Nearly every weekend when I was younger, my dad and I used to ride our bikes to the park just down from our house. The sound of my training wheels grinding against the asphalt was like TV static echoing off of the houses. My dad would ride circles around me, large swooping circles executed with such grace, then he would ride up alongside me, zig-zagging to maintain balance while he explained his plan for the rest of the afternoon. Most proposals concluded with; "do you think you'll have the legs to ride down and grab some ice cream after we're done?" to which I would nod vigorously, then pedal with equal vigor to keep up as he zoomed off and to return to his roadway gymnastics; the gray bag on his back swaying to and fro; baseball bats protruding from the top like baguettes; water bottles swinging from the sides like the rods on a wind chime.
After I turned six, my dad signed me up for tee-ball. We were the Panthers, and we donned sleek, black shirts with any number of our choosing on our back; any two-digit number that is. I chose number 61. I'm not sure why. Coincidentally, our team would practice at the same park that my dad and I had always played at, so I was now riding with my dad to the park in my very official uniform, which I wore with the utmost of pride. After all, I was in the big-leagues now, and it was only a matter of time now before I was drafted into the MLB. Of course I would lead my team to the championships, and I'd probably hit the game-winning home run. Surely.
I am out? Out of what? Oh yes, that room. The moon hangs yet a sliver in the sky. I am thinking? I think; here now, let’s hear what I think. The moon. It’s almost gone now and my body will be mine and my mind will be mine. Mine alone. And then I————Mother’s uncle. What was that just now? Something just tore through my body like boiling water searing through my veins, a nail driven slowly through my skull; and then I stopped thinking. I’m—— I just disappeared. But… I am here. Who was that other me? My brain hurts, and my body. Are these separate? Where am I? Did I fall? The moon, a sliver just… no… I am standing again. Not now? I’m confused. I can barely feel the cold concrete beneath my feet. It’s wet. By the smell of it, it must have just stopped raining. Night. Yes, always at night. I can’t remember the sun. Yes I can. I saw it this morning. Am I thinking again? Never stopped.
The sound of Gordon's fist against my door quashed the silence. One, two, three, four—rhythmical and thunderous. My stomach tightened at the sound, my heartbeat quickened, and my already wavering repose was overcome by a swelling unease. Something felt off.
I sat for a moment, unsure how to proceed. Despite this variety of anatomical alarms, I felt an overwhelming sense of obligation—I was a captive to courtesy, shackled by etiquette. Silence had returned, but it now felt heavy and burdensome, unwelcoming and dangerous. And yet, against my better judgment, I rose to my feet and made my way toward the hinged barrier that separated me from my distraught, inebriated neighbor and dearest friend. I knew that I was making a mistake. I was immediately aware that my current occupation was one that I would later regret. Perhaps it was intuition? Doubtful... more likely was the intensifying cramping in my stomach, the continued acceleration of my heart rate — the semi-nausea of anxiety swirling around and transposing my organs. I cracked the door to greet my neighbor.
I am a poor time-keeper, but I know that much time has passed and much has happened since I entered the library, which has become almost like a home to me. Where to start? I already have. My phone died, strange to use such language for inanimate things… of course one could ------ stay on point fool… yes, well, when my phone died I was rightfully confused. Why was it not working? Had I done something wrong? I fiddled with it for a while, but to no avail. I panicked, felt despair fill me, felt ashamed for feeling both the former and the latter, fiddled with it again, felt panic and despair and shame again, and then I was at a loss. I had lost my voice and I failed to understand why.
"Everything is going to be okay," I'd said to Gordon's unfortunate announcement, a rather generic response that has helped nobody through anything ever. Alas, the room had grown tense, and I was willingly ignorant in the proper handling of a somber drunk. A better response I could not summon. Besides, words alone would not remedy Gordon's maladies.
He nodded slowly, unflinching as I patted his shoulder on my way to the door–a gesture I recognized afterward as awkward and probably condescending, like a "there, there, big guy, everything will work out" type of pat. Shilah watched me as I crossed into the hallway, eyes glowing like paunchy fireflies in the darkness. I waved in her direction and she meowed in acknowledgment.
I almost fell on my way down the ramp. It was much steeper than I had anticipated. Very unfriendly. Here, let us build here a building of knowledge, and then let us raise it; it is after all a building of knowledge. Now then here are the stairs that lead up to our illustrious building. Can you picture them? Perfectly formed concrete slabs that demand respect for their—but wait, wait, here is a person who is bound to a wheelchair, an old infirm man, a young woman pushing a hand buggy where her young child sleeps. Shall we grant them access? Let us be tolerant, considerate even, and build a ramp, but let us put it way over here, a bit hidden, a bit out of the way; and let us make the slope inaccessibly steep.
"One bite," he said, pressing the amber bottle in his hand against his pursed lips. He paused for a moment, contemplative, and then threw his head back, the remaining inch or so of liquid rushed down his gullet into the near gallon of booze already sloshing around in his swollen stomach. He leaned forward and set the empty bottle on the table with tonight's collection. Number nine. "One bite, all it takes."
He leaned back in to the mold his large body had gradually pressed into the couch over the years; it welcomed him, embraced him. He arched his neck and stared at the ceiling as if searching for an answer.
"It's funny, really," he said, "movie's come to life, man. It's like, I don't know, a conspiracy or somethin'. How could they get it exactly right? How could they know?"
What am I doing? Other than the obvious that is; standing about and doing nothing. For how long? Honestly, what am I doing? Hope. Remember hope. The sky, I haven’t looked at the sky for so long. It’s beautiful, really. A swash of color; orange bleeding into purple. I fear it. How could something be so beautiful? It is contrary to everything that I am. It punctuates all that is grotesque in this world; me. How lonely… no, don’t wallow in self-pity, don’t let despair take hold. Perhaps indeed there is a second entrance somewhere else, an entrance that isn’t locked. Hope. Remember hope. That ramp is inconceivably inconveniently placed.