My body pierces through the air as the soundtrack of my life incessantly plays in the background. A piano key is tapping like a beating heart as a guitar slides in with a voice evoking my emotion perfectly. It’s mixed with the sound of horns being honked by angry drivers and yuppies hailing cabs and plastic shopping bags blowing aimlessly through the wind.
My thoughts begin to zip in and out. They are streaming existentialist thoughts and last night’s screwed up dream where my love affair with cheese hit a new low as I ate four slices of perfectly marbled colby jack at seven hundred and twenty-five calories a slice and my best friend’s ex’s new found passion for something the rest of the world calls monogamy and the philosophical discussion on veganism that I had with my cat last night while downing an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
I could almost swear on my life that my head is spinning right now as I rehash a conversation I had with my mom three years ago.
She told me to wear pantyhose. I hate pantyhose. Apparently it is the proper thing to do, even with open-toed shoes. I beg to differ. I think she needs to get with the times. She needs to learn that I am me, and that she is… well, her. She is from another generation. She needs to realize that times change and with that so do people and hence generations. The next generation will continually be some morphed version of the previous one. She needs to understand that I hate pantyhose. They are a pain to put on; as a seven year old I still had trouble putting them on. Hell, I have trouble putting them on now. They never seem to stay in the right position and they always snag. I have too many memories of my mother frantically looking for clear nail polish to brush on her newly snagged hose in hopes of preventing further damage. She disturbed several mornings while I enjoyed my bowl of soggy Lucky Charms when I was seven, and she crowded me out of the bathroom while I was hurriedly trying to apply eyeliner when I was seventeen. This is why I hate pantyhose. In fact, one of my greatest fears now is that I will end up dead and buried in the ground wearing a floral print dress, open-toed shoes, and pantyhose that come from a box that labeled them coffee colored.
. . .My friend once told me that when a person jumps off a building, they are dead before they ever hit the ground. Apparently they have a heart attack mid air; I guess impending doom seemingly coming at a million miles per hour sends the heart into some sort of crazed fit where it stops, paralleling your life which is soon to be a mere moment frozen in time. My other friend Peter told me that you just pass out mid -descent, and once this guy Devon told me he hoped I jumped off the John Hancock because he heard that you piss yourself and live through the impact. He said you lay conscious for the longest ten seconds of your life before you die. I don’t understand why it can’t be simple and to the point. Why can’t you just die? I am not exactly sure where I heard it, but either way what I heard is that when someone chooses to launch themselves off the top of an enormously tall building that somewhere amidst their descent they realize that all the problems they were trying to escape really weren’t worth escaping, at least not to the extent of hurling one’s body off a seventy-three story building. In fact, their problems may have been slightly fixable. I can’t help but wonder if it is true. Perhaps if I found someone who happened to survive their nasty descent I would know the answer, or maybe all I need to do is wait two seconds of my eternity.
How I got here is really a mystery. Actually it is less of a mystery and more so that I just haven’t really thought or reflected upon what got me here. I think my downward spiral may have began a few months ago. It’s amazing how much can happen in such a short time span or at least what kind of crazy things the mind can do to you. Actually, I think I can pinpoint the exact moment it began, sort of.
Sigmund Freud theorized that everyone goes through four psychosexual stages as a child. They are oral, anal, phallic, and genital. Everyone must past through each stage and overcome the conflict each stage presents. If not, one could become stuck in this stage for life. The anal stage, I think I will be perpetually stuck in this stage. Maybe I should start signing my name “Forever yours, anal retentive Ari Jean Monroe.” My ability to be so anal retentive and almost OCDesque at times is somewhat comical because out of all the candidates to be my roommate I was blessed with having the one who has a nifty little knick knack on her desk that says, “Organized people are just too lazy to look for things.” I think that could very well be an accurate statement, but either way I stand by my need to keep my books perfectly aligned on my shelf next to my closet full of clothes arranged by color and sleeve length. Something tells me that my need for control over my piles of books and my attempt to control time somehow slowly added up to my breakdown, but I digress.
I think the exact moment it began was the night I spent studying until two in the morning at the library only to come home to my room to find my roommate drugged-up pissing on my brand new twenty dollar brown Wal-Mart rug. I don’t think it helped that the next day I found her dead.
