The Weapon of Young Gods #8: Your Time Is Not Your Own

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Many years ago, when my parents were still married, I asked them to put a lock on my door. Not to keep them out- I emphasized that they could each have a key if they wanted- but to keep my little sister and her kleptomaniacal tendencies away from my video games, CDs, and other then-valuable things I called my own. My mom only laughed, and my dad flat-out refused. “Why should I need a key to get into a room in my own house, son?” I hear the exact notes of their denials rattle around my skull when Hannah barges in to rip me from my subconscious.

Previous Episode

“Derek.”

I don’t budge. I don’t want to see how much the sun has moved into the afternoon, how much of another unproductive, unemployed summer day that I’ve wasted.

“Derek, wake up.”

“Mmmpf.”

“Derek, come on. Mom told me to.”

“No.”

“Whatever.” She stomps away, and I hear her yelling down the stairs.

“Moooommmm, he won’t get up!”

Blissful silence for about thirty seconds, then I feel, rather than hear, my mother’s footsteps clunk up the stairs along with Hannah’s. The door opens again.

“David Eric Haynes,” says Mom, in a ‘don’t-pull-this-shit’ voice, “it’s almost three in the afternoon, honey. Please get up. Remember that you told Grandpa you’d do the gardening chores for him while he’s away.”

Fuck. “I forgot,” I say, rolling over to face them. Mom is dressed for errands, and Hannah has her hula stuff in hand.

“Well, aren’t you lucky that your sister reminded you?”

“Sure,” I say, and stagger out of bed. Hannah beams, her freckly, sixteen-year-old face radiating smug revenge. “So where are you both off to?”

“Today’s Wednesday, Derek. I have to take Hannah to hula and then make it to my appointment with Dr. Reuss.”

“Oh. Right.” My sister’s bi-weekly celebration of our (but mostly her) Hapa-ness, and my mom’s bi-weekly head-shrinking. I wave them off with a vague promise to make it to Grandpa’s and back before dinnertime, and once I hear the front door close I lay back on the floor and try to get it together. I have good motivation to swing either way at this point, but I know that sooner or later I’ll have to give in and just deal with it.

I get up, slouch to the bathroom, and sit down. “Get used to it, dude,” I tell myself. “Your time is not your own, starting next Monday.” I feel like a dork giving myself pep talks, but if it weren’t for silly shit like that, I would have never finished my first year of college. I was able to avoid academic oblivion after that disaster with Lisa in Chico, but only just. I missed a drop deadline the Friday I left to see her, and so I was stuck in a class that was, at that point, mathematically impossible for me to pass. That F nearly sank me, but without soccer, I had plenty of extra time for studying. Without soccer, however, I had no scholarship, but that wouldn’t be a problem now; I became intimately familiar with every inch of the prison-like Student Services building, especially on the days where I filled out umpteen hundred financial aid forms, and ended up with a few loans for next year.

I also got hired at the campus bookstore to do pre-summer rush work in Receiving, which was nice, and surprisingly manual-labor-intensive, but impermanent, since I couldn’t move into an I.V. apartment yet. Colin and Ben had hit the ground running, though, and they promised that I was welcome to share anything they could finagle in terms of a crash pad. Meanwhile, I was back home in OC, and taking advantage of every opportunity to stay out and sleep late before starting work at the local community college bookstore next week. I was two thousand bucks away from getting a used car, and I wanted it before classes started in the fall. Doing dumb grunt work for my grand-dad was great in high school- it paid for lots of lame shit like tuxes for Prom- but now, in the face of Real, Gainful Employment, it was sort of a nuisance. ‘What the hell, though?’ I think as I step out of the shower. It’ll be nice and quiet up at the old place, with no one there to bother me except for Grandma’s ghost, and she always liked me anyway.

I’m hanging the towel when my phone rings. I catch a glimpse of a black-haired athlete wearing his boxers in the mirror as I go to take the call.

“Derek?” It’s Lisa. She sounds just the same- nervous, secretive, brittle.

“Hi.” I wait for it. Something is coming that I probably don’t want to hear.

“Hey, um…” Her voice wavers. “Hey. Can I come over? Can we, um, talk or something?”

“Come over? Are you, uh, home for the summer too?”

“Yeah. Listen, can we just…can we talk face to face?”

