Chapter 2 - Rebirth
A new city, a new state, and a new family. Every day seems to bleed into the other. I can feel the grind of everyday life wearing on me as these days go on. I turned 18 just four months ago, but I already have the cynicism of a 60-year-old. My soul is worn and tired. There are things in my life that do make the haul a little smoother. My cousin Floyd is one of the most eccentric human beings I think I will ever have an opportunity to know. It is harder to communicate with him than most people, but that’s part of what makes him so unique.
Today he decided to drag me to the mall – some new revolutionary music-making program just released on the market, and he had to have it immediately.
“Can I interest you interest you in a new phone and watch miss? Everyone needs a smart watch now; we have them for sale at 50 percent off with your purchase of a new phone.” My cousin nudged me, and we resumed our path towards the music store. Luckily, we shared the same opinion about the uncharismatic salesman at our local mall.
“No thanks. I don’t use my phone all that much.” He looked at me with a confused look on his face, like I was a cavewoman or something so, as we passed by him, I muttered under breath: “Nothing worse than an over-pushy salesman.”
Floyd just gave me a big innocent smile, and his huge hands led us back on our mission. I just look at these people now, all of these aimless people and their cellular attachments to society. I looked over at a group of kids sitting around a table, all of them attached to their phones messaging each other when they could just exchange words. We are losing our way through these cell phones and connected devices.
I only check my phone when I have a call, I don’t text anybody anymore. The average person checks their phone 85 times a day and spends 5 hours a day on their devices, surfing the web using apps and whatever. I use my phone maybe five minutes a day, although since I haven’t written in awhile, I don’t have any productive activities to back-up that lost time.
As the days go on it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to distance yourself away from mobile technology. The internet is part of our nation’s infrastructure now, and everyone will need to learn how to adapt. I know I need to, but I don’t have to be okay with it.
At least my cousin Floyd has a legitimate reason he needs a phone.
We, at last, made our way to the music store. My cousin was right; it’s like a different dimension – just like the cinema used to be for me – I just wish I could feel the magic he got from it. Or a magic for anything anymore.
“What’s up, guys? Anything I can help you with?” The cashier with long dreadlocks and a half-assed trimmed beard then looked to Floyd. He nodded to him and gave him the hand symbol
Floyd then took out his phone and quickly typed a response to him – which the cashier received through his watch and immediately he jumped off the counter and led us into a different department into the store. Again, I feel like I’m 60 in an 18-year-old body.
“So, we have three different levels of software here. It’s revolutionary and streamlines a lot of what makes mixing such a tedious process. They’re all pretty similar no matter which level you get, they all just have a few extra features at each price point. Want me to go through those with you or do you already know which one you want?”
Floyd then nodded with that persistent smile on his face and pointed to the mid-level program he had craved after for so long.
“Good choice, best bang for your buck. It’s perfect if you’re well versed in that sort of music making, but I can tell you know your stuff. Come on I’ll get you checked out.” The scruffy cashier then looked behind at Floyd with a curious look on his face. “You know I got to ask, how long have you been mixing? I love connecting with people about it – especially bass heads like us.” The cashier said as he pointed to my cousin’s shirt. My cousin then nodded to him with a light smile and once again took out his phone.
“Not much of a talker are you bud?”
“He’s mute you asshole,” I responded.
The cashier then blushed up and turned towards Floyd. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry man I didn’t realize.” Floyd then played the vocalizer on his phone. “I’ve been making music now for the better part of four years, and don’t worry about it, man. I’m just happy I have my ears and my eyes, music will be my voice one day I hope.”
I always hated hearing Floyd’s vocalizer, but again, I knew he needed it. It worked wonders when he needed to communicate with ordinary people, basically anything Floyd typed into his phone; this app would translate and convert it into audio for him. He was starting to use it more and more and falling behind on our sign language – something he had used his whole life. Also, it had this same incredibly generic voice with hardly any fluctuation in its tone. I have come to hate technology, and now a robot was communicating for my cousin. A robot that has no feelings, no emotions, and no personal depth.
“I heard that brother. When’s the last time you saw him?” The cashier asked again as he pointed to my cousin’s shirt. This time I decided to speak for him.