I called my mom, of course, only after I screamed bloody murder and woke up the entire floor and caused a commotion of police tape and interviews and whisperings about my roommate and my once normal self. At first she was comforting which is too be expected; however, she at some point seemed strangely repulsed that I didn’t do anything when I first found my roommate pissing on my brand new rug. I suppose maybe I should have done something other than stare for a brief moment and slowly walk away puzzled, but I don’t really know what I would have done. I certainly would not have wanted to stay. After all the smell would have been atrocious, and I really didn’t want to be the one to clean up the mess. Plus, that would have required rubber gloves that I didn’t have. So, I thought it best to stay elsewhere and let her panic the next morning when she realized she owed me twenty bucks for my brand new rug that she pissed on. It’s not that I don’t care; I do; I really do. I just assumed she was going through some sort of strange psychedelic drug-induced episode, and I thought perhaps it was best that I leave her alone. I don’t think there was much I could have done to save her anyways.
. . . .The winter air had burned my skin; it was similar to the burn I had felt a few weeks ago after banging my crotch on the bar on my bike, except not quite as bad. I had forgotten how painful it was. My friends always tell me a shot to the balls is worse. I should kick them in the balls for saying that. I think it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Don’t tell me it didn’t hurt; it felt like a fire that only the fetal position could quench, and even so, it still hurt to pee the next day.
My walk to class seemed unusually lonely. I felt like every asshole who walked by was staring at me wondering why the hell I was only wearing a hoodie in thirty degree weather. My hands dug deep into in my pockets searching for any drop of warmth as I drowned in the sea of my thoughts. Walking alone used to be cathartic, before she croaked that is. Now I hated walking alone; I was forced to be alone with my thoughts; it was as if my own thoughts were suffocating me. They were chocked full of arguments with my mother about panty hose and why I think I should be able to paint my room bubble gum pink with blue polka dots, things I wish I hadn’t thought, and the things I wanted to think about but knew I shouldn’t like how I am glad she died because I no longer have to smell or clean the sticky foundation covered noodles in the sink, and the feelings of guilt for my previous thought.
On this particular day I couldn’t help but think about my mother. My mom and I really have a twisted relationship, at least I think we do. It grows out of my necessity to please and her growing paranoia. Ever since I can remember I have almost always been in some state of distress in an attempt to please my mother.
“I can’t quit. I can’t quit yet. I can’t quit.”
“Yes, yes you can.”
“No! I can’t. She, she, she won’t be happy; she’ll be mad, and, and--”
“Ari, yes you can. She just has to learn to deal with it; this is your life.”
This dialogue is something very familiar to me. Sometimes it is between me and a friend; other times it is just between me and myself. My mom really isn’t a bad parent; she just doesn’t get it; she lacks the clairvoyance to truly understand who I am. Maybe the fact that she lacks this clairvoyance is what makes her a good parent; this way she is less likely to fall victim to my ability to lure her into feeling sorry for me.
Sometimes I think she lacks the clairvoyance to understand my friends too. She thinks they all have some hidden motive. Sometimes they want my homework, and other times they want in my pants, at least according to her. Actually, I think there is a general lack of understanding molded into some sort of twisted web among my friends, mother, and me; I think I get her, but I probably don‘t; she thinks she gets me, but she doesn‘t; my friends don‘t get me or my mother. At least my friends have the ability to admit that they may not completely understand their crazy, Madonna-loving, studious, always-going-to-class friend. I don’t really mind that they don’t fully understand me. While there are more than a million things I wish they understood, there are only two things I really need them to understand, and that is my need to attend class even if I don’t pay attention and my need to complete homework to my full ability or at least what I consider at the time to be my full ability. The thing is I don’t go to class and work so hard because I want to; I do it because I have to. I do it for my sanity. It is like some sort of crazy cycle that stems from my desire to be perfect in ways that I perceive to be important or what I think my mom and the rest of the world perceive to be important.
. . .My friend Peter started to say something to me, but before he was able to get anything out I gave him my signature, “Shut the fuck up. I’m in class.” look. No matter how many times we had the conversation about my so called class persona, he still attempted to craft a conversation with me.
