SUCH STUFF I AM. A NOVEL. CHAPTER ONE: I FLEE


I know the exact moment when it happened, more or less, when the feeling hit me, punched me, slapped me awake, even though I wasn’t asleep, I was fully conscious, I know that, I’m positive I was, the feeling was far too vaguely clear for me not to have been eyes wide shut and completely aware of my faculties.

I remember the moment I knew it was coming, even if I didn’t have the faintest what it was that was on its way, that even though I didn’t know the specifics, I just knew the way someone just knows something without really knowing it.

And I knew it well enough to know how to react even though I didn’t know what I was reacting to except that it was feral and frightening.

I had to leave, well, no, I had to flee, not leave, that’s too cavalier, too cool, calm and collected, I needed to go with extreme prejudice.

And so I decided to flee.

And once I made that decision, though I had no choice in the matter, I entered a world that was lethal in its lack of logic, but made perfect sense as I POV experienced it, that bowed to no laws of nature, but was not bereft of cause and effect, that would change on a dime, nickel, quarter, half dollar, Susan B. Anthony, and there was nothing I could do about it, nothing but try to survive, try to keep up, try to make sense of it, even though I knew that nothing would ever make sense again because that was the point, that there was no point, and no matter what surrealistic idiocy I was stranded in, I had to act and react as if it were as realistic as theatrical naturalism.

And so I knew I was about to be born or reborn or rebooted or re-somethinged, whatever can best explain it, unless I fled.

 

At the time, I was living on The West Coast in a…a…well, if I accurately described it, you would think I was describing a crack den, but there were no drugs, no cocaine, no meth, no heroine, not even pot.

It was a single unit dwelling, or a house as it’s more commonly known, with many, many rooms though I only knew of two of them. There was nothing special about it. If you came from the area, it was exactly like all the other ticky tacky houses in the ‘hood, but with its own peculiar structure and style.

I wasn’t living alone, but I don’t know how many of us there were, can’t be sure, the inhabitants would constantly change in number depending on the hour of the day, coming and going, coming and going, talking of Michelangelo. And Leonardo. And Raphael. And Donatello.

They were in their early twenties, like I was, or was I, I think I was, I must have been, though I’m not sure if I was as old as I was or as I felt I was. We were the best minds of my generation and I knew that what would soon happen is what always happens to people like us every twenty-five years or so, becoming indispensable and necessary and redundant and lemming-like.

And they all dressed as hipsters. You know, starched, immaculate Mormon-white shirts and snazzy black vests that were just a tad too small, with taught black pants in cuffs like a French poet of the 1950’s, and some sort of half boots for shoes, untied so you could just slip your feet in, unless they wore high tops, in which case they were carefully and perfectly laced and bowed as if they spent hours on the process.

And they crowned their heads with Frank Sinatra type hats that said “coooooool man, cool, do you have a cigarette”, though no one smoked.

I couldn’t tell half the time if they were people like me or some Amish teens on rumspringa.

 

How they knew to come there, I don’t know, I never knew, people just appeared, as if beamed. They were lost and then found themselves again when they got there by immediately losing themselves again.

I don’t know how I ended up there either, and I don’t know how I even heard about it to even get there in the first place.  I just knew it wasn’t by accident, unless it was a carefully planned one, which seemed to be how my life was going, and as my friend told me, though I can’t remember his name or even picture his face, I just know he was a friend, and he said, that’s the way it goes, when you need a place to stay, the place you end up staying at is the place wherewith you stay.

It had mattresses on the floor, people just sleeping wherever they could or felt like it. When I first got there, I instinctively knew it couldn’t possibly work out for me, it wasn’t right, there was something off. I mean, there were too many just everywhere, tribbles of them. And I had always revered my privacy, though I had never had any.

The furniture was newly bought from garage sales and found on the streets, had been left out at night when no one was looking, like unwanted children, and nothing matched, colors clashed (though I can’t seem to think of it in anything but muted tones or black and white with a dark border at the edges of my outermost sightline, like a silent movie), and there was too much of everything, with a perfect harmony that was quite calming and zen-like in its chaos.

I suppose the easiest way to describe it is that it was a hippie den without the sex, drugs and rock and roll. It was a hippie den without all the things that made a hippie den worthwhile.

