Yaron sat alone in his room, watching television. No one knows what provoked him. He mentioned that it was fucking with his head. Grasping the bulk with his arms, he picked up the television and ripped the plug from the wall. He staggered from his room, across the hallway and into the living room, where, it was told; he appeared suddenly like an avenger, like someone reclaiming something.
The three or four people left in the living room gaped at first, and then shouted their encouragement. Someone tried to help, but Yaron shrugged him off. Yaron did not falter in his movements, though his arms strained against the weight. He was followed into the kitchen, where he shouted “Open the god damn window!” Someone did.
The revelers gathered on the fire escape before helping Yaron back out through the kitchen window, still clinging to the television. It was as if the television were some sort of odd growth against him, so that when he thrust it forward, over the rail, it seemed that, for a minute, he was throwing part of himself to the ground below.
There were only a few seconds of free fall before the television made impact. The sharp crack and the sound of shattering glass cut through the silence of night. A few seconds after releasing their collective breath, everyone laughed and shouted in triumph. Yaron laughed with the rest of them. He laughed so hard that tears sprung to his eyes. He laughed, fighting the unbearable urge to break down and cry.
Yaron threw the television out the kitchen window as dawn gave way to day on Wednesday morning, before Diane had the abortion, before Thom od’d, before I told James I was leaving and he painted all the red doors in his apartment black.
Yaron was the one who started it all. It was he who broke the thread. He threw the television out the window on Wednesday and was gone by Friday, without a note or word of explanation; the only clue lying in the balding grass in the back lot of his apartment. The empty shell of the cracked television was left to lie in shattered glass, dirt and weeds until the landlord cleared it away in May.
Tuesday night started no differently than any other night in our small college town. Diane came over after her evening class. She was one of the few who actively attended school; the rest of us had either dropped out or graduated. I was decidedly in the “dropped out” category, in my room listening to Iron Butterfly, contemplating the creation of being and non-being, when my roommate knocked sharply on my door and announced Diane’s arrival, saying “Jesus, open a window.”
Diane walked in and smiled as I handed her a joint. She took it between her thin fingers and sat down on the floor cross legged, inhaled and handed it back to me. Diane and I knew each other well; we had lived together in the dorms before I left school and moved to an apartment off-campus. “I need you to come with me to Yaron’s,” she said.
“Now?” I asked. I hadn’t left my room in the three days I had been off work, and I really wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere.
My room was my refuge, my safe haven. I had painted the walls forest green, and because I was inept with a roller, ragged green edges that looked like grass surrounded the parameter of the still-white ceiling. I had plans for the ceiling, and I used to lie on the floor, looking up, imagining what I would paint. When I moved out, the ceiling remained white, only slightly imprinted by the will of my imagination.
“I don’t want to stay that long,” Diane told me, looking into the window above my mattress and smoothing her long dark hair, “I need to talk to him about something. Besides, he told me he has something for us.”
Diane tilted her head to the side. “Please, Kim… I really don’t want to go alone.”
She looked at me plaintively, her beautiful face drawn in a mock pout of sadness. “I promise we’ll just go, I’ll talk to him for a few minutes, then we’ll get the stuff and leave.”
“What do you have to talk to him about?” I asked. Yaron was in love with her and she knew it, yet; she had no interest in pursuing anything with him, even though they were sleeping with each other. She told me that she had no interest in the politics of domesticity.
Diane sighed and blew out a couple of lazy smoke rings, each perfect O hanging in the air between us.
“I can’t tell you right now. I need to talk to him first. Then, I’ll tell you. Okay?”
“We can’t just leave,” I said, “You know he’s going to want to smoke with us.”
She sighed again, this time more deeply. “You’re right. So, we’ll hang out for a little while.” She stretched and stood up. “You ready?”
“Is anyone else going to be there?” I asked.
I was hoping that Yaron would be alone, but it was unlikely. He lived with three other guys, one of whom was Thom, and I had been avoiding Thom since that night of the party, when he lured me into his bedroom with the promise of seeing his photographs. I had heard that he was a really good photographer and I suppose I was naïve, but I really didn’t expect him to push me onto the bed the minute we walked into the room.
Diane thought he probably didn’t even remember that night; he was so drunk. But I could never forget the violent blue of his eye, the way he held me down on the bed. He made me nervous. He said I was just like him; we were twin souls, searching desperately for meaning in this blurry and overexposed world.
“I’m sure it will be the usual.” Diane said. “But we’re not staying long. Okay?”
“I really don’t want to see Thom.”
“I know, I know,” she said. “You’re paranoid. Thom’s a cool guy. I don’t know why you don’t like him.”
