I felt dazed, like I just came out of a 4 hour movie I didn’t understand. — Jim Carrol
On April 5th, 1994 an amazing father heard the news of Kurt Cobain’s apparent suicide on the radio. He couldn’t place it, but for some reason he had the immediate instinct to speak with his son, who was attending Junior High at the moment. After what I imagine to be a dramatic and sudden illegal u-turn (just like in the movies), he arrived at the school and called his son out of class. In he came, emblazoned in the most authentic looking flannel shirt and Nirvana tee and a sardonic smile on his face.
“He must not know”, thought Amazing Dad.
“Kurt Cobain just shot himself.”, he said, fully expecting tears and wails. His son still smiled. “Yeah, I know” said his son with a shrug. “No more Nirvana CDs I guess”.
I knew my dad was confused by my response. I did it on purpose. I didn’t want him to see my confusion and my pain. To me, this was the second father I’d lost. The one standing in front of me never registered as a source of love, trust or comfort. It was his fault, after all. He was an asshole. He was always jealous of my relationship with Kurt. Kurt understood me. Kurt listened to me. I listened to Kurt. I loved him. My fantasies of Kurt and the boys kicking down the wall of my math class and taking me away from all of these fucking bullies and judgmental posers, and taking me away from my emotionally unavailable mother and this STEP DAD that she imposed on me when she took me away from my REAL dad was over. The fuck was I gonna do now?
Later that night, alone in my room I put on R.E.M.’s “Automatic For The People” and started writing the angriest suicide note you’ve ever seen. I was going to FINALLY be heard. I was going to FINALLY be understood and my parents would finally see what they’ve created. The second track started, “Try Not To Breathe” and when the bridge hit and Michael Stipe insisted, “I want you to remember”, I stopped writing. What the hell was it?? It was like a word that I’ve used my entire life, a common word, like “guitar”, was stuck on the tip of my tongue. I couldn’t reach it!! ARGH!!! It was SO FRUSTRATING! What WAS it??? I was crying heavily by the time I started the track again. I was GONNA get this.
It never came to me. I threw the note in the dumpster and got in the shower
I was laying in bed with my eyes purposely wide open. From the age of 4 until probably 10, I would fall asleep every single night laying on my back, wrapped in my blanket to include my head and neck. Only my eyes and mouth were exposed to the dangers that lurked in my room, and that was ONLY because I had to breathe and see. The hall light was on and my door was open. You could literally READ in that room, it was so bright, and I was terrified. And HOT! Arizona summers are NO JOKE! Yet there was NO WAY I was going to be brave enough to lay there alone without the armor that my comforter provided me. I stare at the corner of my room, looking up at the ceiling. That’s when the circus started. Literally, I lay there and watched a circus rolling into town, complete with big trucks towing the Ferris wheel, circus tent, and all the animals. It was cool! Not sure what exactly this IS, but it’s not scary. I must have fallen asleep at some point, per usual.
The little boy walked into his mothers room to wake her up. He wanted some fruity pebbles and to watch Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends on TV. He woke her up and she sat in her bed, looking at him, confused. “Who are you little boy?” She asked.
“HAHA!! It’s me mom, Ricky!” He gleefully shouted. Mom was silly she was always messin’ around.
“Who ARE you??!” She demanded
Confused, and slightly nervous, he repeated himself.
“Get out of my house little boy!” Shouted Mother.
He cried. Helpless and broken and lost. His mother finally came too and remembered who he was. Embracing him and apologizing profusely, she made him his cereal.
I loved my waterbed! It was comfy, yes. But that’s not why I loved it. Like I said before, summers in Arizona were brutal and I needed to be wrapped up like a mummy if I were going to be brave enough to lay in that bed alone with all the dangers that lurk in the dark. And it was DARK now. Amazing Dad was sick of tip toeing around the house waiting for that little shit to fall asleep, plus his son was ten years old! This was way too old to be afraid of the dark still. Through persistence and insistence, he managed to get that bedroom door shut when his son went to bed. I hated that, but at least I wasn’t hot! I was laying directly on the waterbed mattress and the cold water was cooling my back and legs while the front of my body broiled in my cocoon. I heard my mom outside my door and I wanted to tell her hello. I hadn’t seen her that day and she was just getting home from work. I stood up and started running towards the light switch, stepping as high as possible to keep the Boogyman from grabbing my ankle. This time though, I collapsed onto the floor. Gravity had increased a thousand fold and I was stuck on the ground, in the dark, without my blanket. I managed to look back at my bed in order to see how far I’m going to have to try and crawl when I saw myself. Still wrapped in my death blanket and sleeping with my eyes wide open.
The night before my first day of junior high, I was laying in my bed, on top of my water mattress with my butt cold as ice and my chest covered in sweat. Earlier that night I’d tried wrapping myself in a sheet, instead of my blanket. No dice. There was no protection at all and anybody could get right through it. So back to the comforter it was. My wicker toy box started to open. I couldn’t see it, but the squeaky grind of the repurposed wicker footlocker was unmistakable. I lay there frozen. It opened some more. Shit! This one was REAL. I stood up and BOLTED to my light switch. The warm, familiar light immediately covered my room and I looked over at my toy box. It was shut. I lay back down and immediately it started opening again.
Back to the light switch and the toy box was once again closed. I repeated this crazy dance at least two more times when I finally decided that I should stack some stuff on top of the box. The ghost, I figured, must not be THAT strong since it’s having such a hard time opening this weak ass little box. I was right. The ghost could not make my toy box squeak and I fell asleep.
My parents didn’t understand why I was so terrified at night. They tried their hardest to reassure me though and would tell me that there were no monsters. The only thing is that I knew they were wrong. I knew monsters were real and I knew they attacked me in my sleep. When I would remember the attack, my mind would hallucinate rather than allow my fragile consciousness to constantly relive the extreme violence. When reassurance didn’t work, Amazing Dad decided it was time to simply toughen me up. It worked. Eventually I stopped being so afraid of the dark.
In the days and months following the death of my Rockstar Father, I began to play a little game with myself in between classes. I’d walk the halls pretending I had a rifle and I’d pick out the kids who I’d shoot. It was fun! Just a little dumb game to pass the time. I wasn’t gonna REALLY shoot anybody. I mean I didn’t have a gun. Well, my dad had one. It was in his underwear drawer and it was always loaded. I’d played with it quite a bit. My favorite game was putting the gun to my temple and not touching the trigger. I knew for a FACT that I wasn’t gonna die and I wanted to see what that would look like in the mirror while I made terrible faces at myself. But I mean, I’m definitely not going to put in in the small pocket of my backpack one morning, ride my bike to school (stopping at Water n’ Ice to get a blue slushy and a pocket full of Crybaby’s), arrive at school and shoot all the kids that were standing outside the locked doorways of Hendrix Junior High school, pinning them between myself and my gun and the impenetrable brick walls and steel doorways of my school. Nope. I was definitely not gonna do that.
(To be continued)