The blank computer screen was staring right at me again, trying to do the same stuff as always; stop me from doing what I had to do. The one last report I had to write, for the one last class of 'junior college' that actually mattered. Only this time I knew a few more tricks. A couple of things that can really help a guy out in those kinds of times. So I ate, drank, and smoked as much of them as possible. Just sort of drifted out of the world for a while there.
My perception of everything was quickly becoming less and less important, until I almost felt separate from it entirely. Like I was isolated in my own universe, and the troubles of reality, and all the burdening thoughts found within it had been lifted. New ways of seeing things suddenly revealed.
I had been hoping to free up some good ideas, and ease my way past this final obstacle of early education. Inspired to these actions by a few good books I read, written by some long dead author. After spending four years at that school by the mountains, in the center of my home town, it was finally time to move on. It felt like if I didn't leave then, I would probably never go anywhere.
San Francisco was my new destination. Having stayed in the southern tip of California for nearly all of my life, I was eager to get out, and see what it was like elsewhere. And the Bay Area, with its legends, mystique, and overpriced housing, seemed like my best bet. It wasn't just some leisurely move however. It had a purpose. I was to transfer to San Francisco State University, pursuing some sort of environmental endeavor. To try to save the world, or so I told myself.
It meant leaving behind the timeless journey of ones youth; the friends and places one grows intimately used to. Yet at the same time, it represented the start of new things to come. The rest of the voyage. And so, this writing project was particularly crucial; a large part of the grade, and the final deciding factor determining the actuation of my plans. If I didn't get it done, I didn't go. The pressure was on.
I'd been holed up in that poorly lit room, in that house on Fig Avenue, alone, for a lengthy, unknown period of time. With only the sounds of a bong busy at work, and the frantic tapping of the keyboard to keep me company; seemingly unable to put together this simple, rudimentary essay.
It was a lonely time, but a necessary one nonetheless. A man needs moments like these. The shattering of ones awareness. To pick up the pieces of his perspective, and try to make it whole again. To recall what had happened, and shift the pictures around for a while, until you see what you want to.
Everything I had consumed was kicking in, full swing.
And that's when the persistent, unavoidable reminiscing began. The sluggish recollection of events that led up to that very point. That definitive timeline, snaking its way around to this present moment.
It seemed like these tricks were in fact turning against me. And there was no point in fighting it. I had created an unstoppable force that was mercilessly overpowering my cognitive abilities. Unable to concentrate, or focus enough to write anything worth reading, I just let my mind wander, into the past.
It was like it all unfolded way to fast to have actually happened at all. The new experiences that quickly turned to old ones. The loss of a world that had been my life, and the start of a new one, in this new home, that had come to us due to another, unfortunate loss; the stepfather of a weird friend. But to be able to intelligibly tell how it really went down, I have to start back at an inevitable, dark time. Way back when. Akin to those moments, when the sun barely crests the horizon of a chill, early morning.
I was seventeen years old, and just out of high school, when my sister Alicia and I moved into my grandfather's house on Madrona Street, to help shepherd him through those long last months, and all too fast final days. Alicia was my older sister by five years. Although at times outgoing, she was mostly somewhat reserved, seemingly unsure of the true potential she actually possessed. She didn't really like my friends, and seldom approved of whatever it was we were getting into. But she stayed there with me, till it was over. Through that last point; the worst part of an indescribably good era.
My grandfather had been a huge part of all of our lives. An old-school relic of an age long-gone. He always reminded me of the tales of untamed spirits, lost in the rugged heat of the wild west. Of John Wayne movies, and drunken stories of times slowly fading from memory. Of little league baseball, and how he taught me all that he could get across. Yet there was so much about this man, who had lived such a full life of his own, that I didn't know. Perhaps I never will, but I always hope to learn more.
He passed away on a sunny, September afternoon, that truly mocked the seriousness of the situation at hand. That last dreary day of contrite anticipation. A silent second in time, that petrified all the memories of the mystery and naivet that composes ones childhood, and sparked the beginnings of what it is to be an adult.
That house on Madrona Street, where he lived, had been in my family since the dawn of time. And I was there to see it; through the last vestiges of our ownership. That inimitable plot of land. A small home on the side of a small road. It went easily unnoticed by those unfamiliar to it. But from where I stood, it was the biggest part of the entire city.
