By Kirby Light
“You’re not suicidal Tom,” he said as he set the bottle of bourbon on the dresser. “You just want some attention.” He took me by the wrist and under the shoulder and pulled me up. “If you were really suicidal you would be the happiest man alive.” He slung my arm around his shoulders and took hold of my waist.
“If someone were suicidal and didn’t care if they lived or died, well, they could do anything they wanted.”
I tried to walk with him but was only able to drag my feet.
“To be suicidal is to be truly liberated, I would imagine.”
I tried to tell him that I didn’t understand but I guess when I opened my mouth I vomited because my chest was all of a sudden warm and wet and Ed grimaced. We lurched out of the bedroom together and down the hall to Tony’s room. Ed pounded on the door and we waited a few seconds until Tony opened it. He stood there in his tidy whities, squinting his eyes, a raggedly thin man with a shaved head and five o’clock shadow.
“You got any shirts I can use?” Ed asked.
Tony raised his hand in front of his chest and pointed a thin finger down the hall to the bathroom. “Laundry basket,” he said.
Tony nodded and shut the door, returning to his bed, where a pair of naked legs stuck out of the sheets.
Ed and I went into the bathroom. My head spun like a carousel and the room was all streaks of white and patches of black. Ed sat me down on the toilet. I shut my eyes. When I opened them next Ed was pulling my shirt off.
“Okay,” Ed said. “Lift your arms for me.” He dropped my wet shirt on the bathroom floor and picked up a new one.
I tried to lift my arms and managed to bring them to twelve and three. This seemed to be enough because the next minute Ed was slipping a shirt on me that smelled like dirty wet laundry. I leaned forward on the toilet; Ed caught me before I hit the ground. Then I puked all over his shoes.
Ed doesn’t really care about these types of things though. He simply kicked the puke off his shoes and helped me up off the toilet. I told him I was sorry but he just shook his head and shrugged his shoulders saying: don’t worry about it, people puke.
We walked out of the bathroom and into the living room. I got plopped on the couch into the fast food garbage from earlier in the evening.
“Here,” Ed said as he pulled a small baggy out of his pocket. He poured a small amount of cocaine onto a plate and took a straw out of one of the drinks. He blew air through one end to get out as much liquid as possible. Then he stuck the plate in my face and put one end of the straw in my nose.
I snorted up the blow. Then my heart jumped twenty beats and the spinning room came to a halt, then just wiggled in front of me, as did Ed’s chubby, poorly shaven face.
“How you feelin’?”
I didn’t answer and he didn’t ask again. He just set the plate on the table and walked out of the room into the hall.
I was twitchy and alone in the living room, all except for Sam, who was passed out on a bean bag chair, but she may as well been gone because when she’s out she’s out.
Tony’s house was a beautiful place. The living room especially. It had hard wood floors and old ratty furniture that he got from friends and dumpsters—complete with stains, holes and burn marks. Garbage lay all over the floor, pushed up against the walls and into the corners, mixed in with scraps of rotting food. Late at night you could hear mice rummage through the waste. Tony’s place was a true paradise, the only rule was to not burn the house down. Anything else goes.
“Hey,” Ed called from the bathroom, “if you have anything that you need to grab before we leave you should grab it now.”
“No, I got nothin,” I said. I got the urge to get up and move around, but didn’t.
Ed came out of the hall and stood in front of me. He carried his bong, the purple orange Technicolor one that I went with him to buy. The one we apply named: The Spirit World, after the scene from young guns where Lou Diamond Philips has Emilio Estevez and the other outlaws drink peyote tea.
I said the name Lou Diamond Philips softly to myself merely because I liked the way it sounded.
“What’d you say?” Ed asked me.
I looked up at him and shook my head. “Nothin,” I said and stood to leave.
