Chapter Nine

IX

Checkered Red, his bedroom on Lisgar

            What a ridiculous dream he had about being the first living thing to come out of the sea. Neither swimming nor walking. A flop, struggling to inch its way out of the ooze and onto dry land where it reaches with its tongue to trap insects and fungus on the floor. He’s never first for anything, why would he think he could be the first land creature?  It’s a strange hour of the morning and he’s abandoned sleep to read a novel about a boy made of seaweed.

He’s twenty years old and has only kissed two girls and he finds this humiliating and self-fulfilling. There’s a way he walks that doesn’t attract his classmates. Like many before him he entered the University to pursue an education and maybe become a lawyer but now he finds himself barely passing his courses and not being able to leave his rented bedroom for fear of the looks people give him.  He spends most of his time watching pirated movies and playing strategy games on his computer. It’s the libraries fault, he thinks, I wouldn’t have gotten sick if I hadn’t read those books.

He wants to be a writer and blames this on different books he’s found by an unofficial cult of bastard writers, vagabonds, ruffians with pens, literary miscreants, rascals, radicals, assassinated poets, and pornographic devils describing perverted sex acts on paper. He wants to be famous, of course, but in a different way. He wishes to be obscure, known by all underground literary reviewers. He day dreams of starting his own literary movement. To recruit a gang of poets to fight Nazis downtown and pull off a bank robbery. He makes a list of names to call his crew and for a while this is all he writes. He doesn’t even produce a bad poem or cliché short story. Just lists of names like The Vandals, The Visigoths, The Alans, The Bastarnians, The Metal Huns, The Legion of Gepids, The New Neurians, names more reminiscent of biker gangs than literary movements. It’s all made him reclusive; he’ll write down lists during lectures, covering his notepad with his body so nobody peaks over and reads his plans. He goes to his room right after class, sometimes coming out to eat but other times fasting and losing weight without realising it. He wants to feel normal like his peers but he’s scared to be outside. Not much writing gets done those days.

            It’s a friend, like always, that saved him from spiraling even lower. They knew each other years ago as kids until his friend disappeared to another school. He reappeared driving a motorcycle before anyone else had a driver’s license. They knew of each other, knew the other was still alive, and eventually began talking again, his friend taller and bolder than when they were younger. He brought stories about danger and excitement and real struggle. Stories that Checkered Red wanted to replicate on paper, ones he would rather live out than his own reality. 

The weeks pass and he doesn’t do school work and instead hides in his dorm room trying to write about cowboys and bank robberies but it’s all garbage. He doesn’t keep any of it except for a little red book that he will keep as a diary with sporadic entries written sloppily all over the pages, crossing margins and lines. Entries that track what he ate that day, how he felt in the morning and at night, how many cigarettes he’s had. The entries shift over time like a subway car switching rails, going into more monotonous detail about a day: 

today I read Agape, Agape by William Gaddis. I don’t get it. I feel weak. I drank coffee and ate beans with eggs for breakfast. I masturbated twice before noon and smoked a cigarette from the kitchen window. I spent the afternoon watching The Fresh Prince of Bel Air until the two-hour programming for that show stopped and switched over to those court t.v shows. I fell asleep after smoking some weed downstairs. It was hot, I got tired coming back up even though I took the elevator.

 To more abstract entries like:

            The street smells like anti-poetry. It comes out of the sewers. I feel like throwing up whenever I talk to her. 

Entries range from daily to once a month to two times a year. His friend get’s him a job so he quits school. He moves in with his aunt to save some rent. He keeps writing. He ends up with half sketches, some of them good, and ideas for novels. One about a man who sits through the whole book. Sits for breakfast, sits on the bus to the train station, sits while waiting for the train, he thanks heavens that he finds a seat on the crowded train, and when he reaches town to enjoy his day like he planned he gets tired and searches for benches to sit on throughout the city. He writes about a cowboy somewhere on the pampas, or the southwest, or somewhere on the prairies. He writes about a pilot that flies into the sun, but he put this one away after it happened in real life and he was worries he would be called a thief or unoriginal. He tries to write auto-biographically for a bit but he’s ashamed that he has only a few good experiences worth telling. He isn’t sure if he ever came of age. The ideas build and he grows stressful because he isn’t doing what he wants to, or what he thinks he should. He just needs one good idea. One novel, one contained work. Just one perfect heist, in and out before anybody notices.