**So this is my first go at fiction. It’s not quite as cohesive as I want it to be. But neither is life.**
This story is not for young adults.
Even if it is read in English class.
Even if it is about a young adult.
It is not for young adults. This is not young adult literature. I am not going to hold your hand through the story and hit you over the head with glaringly obvious symbols and themes. I am not going to provide air-horn-like advertisements for the literary devices they teach you about in 9th grade English literature class. I am certainly not going to sicken my reader or myself with heavy-handed foreshadowing. Not until I get to the point where the protagonist dies, anyway.
But the main reason that this is not young adult literature is that it is not good literature. The kind of literature that young minds should be exposed to ought to be thoughtful, deep, well-written prose. Not junk without aim, theme, or good characterization. Good young adult literature ought to have all those elements of literary style that teachers can point to and guide their eager pupils through. “Alright students. Who can tell me what the author is doing in the second paragraph on page 19? What does the color blue symbolize here?” And then Jamie Firkins, with her flame red hair, can raise her perfectly manicured hand while sitting up with perfect posture and glance around the room at her less-motivated colleagues and tell the teacher, “I think,” with ivy-bound eyebrows raised in self-assured superiority, “that the color blue symbolizes death. I think that the author is using blue here to simultaneously represent the universality of grief and despair.” But this is not that kind of story. I will not use the color blue to represent the universality of grief and despair. Especially not on page 19, if only for the satisfaction that Jamie Firkins will never be able to dissect this story like she will dutifully dissect the lifeless frog in biology class.
For though this story is not a good story nor good literature, it does have life. Unlike the blue lifeless frog lying on the cold metal tray in front of Jamie Firkins.
Not every story has life. But this one does. Because it’s about me. And for now, I’m alive. But we’ll see how long that lasts.
I guess I should tell you about myself. Or show you. Great writers show, they don’t tell. That’s what someone once told me.
“Thomas, your writing is a little wooden. It’s just not there yet. You tell and you need to show. Your dialogue is not convincing. And there’s no forward motion.” That’s what my ex said about my writing once. Interestingly enough, that’s also what she said about me during the surprisingly civil exit interview to our relationship.
I’m a writer.
Or that’s what I tell myself, at least.
I don’t tell people I’m a writer. I suppose I don’t look much the part, except maybe for my problem with alcohol. I guess I would fit in with Kerouac, Hemmingway, or Fitzgerald with the amount of whiskey I consume. But not with the words that flow from my fingertips. Actually, I don’t really know what writers look like. The published writers I have had the privilege of meeting were surprisingly normal looking. Not like the “writers” I meet in coffee shops in Fairmount in Philly on in bars in Brooklyn. I suppose if normal is what writers look like, I would fit in fine. I doubt that if someone looked at my smallish frame, my brown sneakers, blue cords, and plaid shirt they’d think, “Ah, he’s a writer!” But that’s life. Is anything what it seems?
I wear the same old plaid shirts that I’ve had for years along with the same old haircut I’ve had in one variation or other since I was 8 years old. Once, when I was 8 and a ½ I was at soccer practice at the YMCA, and Joy, the girl who matured way faster than all of us, threw a ball at me. I was distracted by my bangs hanging in my eyes, instead of combed over to the right where they belong, and the ball came sailing straight into my nose, which proceeded to gush red, warm blood. It was gross. And it was then that I first discovered that I hate the sight of my own blood. It is so. Red. And salty. And does not belong outside of my body. It belongs inside my body where it can stay blue and un-tasted.
Today in class my teacher said that I was a good student. She was lying. I talk in class, which she likes. But my papers all received poor marks. In fact, she even wrote on my last paper, “I know this probably is not the feedback you want to hear. But this needs a lot of work.” But that’s what college is for, right? To learn how to improve one’s writing. To learn how to succeed in life. To learn how to makes sense of the world. To learn how to keep one’s blood inside one’s body.
Success. It’s such a funny thing. There are probably a million motivational speakers out there telling us how to be successful. But really, we don’t want to hear about personal fulfillment or how we don’t need to accept the world’s definitions of success. I don’t buy it at least. Sure, we create meaning. We imbue the random events and affects of decisions made by others in a small domed building with meaning. We throw words at history and expect it to become a living thing. We expect for some God or gods or universal karma or Something to live in human history. And history is not dead. The consequences of actions of human beings living and dead do in fact influence the daily performances of those who draw breath. But is there a God pulling puppet strings? Is it some kind of karma that is killing those who seem to be innocents? I doubt it.
I guess I’m doing it again. Telling instead of showing. But that’s how this whole writing thing works. Thoughts enter my brain, fingertips clack on plastic keys, and then through some magic I don’t understand words appear on the screen in front of my eyes.
My writing wanders. My ex said that too. I suppose that’s a valid critique. But I write as I see things. And I don’t see a coherent whole. Far from it. I see fragments. And we grab hold of the fragments and try to shape some kind of unified whole. We try to create meaning out of the mess that is life.
And we try to create meaning out of the mess that is death.
I’m not sure what to make of death. It’s so prevalent. It’s our neighbor. It’s our enemy. I doubt we’ll ever figure out some way to make unequivocal meaning from inevitable death. But I think I’d like to try.
When my fingers stray from the silver keys on the laptop keyboard, they find a comfort in running along the braided rope in my lap. My fingers dance upon the cords of the rope as they do upon the rosary that sits on the desk to my left. There St Francis sits, surrounded by a heap of mahogany beads, a reminder of a time long past and a man long dead. Growing up, I was told to pray unceasingly. I’m still not sure what that means. I doubt anyone who tries to take Paul literally will ever figure it out. I probably should pray more. But if prayer is talking to God, then I’ll be praying unceasingly soon enough.
To sleep, perchance to dream. That’s the rub, I suppose. But does it really matter? Can it be so different from this life? The preachers I grew up listening to spouted out threats of eternal hellfire and damnation. Maybe that’s real. But I doubt it. Maybe I’ll be reincarnated as an ant. But will it really be me? If I can’t remember it, if I have no sense of human iteration of Thomas, can that ant really be in any way, shape, or form, truly me? I doubt it. Maybe we just end. Maybe we just stop. Maybe that’s the end of the story. That’s not a bad thing. All stories end. And what characters get to pick their ending? We do. Tiny, insignificant, human beings.
I suppose that’s the draw of death. Choice. People ask me why I think suicide is ever an option. I answer, why not? The void calls. The darkness is so mysterious. Maybe there is some kind of philosophical validation for this feeling. Maybe there is some kind of neuro-biolgical imbalance leading me down this path. Maybe there is some kind of psychological abnormality. But I doubt it. I feel the call. And I answer.
The clock is the loudest thing in my room now. The music ended an hour ago, and I didn’t bother restarting it. As my eyes run over the words on this page, proof reading the text I have let leak from my mind and onto this page, my fingers braid a silent rope. I run the rope through my fingers one last time. Ending with a prayer to anyone out there in the universe who cares to listen, “Ora pro nobis. Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.” I think about adding an amen. But I don’t. Ending with an amen? That would be way too cliché.
The ceiling is hookless. And too high to reach. So I sit on the floor. My braided rope winds like a serpent around the doorknob. There’s a slight hiss as the serpent tightens its truthful grip around my skin.
I wonder into the darkness that is conscious thought. I wonder who will find me. I wonder when someone will find my blue body. I wonder if anyone will bother to write a sequel to this work.
But I doubt it.