It was 3:30. Typically after school I walked home with my friends and we played basketball at Jacob’s house or N64 NBA JAM at Tristan’s house . Today it was 3:30 and I was wandering around my school looking for Tristan or Jacob or any of the other people who were my typical walking/bball/fake-bball partners. School had ended at 2:57 and I had gone to the bathroom before grabbing my backpack and searching for my friends, but they were nowhere to be found.
My life was starting to work out. After moving to New York and suffering the deep lonliness that comes with 22 hrs by yourself each day, I had things to do. I was tutoring. I was writing. I was on my way to a comedy show with some friends. I had friends. In my right hand was my newly purchased composition notebook. Already I had started filling it up. On the first couple pages were notes on how to teach intro level calculus. There were equations and formulas and descriptions of derivatives and functions. After that there were fun math games I created for a 6 year old. There was a game with dice and beans, there was a speed addition game, and there were lists of materials needed to make a new game. In the back was a schedule. It listed the times I worked per week along along with the money I would make per week. These added up to 8 hrs and $300 respectively. This was plenty enough money to pay for the apartment/closet I had found earlier that day for $380/month and plenty little hours that I could spend a fair amount of time on hulu and writing. Just before that was the start of a story and a script.
I was 11 when my grandma died. I was in Sweden visiting my mother’s family with the knowledge that there was a 90% chance that the grandmother I left at home would be dead before I got back. I knew this because my parents told me this and also told me that they would call when it happened. When it happened my mother’s mother sat down on my bed with me and let me cry into her arms. It didn’t matter how sure I was that she would pass away, it still was hard to realize that the person I had spent the most time with in adolescence was gone for good.
I knew how to walk to their house from school. I knew the half mile path to find my way at the doorstep where they would be hanging out. I could make it there on my own. I marched out of the school attempting and failing to jump and touch the overhang in the hallway near the library. I was the only male in my grade who couldn’t touch the overhang. Even every boy in the grade below me could touch the overhang. No matter how many times I jumped and how close I seemed to be, I would swing and miss. I wanted to know what it felt like. What that satisfying smack against the wall left on your hand. Was their dust up there? Would I leave a mark? Would people respect me?
My grandma lived a block away from school and my parents worked 60 hrs a week. Every day brought cottage cheese blintzes and saltines as grandma told me the same story she had told me yesterday. It was a routine I enjoyed because her blintzes were fantastic, I liked saltines, and every time I predicted pieces of her story she became more impressed with my psychic knowledge. There were times that were hard when she would forget where she was or write a note on her favorite picture and then get mad at whoever wrote the note, but most of the times were happy. When she died, I didn’t know where I would get my blintzes and saltines from. I didn’t know who would tell me that story.
My new composition notebook symbolized how great my life would be in New York. I would go to cool comedy shows, I would perform cool comedy shows, and to make money I would spent less than double digits of hours working on maintaining my dwindling math skills and creating fun games. Everything in my book was awesome and everything in my life was in that book. Therefore, by the transitive property, everything in my life was awesome. I pressed on down 26th St. toward UCB theater.
A year after her death, my 7th grade class had to do monthly creative writing pieces. It was during this class that I wrote the first thing I was ever proud of. I had hating writing up until then. In 4th grade I used to fake stomach aches every day when writing period came around so that I could go to the nurse and read The Subtle Knife. I never felt a sense of accomplishment when I wrote until 7th grade when I wrote a story about a boy who takes his grandmother to the zoo. She is the true parent figure to this little boy and when he loses her behind the monkey cage, he gets scared and goes on a journey to find her. I spent three months writing the three chapters of the story and I thought it was fantastic. It was a comedy.
Marching down Cottage St. toward the basketball hoop I knew I would find my former friends at, I passed Jeffery. Jeffery was the crybaby. Everybody else picked on him by pulling off his backpack or throwing his books on the ground. I didn’t do this because I thought it was wrong. Did I stop people from doing it? No. Did I laugh along with them uncomfortably? Yes. This was my chance to make up for it. “Hi Jeffery” I started “Go away” was the response. I wasn’t making up for it today.
I entered UCB earlier than my friends and began to wait. I was used to waiting as I was usually the one there earlier, so I opened my book and began to revel in the beauty that was my 8 hr a week work schedule. I got a call. It wasn’t my friends explaining why they were late, instead it was the apartment I had visited earlier telling me that they had filled the room with someone they liked better. Someone who fit their lifestyle better. Someone who was cooler. It wasn’t the end of the world, I would find a better apartment for a little more money and I’d still live, and my friends showed up, so now we could watch the show. The improv show was dull, we had to sit in the aisle, and when I left I forgot my composition notebook.
I made it to the basketball hoop to no success and I began to hate my friends for leaving me to walk home alone. Why did they not care about me enough to wait for me? Was it because I was annoying? Did they not want me around? Was it because I smelled? Was it because I couldn’t touch the overhang near the library? These thoughts raced through my head as I took the final steps towards Tristan’s house. I knocked on the door. Brian opened the door to my face with tears forming rivers on my cheeks. Had he opened the door two seconds earlier I would have had a clean face, spotless from both tears and the possibility of facial hair, but a volcano had erupted from my eyes and salty water was the magma. “Thanks for fucking ditching me!” I screamed and marched off toward my parent’s health food store. “We didn’t know where you were!” Was the call after me, but it was too late and I was off to drown my sorrows in carob covered rice cakes and fruit juice spritzers.
Everything that had seemed in such perfect, working order was now lost. Literally. Comedy shows weren’t funny, I didn’t have a cheap place to live, and all the perfect pieces of my life that I had in that composition notebook were being perused by a confused janitor.
My teacher let me read my story in front of the class (I wasn’t special, she let one kid a month do it) but decided it her job to preface my story. “Now class, I want you to listen to H2$’s story. There might be funny parts, but this is about a serious issue. This disease: Alzheimer’s, is very difficult for the person suffering and the family members surrounding them. So this is no laughing matter.” She had ruined my story. Of course it was a laughing matter. It was hilarious when Grandma Mae needed the instructions to Sorry explained to her for a 4th time. It was hilarious when Grandma Mae would thank me for letting her stay in my home even though it was her home. It was hilarious when Grandma Mae would refer to my dad as her dog’s name. Her disease and suffering weren’t sad to me, they were means for which I created comedy. What was sad was that she had left me.
One thought on “Alone: A Braided Narrative”
last night i was thinking about how when i was 10 and my gma was 75, i tried to train myself for her death. i cried about her dying 8 years before she even died so that when she did die it wouldn’t be as sad.
but it still was.