Peter was my best friend. We were in our affective exchange, at least according to my social psych teacher. I guess we qualified because we had an extensive use of personal idioms and an abundance of negative communication and an ability to be our neurotic selves.
“We left off on this slide last Friday, but just for a quick review does anyone remember anything about chaos theory?” our professor said as he searched the lecture hall for some brave soul to answer even though he knew that in the end he would end up answering the question for us. Our professor was approaching middle-age and balding. He looked as if he was on the verge of a mid-life crisis, and appeared as though any moment he might walk out of the class and go purchase a shiny red convertible. Of course after he purchased it he would be required to go pick up some chick he met while sucking down his martini the other night at a bar where no one knows your name.
I had only talked to our professor once, but when I did, I noticed he had what looked to be hair plugs. I remember he didn’t really answer my question which was about kinetic motion or something; instead he rambled on about how I could learn more from the book, so I just zoned out and pretended his hair plugs were a connect the dot puzzle of the Dali Lama. Who reads the book anyway? Isn’t the point of going to lecture so that I don’t have to read the book?
As our professor lectured, I slowly began to zone out and robotically take notes. I never really liked chemistry. I never saw the point in it, nor did it make any sense to me. It just seemed like a bunch of numbers and random shapes that somehow when put together formed theories about blowing crap up and how things work. I wish there was a theory that could tell me how my life was supposed to work. Through my daydreaming I was able to gather that chaos theory is something about complex motion, and apparently a chaotic system can actually grow into something orderly.
. . .“I hate chemistry,” I sighed, while I watched Peter haphazardly put his notebook away. Peter always seemed to throw everything in his bag. I don‘t get how a person could do that. My entire life I have sat next to people who throw their crap in their bags while I anally put my glasses in one part of bag and my folders in another part with my books next to my pens that I keep in a rubber band so they don’t fall randomly throughout my bag.
“Yeah, it sucks,” he looked up. “I don‘t even know why we have to take chemistry. We‘re business majors. What’s the point of taking a chemistry class? I don‘t think a fucking chemistry class is going to make me a more well rounded CEO.” His eyes said, “Let‘s skip our next psych class.” The truth is, I wanted to. I just needed to convince myself that I could, and that it was okay, but this certainly was never an easy task. “I’ll buy you Starbucks,” he said in a sort of sly sing-song way knowing that I had read his mind.
“Peter, I dunno.” Starbucks was everything I hated; it was pretentious assholes typing up their latest while listening to cool coffeehouse jazzyet the truth was I really wanted Starbucks. I needed to feel the caffeine pumping espresso running through my veins. “I guess,” I finally answered. “You don’t think she’s going to give like a pop quiz or something do you? I dunno if I can do this. I can’t believe I am doing this.” Logically I knew that our psych professor wasn’t going to give us a quiz; she was too stupid, but I still couldn’t help but be paranoid.
“It’ll be fine, Ari. All the points are accounted for. She won’t do anything,” Peter scolded me.
“You sure?” I asked him.
“Yes, I’m sure,” he paused. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Oh, gee thanks. It’s such a great accomplishment,” I rolled my eyes.
“For you it is,” he laughed.
“I know.” I never could figure out how my friends skipped so frequently and guilt free at that. It was like some art form I had yet to fully understand.
. . .“Dude, I dunno what to get. Vanilla latte, caffe mocha?” I mused as I wondered how long it would take for a line to die down. It was after eleven and Starbucks was still busy with the line out the door. I guess it was God’s way of spiting us for skipping class.
“I dunno… a vanilla latte,” Peter mumbled, although I am not sure he was even fully paying attention. He seemed to be too wrapped up in his own musings over green tea and venti double shot espresso cappuccinos.
“That guy looks like my neighbor.” Ed, according to his name tag, was short with white hair and reminded me of my neighbor Mr. Jenkins. His standard Starbucks apron covered his beer gut. His beer gut reminded me of this dream I had. I stabbed my step-dad in the gut. It felt like I had put a steak knife in a lump of styrofoam. Then he told me to be careful when I ate meat. I don’t know what he meant. Maybe it was just my conscious kicking in trying to make me feel bad for my extensive taste for all things meat.
“Yeah?” Peter said half paying attention.
