I'm Here; I'm Real, Thanks for Noticing
It was so fuckin' hot that day.
So we waited, like idiots, for it to get cool out. Which wouldn't be happening for another eleven hours and thirty minutes. Even at ten thirty in the morning the air that surrounded us was heavy and thick with an unbearable heat. There wasn't much else to do other then lounge around in my room and wait for it to become cooler. There was never much to do on Sunday afternoons in Castle Rock—but that fact seemed to be amplified by the heat.
The piece-of-shit radio that sat in the corner of my room cranked out a few ridiculously happy and chipper tunes. Curls of grey smoked rose from the smoldering end of my cigarette and glided towards the ceiling until it evaporated into nothing more then a stale smell. All the windows in my room were pulled up as far as they could go; the sun drenched warm air from the outside leaking in through them and mixing with the smoke filled air that suffocated us.
Sweat trickling across my skin—it was one of the worst feelings. It was nothing like getting punched in the gut or slapped across the face—that feeling usually left a mark or at least a more identifiable feeling: pain. But trickling sweat was small…like an itch only worse because scratching it would do nothing. Wiping it away was pointless because new sweat would just take its place a few seconds later.
"Jeez…it's so fuckin' hot," I mumbled against the cigarette crushed between my lips. I needed to say SOMETHING. The silence just thickened the air.
"Thanks for telling me, Master of the Obvious," Chris shot back in a half-assed kind of way. Like he could come up with something more insulting or cleverer but didn't have the fuckin' energy. What was just as equally bad, if not worse, was that I said nothing afterwards.
Stupidity rang in my ears.
"Jesus-fuckin'-Christ—goddamn this fuckin' heat wave," I sighed, desperate to drown out the sound of idiocy. Yes, Castle Rock was trapped in another heat wave. "Turn up the radio, will ya'?"
With a lazy hand he turned the volume dial, letting the music pulsate through the room.
I just wanted to peel off my cloths and press my skin against the hardwood floor of my room. Or at least take my shirt off. But I didn't because I felt a little self-conscious, which was weird because normally I would've just taken it off without giving a shit. But the heat was fucking with my mind.
Over the years the comics that had once been piled up under my bed and in the corners of my bedroom were replaced with newspapers. Most of them I either gave away or sold or they ended up helping the fire to burn in the winter time. The older, rarer ones I put in boxes and pushed them to the back of my closet like they were an embarrassing secret. It wasn't cool to be into comic books anymore—not when you were fuckin' seventeen years old and already considered a loser and a faggot. You couldn't take any goddamn chances anymore—you weren't a kid anymore, you know?
Though newspapers weren't that cool either…I could just tell people I used them for current events in school or something. Plus they were kinda interesting—in a twisted sort of way. I usually skipped over the gossip columns and sports section. I read the shit about the world and all the wars and stuff and I read the local tragedies like little girls getting raped or people going missing. It horrified me and fascinated me at the same time. Like a fuckin' train wreck. And when I read those articles I felt so damn helpless like I was twelve fuckin' years old again.
Chris picked up a more recent issue and started flipping through it, not really bothering to read anything because he was Chris Chambers and reading wasn't his thing—that was how most people put it anyway. But most people didn't know jack shit.
Then he stopped mid-turn.
Something catching his eye.
He slipped the lone page out and tossed the rest onto the floor, his eyebrows knitting together in concentration as he leaned his face in closer to the page.
I craned my neck to see what it was that had captivated him so. My eyes widened a little bit when I saw—it was an article on this fourteen-year-old kid who'd killed himself. I'd read it before. And as I watched Chris read it I wondered if he had the same feeling of nausea I'd had when I first read it.
"Fuckin' hell…" he muttered to himself, his slightly chapped lips barely moving. He took a drag from his cigarette then carelessly tossed it out the window with one flick. It was kind of admirable the way he could make something like tossing a dead cig out the window look almost graceful.
