Trash of the Gods.  Chapter 6. Junior Year, a chunk of life in 300 words or less.

Junior year I didn’t see much of Robert, I still hung out with Steve and the guys but Robert was rarely around, he had some girl friend junior year, Vicky, and he still had the heroine.
I still didn’t know about the heroine yet, but every time I did see Robert, his arms and legs were bruised. I would later realize these were track marks. Either I was in denial or really ignorant of the reality of the situation, or maybe I was too fucked up, in any case I just had no idea Robert really needed help.
 Some of the time, on days we’d actually see him, he’d be light hearted and warm, and I just thought he was super stoned.  
On other days he would just be out right vicious. It was as if he had to either fight someone or break something, he just lashed out at everyone like he had to destroy for the sake of destroying.
And he started to bully his friends, especially me.
That would be his days going through withdrawal.
And while all that went on; 
I was high and drunk most of the year.
I almost failed physics.
I got into a fight with a fat racist kid who was obsessed with Glenn Beck.
I almost dated a blonde republican girl who tried to get me clean. I didn’t get clean. She went back to her boyfriend. He looked very smug at me as he walked to her car one day.
That’s all I can remember from junior year.


Trash of the Gods  Chapter 2.  The Tao of Conversation

After that, Robert and I began to hang out more at his house after school. We would score our weed at the Strip mall then kick it in his room, doing the same thing we did at school. Get high and talk about literature. Ever since middle school, it felt like Robert and I were the only ones who actually read.
Robert was always the one to introduce me to my favorite authors, he always knew about things before I did. He was the one who turned me on to Tom Waits and Tool, he introduced me Hunter S Thompson and my life long love affair with Gonzo, everything from Danielewski or Palanuik was a part of his library, and would eventually become part of mine.
Today we were taking bong rips as Robert regaled tails to me of how he made out with Elise at the party a few times. Elise was yet another girl I had a crush on and he knew it, but of course he didn’t care. I was eager to get us off of the topic.
“I had a thought Rob,” I told him.
“Lay it on me dude.” He replied. I knew this would succeed. He was always eager to engage me in conversations. I think he enjoyed the break from our groups usual conversations of drugs, other drugs, and sex.
“Language.” I said. “I want your thoughts on language.”
He look somewhat confused by this statement. I enjoyed that. I always enjoyed the moments I felt smarter than him. “Like, what do you mean?”
Perfect the ball was in my court. I took my professorial lead. “Well, I was thinking the other day Everything, and I mean everything, that we have come to know, started when we created language. Like I think as long as we’ve been conscious we’ve had ideas but it wasn’t until we had labels that we could attach to these labels and communicate them that anything meant anything.”
“So language kind of created the illusion?”
“Yeah, I mean I wouldn’t call reality an illusion but..”
“Why not…” He interrupted me, I always hated it when he interrupted me but I was usually too stoned to react on time. So off he would go on some other tangent and there I would sit listening, like a meager college freshman listening to a pretentious tenured hack who wasn’t any smarter than me, just more well read. “you just said it your self, nothing meant anything until we had labels fixed to them, and if that’s true that mean’s these labels are fluid, subjective in truth and only as objective as we see fit to make it.”
I would always want to find a way to refute whatever Robert would say, even when I had no choice but to agree with him. I just got tired of him always sounding like the smarter one, but I couldn’t find anything to refute. He was right, reality is in a sense an illusion.
We had lots of conversations like this before, but this one is sort of my awakening. This was when my third eye was starting to get “pried open and scrubbed clean,” as Robert would figuratively put it.
“I’ll agree the labels and reality are subjective, but we need some way to communicate with each other right?”
“Oh yeah absolutely,” he agreed, I always felt validated when I got him to agree with something I say first hand.  
“So in the end where do these illusions come from, and does it really matter what we make up to explain our reality?” We both liked to provoke each other with questions like this.
“Hmm,” Robert pondered for a moment, “I guess not, because I think these illusions come from a number of places, the two main things being the void, and physics.”
The latter of the two had caught me off guard. “Physics?”
Robert nodded with the excited smile he got when he prepared for a new tangent. “Check this out man,” he said with the empathic hand gestures we both used when we got professorial, ” Everything, and I mean everything on the planet is built on both duality and singularity both existing at the same time. Both are the same thing and one that lead into each other, they are two sides of the same coin. Real and not real are both the same thing because each depends on the existence of another, up cannot exist without down because then up would just always be up, and because there is no converse to it we wouldn’t acknowledge its existence, it would just be. So everything, good evil, up down, relative concrete, all these things are not opposites, not separate things but the same thing existing at the same time within the same place much like, a coin, two sides, opposites, making one whole. Duality and singularity existing at once. That is the core of everything in existence, everything is structured around this because the same holds true in our atomic structure.”
He took a moment to catch his breath, by which I mean to take a bong hit, he held his hit in for five seconds then slowly exhaled as he talked, “What we were talking about was the void, and this is where the physics enters into it, this duality and simultaneous singularity exists within our own atoms, all of which make up all forms of matter, making them inescapable from this make up. An atom, is made of particles made up of a positive and negative and neutral charge, all of which come together as a whole, this singular whole bonds with others to create massive interconnectivity, that is what I mean.”
I feel we always got a little all over the place when we talked about these things when smoking weed, but for some reason no matter how off topic and tangental we got, we both always understood each other. It was like we were always on the same wavelength. Something Robert would go on a tangent about later on I’m sure.
I had enjoyed our conversation, but we adjourned from the brainy stuff, and moved on to our girl problems, and by ours I mean mine, I had only had sex once so far and had zero confidence at the time, Robert had two girlfriends at this point, one at our school and one our “rival” school. At the time I thought that was the coolest, now I feel sorry for how badly those girls got used, each never knowing about the other one.
We scored a huge chunk of kief from his aunt and got so baked we could lift our heads off the couch at one point. This was usually the point I would say my goodbyes and march onto the bus home.
It was after I left for home that Andy would show up with a stash and fresh needle for Robert.

