If Rembrandt were to enter an arts and crafts specialty store and skim along the shelves for the pigments that paint his mind, he would look at the tubes and powders and see something more than an eosin, primitive toner, or elemi, but rather bottled imagination, pulverized from a delicate jasmine, a North Indian clay, or a strictnine white. And inside these hand-blown mason jars, between the ripples of imperfection, he saw faces and figures of people that may, or may not have ever existed. Yet when you stare into the eyes of his riders, his serfs and shepherds, you see a personality carved pure as if a mortal pinhole camera were to spy the heavens working the magic they work best.
So if along the way, in painting a portrait of the so aptly named category of “the college years,” the pigments that paint this era, rich in dynamic countenance, mustn’t be merely jars of powder, but the players that joined in the starry nights and afternoon isle strolls: the people we’ve met along the way. To which, if reference I could, the personalities of each day to day ritual or routine, I would fill vaults by the sophomore midterm. And if I present, as best I could, an abstract, I’m sure justice would neither be served, yet pass the inaudible, incoherent, translucence of the spectrum to seek root on the other side. So, in service, and a humble one at that, let me charcoal my premier rendition as a for instance, and let disclaimer be it’s frame, that this is one of an infinite sea of renderings, to be laid, baked, and hungÃ¢â‚¬Â¦to whatever entendre you take my paintbrush.
Winter 1998. If fortune were to float above a campus and dust an even sprinkling on all it’s participants, life would be less whispy for the lesser-endowed. Yet, in that time, if morality is being instilled and the paupers have a secret grin that states “I can appreciate what I’ve got more than they, now, since I know the pains of earning it,” though as it looks the princes will always get off scott-free, I’d sacrifice variety to banality among the uncountable personal rituals. Then, as it were, and problem shall continue to be, I had left my job of campus wages and “can I speak to a real person, you’re just a student” leers for the peace that can only exist in college housing. And here on this day a choice was set forth by an equal, weighing 1 Ã‚Â½ more, to deliver contraband to another campus, an hour or two away. Beit a Friday, and a weary one at that, as the groans of a recent nicotine refuser continued to ache, and the palate of homework for the weekend (supposedly a week’s end from work) set as oral funk, the choice was simple: no. But with that half more and the pressures of peers, physical and sociological, building, needless to say I was in the Ranger and truckin’ Southeast to the campus in need of more.
Those that have recently smothered a cherry, sprinkled the hots, and discarded another Surgeon Generals warning know how difficult a road trip can be, especially when the driver is baking a chain. So amounted the weeksworth of weary and the only remedy seemed to be a radio of whithering, blistering, burning, and peeling, a cracked window, and a foot tapping. And at last, past the east of campus, into the heart of the capital city, we parked the Ranger on a snowy bank, and grabbed the bags, once full of texts, to sway to a steady halt on the doorstep of strangers. The 1 Ã‚Â½ jabbered with the tenant for a while swapping swears and shakes and chuckles before he led me to an upstairs rug that I would share with a couple of guys.
The brothers, as I’ll henceforth refer, proceeded shortly after to organize and strategize while one of pale skin and a torn T, whom I’ll call Tunes, just paced and worried. I found from the prior two years of schooling and partying that there was one in every suite, dorm, house, or apartment on a college radius. And reason be good, Tunes had probably lost his share of CDs, shot glasses, or pocketsized goods during a soiree like the one being planned now. The kegs were planted and I participated in an urban version of a Maple Tree tapping as the nectar began to flow, kegerated and iced. Meanwhile, a god had clicked his three-intensity bulb and the cars speeding by were replaced by only headlights. Now, as predicated, some began to reroute and park on the street out front.
The party had begun and the brothers were wearing women and beer, giving, getting, slurping, and pouring head, and neglecting the duties of a respectable, responsible host. Tunes, fortunately wasn’t. The stag had started a pool game and the women crashed on the front porch where it was warm enough to smoke and gossip, as well as be a Revere-Nouveau for the 5-0 that threatened to entreat. I had taken to a couple plastic cups and blessed the Dixie manufacturers at that for being in a larger size. My edge on my decision to stop smoking had weathered as if eroded by each beer that washed down the shores and I focused on one thing.
“Scuze me, can I bum one of those?” was what my mouth said, tho my brain was only cursing it.
“You like menthols?” she responded.
“No,” I followed.
“Good,” she finished and handed over a light and a lightÃ¢â‚¬â€menthol not included.
“Bless you, child,” I could only muster as I fumbled for the child safety. It was a joke, but I don’t think her inebriation allowed her to realize it.