I watched as his eyes glided across the page slowly, absorbing every fuckin' word that was written and not daring to skip over one. I was growing inpatient because I wanted to know what he thought already. It sounds kind of queer but I like listening to what other people think and I like it when they express their feelings about something I could talk about them with. With Chris there were very few things I could talk about with, outside the realm of crappy television shows, girls, and school because most of the pain he felt I could never relate to. Maybe our hate for our fathers was the only thing we had in common but compared to Chris my hate was shallow, unnecessary, and just plain stupid.
"Jesus…" I heard him whisper again, as he neared the end of the page. I tried to seem like I didn't really care, but I failed miserably. Then he angrily, out of fuckin' no where, whipped the paper out of his lap, crumpled it up then attempted to tear it. Which was useless. It's always harder to tear something up after you've crumpled it into a ball.
Frustrated, he threw it out the window.
"What the fuck, Chris?" I asked him. I wasn't really mad, just kind of confused. Where's graceful Chris gone? Who the fuck was this jerky, angry guy standing in my room now?
"I need air," was all he said before tearing out of the room and down the stairs. I followed after him, slightly numb. He ripped open my back door, not even noticing that I was behind him yet. I caught it just before it slammed shut and followed him out into the hot, Sunday morning air.
We walked for a little while, in circles mostly. Chris usually hated going into town because he felt as if everyone was staring at him and whispering about him as he walked past. For the most part they were but some ignored him completely and I think that hurt Chris more then anything. Because when it was just me and him and maybe a couple of the guys from our class his personality practically demanded that you devote every little bit of your attention to him. Not in an obnoxious 'I'm the best fuckin' thing to ever grace this earth' kinda way but more in a just 'I'm hear, I'm real, thanks for noticing' kind of way. I don't know how to explain it, exactly, just the way he spoke or yelled or laughed made you want to take notice. It was cruel to deprive him of something that he deserved. Chris deserved a lot more, too.
We passed by the old tree house. No one was there. After a while, around the time me and Chris were both thirteen him close to fourteen, we stopped going there just because there was no reason to anymore. I think Vern and Teddy still hang out up there with a bunch of younger kids who are their lackeys but around the same time we were barely hanging around them, as well.
It's no loss, really. I mean, they were cool and all, the best friends a guy could have. But only when your twelve and willing. Any older then that and you're just like 'what the fuck, dude, what the fuck?' Sure, you have to miss someone you were so close to once. But people always change and it's sometimes better just to keep living in that perfectly preserved memory of them and how they once were more then trying to morph into something that would accept them and their changes. When you look at it like that it seems like we were never really friends. But we were. Those picture perfect friendships you always see in movies and junk—the ones where the friends will all die for one another? Those movies are spewing some serious bull shit. No relationship is perfect because people aren't perfect.
But I'd always wondered if Chris had come from a better family if he would've been perfect. I think yes, but maybe I'm wrong. It sure as hell wouldn't be the first time if I was. It just would seem that way if he had been.
"Where are we going?" I asked, getting tired of just walking around. We passed the tree house, not even sparing it another glance or thought. It wasn't ours to think about or admire anymore. Despite the fact that we helped build it. We forfeited all of our rights to it when we stopped going there. I sometimes daydream about Chris and I going up there and starting up a game of old maid with our shirts thrown off and tucked into our pockets, smoking unfiltered cigarettes and just playing. Then Vern and Teddy would find us there and I wondered…if we really did do that if they would kick us out or join the game.
My childhood was practically in that thing—I mean, it's where I spent most of my time as a kid. I couldn't just not think about it at all. I just didn't think about it in passing. I'd either sit and think about all the possible scenarios and memories for hours or just not at all. It's fucked up to just do things half-assed.
Chris wouldn't answer my question. He just kept walking until we were on the path back to town from the tree house. There were two ways to get to the tree house—one was scaling the steep, rocky hill that eventually stopped near the main road of Castle Rock and the other was a dirt path that wound around the slope and let out near the field.
That's when he stopped.
Half way between the town and the tree house.