Everybody took it all so seriously, I couldn’t help but laugh.

But in the end, I felt completely comfortable there, at least as comfortable as one can be in uncomfortable surroundings. Maybe because when you have to live a certain way, it’s strange how you can get used to living that certain way, even if it means getting use to never getting used to something.

 

I had friends, I know I did, because they asked me what I was doing when they came upon me that night packing in a panic and they were asking me as if our relationship gave them a right to and as if somehow what I was doing might impact them and that maybe they should do the same and I said maybe they should, maybe they should, and some did, though I know they never left, fled, like I did.

But I knew something was up. They asked if it was the police and I said it wasn’t the police. I knew they weren’t the it. I told them it couldn’t be because I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, though I also knew that didn’t mean anything when it came to the police coming or not, because we all knew that they were always suddenly coming for you, even if it wasn’t you they were coming for.

So I started packing. I only had one backpack, though in the end, I suddenly found myself filling a second one, so I had two to lug around.

And for some insane reason, I was very rational at first at getting everything together. The computer goes here, the ear plugs are kept separated in this little pocket so they wouldn’t get tangled up, the notebook goes in this pouch, and there’s holder for a water bottle, etc. A place for everything and everything in its…

But just as suddenly, I stopped simply packing and started forcing my clothes in faster and faster. Instead of folding them, I was shoving them in, like my backpack was a mouth, the jaws of a shark complete with background music, and was starving and was going to die unless it got filled.

And there were so many shirts and pants and underwear. I didn’t know where they all came from. I didn’t wear them. I didn’t have a reason to own all of them, but I knew they were mine, they had to be, whose else could that be, which is normally how I knew something was true. And they weren’t clean. I can’t remember when I had done laundry last, it wasn’t something that we, any of us, did. Though I can’t be sure that we did anything at all.

And they all stared at me. One asked me, I guess he was my best friend, he must have been, what else could he have been, he was wondering why I was acting the way I was, but I didn’t know what to tell him. And then I think a few others were getting the idea that maybe I had the right idea, though no one knew what that idea was, but that was irrelevant because ideas are either right or wrong whether you know what they are or not.

The panic became a virus, invisible, but it was plain on their faces.

In the end, I didn’t finish packing. I had, thank you, thank you, two backpacks full as it was and I couldn’t carry any more, and the clothes were like Sisyphus, they just never seemed to end. So I just stopped, made a deliberate and arbitrary decision, and took off, didn’t even zip up the other backpack, I didn’t want to take the time.

 

I left the room I was in and went to a smaller room, like a walled in porch or a reading nook, all screened in casements and one long window seat in a sort of half-octet configuration. I got there through a vast opening and once in the room, I saw two doors that led outside. It didn’t matter which one I took, they both led to the same location, so I thought about it awhile and took the right one and left, fled, bolted.

The backyard was large or it seemed large, though it might have been small and I was looking at it through forced perspective. I mean, it did all feel somewhat like an optical illusion. But it was a typical neighborhood type enclosure of its kind, backyards to the right of me, backyards to the left of me and ahead I saw the backyards of some of the other houses, typical houses, houses that looked like all other houses on the block though they didn’t quite resemble each other.

There were one, two, three of them and though they all had fences and gates separating this house and theirs, they were easy to get through, there was nothing stopping me, and there were no other fences or walls or barriers after that to the street, and the grass was sooooooo very verdant and green, though all I could see was a sort of greyish white.

It felt very three dimensional, but I almost felt it was a green screen of some sort.

But the question was not just which yard to go through, but what to do when I hit the street I could see clearly ahead of me. I could get to a road, but what then? What do I do to get out of there? Call a taxi? Ubur? A limo service? Such vehicles didn’t just run up and down these lean streets.

And I just stood there, calmly panicking while trying to think.

And then everything went white, a huge bright light. Like a picture being over exposed, or an atomic explosion or a film flap, flap, flapping out of the projector just leaving a blank screen.

So for all my trouble, I hadn’t gotten away. It had gotten me, whatever it was.

And after the white explosion, I opened my eyes and I had returned home, no, not my home, to where my family now lived, my home was someplace else, to start my journey that I didn’t want to take, but couldn’t wait to begin, because though I knew it was meaningless, it was the only thing that gave me any meaning.

 

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