Free Breakfast: Part Five
“Know what band’s really underrated?”
Carly had her feet up on the dashboard and a Coke in her hand. She was wearing a dress with flowers on it. It did feel like something out of the fifties, with the sun reflecting off the glass until I couldn’t see her, but only this swirl of colour. She really looked great. The radio was playing a recent song so I turned it off in hopes of preserving the old time ambiance. I love little things in life like that. Well, I guess they’re little. But moments where if just a few things are adjusted or if there’s just enough of one thing, then the moment can feel like a whole other time. Not necessarily 60 years ago, maybe a week or a year or yesterday. Or maybe somewhere that isn’t obvious, you’ve never been there before but you can enjoy it while it lasts. Those moments can be frozen, and like cryonics they can last a long time like that, ready for you to jump in whenever. Sometimes it takes something small to bring you there, a song or a smell or a taste. But other times it takes more effort. You talk for hours and then experience the same feelings you once had.
“The Barenaked Ladies.”
My car was parked on top of a hill. We were away from the city and from there the view wasn’t of buildings and tiny cars, but of a farm. In fact we were turned in the complete opposite direction of the town. From this high up I could see a farmer chasing to his pigs on one end of the field, and on the other, his wife setting out a pie to cool on the window sill. To even more emulate the fifties theme I imagined their teenage daughter sneaking out of the house to smoke cigarettes and listen to rock music. It felt very much like a movie scene. Actually, life had been feeling quite a bit like a movie script translated through a thesaurus – all the same themes and ideas I was used to watching, just the words changed.
“You can’t not appreciate songs like ‘Call and Answer,’” Carly continued. The air hung in stillness for a second and then the sound of “One Week” came through my car’s speakers. We both knew it was one of those moments.
It had been about four months since Melissa’s suicide. Needless to say, life seemed almost to return to normal. Or at least a slightly similar version of the past. There was the funeral, a school assembly. She even got a full two-page spread in the yearbook. This was the first suicide my small high school had had in thirty years. It’s almost no wonder the effect (if not only momentary) it had on everyone. There’s a photo collage of Melissa in the glass case kept for sport trophies, and there’s a cross with flowers in the sporting field. There’s a big mourning –athletics crossover. I know that if there were more people in our school these things probably wouldn’t happen. I know I heard someone say that at the bigger school on the east side of town that they have two, three suicides a year. I can’t really imagine it.
On the day of the funeral it wasn’t raining or anything, like I would suspect it to be. On the way to school I even saw a moving truck passing by, and I realized that to anyone who didn’t know Melissa, this was just another day, where they would go to work or walk their dog or whatever. Some people might actually have a big moment and move into another home. But none of them would be thinking about her. And at that moment I felt kind of small. It was held during school hours on a Wednesday and you were only allowed to skip class and attend if you knew Melissa personally. Turns out literally the whole school did, because it was only me and two other people who showed up for my Socials class after lunch. And there I sat, learning about Canadian history while people mourned two blocks over at the Catholic church. When school finally let out and I walked through the double doors, I could see masses of kids in black clothing walking towards me. Each of them would have only had to carry a scythe to give the complete appearance of the Grim Reaper. I imagined it would have been pretty weird to have been driving by and seen such a large of package of Goth. Everyone either had their heads hung in shame or were quietly murmuring with the people next to them. It looked like they had gone trick-or-treating on Halloween but every house had run out of candy.
A bunch of my friends had gone. I asked them what it was like.
“Sad,” they said.
Me and Carly had been dating since about a week after we went swimming in the hotel pool. And just like Melissa (or maybe not very much like her at all) there was picture of us in the yearbook to cement our relationship in time and ink forever. And when I say “picture of us”, I’m not trying to insinuate that there was lots of pictures of me separate from Carly. In fact, that’s the only photo of me in the yearbook total. It was taken one morning in the library while we were studying for a math test. It was also about five minutes away from us taking a math test, so we were not looking our best. But there we are, on page 201 under the headline Student Life, and anyone in the future can look at our messy hair and stressed faces and make assumptions about who we were.
