These days I sleep in the library. I can’t go home. The problem with home is the urge to stay there and never come out. Like a vice that clamps my throat to the pillow. Like a nightmare where exhausted I run but can’t move my legs.
On bad days, when none of my roommates are around, I sit on the futon in our messy as hell living room, naked, playing online computer games at addictinggames.com. There’s this one game I fell in love with where you’re a badly drawn kid with a cubic head on a platform in the sky, puffy clouds all around and the only goal of it is to kill yourself over and over. You do this by pressing the left or right key until you’re at the left or right (respectively) side of the platform, and then your character dives off into the great blue yonder. A new you appears on the platform, blinks for a second, and then you’re good to go. The best thing about this game is that when your character jumps head first into oblivion, he screams. This is hilarious because of the fervor with which he jumps off the platform. It’s like little kids with brainfreeze, still biting into their ice cream cone through cold wet tears.
And as I think of kids with brainfreeze I start to multitask, Facebook Messaging all my online friends at the same time. We constantly trade the same cordialities, “whatsup’s?” and “nm’s.” Little smiley faces. Doing anything later? Naw, man, just chillin. Then, wading through ancient discarded CD-Rs, loose papers, unwashed dishes, I go to the fridge because these activities are made even better with a few IPAs. I get tipsy and hold down the left arrow key while watching downloaded reruns of The Office in a small window on the top-left side of my screen, and my avatar walks like a robot to the edge of the platform and then jumps off at regular intervals. Tinny screams of pixel pain punctuating the awkward Michael Scott monotony. I put the beer between my legs and my junk gets cold and tingly.
Of course by now I also have my music on, blaring 90’s rock classics like “Longview” into my skull. At around one in the morning my eye sockets begin to hurt. By three my vision blurs into twos. I drink some coffee and the caffeine steadies everything but I start to feel twisted. The Green Day and Michael Scott and the screams have become background noise. What I hear is the static in my head, and what I see is the pale blue aura of the computer screen reflected onto my domelike stomach.
I eat Garlic Wheat Thins and Cheddar Doritos, licking the flavor crumbs off of my fingers and then wiping them on my leg. My ass starts to ache from staying in the same place for too long. I put the stale-smelling beer bottles into a plastic mini garbage can that had been lost under a pile of dirty clothes. After staying up until dawn for a few nights in a row, I begin to feel dirty, as if I were coated in a layer of saliva. I feel my pores dripping oil, my hands soggy with grease. I feel pimples bubbling through asymmetrically onto my forehead. I sleep with the computer on my lap, covering my junk, sweating into the futon. Wake up covered in cheese flakes and my hand is still on the left arrow key, so I keep it there. I turn slightly so that I am just barely watching The Office with my peripheral vision, examining the bland blue ceiling with my vibrating eyes. Garlic lingering over my unwashed teeth, over the sick-sweet smell of my sunrise breath. I feel the grittiness in my mouth, the coagulating snot on my tongue and try to swallow away the mess. The need to wash myself comes in waves, but inertia and self-hate petrify me.
Just when I think I’m really going crazy the door crashes open, sunlight bursting in. My roommates are home with their girlfriends, laughing and tan. I pull on my boxers and pretend that I just got home from work. Brush my teeth and take a shower, I rub my body everywhere until every last bit of dead skin comes off.
So now I stay in the kid’s section of the public library, where death is apparently nonexistent, and where I can’t take off my clothes. I sit on a bench enclosed by a semi-circle of colorful books that no one ever takes out. “Goodnight Moon,” “The Ice Princess,” “Even Dinosaurs Divorce.” I am, every day, the only one in this section. No kids ever come into the library. This is a concern for the library staff. After-hours, as the short, curly-haired manager closes down, I hide behind the OED and hear her complain to her iPhone about the lack of young people frequenting the stacks these days.
(As she walks past the reference section) “...mmm fm nd we need to attract these kids, y’know, which is harder to do than in the past. I mean, books are dying. Newspapers are dying, y’know? The written word… I just don’t know what to do anymore, I just don’t know. Facebook. Kindles. Rap. Oh God… Twitter. God knows, we need to modernize in here, but where are the funds? Where are the goddamned funds? Where are they? Where are thkfm fmmm ahmmmmm mm…”
I spend my nights making castles out of wooden blocks, and chewing my fingernails. Eating pastrami heros from the corner Deli where a heavyset Arabic man keeps on offering me free deodorant.
“Please,” he says, “please,” swooping his arms towards me in a gesture that means both take and get out.
“I don’t need your charity,” I say. “I own an iPad.”
“Please,” he says thankfully when I run out into the street with my hood up, tears in my eyes, cars honking in all directions.
When the library reopens I hide in the bathroom for about a half an hour, then come out and pretend to wander the nearest stacks, the Fiction: Historical Romance section. I’ve noticed that every book seems to have a subtitle. “Shades of Grey: Love and Loss in Civil War Virginia.” “Warriors in the Mist: A Medieval Dark Fantasy.“ The cover of“Motive: Secret Baby” features a scared looking newborn splayed out in the shirtless arms of a goateed hunk. In the background is a dark and stormy sky and a creepy woman in a flowing white wedding gown. The back cover says:
“This Series is as Hot as it gets! Our Couples know what they Want and they Go Out and Get It. You can count on plenty of Steamy Sensuality throughout the book — these books Tell It Like It Is Inside and Outside the bedroom!”
Last night I was in the bathroom reading The Farmer’s Almanac when I heard the front door open. Male voices and the curly-haired librarian’s nasal laughter.
I stumbled off of the toilet and buckled my pants. “HAHAHAHA!” And some grunting. Slowly, careful not to make a sound, I opened the door a crack.
A thin man in work clothes was taking a computer monitor out of a sleek black box.
“Here?” He asked.
The librarian was smiling, practically tearful. Her smartphone was hugged tightly against her ear.
“Yes. That will be fine.”
A second man was hooking up another computer, already placed on the table, to a modem.
Holy Mother Of God What Are They Doing, I thought.
“Verizon?” He said.
“Yes,” she said. “Are they good?”
“They’re the best,” he said.
Even now my fingers start to tingle. I only hope that one day my roommates will come and find me here among the gawking spectators and take me far away from Brooklyn into the desert and leave me there with the snakes and the scorpions. There I will learn to eat fire ants and howl madly with the wolves, or stare in silence at the mares’ tails unfolding into blueness over the rocky wastes. I will sing like the Trappists and my monastery will be a grove of cacti. When I get thirsty I will eat cactus flowers and I will bathe in dust like the chinchilla. And when you come to visit me you will only know me by these same faded grey eyes, sick with the memory of your luminously neon grass.