After he died, my aunts, uncles, and mother, heirs to this heavy loom, weren't quite sure whether or not to sell this house our family had owned for so long. So, throughout their indecision, they decided to rent it to me, my sister, my brother Joey , and my best friend Joe, for a low price and good deal we were hoping to keep going for as long as possible.
My brother, known by most of his acquaintances as 'Guido', was a personality larger than life. He could make a lonely room feel like it was in the depths of a late-night party, and find humor in the times that needed it the most. He and my grandfather had always been close, and he took it hard when things got bad. I was angry that he couldn't bring himself to at least visit once in a while, but looking back now, I understand why. Watching someone you love slowly slip away isn't for everyone. But he did show up in the end, and for me, that was enough.
Although he may not have realized it, and may still not know, he served as a sort of cornerstone; the person that kept our rag-tag group together, after everything happened. Out of everyone, he helped the most to hold things down. To maintain. Through the thick, and through the haze.
Joe, also known as Sums, had been his best friend since those back in the day times of high school. He was a gifted artist, fluent in the stylistic varieties of graffiti, and beyond that, one of the coolest individuals I've met, and will probably ever meet. I had known him as just one of my brother's friends for a lot of those years, but over time, he became another part of my family.
They were both living together in a small apartment before my grandfather had gone, and moved into that house on Madrona Street with my sister and I, shortly after his death.
=We were the last people to have lived there who had truly known it for what it was. A world in itself, where generations had risen up and fallen. Where countless stories had taken place. Where battles were fought, and fantasies played out. It was the place of my childhood, and that's how I will always remember it. We had inherited it all, regardless of how brief our stay there was to be. And it was at this exact time, that we all became uniquely connected. A subspace intertwining of destinies, that twisted whatever paths we were already on, and merged them towards some abstract vector into the future. All living together, not really sure what we were doing. Just riding out the days.
We ended up staying there for nine more months. They passed by peculiarly fast, filled with a constant flood of kickbacks, bashes, and uninvited guests. An endless torrent of people coming and going without control, converting this place that I had always known as my grandparents home, into a party house. A strange mix of desert rats, vandals, and a plethora of passer-bys, that somehow, out of some weird flicker of fate, ended up there, one way or another. Other than my close friends, most were just distant acquaintances, trying to have a good time. However, despite the chaos, I met some interesting characters throughout this period. One in particular, that ended up unexpectedly changing everything for everyone.
His name was Enrique Lau Chin Gonzalez. A confused being of immediate Chinese decent. Born in Tijuana, Mexico, where he grew up for seven years, before emigrating to the USA, and eventually, my living room couch. He could speak broken pieces of three languages, but mostly used a mixed-up form of English.
I had always thought he was half crazy. His mind was definitely not all there, at least not all of the time. I learned that growing up, he had been quiet, and mostly kept to himself. His brothers told me that they all thought he was weird as a kid. In his early teens, he apparently began to be a little more social, and became friends with some of the local hoodlums. It was around that time when he began to idealize the gang-culture; started dreaming of being hardcore. Of being known. But he never actually embraced it as his own lifestyle. He talked about it a lot, but when it came down to it, either no gang would take him in, or something else more personal held him back. He did his fair share of drugs and scandalous acts, but by the time I met him, had become relatively mellow, sticking mostly to weed-smoking and the occasional tag.
They called him Cheefer, a name chosen by a guy named Fats; one of his best friends, and one of those characters whose level of influence is difficult to put into words. He and Fats lived close by each other, and almost every time I saw one, the other was either there or likely to soon show up. It wasn't long too after I met them, when they came over to the house on Madrona Street for the first time.
Joe and Fats had been friends in high school, which I had no idea about until that point. One of those bizarre coincidences of a small world. He and Cheefer quickly became good friends of ours, coming over to the house almost everyday. It was the start of something new. At the time, it seemed big, and I became absorbed in it. Like some ancient clan had been reunited, ready to take to the streets. And graffiti was the cause.