Trash of the Gods : Chapter 1, The Painting

I originally met Robert in the sixth grade. Not even twelve and he was an orphan living with his Aunt. I didn’t know this about him for the first two weeks I knew him, I only found out about it when I told him a yo’mama joke and he punched me as hard as he could in the stomach.
I apologized, of course, when he told me his parents were dead from heroin overdoses and the matter blew over in a few minutes, but I’ll never forget the anger in Robert’s eyes that day, and the bizarre joker like laughter he had not two seconds after the fact as he pointed and laughed at my cringing from the gut.
I don’t think he was ever really mad I made a joke about his dead mom, I think he was mad that I exposed his soft spot. Robert was very kind and giving person, but he viewed the world as a prisoner does, one instance of softness and they’ll all be out to get you. That was Robert’s way of thinking. Because he never grew up with a mother, she had died far away, caring more about heroin than her own son. In a way Robert was probably more like his parent’s than he ever knew in the end.
Robert and I were sort of meant to be friends. Out of a sixth grade class of 60 from a Bukoskieaque Middle School, Robert and I were the only ones who actually seemed to like reading and learning. Neither one of us like our teachers or our school, but the one thing that kept us interested in school was the reading. The only problem was that Robert hated the books the school offered for our required reading, I thought they were okay but Robert pointed out to me how they were patronizing and low brow and stupid, how we were capable of reading better. I took refuge in our school’s supply of Agatha Christie’s and indulged on Hercule poroit, my dad watched those shows, and I wanted to be like my dad.  
Robert’s obsessions by age 12 were Brave New World and 1984, both of which I had never heard of yet nor would I read them until much later in life. That’s why I started hanging out with Robert, he was always so much farther ahead of the curve than I was, and all I ever wanted to do was just catch up with him.
It wasn’t long after middle school that Robert introduced me to pot and LSD. Ever the Huxley fan, “The doors of perception have been opened to you” he said the morning I woke up and came to school with my first acid hangover. He then flicked me in my third eye and walked to class as I rubbed my forehead, annoyed with him yet again.
I was only fourteen at the time, and I had developed a new obsession. My identity became marijuana and drugs I thought it made me a badass. Unbeknownst to me Robert had already tried cocaine and had a frequent supplier, our pot dealer Andy.
Andy was a fat piece of shit. The 26 year old guy with an ugly goatee that your mother warns you about. The 26 year old man who makes his living by selling weed to teenagers. The 26 year old addict who is so desperate for customers and company he gives a free supply of heroin to a teenager.
 Yet like a blind fool, I had no idea what was really going on, or if I did I pretended not to. I was so wasted most of the time it’s hard to remember what I felt and when sometimes.
Andy was the leading pot dealer to the druggie crew that hung out by the strip mall outside of school. This place became a hot bed for creepy drug dealers and malicious perverts harassing teenagers, and Robert and I were among the customers to frequent the place constantly. For most of the school it was just a place to score drugs then bounce, for the drug people like us, it was the place where you hung out.
Before long the place was a cop magnet, and everyday my friends and I found ourselves on the other side of the law.
One day the heat was on heavy, so Robert said, “My aunt’s not home lets go to my house.”  
I was a little surprised to realize that despite how long I had known Robert I’d never actually been to his house. I met his Aunt before, but for some reason Robert’s house was never our base of operations.
We got to Robert’s house, Robert and I with our friends Steve and Sam. Steve was sort of a living rally point. Everyone in the group had some kind of connection to Steve. He was that guy who might not be friends with everyone, but he was definitely cool with everyone. He wasn’t the most brilliant guy in the world either, a sort of simple mix of skater, punk, and metalhead. Don’t get me wrong he wasn’t stupid, just, simple.
Sam was kind of the opposite. No one outside of the strip mall drug circle really knew or cared who he was. He was the Ben Affleck in our Dazed and Confused, our Super Senior. He was the guy who could buy us pipes, papers, and cigarettes before anyone else. He always hung out with Steve, even when Steve got tired of Sam. 
 Sam clung to Steve like a helpless stray dog. Despite Sam’s extensive arrest record and dangerous profile, looking back on it I can’t help but feel that’s all he ever got to be in this life, a stray dog no one in his family or school wanted. But still, Steve welcomed him, that was just the sort of guy he was.
I had always known Robert’s house was within walking distance, but until now I had never thought it unusual that I hadn’t been there yet, despite how long we had been friends. When we got to the door, he unlocked to what seemed like the gateway to an episode of Hoarder’s decorated by a midwestern housewife. The shelves were clogged with figurines and grandma knick knacks. A TV hung in the middle of the room facing a box-crowded couch. Robert guided us around the corner to a room with a silk blue cloth drape hanging instead of a door.
Aside from the minimal privacy, Robert had a cool room. Tool, Fight Club, and Dr. Hunter S Thompson decorated the room. A copy of House of Leaves sat on his desk, opened and lying face down at the half way point of the novel. A couch faced his long desk complete with a TV and speakers. Despite everything clearly being taken from a thrift store or just picked up off the street, one had to admit it was a pretty awesome haven for a stoner.  
Robert grabbed a bottle of Jack, something that was always in supply on his desk, and had us pass it around as he packed his weed into Steve’s pipe. He passed it to Steve who started the bowl and started passing it along with the Jack. Robert put some Tom Waits on the speakers, and our tedious teenage conversations carried on. Steve and Robert would vent about their on again off again girlfriends, and Sam would offer advice as if it was solicited.  
I usually kept quite during these coversations, I was a virgin at this time. That was something I always tried to learn from Robert, he had none of the problems with women I had at the time, by the time I had slept with one girl, he had slept with twenty. Anytime I met a girl in the school I liked, Robert had no problem reminding me that I would be having his sloppy seconds. Needless to say, sex was an uncomfortable subject at the time.
As Steve was packing another bowl, Robert clapped his hands and gave a loud “Oh Shit!” and a smile as he looked at us wide eyed through his shaggy deep copper hair that was over its usual shave off. The sudden loud noise gave us a short instance of stunned paranoia that only stoners will understand. That half a second panic attack that stops your heart, then restarts it gently as you slowly exhale.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Now that you guys are here, I want to show you guys something.” Robert said as he stood up and walked over to the corner by his closet. He picked up a canvas that had been facing the wall and turned it to face us.
“Damn,” said Steve

