1996: Were You Always This Way?
Art, Lou and I were on Louis’s roof having smoked out and drank a couple of bottles of red pilfered from Louis’s mom. We were looking down at the pool below us, an above ground, crystal blue oasis that we spat into from the roof. We were waiting on a few girls to come by in bikinis because they would because during the hot dog days of summer, we’d found Louis having a pool was great for getting girls. Not only getting girls to come around, but getting them to come around wearing bikinis and then getting wet. In other words, it was the summer of fumbling, trade-off and swap hook-ups, red wine, Louis’s pool and Wu-Tang Clan, which was always bursting with too much bass from the speakers set up on the sill of Lou’s bedroom window.
Artie was rapping at the top of his lungs like an asshole and Louis could hardly stand up straight. So it was just me taking my shirt off and kicking my Vans behind me with a bottle of red sloshing in my hand while I laughed at Art, who was throwing the whitest-white boy game anyone had ever seen.
“Whatcha doin that for?” Lou asked slow and with a hiccup. I tossed my hat behind me and bounced once on my heels.
“I’m about to do some Greg Loughanis shit,” I said and I don’t know. It seemed like not only a good idea, but a rush of an idea. Those days required rushes. Those days I was grabbing at life with both fists, so fucking eager for all of it, even the hard parts, probably because I wasn’t aware of how hard life could be. You’ll do just about anything if you aren’t aware of the dangers or consequences of pain.
Louis handed me the small, smoldering roach and I took it, hit it and assessed the pool below before handing the bottle to Lou. Without another thought on the matter, I jumped right off that roof.
All I had to lose was my whole life and I wasn’t scared of that. Back then, with everything to lose, I was fearless just for the sake of living. I would give up everything I hadn’t even got to know yet just to be alive and in a moment. I loved life. I wanted all of it, so much that I’d risk all of it.
Or maybe I was just a dumb kid with no real grasp on consequences so mortality was so far removed it wasn’t reality.
Either way, I made it part way in the water, having smacked my chin on lip of the pool on the way down and then I sunk down to the bottom, the world having gone black.
Can’t say what happened for a few moments, but Artie and Lou pulled me out of the pool. When I woke up, I spit out chlorinated water and blood and blinked up at the sky, past Artie and Louis’s freaked out faces.
I had bit my tongue and blood, thick and metallic tasting, was pouring down my chin and into my hair and everywhere.
“He’s not dead,” Artie said and I spit again and laughed and laughed and laughed until my ribs hurt and I choked on the blood. Then I laughed some more, flipping to my stomach and writhing in pain from my chin and my tongue, but still, I laughed through it.
I still had a certain kind of faith, I still led like a fool with my heart wide open to fate and possibilities and que sera sera and all that caution to the wind bullshit. I feared nothing and everything was fucking hilarious. Everything was fucking wonderful. Nothing could be lost and I would be this way, I would take this life and be in every moment of it, even when there was nothing but blood to choke on.
I used to be that way.
I wasn’t always this way.