Cheefer, Fats, Sums; these were all made-up names; the sole purpose of which was to put on walls, poles, fences, trashcans, books; anything you could write on. We all became involved in this crew of taggers. Addicted to the thrill of late night 'bombing'; the rush of making yourself known, in a moment when every sound, every light, and every second, is working against you. Zoning out to the point where the only thing that matters is the paint, and whatever it is in front of you.
It felt like a lifetime. But in retrospect, the crew only really lasted several months. The long, cold nights of fall, the festively lit streets of the holidays, a couple weeks past new-years; then, just like that, it was over. And it happened in a rather dramatic way. But that's another story altogether.
To sum it up as brief and succinctly as possible, after a while, the party ended, as it always eventually must, and almost everyone went there own ways. Cheefer was one of the few who actually stuck around.
At first, he just stayed at my house of couple days a week, sleeping on the couch here and there. But somewhere along the line, he decided to never leave, and made our living room his new home. My roommates and friends were annoyed by it, feeling like part of the house had been taken over. It took a while, but eventually we all just sort of got used to it.
It was because he was there that a new story began. At that house on Madrona Street, while I was somewhere lost in the dreams of an early-afternoon nap.
Out of nowhere, my door crashed open, and I snapped awake. It was Cheefer, standing there in the doorway, with abnormal tears dripping down his face.
"Ricky!" he screamed frantically. "They kidnapped my dad. They got my fucking dad! Those fucking Mexicans got my dad!"
I bolted up, dazed from this shocking disturbance, out of that deep slumber.
"What are you talking about man?" I sloppily asked. "Who the fuck. What?"
"The fucking drug cartel Mexican got my fucking dad. They're holding him ransom," he angrily spouted. "Come look!"
I quickly fumbled into the front room, where the television was projecting images of some news reporter lady, talking about a string of kidnappings involving four victims, all Asian. Then the name George Chu was uttered, and the reality of the situation came sweeping through. Still, it all seemed surreal.
You see, Cheefer's step-dad George had owned a small business in Tijuana; a wholesale seafood warehouse, distributing various goods to local restaurants. His mom, Linda Chu, helped run the business, travelling frequently to China, where they purchased much of their products.
It was also from there, in China, that they would smuggle in shark fins. An odd, illegal delicacy, which they stored in an industrial-sized freezer unit constructed in their garage. On weekends, they would go up and sell them at some tattered black market in L.A.
I remembered days when me and Cheefer would steal a few boxes, and bring them to this dilapidated tweaker house, on a hard to find backstreet, called Fig Avenue. There was a broke -down ice cream truck parked in the driveway, with all sorts of aging, decayed candies and treats undoubtedly rotting away inside. The dry weeds in the front yard, which had long ago destroyed whatever grass might have been there, stood tall above the broken pavement. The house itself looked weathered and older than it probably was, standing out from the surrounding, relatively well kept homes. With cracked white paint, and rusted, chipped bars covering every window.
Cheefer's family owned this distinctive residence, and had been renting it to a short, stocky Mexican guy named Alfredo. He, his wife, and several other distorted figures had been living there for about five years. Alfredo would buy the stolen boxes of fins for a couple hundred dollars, and Cheefer would give me fifty or so just for driving. Easy money for an easy task.
Now whether or not his second business played some sort of role in his abduction is a matter of pure speculation. But it was right there, in front of that warehouse in TJ, where George was kidnapped. On some quiet, April night. The act was crudely captured on a cheap surveillance camera.
A white van pulling up. The next moment, several overly armed men intently aiming at they're prey. A blur of movement too quick to properly process. The doors half-way closed. Then, the van was gone. The footage served no use, other than acting as a sarcastic affirmation of this unfortunate assault.
To try and understand why this happened, other than money of course, it's important to note that TJ at the time was a dangerous place, for locals and outsiders alike. Full of scum, theft and violence, and those willing to do anything for a quick buck. The reign of the Arrellano-Felix brothers had recently come to an end; powerful drug cartel kingpins, who kept a tight hold on their flourishing underground enterprise. After they had been taken down by combined international efforts, all hell broke loose in Mexico. Every other cartel saw a chance to seize the moment, with their hands on their guns, and eyes on the prize.
