The Burden of Empathy : Chapter 8

Chapter 8 

It was 7:45 when I woke up.  My tour of Humboldt state wasn’t until 11.  So I knew my parents wouldn’t be up until nine.  So I just lied on the bed trying to remember my dream as best as I could so I could interpret it.  First I thought of the beginning of my second dream.  How I was telling the girl I struck she should be with me.  I just shook my head and chalked it up to the drugs I was on the previous day.  Why would a sensible progressive guy like me be interested in a trendy shallow rich girl like that?   Maybe I wasn’t interested in her, but what she and the boy had that I didn’t.  

Then I thought about the first dream I had and just reveled in how awesome of a dream it had been at first and how it will never happen in real life.  Then I realized something.  I don’t know what it was but all of a sudden, I stopped doubting myself.  

I stopped questioning myself.  I stood up, looked in the mirror, and looked at myself as close as I could.  I realized I’m really not ugly, I don’t want to sound like a jerk and say I’m the best looking mother fucker  of all time, but I know there are people a lot uglier than me.  Hell, I thought, if it weren’t for the fact that I might be a killer, I could get any girl I wanted.  Hell, I could still get a hot girl now, some chicks dig criminals.  Who knows, this could actually turn out to be the best thing I’ve ever done.  The truth was I vented a lot of stored up anger on that guy, and though its debatable whether or not he deserved it, its damn well to say I got all of the frustration and rage I stored over the years from abuse and regret out of my system.  I don’t know how the dreams had led me to this realization, but I had accepted that it was all in the past and there is nothing left to do but move on and focus on the now.  

Hell, I realized the future isn’t even a real thing to worry about either and even if it was I shouldn’t be worried about getting caught or not, I should worry whether or not that the couple is alive and okay.  It was still heavy on my mind, but I had a tour of my potential future college, so everything else would have to wait.

Suddenly, inspiration struck.  I grabbed my pen and paper and scribbled this.

The system goes around in circles…

Everything is just a copy

Life’s laws scribbled on hypocritical neckties

One cannot teach character

Give them your money, they wouldn’t lie to us

We must hang on to innocence, We must preserve and protect

We will not accept mistakes

Innocence doesn’t exist past puberty

Those who cling don’t live

WE are all guilty

We are all responsible

We are a pack of pussies too afraid to think beyond our senses

Reach out and you might touch anything

Gasp in awe to the offensive sight

Go ahead and judge, you’ll never understand

Go ahead and fuck your propaganda

We will continue to destroy all that you love

My usual gibberish.  But the juices kept flowing.

Sirens rise from the earths cracks

In a fiery Brimstone haze

God sends his own muse to put them down

If you’re lucky enough to witness, ignore your phallic urges

Or ignorant customs

The goat I slaughtered will make a grand snack for this spectacle

Like a bag of Orville Redenbacher’s at the movies

Should we help the muse?

What!? And ruin the show and the new painting.

Greedy bastard

He sent the muse for you and you let her struggle

Insolent pig

Go fuck yourself

Yeah, just my usual gibberish.



My parents finally woke up at 8:45, and we just got breakfast out of the cooler.  At first I thought my parents were being cheap, but then I remembered the economy is in shambles and they need to save every penny they could since the state was going to cut my moms and other teachers pay.  I then felt guilty as to what a fool I’ve been.  I should be grateful for all my parents have done for me and I shouldn’t be bitching over the luxuriousness of my breakfast, hell it’s a privilege just to afford eating out every day.

“Have I ever thanked you guys for everything you’ve done for me and Jill?”  It was all I said, and all my parents said was, “Thank you,” they were truly touched though.  I just wanted to share a moment like this before I get taken away.  I was still a bit nervous about that, but I would just take it as it comes.  I still flinched at every siren within ear shot.

After a breakfast of old hard boiled eggs, yogurt, orange juice, and three mikes hard lemonades, a few lines of Vicodin, and another half gram of dope, we were off to Humboldt State.  

My parents as usual got into an argument whilst getting lost along the way.  Once we eventually found the place we found the roads for the most part to be closed off for construction.  So that added to the frustration when we had to take the long way to the admissions office, where we were to meet for our tour.  We had arrived at 10:45, and went to the front desk of the office where a woman handed me a folder and told me to wait outside with the rest of the group.

The rest of the group turned out to be just one other family, it was just an eighteen year old girl and her parents.  The girl was porcelain skinned, with beautiful brown eyes and hair, tight jeans and a gem nose piercing.  She had a perfect body.  I never learned what her name was, I didn’t try to hit on her because she didn’t seem very interested, she was hot though.

We waited out side for the tour guide while I flipped through the folder.  It held all the information about how Humboldt was the best school, and how it’s perfect for me, and all that usual bullshit a college throws at you when you see it for the first time.   Our tour guide eventually arrived, he was in a Hollister shirt, Humboldt State shorts, douchey DC sunglasses, and flip flops.  The modern beach boy/preppy hipster/douchbag look.  With the styled hair and highlights.  I wanted to punch him in his dick.  Hell, I could if I wanted to, I knew that, but I didn’t want to hurt anyone else.


After the other family berated the bastard with questions we finally began the tour.  We start by aimlessly wandering the campus as one does at these things.  First we checked out the science building, and its incredible conservatory.  Then the English department, and other lecture halls.  He went on about how constructive and supportive of a school it was, about how good it was for students and how it’s helped him.  He was preparing to become a teacher but he talked about how he constructed his schedule to avoid math or science.  Which according to my mom, a teacher for over twenty years, are essentials to become a good teacher, but I was more interested in the fact you can take conceptual classes where you take a science or physics with math completely taken out.  It’s perfect for me, I’m shit at math, and any way to avoid it is good for me.  I became enamored with how open and laid back the school was.  The phys ed department did make me worried that I would still have my run-ins with the “bro” jock mentality that I hate, but if it means going to the college where they grow the best dope, it’s worth it.  From time to time I would either listen to what the tour guide was saying or be checking out the other girl’s ass.  The more I saw and heard about the school the more I wanted to go.  The campus was beautiful, practically in a forest itself.  Plus from almost any class room and all over the campus, you had the most beautiful view, you had a choice of the lush red wood forests or the beautiful expansive beach, or both in the same picture. 


Once the tour finally ended I was relieved to be rid of the tour guide.  We talked more about Humboldt States sports than I wanted to hear, and he raved wonders about their phys ed department, all a big waste of time in my opinion.  

My parents and I caught lunch in the college’s town of Arcata.  A small town that seems as busy as any big town.  It had all the requirements of your standard old western town with architecture remnants of the 20s and 50s, but it had a totally different feel. I saw plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, and head shops in the town, even a large movie theatre.  It was an amazing town.  We caught lunch at a local pizza joint where I flirted a bit with the girl behind the counter, and my dad noticed, and immediately gave me shit about it.  Nothing mean, just good natured ribbing, you know dads going around to waitresses saying “my handsome boy” but it embarrassed me as intended.

As we ate we chatted about NPR, and things of that nature.  You know Liberal elitist conversations, where we talk about how much better we are than republicans because we actually care about other people.  This isn’t 100% not true.  Republicans do tend to be self centered assholes, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t met nice Republicans, I remember one girl at my school, who was a goddamn reactionary but was none the less nicer to me.  Or a blond, who was per batum the complete political opposite of me, but went so far as to call me her friend.


Once we had eaten, we decided to pay Jill another visit.  It would be a short one, seeing that she still had work, but we visited her and my father gave her a jar of pickled watermelon rinds.  My dad had made about twenty jars before our trip and was handing them out.  Jill loved them.  I hated them.  It was just vinegary, salty watermelon rind, which I consider uneatable.   It’s like chewing hardwood synthesized by Styrofoam.  But majority rules in this family and with it being 3-1 the pickled watermelon rinds have won a spot in the list of foods okay to eat.  

We hugged Jill and allowed her to return to work.  And we spent the rest of the day wandering Humboldt.  We returned to Arcata for a bit.  Then toured a creamery not far from Jill’s work.

We eventually returned to our hotel room.  Once in, my mother grabbed the first shower ahead of me.  So while waiting I went into my room and flipped through the TV channels, eventually settling on the local news, figuring I’d be in for a good laugh when I shit talk the stupidity of the nature of the “news”, but I was caught completely off guard by the story.

