I can still remember the day when I had to admit to myself that Justin really did have a problem. It was Hamster’s birthday. He must have been turning 19, or maybe it was 23. I can’t remember, it’s not like age even matters, especially when you go to Marsh Creek every day: Raleigh’s sole skate park. There were at least ten of us; basically everyone from Marsh was there, all cramped inside Hamster’s tiny 9×12 foot living room. Let’s call it his cage, just for fun. We were watching Sabotage 4 for the 100th time. My favorite part was when Dylan Sourbeer does the back-tail backside flip out on the marble 2-step ledges. I don’t know why dgk hasn’t put his name on a board yet. The couch wasn’t big enough for all ten of us, so most of us were stuck on the floor, myself included. When I would come over earlier in the year I never had a problem with sitting on the floor, but Hamster’s dog recently had puppies. Not only did this mean that the carpet was literally encrusted with shit, but every time I raised my 40oz to my lips six of the dogs would take that as an invitation to play and all jump into my lap at once, causing me to spill beer everywhere. I figured that my best bet was to just lie perfectly still for a while so that the dogs watching me would get bored and fall asleep, allowing me to drink my 40 in peace.
For a while my plan was actually working, until one of the dogs decided to walk up onto my chest like he owned the place and lift one leg up in the air. “Fuck!” I yelled, throwing the dog across the room and waking up every other dog that I had so patiently put to sleep in the process. My shirt was soaking wet, and everyone thought that it was hilarious. “Haaaaaa!” Cody screamed, pointing his finger at me. “He just marked you as his territory! He just made you his bitch!” I wanted to pin him onto the ground and scrub that disgusting, piss-soaked shirt in his face. But I didn’t. I couldn’t….. Not as long as we’d both see each other at Marsh every day. We all know what happened with Jordan. Besides, Cody just thinks that he’s better than me because he has a face tattoo and a seat on the couch. Hamster could see exactly what was racing through my mind. “Clay”, he said, “Go upstairs into my room, and pick a new shirt for yourself out of the closet. I don’t care which one.” Half-way up the stairs I turned around to look at Cody, and he blew me a kiss. Fuck that guy.
I couldn’t remember exactly which room was Hamster’s, but something told me that I try the second door on the left. The door was already shut, and when I reached my hand out to open it a light from the inside of the room turned on. I could see it shining into the hall from underneath the crack in the door. I didn’t know what to do. There was somebody in there. I stood there frozen in the hall for a couple minutes with my hand just hovering over the door handle, like some type of idiot. I probably would have stood there longer, but I didn’t want for whoever was inside to open the door and see me breathing there like a total creep. In that thought it didn’t even occur to me that I should knock, and I barged straight into the room like I was the D.E.A. or some shit.
Immediately I regretted it. Of all the people that I could have walked in on it was Melissa, and on top of that she was completely naked; just leaning against the bookshelf reading a magazine and smoking a cigarette. “Aaaah! I’m sorry!” I wailed as I looked down at the ground and started backing up towards the door. “Its fine”, she said as she got up and closed the door behind me, “besides, you don’t even have to leave the room.” “Fuck!”, I thought to myself, “What if Justin walks in right now? How am I going to explain this to him?”
The truth is that I knew that this day was coming. I’ve seen the way that she looks at me at Marsh, I’ve heard the way that the pitch in her voice rises when she says my name, and it didn’t help out that she was whispering into my ear about how she had been waiting for me to come upstairs. While I was looking down at the ground I noticed all of the polaroids strewn out all over the carpet. This was definitely Hamster’s room, which meant that this is exactly where I was supposed to be. Fuck.
It’s not that I hated Melissa, it’s just that I’ve never wanted anything to do with her. Her energy doesn’t click with mine, like it screams bad news. I don’t know, it’s the way that she is always flirting with everyone, even when we all know that she’s with Justin; I guess it just grosses me out. On top of that, I just hate flirting to begin with: listening to people do it, and doing it myself. It’s basically the nice way of saying, “I wanna fuck you” to somebody, however whenever I flirt that’s not the point that I want to convey. I just want the person to know that I truly think they are beautiful and want to spend time with them, but since I don’t want to come off as one of the dogs in Hamster’s living room, I usually end up saying some really stupid shit, like, “Uh, your hair really brings out your skin-tone” like a fucking creep. Like I said, flirting usually ends up making me feel real stupid, so I’ll just end up giving whatever girl gifts instead as a token of my affection. My very first girlfriend I gave a weed brownie to, my second girlfriend I gave a bottle of vodka, and my third I gave half of my mom’s klonopin prescription to. Each of those girls ended up breaking up with me days if not minutes after those gifts were received, for various reasons. Recently I went to my dad for advice on all of that, and he told me that girls like diamonds as gifts, not drugs. I’ll have to take a mental note of that.