“He’s never seen him but listens to him always. He wants to take me to this 360 concert on New Year’s; he says it will change my life, as if right?”
“It just might darling.”
I rolled my eyes at him as he began to bag up my cousin’s order and then he gave me a gentle look. “If you don’t mind me saying, I think you need to listen to this guy more often, no pun intended, and let him take you to Alabama for New Year’s Eve. It might not change your life – but it will certainly make you appreciate what you have a lot more. Thanks again guys, and good luck with that music brother.”
Nothing could make me appreciate my life after how I took it from three other people, but I still wanted to go, for my cousin. He had this obsession for creativity, something about it was just intoxicating, I still can’t imagine why he had so few friends.
Back home, my uncle had been waiting for us to return, I could tell something was troubling him. I knew it was me. It was always about me. I don’t see why he couldn’t just leave me alone.
“Hey, guys how was the mall?”
Floyd then signed to my uncle “Excellent, Sasha had fun too I think.”
“That’s good; you need to get out more Sasha.”
“Yeah,” I responded without looking at him as I headed towards my room, but he grabbed my arm as I began to walk down the hallway. At which point Floyd looked over to us.
“It’s okay buddy I just need to have a word with Sasha.”
Floyd nodded and then promptly took his software back to his room to install it on his computer.
“Come on honey sit down; I’m not mad at you I just want to talk.”
I nodded to him and plopped down on the couch as he continued to stare at me in his reading chair. He rubbed his long hair letting out a disappointed look on his face.
“So, I talked to your principle today.”
I knew what I did, and I wasn’t sorry. As my uncle spoke, I looked towards the TV that was showcasing some news story about a nationwide problem with cell phones. Something about a few phones not connecting to the network. “A national concern” they called it, how ridiculous.
My uncle then noticed I wasn’t paying attention to him and he snapped his fingers in my face. “Sasha. Why haven’t you been to school in the last few days?”
“I hate it there.”
“Everybody hates school Sasha, but you’re a senior now, you’re supposed to know why you have to go by now.”
“I know why I have to go Ted. I just found it pointless this week. I had no homework, no tests; it was a free week.”
“Sasha, you can’t keep doing this. I’m trying to help you make it through this.”
“I don’t know if there’s anything more you can do. Or anyone can do.”
My uncle then leaned in towards me and placed his hand on mine. “Look, Sasha, I know you’re still trying to process everything that happened. And I know it’ll take awhile for you to acclimate to society again. But we have to work together here – I will help you get everything you need to make sure you make it out there on your own. Just promise me you’ll go back tomorrow okay. The principle isn’t mad I talked to him – you’ll have to finish the work you missed this weekend, please Sasha, promise me?”
I reluctantly responded with a half-assed smile. “Yeah, I’ll go back tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Sasha.” I then looked towards the TV again, which he quickly turned off and readjusted his place on his chair, as he was about to get up and go somewhere.
“Tell you what? Why don’t we do something today? There’s that new George Julian Movie out; I know you like him. It’s got a 99 percent on Rotten Tomatoes you up for it?” He asked as he winked towards me. I appreciated what he was trying to do, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t feel like going to the cinema. At this point in my life, I think it would just make me sick.
“Thanks, Uncle Ted, but I told Samantha I’d hang out with her after we got back.”
“Okay.” He said as he looked down towards my feet making my way out the front door. I know he was disappointed in me. It seems all I do is disappoint him anymore.
Earlier, while we were at the mall, I got a text from Samantha, our neighbor, and classmate, saying she had a rough day at school and had to see me. I knew something bad had happened.
I do wish I wasn’t like this; I wish things could just be normal again. But nothing can change what I’ve done. I sometimes think about traveling back in time, but there are people much more worthy of that opportunity than myself. Like Samantha who is, in a way just as damaged as I am, and one of the reasons we are so close.
Samantha was waiting for me on the roof. No residents were allowed up there, but we could care less, so could Samantha’s grandparents, and the owners of our building. The sign there was only really in place to avoid lawsuits, our landlords cared almost nothing about their low-income residents. But sometimes those with low-income end up being some of the most colorful people this world has to offer. Samantha always sat on the edge facing east overlooking the city. She would come up here every evening to watch the sunset over the horizon of our city.