Things were particularly bad in the north, near the border. Sluggish, ongoing years of unrest and bloodshed, all for the complex pleasures of drugs and money. In many parts, the country was more like a war-zone than a peace-time state. With corruption running so deep through every facet of government, that it was almost impossible to discern the bad guys from the good. It all seemed more like a scene out of some poorly put-together, early seventies movie, than real life. But it was definitely real. And here it was, on the news.
"Dude. . . Cheefer", I muttered, not knowing what to say in that kind of moment. But then again, who really does? You could write out an entire speech about it, attempting to touch on every pivotal issue, and in the end, no words would suffice. I stood there, awestruck by the gravity of what was going on.
Death. The end. It was over, and yet it had all just begun.
The FBI seemed to immediately involve itself in this precarious situation. George was being held ransom, for something around the ways of five million dollars. They set up all sorts of equipment and gadgets at Cheefer's mom's house, trying to trace the few calls they got from these bandits, and handle the situation according to what protocols they followed. However, it ultimately turned out to be in vain.
About three weeks after he was taken, George Chu was found dead in the back of some abandoned mini-van. In the outskirts of a small town called Mexicali, amid the solemn dry heat of a slow desert day.
When they had first captured him, George was carrying all the keys to the houses and cars, along with a substantial amount of personal documents and information about him and his family. Because of this, the Feds decided it would be a good idea for his family to relocate.
However, Cheefer had decided that he wasn't going anywhere. The FBI came to the house on Madrona several times, trying to convince him that moving was his best option. But he refused to take their advice, and we told him that he could stay with us for as long as he needed to. After all, a guy needs to do his own thing after a crazy episode like that, and we understood. The Feds eventually gave up, and most of Cheefer's family planned on moving North without him. They evicted the tenants of the properties they were renting out, including Alfredo, and posted the houses up for sale. Unfortunately, the housing markets were spiraling downwards, making it nearly impossible for them to get a worthwhile deal.
For a long time after everything was said and done in regards to George, Cheefer just wasn't the same. Being already partially insane, George's death just sort of nudged him over the edge for a while. We couldn't take him anywhere without him bursting into wild rants, exclaiming his utter, newfound hatred for everything Mexican. How he was to kidnap, rape, maim, and mutilate anyone suspected of being remotely connected to his step-father's death. Wal-Mart parking lots were particularly problematic. But nobody dared say a word to him about it, other than pleading that he calm down every now and then. Only a fool tries to reason with a mad man thirsting for vengeance.
After a few weeks, that burning rage, trapped somewhere deep down in his chest, began to fade, and he eventually returned to his normal, quazi-stable self. His family was grateful that we had let him stay at our house, and that we pretty much took him in as one of our own. Perhaps it was because they didn't want to have to deal with him. Maybe it was something else. But either way, we had that bond with them; of having been there in hard times, and doing what we could to help them through it.
And around then, we too found ourselves in need of help. In March, my mom informed us that they would be selling the house on Madrona Street, and that we had to be out by the end of May. Though we wanted to stay together, our combined income was insufficient to pay for anything similar to what we had. And my sister had decided to move back home, leaving me, my brother, Joe, and Cheefer to find a new house.
One of the random kids left over from the waves of the parties, had decided he wanted to move in with us once we found a place, making it five of us instead of four, and acting as a welcomed reduction in rent. His name was Slim, a controversial personality, who in one moment, seemed like he could snap and kill everyone in the room, yet in the next, could be caught listening to Reba Mcentire, talking about how the stories she tells unlock the deep truths of the heart. But regardless of how unbalanced he seemed, we needed the financial backing, so we put up with him while we could, and eventually, he became a good friend of ours.
But even with him in the mix, it was a stressful stage for everyone. The closer we came to the end of May, the more dismal our outlook became. Every house we checked out was either to small, too expensive, or had some other undesirable quality to it. We were on the brink of giving up, and going our own ways, like everybody else around us.
Then, one day, Cheefer came home from his mom's house with some relieving news. And like a lot of other things of heavy importance, we had no idea at the time that what he had to say would change everything.
Unable to sell the properties she owned, his mom Linda offered to rent us one of her houses, for a reasonable price that was at the high end of our range, but affordable nonetheless. It was the house on Fig Avenue, where Cheefer and I had long ago gone to sell those stolen shark fins to Alfredo. We quickly took her up on the offer, and got ready to move in.