“TEEN COUPLE ASSUALTED” was the headline under her obviously made up stage name, “Joy Wong.” 

“Strange events at a local Walgreens, where not just two days ago, a teenage couple was assaulted by an unknown assailant.  The Couple,” it switched to a picture of the two, smiling at some party, the kind of photo the news puts on to show the tragedy befallen on such beautiful people, “was Judy Pins and Jeffery Shoemaker, two seniors and top athletes at John Muir High School.”  I rolled my eyes at the mention of them being athletes, but I was glued to the story like it held my fate, like a man on death row waiting for the governor to call.

 “The couple had just met for their date and was on there way to a restaurant down the street where from around the corner of this Walgreens a man leaped out and assaulted the couple with a metal pipe.” 

It cut to the boy in his hospital bed, his left eye was bruised and swollen shut, and he had five stitches in the left corner of his lips and a huge red spot on his right check.  He had an arm in a sling, but no damage to his legs.

“I had just met my girlfriend, we walked past a homeless guy” he left out the fact he spat at him, “we walked down the street from one corner of the Walgreens to the other, and when we got to the other side, all off a sudden I get whacked with a metal pipe by some random dude, he just wails on me and I go down.  I saw him get my girl with it, but he just gave her one swing and knocked her out, then kept working on me.  He just came out of nowhere and got me so hard before I could get a clear view of him, I mean I described him as best I could, but it was Judy who got the good look at him.”

Joy’s voice came on.  “Judy Pins was released from the hospital that night with no real injuries at all except a mild concussion and small bump on the head.”

Judy came on, thank god, I was so happy to know she was alright, the guy could rot in the most painful and disgusting ring of hell for all I care, but the fact the girl was okay was all that mattered to me. “He just came out of no where,” she said with a beautiful voice “and he just wailed on Jeff, then knocked me out with one blow, then apparently returned to beating Jeff.”

“Do you know why he assaulted you?”  Joy asked off screen.

“Not really,” said Judy, “If I had to guess I’d say it was because my boyfriend was an ass to a homeless man.”

“What did he do?” Joy asked.

“He spat at some poor sweet old homeless man who just begged for change, it was so mean.  I was so pissed at him, I told him “What goes around comes around ass hole” and not to long after I said that, the bastard got beaten up with a pipe.”

You have no idea how happy this was making me.  Not only did she see her boyfriend for what he and his kind truly were, but she didn’t seem to be upset about the assault, hell she seemed happy I kicked the shit out of that guy.  She even called him a bastard on the “clean” local news.  Oh happy day!  

Then she went on, “I mean I probably should feel bad about dumping him the day after he gets beaten up, but the prick deserved it.”  That made all of my troubles just wash away, even if the pigs were coming after me, the fact she thinks he deserved it would make it worth being arrested.  So I kept watching the story to see if I was going to be arrested, but I don’t know if Ill get the answer or not from the story, as it cut back to the douche.  

“Do you think they’ll catch him?”  Joy asked off-screen once again.

“My guess would be no.  I hope so, but given the fact I doubt my own description of him just tells me he got away.”

It cut to Judy.  “No, Jeff cant remember what he looks like, I looked at him only for a few seconds, I’m sure if I saw him in a line up I could pick him but I don’t know what he really looks like.  All I remember was he was white and had long hair.”

It now cut to Joy standing in front of the Walgreens where the story began.  “Police and sheriffs say they are on the look out for the assailant.  He is said to be a caucasian male, with long brown hair, we do have composite sketch of the attacker by the police department, this supposedly from Judy and Jeff’s memory, is what he looks like.”  

It cut to a police sketch that looked nothing like me, it looked like the love child of Charles Manson and the Unabomber, it had Manson’s long hair, and for some reason the Unabomber’s hoodie and mustache.  It didn’t look a thing like me, the girl didn’t seem to care about the assault, I was in the clear! Unless a camera caught me running from the scene of the crime into the car and they trace the car to my parents I’m safe.  

I was home safe, in the clear, free from worry.  I wasn’t going to Jail!  I still accepted the fact I had anger issues to work on, but I knew my violent outbursts were over.  Once you go through a hell like I just did you make damned sure you don’t go through it again.  I felt a combination of relieved and invincible.  I felt I could face anything, over come anything.  Do anything.  I celebrated with my hash brownie, as many Coronas, Mickeys, and Mikes as my dad would let me have, some of the vicodin and Norco’s I brought, and as usual, as much weed as I could smoke.  I still saved as much of everything as I could, I wanted to have stuff to celebrate with and help me get through my trip home tomorrow, but today was a day of celebration.  I was free to enjoy the rest of my life with my family.  Which got me thinking about my dream, the part where I saw all the woman of my family, I realized how much I missed them, how little I’ve seen of them, I decided I would go see them as soon as I can, a trip to LA was in the works.  A little adventure, an experience for the sake of experience to go along with this one.   

I can’t stress to you the relief and joy I felt at that moment. First I thought I was a murderer, now I was just a source for that boy’s karma.  Don’t misunderstand, I don’t excuse myself from my violent misdeed,  I knew I’d get my karma for reacting violently as karma is simple physics, therefore inevitable.  I was free.  Free to enjoy my life again.

I was enjoying it so much, I passed out before sunset, even before I could get a shower in.  


The Burden of Empathy : Chapter 7

Chapter 7

I was so freaked out I couldn’t even get back to sleep.  It was still dark, around 4:30am, but for some reason I felt like I had to get out of the hotel room, I felt suffocated and I couldn’t understand why.

I knew I couldn’t go out the front door because I’d wake my parents.  So I opened the window and shimmed down to the ground, pajama bottoms with a sweatshirt in the dead of a mountain night.  Yet despite the cold I went walking.  

I went on the same route I took for my other walk, along the Eel River, but something was different about it now.  The whoosh of the wind in the brush, and the shapes of the trees are so menacing at night.  In the day there are the most beautiful things besides Her.  There wasn’t anything to be afraid of, it’s like my dad always told me,  “There is nothing out there at night, that isn’t out there during the day,”  And he was right.  The rapists and psychos out walking at night are probably doing the same during the day, most just like to use the night as a cover.

The only calming thing was the sound of the river.  Even though I couldn’t see the river, I could hear it, and when everything else was scaring me, that river returned my calm.

It was when I was focusing on the sounds of the river,  out of nowhere came two jock thugs who knocked me down, kicked my rib cage in constantly, and frisked my pockets, they took my wallet, my phone, and my iPod.  Thank god I left my weed in the hotel room.

Suddenly I felt my pajama bottoms being pulled down and I heard one say, “you believe this, the mother fucker isn’t fighting back.”  Why should I?  I knew I had this coming, I knew this was my karma for attacking the boy and the girl.  I deserved this, I deserved to be treated like a piece garbage.

First he pulled down my pants, then my boxers.  Then I heard him whip it out.  Just as he was about to go in, I woke up.

I can honestly say I have never come out of a dream more startled and relieved than at that moment.  The sun had risen, so I got up.  Out of paranoia, I checked my self in the mirror.  No bruises on my face and my ass felt untouched, but when I took my shirt off I saw the biggest bruise on my rib cage I had ever seen.

I hope you’re as freaked out as I was, but I wasn’t worried.  I knew if I kept my shirt on I could hide it from my parents.

The Burden of Empathy : Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Then I had another dream.

I was talking to her, telling her everything about myself.  Confessing every single pathetic detail of my infatuation with her.  

But suddenly she changed. 

 Suddenly I wasn’t taking to her, but the girl whom I struck whilst pummeling her boyfriend.  But what I was saying wasn’t changing at all, I was just going on and on about how, “I should be the one on her arms, I should be the one with you.  I’m the good guy, I’m the one shy sweet sensitive guy you see in the movies, me.  Not the jocks I see all around me making out with the whores of my school.  I’m the perfect man, why won’t you even talk to me?”