“Yeah, his name is Mr. Jenkins. He’s this crazy old fart. I swear his flowers are stuck up his ass. I think his damn flamingos must be there too. I remember this one time I was playing hide and go seek with my brother and my neighbors, and my brother told me to hide in his yard, and I was like seven or eight so I listened.”
“Yeah, of course,” he said still half paying attention. He must have figured it was another one of my rants.
“The fucker yelled at me. He told me to get off his flowers and to leave Henry alone.”
“Dog or cat?”
“The guy had a pet flamingo?” Peter asked.
“No, you idiot. A lawn flamingo,” I said correcting Peter. I twisted the paper ring on my latte. I lined up the “caution hot” with the little squares on the cup that were used to mark what kind of drink customers ordered. It was like a game I played. I was always finding a new position, seeing which one looked best.
“Yeah, the man talked to them everyday. His favorite was Henry, and he thought another one he named Lola was depressed.”
“I swear Ari, you know the weirdest people.”
I did know the weirdest people, and the truth is I hated those flamingos. Mr. Jenkins had about fifteen of them and even though I hated them, it was a good story, so I kept it in my story bank. I used my story bank for various things; mostly it was just for awkward situations when I had nothing else to say. I always left one part out though. I had been outside when I noticed the flamingos. They seemed different than usual, and I felt oddly compelled to go rearrange them. Mr. Jenkins had them randomly strewn throughout his yard; some were pointing east while others were facing south. I put them in three rows of five all facing north; however, when I got to Lola I began to have problems; she wouldn’t sit the right way. I continued to adjust her until I noticed Mr. Jenkins out of the corner of my eye. I don’t really know why I moved them; I couldn’t really help it. It was like some weird attraction. I thought if I moved them things could be better if they were just… right.
. . . .“Fuck you,” I yelled. Regretfully, I actually meant it. I had run into Peter the day before at the library when I was hanging out with a guy from one of my classes. Peter thought I was ditching him; I wasn’t. The whole thing really was just a misunderstanding, but it had somehow escalated, and all our hidden issues had come to the surface. Peter always feared that I would get a boyfriend and then stop hanging out, and because of that I didn’t tell Peter what I was doing at the library. Looking back that was kind of stupid. I should have told him I wasn’t going alone, but I just didn’t think it was the best thing to do.
“You know, just just fuck you too,” Peter yelled back.
“Oh real original there, Peter.”
“Oh look, my name is Ari, and I like to make fun of people because they are unoriginal. Who the hell are you to insult me for being unoriginal. You sound like fucking Dan. Everything has to be fucking original.”
“I am so sick of… I just… I dunno. I… just don’t. Ya know, I never leave you out. I wasn’t ditching you. I try so fucking hard to be your friend. I can’t believe you would say something like that. You are the only person I have right now. I didn’t tell you because that is how I assessed the situation. I thought it would be better that way. I would never leave you behind. I just didn’t want you to be worried. Just screw you.” I hated that I was arguing with Peter. Peter and I never seemed to stop arguing. It wasn’t that we disliked each other. In fact we told each other everything. Typically this is what got us through the arguments. The last time we argued I frantically organized my closet until he pulled me away. Even then I was still able to straighten out my shoes with my foot as he dragged me away. There were only a few things he was not at liberty to know about. Those being my bathroom habits and various things that really just depended on my mood of the day. Sometimes I thought this was the reason we fought so much; we simply knew every nook and cranny of each others crazed minds. This time I was afraid we wouldn’t get through the argument.
“You try hard to be my friend? Really? I thought it was the other way around. I put everything I got into this god damn friendship, and then you lie to me,” Peter said.
“I didn’t say you didn’t try. Stop putting words into my mouth, and I didn’t lie. You never listen to me,” I said.
“Yes I do!”
“No. You. Don’t.”
“You know, just fuck you,” Peter said as he walked away.
. . . .One of my favorite places to visit was the top of my dormitory. I live on the seventeenth floor of thirty downtown, so I could see so much of the city from the rooftop. From the rooftop everything seemed so far away. It was all so peaceful; I wish I could be that peaceful; I need the peace, at least the inner peace.
