Nothings fair, in Fairbanks pt.1.
“What if.. what if I were the cause..” tassels of violet, and red hung over a poster. Plastered all over the poster to be seen was the local, suicide hot-line, number. Clay thought of the “hot-line” part of it.
‘is it really so frequent? Do the lines start to ignite a chemical reaction?’
“clay!!. . I really need you to listen!”
In Fairbanks, Alaska. Schools were often rifled with suicide. Through almost all of Alaska, obviously. It does have the highest rate for it in the country. From what a gallup poll will show, after all these site statistic surveyors get together and poke at the populous for numbers.
‘So why doesn’t it change? Why even live here?’
“earth.to.clay. . Hello??”
Clay snapped back in the calamity unfolding. All day long he’d hear a majority of his fellow students at Mayweather highschool, how “micheal was my friend, I’m going to miss him” or “micheal was never like that, he was like this” when in actuality micheal never knew any of these kids. It made clay bitter, and really just sickened by the egotism. That is, some of the worst egotism. Standing on top of others graves for attention, especially those deceased you never even talked to.
Though his friend cat was genuinely, an emotional wreckage. She spoke a little at his funeral. Which clay always thought took alot of guts to do, at funerals.
“cat.. I hardly think there’s much any of us could of done. I doubt your relationship ended him, because it ended. It just sucks around here.. everyone’s either too cold, drunk or dizzy within their own isolation to care.”
Clay didn’t know why he said this, there was more to it then that. Micheal had a life before Alaska.
“yeah clay, it’s just that open and shut. NO, Micheal was depressed here, in our shitty frozen corner of the globe, then i ignored him. Then he fell off from everyone, and now this happened-” cat punched the posters that they’ve seen at least once every year since they were freshmen.
The sobbering face of clays friend made him feel uneasy. He had known micheal since last semester when his family re-rooted him, for his father’s new fishing venture. While he was only there for a short time, and only talked with a few select kids; clay had been one of them.
Clay could never gather up too much of micheals’ obscured background before, Fairbanks. He knew his family came from Scranton, Pennsylvania, where his dad made boats, and his mom was a telemarketer. All micheal ever said he did there was “expand his own eccentric taste for art.” Micheal would often draw these skeletons, that were irregularly misshapen. But it seemed to clay that his dynamic in the family worked fine enough, at least when he hung out at their new house in Fairbanks. Clay still suspected however, there was more baggage then let on by his family. Especially, considering it now.
“well you know what cat, after school we should go see him again. I know it won’t help with your remorse, but it could still be a good thing for us to do.”
Cat sighed out of her emotion, there were only five minutes left to shuffle into the classrooms.
“yeah.. I suppose clay.”
“come on let’s go, maybe a crappy lecture about transcendentalist will cheer us up more.”
As they started to walk to class, clay noticed the few scrapes cat had on her ankles. The same ones clay had, and micheal had. And only those who ever even went to his house would have. His little puggle, Sebastian. He always had sharp nails and a strong compassion for hypertivity.
When they reached their classroom, the kids inside were dull. Nothing was ever really too excitable for the first hour of the day, but this was worse then normal.
The extra display of posters around the school were in effect, only partially because of micheal.
Because it happened to be that Mayweathers very own superintendent of the district, was going through a tough loss of his own around the same time.
It was Mr.bradshire, who had a son, who like a lot of other Alaskans’ decided to take a way out.
What Mr.bradshire’ did after this was reinforce the naturally reoccurring pattern of propagating prevention posters, and gave students loads of time to talk with somebody when feeling lonely,
but also brought more discussion of the issue into classrooms. What clay thought was that Mr.bradshire murdered his whole family, and was a deranged lunatic that deflected responsibility.
His son never liked it in Fairbanks, Alaska. The whole time, he insisted to all his teachers that they could effectively, just “bite him.” His name was Terry. Terry often backmouthed teachers, got in fist fights, and mounted some assaults on clay.
Terry lived in fairbanks for seven years. Clay thought that to be an extraordinary amount of time to let their child fall apart like terry did. So when clay looked at Mr.bradshire he seen a weak man, who still was not even confronting his own dissonance, or apathy.
‘he bought more things for his house, and things for terry, then he ever even spoke to him. At least micheals parents would talk, and be curious enough to see.. see what?
what didn’t they see?’
Maybe the Bradshire conversation setup forced on the teachers would shed light. Or maybe it will miss the point completely, what it wont do is bring micheal back. Clay just thought that these discussions never carried any real weight or value. They just allotted kids without enough focus on themselves, to beg for that even easier with their ideas on a kid they never knew, or even wanted to know. Many teens in fairbanks sometimes could get lonely, but never admitted it. Or at least they could suffer in lonely states, with the indulgence of some company. Usually a dog or two, a close friend or someone over the Internet could perform the evocial ‘facetime’.
