They sit right where I left them, dustless and in pristine condition, on the third shelf from the bottom on top of the wooden rack in our three-car garage. Right next to the old Tonka truck that didn’t get sold at last year’s yard sale. The price sticker reads ten dollars; I would have said twenty. They sit above the old camping tent that popped a hole two years back, dumbing the night’s contents atop our sleeping heads. It still smells of musty pine. They sit below my brother’s own pair, which he traded way back when for a dream of a new set of wheels that now waits for him out in the driveway — it’s a Honda. They sit there waiting for me as the school week ends and the weekend begins, bringing with it the opportunities of freedoms and adventures yet to come.
My rollerblades. The wheels are pre-oiled; I’ll need the speed. Last week my friend Mark and I were the fastest at King Skate — that old barn of a roller rink out on Franklin Boulevard. The click-together fasteners are pre-fitted for easy access and removal; I’m already a size twelve at twelve years old. Almost a teenager now, nothing can stop me. Mom told me to just be careful and stay out of trouble. I’m allowed out on my own, finally. I’m free.
I don the boot-sized rollers and stand tall, swishing my feet back and forth to test the feel. Too tight. I only just received this pair last year at Christmas, and already my growing toes are through with them. I bend to loosen the clickers. Swish, swish. Much better.
The garage door opens, revealing my playground. I live in a court, a prime in Elk Grove, and today it stands empty. I hear the Dantes’ dog next door barking. The malamute sounds its size, most likely complaining about its too hot environment for its too furry, unkempt coat.
“Ryan, are you taking Rudy?” It’s my mother behind me, speaking of my dog. She must have heard the garage.
“No, not today,” is all I say. Not today, mother. I need to be alone. Alone and free. My basset hound can come another day.
I hear the door behind me close and I refocus on my goal. I struggle as my mother’s sad voice echoes in my head. Mom has been a turtle in her shell, emerging only to the daylight’s sun with increasingly baggy eyes and tired words that still speak out, “Everything is alright.” Just last year my father moved the last of his things to his new home. Although the separation is mutual, the divorce still lingers in the air, just waiting. I can hear the hole in their hearts in the tones they speak. They worry too much for their three children and our newly effected lives, not knowing their children will be just fine, who themselves only worry about their parents and their wellbeing. The divorce will be final in four months. But focus, Ryan. Be free. Time to go.
I start forward, not knowing where I’ll go. The sun’s heat announces the May afternoon; perfect conditions for adventure. Down the driveway I stop and see movement. To my left, across the street, old man Ray is being visited by his niece. In five years that little girl will be a freshman in my high school. In eight, I’ll be reintroduced to her, thinking about how beautiful she is. I’ll be drunk and high on weed, too newly separated from my wife to even notice who she is. Opportunity lost.
I wave. Now it’s decision time. Right or left down Laguna Trail Way? Left equals more houses, leading eventually toward a newer park. On the way is Tam’s house, a girl crush that led to a strong friendship in kindergarten. My brother is inside right now on our new PC playing her brother in a game of StarCraft. Further down the way is where some troublemakers live. They hang outside all day smoking nasty cigarettes and drinking dirty drinks. Five years from now, some friends and I will buy weed from one of them when we run low. Six years and I’ll be at some party at that house, getting drunk and doing cocaine. With divergent morals, opportunities fade.
To my right leads to the bigger park that connects to my school, Foulks Ranch. My best friend Mark lives next to the school. Right it is.
Next door to Ray’s lives my current crush, Kelly. A literal girl next door type; we met when we were two and I’ve loved her since. Two years from now she’ll teepee my house with her best friend, who I’ll fall head over heels for. That same girl becomes my best friend, although my true feelings stay unbroken. Three years later we’ll be hot-boxing that friend’s mom’s van with some primo green. A year after that, we’ll do shrooms together for the first time at her house. At my twenty-first birthday, we’ll make out drunkenly for the fifth time. She’ll go on with life, I’ll remain drunk, and two years later when I’m twenty-three and homeless, sleeping in a field next to a church, she’ll rescue me and take me to her and her new boyfriend’s house, trying to save me. I can’t be saved, of course. Struggles pursue, and opportunities struggle.
I glance at Kelly’s front window to get a chance look at her walking by. Two years ago we were banned from walking to school together when her mother found love notes from me in her room. Her mother freaked at the contents, but in one year the ban will be lifted and we will be friends for a lifetime.