He and I both walked out of the house through the kitchen and garage door. I followed him and zipped up my jacket. The moment the garage door opened the cold air hit me. My skin broke out in goose bumps and a shiver went up my twitching body. I wished I were home. Not at my apartment but at my mother’s apartment before she got evicted, lying in my bed, with the shades open waiting for the sun to rise and cast warm light onto my face. I wanted to tighten the blankets around me and just lay for a few hours with my eyes closed.
But I couldn’t.
Ed hit the button outside the kitchen entrance to the garage. The light to the engine came on and the big garage door rose. Ed and I walked out to the street and to his Taurus. He opened my door for me. “We’re going to make a stop before we go home, okay?” He asked.
“You’re not going to rape me are you?” I said, deadpan. I was joking. He knew this and said nothing.
Funny thing about Ed is that many people are put off by him because he’s a really helpful guy, and a bit too caring at times. People wonder what it is that he wants from them. What a lot of people don’t know is that that’s just who he is, that’s just what he does. Before his many vices and personal issues forced him to drop out of college he was training to become a nurse and wanted to be a part of doctors without borders, or something like that. I’m sure he would have made a great nurse and helped many people.
But whatever, at least I’ve still got my drinking buddy.
Ed’s car spurted and sputtered and sounded like it might not start but did and we went out, into the night.
We drove for thirty minutes. I, knowingly anticipating what was coming, sat in still silence. We drove north on Carroll Street. We drove by the movie theater, which must have just let out, because a flood of people crossed the street and the drive thru line at the Burger King stretched into the parking lot. We passed the deserted Safeway and the late night record shop, where a record release party was going on. I could see all the people silhouetted against the glass windows. We crossed on the over pass, right by a police officer who had pulled over a car. Then we made a big long turn down onto the freeway. The lights from the patrol car came over the sides of the overpass and through the trees in long beams of red then blue, red then blue.
“Where we goin’?” I asked.
“Spivey’s Cliff,” is all he replied.
Moonlight led us far away, first past sound barrier walls, then apartment complexes, car dealerships, strip malls, houses and fields, then farms, and up into the hills. The road became narrow until it was a thin thread laid out within the trees.
“So, what’s been getting you down?” Ed finally said in a soft tone.
I shrugged and looked out the window. “The price of tea in China,” I glanced across the seat at him. He glanced at me. “Nothin man, just the stuff that gets everybody else down. Ya’know?”
“No, it can’t be the regular stuff. You wouldn’t have said what you did if it were the regular stuff.”
The cocaine made me grind my teeth. It sounded like something was crawling around inside my head. “Ed,” I said with a stern voice, “it was the booze talking.” I gave him the ‘end of conversation’ look.
He gave me the ‘that’s bullshit’ look. “I’ve known you long enough to know that isn’t true,” he said.
I went back to looking out the window.
The road curved and climbed the hillside. It came out of the trees for a second letting us get a glimpse of the city lights, then only to plateau back into the dark. Ed switched on his high beams and all the world’s shadows moved back just a little.
“Come on man,” he said in a semi-whiny semi-joking voice, “what is it?”
I bit my lip and slowly pulled it out, feeling that it was dry and splitting. “Life sucks. What more can I say?”
Ed grinned. “Plenty,” he said.
I sighed, looked at him sideways, out of the corner of my eye, and then returned my attention to the window. “Life just sucks. Work sucks, Love life sucks. Don’t see any of the guys that often anymore. I just work dead end jobs and go to Laura’s house and have dinner with her family and watch TV. Conrad called it a ‘dull dignified decay’.”
“So, that happens.”
I shook my head. “Let’s just say I’m a bit dissatisfied with life,” I said.
“Well,” I sighed. “All I ever do is what other people want me to do. This is just a recreation of my father’s life. He spent his life doing what other’s wanted him to. My relationship is just trying to make Laura happy. Working a job is just doing what someone else wants you to. School is more of the same, just more doing what someone else thinks should be your priorities,” I said.
“What about the writing?”
