University High School
Instructor: Lee Fallon
Movies for Guys!
Movies for Guys!
"I think there's something wrong with me," Terry mumbled groggily. He was lying in bed, his sheets failing to cover much of his body.
"Terry, there's nothing wrong with you," Kamala was sitting on the other side of the bed, her back to Terry.
"No, Kamala, I'm serious," Terry sat up, running his hand through his hair. "All of this — it's all too serene."
"What's wrong with serenity?" Kamala said dryly.
"Well, nothing, but -!"
"Well, then, there you go. There's nothing wrong with you."
"I mean, there's something nagging me," Terry said. "It's as if there's something in the back of my mind, but I can't identify it. Something itches, but I don't know how — or where, I guess — to scratch it."
"There's always something nagging you, Terry," Kamala began rummaging around the clothes lining the floor, trying to find a shirt. "That doesn't mean there's something wrong. It just means you forgot something. You'll remember it soon enough. Or you won't. And the world will continue to turn."
"N-no, I-let me try again. It's like I don't belong here."
Kamala gave him a look.
"The door is right there, Terry," she said flatly.
"No, Kamala. My memories all feel fuzzy. Like I get where I am, and what I'm supposed to be doing here, but not how I got here, or why."
"Terry, as we get older, we forget things. We begin to question things. That's the way it is. Besides, this is the fourth way you've tried to explain how something's wrong now. There's nothing wrong with you. It's all in your head."
"But Kamala. I don't even know...why I love you."
She frowned for a moment, but smiled suddenly, as if having just successfully pranked him.
"That's how love works. You can't explain it."
The world receded.
He wears size 6 slippers - the same size as his age. He paces about on a blue carpet, the mahogany floor creaking a little beneath each step. The carpet has thin, light blue recesses crisscrossing it, like the grid of a city map. A depressed afternoon light streams in through two windows beside him, a bookshelf pressed against the wall between them. His hands sway awkwardly at his sides, only rising or falling when he breaks out into a kind of dance, its steps known only to him, every so often. He circles fluffy blue pillows stacked atop one another. Slight, inaudible whispers will occasionally break through his teeth, fleeing no further than his lips, barely more than a breath bent out of shape. He quiets himself every time he notices. He refuses to break the illusion.
His eyes flit about constantly, though he doesn't notice. Of course, nobody ever does. Our eyes move about thousands of times within each second, taking in the world around us. His eyes do the same, only he rejects the world, his room, his bookshelf, his carpet, the light, his floors, his whispers, his breaths. He is elsewhere. With a friend, his face burning with embarrassment. Maddeningly, he can't quite identify what had mortified him so deeply. She smiles at him. He knows the details of her face are distinct: unique and still beautiful. But specific details escape him, her face diving in and out of his memory as if afraid to confront it. She reaches out to him and begins to say something.
The world recedes.
He woke up in her arms. He could feel her heartbeat: slow, measured. He turned. She smiled at him.
Terry and Kamala were kissing. They said nothing; they barely even moved. They just kissed. Terry's mind began to wander, which he thought was odd. Shouldn't he be focused on this? On Kamala? She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever met. Though, he couldn't remember very many other women. Or people, for that matter.
These thoughts - awkward, seditious, interrupting their kisses - refused to go away. There was a large gap in Terry's memory. He could only recall brief glimpses of moments that occurred earlier than three years ago. Maybe an image, but nothing cogent. But that was alright. A key element of love, he thought, was image. He could always picture the people he loved with a perfect clarity in his mind. It might be fleeting, but for a moment, he could see them perfectly. And that's what mattered, he supposed.
But even the last three years were hazy for him. This troubled him more. He wasn't even really sure how he'd gotten here - the back of a limo, deep purple neon lights cutting through their chests and into pleather seats.
What are they doing? Are they on a date? What is a date? Is it just a platonic hang-out, only without the platonic part? Is there an overtly sexual undertone? What else could possibly separate it from a platonic hang-out? What else could be the goal of a date, other than sex? Isn't that what everything inevitably collapses to? Does everything have a sexual undertone?
Friends wither away as time passes. Maybe you meet your best friends in your hometown, but it's more probable that you don't. So you go to college, and make better friends, and you stay friends, and maybe you like one enough to stay with them for prolonged periods of time, so you get married, and maybe have kids, but by that point, all your college friends have moved away and you probably don't talk outside of, like, commenting on a Facebook post, and you're forced to make new friends. And so you make friends with co-workers, or other parents of kids who attend school with your children, but in all likelihood those people suck, and since you can't really be friends with your kids, you're essentially left with just the one person you married until one of you dies and then you're all alone again. So, if friends are basically transitory, the only genuine interactions are with one's partner. Everything collapses back to sex.
Terry wondered if other people thought about these things while kissing girls.
"Terry?" Kamala said, squinting at him. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, fine," he smiled. "Just, uh, drifted off." He paused for a moment.
"How did we meet?" He could see his reflection stretched awkwardly around the fishbowl of her eyes.
"Love at first sight. I remember it like yesterday." She blinked, her eyelashes nearly long enough to brush against her notably prominent cheekbones.
"Do you remember our first kiss?"
"What is this, a quiz?" She laughed. His lips - unnaturally large for a man - didn't part. She quieted.
"Of course I do. Don't you?"
"Well…what was your memory of it? Like, what was it like?"
"All first kisses are awkward. The whole point is just to open the doorway to another kiss. It gets better as it goes on.
"Alright." He said this flatly, feigning annoyance to mask the real annoyance he felt. He hates when interactions collapse like this, when he's unsure of how to respond, his partner having beaten him in some imagined contest of rhetorical prowess. Conversation ought not be a fight, he thought.