Despite how shady and crooked I remembered it looking, I was excited to be able to go inside, and see what it was really like. All the sinister mysteries hidden behind that rusted front gate. All the oddities and abnormal possessions that were surely locked away in the dark corners of ruined rooms.
And the reality of it completely satisfied all my expectations.
Upon first walking through that front door, I immediately noticed the ankle deep trash covering every square inch of the floor. With broken parts of all sorts of accessories and devices, scattered almost purposefully throughout the house. The walls had been belligerently vandalized; understandably so, given the short-notice eviction of Alfredo and the other tenants living there before.
In anger and in rage, they had done all they could to fuck the place up, and actually did quite a good job. It took all five of us, along with the help of a few good friends, a little over three days of hard labor to get it all cleared out. We threw everything into the garage, accumulating a massive heap of nearly eighty trash bags, so full they were near bursting, piled on top of a mountain of broken, discarded furniture, used car parts, and all sorts of unusable objects that had, in days passed, served some sort of purpose.
The backyard had once been home to a make-shift chicken coop, which had withered away from un-use and time. There was a jar of pickled cow tongues placed curiously on top of an air-conditioning unit, and an old tool-shed filled with yet more junk. In the corner near our neighbor's fence, a huge dying banana tree dominated most of the space, with piles of dead leaves and rotten fruit left at its base.
This was our new home. And even though it was definitely a mess when we got there, we were all happy to have a roof over our heads. The truth is, it could have been filled with decaying dead bodies and satanic monuments, and we would've probably still taken it. Anything to rid ourselves of that anxious desperation, that comes when you're stuck staring into eyes of complete and utter change.
We had salvaged at least some semblance of our former world, holding on to whatever we could. Its hard to let go of your past; one of the more difficult things to do in this never-ending time continuum.
In the first several months or so there, the party-life that had made a blur of everything in the house on Madrona Street made a temporary resurgence. It was mostly Slim's friends, along with a few others from earlier days. But about six months into it, Slim lost his job, and couldn't come up with rent. He moved back in his mom's house for a while, got back on his feet, and went on his own way.
It is impossible to put into writing all that happened in the following three years.
Looking back, it was hard believe that any of it was real. That any of it ever happened. I felt far- removed. Detached. It was probably just a dream. From the front door of the Fig house, to the local news showing George Chu's picture and talking about his predicament; throwing our spray cans and hiding from cops in the bushes in the middle of the night; the drunken parties at the Madrona house that lasted till the sun went full-circle around the earth. My grandfathers last breath; how he taught me to ride a bike when I was ten, in front of that house I will forever miss.
But there I was, nonetheless, in that home that had been so alien and distant prior to our occupancy. The room was dark, but I could see the warped vortices of smoke whisking around. They looked like cheap images of ghosts used in underfunded b-movies; a curtain of haze that danced to the slightest whims of current and movement.
The vast array of stains on the black couch and floor conjured up memories of bad times in better days. When every day seemed like it could last forever, and the fading sunsets at the beach were followed by warm nights of drugs, alcohol, and the endless possibilities of dreams. Filled with people who've come and gone; lived and died. Places I've always wanted to go, and other's I will never see again. The smell of charcoal burning at poolside barbeques, through hot afternoons and lazy twilights, for holidays no longer celebrated.
Then, out of nowhere, like a wave crashing into the rocks of some desolate cliff, I fell back to the earth.
To the same familiar bedroom I was always in, and a steady stream of realizations. The same obligations and necessities. The things that drive the world. The underlying forces that compel natural things to strive for survival. Reality itself.
I had partly woken up from my careless stupor. The daze of hallucinations was subsiding for now, and the fleeting images of my recent history began to give way the present. The complexity of thought was beginning to set in.
I had to get this damn paper done by tomorrow morning, but the right words continued to evade the tips of my fingers. My mind lunged from place to place, like a bouncing ball caught in an earthquake, unaided by the dim light of the computer or the seldom-interrupted silence. For a while, I couldn't get a bearing on things. The blur of what I saw and what was real, moved closer towards the edge of recognition.