“I can’t,” Instinct is screaming ‘run, run now, you bastard!’ “I mean,” I pull up, “I can’t ’til later, anyway. I have some work to do today, okay? How about, um, tonight? Or maybe tomorrow?”

“Oh fuck, Derek.” Her voice breaks, but she sounds a step or two away from her receiver.

“Lisa?” I say her name once more, but then the line clicks dead. Somewhere a thought process is ready for liftoff, but I don’t let it. Don’t get involved. Do not. I hurry to get dressed and get out of the house in case she calls again, and am glad I’ll be going in the opposite direction of her house today. I hustle down to the garage and snag a book at random from a donation pile by the door, and pocket it before reaching up to take my bike off its hooks. I hit the button on the wall and the garage door creaks open.

When I wheel the bike out on the driveway I see Reed and his girlfriend walking by. I come out too fast and close the door too loudly to avoid detection, and sure enough Reed checks his stride to say hi. He’s carrying graduation robes over his arm, and is actually wearing a dress shirt and tie. The girl, whom I’ve never met, is done up in a summer sun-dress, which accentuates her petite, Amazonian form to a distracting degree.

“Haynes!” Roy’s face lights up. He always was an excitable dude. “Hey man, how goes it?” I cringe on the inside but slap him some skin anyway. The girl doesn’t seem too keen on stopping, but she waits for him. “Can’t complain,” I say. I try to look Otherwise Occupied, and straddle the bike. “You?”

He holds up his cap and gown. “Walkin’ today!” he says happily. “Did I tell you? Got into UCSB too. I’ll be up there harassing you in no time.” I smile in spite of myself. The guy’s general enthusiasm is sort of contagious.

“Sweet. Congratulations, man.” Then something pops into my head. “Hey, um, is your stepdad gonna be there?”

“I think so.” Roy furrows his brow. “Why?”

“Oh,” I say, only half-surprised. “Um, well, I think my mom has a session with him later today.”

He relaxes. “Eh, that’s later. Andrew said he’d be able to make it. I left him and R.J. and Robin at home, but they’ll be there. It’s only, like, a five minute walk.”

“Not anymore,” says the girl. “We’re still running late, Roy.”

He starts, “Yeah, yeah, sure,” then stops. “Oh, dude, I’m sorry-” he grabs me as I’m about to take off- “I forgot to introduce you. This is my girlfriend Nadia.”

She smiles vaguely and says “Hi,” but gives a strong handshake before taking a few steps and dragging Reed with her. “Come on, come on, you’ll be late for your own commencement, Roy.”

They wander off toward the school, two streets away. I can actually see the stadium pressbox, high up on its hill, from where I stand on Santiago Street. I shrug and start off the other way, up Elisa (Oh Jesus, even the fucking streets are named after her) to avoid passing the happy couple on the way out of the neighborhood. As I pedal up the slight incline, I try not to let Roy’s big day get to me, but it does, and I flash back to my own graduation last year, in all its bizarre, wretched glory. The two feuding sides of my family actually sat on opposite sides of the stadium to cheer me on, and it was one of the many long days of my life that year.

I power past the line of cars going the other way on Acapulco, toward the high school parking lot, and I feel a little better after I get past Golden Lantern and down Stonehill. Here above the other, higher side of the stadium, I don’t have to see the crowds assembling to send another class of hubris-addled kids off into the wide world, to get pissed on and make dumb mistakes and rub shoulders with disease and despair.

13 comments

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    • dhaynes on February 13, 2008 at 1:48 am
      Author

    I’m not running away this time. I may check in and out, but you’ll never know when.

    FYI Roy has a big one coming tomorrow. Or so he threatens.

  1. little does he know that in a year he to will be a world weary college dude with a tattered life and a wise friend who can vainly try to tell him what fuck ups to avoid.

    But can our hero truly resist Lisa? Will the gardening chores get done?

    Smooth. Liked it. Especially the struggle to get outta bed.

    • pfiore8 on February 13, 2008 at 3:10 am

    Roy? or dhaynes?

    it was Roy who first drew us in. i’m torn.

    great!

    btw… in April, Roy or dhaynes or keirdubois (one of them) will do a writing in the raw and fill in the whole back story.

    i’ll let you know the date as soon as one of them commits

  2. Big D gets the FP again, and all I got was drunk.

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