Suddenly, I see myself, beating the crap out of the guy before.  Only I see something different about myself, I’m smiling while I’m doing it.  Each punch I’m being dusted and stained with his blood, and I’m smiling the most vengeful and evil smiles you’ve ever seen.  I grab myself by the collar shaking my reflection “What the fuck are you doing, this is not the path to enlightenment!  Stop that! Why are throwing all the years of self discipline and training out the window?  You were almost the Zen master you wanted to be, why are you throwing it all away?”  Suddenly while I shake this man who is supposedly me, I find now I have the boy I beat gripped by the collar.  I let go but he just lies back on the concrete ground, motionless.  

Suddenly I’m five years old and mom is hugging me while a bunch of other women circling around me, saying how cute I am and pinching my cheek.  I can’t remember everyone, but I saw my older cousins Amy and Lindsey, I saw my Auntie’s and my Grandma, some other cousins.  And I see random friends of my mom and grandma whose faces I remember but names escape me, I saw Jill.  

Then I saw the girl and her boy friend, as bruised and bloody as I left them, and they say something to everyone.  Something inaudible that I can’t remember.  Then all of a sudden nobody smiles at me.  Everyone stops telling me who sweet and cute I am, and everyone just files out of the room.  

“No!” I cry, “Please, I’m just a child!  I’m sorry!  Auntie, Mommy, don’t go!”

Jill and my mom were the last to leave, they wouldn’t even look me in the eye.

“MOMMY!   Please I’m sorry forgive me!  Please don’t leave me” Tears are just falling out of my eyes, I’m screaming and crying, and my own family doesn’t even speak to me. Now in this dark place, I’m all alone.  Crying “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”  I look in a mirror, and all I see is the couple, on the ground of that parking lot, bloody and motion less.  

That gave me the jolt that woke me up.

The Burden of Empathy : Chapter 5 “I’ve just had 18 straight whiskies, I think that’s the record” Dylan Thomas’s last words.

Chapter 5 “I’ve just had 18 straight whiskies, I think that’s the record” Dylan Thomas’s last words.

That night, I had a dream. 

 The dream was about her.  

We fucked in my dream, we fucked in the hottest most passionate of ways, totally naked, arms and legs wrapped around each other and locked in the most perfect fashion.  I can’t remember what room we were fucking in, but it was on a bed.  And we were fucking to a song, it was “Low.” 

Suddenly I was in school, just hanging out at lunch, totally shirtless for some reason, bragging to my friends about fucking her.  

Suddenly I see her in front of me, and she slaps me as hard as she can and I start falling.  Just falling until I hit the bottom, which turns out to be my room at the hotel.  I’m sweating from every pore on my body so much my boxers were sticking to my ass.  I checked the time and it read 3:45, I smoked then went back to sleep.

The Black Widow : Chapter 8

The Black Widow : Chapter 8

Life is already hard for our teenage heroine Lisa. But life gets even harder when a sexy serial killer starts killing every douchey guy and bitchy girl at her school and she becomes the prime suspect. Until one night when she finally comes face to face with the terror that is, The Black Widow.

In this chapter: Will Lisa, Abby and Jane escape the Black Widow?  Or will they be her next unfortunate victims?

The Burden of Empathy : Chapter 4

Chapter 4 

I woke up at about 7:30, and cursed at myself for not being able to sleep in more.  But I was up, so I leaped my torso forward and erected my position, and pushed down to get rid of my morning wood.  I was dreaming about her.  It wasn’t a sex dream, I can’t remember what the whole dream was about but I did remember it was about her.  

Once my hard on was limp again I got dressed in my Shins t-shirt and a new pair of jeans.  I then smoked a bowl and read one of my books.  When I was tired of reading it was 8:30, I was killing time until my parents got up so that I could get to the cooler without disturbing them.  So I smoked more and waited.  They said we’d meet Jill Around 11, so they would be up soon, and I figured since we are meeting early, we were probably eating out of the cooler for breakfast.  By nine I heard both my parents up.  So I waited a few more minutes so that I wouldn’t walk in on them dressing.  I just sat there, high as kite, in silence, and just trailed off into my thoughts.  Which started about me fantasizing about being a well liked and much desired playboy of the school.  But were shattered when I remembered the whole school is already aware of my nonexistence of confidence.  Which sort of goes hand in hand with my previous epiphany of just passing my problems off to other people.  

My thoughts were still stuck on my crimes of a violent nature which reminded me of all my other fuck ups, but it was now one of those pieces of guilt that you just push back into your mind and forget about for a short while, but every few minutes or hours or so, it just comes back to your mind screaming at you to confess.  But it was pushed back again when I was thinking about her, like I do every morning.

I realize I sound like a stalker, but I’m not.  I’m not a creeper when it comes to girls, I’m just the nervous dorky guy you see in 80’s movies, except my lack of confidence is more subtle, I should hope.

Finally I heard my mother call my name, I immediately entered there room, to see my mom getting her shoes on, and my dad I could hear was in the shower.

My mother looked at me and smiled, “Good Morning.”

“Good morning,” I replied.  After last night I decided to stop avoiding conversations with my mom.  My thinking was that, “I might go to jail for a long time, I better make sure my parents know how much I loved them, especially my mom.  I’ve been unfair to her for too long.”

I tried to think of something to talk about, so I picked a standard conversation starter, “So how did you sleep?”

“Not bad. Your father didn’t sleep well at all, just so you know,” she said, referring to his occasional temper. “We are probably gonna just get breakfast out of the cooler.”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured.”  I thought of another thing to say, as I sat in the chair adjacent to her.  “So we go see Jill at…”

“11, we’ll leave here around 10:45.”  She said.

“Cool.”  I said “So… It’ll be cool to see Jill.”

“Yeah, when I talked to her on the phone she seemed real excited.”  My mom said nothing while she thought for a minute.  Eventually she said, “You know, it makes me so happy that you two get along.”

“Now we get along,” I said with a smile.

“True, but you weren’t as bad as me and my brothers, trust me.  It was not fun growing up with siblings that hated each other.”

My mom was referring to being the youngest of three children, with two older brothers.  I knew they had their feuds and there would always be some unforgotten tension, but hate was a strong word.  She assured me she didn’t hate her brothers anymore, and that she loved them as one should love ones family.  But when someone is a dick to you, even just once, you never forget.

My father came out of the bathroom in nothing but his briefs and socks.  He pulled his long hair into a ponytail while walking out, he then put on jeans, his tai chi t shirt, a flannel coat, and his home made leather belt.  

“Good Morning Dad,”  I said with another smile.

“Good morning son.”  My dad said in his humbling monotone with a sigh.  “How are you today?”


“Good.” He breathed  two meditative breaths while putting on his boots, “So are you excited about seeing your sister?”

“Yeah.” I said.


I sat and chatted with my parents a short while longer about the whore John Mccain has become and how were all fucked if Obama loses.  I then returned to my room and got more stoned, flipping through Songs of the Doomed with the TV on UNDERCOVER BROTHER.  

I sat and daydreamed about a few of the chicks at my school, who I wouldn’t mind fucking, but then I end up thinking about her, and when I do I don’t think of her like I do the others.  She is so much, better.  Prettier, smarter, more mature and respectable.  She’s more than a piece of meat for fucking like the other girls at my school dress themselves up as.  She has class.

If that sounds sexist, trust me, I’m the farthest thing from sexist.  From what I have seen, teenage girls are some of the most annoying, stupidest, self centered bitches to live.  But her, Ill put it this way, and I hope it doesn’t sound lame but it probably will, the girls at my school are just that, they are girls. They may think they are young women, because they look like it, but they aren’t, they’re girls.  Her, she is a woman.  Maybe that’s why I have such trouble getting her, maybe I’m still a boy who just thinks he’s a man.

Well, now that I might be wanted for beating a rich kid to death and assaulting his girlfriend, I have no choice but to be a man.  A boy would tell his mom and dad so they could get a lawyer for him and they could share in the burden.  But I was the one who committed the crimes, not my parents, the burden was mine and mine alone.

By the time it came to go I was so high I wasn’t even thinking about the possibility that I could now be wanted by the Humboldt Sheriff’s department.  We got in the car and drove off.

I listened to my distraction brick while we drove up the free way.  Some Nirvana and some Foo fighters, and some Bob Dylan, and some Ludacris, some Rob Zombie, some Jimi Hendrix, some TV on the Radio and then finally we arrived at the place to pick up my sister.  