I skate past when I see no shadows in the blinds and I approach my friend Connor’s house on the corner. Connor is another good friend; he comes over daily to play some Sega Genesis and Playstation. He’s just a year older than I and we have lots in common. I think about ringing the bell and maybe going for a swim in his new pool, but I think of the skates and of the freedom that awaits. I glance at his older sister’s corner window for a chance at another lucky candid view, but, again, the blinds are shut and my dream is shot down. In five years, that sister will be professionally pulling my wisdom teeth; it’ll be weird. Inside, I can feel my hormones firing, leading my feelings, my eyes, and my moods where they don’t yet belong.
I go on faster, turning right at the end of the block, past the mystery woman’s house who I never see go outside, past the Jehovah’s witness’ house, whose religion seems so strange to me, past Andrew’s place, who in four months will be dead due to a freak jet skiing accident, where he falls in the water and then gets ran over by a boat.
I arrive at the pathway leading to the school. The path is surrounded by the same always mowed over grass, which I will be oblivious to in three years when I walk down it with my first real girlfriend, on the way back to my house, after ditching high school for the first time. It is the day I will believe I “became a man.” Opportunity scored and taken.
It’s time to race. Ready, set, begin. Swish, swish, I move down the path as fast as I can. When I reach the hill that leads to my school, I can hear the whistles and yells of the soccer matches beyond. My team has a week off, but I will be back in action next week. Mark is on my team; time to go see what he’s up to.
I enter the school. Memories flood my mind everywhere that I look. It is my last year here, and my last opportunity to be a kid. The baseball field to my left is where Tam and played Dinosaur in the first grade. The blacktop I skate on is where everyone began to play kickball in second. Near the water fountains is where Allen and I traded Pogs in third. At the end of the field is where Kelly and I promised to meet and kiss in those letters I wrote in fourth. Those same tables by the fountains are where I traded Pokemon and Marvel cards with Chris. And now I am in sixth, with my favorite teacher to date, and friends that will stick by me throughout my life. Opportunities abound.
I swish swish past the playground and reenter the street at the back of the school that leads to Mark’s. When I approach the door and ring the bell, déjà vu washes over me; just last weekend I was here for one of our many sleepovers, talking of cute girls and shared interests. In three years, we will both move to new neighborhoods, separating us to different high schools. In four years, we will rekindle our lost friendship over a bowl a weed. In five, we will be drunk all over town with friends old and new. In six, we will experience every other addictive substance in the book together. In seven, we will separate again as I move to Texas to marry my high school sweetheart. In eight, he will drive down to save me from that failed marriage, and from myself. I can’t be saved, though, of course. Not by others. A best friend for life, Mark. Opportunities gained, lost, loved, and abused.
I think of how I will skate forever and all my life. It is one thing that will never grow old. Eight months from now I will lose these thoughts and become depressed and stuck in my head, no longer free. Two years from now I will reminisce and miss these thoughts. In seven, they will be vague memories. In eight, they will be the last thing on my mind as I sip another bottle. In ten, I will question why things couldn’t stay so simple as I make an attempt to end my life. In fifteen, I will have a hard time remembering them — due to that bottle — as I jot them down from my prison cell. But that’s okay — new opportunities await, and I’ll be free again one day.
Some recent friends of mine have been posting memories from their past, so I decided to type out an old writing from my prison book. I’ve been slowly transferring all of them to electronic format, but I’m definitely not getting them out as quickly as I would like. Good friends of mine know about my memory issues, and writing helps me remember, so here’s one of the few sober memories that I’ve been able to retain. I know it’s a little long, and that this generation only has the attention span akin to gnats and only like to read shorthand, emojis, and memes, but bear with me. More to come. Icepick — Written 6/11/16
It was the summer of 2010, I believe, and a part of me wishes that I could call it a simpler time. I lived at a place called “Madhouse,” and for anonymity purposes, we’ll just keep it at that. Why is it called Madhouse? Because the place is a fucking madhouse — don’t ask stupid questions. In actuality, it is a series of houses, and I was lucky enough to live with the maddest of t…
V for Veiled — Written 7/7/16
Many of you who read these stories consistently know that I have mentioned that there are a lot of memories of mine that have been erased due to the many years of alcohol abuse that I have subjected my brain to, making it hard to recall most (if any) details about specific events in my life. The year that I spent living with one of my best friends, Kyle, produced many memorable moments (and many that I’ve tried to forget), most of which I’ve found difficult to fit into this semi-humorous collection due to their harsh and “real” nature, but that I still feel the need to map out on paper anyway. Some of them may someday fall into another collection with a more apt theme, but for now, there are still some that stick out to me as remember-worthy and that I think are appropriate to look back on at this point in my recovery. I try my hardest to look back and laugh at both the good and the bad while still learning from each experience and using them a…