I didn’t tell Diane the extent of what went on in Thom’s room. Sometimes, she could be insensitive about such things. If it was just sex, she would have understood. But it wasn’t just sex. We didn’t even have sex. We kissed on his bed in the blackness of his room and talked about dreams, nightmares, emptiness. Mind expansion, self-destruction. He wanted me to save him, when I couldn’t even save myself.
“It’s not that I don’t like him.” I said.
“Well, even if he is there, he doesn’t share the same part of the apartment as Yaron. So… don’t worry. Besides,” she said, looking me over, “it will be good for you to get out.”
I nodded and crushed out the joint in the ashtray, placing it in my pack of cigarettes. I stood up and turned off the record player while Diane blew out the candles.
We left the incense burning and I shut the door to my room. My roommate gave us a dirty look when we passed her bedroom. “Don’t forget your key this time,” she called out to me.
“Okay Mom,” Diane replied.
Diane and I started laughing. We barely made it out the front door. She tripped on her long skirt and I walked into the bookcase; we were that stoned. Before I closed the door, Diane asked me, quite innocently, “Do you have your key?” and we fell into each other, laughing again.
Outside, the night was clear and cool. It was almost spring and the snow was just beginning to melt. The sheer contrast of being outside sobered us a little while we walked the six or seven blocks to Main Street. Main Street ran the length of the town, and housed numerous bars, restaurants and random shops. Yaron lived only a block away from the restaurant where I worked.
As we got closer, Diane broke our silence and asked tentatively “So, what’s going on with James?”
I took out a cigarette and lit it before I replied truthfully, “Nothing.”
James was my boss. We had been hanging out before his ex-girlfriend the pharmacist came back into his life. She rode up to the restaurant one day on a loud Harley, bearing prescription drugs. I had never seen her before, and I was surprised that she was so different from James. James was a quiet man, who gave free meals to the residents of the outpatient mental health clinic nearby, in exchange for a few lithium, valium, artane, whatever.
The first time I hung out with James, we barely spoke to each other. He asked me to smoke with him after work. He seemed really cool and shy and nervous and within an hour, he had a seizure. I hadn’t known he had epilepsy. I stayed with him the entire night with his head on my lap, afraid to leave or go to sleep. I had memorized the features in his face before he woke, and when he did, we loved each other. Or, I thought we did.
“He’s still with the ex-girlfriend?” Diane asked. Cruelly, I thought.
“I guess she’s not his ex-girlfriend anymore. I don’t know.” James said he loved us both. Theoretically, I could understand. I just wished it didn’t hurt so much.
“I always thought he was really strange… Do you have an extra cigarette?”
We stopped at the corner and I extended my pack to her. She lit the cigarette and we stood, smoking, watching people spill out of the bars and onto the street. The area was loud and disjointed with several conversations going on at the same time. I closed my eyes. It had been getting harder and harder to leave my room.
“Are you ready for this?” She asked and I nodded weakly in assent.
We walked a few more feet down Main Street and stopped abruptly in front of Yaron’s door. Diane rang the bell and he buzzed us in. I walked up the long stairway behind her, trying to discern who was there by the voices we heard shouting over music as we ascended the stairs.
Yaron greeted us at the top of the steps. He looked really happy and really drunk. The army green hat that he always wore was askew. He extended his arms and yelled “Diane!” before embracing her in a vice-like hug. Diane hugged him back much less enthusiastically, but he didn’t seem to notice or care.
“Hey, Kim,” he called out to me and I smiled my response back to him.
He put his arm around Diane and led her to the left, which I knew to be a bad sign because Yaron’s area of the apartment was to the right. The left side held the kitchen, living room, Ed’s room and Thom’s room. Diane looked behind her shoulder at me, with one of her “I’m sorry” looks. I had no choice but to follow as they entered the living room, where about ten people were sprawled out over the two couches and the floor.
Several people were involved in a heated discussion about the nature of explicit environmental and structural racism. The air was stagnant with the smoke of cigarettes and marijuana. Beer cans and bottles of liquor crowded the surfaces of the room. Books were stacked precariously on the coffee table.
“You all know Diane …” Yaron interrupted. He introduced Diane to the few people she actually didn’t know. It was hot in the living room. Something loud was on the stereo, a bong was being passed around and Thom sat on the floor in front of the only clear spot on the coffee table, cutting lines. I spotted him just as he turned to look at me. He smiled and gestured for me to come closer. I shook my head. “I know you want to,” he said, almost whispering, before bending down.
I did want to. He was offering me a path that would only lead further and further into darkness. I had spent nearly three days in seclusion, trying to figure out a way in which to live. I had already figured out all the ways in which to die.
“Yaron… it’s too crowded in here,” Diane said, pressing herself against him to whisper in his ear. “Let’s go into your room.”