The group she works with as I mentioned before is a church organization called NSP or Native Service Project that acts as a camp were groups of teens from church youth groups and Sunday Schools agree to a week of hard labor to renovate worn houses on Native reservations.  They camp wherever available in the community, usually it’s a school cafeteria or dorm of some kind.  The staffers, such as my sister Jill, would sleep in an adjacent room separate from the campers.  The school was your standard single story elementary school, no real indoor halls and large concrete squares for play.  The front of the school was adorned with the most gorgeous bouquets of flowers.  

These deep purple and blue flowers which I had never see before, vibrant hydrangeas, and white roses.  Surrounded by the lush green grass.  

We parked in front of the flowers, got out of the car, and as we started our approach to the building, out the front of the cafeteria steps emerges a 5’7” girl with long brown hair, and amazingly fashionable hipster style.  It was in fact one of my best friends, my older sister Jillian.

She ran up and immediately hugged Mom, Dad, and myself.

“Hi,” she said in her perfectly feminine yet strong tone.  The tone which she shared with my mother. “How are you guys?”

“Hi Jill,” my mom spoke first. “So great to see you.”

“Hi dad,” She said to him, noticing his new cane.  “How’s your hip?”

“It’s fine, pains easing away, I just brought the cane to be careful.” He replied.

“And how are you, and…”She just noticed my hair was different, the last time she saw me I had dreadlocks. “Oh my god your hair looks so good.”

“Thank you,” I said. “I’m so happy to see you.”

“Me too. How are you?” She said.

“I’m great,”  I lied with a smile on.  “How are you?”

“Great, Just great, I’m having such a great time here,” she said with a real smile.

We walked to the car while passing stories back and forth.  She went on about how cooking for so many people was so much fun and how she buys everything in bulk, but it was difficult for me to pay attention.  I was listening to my sister, and was incredibly excited to see her, but I couldn’t help be reminded of my misdeed at the site of my sister.  The girl who was a second mother and best friend to me mixed into one.  I came to think that one day I might be thrown behind bars for life and never see her again.  And the site of her is a simple reminder of the fact I hit a woman.  Something that would be enough for her to never speak to me again.  The guilt was back in my mind again.  But I smiled and just pretended to pay attention to the conversations. Nobody noticed.  I don’t usually say much anyway.  

We stopped in one of the many small Humboldt towns and got lunch at a café.  My Mom and Dad were at the counter ordering, while my sister and I got a table out on the front patio.

“So how are you?” She asked noticing I was staring into space not saying a word.

“I’m fine,” I said.

“Good. I’m really glad to see you,” she said.

“I am too.”

“So how long ago did you take out your dreads?” She asked.

“About a month, I took them out sometime in July.”

“Well, you’re hair looks really good now,  I mean not like it didn’t before but now you look much more…”

“Clean?” I said.

“Well, I don’t want to say…”

“It’s okay that’s what everyone else has been saying.  I think it goes with the fact I’m shaving more often now also.”

“Probably,”  she said.

“Neck beard and dreads don’t attract girls,” I joked, but not actually kidding.

“Yeah,” she now said shamelessly, but still smiling.

“So you showed Flight of the Conchords to your other staff members?” I asked amused.

“Yeah.” Her eyes grew exceedingly wide at the mention of Flight.  For those of you who don’t know, Flight of the Conchords was a show on HBO.  If you haven’t seen it, go rent it, it’s the funniest show from HBO next to Bored to Death.  And those who have seen it, congratulations you’ll understand the rest of this conversation while others remain outside of the joke.  

“We flip the bird constantly,” she said and we both laughed.  It’s like I said above…

We were silent for about five seconds, and then Jill asked, “How mean was I to you when we were younger?” Another one of Jill’s questions she throws out of nowhere constantly in order to gain a better perspective of herself.  

Now this is the kind of situation where someone asks a question and they want you to give them a certain answer, just because they want to hear it said, even if it isn’t the truth, and most people would just lie in this situation. ‘Oh never Jill, you were always an angel and you just shove that little thought into the dark realms of your mind.’  Not me, I’m all about the truth, I’m too lazy to come up with a lie.

“Well when we were younger you were awesome, but when you were in middle school, you were kind of a bitch.” I said.

“Really…” she honestly looked hurt at what I said, but after about two minutes of silence, she returned to her chipper self. “ I’m sorry, for anything mean I did.”

“It’s past, and the past doesn’t truly exist, time is simultaneous, past present and future are the same thing, the now is both a past and present, it’s even a future.  All that is past and in the future makes up who you are.  So take in the good with the bad and learn from them. They are the same thing.  In other words, we’re cool.”  I felt like Alan Watts, or A Zen master, or Dr. Manhattan after I said that.  

“I love you, and I’m proud of you.  You’ve really grown up.”  She smiled her overly photogenic smile.

My parents approached the table carrying their drinks in there hands, iced green tea for dad, hot nonfat latte for mom, juice for Jill, and a smoothie for me.  Now that my Mom was here my sister and she got into a conversation whilst my father and I just sat quietly and randomly gave our input on a topic.  Jill raved about the new Batman movie out, and talked about work and so forth.  She went on with all of my moms questions, talking about the different work sites and campers and so forth.  Then she talked up the other staffers, and as they went on I was lost on two things.  My misdeed and her.  Now I knew I could never be with her, because she would never go for a guy like me,  a potential murderer and a, god forbid, woman beater.  

I only hit the girl once, but she didn’t do anything wrong to my knowledge.

 I couldn’t believe I did this.  I would never do something like this, but I did.  I just wanted to beg and cry, “Jill, Mom, Please help me!”  But I didn’t.  I didn’t want them to think of me that way.  

Our food arrived, so we ate and carried out the conversation.  Jill remarked on how much weight I had lost, and I credited it to my summer school PE.  We skipped from topic to topic until it was time to leave and walk around the town.  We wandered down the streets past stores and shops, then returned to our van and proceeded down the scenic beauty towards the Humboldt beach, which sits on the edge of its lush redwoods or beautiful cliffs and bluffs.  We came to the beach, talked about how beautiful the beach was and blah blah blah… I wasn’t paying attention to what they were saying, I was busy just valuing the very sight of the beach and my family.  The sight of my long haired and bearded father, who is so zen its scary.  My anxious yet always loving and concerned red-haired and freckled mother.  My porcelain skinned brunette sister, smart loving and one of my best friends.  Here we are together for what could be the last time.  All because of my fuck up.  I was on the verge of tears.   The very thought of being locked away from this beautiful place and from some of the only people who cared about me, it was enough to make me want to kill myself.  But that was the cowards way out, and this would be how I’ll prove I am no coward.

After we got our fill from the beach, Jill got to drive the van back to the school.  As she was speeding 20 miles per hour over the limit, we swung by the reservation she was working on.  It was by far the tiniest reservation I have ever been on.  It couldn’t have been more than 100 – 200 yards long.  With only a few houses, a play ground, and a community center.  Yet it was in one of the most beautiful places, a lush green cliff side just outside the redwoods right next to the shore with a beautiful view out towards the ocean and the trees.  Jill went on about the alcoholism of the tribe and how they had suffered.

“What had happened was that most of the eldest natives, long ago, were savagely murdered, so the population was basically wiped except for the youngest ones who were to young to remember the language, so the language is basically dead, and most who grow up here generally leave.”  My sister told us while driving.

“So this is the entire reservation?” my mom asked.

“Yeah,” said Jill, “Then those who do stay generally are drinkers.”

“So how do the locals feel about you guys helping them?” My mom asked.

“Well, everyone on the reservation loves us,” she said. “But a lot of the locals aren’t happy with us being here outside the reservation.  Because a lot, not all, are still anti Indian, but they don’t have real reasons for tension its just..”

“They are just supposed to hate them because they always have?”  My mom said completing Jill’s sentence.

“Yes, just because it’s always been like that, they have no idea why,” Jill said.

Goddamn rednecks, I thought. What the fuck is the point of hating something and you don’t know why?  Goddamn white wastes of space, they probably voted for McCain.  

After Jill’s break we returned her to her work place.  We met her other staff members, they were all very friendly and nice.  But the only name I remember is Andrew.    

We then said our goodbyes and promised to be back for dinner, as we had been invited to dine with her and the campers and staff.

