll off of my bed and hit the floor. It’s too hard being me. I can’t stop crying. I want Clay to come over, but I know he’s not going to.
Monster swelling waves
Rock my small kayak and throw
Me in the current.
Thirty-two days pass and Clay’s absence is everywhere: in my muggy room, on the streets of Kailua, at crowded Lanikai beach, at the cheap burrito place, and at 808 Skate where I peer inside the window looking for him through taped-up punk show fliers.
My parents finally got over me disappearing for three days, but
is their word. To me, camping with Clay was way stranger than disappearing. It was another dimension. School’s been delayed till November because of this parents’ group that found out about some crumbling asbestos in the ceiling. The workers need that long to clean it out, so we’re off for another month and a half. I’m glad school’s starting late, since I’m unable to concentrate on what good, if any, it’s doing for me. I don’t know what the point of living is, either. It’s a new feeling and it’s hard-core scary. At least I can write about it. It gives me something to be miserable about and poets need that.
I finally fix my board and throw the one I stole from Clay’s house into my closet. I throw the new stupid birthday boy board out the window, strap on my pack, and jump out after it, practically falling on my face. I speed over to skate at the elementary school in Keolu Hills, a basketball court with hand railings and stairs, to try to find evidence of my life before Clay. I can’t find the energy to ollie, so I stand around by the steps holding my board around and watch the other guys rail-slide like it’s simple.
They’re shirtless and tan and they move through the air with grace. They look sexy and some of them almost perfect, but I can’t like them the way I like Clay. These dudes are children. They don’t know what they want from life.
Maybe they’re too young and I’m too grown up now even we’re the same age. I’m sophisticated and a poet and they’ve never even read a haiku. They’re naïve about how complicated a relationship with their girlfriend could possibly be and I’ve gone through it all with another boy. I’m guess I really am punk rock. I jump on my board and glide over to this shady corner to hang out in this place where I’m supposed to belong. All tired and smelly and sweaty, I can’t be bothered to act like I really care about being any better of a skater than I was at age 12--I just don’t care about it as much, maybe because I’m gay and I’m a poet and I’m more advanced than just needing physical activity to define me. I sit down on my board and take my pack off. I get hot in the sun so I take my shirt off and lean back on the metal chain link fence, which feels cool on my sweaty back. A haiku comes to me.
On my chest, Salty sweat drying, Replenishing tear supply.
Someone pokes my shoulder and I twist around and see Clay standing there under a tree looking sort of bad, almost gruesome--dark circles under his eyes, black sweatshirt on a hot late summer day and scabby deep scrapes on one of his cheeks. I can’t believe it’s him. He’s like a beat up ghost remnant of Clay reminding me how stupid I am for loving him in the first place. He leans down and looks at my board. “Finally put the wheels and trucks on that I gave you, huh?”
“What happened to you?”
“I got into a fight with this gnarly dreadlock dude on the North Shore. I kicked his ass.” He motions punching into the air like some stupid ego touch boy.
“Oh.” I’m truly not interested in his stupid surferboy fights, but I want to hug him and tell him everything will be fine but that’s out of the question considering the chain link between us. I think he made it this way on purpose.
“Listen… I wanted you to meet me at the beach tomorrow. I want to talk to you. I got to get some shit off my chest.”
“Just come, man.” He starts walking away just as another skater my age comes gliding up to sit down and drink his green tea in a can.
,” I whisper. He taught me that Japanese and I’ll never forget it. Goodbye, brother.
The wind is strong today but it’s sunny and I can’t help but be excited about seeing Clay in the perfect golden light on the beach and I hate the sun most of the time, so that’s saying a lot. I hope he’ll be wearing his low-hanging flowered surf shorts and no shirt. I hope he’ll take me into his sexy wolf boy arms and wrestle me to the ground and consume me so I can forget about all the bad shit between us. I decide to walk to the beach so I can appreciate every moment of going to see Clay without rushing through this important moment. As I round the curve into Lanikai, a neighborhood that overlooks the Mokaluas, two small triangle-shaped islands, a haiku comes into my mind, mostly out of feeling hopeful about Clay.