As everyone sat down, and some were still arriving; The teacher stood patiently. ‘Mr.bradshire needs to attend these conversations, then he’ll see the turmoil of it all.’
The teacher, Mr.Eb always felt that these decisions that trickled down to him were in microscope mode.
Zooming in on one area of a problem and not showing his students all the areas.
“ok class. I see some of you still settling in, I just want to get us through our first part here.”
As Mr.Eb warmed them up with his graceful teaching tone, he wrote on his whiteboard the phrase,
“suicide and what to identify”
“so as you settle in, if any one wants to comment on this continuing off from yesterday, your more then welcome.”
Mr.Eb sidelined any direction he personally would take these conversations yesterday. Only because Mr.bradshire deemed his own scripted questions as the proper guidelines for discussion.
As mr.eb surveyed his classroom only three hands went up. One from a taller, spacious, hippy kind of a teen. One more from a kid that usually was asleep when class started (however that was not the same case today, mr.eb couldn’t guess why). And lastly a hand from a soft spoken girl that never articulated much at all.
Mr.Eb called on the taller kid first, usually working the class by the ‘first hands up’ method.
“Ok dean. Go ahead and tell us what you think helps to identify suicide before it happens.”
The floor was dean’s for a moment, he spoke vaguely about keeping in touch with people more. With other alternatives he worked out too such as “just going outside more, to see whose sad, and from there you’ll be able to help whose struggling.”
Clay looked at cat after drifting away from dean’s dilogue with Mr.Eb.
He always admired her glow, and even though he never told micheal; Clay wished she had dated him instead. Now as he looked at her he felt the angst and the burden of wanting an impossible change to occur.
To go back, and fix it somehow.
“Ok. Good, Dean I like your idea of strengthening our community.”
The next kid waiting to be called on still had his hand up, consistently for a whole three minutes. He seemed antsy.
“yes, Derek go ahead” Mr.Eb raised one of his brows, ‘this kid never talks, this should be good.’
“oh.. i.. just.. need to go to the restroom.”
Mr.Eb. just repeated himself and brushed off the interruption. He then turned his focus to one of the most shy, and reserved women in the school.
“ok, Karina let’s hear what you have to say”
Karina always wore these tight jeans that captured her hips curves perfectly. She would style herself in an array of battered sweaters with holes, and boots that were black with white soles.
She was the only african female that attended fairbanks, and not many black males did either.
Clay always had a crush on her, ever since middle school. Really both karina and cat always fluttered his heart; When he would get to speak to them. It just ended up being cat around him more then karina.
Though clay tried to reach out to karina more recently, she remained distant. This was actually the first thing clay, or the classroom had heard from her in a long while.
Mr.Eb waited a few moments, for more then finally begged for it.
“elaborate” mr.eb pushed his kids to explain away any vagueness.
Which for some kids like dean or derek, can be like chiseling away at a city block of ice.
“well.. i mean.. like.. we see each other all the time. And we can count on our words, as being enough. That’s fine. But I think our eyes show more then words. They let you in- a world that only that person can know. And no one who is ready to go do something like kill themselves, will ever do that.”
Mr.eb. thought about this as being close to something he could of gotten out of conversations steered more his way. It floured him with interest in this soft spoken girl.
“so your saying you’d never get to look in their eyes?” mr.eb handed her a question, he knew she would dismantle.
“no I’m saying that once someone plans on dying, it doesn’t matter if you look in their eyes, they won’t let you in. But if you catch their eyes when they think no one’s looking, you’d still see their world.”
Mr.eb sat down after all this and raised both hands behind his head. Rocking slowly back and forth for a minute he looked around his classroom. He couldn’t spot anyone’s world.
“I like that karina, maybe we should all be more vigilant about that kind of thing. We often forget that just because someone says their ‘fine’ or puts up a good front, doesn’t mean it’s true. And it’s only when they let that guard down you’d see the truth. Very nice, I think now we can dive in to today’s lec-”
Clay always respected mr.eb but not anymore, not after today. Mr.eb failed them, because he missed karinas world, missed cats world, missed clays world, but most importantly missed micheals world. And what karina was really saying was that because of the way our world is, we never get to know anyone’s world till it spills outward in sadness. Or boils outward from anger, or leaps outward like happiness. It’ always remains hidden, people suffer from it all the time. The tensile emotions, that get placated by nothing but inner world demons. The ones that can ignite an iris, with a golden edge.
‘Yet, suicide is only looked at in terms of the ‘whys’, and ‘hows’, not ever the ‘what’s’.
Clay thought of it like a missing puzzle piece.