So we returned to our hotel room and waited out the three hours until we would go to eat.  My parents were in their room, my mom on her lap top, my dad working on his leather craft.  I sat in my room getting stoned and watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on my portable DVD player.  After that I just smoked and read until it was time to go.  

When packing my third bowl, I noticed something odd in my stash, there a was an odd, round nugget stuck with and unusual black resin.  I assumed it was just a mild hash of some kind.  So I packed the nugget and smoked it, but my first time hitting it, I was caught off guard, and my lungs were in stung by the harshness of the hit and out went the smoke from my coughing, drooling mouth.

“Dear god,” I thought, “what kind of a resign is on this thing.”  It was so harsh I didn’t even care if my parents smelled my hit which was wafting towards the door.  Normal people would have stopped smoking at this point, but I was dedicated to getting a serious case of the munchies for dinner.  

After I had finished the bowl I noticed something was different about my high.  I felt sluggish and slow in a completely different way.  I checked my eyes in the mirror to find them not glassy and blood shot, but ice white with pin sized pupils.  My skin was also pale white, and doughy.  I felt warm and languid, untouchable in a way.  Weed had never done this to me before but suddenly one of my memories that had been hidden in my mind decided to come roaring forward, it was when I was leaving Raymond, Eric, and Mad Dog.  

“Care, f..  There… Opium…” was what I heard, now I realized he must have said, “careful bro, there might be a little opium in there.” 

 Goddamn it, that fucking bum snuck me opium, that bum!  I couldn’t believe it, but then I realized that once again this was no ones responsibility but my own, had I listened I could have taken the opium out before hand.  But low and behold, here I was about to go have dinner with a Christian charity camp, with my parents, high on opium.  It made sense, I had all the symptoms, tiny pupils, pale skin, a self proclaimed aura of untouchability, as if I could make sense of them all.  I noticed this when I flipped though channels when I was done critiquing Fear and Loathing, I usually talk to the screen when I’m by myself, but the opium had left me with a need for little or no words, as they were coming out mangled and slow any how.  Then came my parents beacon, it was time to go.  I put on my glasses hoping they would distract from my tiny pupils. 

 I pulled myself together, and walked as normally as I could out the door towards them.  My dad sniffed the room loudly so I could notice it, he looked at me through his glasses and said nothing, as far as they could tell I was normal, but walking without swinging around or struggling was taking all my strength.  I did my best to avoid conversing with my parents, fearing my words would reveal my true self.  

“Have you been smoking in there?” my father asked me, off guard.

“No!” I replied in an offended tone, hoping going on the offensive rather than defensive to truly portray I have no idea what he’s taking about even though I damn well do. “Why?”  I asked, playing the fool.

“Because it smells like smoke in there!” He replied, almost furious.  I wondered if he was going to hit me.  He doesn’t do it often, he hasn’t done it for years, but he has done it.

“Dad, do you think I’m stupid!?” I asked. Yes! Brilliant, take offense, make him the one at fault in the situation.  “You know I’m responsible, I wouldn’t do something like that.”

“Okay,” he said, reluctantly believing me. “Because you know it’s a 500 dollar fine if you do that in a hotel.”

“I know,” I said, offended believing my own lie, “I’m not stupid.”

“The smoke is pretty stale,” my mom put in, “some one before us probably did it, this IS Humboldt.”

“Exactly,” I said, relieved, with her believing me it didn’t matter what my dad thought, I was off the hook.  I love how this part of the story makes me look like a good person.  Said the narrator with sarcastic overtones.

All my dad could say after that was, “Okay,” sigh, “okay.”

The upset blew over as we drove to the camp, or school, or whatever the fuck you want to call it.  This is the mentality of opiates, “Fuck it! I cant move a muscle, so what can I do about it but sit and observe.”

I was relieved I was able to talk my way out of trouble.  I found it so hard to talk, I could move my mouth but I couldn’t properly construct the words.  The fact I was able to plea to my parents in such a normal tone was amazing.  This would be one thing that relieved me of the stress of going to a Christian summer camp dinner, stoned and high on opium.  I’m normally shy and quiet in new situations, so the fact I wouldn’t be talking much wasn’t a problem.  However the pin sized pupils, and lethargic attitude would be a problem.  

We arrived at the site, what was once an almost empty school was now bustling with teen bopper Methodist charity campers.  A mix of Hannah Montana innocents, reformed junkies, and trapped & confused wayward youth.  We walked into the cafeteria/ sleeping quarters, which was now bustling with hormonal Christian youths and the odd characters who volunteered to escort them.  

The age range of the youth was from 14-18.  So every teen age drama possible would be assured to happen at least once with the entirety of groups.  As we made our way in, a fat girl of about 14, with spiky hair and a bullring nose piercing came walked past and stared at us.  The stare that says, “Who the fuck are you people?”  So immediately, to reassure the girl my mother told her, “We’re Jill’s family.”  She immediately understood smiled at us and walked away.  Though you could tell she was still confused as to why we were here.   I could tell by looking at her she was either on of the progressive liberal Christians or one of the former wayward youth getting their life back on track with a Christian youth group to distract them from the evil temptations of the drug and alcohol lifestyle.   Liberalism but with god not pot.  Or both, to each their own right?

I remember being one of those youths when I was in the camp the summers before and after my freshman year.  My first year was after I took LSD for the first time, and I had just started to smoke weed, plus I was already drinking.   Sure enough, I found myself in this group, by my own choice for some reason, to show off how I was a lost cause.  No matter how liberal, or progressive the church may be, I just couldn’t be tamed.  Now matter how much they tried to instigate new age practices to widen the market I was still coming to youth meetings high and drunk.  Hell, my first year I snuck in a flask and water bottle full of rum.  My next year I brought 2 grams of hash, and a fifth of jack I snuck in coke bottles.  No one caught me, not even once.  

Then when I had just started my sophomore year, I quit the church.  I couldn’t handle the faith in god, or the hostile youth anymore.  I was the only one of my kind in this youth group, the older cooler youth who were my sister’s friends were gone, and most of them hated me anyway.  They were just afraid of me, afraid of the beer on my breath and the skunky aroma from my left pocket.  

 Her friends on the other hand, were not the kind of people to accept me.  I was everything their parents told them to stay away from, and since their parents where the volunteers and therefore overseers of the youth group, I was either approached as a kid in need of help, or a rebel dooming himself to a life without god.  All I can say is that I didn’t need help, so I just walked away from the church one day, vowing to never return and my mom supported my decision and accepted that her son was a blasphemizing stoner leaving behind a whole group of church goers who watched him grow up, and she tried to hide that she was just a little proud of it.  

I’m sure she was upset when I decided to leave the youth group, but she understood, and through that understanding she came to agree with my decision, and although the church I just left behind was a very open, freethinking, and charitable church, I had to accept the fact that this isn’t the true face of Christianity.  Most Christianity isn’t founded on pragmatic practices, reconciling a congregation to ban homophobia as a church practice, or on practices welcoming people of other faiths without threat of conversion.  Most Christianity was the opposite of that, but the church me my sister, and my mother grew up with, and my grandma is a frontrunner for, was this type of church, and that was this type of group.  And I was damned lucky to be come from this church instead of some Neo Nazi psycho one.  Hell, at least at this one there were a few people in favor of legalization.

Jill waved at us from the kitchen, and told us to wait outside because they were about to, “Circle up.”  So we waited out side.  Eventually the entire group, adult escorts and youth and all came out of the building as the site manager or lead staff member called out “Circle up!”  He then gave his nightly announcements. “Okay so tonight we have our nature walk, which will be after song time.” He then pointed at us, “This is Jill’s family, they will be eating dinner with us tonight.  Please be courteous and kind to our guests, and make good examples of our campers.”  He then looked to one of the campers “You wanted to do the super man prayer?” The camper, a blond girl with the most lopsided breasts I have ever seen, became ecstatic and jumped up and down clapping “Yeah.”   Everyone went quite as she lead them in a campy prayer, sung to the tune of the Superman theme music, all of which I have forgotten because of my brain cell slaughtering habits.

Finally after watching the entire group pray, which was like torture to me, the group filed in to get their food.  As courtesy for welcoming us we waited at the very end of the line.  Finally we moved up to receive a plate of spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread with a drink of water to wash it down.  We then sat at a table near the end and were eventually joined by Jill and twelve others.  