At that very moment, just when I felt like I was about to lose it, the sounds of heavy footsteps vibrated through the hallway, like an explosion in the calm of the night.
My focus snapped back into place, like the alarm that signaled for a return to this dimension was crying for me to come back; my heart drumming to the same beat as a warrior's readying for battle. After waiting a while, I started towards the noises, placing the bong down quietly out of some sort of tiresome and illogical paranoia; my footsteps chosen carefully in an attempt to avoid as much noise as possible.
Who knows how long I had been sitting there. Smoking until my brain no longer functioned properly. Immersed in a turbulent sea of ideas and visions. Struggling to ignore, yet compelled to understand.
As I turned the corner, I felt the bitter, brisk wind forcing its way through the front entrance and down the narrow hall, like it was eager to get inside. The sound of the cold air rushing along the blank walls, resonated prominently throughout the symphony of nothingness that had so fully captivated my attention. The sun that managed to sneak through the blinds formed thick, heavy beams of light, punching through the tired cloud of dust that permeated every corner of every room.
Peering through the front door, I saw that nobody was there. As a matter of fact, there was nobody in sight. From the porch, all I could see was an empty row of strange houses. So far away it seemed like it would take years just to cross the street and get to one.
After a few moments of recon, I decided to go back and try at this paper once more. But before going inside, I found that the mailbox contained two new letters. One was addressed to my brother, and the other to the now long deceased George Chu.
And for some reason, the irony was striking.
Letters for a dead man. Just another of the multitudes of empty manifestations, spewed out by an impersonalized world of automation and technology.
A series of mindless machines operated by obscure figures laughing from the shadows. The oligarchs of society that kept the world's wealth in few hands. Human nature consumed by itself, until all that remained was the regurgitated rhythms of an overplayed and worn-out history. And this was the upswing of that cycle. Efficiency heading towards its peak. An endless collaboration of ideas and advancements; a streamlining process that replaced faces with numbers, and people with categorized items judged on there ability to generate profit. Hordes of eyes fixed on riches, blindly working towards a purpose without definition; the blind goals of heroes and fools designing their immortality on the road to inevitable death.
Standing there on that weathered, concrete porch, I looked up, and zoned out into the distance, trying to gather up my mind. A difficult task given its current state.
What the fuck was I thinking?
I was tripping out, in a most serious sense. After all, these kinds of things happen all the time. News of the death of a single man in a world of billions must be a hard thing to circulate. Maybe I had just smoked too much, and that angry, bitter region of my brain had grown swollen with contempt. Who knows.
A bird began to sing from the power cables strewn sloppily along the street. More birds fluttered away from the huge trees in the parking lot of the mall, swaying drearily in the background.
That's when I noticed the sun getting dragged closer to the horizon, and how it illuminated the palm trees in the foreground, and gave a pale glow to the already cinematic architecture of the mall itself. The sky was painted shades of orange and pink, smeared with the opaque purple of thick clouds. Dusk rendering its final touches as the light slowly waned over the edge of the world.
A sharp echo pierced my membrane of thought; the shrill chirping of a cheap cell phone.
I ran inside, scouring the room for the source of this noise. It had fallen between the couch. Quickly running out of time, I scrambled to open it. "Hello?" . . .
"Hey whats up bro?" It was my brother, stuck up in another days work.
"I'm. . ." I didn't know what to say, yet again. Wasn't really sure what was going on. ". . . just right here man. What's up with you?" I half-consciously asked.
"Damn dude, you fucked up or what? But hey can you feed Bossko? His foods right by my front door. I forgot to give him some before I left. Kinda runnin late and shit."
"Uh. Yeah. For sure. . .I'm on it", I slowly mumbled.
"Alright, thanks dude. You okay though man?"
. . .Fuck. Was I?
"Um, yeah. I'm good. But I gotta do this thing. So, um, you do yours, and yeah", I blurted out.
"Haha, alright. I'll see you later."
After clumsily fulfilling my newfound obligations, I stumbled back into that room I had been stuck in for so long. That same computer, that offered no aid. I tried once again to pour a few words into a body paragraph, hoping to maneuver around this massive writers block. But everything I wrote seemed inadequate. Maybe it wasn't the screen that was trying to stop me after all. Maybe it was the drugs. Had I made a mistake?