“Writing is nice, but publishing is just like everything else. Editors want something from you that you either don’t write or want to write. It’s just more bowing down. And I spend so much time doing what every one else wants of me that I don’t have time to focus on it like I want to.”
“You can fix that.”
“I try, that’s all I do is try to fix it. Try to finish things to free up time to do what I want. But then there’s just more to do. This could very well be the rest of my life. I’m waiting for things to change but it never does. This just keeps going no matter what I do to try to make it different.”
The car sputtered a moment, slowing a little and then jumping back up to speed. I imagined monsters out somewhere in the dark, beyond the trees and tall grass along the road.
“Just find a job that’s tolerable,” Ed said. “Then try to make other parts of your life better, compensate. And keep working on the writing in the meantime until you make it. It’s really kind of that simple man. It isn’t so bad. Eventually it will work out for you. Your problems are only temporary.”
I ran my hand through my hair. “It would be nice to make a living being a writer. Telling stories is my dream,” I said. “But that’s all it is, a dream. Something nice that appears when I close my eyes to what’s really there. Everyone wants too much of me to let me do that.”
There was a slight pause in the conversation where our eyes just followed the road, my mind cleared slowly. I listened to the engine and watched the shadows of the trees pass by. I looked over at Ed and his eyes were vacant and the smile on his face was gone. Then I wondered how sober he was and if taking this drive was a good idea.
“Even so,” Ed said. “It can change. It’s no reason to kill yourself. Like Tom Hanks said in Cast Away: ‘tomorrow the sun will rise’.”
And this is where it starts. Ed went on to quote Cast Away more, and explained what Tom Hanks meant, then Ed talked about the meaning of life, quoting Jack Palance. He even raised his index finger like Palance did in City Slickers. Then he went on to talk about his own thoughts on the meaning of life, personal experiences and what he did to change.
So I let my mind wander. I let it slip out of the car and through the trees to the passing patches of overgrown grass, to the stars and descending hillside and when a semi-truck went by with the words Wal-Mart on the side I let my mind chase after, like a child chases after an ice cream truck. Then I was years away, back during the high school days, with Marisa.
Marisa was a girlfriend I had back in high school. One night we went to Wal-Mart for something that has long since left my memory. We decided to park off to the side in a lonelier part of the parking lot. The only car near us was a semi parked at the end of the lot. Marisa lay across the front seat of my truck with the back of her head on my thigh and my hand in her pants. She wiggled and making those little breathing noises she makes, when a lanky, tired looking man with his dog walked in front of my truck and looked in. I looked at him and he looked at me and we both nodded, he carried on down to his semi at the end of the lot.
“Why are you stopping?” Marisa asked.
“I think that guy saw us.”
“So, keep going,” she said smiling and shimmying her hips.
“But he’s a trucker, truckers are bad news. What if he comes back here and kills me, then rapes you and kills you?”
“Well at least I’ll get laid before he kills me.”
“Well, what if he doesn’t kill you and what if he rapes you with a big, blistered, pus oozing penis.”
She rolled with laughter before I even finished talking.
“Ed,” I said, interrupting him. “Am I too much of a sentimentalist?”
He looked at me like he was thinking about it and with a frown he said no and shook his head. He took a second to collect his thoughts, then continued on with what he was saying.
I went back to looking out the window.
The hill grew steeper then leveled out. A guard rail came up on the right. Trees stretched to the sky and masked the moon, allowing only a few seconds to shine on us as we drove. When the road straightened and the guard rail fell away Ed began to slow down, he looked to the right, still talking; now offering suggestions on what I could do to make things better.
“You could go to a community college and then a university. You’re a great writer. You could get a degree in English at one of those rich universities where the drugs are everywhere and sex is a mandatory nightly occurrence. Now that would make you happy, wouldn’t it?”
I smiled and nodded my head.
