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This wasn’t what it was supposed to be like. Being dead. There was no bright lights, no tunnel, no long lost family members to greet me, no dead friends to beckon me on to a better life than the one I was leaving behind. It was blackness. More than blackness, it was an absence of color. A darkness complete. There was nothing. That is what I told the paranormal researchers from Tucson University when they came to the hospital to question me about my Near Death Experience. The truth. They didn’t like it. Crestfallen faces, half-moon frowns, doubtful eyes. They left me alone after that.
They say that time slows down and your life flashes before your eyes in the seconds before you think you are about to die. Not true, at least not for me. Don’t get me wrong, time did slow down, but it was not to see a montage of my life up until that point. Time slowed down and I saw not the life I had lived but the life I had not lived. The places I had never seen, the children I never had, the things I’ll never know, the man I would never become. I saw the stars brighter than I have ever seen them, the whole cosmos seemed to stretch out for eternity as the wind roared past my ears and a feeling of insignificance and regret pounded into my body harder than the ground rushing up to meet me. Thing was, two days earlier, I was already dead.
This wasn’t what it was supposed to be like. Being alive. I took another drink of the ice cold Guinness my roommate had bought for me. I savored the thick bittersweet taste it left in my mouth and raised the bottle to my lips again. Faron walked into the room. I was sitting on the bottom bunk bed. Faron sat down next to me on the bed and dropped her head forward, her long auburn hair falling past her face and over her knees. She raised her head and looked at me. She didn’t say anything, just sat there with her gray blue eyes boring into my face. I knew she wanted me to look at her. I took a large swallow of Guinness instead.
“I’ve been thinking of home a lot lately,” she said, still staring at the side of my face. I instantly tensed up. This wasn’t the first time she had mentioned going back to Bakersfield and I was beginning to get sick of hearing it. In the monotonous tone of voice I had been using when still partly sober I told her we were having a blast in Tucson. She sighed with frustration and spouted “You’re having a blast, I am getting tired of partying every...single...day.” My mood began to darken. I pushed it away. “This whole idea to leave and travel the country was your idea in the first place,” I replied and began beating an unopened pack of cigarettes against my palm. “You wanted to see new places, meet new people, and party every...single...day.” The last three words were punctuated by three loud claps of the cigarette pack against my hand. I picked up my beer. The half bottle left was drained in several large gulps.
Faron put her hands on the edge of the bed and thrust herself up. She hit her head on the top bunk on her way up. “Shit!” she spun around her hand pressed to her forehead and glared at me, her eyes flashing. I automatically stood up and came toward her. “Don’t even!” she yelled, stopping me in my tracks. I could see something different in her eyes. I could feel something different between us, a tension that had been building the last several days and now stood quivering like a drawn bow, the arrow notched and ready to fly.
There was something wrong with me lately. I was only 20 years old and felt an anger deep inside which continually simmered like a semi-dormant volcano and would sometimes bubble up and come bursting out, spewing red hot hate over everyone around me. Behind this anger was an emptiness, feelings of despair, depression, and the hopelessness of it all. I was building a wall with the anger, a wall to keep anyone from getting close, or intruding on that emptiness. For some reason I took solace in living in that misery, of letting myself soak up the depression. Then I would fill up the emptiness for a while with alcohol and drugs. Subconsciously I knew that she was a danger to that wall and my self-imprisonment. I needed to feel sorry for myself, so I was subconsciously taking steps to make sure we would always be mad at each other.
She started in, “You don’t look at me the way you used to. You don’t tell me how much you love me or all the things you love about me anymore you’re always drunk, you want to fight everyone and you’re just gone inside, you’re not you anymore.”
I didn’t care, she was just background noise to the cacophony of my own suffering. Those glorious eyes began to blur with tears as she plunged on. “You get wasted and want to do stupid ass things, push me around and snort tons of coke and it scares the shit out of me.” She looked at me and I averted my eyes. “I’m sick of this. I’m going home.”
