Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Family: Chapter Twelve- Winter Break

I stand before the window watching the quad fill up with snow. It’s really coming down now. I can see the streetlights glowing on the corner and the dimly lit outline of the history building on the other side of the street. For a moment it reminds me of an expensive Christmas card, an 18th Century woodcut dropped into this forgotten corner of Central Pennsylvania. The halls are silent now; pretty much everyone is home for the holiday break. I wish I could say that I was overlooked, or even unwanted; but the truth is far less dramatic. The alternator has gone up on my ’77 Imapala, and I just have no ride. This actually happened a couple weeks back and I have no money to fix it. I am experiencing the kind of money shortage that only the homeless and college students really understand. Last week I simply stole a battery from an unwatched car in the faculty parking lot; but the battery only worked long enough to get me about forty miles. I am just not willing to risk walking ten miles in this blizzard. Not to mention there aren’t even any cars down there now.
Going home is different now. I visited there briefly over Halloween but I just couldn’t adjust. I remember walking up the stairs to my room of my parent’s townhouse. The place was empty. My brother, a musician, was at a gig, and my parents were nowhere to be found. I looked around. My bed was gone. Only a single mattress remained, pushed up against the far wall, obviously my brother’s late night crash pad. Unfamiliar phone numbers were scratched on the wall beside the mattress. A milk crate held some of my old albums, forgotten metal LPs by Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. They look out of place, like a caveman wearing an iPod. These albums were once a big part of my day, but now they are just reminders of my old life. I was tempted to take them, but of course I have no turntable in my dorm room, so I left them. I realized slowly; I don’t live here any more. I was on my own.
I press my face against the glass. It’s so quiet now. Normally these hallways bristle with sound; breaking glass, drunks hitting golf balls, students vomiting in garbage cans. It’s so different. I can hear my own breathing; inhale, exhale. The glass fogs. I think back to the events of this morning. My mistress Trish is telling me that she can’t stay with me anymore, how she can’t trust a man who cheats on his girlfriend. Trish’s point is solid but I don’t listen. I want to have sex. All this other crap doesn’t matter. I don’t want to hear this. Outside the snow starts falling and she starts some wheezy story about wanting to dance in the snow, the romance and all this other horse shit. Like a chump I agree so we bundle up and head outside the dorm. We whirl in circles, catching snowflakes on our tongues and laughing. She’s so damn sexy in her red scarf I can’t stand it. I flop to the ground and make a snow angel, watching the sky swirl above me. The sky is darkening, a whirlpool of grey and white.
“Let’s go back to your room,” I say.
“No. You aren’t listening. I want to get something to eat.”
“C’mon.... we can eat after.”
“No! I told you, it’s not going to be like this.”
“Let’s go....I’m not hungry.”
“No!” she spits, and stomps off in the direction of the cafeteria. I stand and watch her for a moment, wondering why my life is spinning out of control. When I get back to the room my girlfriend Tracy is on the answering machine. She’s breaking up with me, she says.
I pretty much saw that one coming.
At the far end of the hall I hear a stereo click on. The music is coming from Fuzz’s room. It’s New Edition for God’s sake. He’s packing for the long drive back to Philly. I thought I was alone in the dorm. For a fleeting moment I consider going down there to talk to him.... but it just feels weird. For one thing he wears rugby shirts. Rugby shirts for God’s sake! Who wears a goddamn rugby shirt and listens to New Edition? Also he frequently wears shorts with a coat. Doesn’t he realize he’s basically contradicting himself? It’s Winter Break- put some goddamn pants on! I think of his life and suddenly I am disgusted. He’ll be sitting at Christmas Dinner, stuffing his stupid fat face. Sitting in a Norman Rockwell painting where relatives exchange pleasantries instead of blows, where smiling brothers share jokes instead of alcohol fueled insults. Where holidays are fondly remembered gatherings instead of bitter incidents and accusations. I should go down the hall right now and punch his fat stupid face.
Suddenly the music stops with a click and Fuzz stumbles into the hall with an overstuffed red duffel bag. The pockets are ripped. He looks surprised.
“Tim, you’re still here!”
“Uh....Yeah, I’m just waiting for my ride....”
“Oh, okay. Listen man, have a nice break dude. I’ll see you in two weeks.”
“Alright then. You too.”
I hear him rumbling that huge bag toward the dorm’s service elevator. There is a ping, and then he is gone. The hall is painfully silent.
I turn back to face the glass. I watch the quad fill up with snow.