Anyways, Melissa got me to raise my eyes off of the ground and was tracing her finger across my chest. I could feel myself starting to fill-out. In the midst of it all, Cody’s voice tore the room apart from downstairs, “Since when does it take twenty minutes to change a fucking shirt?!” Instantly she took a step back from me and looked offended as hell. “You didn’t come upstairs to see me?!”, she screamed, “You came in here to get a shirt!?” ‘Uhhhh, yeah,” I replied. “Well fuck you!” she barked. For once I was actually glad that Cody was a character in this weird journal that I keep calling my life. He was able to save me from a situation that I wasn’t strong enough to get out of on my own. I’ll have to buy him a 40oz next time we walk up to Trawick for rillos; you know, as a token of my gratitude.
With Melissa out of the way I slid the closet door open to pick out a shirt. I was about to put this purple Jimi Hendrix one on when she chirps, “Ughhh, you can’t even pick out a fucking shirt that matches your own skin-tone.” I couldn’t help but laugh. I guess that my flirting ‘technique’ isn’t as creepy as I thought it was after all. “Here.”, she said as she thrust a blue long-sleeve shirt into my hands, “Now this will really bring out your eyes. Just make sure to take that stupid white hat you always wear off when you put this on. They won’t go good together.” Now that I had the whole shirt fiasco squared away I had no reason to stay in there with her, but I didn’t really want to go back downstairs either.
“Have you seen Justin?” I asked her. “Ughh, fuck him.” she replied, “He’s worse than you.” ‘So is that a yes or a no?’ “He’s in the back room.”
This time I remembered to knock, except I didn’t get a response from the inside of the room. I knew that I wasn’t going to walk in on anything weird like my best friend’s girl without any clothes on, so I took my chances and opened the door. At first glance it looked like the room was empty, but then I noticed someone moving around from behind the easel. “Yo” I called out, but I didn’t get an answer back. I could see that Justin was painting, so I walked further into the room and tapped him on the shoulder, “Yo, what’s good?” I asked, but I still didn’t get a response. It was weird. It wasn’t like he was ignoring me, but more like he couldn’t even hear me, and it’s not like he even had any headphones in or anything. It was like I wasn’t even in the room there with him.
I set my 40oz down at the feet of the chair he was sitting in as a gift, sat on the floor besides him, and just soaked in the canvas that he was working on. It was beautiful, in a more fucked-up sense of the word. He was painting this bird’s nest in a tree, except instead of there being chicks or eggs in the nest there was a little fetal human. I couldn’t help but wonder if this meant that Melissa was pregnant. Since I saw her completely naked earlier I definitely would have noticed a bulge, but then again I was staring at the floor for 90% of the time that I was in there. I wanted to say something to him about her and Hamster, but then again there was no way that he didn’t already know. Everyone knows. I mean, she stays in his room all day with the door closed naked for fucks sake. God, I wonder how the hell he lives with it.
Suddenly his voice broke the air, “God, do I fucking hate red paint!” he screamed as he kicked his easel over. “I mean, there’s just no emotion in it. Besides, what’s it even made out of, linseed oil and some synthetic pigment mixed in a factory? Where’s the emotion in that?” “Yo”, I said as I picked the canvas that he had been working on back up off of the ground, “If you don’t like this, then cover it up with gesso and get around to painting that bookshelf in a bathtub that I’ve been talking about. I’ll trade you one of my paintings for it, how about that nude self-portrait that I did from a while back?” “Maaaaan”, he said, “Why the hell would I want a naked portrait, of you?” “Because!”, I replied, “It’s fucking art! Just wait, when I make it you’ll be able to sell it for millions of dollars.” ‘Ha!’ he exclaimed, ‘That’s exactly why you want one of my paintings in the first place! So when I make it you can sell it for millions.”
After Justin said that he just started laughing to himself, killed the 40oz by his feet, and smashed it against the wall. He didn’t throw it like he was mad or anything, but like he was trying to show me something. “Millions” he said as he pointed to the mess, “Just like that glass. You know,” he continued as he started to stand up, “there are these monks, in China or some shit, that walk across burning hot coals.” He started to take his shoes off. “Barefoot. Now Clay, do you know why they do that?” ‘Nah,’ I replied. “Me neither.”
As those words left his mouth he took his first step. I could hear the glass crunching under his feet against the hardwood floor. If it was me doing that, or anyone else, we would be screaming in pain at the top of our lungs, but he was completely calm; like it was something that he does on a daily basis, like brushing his teeth, or cracking a rillo. When he stepped down off of the glass he picked up his paintbrush, ran it through the blood leaking out of his foot, and quietly got back to ‘painting’ that bird’s nest; like I wasn’t even in the room anymore, like none of that really just happened.
About two months after Justin’s demonstration on how to paint with ‘emotion’ Lynne found him hanging in the woods behind Marsh, with a giant M carved into his chest for Melissa. He must have been hanging up there for a couple of weeks because she told us that his neck was all stretched out. When I first heard about it I couldn’t help but think that that was his ‘final masterpiece’ that he was always talking about; the piece that would gain the attention of millions…..the millions of maggots and flies that Lynne said were swarming around his body. Fuck. Fuck! If only he had waited a couple more years, waited until he had gained the attention of several galleries. Not only going out like that, but his work alone would have made both Rothko and Gogh look like stupid little fucks.