The tension snapped, the arrow flew straight into my belly, which is what I wanted. I let the anger and alcohol boil up to burn away the doubt, and the weakness of attachment. I knew she didn’t love me, who could. “What are you still doing here,” I said suddenly looking up at her, “you want to go then get the hell outta here.” She just stared at me, eyes deep as the Atlantic. She stared and time seemed to slow. I was turned to stone and could not look away from her eyes. After what seemed an eternity, she broke her basilisk gaze from me to glance at my cigarette ash which was in danger of falling off onto the floor. As I looked down to flick it into the ashtray time returned to its normal flow.
She started grabbing clothes from around the room stuffing them into a backpack, her action’s jerky and quick. She whipped around suddenly, “You’ll regret all this later,” she told me. “No one could ever love you the way I did.”
“The way you did?” I spat at her.
“The way I did.” She reiterated.
“Good riddance,” I said.
Faron turned with her packed bags, “Go to hell for all I care.” She said in a low voice and walked out. “I’m already there,” I called lamely after her. I took another large swallow of Guinness. Bittersweet. The depression returned and I embraced it.
I sense I am inside somewhere. I hear phones ringing and voices as if through a dense fog. I see a dim fluorescent light through the cracked slit of my eyes. I feel excruciating pain. The light’s ghostly luminescence pulls me away from the present and my mind goes blank. The memories from the beginning of the night pour in to fill that void as I close my eyes. . .
The microphone slipped from my sweaty grip and tumbled to the ground with an ear piercing whining retort. We were playing at a keg party. The set was over and I immediately walked out of the living room, through the dining room and out the back sliding door before the last chords struck on Dan’s guitar had faded in the air. I sauntered up to one of the kegs ignoring the line of people waiting for a refill. As I began to fill my cup, a head wearing a black beanie with a Fugazi patch sewn on the front poked out from the back of the line and drunkenly blurted, “Hey, get in the back of the line pal.” The guy waiting patiently in the front of the line turned around and yelled, “Shut up it’s Chase from Lesbianic Airlines , he gets first dibs on the keg!”
“Whatever,” Fugazi beanie said, lighting up a cigarette. I drained my cup of Newcastle as the other guy filled his, refilled mine again, walked over to an easy chair sitting on the back porch and plopped down in it. I sprawled there indolently with one leg cocked over the arm and sipped at my beer. I was feeling the emptiness and thinking about her.
As I sat in the chair remembering, drinking, and sighing, Roberto walked up and sat on the ground next to the chair. “That was a badass show dude,” he said unscrewing the lid off a pint of vodka and taking a drink of it. His face screwed up in disgust and he blew out his breath explosively. “Wheew! Here, have some,” he said, thrusting the bottle toward me quickly. I took a long pull and handed it back “My dad is out of town and he has keys to this big building downtown in his office at home.” Roberto told me. “The kegs are almost dry. We should move this party over there.”
The guys showed up with the cocaine and beckoned me inside with it. “Hold that thought,” I said. After a couple of lines I felt the euphoria take over and with exuberance told the whole party of our plans to invade Roberto’s building downtown. The crowd of punk rockers, two-tones, rock-a-billy’s, and boot boys, responded to my proclamation with resounding cheers and roars of approval.
About forty people piled into six or seven cars and we drove over to Roberto’s house and waited while he snuck in and retrieved the keys. We then went to the store and Dan, after getting a few more people to pitch in, bought all the beer and liquor. We drove down to the business/ industrial area of downtown Tucson and found the building. It was a four-story structure with dark tinted windows. Roberto unlocked a back door in the alley and we all poured into the building carrying four boxes of King Cobra thirty-two ounce bottles and two ice chests full of liquor bottles and mixers.
The building still had electricity and within minutes the darkened quiet building sprang to life. There were people going up in the elevators drinking and listening to music, and there were people going down in the elevators drinking and having sex. I was in a large office room with Jesse who was the bass player in my band, his girlfriend, his sister, and two of her friends.
I had a fifth of Gin and was drinking it straight from the bottle. Jesse’s sister Ally was whispering to one of her friends, a girl with honey blond hair and startling green eyes named Destiny, who kept her eyes trained on me like a cat stalking a mouse. She and Ally giggled and Destiny glided across the room to me. “You wanna share?” she asked coyly. I handed her the Gin and she chugged it like water, a trail of it coursing down her cheek. She handed it back with a large portion gone. “I heard your song about how Faron left you and everything,” she said. “I can make you forget about her.”