Yaron nodded. With his arm still around Diane, he began to walk out of the room. Diane reached out and grabbed my arm, “You too, Kim.” Yaron looked crushed and I felt bad for him. Not bad enough to stay in the living room though. He looked at me and I shrugged my shoulders, as if to say “what can I do?” No one said no to Diane. I think he understood.
It was so much quieter in Yaron’s room. We went into his room and he put on Black Sabbath. He turned the volume up as the first dark chords began to fill the room. We sat on the floor while he took out about five bags before handing them to Diane to choose. She decided on two before handing the bags over to me.
“What do you think, Kim?”
“I weighed them before… they’re all about the same.” Yaron said, “I think that one has bigger buds… that’s why it looks a little smaller…”
“Either one,” I said to Diane, handing her back the bags. “I can’t decide.”
“Okay, we’ll take the one with the buds.” Diane reached into her pocketbook to give Yaron the money. He waved her away. “Don’t worry about it.”
Diane looked at me for help, but I wasn’t giving any. She sighed before saying okay, then “Well at least let’s smoke from this bag.”
Yaron took out a packet of rolling papers from his pocket and handed them to Diane before sitting down next to her, nonchalantly. Diane tossed the papers to me and said “Kim, you roll it…” Yaron reached over and tucked a piece of hair behind Diane’s ear. Diane said “Move closer to us, Kim. You’re too far away.”
I moved closer to them. We sat with our legs crossed, so that our knees touched, forming a triangle, a warped trinity. “Wait.” Yaron said, before he stood up and walked to his closet. We watched him return with a bright yellow blanket. “Let’s clambake.”
Diane reached out to help him with the blanket. Yaron sat back down and we resumed our trinity position. We each took some of the blanket and put it over us. The light in Yaron’s room filtered through the thin blanket, and the yellow of the blanket became golden. “It’s like sunlight!” Diane said.
“I feel like I’m in another world.” Yaron said, dreamily. And it was true. Under the blanket, we created a gauzy, bright yellow, golden world. Yaron and Diane held hands. We smoked the joint, close under the blanket, telling stories from our childhoods, trying to define a perfect world.
“What the hell…” A voice cut through our laughter. We looked at each other, caught, and then we began laughing again. “Yaron? Are you under there?” That made us laugh even more and we gasped for air through the smoke. We threw the blanket off us and a cloud of smoke visibly dissipated in the air above our heads.
Thom was standing at Yaron’s door. He stared at us for a second, smiling and shaking his head. “I’m not even going to ask… Listen, Chuck just brought over some acid. You guys up for it?”
“Yeah, man.” Yaron said and extended the joint to Thom. Thom walked over and sat down on the floor beside me. “What about you?” He looked at Diane briefly and then his gaze rested on me.
“No way. I’m really fucked up.” Diane said. She looked at me and then added, “In fact, we should probably be going soon.”
“I know Kim will say yes, won’t you, Kim?” Thom said. He looked into my eyes, and I could feel myself falling into the seductive abyss.
“No.” I said. “I have to work tomorrow. I’d still be tripping if I took it now.”
Diane stood up and told Yaron that she wanted to use the bathroom before we left. They walked out of the room, leaving me alone with Thom. I felt the heat rise on my face. I wanted him to leave. He didn’t leave.
“Every time I see you, you won’t even talk to me.” Thom said, moving a little closer, so that we were sitting face to face, our knees practically touching. “Joe used to tell me all the time about this girl in the dorms who was just like me. Then I met you, remember? We were waiting on Dave’s porch, talking about shit, and you said that you wanted to experience everything, and I said you were just like me … Why are you afraid of me?”
I didn’t answer him. I was afraid of him, of his need.
“I’m sorry if I freaked you out that night.” He said, pulling the band out of his long hair. His hair fell like a black curtain around his shoulders, unnatural and imposing against his pale face and clear blue eyes.
Before I had time to answer him, he kissed me. I had been numb for so long I didn’t recognize the space between us expand and contract, or that my body moved according to his. I didn’t know how it was that my breath caught under his touch, against my more logical inclinations. All this, and I kissed him back, breaking my heart so he wouldn’t have to.
I heard Diane and Yaron and pulled away from Thom. He bit his lip. I stood up and walked over to Yaron’s records.
Yaron and Diane were arguing outside the door. “Please, Diane … I don’t want you to…” Yaron’s voice lowered so that I couldn’t hear the rest of his sentence; his voice rose again, angrily, “What about what I want?” before softening into a desperate “I love you.”
“I’ve made my decision, Yaron.” I heard Diane say, accenting his name with finality.
Diane walked into the room purposefully, her face flushed.“Kim, are you ready?” I was.
Yaron entered the room after her, looking as if he had been punched in the stomach. I looked at the floor. Thom asked if Yaron still wanted the acid, and Yaron did, so together they went into the living room to finish the night with a trip. I followed Diane down the stairs. No one said goodbye.