Terry wondered many things. And this troubled him, given that he seemed to be married to Kamala. And he couldn't even remember how they started dating.
The world receded.
At 6 years old, his weekday routine is nothing particularly special. His mother drops him at school; he steps from her brand new, 2010 Volvo - apparently the safest car on the road - and walks through the glass doors of his school, hobbled by the weight of a backpack with only one strap on his shoulder; he turns right, walks some ways, but not too far - aging into first grade comes with privileges - and deposits his bag in a narrow wooden locker; he enters a classroom, where most of his classmates are already relaxing, and sits with his friends, simultaneously excited and reluctant to be lectured on the merits of Dwyane Wade (yes, he does play for the loathsome Miami Heat; but, on the other hand, he's very cool).
"Why does your skin look like poop?" Upon entering this new school, he was assigned a "buddy," to show him around and introduce him to people. This is his "buddy."
He's unsure of how to answer. His "buddy" pushes him, lightly, then a little harder. It begins to hurt.
Tears formed at the bottom of his eyelid, beginning to build nearly to the point of overflow, teetering on the edge, only held back by his eyelashes. His eyelashes were long, he knew. They came from his mother. They blurred his vision, the brown of his skin mixed with the muted blue of the classroom's carpet. He looks up, other students' outlines peering back at him. Across the room he sees a friend - the friend - staring at him. She turns back to her friends, laughing. Leaving him alone.
His vision is still blurred hours later, as he steps into his mother's car. There are some bruises on his chest, beneath his shirt now. He can't see much of anything on the drive home.
"The world is a difficult place, I know." His mother is speaking distantly. "And you spend so much time in your room you don't see any of it. I love that you imagine worlds, create new ones...I don't want you to stop that. I don't think most kids do that the way you do. But you can't just give up, leave this world. Keep going. This world will be better."
The world recedes.
He stood next to her, smoking outside a movie theater.
"Don't you miss when we were kids, Kamala?" Terry squinted through the smoke, his eyes stinging just a little.
"What?" Her eyes drooped sleepily.
"I mean, nobody ever said stupid, empty, meaningless shit just to fill the air. People just spoke. And it was stupid, but it was honest."
"I'm not sure that honesty is really a good thing, Terry. People would be so much happier if we just...lied sometimes. You know? If it isn't said, then maybe it isn't real."
Smoke is all that filled the air between them for a moment.
"Do you ever fear that one day, you'll wake up in your bed, just as you were when you went to sleep ten years ago, and the last ten years of your life have been a dream? All of this time spent, work done, relationships created...gone? Just imagined?"
"Not really. The fearing part, I mean. I wholly expect to wake up, one day, in some other time, some other plane. But I don't fear it."
"I mean, I think I'd change some things, for one. But ultimately, I'd forget the dream anyway, right? It wouldn't matter."
It was subtle, but they were at an impasse. They'd had disagreements, but this one, for whatever reason, felt more fundamental to Terry. And subtly, he began to think again.
He turned to her, thoughts churning about in his head, and looked, peering at her in a way he never had before. Suddenly, he knew what he'd been feeling for her. It was fear.
Terry loved her - or, at the very least, felt deeply for her - as intensely as any promiscuous 20-something loves their eventual wife. But those 20-somethings feel infatuation, not love. Infatuation means that their passion overwhelms their intelligence; flaws become elided by beauty. Love comes later: love implies embracing those flaws, a necessary product of newfound dependence on another. And certainly, Terry was dependent upon Kamala. But he was more dependent upon the idea of her, upon her existence. He was more scared than happy.
Maybe that was fine.
The world receded.
The television has evolved. Once, it fizzled angrily as it awoke, annoyed at being inconvenienced. Now it placidly slips into life, screen glowing warmly in embrace of the audience. He sits before his TV, bare ankles resting awkwardly atop one another, knees folded, brushing against the carpet. His head barely reaches over the cushions on the couch behind him. His eyes are glazed over, though this is deceiving: really, he is fully rapt, absorbed entirely by the television.
In his room, he writhes on his pillows, clutching at his stomach, eyes shut, seeing men with guns firing at him stomp forward, grimacing menacingly. His eyes dart about. There: light and swords and lasers and death. There: passion and romance and politics and life. There: all around him - love. Monogamous, eternal, passionate, tragic. Love.
The world recedes.
They were walking along a river now. A dog chased a butterfly on the grass. A group of children were being led along by a stern looking woman. The river crashed softly against the rocks barring it from the grass. It was all very serene.
He couldn't stop thinking about Kamala. He always thought it was weird, when people talked about "love at first sight." He didn't think that existed. A crush? Sure. But love? No. Love was something much more intense than that. It wasn't something that could be built through a look. "Love" in one look was sociopathy, not love. And yet, he thought he loved Kamala. Even though he didn't remember meeting her. Even though he was scared.
Suddenly, he froze, as if possessed by a divine force. The trees seemed to stretch, bearing down on him. He stumbled backwards. Kamala turned to him, a look of slight confusion on her face. Behind her, small blips of light appeared in the sky, swelling rapidly. The light began to overtake the world around him, consuming all in its path. The sky became a searing white light glaring down at them. Then came the river, its waves turning to a pristine white sheet. Then the light began to crawl onto the grass, swallowing both blissful bystanders and warped trees alike. Just looking at the light hurt his eyes; he could barely see anything. But he could still see Kamala, smiling at him like nothing had changed. She was there, right in front of him, beckoning him forward. The world was receding for the final time.
He hugged her. She hugged him. He felt that he should cry. But as the hug ended, he did not reach out desperately, trying to clasp her hands in his, as he'd done so many times before. He let her go. He closed his eyes. He was forgetting what Kamala looked like already.
The boy lies in his room again, awake, but dreaming. Of another world.