The inner world. What does a person contemplating suicide decorate their inner world with? Is it just blank in there around that point, or a suffocation of the many things that keep getting stored in there? Demons dancing around them with taunts and laughter”
The inner world of clay had about fifty different themes at any given moment. The ideas raced like horses, being bet on by the synaptic spectors’ that hung around in his world.
After class, clay didn’t see cat. Then he made it all the way to lunch
and still no cat.
He started wondering if she faked a sickness or something like they would both do sometimes.
As clay looked around his cafeteria, too many kids were laughing, not chewing food properly and creating that classic noisy static that comes with having too many conversations going at once.
“hmph.” Clay scoffed and dumped the rest of his lunch in the garbage. He then scorn-fully, decided to just walk out of school. Clays dad was out on the sea for weeks at a time, so he found it easy to hide any troubles from school.
As he walked toward the street after the parking lot, he reached a tree that had,
Carved into the side of it. Clay remembered being there, and telling his friends how cliche the ritual of ‘intial carving’ was becoming.
Now he just wished he’d see micheal here to agree finally.
Not far across the schools southern street there was a small secluded park of sorts. Really just a little opening the backwoods had, that had an attractive scenery. In the middle there was a huge boulder that naturally accommodated itself for sitting.
Sure enough once clay made it there he seen cat.
“kinda figured. Sick?”
Cat had a smoke, and looked funny with it. Only micheal and clay ever shared smokes, in their secret spot. And it use to be just clay (ever since middle school).
She passed him the smoke as he sat down,
“yeah.. sick. You too, huh?.”
Clay inhaled his smoke, the brand was his anyway. Paul mall, full flavored and red. He exhaled and looked at cat.
“Nope.. I’m just M.I.A.”
She chuckled a little but then got a little worried,
“clay you shouldn’t keep pissing him off.”
Clay amused himself for second, puffing out rings of smoke. He let the moment pass before he finally changed focus.
“cat you were still planning on going right?”
He passed the smoke back to her,
As cat inhaled the smoke was in its last half-life,
She let her words out of smoke and sadness.
“I think I’ve seen it enough clay. You’ve gone there with me three times already. And im pretty sure his parents are almost ready to move back home now..”
Cat looked at snow that piled in patterns, scattered out showing patches of greenery.
“..its just weird clay. These other sides of people that we don’t get to know. I wish everyone could just get a fresh new mask, one invisible and clear enough to show their truth without any fear.”
Clay thought along the same lines to himself, except he wished that mask didn’t have to exist in the first place. Reputations, egos, the classic libido and it’s competitive counter parts, they all would remain indiffenitely.
“cat he did let us in his world. He let you in more then me, and I don’t know why he did, what he did. All I know is it was something that’s affected him since before we knew him.
Unfortunately personal world’s can be big places to get lost, especially if the host of the world, is a slow tour guide.”
Cat stood up, and so did clay. Next to each other clay stood at six-foot even. Cat, five foot’ ten inches. Micheal had been taller himself, roughly six and half feet. He stood out that way, in his creative art, his words, and his demeanor. Clay actually admired him more than anyone he’d ever met at fairbanks.
A few moments of silence passed, both cat and clay were good at those. Absorbing the silent quilts, sifting through the air, and finally rewrapping them for the momento, for some tangled sense of clarity.
“so what, should we do-” clay looked at his watch “-it’s only 9’ O-clock.”
“I guess we can go to my house, but let me go to Holiday, I want to buy some chips and pop.”
Clay hated going to the Holiday. A gas station chain, that taps, sings and jukes. All the bells and whistles of the new aged convenience store, where shopping met gas. And where necessity met novelty.
Cat heard all the arguments clay had against the store, she never cared neither did micheal. But ma and pop stores was a sensitive reality behind clays animosity. When his mom died at seven, his dad lost her inherited family shop, due to the trudging big boots of capatilism.
“look at this shit son, that Holiday must tap, dance and whistle for em’.”
Clays dad always could be outspoken. Even after tragedy, like loosing his wife to cancer. His dad never shut down on clay, but he never hid emotions from clay either. Quite frankly, his father Frank was often drunk. But the kind of drunk he is, is equal to a harmless sap of bemused intoxication.
When they made it to the convenience store clay realized that no one was there. It was weird, just the loathly cashier and some cheesy old classic by Fleetwood Mac.
“hello” Eric was a friendly enough cashier, but still did loathe his job. Clay, micheal and cat were the only ones around town that liked him. Most of everyone else liked the other few more, simply because Erics’ lazy eye.
“hey Eric, what’s going on?” clay belted as he walked to the ‘coffee depot’. Eric often let coffee and pop go for free. If it was clay, micheal or cat.
“not much, just waiting for eternity to get over, how bout you two? How she doin?”