“Oh Shit dude,” added Sam. That was all Steve and Sam could think of to say.
I was awestruck, I had seen Robert’s sketch books and doodles in class since middle school, but I had never seen him show me anything like this.
What Robert showed us almost didn’t even seem like a painting, but a photograph illuminated with psychedelic hues. Imagine seeing into your own soul, only to find strands of your DNA and it’s double helixes in a massive pool, so you look into a single helix, to see into your own make up, only to find space, and a dark blue cloud just floating in the corner. That is what I saw that day, a psychedelic portrait of the insides of our own construction, fixed with a dark blue cloud hanging in some distant horizon within.
“Rob,” I said trying to rack my stoned brain for something eloquent and complimentary to say. “That’s beautiful.”
He chuckled at my use of such flowery language and just said, “Thanks man.” Robert knew I had a tendency for such affectionate language, but Robert was not one to show such sentiment, he found it “gay.” Of course I think it was really because it was trying to protect himself from getting hurt again.
Steve and Sam took advantage of the opportunity and riffed me without mercy. I just shrugged and ignored them. “I have to remember to stop being so emotional around the guys,” I told myself.
Still though, I could tell Robert was pleased by the reaction he got out of me, he never stopped smiling whenever I talked to him the rest of the afternoon about my status on reading his copy of House of Leaves.



TRASH of The GODS : Preface

The obituary didn’t mention that he was drunk, riding his bike down the wrong side of the street, when the SUV knocked him to the concrete. Robert was killed instantly and pronounced dead on the scene.
Robert had issues, to say the least. I think he wasn’t even 17 when he tried heroin for the first time. I always forget when his birthday actually was. All I know is he went from being my best friend, to a distant memory, to now, just gone, nothing. That’s what you are when you’re dead, you’re just nothing for the rest of eternity.
I learned about his death from Facebook. I found my newsfeed bombarded by my old high school friends and acquaintances, all of them mourning the tragic and sudden end to Robert’s life. When you think about it, it’s not fun to live in an age where you can get that kind of the news when you’re just trying to kill a few minutes on the toilet.
I hadn’t seen Robert for 2 years when I had heard the news. Last time I had seen him was at a chance meeting at a party when I was visiting home from college. I had cut off contact with him a year earlier after his addiction had taken hold of him to the point he was a different person. The Robert who was my friend was a kind, intelligent, yet disturbed individual. The Robert who I left behind after high school was so out of his mind that one night he drank a whole bottle of whiskey to his dome then apparently gave his girlfriend the worst black eye possible.  
Now he was a thief to. A junky, a thief, an abuser, and I hated him for all those reasons.
I wish I had helped. We all think of what we could have done or said when someone’s gone, I don’t know why we are so afraid to tell each other what we really think when we know we are right.
This is the story of Robert McKenna, my friend. My name is Will Martin, this is not my story. It was never my story, no matter how much I wanted it to be.
This story is about Robert, just like everything else, it’s always been about Robert.