“I’m so glad you guys could make it,” she said with a smile ear to ear.

“We wouldn’t miss any opportunity to see you,” my father said, dead serious.

“So how are you really?” My sister said to me.  I should have known she’d try to get me to talking, she hadn’t seen me in while, and I said very little to her when I saw her earlier. 

“I’m great,” I lied.  “Couldn’t be better, I’m here in a new place, on a new adventure, I get to see you, and get a free dinner out of it.”  I was amazed I said this without stumbling into inaudible mumbles because I was so drowsy.  But my sister laughed and went on.

 Then all of sudden, when I looked at one of the staffers caring a bucket of water to the kitchen, but all of a sudden the bottom of the bucket broke, and the water spilled all over the floor.  And then, when I saw that, for no apparent reason, I felt something never felt before.  I felt a sense of knowing because I was so lost in not knowing, and I felt joy because I was so lost in my suffering and the suffering I caused.  There is no way I can explain what I felt in words, ecstasy is too extreme and to call it a mere epiphany would be an insult. 

 She went on to talk to my parents about the different campers, such as the one with aspburgers, or the parent escort who was a reformed drug addict, and I was there laying out my life in perspective.  I was so caught up in my revelations I didn’t even get up for seconds.    I realized, somehow, that I was the only thing keeping me from talking to her, and I wasn’t going to hold my self back anymore, then I remembered that I committed a possible murder, and I realized  that was a more important thing to think about than a high school social life.   Yet I had realized high school is only four years of my life, so fuck it.  Just hold your breath for two more years and don’t beat people anymore, it should be smooth sailing.

As we finished our meals we gave them our dishes to do, then spent a little more time with Jill in the staff quarters.  Where Jill showed us what she had learned on the guitar here, 3 chords.  Then I showed her up by playing “Jumping Jack Flash,”  and I taught her “Smoke on the Water.”  We then embraced and said our goodbyes, promising to come by again before we leave.

With my parents back on the road, this time I decided to keep my ear plugs out, and I just listened to the sound of my parents searching for topics to discuss and the sounds of the highway.  Playing every event back in my head, the trip so far in its entirety, which only had two more days left.  Tomorrow we were scheduled to tour Humboldt state, then the next day early morning we were due to ship home.

We came back to the hotel room and returned to the same routine.  My parents turned on the television and their laptops, while I went to the shower.  Sitting under the waters, just meditating, trying to make sense of it all.  Why had I done what I did?  Why was my life filled with all these complications which make no sense?  Why Am I so scrambled? What the fuck is wrong with me?  Is their anything wrong with me?  All these questions and all the possible answers swam in my head, and then I remembered I’m insane.  People were never hesitant to remind me I was crazy, the people who knew me best didn’t tell me I was crazy though it was obvious they knew.  The people who watched me from a far could automatically tell I was to.

“Why?” you might ask.  Well, simply because I had everything they had.  I lived in the suburbs, I had middle age parents who paid for everything, yet I didn’t want to fit in.  I didn’t want to be one of the standard middle and upper class teens in high school who shops at Pac Sun or Abercrombie. I wanted to be something all my own, and then I had to complicate the whole thing by feeling like a reject.  Well fuck it!  If they cant accept me that’s their problem, because I’m here to stay.  And if they want to call me a fag for wearing blue or purple round shades with a tie dye shirt, to hell with them.  Hell, I just beat a man to death so I knew I was capable of it, and at least this way I wouldn’t physically hurt any one.  Something I truly never wanted or expected myself to do.  But I made my decisions, so it was time to live with them.  So I carry on.  I felt invigorated by my new acceptance and remembrance of my insanity, but still forever nervous that I was going to jail.  Every time I turned my back, I would turn around again because I would hallucinate a cop walking towards me.  

The shower helped me sweat out some of the opium, and the effects had begun to wear off.  But the comedown off opiates is always a hellish ride, filled with sweat, anxiety, and a nervous twitch, all of which were roaring at me at 100 miles per hour.  I returned to my bedroom where I just sat smoking in order to alleviate the withdrawal.  Soon the anxiety began to dissipate, and I became very calm, very drowsy.  Eventually, I would just fall back and pass out on my bed, I didn’t even check to see what time it was when I fell asleep.  I had no more energy, it was already a huge drag on me to tolerate prayer and dinner with a religious organization, but top it off with bad memories from youth group and dealing with it all on opium I didn’t even want to take, I simply couldn’t go on.

The Burden of Empathy : Chapter 2

Chapter 2 

It all began in the summer of 2008.  My older sister Jill got a job at a charity summer camp as a cook.  My sister said she could have visitors, I had just completed summer school, and the time was perfect for my parents to get away on a trip and Jill would be their excuse.  How lucky was it for my stoned ass that it happened to be in a Mecca for potheads?

So there I was in my bedroom preparing for the trip.  I packed my bags while smoking Orange Kush out of my red plastic bong with the tiny metal bowl piece that gets too hot to touch.  I packed three medium band shirts; The Shins, Jimi Hendrix, and Beck, 2 flannel shirts, 2 tie die t shirts, four pairs of jeans and a coat.  I packed my brand new blue and purple pipe, three grams of weed, and a gram or so of hash.  I had a full ounce of pot I had bought from a friend at summer school that I could have taken, but I wanted to sample that Humboldt bud, so I brought a small stash.    

After I was packed, I smoked out of my bubbler and watched Goodfellas waiting for the time to go.  “Three o’clock,” my parents said.  It was still 2:30.  So I smoked another bowl.  Sacramento to Humboldt was at least an eight hour trip but I knew we were going to take two days going up and a day coming back, we always do that on these sorts of trips.  By the time it was 2:45, I thought Id smoke a bowl of hash to be extremely high for most of the day’s trip.  After the hash I put in Visine and chewed gum.  I heard my dad call, threw my stuff in the back of our 2000 Toyota Sienna, and we drove off by 3:15.  

I sat behind the driver’s seat, my father drove with my mother in the passenger’s seat, they promised to switch eventually.  The driving hurt my dad’s hip but my mom can’t drive at night because of her eye sight.

My parents are fairly short people, both are 5’5.”  My mother is redheaded with somewhat pale very freckly skin.  My father is so tan he looks Mexican, the black beard and ponytail both contribute to the illusion as well.  Let it be known my dad is white, at most he could be called a Jew, he is ¼ Jewish.  His full black beard and hair is sprinkled with random grays. His tan came from his growing up as a beach bum in LA during the 60’s.  An aging hippie from the love era, who had to put down the j’s when he started a family and had to switch to the blood of the suburbs unless you’re a Mormon or a pussy, alcohol.  My mother was a 70’s hippie and a college anarchist who read Marx.  My parents drank, they drank for the “health” of it, but you could tell when they were going to make me or my sister drive home. 

We eventually got onto the freeway out of Sacramento, as we were passing the bridge and the river my parents got into a discussion about the approaching presidential debate. They weren’t so much talking about the debate itself rather than just shit talking McCain.  Since I agreed with everything my parents were saying I felt no need to contribute to the conversation.  Plus I was so baked I probably would have just made it obvious that I was stoned.  So I pulled out my “cut-out-the-outside-world device,” better known as an “IPod”, and played MGMT’s “Time to Pretend,” on a loop.  As I meditated to the synthesizers I was so stoned I completely lost track of time, when it was four it felt only 20 minutes had gone by.  After my meditation I changed the track to my new album, My Morning Jacket’s EVIL URGES.  A group of white boy hippies who sound like Prince.   I then trailed of into my thoughts as we drove along.  I began to fantasize.  I day dreamed what would I be like if I was a musician?  What would my sound be?  Acoustic electric rock of some kind, probably a hip-hop rock/reggae/blues mix, and indie of course.  What would my look be?  I’d wear tie dye, flannel or random thrift shirts, with worn jeans handed down from my dad, and a blazer with a torn shoulder.  My fantasies took me into my concerts where I cover songs, and it’s always the song I’m listening to at the moment.  

