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Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. As the infinite seconds of the little hand made its journey around the clock, I regarded it as nothing more than an enemy. The round beast mocked me as it took its sweet time releasing me from the prison known as the last period of the day. Every tick and every tock represented nothing more than the deriding cackles that came from its core. It would have to release me at some point or another, but until then the unrelenting taps of my foot on the floor served as a distraction.
The teacher lectures at the front of the room, and I occasionally pick up words like “histogram” and “quadratic function” but I had neither the energy nor the patience to absorb such information. In the classroom, there are several windows that give us a glimpse of the outside world. Cars drive by. Occasionally they’ll pull into the school’s parking lot for reasons I don’t necessarily care about. A woman walks by. An older woman from the looks of the wrinkles adorning her face the way age rings form a circular shape on the inside of a tree’s trunk.
With what seemed to be a blonde wig, a pound of makeup, and a skirt shorter than my boxers, the woman walked with more dignity than the proudest of men. Cars zoomed by her and the occasionally infantile man-child would stick his head out the window and whistle to her as if she were nothing more than a stray dog. Still, she kept her composure as she triumphantly made her way to the intersection nearest my school, waiting patiently for the green light that would allow her to walk across the street safely.
My teacher’s seemingly endless harangue on the deconstruction of Ancient Greek Civilizations was finally coming to a close just in time for the clock that mocks to set me free. I quickly gathered my belongings; crudely stuffing them into my messenger bag, in one swift movement threw the bag over my shoulder and quickly vacated the room. As if predicting my arrival, my best friend and coconspirator, Dustin, waited patiently for me at the end of the hall. His calm, collected manner still puzzles me to this day as I reflect on the urgency of his addiction.
Together, we walked to what we referred to as The Lot. Trite as it may be, The Lot was literally just a lot. Regardless, it was a lot we cherished for many reasons. Over the years we’d stuffed it full of memories that would stick with us until our dying days, some of them being sooner than others. It was there that some of our most defining moments took place. It was where I took my first drag of a joint. It was where Dustin lost his virginity. It was where some of our other friends had landed a skating trick just perfectly, or where they successfully hid from the security of a nearby store after they stole enough food to feed a small village.
Through clenched lips that held a perfectly rolled cigarette, Dustin spoke to me in vowels. His southern dialect and speech impediment already made it hard enough for me to hear him, so I signaled for him to remove the cancer stick from his mouth. “Sorry,” he said. “Enway, I was tryna tell ya about dat girl I met at da party last weekend.”
“What about her?” I asked, faking an interest.
“Well, she said she was interested in ya.” My interest was no longer faked.
“Is that right?”
“Seems to be.”
“Well what did she say exactly to you? Don’t start paraphrasing and whatnot.” Dustin lit the cigarette and him and I passed it back and forth. I talked when he took a drag. He talked when I took a drag. Inside the cigarette was what one could call a drug Neapolitan; a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Not enough to get you high, but enough to make you feel nice.
“She tole me dat she lahked da way you talked, whatever dat mean.” The irony was obviously lost on him.
“Is that right? Where does she go to school again?”
“Over at Dirty Bongwater.” Dirty Bongwater was a rather mean-spirited nickname that we had for a school called Barry Goldwater. It was a high school that educated not only the highest of highs in relation to the amount of ingested narcotics, but the lowest of lows regarding the motivation for success.
“Oh, come on, man. You know better than to set me up with one of those chicks.”
“Alls I’m sayn’ is, go talk tuh her for a bit. She’s not like da rest of ‘em.”
“I’ll just take your word for it for now.” Dustin waved me off, retiring the argument for future reconsideration. He began walking around The Lot reflectively as if it were the last time he was going to see it. Visiting all the nooks and crannies that encompassed the ultimately small square footage, he returned to me, staring at me right in the eyes.
“I dunno if I can do this no more, man.”
“Do what anymore?”
“This. Whatever the hell dis is. Is lahk er’ything I do and er’ything I say ain’t enough for the people I’m doin’ it for. I’m tired of bein’ told I can’t do somtin’ cause a how I talk or how I look.”
“You just need to find your crowd, man.”
“No, no. You don’t understand, man. I’ve tried. Hard. But it ain’t ever ‘nuff for nobody.”
“What do you plan on doing about it?” I was beginning to get worried. I’d had this conversation before with Dustin and it always ended with talk of suicide.
“Only thing I can do at dis point.”
“What might that be?” Dustin looked at me with eyes of remorse, regret, and sadness. He looked away quickly and quickly hit himself on the head as if to snap himself back into reality. He turned around at me and smiled as if the preceding conversation were just a figment of my imagination.
“Nuttin’, man. Juss forget I een said anything.” He grabbed the almost finished cigarette from my hand and took a long drag. He exhaled with a relieving sigh that was a mixture of accomplishment and defeat. There was something on his mind that he had no intention of telling me. And no matter how much I tried to get it out of him, he wouldn’t budge. That was one thing Dustin was always good at. He struggled a lot with addiction, going so far as to snort lines of Xanax in the middle of third period. Even so, he knew how to keep a secret. That was good when you were the one telling him something, but bad when you needed to be told.
