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I guess I found him attractive at one point in my life. Something about the whole psudo-intellectual that really got my gears turning. Maybe it was because he was such a blatant a** to me; to everyone really. The way he spoke and wrote...It all seems so pretentious now. He was the kid in high school with the thick rimmed glasses and the type of attitude that makes you wonder if he’s just got a stick up his a** or if he’s been trapped in the closet for a good portion of his life.
Whatever the case was, it’s drawing me back in again. Across from me, sitting in my shotgun-shack style apartment, perched on the worn and ink splattered couch, was what I thought I had left behind a year ago.
He’s kind of like luggage you lose at an airport and just about as painful to find. At first your upset, all those things gone and lost forever, and then gradually as the days go by, you adjust. You purchase new things, fill the void, move on. And right when you’ve got your gift-wrapped luxuries color-coded and alphabetized the air port calls and tells you that, yeah, they found your things and, yeah, if you don’t come and pick it up within a day it’ll be considered a threat to Homeland Security.
Do you make the arduous journey to the air port to go through an ungodly amount of paper work to get back something that seems so familiar, so comfortable, or do you let it rot in the terminal? After all, you’ve already replaced it all.
I had gotten the call. My luggage had arrived and like a fool I ran to fetch it.
Not because I wanted it back. Call it a mild and morbid curiosity. I wanted to see the damage. What was torn through, what had survived and what was completely obliterated and sodden beyond belief. That’s it. He was the type that broke easily, after all.
The room was warm and the windows were beginning to fog over, the sheet curtains doing little to keep away the damp. There wasn’t too much room for anything more than talking and working. Piles of canvases and random junk were propped up on all walls. It was a wonder I had even gotten a mattress to sleep on.
The way he sat was too comfortable. I wanted to watch him squirm on the lumpy cushions. His elbows were on his knees and his head was propped on his hands as he leaned forward.
He didn’t talk too much, but he never really did in the first place either.
I leaned against a table, my arms across my chest, barefoot. He caught me at a bad time, but then again, I was always barefoot these days. I was staring at him. Only out of boredom of course. Not because I was interested.
A heavy sigh. I roll my eyes. This was beginning to get ridiculous. I asked him what he came for, and if there was anything he wanted. He suggested we make coffee. Typical.
I remind him I wasn’t the one that invited him here, and asked again what he came for. He seemed pretty intent on leaving that question open-ended and let his sentences roll like he was waiting for me to fill in the blanks. He had a way of drawing people in by toying with them like that. He’d wait for you to finish his sentence so it felt like you had some kind of connection. Like a mind-melding technique that would leave you expecting some sort of blossoming mental relationship. Bait and hook.
His eyes wandered down, shifting to the right before the left.
The only reason I noticed was because I had taken a course in psychology before I dropped out of college. Out of all the books I had to buy, there were only a few that actually had useful information, eye movement being one of them.
Apparently if you look down you’re supposed to be having some kind of internal dialogue, or assessing how you feel or something like that.
The boy is a sensitive one so his eyes were always cast downward I suppose.
After a few moments he’s back from his thoughts and looks at me dead on. For some reason I can tell this is going to be one of those long-winded responses that I can’t stand hearing. And if I tell him that, he’ll only speak louder.
I keep my mouth shut.
He starts to explain things he’s been doing, the people he’s been hanging around with.
His type are the skin and bone ones. The hipsters in the park that consider a 40oz of Old English a meal that covers all nutritional groups. The ones that would be a short cry from dressing like designer-brand homeless runaways had their parents’ dead presidents not bought them a flat on the brightly lit side of town. The ones that had silver lining their pockets but tried their best to hide it.
I never really fit into that image. I used to want to. I wasn’t really sure why, but it felt like something that was expected of me. Something that I felt like I had to accomplish to be a part of something great.
I was skin and bones now, but that was only because I had to sacrifice a lot to keep doing what I do...Which was living off of welfare cheese and painting things for his type of people. But that’s something completely different.
He starts to talk about his vices of choice. The cigarettes, the bottles, the pills, the needles. He tells me he’s still got track marks and holds out one of his arms. He gives it a good rub as though that’s all the evidence I’ll ever need. He expected me to look, but I lit my cigarette instead, letting the match drop to the floor.
I can tell where this conversation is going, but I’m too tired to interrupt him.
His diatribe continues and as his tales get darker. He chuckles at himself like he can’t believe what’s happened to him.
He starts to tell me about his sister, how he lived with her for a while. The air was always thick with purple plums of smoke coming off of cigarettes that had never been ashed. I found him curled in a corner stripped down to his boxers. Useless.
His sister had probably never even noticed her brother had checked in. Just another person, just another body, to weave through when trying to get to the front door.
His eyes flicked up and to the right for a moment before locking back on me. I hadn’t responded yet, and he was used to little quips of sarcasm from me. This situation didn’t need my input, and I wasn’t about to get tangled in his story by speaking.
He asked if I had running hot water and if he could stay for the night. Apparently he was trying to change. Trying to manage what was left of his life. He let his hands fall and sat up straight. An up-standing citizen pose, I assume. A way to convince me that he was just about to turn around his behavior. I could read him like a book. Fortunately, I had read this chapter many times before.
I’m starting to get a decent view of the damage now. The baggage that I decided to take back had been poked and prodded and sifted through by the hands of many. What once seemed like comfort was now tainted.
When you get your belongings back from airport security, there is always something that makes you want to reject it, the way a mother bird rejects her young once it has been touched by someone. Something is out of place, or the zippers are on the other side of the bag, or the way the clothes have been clumsily refolded by airport security as a way to apologize for wrongfully assuming your three-day wardrobe and toothbrush a threat to the American people. Something is always slightly off. Even if the smell is wrong, you can never treat it the same way.
What are you supposed to do with it anyways? Stash it in a closet and keep it hidden away or try and integrate it into your new life? There’s no way it fits in. It never does.
So here I am. I’ve been left with baggage that’s far beyond its capacity to be beneficial or even useful to me.
It’s not a comforting feeling.