Distant islands, enveloped by warm ocean, I’m not that far away.
I feel sort of stupid because I’ve hardly ever written anything so fucking lame. I’ll never show it to anyone. I’m glad I don’t have my pack with my notebook in it, because then I’d feel tempted to write it down.
I round the corner and see the beach right-of-way to the beach looming in front of me. Clay’s truck is parked right outside it, looking confrontational and sexy as always. It almost scares me as I walk by analyzing its aggressive lines, its carefree crooked parking spot with its tail hanging out into the road.
A car honks behind me, a high-pitched Japanese car horn. I turn around.
It’s Kendra in her old Honda hatchback. She pulls up beside me and I wonder if she could hear me thinking my lame, hopeful haiku. “Hey, Sammy. Going to the beach?”
“Yeah. I’m supposed to meet Clay there. We’re sort of not talking or whatever, but he wants me to meet him for some reason.”
“Wait for me.” She parks on the grass in front of Clay’s truck and walks over to me holding a weird wicker beach bag thing. She looks a little concerned, like she knows something I don’t. “Listen to this, Sam.” She pulls out her notebook from the bag. Oh God, I’m forever condemned now to hearing her sentimental love poems. She clears her throat while walking down the right-of-way. “Love is scary, gnarly wood that makes many strong men flee. Careful of the wolves that howl when love is hoisted high on a tree.”
“That’s good. I like it more than that other one.” I hate that poem and I never want to think about it again.
“I wrote that this morning. I heard about what you did, Sammy. Jared told me.” She closes her book and shoves it back in her bag.
Fuck, I feel stupid. I can’t believe that me liking Clay out in the open with Jared of all people. He’s my cover, my safety. “Yeah, I was fucked up. I don’t know. That’s why Clay’s pissed.”
“You’re brave to show up. I wouldn’t be here.”
“You don’t know him like I know him.”
“You’re right, but I’ve seen him kick a big Samoan guy’s ass.” She stops in a shady spot.
So do I. “Then why are you here?”
“All my friends are here. Clay’s here.”
“I know, but Clay invited me to talk, not to hang out with your lame old friends. And tell Jared to mind his own business. Fuck, there’s like surveillance here.” I just sounded exactly like Clay, which really freaks me out, but I can’t let Kendra know that. She’s here to spy on me.
I’ll show her.
We’ll end up in some “From Here to Eternity” embrace on the beach. “OK, well, stop bye and say hey later. I’m gonna go find him. I hold my breath and walk down the right-of-way into the sunlight. When I step out onto the beach, it’s like walking into a party. A big group of kids who are partying, drinking beer out of one of those Styrofoam coolers than gives me the chills to touch. The sound of the lid coming off and rubbing onto the rim makes me want to curl up into a ball on the ground. I look both ways for Clay and start walking to the right where he usually hangs out if he comes here to swim in the late afternoon and where, before me, he used to party with Tammy and all of her stupid girlfriends and his macho crew of illiterate Kailua Boys who can talk for hours about nothing, which annoys me so much I can’t stand it. I walk a couple houses down the beach and Clay comes walking up to me, sort of strutting, like he’s aware of everyone watching him walk by them lying on their towels, facing out to the Mokaluas.
Kendra walks by with her big bag. “Hey Clay, how’s the waves today?”
She looks at me, then at Clay, and walks down the beach to her group of friends. I don’t know how she hangs out with them. She’s so much cooler than they are.
I look at Clay, who’s watching Kendra walk away. “Hey.”
He barely looks at me.
I feel like I’m an embarrassment. I’m an embarrassment on the Travel Channel’s World’s Best Beach five years in a row. Now, that’s an accomplishment.
“You showed.” He’s holding a beer and I can tell he’s fucked up.
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“You don’t know?” He takes a big gulp of beer.
“What’d you mean, Clay? I’ve been missing you badly.” That took so much fucking guts to say I feel like I’m going to hurl.
He cringes—like literally—and instantly, I feel like I should run away down the beach, run to my house, go to my room, buy a plane ticket to somewhere like San Francisco and never say goodbye to anyone I ever knew here. “Come here, man.” He’s taunting me and I know it’s pathetic that a part of me thinks that he’s going to lead me somewhere private to kiss and make up.