He placed one hand on his hip and he ran the other through his dirty blond hair which had grown considerably since we were younger. It was slightly greasy but it shone in the sun light in a way that would usually make girls giggle and squeal. If that hair was on the head of anybody else but Chris. If it was him they'd just make snide comments about how unwashed it looked.
"Fuck, man…why'd that kid hafta go an' kill himself, Gordie? Why?" he asked me, in just a notch above a whisper.
How the fuck was I supposed to react to that?
How the fuck was I supposed to know?
But I didn't have to do anything, because Chris just kept on talking. "I mean…was his life so fuckin' fucked up that he had to actually die in order to be happy? Jeez, Gordie, the kid went to our fuckin' school, for Christ's sake! We saw him practically every fuckin' day!" he cried passionately.
"Yeah, I know," was all I could say, in a small voice that compared to Chris's now passionate one was bland and horribly awkward sounding. Like it had no right in that conversation.
"Jesus, we saw him—probably even spoke to him—and he's been dead for a fuckin' week and I didn't even fuckin' notice he wasn't even there anymore. How fucked up is that—I didn't even know!" tears began to slide down his face, silently. It freaked me out beyond belief because the only other time I'd ever seen Chris cry was back when we were twelve and we went searching for Ray Brower's dead body. It seemed like fuckin' eons ago.
"Jeez, man," he said, it was like the Chris Chambers equivalent of an apology. "It's just so fuckin' weird thinkin' about how we knew him and now we'll never see him again. So fuckin' strange…"
"Yeah, I know," I agreed, it was pretty damn weird. It seemed kind of cruel to think of someone's death like that but what other way was I supposed to think of it as? Someone I knew had died—it wasn't like Denny's death or Ray Brower's. Those had both been accidents. This kid, at age fourteen, took away his own life with his father's gun and no one knew why. And it was like no one had noticed almost unless you were close to him or close to someone close to him which neither of us was.
"What would make him kill himself? What? I don't fuckin' understand!" now he was sitting in the middle of the dirt road with his face in his hands. In that fuckin' unbearable heat. I kneeled down next to him, placing a hand on his shoulder awkwardly. I could feel the heat of his body through the thin material of his shirt—making my palm a sweaty, soft pink.
"I don't either, man, I don't either," I said soothingly.
"Fuck man…I feel like it should've been me."
My heart stopped and I snatched my hand away, my eyes widening. He lifted his head from his hands and glanced at me with blood-shot eyes. "Chris…" I could barely choke out his name.
"Dude…it just should've, I mean…it almost was. God, I feel like such a fuckin' idiot!" he stood, and it seemed like he didn't know what to do with himself now—just standing there with nothing to lean against and nothing to sit on except the ground but it would've looked pretty stupid to have just stood up and then sat back down again.
"I was holding it in my hand, and it felt like it was just another part of me it was so warm…so I cocked it and I slid it into my mouth. My finger was on the fuckin' trigger man and death was just, like, a pull away," he spoke so softly. And that's when it hit me that he was talking about how he almost killed himself with a gun. "I didn't even have the balls to write a damn suicide note, for Christ's sake!"
"Chris…fuckin' hell man, why didn't you tell me?"
"What the fuck was I supposed to say, man? Was I supposed to say something like "hey Gordo! Can I copy your homework for math? Oh, and by the way, I almost committed suicide last night?" was that what I was supposed to say?!"
"Fuck man, stop being so fuckin' sarcastic, it's goanna drive me up the wall," that obviously wasn't what I was supposed to say because I seemingly never say the right thing. I'm good when I'm just jotting it down onto paper—in a story it comes out perfectly, just the way I wanted it to. But in real life I stutter and stumbled through my words and almost never say the right thing and when I do it just sort of slips out and I miss it completely.
His eyes darkened.
"Well SOOREE! Didn't mean to cause you so much fuckin' frustration!"
"Man, you know I didn't mean it like that!"
"Then how was it supposed to be meant?!"
"Goddamn it! I dunno, just not like that!"