“So, you been looking at me all night,” she began anew, “I was wondering when you were going to walk over.” She jostled the springy locks on her shoulder and tugged her collar incognito to expose more cleavage. I had assumed she mistook my nicotine longing for, well, the exposure she was attempting to produce more of.
“Shwan!” someone yelled and I looked up and over the springs.
“Yeah?” I sonored through the heads. Now, take note, my name isn’t Shwan or Shawn, or Swan, or a variation thereof, yet halfway through freshman year someone called it and it stuck, as with all sick or stupid items that cling to a shoe-tred, a mesh of hair, or an angora sweater.
“Come over here will ya,” it slurred to which I obeyed. It was the extra half who ushered me away from Cleavage girl and up the steps to my two-and-a-half square foot of sleeping space and the room that encased it. “They don’t want to buy so I got a gift for you.”
“What? Tank [aka 1 Ã‚Â½], I don’t have twenty bucks. Someone here must want to–”
“No one, I checked. Don’t worry, it’s a gift,” he said, dumping the plastic bag onto a speaker and separating half and half. I quietly stopped thanking Dixie and began thanking the fine folks at ziplock. “I get the extra head,” he said and dumped them down with a swig of beer; an added benefit, I thought, for also having the extra half.
“Hey, I’ll take what I can,” I replied and chewed them down.
“What do those taste like anyway?” a puff of exhausted bud poked from across the room.
“Ever eat dirt before?”
“Kinda like that,” I threw back, “but with brighter colors.”
“Shit, lemmie have some,” it boomeranged.
“The ground’s too hard outside and these are too gone. Sorry, guy.”
“Fuck you then,” it giggled and took another hit.
Ok so I knew I quit, and til this day everyone “believes” that I didn’t smoke until New Years Day with my brother in Bronson Park, but when you drink you crave more and when you trip, you drink more. It’s a vicious circle and before long, Tank and I were smokin’ away on the front step. For the frosh out there, they were just red lights, a camel with a k, because, and trust me on this one, the treats will smooth the ride, the weed will ground it. Believe me the cigarette was good.
There was a loud mouthed kid taking out his ass to impress Cleavage girl on the right of the porch and Tank and I stumbled down the front steps and sat there to enjoy a metaphysical train entering a tunnel when midword, Tank stopped. A form of intangible adhesive swabbed his eyes and they were stolen from his thought, his mouth half cracking a smile.
“ShwanÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.look at thatÃ¢â‚¬Â¦” he slurred and I whirred around to see my deity. There, one yard over, was a garden stake. But this stake wasn’t like those that would be propping an eggplant or guiding a tomato vine in it’s rising. This stake, two feet higher than my head, was guiding five other vines in a perfect pentagon circle. The vines planted in shallow ground and ran together to the edge of the house, up a drainage pipe, and home to an outdoor socket. The buds springing forth from these mid-winter vines, indigenous to the season, bore fruits that watered my mouth and tingled behind my retinas. We call these fruits chase lights.
“Do you see them?” he wavered. I couldn’t respond as the aforementioned adhesive had seized my tongue as well, but let my Kamel bobbed lower to denote, as a signal flare, that I had indeed. I stood up. “Don’t do it, Shwan. Don’t get too close.”
“I can’tÃ¢â‚¬Â¦” help it, I tried to say, but half the phrase was stuck outside my verbal quotation mark. As I encroached and fell to the ground, I didn’t feel the slush pierce my jeans and soak my knees. As I crawled into the pentagon and fell on my back, I didn’t sense it lining my ears. As I lay, looking up from a cold wet yard of the brothers’ neighbors, which I didn’t know and I didn’t know, I was self-actualized and the giant glowing orbs pulsed love deep into my skin. I dare not reach for the bounding light penetrated me, ricocheted off the earth beneath me and shot off countless times to become stars past my visible gaze up. There, I was at peace, eyes unable to blink, but self-lubricated by tears, mouth crocked to utter a glued “woah,” and stopped the shivering I forgot I was doing. Nothing in my life, I believed at this state, could compare to this moment.
And as it goes, the rest of the night blurred past, with the drugs in my system. The beer caught up with Tank and he made it to the toilet, across the hall from my few square feet of hybernation. A brother attempted the Awesome Blossom, syndicated by Chili’s. We cheered on another, white ass bobbing in the basement. I kissed someone and felt another’s chest. I woke up in darkness to Tunes’s worrying even while he deflowered a girl in his square feet nearby. And drifted back to a slumber with one last thought on my mind.
However can dreams, the place where we can soar, reign, and be anything, be static. And to this day, one has never been as dynamic as the night before that one.