With that she turned her face up to me. I accepted her invitation and our lips met. “Let’s go up on the roof,” Jesse said as he turned away from his girlfriend. “We’ll take my stereo up there, I bet it would be cool.” We all agreed and wound our way through the drunken people in the hallway. I was trailing behind and had to stop as a red headed girl fell in my path, giving everything she had worked so hard to drink to the floor. As I looked up Destiny was there. She grabbed me by the front of my shirt and pushed me against the wall, smirking as she pressed her body and mouth against me.
She suddenly broke away, “Let’s go,” she said softly, and taking my hand. Destiny led me to the roof. As we came out the door Ally was standing with her hands outstretched moving in a slow circle. “This is so cool,” she said looking out over the lights of the city. The view didn’t interest me. I felt drunk but I could still feel, I needed obliviousness. I pulled out some of the coke I was given earlier and started putting it up my nose with my finger. Destiny came over and put some up her nose as well. “Damn this is good,” she said. I put my nose in the small pile and started breathing it all in. “Whoa, are you going to do all that at once?” she asked. I ignored her and ingested the rest of it, then gave her the remnants. I felt life rushing through my body, and I felt my heart beating once again. The cocaine and alcohol gave me a burst of life and feelings, but like a struck match the life faded and fizzled away leaving me standing at the edge. I need it to feel anything other than the deadness that permeated my everyday thoughts. I know it’s just a recharge on my already dead battery.
Jesse turned on a mixed tape and Youth Brigade’s “Believe in Something” started blaring from the speakers. I feel like I am staring at a mannequin of myself, standing in the window and pretending to smile. I need something more than all of this. Destiny wrapped her arms around my neck and began attacking me with her mouth. I break away and look toward the lights of the city at the edge of the roof. I needed something more. I slowly walked toward the edge of the roof, my eyes never leaving the distant lights of the city.
The Doors’ “Crystal Ship” began to play as I walk along the low wall on the edge of the building. Being this close to death is what made me feel alive, what made me feel good about myself somehow. Ally and her friends were telling me to get down. Destiny was egging me on. I had my eyes closed and could only hear the music floating to me. “The days are bright and filled with pain, enclose me in your gentle rain.” Death seemed so trivial, a release. Life was full of feelings and emotions thrusting at you like those serrated edged Egyptian daggers. If you let one slide into you it hurts a little, but then pulls everything out of you coming out. “Deliver me from reasons why you’d rather cry, I’d rather fly.” Morrison’s haunting warbling floated by. My eyes were closed and my arms outstretched. I felt my foot hit the edge of the roof and slip off. I heard a girl’s scream.
There was a moment where I tried to reach out and catch the edge, then there was nothing but air. The open night rushed by me and I saw everything. The next thing I knew I lay on the ground and struggled to breathe. I lay there gasping with my eyes wide. I felt all the pain I had ever projected onto others reflected back on me. I didn’t want it to end like this. Everyone in Bakersfield flashed through my mind, Ryan, Brian, Donna, and all the rest of my friends I hadn’t seen in almost a year. No one, not even my family would know what happened to me. I didn’t even have Faron here with me at the end. I had pushed her roughly away and now had nobody to say goodbye to. I could see the dark precipice approaching and didn’t want to go there with this emptiness inside.
I knew I wanted to be filled with every emotional experience when this time came. That was being alive, feeling everything life has to offer and giving everything of yourself so others feel it too. I didn’t want to die. “Faron,” I croaked. My vision began to fade and the last thing I felt was a warm tear trailing down my face and up my nose with my last breath. Three broken ribs. A punctured lung. Fractured collar bone. Nine broken toes. A fractured elbow and numerous other injuries. It took a broken body to make me realize I had a broken soul. I had lived at the edge thinking it was the only way to feel. I realized that living like that is like trying to fill a bottle with a hole in the bottom. You only end up thirsty and empty. I fell four stories and died. I was resuscitated by the paramedics but the guy who fell from that building is still laying in that alley.