"Yeah? Well FUCK YOU!" he screamed, and at a loss for words I didn't say anything. I stood, dusted off my pants. We started walking again, towards town, when we reached the edge of town Chris made a sharp turn and started heading towards the field, only to walk through it a little before he began scaling another slope that I had only seen a few times before. It led to a small cliff that over looked Castle Rock. Chris and I sometimes just went up there to remind ourselves that the town of Castle Rock was nothing more then that—a town. It looked small from up there instead of the whole world like we had once thought it to be.
"You were the reason I didn't do it, you know," he explained somberly, his hand jammed into his jean pockets, his eyes cast downward, and his shoes scuffing against the dry dirt of the earth. My head shot up, and I looked at him. "I had the gun in my mouth and my finger on the trigger, and from some fucked up reason it made me think about that stupid joke about oral sex you'd told me at lunch that day. And I just…I couldn't do it after that, you know? I just couldn't."
"Yeah, I know." In a twisted kind of way I always had. "Shit man, you're fucked up," I mumbled, fishing out a cigarette from my pocket. It was a lone stick that was slightly bent up but it would work. Crushing it between my lips I lit it up with my lighter and took a drag. Unlike when I was twelve I could actually inhale.
"Not half as fucked up as you, Lachance," he grinned at me, and he shoved me roughly by the shoulder, causing the cigarette to fall from my lips and onto the ground.
"What the fuck! That was my last one!" I shouted, looking down at the fallen cigarette with its embers still barely burning, bewildered, like I couldn't believe it.
"Suck it up," he shoved me again, this time I shoved back. "What are we goanna do? Fight like we're fuckin' twelve years old again?" he was still grinning, like he was entertaining the thought. I grinned right along with him, the thought exciting me to no end.
I pounced on him, my hands making contact with his shoulders as I dove through the air, pushing him to the ground. We rolled away from the edge, twisting and turning, skin brushing against skin. We never punched or kicked each other—just tried to see which one could hold the other still for the longest. He was on top of me now, both of us were grunting with frustration as he tried to pin my arms above my head. I bet if anyone would've passed by they would've thought we were fucking each other—or at least that Chris was trying to rape me. The thought made me laugh out loud through clenched teeth.
"What's so…fuckin' funny?" he asked, smiling slightly.
"Nothing," I said, flipping him over onto his back, but he quickly got back on top. And before I could stop myself, I asked with much strain, "Why'd you wanna kill yourself?"
"Shut up, Gordie," he spat, his movements becoming slightly rougher.
A guy's kiss is so much more different from a girl's. When a girl kisses you it's usually soft and tender or hot and passionate. The feeling of her hands awkwardly touching you, softly and gently with only the occasional scrape of long, manicured nails against skin. It's gentle and nice, lips placed upon heavily glossed, fully pouted pink lips in a sweet brush. A guy's kiss, however, is more intense and rough and awkward. Instead of soft, small hands gliding across your skin it's large, dry, rough ones holding you down. Chapped lips mashed down upon tightly closed ones. It's awkward and rough. But in a fucked up kind of way it just as nice, if not better.
Those were the thoughts running through my mind as Chris swooped down and captured his lips in mine, roughly.
That and: why the fuck is my best friend kissing me?!
I felt his tongue push past my lips and meet mine. But I fought back—but he's Chris Chambers, so he won. Just like in all the races we ran together and all the arm wrestling matches we held—he always won. He always deserved it, he deserved a little something even if it was just beating all his friends at wrestling and running.
Yeah, he was pretty damn good at that, too.
I could hear him panting, and I could hear myself panting too as we kissed—big, sloppy kisses that made no sense. But I didn't give a shit. Not in the least because the only thing I could concentrate on was how his lips felt against mine. And a bunch of other fucked-up-romance-novel shit. But I knew for a fact that this kind of crap between me and Chris would never be in a book.
Too taboo. People don't have the balls to write about that kind of shit.
Then a wave of reality seemed to wash over Chris and he ripped his mouth away from mine, and his face held this sort of…mixed expression. A cross between confusion, realization, and expectation. Something like that.