“Here it is,” Ed said. He pulled the car off the highway and onto a gravel road. Deep black night rested on each side of the car and the head lights stretched out into the trees, revealing nothing but turns until the trees separated and the city lay in front of us.
The car pulled out onto a plateau covered in gravel. It was built for viewing the city. There were no other cars there. It was really beautiful, the city with all its lights, from way up there. Ed stopped the car three feet from the guard rail.
“Come on, man,” Ed said, shutting the engine off.
He got out and I followed. We walked to the front of the car, gravel crunching under foot. We stood in silence for five good minutes. The city was calm. All that could be heard was the wind passing through the trees. It had been years since I had last been at the cliff.
I used to come to Spivey’s cliff when I was younger, before I got my driver’s license, when I lived with my mother and step father. I’d ride my bike for two hours, then I’d sit and look at the lights, sometimes I’d get stoned and, if I were alone and it were warm enough, I would sleep there.
“You don’t have to kill yourself,” Ed said breaking my thoughts. He looked at me with very serious eyes. “Things get bad and then things get good. If it’s broken, fix it. Go to college, get a degree, a better job, break up with your girlfriend. There are tons of things you could do. But there is absolutely no reason at all to kill yourself.”
A silence again came between us where he and I just looked out at the city.
“I wonder if my father’s down there somewhere,” I said. Ed just looked at me. “You’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking. I just…can’t take it sometimes.”
“We all can’t take it sometimes, man. Just know that it’s no reason to end your life. If anything just keep writing.”
“Maybe College is something I could look into, you know? Give it a second shot. I once thought about being an English teacher.”
Ed gave me a little grin and a nudge with his elbow. “See man, doesn’t the future seem bright just saying something like that?”
I smiled and nodded, “yeah,” I said, but I never let my eyes leave the city.
Ed and I just stood in silence, listening to the trees. My head cleared. I let my eyes lose focus and the city hypnotize me.
“Have you ever tried to kill yourself?” Ed asked softly while looking through me, “I don’t think that we’ve ever talked about anything like that.”
I stared back and nodded. “Once, when I was younger. I had heard that people could kill themselves by taking a bunch of pills. Well, my mother used to keep an orange bottle of pills on top of the microwave.”
Ed shook his head. “I bet you walked around high all day.”
“No,” I said. “At the time I didn’t know what the pills were used for. As it turned out, it was a bottle of Zoloft.”
Ed smiled and chuckled, “oh, man. I love Tom. Something like that could only happen to you.”
I smiled and nodded.
From the cliff I could see that the city was washed in lights, the streets flowing in white. Some places there was the glow of neon yellow or purple or red, while the college and park were filled with orange, at the city’s heart. In some of the buildings there were lit windows.
Ed yawned and stretched, then turned to me. “I’m going to take a piss. I’ll be right back, man. Then we can hit up the spirit world, yeah?”
I smiled and nodded.
Ed walked to the rear of his car and stopped there with his back to me. I returned to the city. I looked just long enough and then stepped over the guard rail.
College is well and good, but it won’t help. It would only serve to perpetuate what’s already there. I’d never be able to get enough money anyway. I could see how the real future would be. I’d forever work worthless jobs and I’d marry Laura and as the problem gets worse I’d take out my frustrations on her and our children. The children would turn against me and hate me. They’d all leave, and I’d be alone, just like my father and his father. It’s all meaningless really and will never change, no matter what I do, no matter how much Ed is there for me, or anyone else. These are the things I see before I go to sleep at night. The things I’ve seen for years. It’s hard when the nightmares come at you when you’re wide awake.
“What are you doing?” I heard from behind me but I didn’t turn around.
The stars can’t really be seen from Spivey’s cliff, with it being so close to the city and all. There’s too much light pollution, which is sad, because stars can’t be grasped with the hand, so they’re really there only to be looked at and dreamed about. And if you can’t see them, I ask you, then what’s the point of looking up? If the whole world tries to drown them out, then what’s the point? Maybe they should all just burn out.