Math was the only class me and Carly had together the year before, and since it was summer we worried about whether we would share any in our grade 12 year. Mostly because we could. We didn’t have lives that need us worrying about more. And I’m not saying this to make us sound spoiled or over privileged, it’s just that when you’re teenagers living in a first-world country during summer break a lot of the problems you have aren’t really problems at all, just inconveniences relative to how much fun you’re having. So as we drove back through the country singing “One Week,” any grand scale worries were not on our minds. Carly had to go to work in an hour and since it was my day off, I was going to go home and was thinking of taking a nap. Kevin had called me a few times, but I was tired after spending the day with Carly.
Carly worked at the Save on Foods attached to the mall by Sunny Days. Her whole life was in this nice little square, besides school which is maybe a ten-minute drive from her place. I had gotten a job too, at a sunglass stand in the other, bigger mall on the opposite end of town. As we pulled up to the curb, I envisioned the mall’s fountain just opposite the food court. For whatever reason I still pictured the two kids there, throwing their coins, even though I’ve been to the mall a few times since. I feel like that morning will forever be etched in my brain, and not like a picture in a yearbook, but a different sort of moment then I mentioned earlier. It’s a weird sort of haunting – there are times where I’ve literally felt like I was being followed by her ghost or something. It’s something that definitely scares me.
When I was younger I used to collect a lot of Star Wars memorabilia, like action figures and stuff, mostly around the time of The Phantom Menace. It’s a bit embarrassing now, mostly because I was actually a fan of Jar Jar Binks. I would get my dad to recite dialogue from the movie in that stupid voice. But I was really into it. There was a time when I remember thinking if I could just obtain everything Star Wars, every toy and poster and sticker book, then I would be fully, completely happy. There would be nothing more I would need.
But there’s so much Star Wars stuff out there. There have been six movies (three worth mentioning). There’s no way I was going to be able to collect all of it at that age, or at all, for that matter. And I guess it’s an important moral or whatever for life, you can’t rely on things, but you also can’t be the best or have it all. And I learned that pretty early on in life when I counted up my Star Wars collection and realized that I had six action figures and a behind the scenes book. Not exactly the world record. And I feel pretty dumb for mentioning this moral, but I guess it’s the truth. The dumb truth.
About ten minutes after dropping Carly off, I stood in my bedroom with my Star Wars things in my closet. They were placed in Tupperware containers with wax paper protecting them. I looked at the walls of my room and decided I needed a change. I had posters of movies I no longer watched, bands I no longer listened to. My room was like a girl’s or something, little photos and art pieces everywhere. A man’s room should be simple. I’m not sure if I heard that or decided it for myself. I was envisioning white walls with big windows, maybe a black-and-white photo of a big city. In that moment I began to take down the things that littered my walls. They were this grayish colour, the walls I mean, not the posters and drawings that fell to the floor. After there was a sizeable pile I took a look around the room. The blue fun tack looked like gum covering the gray. It looked like I chewed a lot of it in my bed, and was too lazy to get up when I was finished. A pretty weird look for sure, but I kind of liked it.
I decided to keep the gum looking tack up, and after one last survey of the room, I made my way upstairs to grab the vacuum. As I came up I could hear the sound of the TV. A loud cheer erupted from the living room and I knew my dad’s team had scored a goal. The second to last stair in the case was a bit hollow and I felt it give a creak. I noticed my dad hadn’t emptied the dishwasher; the green light still was on from when I had left the house that morning. I passed by my dad as I grabbed the cord and head. On my way back I thought about mentioning the dishwasher, but my dad seemed pretty focused on the game. The stair made the same sound on the way down. My phone started to vibrate in my pocket, but I knew it was just Kevin. I began picking up clothes and CDs that had been left sprawled on my bedroom floor. As I put my hand underneath my bed I felt a piece of paper. It was Melissa’s suicide note.
Artwork by Jeff Ellom Check out his flickr.
Free Breakfast by Nathan Hare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.