He was panting heavily as he ran a single hand through his hair to brush it away from his face which was flushed a deep shade of pink. I must've looked a little like that too, I guess. I saw him mouth 'what?' but he wasn't asking me or anyone in particular. He was talking to himself. In his head. Usually, this would've been cause for concern but I was too damn shocked to give it a second thought.
He started ranting, all of the sudden. About how much he loathed this fuckin' town. About how no one really knew him except for me. Then he started ranting about me and how fuckin' stupid I could be sometimes but how I was his best friend and a great friend and how I was going to be a writer someday but how I should learn to just keep my mouth shut sometimes. He started talking about his family and how he hated all of them. Then he asked me if I remembered when we were twelve and how we went looking for a dead kid's body. But he didn't stop to let me answer. He started talking about it. How when we were at the junkyard he actually, for a brief moment, forgot about everything but where he was and why he was there and how much fun we were having. And he rambled on and on about how much it made him feel like a regular kid and how he'd loved that feeling. Then he started talking about death and how he'd never come into contact with it first hand before that.
"How'd ya do it Gordie? How'd you get on living after Denny's death? Fuck, I didn't know Denny that well, and I didn't know jack shit about Ray and alls I know about that fourteen year old is what I read in the article!" why did this matter thought? Wasn't it better that he didn't know? But I guess after growing up so fast as a kid Chris thought he needed to know and understand everything and the fact that he didn't understand how a kid could take his own life and how he was so unable to was driving him up the wall.
He didn't do it. That other kid did. Chris's father beat him and hated him and the feeling was mutual, that other kid didn't. What was so bad for him that he had to kill himself? His life probably wasn't even half as bed as Chris's was—what gave him the fuckin' right to just give up like that and commit suicide. The coward. He couldn't make it. He took the easy way out. Chris had almost done that too, but he didn't feel stronger. If anything he felt so damn weak it was a miracle he was able to stand on his own two feet.
Chris ranted about all of this.
I knew why he did it. Or at least, I thought it did. Perks of being a good writer are that you can throw yourself into another person's life and think like they do. That fourteen-year-old had no reason to kill himself. Nothing was so bad for him that he felt he couldn't cope with the harsh realities of life anymore—he just simply wished to not have to cope with them any longer. It was as simple as that but Chris couldn't accept it.
"Shit man, I'm leaving," he said, fed up, and walked away towards town. I remember standing there when we were twelve and telling Chris that he could do anything he wanted. I believed it then, and I sure as hell believe it now. Chris wanted out. And Chris Chambers never misses, does he?
School the next day was some fuckin' twisted form of hell.
It was even hotter then it had been the day before.
Kids made paper fans out of old notes, and every door and window in the school was open in hopes that a quick breeze would from time to time sweep through it. But it never did. So we had to sit in the heat.
Chris and I kind of avoided each other a little, not wanting to acknowledge what happened yesterday. But by third period we'd fallen back into our comfortable routine of talking between and during classes and joking around about oral sex and things being so fucked up and bitching about how hot it was.
When lunch came around he and I snuck out into the parking lot and leaned against a nice looking red car that didn't belong to either one of us but we wished it did so we hung around it. It was under a few trees which was good, because that made it a little cooler but still didn't help much. After gushing about how cool the car looked we were silent for a few moments, now that the peering eyes of the school were seemingly miles away. You'd think it's be less awkward but because we had free range on what we could say now we had to choose carefully in order to get to what we wanted to talk about. Because it was so fuckin' weird and we both knew what we wanted to say but couldn't because we didn't know how to go about it, I guess you could say.
"Hey…I think I know why that kid did it," Chris started, and I looked at him, a curious look etched across my face and I placed a cigarette in between my lips, waiting.
"He didn't have anyone, you know what I mean? Like, there was no one stopping him from killing himself. The facts were he could kill himself and there was no one there to stop him—so, it's like 'I don't like life, why not kill myself?' Or maybe he didn't think there was anyone, you know? You've got to have at least one person to make all the shit that life throws at you bearable, you know? One person to make it all worth it—make it all bearable. Everyone has to have someone otherwise life is just so fuckin' pointless." I nodded. "Like how Abbot has Costello," he joked.
