Authors: Blair Mastbaum
I hope so.
I grab a bag of groceries, walk into the house, throw them on the kitchen counter and sneak out the back door to the tool shed to get Clay’s discarded cast. I shove it under my shirt and run to my room. I lie back on my bed and stare at it and smell it.
Brisk walk, crisp
Hoping for cherry blossoms
Sticking to my feet
I shut my door--so my parents won’t know I’m gone—and climb out my window into the warm, still evening. The streets are empty. There’s the savory smell of hamburgers cooking on barbecues, which makes me hungry. I’m missing dinner by leaving early to meet Clay so I can have some time to cool off, and so I don’t come off as too excited about a party he probably thinks is no big deal. I walk down to the end of my street where the road’s paved and the streetlights and driveways are paved, but the houses aren’t built yet.
I sit down on the curb in front of a big hole in the ground, dug for the foundation of a new house. I wait, trying to look normal, leaning back, not too upright, not too reclined. I take some deep breaths to calm myself,
I stare at my arms and flex my biceps to try to make it look like I’m all cut. I lean back and look at the world upside-down. I’ve been waiting for at least 15 minutes and I’m starting to think he’s not going to show up, which would fling me right back into my life before him—pretty fucking boring stuff. If I had a watch I’d check it over and over again like some Republican waiting for a late private jet about to miss out on some third-world real estate development deal. “Fuck!” He’s not coming. I’ll never get to be so close to him again. I get really sad, like real gnarly
depressed. I could cry or hit something hard that would rip my fist. I look up at the sky. “Fuck you, sunset!”
Clay pulls up. He nods and just sits in his truck--doesn’t motion for me to get in or wave, or anything.
I don’t know what to do. Time is moving extremely fast now, almost canceling out the whole time I waited, which must have been like half an hour. I wish I had instructions or something. I stand up, open the door, and jump in. “Aloha.” I slam the door.
Almost spilled the shit.” He has an open baggy of white powder in his hand. “I got some coke. Do you want some?”
“Uh... maybe later.”
“Sure? It’s good shit.”
I love when he calls me that, even though I don’t feel like his
brah. “OK, sure.”
He peels off like in movies. We whirl past half-built houses laid out along paved streets. The newness of the un-built neighborhood turns me on in a way. Everything’s possible at this point. This neighborhood could turn out to be a luxurious retreat with looping driveways or a slum with cars up on cement blocks and boat parts scattered through the lawns.
We stop abruptly and he turns the truck off.
Everything goes quiet. It’s the loudest, most obnoxious silence I’ve ever heard. It’s unbearable. I feel like kicking and screaming to break the spell.
“OK, man, you done this before?” He looks serious.
My heart beats faster.
“No, you haven’t.”
“No, I haven’t.”
He can read my mind. We’re meant for each other. “Dude, find something to make lines on. I think there’s a CD case or something on the floor.”
The black shirt he had on yesterday is on the seat between us. I want to steal it to smell and beat off with. “I don’t see anything.” I reach up to the rear-view mirror and try to snap it off. “I think these come off.” It breaks off in my hand.
“Oh great, you broke it, you little punk.” He looks at me with intensity.
He smiles. “No worries.” He was joking, thank God. He pours a small pile of coke from the plastic bag onto the mirror and divides it into two equal rows with his driver’s license.
I lean my head to see the photo. He had dreadlocks then, down to his shoulders. I’m glad he cut it. He looked like a hippie.
“OK, man.” He rolls up a 20. “Here you go.”
Adrenaline floods through my veins. There’ll be a TV movie of the week about me--the 16-year-old coke addict living in paradise. “You go first.”
“OK.” He leans down over the mirror, within inches of my crotch, and snorts. He looks experienced and confident, like one of those kids in an anti-drug commercial, rebellious and dangerous and cool.
My turn to snort.
I hope I don’t fuck this up. I can handle this.
He holds the mirror to my face.
I lean down and bump it with the rolled-up bill. Some powders my lap and dusts my T-shirt with whiteness. He’s
be pissed. I’m such an idiot.
I’m doing everything wrong. This is like re-learning how to be cool. “Sorry.” I lean down and snort up what remains of my line. It burns my sinuses.
He accidentally scrapes over my crotch with his license and pushes the spilled coke onto the mirror.
My dick gets hard from feeling him touch me, even though it’s only a driver’s license. I act like I’m readjusting myself or whatever, and pull my shirt down to cover it. I feel great, like a perfect machine.
We get out and walk over to a dugout hole in the ground with a wood framed skeleton of a house built on top of it. The dirt is layered, like an Earth science model, all different shades of yellow, orange, and red.