“Hey, you! Glad to see you today!”
I smiled as I climbed along the terrace to sit next to my endlessly optimistic friend. Someone who hardly has the background to be optimistic. I inched over close to her and gazed out at the city as she continued to write on her phone.
“So what’s the latest development in your book?”
“Well, I have figured out where my second act is heading, and decided the dwarfs were born in the subways of New York City. So today I’ve been writing their introduction to modern day society and their future interaction with my main character.”
“I’m still flattered you named her after me.”
“I just love your name, Sasha Taylor; it’s so pretty, plus you could use a little more attention in your life.”
“We both could I guess. You said you wanted to talk?”
Samantha then placed her phone beside her and took off her glasses and spoke that horrid name “Courtney.” My eyes then felt heavy, and I clenched my fists in anger. Even just hearing her name got my blood to boil. “I’m going to kill that bitch. What did she do to you?”
Samantha then turned around and showed me that her once beautiful flowing ponytail had been cut off. I was appalled, normally this girl is trouble, she talks a lot of shit, but recently she has been picking on my group hard. Not just me and Sam either, but Floyd too.
“During math class, I corrected her on a problem out loud. I don’t even remember what it was Sasha, but it made her very mad. She said I embarrassed her. So shortly after class, she followed me to my locker with those people she always hangs around with.”
Nobody was around when Samantha fell victim to Courtney’s sadistic cruelty. It was evident this fake model took a lot of pleasure in making other people suffer. Unfortunately, Sam was an easy target, and all alone in the hallway.
“She said: so fatass you think you’re better than me? Think you’re so smart? Maybe the fat that rolls over your sides makes you more intelligent than someone slim like me.”
Samantha apologized and tried very quickly to shut her locker and carry her books to the lunchroom. She tried to flee, but one of Courtney’s goons tripped her. Her glasses slid across the floor and her books scattered, covering the whole width of the hallway with scraps of her homework and ideas for her fantasy novel. Then Courtney spoke again as she leaned behind Sam and grabbed her by her long beautiful ponytail.
“You’re not sorry, but you will be. You’re going to wish that you would’ve died in that drug raid with your parents two years ago when I’m done with you this semester. You’re my new target you stupid fat little bitch. Welcome to the club.”
Then Courtney cut her hair and walked off with her friends laughing and giggling as she twirled the severed ponytail around in her fingers. Samantha cried while picking up all of her pieces off the ground.
After Samantha finished telling her story to me. It took every inch of my patience and self-control not to be consumed by rage. So I shook my head at her and lifted her chin up as tears were softly rolling down her puffed up cheeks.
“Don’t you worry Sammy. I’ll stick by your side. She is not going to get away with this.”
Samantha smiled through her episode and reached into her tiny purse to grab a tissue to wipe her tears away. “Thank you, Sasha, you’re a good friend. Are kids this bad where you come from?”
“I’ve only hated someone as much as her once in my life.”
“Well, we’re definitely on the same page,” Samantha said as she got up from the ledge and stood behind me. She joined me in gazing out at the ocean of orange light that gradually began to fade as the sun set over buildings.
“You should get on my blog more often; I noticed you hadn’t posted anything in a couple of weeks.”
“I’ve been busy, I’m sorry.”
“Busy doing what, drowning in guilt? I’m trying to help you, Sasha. I’ve gone through the same thing as you.”
I held in what I honestly thought and just smiled at her; I wanted to avoid any confrontation possible. “I know. Thank you, Sam.”
Samantha then turned me around the ledge and clutched my shoulders. “Hey, you want to come inside? I gotta new video game, you wanna try it out?”
“No, thanks though.”
“Oh come on Sasha. It’ll be fun.”
I had my fill of interaction with people for the day. It was time to be alone.
“I would, but I need a plan to take care of Courtney.”
Samantha just simply smiled and waved at me as I made my way back to the maintenance access to the roof. “Okay! But hey this weekend we’re gonna hang out. I’ll help you catch up on your work! Goodnight Sasha!”