"Like how Tom has Jerry."
"Like how I have you."
And I was silent. I should've said something like "and like how I have you, too" or something like that. If I did say it I probably would've fucked it up anyway—like I always do. I gave him a weak smile and I think he got the message anyway. I took a drag out of my cigarette.
"About yesterday, Chris…" I started.
"Forget it, man."
"No, we can't just go pretending it didn't happen," I insisted, trying to look him in the eye. He glanced up at me—dark, hurt blue meeting soft, sad brown—holding my gaze for a split second before dropping it.
"Yeah we can."
"No, we can't."
"I said forget it, Gordie."
"And I said no!"
I shoved him by the shoulder, and he looked at me disbelievingly before his features became shadowed with anger. He pushed me back before letting his cigarette butt fall to the smoldering pavement and stomping on it with his shoe. He looked gracefully angry—if that's possible. He began to walk across the parking lot, in the direction of the two back doors of the school building. I stayed for only a second before I took off after him.
And because I'm an asshole and he's my best friend I yell after him that we have to talk about it at some point but he just ignores me as we make our way through the cafeteria crowd. We have sixth period lunch—the largest lunch period out of all of them during the day.
"Holy shit, man, will you stop for just one fuckin' second?!" I shout at him. I watch his back as he sighs, his shoulders sag and he looks slightly defeated, in a sense. He turns to me with this frustrated look on his face, like he wants to tell me something so badly but can't seem to put it into words. Been there, done that. It's the fuckin' worst feeling in the world when you want to try and explain something but it all just comes out wrong but you're so desperate to make it sound right. You feel helpless. Like a fuckin' five-year-old.
God I hate that feeling.
He looked at me, and I look at him, and I start yelling at him about what and fuckin' dick-head he could be. And I can feel everyone's eyes fall upon us but the feeling is distant as I can only concentrate on Chris and that look he's giving me. He wants to say something. I want him to say whatever it is he wants to say because that fuckin' look is driving me fuckin' nuts and it's too fuckin hot for this kind of shit.
"God-fuckin'-damn-it Chris! You're so fuckin'…you! Why the fuck can't you tell me why? Fuck, man, why'd the fuck did you wanna kill yourself? Why the fuck can't you just say what you feel and get it the fuck over it? Why the fuck do you just wanna forget about every fuckin' thing that happened yesterday? Chris, why the fuck did you do what you did—and for Christ's sake wipe that fuckin' look off your fuckin' face!"
'Because I had such a fucked up life and I felt like no one could relate. I felt lost. I felt like no one cared. The only person in the whole fuckin' world was you and now I've got these fucked up feelings so now even what I thought was the best is just fucked up. You were all I had and you make me feel a way I know I shouldn't be. I can't say what I feel because it's not my thing—it's not what guys do. And liking you makes me feel like I'm not a man at all—goddamn it, Gordie, let me grasp onto the little bits of masculinity in myself I can find. I wanna forget about it because it wasn't right. You deserve so much better then me, and you know it. And I did what I did because I just did.'
That's what I felt he was trying to tell me as he swiftly grabbed me by the collar of my shirt and forced me into another kiss. I could hear the audible gasps and cries of shock from around us but I didn't fuckin' care. I knew they were calling us gay, I knew that they were going to rush home and tell their mommies and daddies and we'd be in big trouble. But I just didn't fuckin' care anymore.
He finally pushed me back and grinned and I grinned a little back because I knew it was all good for the time being. We were still suffocating like the idiots we were, in an air filled with shock and content. Shock coming from the 'most people' who don't know jack shit, and the content coming from us. Except it wasn't okay—it was all fucked up, but hey, what isn't?
"I hate you so fuckin' much, you shit-wad," I told him.
"Hate you too, dick-head," he replied.
And for the briefest of moments the heat seemed bearable.