Well it was too late to go back now. My mind was beginning to wander again, and I decided to give up, and let it go once more. Unfortunately, this time it just took me back to the beginning of the day.
Work that morning at the coffee shop had been eerily similar to all the other mornings. The shop was located in the heart of Little Italy, a small community that spanned a few blocks, tucked away in the outskirts of downtown. It sat on the corner of a street more mysterious to me than any other in the world. I had gotten there at five in the morning, before the sun had decided to rise. Under the fading glory of a starry night. The neighborhood air was cool and undisturbed like always, with hardly a moving vehicle in sight; skyscrapers in the background stretching up quietly into the fading twilight. The jacaranda trees leaning overhead, formed this sort of canopy of violet above the grey sidewalk leading to the front entrance.
After struggling with my key half-awake, for too long, the stiff black doors finally creaked open. Ready for another day of business, and the same routine as always. Making sure every coffee was brewed, every pastry was in its right place, and that every shelf and refrigerator was stocked with an arsenal of syrups, coffees, and a year's supply of milk that sold in a coupe of days.
At first just a slow trickle of 'regulars', following predictable patterns, dragged their feet to the cash register. Then, like clockwork, the same unwanted rush of drained customers emerging from there zombie-like daze crowded the room.
However, despite the monotony this sort of job entails, over time, the place itself became as familiar to me as my own home. In the beginning, it seemed to have this air of deep history, filled with many, long ago tales. And although this sense slowly faded over the many years of my employment, it was during the time I worked there that I truly grew up. As a matter of fact, working at that coffee shop completely altered many a providence.
But on this particular day, home was the one thing I could think of. I had found out the hard way that work, the day after a serious drug binge, is like being shackled to a rough wall, in some remote, grey dungeon, after running a marathon through another dimension.
The hours slowly passed, during a crazed frenzy of steaming and blending. Taking orders, and trying to make as much money as I could from them. Then, when it had all finally died down, the rest of the shift sailed smoothly, and it was finally time to leave.
Upon returning to the house on Fig Avenue in the hot, early-afternoon, I found myself alone, in the midst of a silent, dim-lit maelstrom of half-drank forty ounce bottles, empty beer cans, an army of bongs, pipes, and bubblers, the scattered, charred remains of joints, blunts, and cigarettes, and the left-over's of boiled mushrooms we had used to make some interesting tea with. But the thing that caught my attention the most was the lone blue pill in the center of this confused mess. A tab of valium someone had either forgotten to take, or had decided to leave be for later days.
It wasn't in our usual nature to take part in these types of events, but when you only have a few days off throughout the month, its best to make the most of them, and so we did. I was leaving soon anyways. San Francisco was only a couple of months away. The true end to an immense era. Those dense chapters of life, that set the frame for the rest of the story.
It was around that time, after getting home from work, when I decided that the moment was right for a solo second round, deliberately ignorant to the potential drawbacks and consequences. And so, it took me until four in the morning to finish that essay, after I had mostly come off the substances I had chosen to abuse. The next day, I arrived late half-way into class, handed in my paper, and left. The end result was, surprisingly, an A, which meant my old worries were gone, and new ones began.
The uncertainty of it all.
I was finished with one thing, but really just starting something much bigger. Not sure it was exactly where I wanted to go, but absolutely positive that I was going there. I had to do something after all. There's some kind of saying about idle hands and the devil. Now I don't know about all that, but I do know personally that I could easily get stuck in one place, and stay there until the sun gave up, and stayed down forever. So, I was forcing myself to move on.
It had been a particularly different journey through the day. Full of recollection, near-insanity, and that anxious anticipation of the future. A yearning for some type of finality, and the discovery of the exact opposite. Only time could ever really tell the tale the right way, as it slowly unfolds through every nanosecond of reality. But I tried anyways.
I realized then, as I do now, that no matter what I do, another dawn always comes, with or without me there to watch it. Who knows what the horizon will drag up next time. Who knows what kind of bent, twisted fate lies in the cards, other than Ms. Cleo. Guess you just have to go with the flow, or so the saying goes. No need to run, and no need to hide. Like an old, wise lunatic used to say, "Buy the ticket, take the ride."