Blood and Bug
Okay yeah whatever sure this baby mosquito haaas been pumping imself with my hard won blood for the past few weeks. But look at him now. See where his ideals got hIM. In death surrounded by the fruits of my labor. And boy have I labored.
Point is. The last few weeks . . . Idk so much has gone jUST right and so improbably wrong that it feels like somebody’s pulling the strings. And I’m getting the feeling that they’re now satisfied and leaving to go mess with somebody else. May the gods help them.
For me it began long ago, but I’ll start with my meeting Joe the Aussie. First day of psych 101.
“Oy mate yeayea backn PERth yjust picKup ihrun ihnguts off the ground you do! Reckon I won’t be eddin back tho ygat dbest medical schools roit eyuh in merica.”
He has sunken cheeks and a bulging forehead. But this neanderthal facade betrays his confident voice and charm. He’s a sophomore. Here for a semester studying abroad.
We part after class. I pick up chips and soda on my ride back to the dorm. The carbs digging me deeper. Since my parents left a few days prior, I’ve been alone. Suburbs surround me for miles. Beyond that, desert hundreds of miles.
Under my bed, sugar and salt huddled against me and Hulu flaring in front. I think back to a month ago. Raph and I sitting on upturned buckets behind Misakis. The sun has set but the it’s still hot. We’re wearing the jeans, cotton shirts and thick boots that Andrew requires us to wear. But out here on our break we have no master. We command our dreams. Choose our regrets. Define our reality. When I’m with Morgan or Nick that means they smoke and I’m on twitter.
But Raph and I talk.
He asks why I chose ASU.
“Pretty ironic actually. See, when I was looking for colleges, heh. My top choices always were like these small liberal arts colleges in big cities. Always somewhere really green and near an ocean or big lake. Like some place in Seattle would’ve been PERfect. Dense city, big white mountains, mist and reading. But there’s no affordable options in Seattle. Or Chicago or Boston or New York or SF. I found a school in LA though. Tucked away in the hills. Great faculty. A lot of reading. Lot of writing. Food was good. But the students, I couldn’t gel with.
They just weren’t weird enough. Too rich and white. But I chose it because it was in LA, near UCB and Dan Harmon’s comedy stage. And the academics were nice and the campus a regal mission style. But they rescinded my acceptance hours before I had to make my decision. See, my senior grades were not like they were supposed to be. Due to many reasons, I just couldn’t deal with any more highschool. It was equal parts three things. Post election nihilism. The grading months long conclusion to a five year crush. The entrenchment of the most toxic relationship I’ve ever had, me writing for hours trying to convince a “friend” to not give up pursuing my crush. Devoting several evenings to proving to him that she liked him back. And rending myself apart each night remembering I’m not over her. And helping him snag her wont prove otherwise. I hate him and her and me more.
My personal life in turmoil and my hope in mankind crumbled, studying for biology just lost it’s zest. And so I was able to get this downward spiral rolling. My parents and teachers had talks with me about how concerned they were and how I needed to just pep up and finish on a high note. Stir in my disappointment in myself for letting them all down and we have a stew brewing. In the French highlands where the dish originated, it’s called a total collapse of self esteem and suffocating feelings of hopelessness.
I was drawing chalk in the sidewalk when that LA school changed its mind and walked away. Sometimes I think I’m still there, drawing faces and monsters and jokes in front of my house. I’m still going to Occidental. I’m still sleeping in my bed and watching TV with Joe and eating with Mom and Dad. Everything is likes it’s always been. It’s all right. But that’s not how it’s gone down and that’s not what I’d deserve.
The truth broke through. I would be paying the price for failing just months before the finish line. None of the quality colleges that accepted me would ultimately take me with my sunken grades. My only remaining options were community college or exile into the wastes. And I thought that sounded better than living with my parents for two more years. So after four years of jumping through hoops. Trudging expectations along, through three years of speech and debate and three years of anxiously painfully procrastinating until the last minute then wringing out something good enough for roughly straight A’s. It was all pointless. Because I couldn’t keep it all duct tape patched for four final months.
And so I committed to ASU. To being stranded in a burning city devoid of culture or lawns. A metropolis defined by its gross suburbanism and rejection of anything transcendent or sublime. For instead the city bears strip malls and plastic grass. And a college populated primarily by the most Dead. Self indulgent. Diffident. Smattering of children I could imagine. Football and uniformity. Xbox and beer. That’s the culture, the gods they praise. Draining yourself now. Wasting your life because there can be no life worth relishing. The sundevils and the Phoenicians don’t believe in rigor or refining your self. They can’t conceive of tending your own garden because their saplings are vaporised by the rising sun. Ashes to ashes. The land of the Phoenix bears a person constantly living an insecure fearful present. For they know any attempt to build and pursue something greater than their self will only be destroyed by the Phoenix. In mandating the incorporation of life and death, the people only remember their scars from death. What they don’t see is the grace of it all. In eternal shifting between life and death, you’re also given birth and rebirth. Feedback and refinement.
Instead the Phoenicians live as slaves to the phoenix. Savoring their slogging mediocrity. On my flight back from my first visit to ASU, I laughed my disgust away.
Thank God I’ll never have to see that filth again
But I just committed to four year’s banishment to that hell. And I think, Raph, you already see the irony right? I spat on the Phoenicians because they lived without purpose. Had no vigor or any achievements of value behind them. They existed without a past or future, and resigned to burning away the present.
Raph, I’m banished there because I committed the same crime. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been too anxious and insecure to make a play at greatness, to try and achieve something I actually WAnted. Settling for a mediocre life playing video games and browsing Reddit, opting not to develop true lasting skills or character. Keeping my friends and family at a distance.
In forcing me to confront six million people infected with my same vice, many living into old age without adjustment, the fates want me to finally choose.
The human brain stops developing at age 21. Any major changes to principles, discipline, or creative or intellectual capacity MUST be cemented before you cross the bound. I’ll graduate from ASU at 22. So I’ve been given three years in Phoenix to set my life on the course it’ll travel til I die. I can damn myself to cowering squalor like the Phoenicians and my past self OR I can choose to tame the phoenix. Take to the bird’s back and fly far overhead and beyond.
But I don’t know, man. That’s a lot of responsibility to suddenly take on. I can’t help but feel unprepared.
Hmm well you’re pretty centered, responsible, Raph. You’ve worked a job through high school, have a good girlfriend and straight A’s. You have any advice on how I can start on my own upwards spiral?”
I refocus my eyes and turn to Raph. He takes out his earphones.
(I’ll write in the part about Joe the Aussie introducing me to cool Phoenicians tomorrow, pinky promise. nvm i’ll make that it’s own post.)