It’s a Thursday. A holiday that celebrates pranks and comic mischief. I don’t have anything elaborate planned. I’m probably looking forward to the weekend so I can hang out my best friend. I’m also preparing for the school play, Dracula, and I play Hennessey. My character is described as earnest, trim, hardworking, and pleasant. I have the first line.
Miss Seward! What is it?
I am a senior in high school – a private, all-male, military, college-prepatory, and religious – institution. I am probably re-reading Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. I am no longer listening to Ten, the debut album of Pearl Jam, every night when I can’t sleep. I have switched to a German darkwave group named Diary of Dreams that I found by accident because I was looking up the term Nigredo, which is an album of theirs.
Considering alchemy, Nigredo is the Blackness, and is often considered the initial movement toward the philosopher’s stone.
My birthday is in eleven days and I don’t want any gifts. Just presence.
I am preparing myself mentally for graduation, and I am also battling with myself over a decision I made a couple days prior. I haven’t heard back from my top choice and rather than risk potential rejection, I reject them, and resign myself to my second choice. The second choice is just that- my second choice. Still, I think my father secretly wishes I’d go there because, even though I’m still a couple hours from home, I’ll be only 314 miles away.
Not 1,184 miles away.
I try to calculate those miles in emotional distance.
That becomes what I concern myself with in math class.
I also recognize I would be 1,052 miles away from my best friend.
I try not to think about that. But, you know what happens when you try to avoid something?
It surfaces anyway. I learned that from grief.
I am seeing a therapist who is telling me that I’m one of the strongest people he’s ever met.
I am resisting the urge to call bullshit.
A couple months before he gifts me a movie— a coming-of-age story of an artist struggling in a chaotic household.
He says I see parallels. I hope this helps.
Parallels. Another thing that will probably keep me up at night. And it’s not even math-related. But I know, and you should know, sleep is not my friend. Hasn’t been for some time.
The movie tracks a summer that changed a young artist and his family. The father figure, played by Ray Liotta, is concerned his son doesn’t like girls. Believes this artist business is a fad, a phase. The mother figure, played by Diana Scarwid, is aloof, but (I believe) has good intentions. Their son, played by Trevor Morgan, the kid from Jurassic Park III, reminds me of myself. He’s always afraid he’s bothering someone else. Often apologizing for his existence. The mentor in the film, a Russian painter named Serov, played by Armin Mueller-Stahl, often calls him a little shit. Usually lovingly.
The movie is about finding (and holding onto) the beauty in this life, despite the presence of ugliness. When I watched it for the first time, I cry like a baby. And I am okay with that. At least trying to be. Because I am trying to embrace my emotions. But I feel our relationship is like a child chasing their shadow. I’m always a step behind.
The movie is Local Color, directed by George Gallo, released in 2006.
My father wants me to start applying for jobs. I tell him I have enough on my plate. It becomes another fight. I know he means well. But I graduate in six weeks. Can’t I just try and enjoy the moment? I heard a teacher say these are the best days of your life.
I resist the urge to say out loud If that’s the case, what a lousy life!
I wonder if peace is an option.
Stephen Furlong is a poet who currently serves as an adjunct at MCC-Longview. He is the author of the chapboook What Loss Taught Me (Nostrovia! Press, 2018). His poems have appeared or will be forthcoming in Louisiana Literature, Pine Hills Review, and Flypaper Lit. Additionally, he serves as a staff reviewer for Five:2:One, specifically for their subset Litstyle. He urges you to contribute to RAINN. Visit www.rainn.org.