While I made my way down the staircase thoughts began racing through my head. I failed Samantha. I wasn’t there when she needed me the most. Well, tomorrow I will not let her down, after all, that’s happened to me, with all of the crazy emotions and thoughts I’ve been dealing with lately, a fight would feel great. Especially against this wannabe Instagram model. Picture perfect white girl with a wealthy family who could care less how her daughter behaves. I’m going to show this bitch, put her in her place.
But I’m also nervous; I haven’t been in a fight in a long time. I do still remember the styles of ju-jitsu my father taught me. I’m worried that my state of mind has crumbled so much, I might have a nervous breakdown, or I may lose control and kill this girl more likely. I’m just really upset that it had to come to this.
I eventually made my way down to the lobby of the compound. I figured since I made it this far that I might walk around the city for a couple of hours. A tactic to tire my brain out, and savor my time till I had to deal with the inevitable tomorrow.
I snuck back into my apartment at the stroke of 11. My uncle was asleep with the television on, snoring incessantly with a book sliding out of his hand. Conquer Your Depression by Angela Sheraton. Angela Sheraton and my friend Samantha both have had terrible things happen to them, but the thing is nothing could’ve changed them. It was done to them. I did this to myself. I was in control of my destiny at the wheel of my mom’s car.
My uncle’s dedicated attempt to understand my pain was useless. There is no book, no television show, and no movie that can reflect how I feel, how I just exist. I killed my family, and I have to live knowing that for the rest of my existence, I can barely find the strength to keep living. This overbearing guilt I hold is going to kill what is left of me, my hopes, and my spirit.
I crept past my uncle and let the light from the television guide me back to my room. I slithered down the hallway trying with every inch of effort not to make a sound, I saw Floyd, passed out at the desk of his computer – burning the late night oil.
My room, my sanctuary, the only place I can truly be alone. I almost find a shred of comfort when I enter it; I can almost feel its solace. I very quietly closed my door and began to feel the embrace of my space. Just as I was about to get comfortable, I heard my uncle talking in the other room. I should’ve known he was spying on me.
I cracked open the door just slightly, and then pressed my ear to it, trying as hard as I could to hear what was going on. It came first muffled, but soon it gained clarity.
“I don’t know what to do doctor. No. No. I know she needs to see you, but I can’t make her go anymore. It feels like nothing I say or do will reach her, she feels so devoid of life, of hope. I just need something, anything to help her.”
As I heard my uncle talk to my trauma therapist, I looked down, and on top of my dresser, an important reminder was idly presenting itself to my attention, the moonlight shining off the silver bowtie around it. The black velvet box from my father, still unopened. I wish I had the drive to find out what happened to him, and what made him go mad at the end of his life. I glanced at it as I closed my door and plopped down on my bed.
I wish I could’ve cried.
I need to feel something, anything other than self-pity. Maybe tomorrow will be it, but I will have to muster the courage to take Courtney down. For the first time since my accident I have a goal; tomorrow, no matter what, I need to feel something, or I won’t be able to survive anymore. I have to know that there is still some way to fix what I’ve done, to recover. Maybe my flower of guilt will shed its petals and become something beautiful, but that would take a miracle. I don’t believe miracles; I try not to let myself be poisoned by optimism anymore. I’ll just do the best I can.
On the verge of closing my eyes and drifting off to a dreamless state when I saw my phone illuminate. I looked at the time 2:31 A.M.
“Who the fuck is texting me at 2:30 in the morning” I groaned swiping the phone off my nightstand. My body locked up – my focus narrowed and gravitated to it, unbreakable. Sweat poured from me when I saw what that text said. An old memory, a shard coming back to pierce me.
“You are protected.” From: Unknown Caller 808-432-5687
Trembling I uncovered the history for this call – last contacted July 14th, 2017.
Now I knew that something was going to happen tomorrow. There were no more maybes, not anymore. I didn’t sleep, how could I? Protected? From what exactly? Was there a significance to the unknown number? I looked it up no record. But that hardly soothed me.
I still didn’t know if that text was sent to warn me or if it caused the accident. Friend or foe? I didn’t know and it started to eat me. It took the next 5 hours of me pacing around my room to come to reason.
I have not one but two focus points tomorrow one belongs to Courtney. She was first, and for this text, I’m going to have my eyes peeled. And the thought of that text is not going to be so subtle in my mind this time. Whatever happens, I’m ready.