The colors of clay.
pulls his little BMX bike from the back of his truck, and rides into the dirt yard and slams on his brakes. His wheel spins out to the side, spraying clumps of dirt into the air. In one solid motion, he stands up smoothly and scrunches up his T-shirt sleeves. He looks powerful and amazing, like a wild wolf superhero, all jumped-up on coke and proud of his perfect skid.
I jump down into the pit, getting my
all orange with dirt. He rides down the incline into the pit after me, and kamikaze falls off his bike, leaving it to
crash into the other side of the pit. He rolls on the ground and comes to a stop on his back. His shirt pulls up and I can see his side corrugated with the impression of his ribs. The fall knocks the wind out of him. He looks vulnerable.
The street lamp flips on. The light has a strange sort of yellow buzz to it and the colors of the dirt and his hair and skin look more intense.
It turned on for us. There’s no one else around and no one lives here to need it. It turned on to help me see Clay, to help me stare at him. He’s one of the wonders of the world, along with
Bay and the Great Wall of China.
He catches his breath and gets up. He tries to look tough and unaffected by wiping the sweat off his forehead with his sleeve and then scrunching it up again above his shoulder. “It’s all about knowing how to take a fall.
learn the best move ever for defending yourself?”
He stands behind me and holds my arms out. The heat from his body radiates through his clothes and warms my skin. His chest muscles flex and tighten against my back. “OK, bring this hand up. Stand up straight.
Stomach in, shoulders back. Think of your head being pulled to the sky.”
I let my body go as he directs me.
“Good.” He pulls my arm back. “Now, bring this forward and slice the air here.” He pushes my arm forward, slicing through the still air. “Like that.”
It feels good and powerful and efficient, like a strong punch and at the same time, a beautiful, artistic stroke.
“Now, try it alone.” He walks in front of me and folds his arms.
I feel like I’m auditioning for him. I raise my arm and as hard as I can, bring it forward though the air. I lose my footing and fall onto my back with a thud. It’s horrible, the most uncoordinated stupid thing I could do. I feel my face turn red.
He leans down and looks me over.
“All right?” He examines my face. “There’s something in your eye.”
I want to reach up and kiss him.
Supporting himself with one arm, Clay rubs a piece of grit from my eye. “You’ll get it. That’s the most important movement in Karate.” His eyes dart and move around my face.
“I like it though. It’s cool. It’s like art.”
He sits down and looks into the sky.
“Exactly man. That’s what people don’t get.
art… it’s beautiful.” He looks at me in a long, strange moment of quiet. A bird chirps overhead and breaks it. “Oh, man, this party. We have to motor.”
We get into the truck. He turns the radio on to some punk rock song and cranks the volume up high. He lights up a cigarette.
I drop my lighter and it hits my knee and bounces to his side of the floor, near his feet and the gas pedal. I lean over to get it and smell him on the way down.
We turn a corner and I see the party. It’s totally wild. Cars are parked all over the place. Kids are scattered through the yard. A guy carries a keg on his shoulders onto the front porch. The house is built on stilts and it looks like it
might fall down from all the people bursting out the front door. A guy and a girl are on top of each other, making out under the house. I feel a wave of insecurity. I don’t know if I’m cool enough for this. I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to talk.
Clay pulls into the front yard and turns off his truck. He shoves his bag of coke and his lighter and cigarettes into his pocket.
I get nervous instantly and my boner goes away.
A guy walks up to us. His eyes sparkle like a dog’s in the headlights. He has lots of tattoos and he’s wearing a black T-shirt with the sleeves cut off. His arms are muscular and his complexion makes him look like he has a thin coating of oil all over him, like a car mechanic. He’s tough-looking, but skinny, like a bull dog puppy. He has two black
“Miller’s here. Rad.” Clay jumps out and runs over to the guy and throws his arms around him.
brah! Welcome back. How was Guam?”
brah. Tree snakes everywhere.”
I get out of the truck, feeling stupid that I don’t know anyone. My outfit isn’t near punk enough for this party. I nod to the guy and Clay looks over at me like he forgot I was here.
brah, this is my boy Sam.”
I nod to him, trying to seem tough. “Aloha.”
Howzit?” He gives me a warm smile, which feels good, like soft
sunlight on my face.
I follow him and Clay up to the house. On the front porch, kids hang out on old couches and chairs. A guy with a green
barbecues on a greasy
grill. Beer cans and plastic cups are thrown everywhere. A burned-up mattress is discarded by the side of the house. It’s
a whole new world I didn’t even know existed. It’s anarchistic. It’s crazy. It’s like the kind of place where you can do anything.