As the ignominy of an already deteriorating family, Dustin had nobody to look up to and no expectations to live up to; except for mine. I met Dustin during my first day of school. He sat next to me, quiet as a mouse. I glanced over at his shirt and it all that was on it was a giant green circle. In the middle of the circle was a demonic looking figure with the words “The Germs” plastered under it. To this day, I still listen to “Lexicon Devil” at least once before I go to sleep, the hypnotically chaotic vocals of Darby Crash leading me into a dark abyss littered with the souls of dead geniuses. Their minds were full of darkness, but it was that darkness that brought so much light. I looked at him to see myself being stared at like a museum exhibit. He looked at me, intensely at first, slowly softening his glare as he studied me. Finally, he introduced himself.
He took a glance at my shirt and said, “Robert DeNiro. Nice.” The shirt was an illustration of a famous shot from an early Martin Scorsese film called Taxi Driver. How he understood the reference I’ll never know. But what I do know is that from that day we were pretty much inseparable. He introduced me to new music while I showed him a movie that I thought he would like. Together, we learned a lot about each other and ourselves. We were constantly in some sort of trouble, but weeks before this particular day, we had calmed down to the point of actually waiting for school to end to take our smoke break.
I blame Dustin’s near quiescent behavior on his stepfather, Tom. After fathering a child with Dustin’s mother, Tom began using copious amounts of meth. So much so that the family kicked him out of the house, forcing him to live on the scorching hot streets of Phoenix and Glendale. A couple of weeks after this, he was found dead at Steele Indian School Park. The police would say that he died of dehydration and heat stroke, but Dustin always theorized that he just went ahead and killed himself. I never seemed to be able to get a full answer out of him, though; we rarely spoke about it after he learned what had happened.
My fear is that history will repeat itself much sooner than originally anticipated. I mean, sure, Dustin always suffered from depression and bipolar disorder, but I never took him as the suicidal type. Then again, you never really can tell. As I looked into his eyes that day, I knew that there was something different about him. Something in him changed after Tom’s death. We both knew it, but like all the elephants in all the rooms in the world, we refused to acknowledge. For whose benefit, I can’t be sure.
We quickly wrapped up our get together and made plans to meet up sometime during the weekend. We could smoke, watch movies, and order a pizza. It’d be a good time, we both agreed. But as Dustin grabbed his stuff and made his way for the bus stop that would take him home, him and I both knew that we’d never see each other again. And were right, too.
Dustin was found dead in his apartment not seven hours after our last meeting. No note, no dramatics, nothing but a rapidly drying up tear that decorated his right cheek. I went to his house after everything had been cleaned up. The door was closed, and as I turned the handle, I swore I could hear my hand manipulating the lock in such a manner that it would move every groove, nook, cranny, and bolt, finally ending with me making my way to the other side of the frame.
As I walked into his room, I looked around to see that the only thing truly missing was he. I walked over to his closet that replaced a door with a see-through curtain so as to simplify access as much as humanely possible. I walked in and saw that the closet was mostly empty. The police had cleaned out his bongs, pipes, and bags of weed. Maybe his mother did it before she called 911 in an attempt to keep her son’s name, and possibly even her own, pure from all controversy.
From behind I heard a quick rotation of what I thought was a CD player. Confirming my suspicions, I walked back out to the main part of Dustin’s room to see a CD player spinning a disc, paused on a track. I walked over to the boombox, and next to it was a CD case that said, (MIA): The Complete Anthology on the side with a big, blue Germs circle serving as the only cover art. I opened the case to find nothing but a badly folded piece of paper. I opened it up hesitantly. The ink wasn’t faded in the least and a date on top read 5.25.10, the day of Dustin’s death. The note, in badly written cursive, read:
To my best friend,
It’s been a hell of a ride, man. I’m sorry it had to end like this,
but I didn’t know what else to do. Am I stupid for taking the easy
road out? Well, yeah, probably. But do I regret anything from the
past 15 years? You bet your ass I don’t. You’ve brought me
nothing but wisdom and happiness. Like I said before, ending it like
this was the last thing I wanted to do, but sometimes you just gotta
do what you gotta do, right man? I hope you get to read this before
anyone else finds it in here. Even though I’m gone, don’t you go
forgetting me now. Keep doing what you’re doing, because
what you’re doing is right. I’ll never forget you in this life or the
next. And always remember that if you need a reminder of me, just
I did as the note told me and pressed play on the stereo. Paused on track three, an instant wave of Darby Crash showered over me. I closed my eyes, sat on the bad, and sang along as the words spoke to Dustin and me.
I'm a lexicon devil with a
And I'm searchin' for a future-
the world's my aim
So gimme gimme your hands-
gimme gimme your minds
Gimme gimme this-gimme
I want toy tin soldiers that can
push and shove
I want gunboy rovers that'll
wreck this club
I'll build you up and level your heads
We'll run it my way cold men
and politics dead...
I'll get silver guns to drip old blood
Let's give this established
joke a shove
We're gonna wreak havoc
on the rancid mill
I'm serachin' for something
even if I'm killed...
Empty out your pockets-you
don't need their change
I'm giving you the power
Together we'll run to the
Tear it down and let it drop...away...