I had put it now on “Charmer” by Kings of Leon.  The song reminded me of someone at my hellhole, I mean high school.  She was indeed a charmer, always looking at me, never trying to flirt or seduce, but always succeeding.  My thoughts always dwell on her but I wish they wouldn’t.  My brain hates me, it reminds me “You’re not good enough for her.  She is perfect, has friends and isn’t an addict, and you’re just a wasted loner.”  Just like I wasn’t good enough in Elementary school to play any sports or at middle school where I wasn’t good enough for friends and “fag”  became my nickname. 

 The fact is I’m just not very popular.  I wish it didn’t sound like a line from a John Hughes movie, but it’s the truth.  No matter how much we won’t admit it, no matter how much we like to think that times have changed, they haven’t.  High school is still the same bullshit world it always has been.  Popularity is power, most (not all) teachers don’t give a shit about you and no matter what, everything is always your fault.  But I take solace in the fact when high school is the best time of your life how pathetic the rest of your life must be. 

 High school is full of self entitled immature brats, who have orgies known as “Dances”, pretend to be from Compton by smoking dope that should be reserved for only true stoners such as your’s truly, then they play the puppy dog eyed innocent every time they get caught.  High school sucks when you’re a logical person.  I’m not arrogant,  I don’t think I’m better than these people, if I did I wouldn’t feel like a reject just because I’m never invited anywhere by anyone, ever.   But I can’t help but think maybe the reason I’m so miserable is because I’m just seeing things they aren’t.  Maybe I’m just a little ahead of the curb, waiting for the others to catch up.  Or maybe I’m catching up to them.  But I’m sure my first guess is the right one, I’m just crazy.

The reason she was out of my reach was simply popularity.  I was one of the stoners, and she was one of the trendy well liked kids.  It was like Romeo and Juliet.  Except Juliet is a gorgeous redhead with a perfectly shaped  figure and long waving hair and Romeo is a lonely stoner who doesn’t shave, has shaggy hair, and talks like a mix of  James Franco in Pineapple Express, Tommy Chong, and a wanna be Hunter S Thompson.  All Juliet knows about Romeo is his name and the fact he’s always high.  Romeo can only admire her from afar because he’s too much of a pussy to even talk to her. 

 This is why I’m crazy.  If I could only silence the voice in my head that says “I can’t,” I could be free.  Weed frees me temporarily, but I can’t afford to smoke that much.  I would if I had enough money but there is no point in living in a fantasy, and there is also no point in liking a girl who doesn’t even know you exist, because that basically makes you a stalker.  I always told myself to move on because she was out of reach, but I couldn’t.  Once she was on my mind it would take something good to get me to move on.

I fantasized the sight of us kissing in the halls, of the two of us as a couple and what we look like as a couple.  How she would respond when I whisper I love you into her ear and actually mean it, unlike all the dudes who actually get laid in high school.  

As my mind reminded me I wasn’t good enough for her, I put on Nirvana.  Kurt Cobain was a hero to me, his music opened the emotions of a generation.  It’s just a shame that capitalism caught his work, and drove him to the grave.  Nirvana’s music summed up the angst I felt in whole, it’s no wonder Nirvana has such large appeal.  Its just a shame someone always has to make a profit and art cant just be available for the sake of art.  I dwelled on this to help get my mind off of her.  

I checked the time and it was 4:45.  After I was done listening to Bleach and Nevermind, I switched from Nirvana to shuffle. Then after skipping six songs I settled on Beck’s classic “Loser” another anthem of my life.  I, like the rest of my generation have several anthems set to a soundtrack only I hear.  We call these soundtracks “playlists.”

As I slapped my song and bobbed back and forth letting the tingle of the high flow throughout my body, I watched the passing forests and trees grow thicker.  We were approaching the Pacific Northwest, and the Mecca of potheads, Humboldt County.  Humboldt is a beautiful place, the redwood forests of Return of the Jedi next to beaches that look like Monterey. It is a beautiful place.

We stopped at a rest stop and my parents switched places.  As I listened to Vampire Weekend and MgmT more, I began to think about how our generation failed to peak, how the decade went without the revolution it deserved.  Bush was a Nazi, and he is guilty of war crimes and incompetence for his reactions to the attacks of September 11th.  Yet the people somehow never showed him their pitchforks.  He then exploited the horrific date and carved it into our minds.  Now the day of tragedy is associated with patriotism and an unspoken hatred for the freedom loathing brown people to psycho nationalists.  We failed to reach the peak that we envied of the sixties and this is how tie dye went from a symbol of the acid culture, to a school spirit dress day theme for squeaky voiced preppy girls masturbating to Zach Effron.

 When it comes to 9/11, the truth is 9/11 was a wake up call to Americans.  We went years thinking we could be free from fear, free from worry.   It was a pipe dream, a load of shit.  There is never a guarantee of safety and that is the price of a free society.  The belief we were immune to attack simply because we were the USA is simply egomaniacal.  The truth is when it comes 9/11 the nation needs to get the fuck over it.  Don’t call me insensitive, I’m not.  If you lost any one you loved or cared for in the attacks, or if you survived the attacks, you have a reason to feel strongly.  TO those who cling to their patriotism so they can have an identity, WELCOME TO THE REAL FUCKING WORLD!  Does the USA have to deal with suicide bombers, racial cleansing, drug cartel decapitations every single day?  No.  9/11 is a day that without a doubt stung, but we cannot cling to the past.  The same goes for the present and the future.  When you think about it time is nothing but a mirage.  It is completely relative to perception.  The moment we’re in is always infinite.  Time has no beginning and no end.  It’s simultaneous. 

This hung in my mind until around 6.   We pulled into another rest stop were I pissed and washed my face.  I did my best not to touch anything, these stops always remind me of dirty prison cells.   My weed was wearing off, but the hash was holding on.  I couldn’t help but wonder how obvious it was that I was high.  I didn’t have red eyes thanks to the Visine but I always peaked at my self in the rear view mirror.  My appearance had all the symptoms, eyes half closed, pointless grinning, senseless giggles, paleness thanks to lowered circulation, and the obvious sluggishness.  Yet I went unnoticed, and I enjoyed beautiful sights, songs, and thoughts. 

 We pulled back on to the road.

I could tell we were increasing in elevation as my ears felt swollen, so I began to chew gum.  The thickness of the forests grew as we drove up the road.  We approached a small town called Willits, and we pulled into a Best Western, it was 6:34.  We pulled out our bags, my parent’s laptops, the backpack cooler and the roller cooler up to the room.  My parents never pack light.  We settled our stuff, and used the toilet.  After we had relaxed and gotten the tension of the road out of us, my mom told me;

“We asked the lady upfront for a good place to eat, and she recommended a place called The Purple Thistle.  It’s supposed to be all organic and vegan friendly.”

“Sounds Good,” I replied.  I’m not a vegan I’m a vegetarian, but I got her point.

 I then snuck in to the toilet and smoked a bowl, I then rejoined my parents and we were off.

We got in the car and drove down the street for three minutes until we passed the Purple thistle, we turned around and parked on the street.  As we walked to the restaurant an old lady drove by who was so old and bony it looked like death was driving the car and I was so high that for a moment I actually thought it was death.  To this day despite my firm disbelief in the after life, I am not quite sure about who was driving that day.

The restaurant was small, it had few tables and limited space on the inside, but the back had a large porch with plenty of space but still few tables.  We decided that it was too cold for us to eat outside, the North is much colder than the valley.  So we ate inside the crowded restaurant, despite my mother’s claustrophobia which didn’t seem active.  

My parents ordered wine immediately.  I ordered an iced tea.  My parents then got into a conversation about traffic on the way up, and how tasty the merlot was, the conversation became more relaxed to the point my mother sought to include me in it.  

“So do you have any summer work for…” she paused searching for the words “school next year?”

“A little,” I replied hoping she didn’t see my dilated pupils, “I have a few essays for English, and I have to read The Crucible, which I already did.”

My mother nodded and sipped the wine.  “What did you think of The Crucible?”

I thought for a few seconds for the right answer, “I agreed with the anti McCarthyism of the book, but Miller is just a little to dry for me.”

“Yeah. I thought so to,” She said nodding.  “I haven’t read The Crucible in a long time though so I really can’t say.  What are your essays about?”

“Two are responses to The Crucible, and for the other I need to write my definition of the American Dream.”