“Hey,” I said into my cell phone. I had decided to call my mother. Calling her when I was upset was like a reflex, or maybe just a bad habit.
“Hi.” I could feel the disappointment in my mother’s voice. I assumed she was laying on the couch as usual doing the newspaper’s daily crossword while she watched some cop drama. She never seemed all that thrilled when I called. My friend’s mothers yearned for them to call; my mother wished I called less. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to talk. She just felt I should “be on my own.” I guess that is what you’re supposed to do. It was the point of going away for college, at least to my mother.
“Oh, not much… just finishing up acrossword.”
“I… I’m failing,” I said I think for the first time out loud. After the first time I skipped class, I just couldn’t stop. I don’t know why. Sometimes I wasn’t even aware that I was skipping class. I sort of lost track of time. Everything became too much at once, or maybe the thing with my roommate was just some sort of catalyst that set something off inside of me. I just never thought it would get this far.
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“I, I… I’m failing my classes.”
“What?! Ari I can’t believe this. You used to be such a good student. Ever since you‘re roommate died, you just don’t seem to do anything right. It’s like everything went downhill or something. I just… Ari… You‘ve changed. You used to be a good student. I could count on you. You were the one I could always count on. Now I just don‘t know what to think.”
“You know I am so tired of this. All I ever do is fuck up. I can‘t help it that she died. She was the one coked out. She’s not my responsibility. Did you ever think that maybe I am having problems that aren’t equivalent to me slacking off? I wouldn’t do that without some hidden reasoning. I used to be all about class and school and grades. It was my life. I hated it sometimes, but it gave me some purpose, even if part of the purpose was pleasing you. Half of what I did was to please you. Nothing I do is ever good enough for you. All I have done all my life is attempt to please you, and I always fail. I always fail. The one time I need you to be there, to understand, you aren‘t there. Ya know, mom, sometimes I just need to be comforted. I don’t need to be reminded of how I screwed up. I am good enough at that. I‘ll just… I‘ll talk to you later.”
My mom wasn‘t a bad parent. She was just too wrapped up in doing the best parenting job and somewhere along the way she screwed up. She forgot to take into account that I am not her son, and that I actually listen to her. She never realized how much her opinion actually mattered to me.
The wind was blowing through my hair as I walked to the edge of the rooftop. Everything seemed so peaceful from here. I wished I could be apart of the peacefulness. I thought maybe if I could somehow meld my mind with it.
. . . .I suppose it is strange but upon my impending doom I think of my favorite painting. At a glance it is merely a picture of a day at the park. There are children playing while their mothers watch them, along with men fishing and enjoying the Sunday afternoon. However, at a closer look it is becomes a compilation of dots of various sizes and colors. I think it is a pointillism. This makes me think of this particular scene in a movie. It is fitting seeing as Cameron, the character, is on the verge of being in my position, almost. I don’t think he ever would have done it though. First off, Ferris never would have let him, and secondly I don’t think he had the guts. Regardless, at some point on their adventure they found themselves at the Chicago Art Museum, and Cameron found himself in front of the painting I speak of. He found himself looking at all the happy park goers and the clouds which a friend of mine claims are actually U.F.O.’s. I think what he actually means is aliens though because a U.F.O could merely be a plane that no one knew was a plane for some idiotic reason. I mean U.F.O. does stand for unidentified flying object. That means it could even be a flying dog or simply a bird. But anyways, these park goers and so called clouds are composed of dots. The entire painting is merely made up of an infinite amount of them. As I think about the movie, I remember Cameron looking at this painting and slowly began to focus closer and closer until all he saw were dots instead of the entirety of the painting. I am in the midst of this very process with life. I think the dots are like all the bad things that have ever happened to me. The dots alone are merely dots; they are crap. But when put together they form a work of art. Maybe my roommate pissing on my rug is an ugly brown dot and her death is a part of a cloud. Alone, these events that have formed my life are utter crap, but together they work. I don’t really know why, but it does. All of the “dots” of my life put together have created my own work of art. Of course I had to realize this now. I had to realize this now because it is too late. It is kind of like what my chemistry teacher was talking about. Everyone’s lives are like the chaos theory. Our lives are made up of complex chaotic “dots,” but in the end it all makes sense. It leads to order. I just didn’t know it.