“OK…” I follow him down the beach toward the group of kids he’s hanging out with, but he walks in front of me like I’m a fucking dog or something. As we get closer, I see Tammy and her friends, and these dudes that I’ve never asked about that I used to see Clay hanging out with--these local boys, Portuguese and Hawaiians and haoles who think they’re not. They’re all surfers--not the cool spiritual kind, but the serious, macho, alcoholic ones, the ones that make the beach stressful for anyone who’s not one of their stupid brotherhood of lameness. “Clay?” I stop walking. I won’t walk any closer to all these people I despise. All of them except Kendra.
He throws his beer can down and gives me the meanest look I’ve ever seen. His lips are snarled up, his eyes look swollen and intense, his muscles are fully tensed. “Fuck you.”
Fuck that hurt. I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the chest. I start to walk away.
“Fuck, no.” I keep walking.
“Come here, please.” His voice softens.
I turn around and see my name tattooed on his shoulder muscle. I look away as fast as I can, but I know he saw my expression change when I saw it. “What?”
And then it happens. He punches me in the face so hard that I don’t know where I am. I see the top of the palm trees in the sun and eyes examining me hard so I feel like a transparent thing just suspended in the worst kind of time I can imagine. I feel heat on my eye and nose and hot wetness--blood pouring out of my nose. My eye swells instantly as I fall backwards onto the sand.
He takes a stop over to me and I won’t look at him. I’d rather kill myself than look at him and if I could, I would, right in front of everyone on this fucking beach in this stupid place on the fucking stupid island in the God damn fucking stupid ocean. He kicks me in the ribs and I lose my breath. I can’t breathe. I can’t open my eyes. As I gasp for air, I enter another world. I finally know the truth. I hold my ribs and sob. I try to stand up, and fall back on my hands, hurting my wrist. I try again and balance enough to fall forward into a step and then another one till I realize I’m running--running away from Clay, running away from myself, running into the unknown and fuck is that scary. My eye and nose throb as I run. With every step, a rush of loneliness fills me and overflows out my eyes and nose through my blood and tears. I was never who I thought I was. He was never Clay. I was never Sam. Everything is nothing. I’m so fucking stupid. Everything I always thought I wanted is wrong. But now, I’m just running, bleeding, sweating, crying as far as I can till something looks familiar again, but I’m afraid that nothing ever will. I’m lost in my own life. Behind me, I hear Kendra screaming.
“God dammit, Clay! What’s your problem?”
I look back while I’m running away.
Kendra runs past Clay behind me, flipping him off as she runs by him.
I go into super drive idiot skater boy speed and practically dive down the right-of-way to the road. I run out in front of a car and duck down behind a big flowering bush.
Kendra runs out onto the street, out of breath, and looks both directions, for me. “Sammy!” She leans down, angry and scared and pissed all at once it looks like.
I crouch down, silent, my chest rising and falling fast and my face stinging and throbbing like hell. I can’t face her right now. I can’t even face myself.
I examine my black eye and swollen nose in the mirror on the back of my bedroom door, which is now free of haikus. I ripped them all down because they remind me of Clay. I’ve avoided my parents seeing my injuries over the last three days by wearing sunglasses and only risking walking past them when it’s dark. I don’t really think they give a shit anymore, anyway. I left them behind for Clay as well as everyone else in my stupid little life. Only I didn’t know how stupid and little it was before I was forced to look at every element of it and examine exactly who cares about me and who wouldn’t even notice if I died. Most people are in the “don’t care” category. Jared still likes me I’m sure, but I fucked him over for Clay. He’s got his own thing going on anyway and I know his parents think I’m a bad influence or whatever after school special phrase they’d use to convey that I’m the one that buys the drugs, skips the classes and doesn’t want to grow up to support the capitalist system like every other young fascist around here. I sit down on my bed and hold my phone like someone’s actually going to call. I dial Jared’s house. The answering machine answers. I hang up. I dial Clay’s number and start to sweat as it rings.