“And you are going to write…”  I knew she was expecting something offensive, outlandish, or simply something one doesn’t expect an Honors English student to say.

“I’m going to write…that it is a pure bullshit illusionary anomaly created in order to establish a false sense of security in the public in order to encourage consumption and prevent upheaval.” At this point in my life, my mother had given up on trying to get me to stop cussing.

“Ah,” she nodded and cracked her trademark smile, a smile that always said “I’m Proud you’re my son but to be a good mom I can’t say I support the crazy shit you say even though I do.”  It could have been the weed making me paranoid, who knows.

My father was simply nodding, looking at me through his square glasses on the end of his nose with the stern look he gives, almost always by accident.  

My parents went off into another idol conversation, so I trailed off into my thoughts.  This, always when unguided, circled around to her.  Her just looking at me, the charmer Kings of Leon sang about, “She’s always looking at me.” Every time I look at her we catch each others glances and awkwardly look away within a second, as if we weren’t looking at each other at all.  

  Her look just hypnotizes me, but she isn’t trying to hypnotize me so I try to break the trance.  I pictured her walking up to my car in the parking lot, and we’d hug and grope, and kiss just like all the other couples in high school.  I pictured us cuddling after sex, her slim body holding my average torso and me stroking her back, gently clutching her perfectly sculpted ass.

The waitress taking our order snapped me out of my trance.  My parents each ordered the chicken, I ordered the Cajun prawns.  I still ate fish.  The waitress then gave me a refill, and then my dad made some embarrassing joke about how she was checking me out when she left.  I just replied by giving the standard teen “tsh.”  A sound that could be a laugh or a grunt.  Then my mom assured me of how handsome I was and my father agreed.  It’s weird how when your mom gives you a sincere compliment you feel like it’s an insult.  I was such a jerk, I’m so sorry mom.

 Then my parents and I returned to our activities.  I then decided to absorb my surroundings as I always do.   The street outside the window resembled that of a small forest town,  store fronts and wooden and brick buildings with a background of skyscraping redwoods.  Yet the neighboring shops ,“MAD ABOUT TYE DYE” and the head shop “PIPE WORKS” were  two shops you would never spot in Sarah Palin’s Wasilla Main Street, unless the pipe shop was specializing in meth.  Can I get a “Hi! – OH!” (Rest in peace Carson and McMahon, You would not believe how many people my age don’t know who they are, comic legends.  So many people I know don’t even know who the Marx Brothers are, the fucking Marx Brothers!  The inventors of all modern comedy.  My generation sucks.  Except the Pacific Northwest scene is jamming.  Oh shit, I’m rambling again, sorry, I’m high.)  Any way…

Near the window by the table next to us was a woman in her mid twenties or early thirties eating with four other gentlemen around the same age range.  They were all dressed very trendy and all very effeminate, lots of tight jeans and sequins.  I overheard them talking about Gossip Girl and a concert of some kind.  I think they said Madonna.  Behind us was an elderly man and woman, and the man was recounting of his confrontations with intolerance, apparently he was a homosexual.  With the young gays to my right and the older gay to my left, I could see this place held true small town values.  I hope you catch the sarcastic overtones of that sentence.

  It was a very open and accepting place.  The truth is at my school, and not quite all of Sacramento, but these guys would have to be deep in the closet.  At my school there were only a few out loud and proud men and woman.  And the fact I was in a tolerant environment was a breath of fresh air to me, I m usually in intolerant self-centered surroundings. Finally to be out of the jockish rich kid hipster prison hell that was my school was a relief no word could describe.  This place has the sense of community I didn’t have access to at this point in my life.  This place was the scene I was looking for.   This place got it.  It simply understood that a revolt was due.  We failed to achieve it, but this place was trying.

That thought began to weigh heavy on my mind again, how had this generation failed to reach the peak of revolution that came during my parent’s time.  I didn’t understand why we failed to achieve a revolution, we had more excuses than the 60’s could have begged for.  The Iraq War was more financially crippling than any other battle and Bush and his crony’s were all pure white collar criminals.  Hypocrites, liars, and exploitationists that put Nixon to shame.  Yet thanks to their reactionary incompetence, we saw the election of the first black president which was long overdue.  Perhaps the change we begged for so much will come, and perhaps that change will welcome the social revolution we failed to insight.  The end of a long streak of conformity and create a sense of community.  Maybe Obama’s election was our first step towards that revolution.  ‘The Times they are a changing,” as Bob Dylan said.  Of course none of this went through my mind at this time, Barack hadnt even been elected yet.  He also hadn’t broken our hearts yet.

After a forty five minute wait our food arrived, we were irritated but the food was so goddamn good we were in absolutely no position to complain.  I began to talk about the election with my parents.  It was the same old shit, we agreed prop 8 was outrageous and shouldn’t even be on the ballot.  Then we talked about the possibilities of McCain or Obama winning.  We painted the portrait of the hellscape our country would be if McCain won.  Four more years of white collar crime.  McCain could have won if he hadn’t sacrificed his integrity, he sold out his entire set of beliefs merely for the sake of winning.  He was a whore, a bigger whore than Bristol and Sarah mixed into one.  I take that back, Bristol is less of a whore, she didn’t give in to her shotgun marriage and she had the composure to admit abstinence for teens is not realistic.  But Sarah is the biggest whore on earth.  She exploited her baby’s syndrome and all of the rest of her family’s tribulations, they all should be indicted and hung, and except Bristol cause she looks like a good lay.  I’m sixteen at the time so I think with my dick.  Plus how could she be off serving the public and take care of her disabled child herself.  My mother is a REAL feminist, and even she admits a mother with a baby with down syndrome shouldn’t be off in the public eye but at home caring for the child, because a disabled child takes a lot of attention and care, she ran a state into the ground with lies and corruption due to an addiction to vanity and attention left over from peek years on the runway, and the state was to stupid to realize it.  Jesus, another rant!  I’m sorry I really am trying not to do that so much.

My parents conversation had shifted from the election to the whole point of the trip, visiting my sister Jill. 

“So it will be nice to see Jill.”  My mother decreed.

“Yeah, it will be,” was my father’s only response because that’s all that was needed.

My mother turned to me, expecting a reply. “Yeah I’m Excited,” I said without true emphasis, but I truly was excited.

I began to worry my mom knew I was stoned because I ate my entire dinner of cajun prawns without blinking, and she gave me that look parents give when they know your stoned but they’re lingering suppressed Suburban instincts prevent them from talking about it at the dinner table.  My mother attempts to avoid any notions of my smoking, she’s torn between her beliefs of legalization and the risk of her child getting arrested.  She essentially trusts me to just not get in trouble, she sweeps conversations of my pot use under the rug as do her middle class counterparts, but unlike them she lets me toke.  My parents are probably the only truly understanding parents.  This is the benefit of being the products of hippies who in my opinion actually would smoke if it wasn’t illegal and if it was socially acceptable for parents to smoke.  But they are understanding, when Cheech and Chong reunited my dad took me to a show where he rolled the fattest j I ever saw and made me promise to never tell mom.  Then mom bought me booze and made me promise never to tell dad.  Parents are funny sometimes.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how she does at her job,” my father said.  He was referring to our scheduled dinner with Jill.  We would be having dinner with her liberal Christian campers who were constructing houses for impoverished Native American reservations.  She would be cooking for us and all of them.  It was to be an interesting experience, although I support the organizations deeds I have a difficult time dealing with organized religion.  But I was damned proud to have a sister working a job this noble.  And I have no problem with people having beliefs just so long as they are subtle, humane, and reasonable.

My dad paid our bill and we returned to the hotel.   This room wasn’t a suite, so we shared it.  I had the bed closest to the TV, which to entertain my parents and myself, I put on Futurama.  My father laughed vibrantly at the jokes as he swigged the Mickey’s and ciders from the cooler, my mother had a Mike’s Lemonade, while I snuck a Mikes Lime and a Mickey’s.  I snuck another toke in the bathroom by ghosting my hits, which means to hold your breath until there isn’t anymore smoke, and I hid the side stream smoke by covering the bowl with my hand.  If my parents can’t smell it they can’t complain.

I returned to watch more TV, I then got under the sheets and I looked at the clock and it read 10:15.  This was the last thing I saw before I passed out.