Clay answered while filling himself up a cup of strong coffee,
“were just going to hang out a little at her place. She’s been kind of bad, but his family ofcourse has been worse. I think their moving back soon.”
Clay and Eric spoke for a few minutes until cat came up.
Eric felt brushed off, but understood.
“hey cat, don’t worry about it. This cowboy, already paid for yours.” Eric sometimes wore a cowboy hat sarcastically around town. Micheal thought it was a riot.
“Eric your too sweet.. you should come out to clays boat next week.”
Eric looked at clay to confirm, it had only been three times he’s been invited. Each time has been quite a spectacle, with drinks galore’ and illegal substances.
Clay confirmed with a nod and winked on their way out,
“well see ya later, cowboy.”
Once outside cats house, clay lit another smoke. She had to go in first to make sure no one was home, then the coast was clear, and the smoke put out.
Clay always lavished in cats house. As did micheal, it had been the nicest amongst all three of their homes. With clays as the worst. Cats house was immaculate, pristine and glimmered. It had a cozy feel, and attractive furniture. A fire place, bizarro-patterns, and a mantle. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living rooms (clay insisted that one of them was a nook, but they used it as a living room), one kitchen and even plenty of backyard space.
“home sweet home” cat said as she kicked off her boots.
“I’ve always hated that phrase, but this palace really does suit that expression.” clay kicked off his boots and sat down at her kitchens island divider. The barstool he sat in was always to the right, micheals to the left and cats right in the middle. Otherwise it was usually her, her mom and her dad.
Since micheal was gone she decided to sit on the floor in her living room.
For awhile clay wrote on his notepad he carried everywhere, and cat listened to music. If Micheal were alive still, Clay at this point would be heading home, but in the past he’d always be over at Cats place.
He couldn’t help but feel guilty for being able to stay over once again. Like the old times. But as he looked at cat, he seen her eyes start to swell as she kept focus on the ceiling. No amount of her tense vision could show her micheals face. She was listening to a song her and micheal use to enjoy alot together.
White stripes, seven nation army. Clay despised the song, it couldnt be held up to his favorite jack white material. But for them it worked, it was the speed of their love, the fluid motion it had was natural for the both of them.
Clay walked up to her now and handed her a tissue. She took out her headphones and relieved her face of the sodium droplets.
“clay I think I should be alone now.”
Clay looked at his watch feeling kind of bummed.
“yeah that’s fine, really I had some projects left in my woodshed.”
Cat smiled at this, and it added a good feeling to the air.
“you still make those insane creaturines?”
Clay had devoted himself to a form of art which involved chiseling wood. He started when he was only ten years old, and got pretty creative. Fusing the terms creatures and figurines; He birthed his own brain child, creaturines. The term fit well for his aesthetics, and visual intensity for these things.
The main objective was to create oddly figured characters out of a medium which normally sees other, more common themes.
“yeah, it’s almost lost its appeal though. Really they kind of bum me out now. I never got micheal to see them. Who is probably one of the few souls that could appreciate one of them.”
Cat agreed, and after a little more pandering between them, clay departed.
As clay started walking on his own, he started hearing mr.ebs voice from earlier.
“I like that karina. . .someone says their fine, and puts up a good front. . . Doesnt make it true.”
It was eerie, how quickly mr.eb formed his synopsis. Though it was an easy statement to string together, it just felt odd is all. Clay knows he’s seen over twenty suicides since he’s been a teacher there. He has no family, that lives in Fairbanks. On vacation Mr.Eb has told clay in the past he goes to Michigan, a town called Warren. But he never said to visit family, just that he “never get tired of that old nostalgic home cooking”. Whatever that means, clay wasn’t sure. Maybe a mom, or grandma’s inventive concoction keeps his palate swirl locked. Always pulling him back.
Clay just hated his sanguine face, sometimes. It mocked sincerity, but maybe it also hid some embittered squabbling between the superintendent and himself. Clay didn’t care why mr.eb did it, and it was starting to feel harder to be invigorated in his classroom lately.
After hours of chiseling wood, then stoking a fireplace, and preparing a meal after some chores were completed; clay was a little beat.
“Beat” he echoed it out from his head and affirmed how weird of an expression it sounds like.
“living with days that beat our arses.” clay was his own muse once again, in silent moments of spontaneity.
“that’s the times.” he remarked as he laid back in a hammock, next to a big empty barrel. Thus characterized enough clays living quarters. The other few rooms were just as lifeless, no television or even radio. Just books, instruments, and pictures scattered all over the place. It was all his dad’s collection that he would tare through sometimes.
Clay looked at the time it was now,
Today was the last day for the sun rapids. It would now start to get dark at 6pm, and clay had to embark out for his favorite aspect of living in Alaska.
The northern lights.