I walked back into the cafeteria. Everyone was sitting at the round tables normally used for eating. There were hundreds of privileged students in the cafeteria. Emily saved me a seat beside her. I sat down. Heather and Aron were sitting next to her. I noticed that Heather had some kind of new, spikey hairstyle. Was she trying to be more New Wave now? Aron chewed on his nails. He looked like he was withdrawing from cocaine.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone.
Corey was still alive. That was good. But how was he? Where was he?
I leaned forward in my chair and stuck my head between my legs. I did this often in classes where I didn’t care anymore. Academic learning was not for me. I only did the school thing because adults told me I would be fucked without it.
I put my headphones on and pressed play. I didn’t mind that the music was in slow motion. I just wanted the outside world to go away.
I wrapped myself tightly in my trench coat. I looked down at my black Chinese flats and remembered the day Corey and I each bought a pair in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It was a victorious day. We convinced an older man to buy us a large bottle of cheap whiskey and we snuck into a strip club where we drank the whiskey. Some stripper stuck a cherry in her vagina and shot it into my face. I was repulsed but Corey laughed hard. We were free and seeing things adults would not let us see.
But now everything had changed. I wanted to be back in Emily’s room. Back in the pleasure of her mouth.
I wanted to be anywhere but waiting there.
And I don’t know how long I waited.
I felt a heavy hand on my back and looked up. It was Ed Sanders, the plump vice principle who was always giving me hell. He didn’t like Corey and I. We represented his lack of control. Things he didn’t want the kids to be. Ed told me to come with him. My first thought was fuck himbut without putting my Walkman away, I looked at Emily, picked up my backpack and followed Ed.
We walked into his office where there were two police officers waiting. Ed told me to sit in the chair by his desk, a chair I had sat in many times before. He sat down behind his desk and the zombie officers stood. I looked out the office window at the blue sky and the oak tree. It was pretty out there. There was a squirrel sitting on the branch, oblivious to the struggles of us idiots inside.
Ed told me that Corey was in the intensive care unit of John Muir Hospital. That this was very serious and that the latest reports confirmed that he was brain dead. Too much time had gone by without getting any oxygen to his brain.
An image came into my mind of Corey in a bed hooked up to various tubes. It was a surreal image, like something Dali would paint. I was overcome with a desire to set him free. To rescue my best friend.
“Is he going to die?” I asked. I knew what this sort of thing meant. Very few people’ in Corey’s situation would have a chance of survival. And if they did survive they would no longer resemble themselves. Fuck.
“We don’t know,” Ed said. “He is currently hooked up to life support. He could pull through.”
I don’t think so, I thought to myself.
All I could say was, “Ok.”
I lowered my head. I was experiencing my first real defeat by life. Thus far I had done pretty well but now life beat me. I had experienced other defeats in the past like people not liking me, getting suspended, getting beat up by my father, failing classes. But this was a real defeat because it could not be undone or reversed with good behavior.
“These officers want to ask you a few questions Alex, would you mind?” Ed asked me.
I hated hearing my name spoken aloud by adults. Why couldn’t I have been given a more interesting name? Alex seemed so basic. Everyone around me suffered from unoriginal names. Aron, Jason, Ben, David, Johnny, Kenny, Marty, Andrew, Joey, Jen, Emily, Dana, Karen, Jamie. Then I realized that all these parents lacked any originality within themselves. All of them conformists and they gave their children names that would also inflict a life of conformity upon them. This all sucked.
I didn’t answer Ed’s question because I knew I didn’t have a choice. An Asian police officer had a pad and a pen in his hand. He asked me how I knew Corey and I told him that we knew each other from school. He asked me how long I had known Corey and I said a year or so. The other police officer who was white asked me if I knew anything about Corey’s attempted suicide. Did he talk about it? Make plans for it? I told him no and that I had no idea what Corey was going to do even though this was not entirely true. I just wasn’t going to talk much to men who had sold their souls to the system.
Both zombie police officers looked at me with indignation. I could tell that none of these adults liked me. They didn’t like the long black trench coat that I wore. They didn’t like that I painted my nails black. They didn’t like that I wore black eye liner and had headphones around my neck. They didn’t like that I refused to conform.
“Had Corey said anything about wanting to kill himself before?” the Asian police officer asked me. “No,” I replied. I could have told them about Corey’s interest in nooses and his uncanny ability to hang himself and get out of the noose at the last minute. But I didn’t. I wasn’t going to do something I knew Corey wouldn’t want me to do. I could hear Corey whispering in me ear. “Don’t give these rat bastards what they want,” he said. And I didn’t. That is what friendship is.
After a few more questions the police officers told Ed that that was all they needed. The white police officer looked at me and informed me that Corey’s parents were on their way out from Dallas, Texas and that if I wanted to drive with them to the hospital I could go be with Corey. They had already notified my mother and she would meet me at the hospital. This seemed like a kind gesture from men I didn’t trust but there was nothing more that I wanted then to see Corey. I didn’t want to see my parents, but I had learned that my parents were a continual heavy door I had to walk through to get to where I wanted to be.
It was my second time in the back of a police car. The first time was when Aron and I got caught stealing cassettes from Tower Records. Corey was with us also but he managed to get away. The guy always seemed to be able to get away.
The two store security guards tackled Aron and I and we both tried to fight for our freedom. But they were bigger and stronger than us. When they pulled us back inside I saw the Bauhaus and Love and Rockets cassettes I had attempted to own, laying on the ground. I had a terrible feeling in my stomach. The kind of feeling you get when you know you are going to have to deal with things you don’t want to deal with.
Police officers came and took us to the local jail. When Aron and I were handcuffed in the back of the police car I couldn’t stop shaking my legs. I was afraid and thought that it was dumb to go through all this trouble for a few cassettes. I could have stolen money from my mom or saved my allowance. But I didn’t care. It was cool to steal.
We were finger printed and photographed and then kept in a holding cell until our rich and furious parents came to bail us out. By keeping us in a cell, the law was trying to teach Aron and I a lesson that would take decades for me to learn. It wouldn’t take Aron as long since he would overdose in a few more years.
Now I was in the back of a police car for not doing anything wrong. I was being escorted to the hospital where I would see Corey and get him the hell out of there. In a night or two we would go to the local New Wave club and pick up girls, smoke clove cigarettes and dance. At least that is what I wanted to imagine.
I kept my headphones on even though there was no music playing through them. I watched the rolling brown hills with cows on them go by. I watched the large estates and oak trees go by. People were out running and bicycling. I saw a couple walking and laughing. It was weird to me that something so bad could be happening in my life but life seemed to be going on as normal. The world wasn’t stopping and waiting. No one seemed to care. That was the first time I got the sense that the world didn’t revolve around me.