A Moment in the Life of Quentin
by Ryan Buchholz
October 23rd, 2017
“Sometimes I question my existence,” I confessed to Dr. Winston. This is how all my conversations with Dr. Winston initiate. “What theories do you have to tell of today?” he asked. I have dozens of theories about the afterlife and how humanity functions on a daily basis; it’s a long process and some theories intertwine which makes the idea of a timeline very confusing. I often get lost in my thoughts when someone prompts me with a question. It’s quite a problem of mine. I gazed back in the chase lounge to stare at the ceiling tiles. Previously, I had counted twenty four in the room; it was a six by four array arrangement.
“Are you counting the ceiling tiles?” Dr. Winston interrupted, prompting to hear my theories. I adjust my head to make eye contact, but he doesn’t look up from his clipboard taking notes, “I was acknowledging them. I am aware that there are twenty four ceiling tiles. What we are unaware of is how many ceiling tiles are within the building complex; we are confined to this one room, separated by walls from another universe.” At this point Dr. Winston decided to antagonize me.
“How many other universes are there?”
“An infinite amount. When one decision is made, there’s another universe created.” “I’m quite sure that this theory already exists, Quintin. Have you heard of the multiverse?”
“That sounds completely irrelevant.”
“No, no it is quite relevant. Are you familiar with the term plagiarism?”
“That... That also sounds quite irrelevant.”
He refrained from asking any other questions as he always does at this point. Did I hear about the multiverse theory? Maybe it was mentioned on an article or two that I found while googling general searches about existentialism, but what does that matter? Mine was ten times better and included many laws of physics which Dr. Winston might have figured out if he had continued to ask questions. Instead, the old man decided to insult my creativity.
“It’s clear to me that you simulate these other worlds as a sign of your anxiety. When you are too indecisive, you imagine a separate timeline. By festering in a made up world, you are ignoring the consequences of your indecisiveness. Also, by plagiarizing a philosopher’s work of art, it is clear that you like to find the quickest answer to your problems which is another form of anxiety. If you calm yourself with the breathing exercises that I’ve discussed with you in the past and learn that it’s okay to be confused about the world, then you will be more relaxed when engaging with others and could focus on socializing.”
During this rambling, I tend to doze off and pray he doesn’t give me any medication that I would end up disposing of into my old dog’s food dish beside the breakfast table. I mean, medication is meant to help me and all but it is clear to my sixteen year old mind that Dr. Winston is misdiagnosing my brilliance.
Dr. Winston plopped me back into my mother’s custody outside his office and once again, her questioning ticked me off. “How was Dr. Winston?” You talked to the man before and after I entered to office, couldn’t you tell he has a positive sense of well being? “What’d you talk about?” Mother should know by now that anything discussed in the office is disclosed information. “Why do you have to be so aggressive?” Maybe because you pry at the same nuts and bolts everyday. She still has no idea what that phrase means and I assume it would be quite obvious to anyone of some cognitive intelligence.
Everything is a cycle. The course of the day, the interactions with people and such. It’s quite tiresome. It almost feels as though nobody learns or develops any sort of insight off of what a sixteen year old boy explains to them. Granted, I’m young and uneducated or whatever, my say should mean just as much as anyone else’s in this damned world. Cycle. Loop. The world is a sphere. Everything rotates in a circle notion. I feel like I’m onto something here. I jot these thoughts into my journal in attempts to blow Dr. Winston’s mind during the next meeting.
October 24th, 2017
I navigated through the cafeteria while Mr. Deerkoski blabbed about the semi-formal to locate my typical eating spot in the corner by the heating vent. The increase of heat may harm my packed lunch, but it can’t turn out any worse than the school lunches themselves. Plus, the heating vent comes in handy during snowfall outside. It seems as though winter never ends and that the temperature refuses to reach above zero degrees celsius. Unpacking the usual lunch, I groaned; a burnt and cold grilled cheese with a slice of tomato, a cheese stick and an apple juice pouch. Apple juice pouches are quite disgusting when you examine the contents label. Twenty three grams of sugar is printed on the apple juice nutrition fact, but twenty five grams is the estimate printed on Google for the maximum recommended daily intake.
I grew worrisome about my nutrition a few years back. I hypothesized that early on food habits in youth determines the athleticism in people down the road. I used that as a science fair thesis. I would have won first place but I was disqualified because the rules stated to have a partner and well. As dictated by the lack of attendance at my lunch table, I didn’t have many people to qualify for the position. The only person that I could consider to have a bond with is Dr. Winston, and that’s pushing it.
It’s not that I didn’t want to associate myself with others, it’s that other people didn’t wish to associate with me. I illustrated the situation accordingly: Somewhere in another universe there is a popular me. If I follow my most recent theory, ya know the “plagiarized” multiverse theory, then if I gain one acquaintance, then my other self in the other universe loses an acquaintance. Why should I bully myself into isolation in another universe? I find myself justified, except Dr. Winston assumes that I use it as a way to push off anxiety. I have a lot of trouble defining anxiety.
While researching the effects of DMT online for a previous existential theory, I learned a lot about psychedelics and applied that information to my lack of knowledge in anxiety. I like to think anxiety is like the consumption of illegal hallucinogens, it can only be described if you experienced the phenomenon. And I have not experienced the phenomenon.
The bell dinged four times signaling the period is over. I threw away the sugar saturated garbage my mother calls apple juice and proceeded to sixth period, also known as history. When roaming through the halls, I have mapped out a complex path to transport me to my class in which I pass the most minimal amount of people as possible. Typically it makes me arrive between the third and fourth bell signaling the beginning of class and Ms. Donalds doesn’t appreciate my on-the-verge-of-tardiness, but I showed that woman the handbook of Hamilton High School multiple times and have proved her wrong about checking me as late on the attendance forms. She has the nerve to think the fourth and final bell dictates me to be in my seat, and I suppose that she might be under qualified for the teaching position with such information embedded into her thin skull, yet the fourth and final bell in the Hamilton High School handbook implies students must be present in the classroom. And my one foot in the classroom? That marks my presence. I often go on tangents when people go against my way of conduct because everyone assumes they can walk all over me when, in fact, I am smarter than them. Plain and simple.
After getting an eye roll from Ms. Donalds, she decided to spite me for proving her wrong all these months. She declares that everyone is to arrange their desks into groups of four. Group work seemed pointless and tiring; pairing me up with someone less intelligent and motivated ends up with me growing frustrated and angry towards the person. I mean, Angelica Myers might be the sweetest girl in all of Hamilton High, but if I was paired up with her then there would be World War Five. I say five because I was in four group projects during my time at high school and three of the four have ended in my removal from the class.
Whilst everyone turns the classroom into an arena of bumper cars, I sat as still as the earthquake reinforced buildings in Tokyo. Gregory McCaffery nudged the edge of his desk against mine, pushing me twelve degrees off from my initial position. I suppose if I was a building in Tokyo, all of the inhabitants within me would meet their doom. I’m not calling myself an unstable person of course, I imply the desk. Dr. Winston would beg to differ.
Everyone settled into their new groups, discussing the potential projects that these groups could entail. Ms. Donalds stared at me with an annoyed face and gestured with her thin skull towards the outcasted geometric shape group of desks. Trying to hold the most unamused face I could, I slid my desk over to the other three creating a very loud screeching noise across the floor, grabbing everyone’s attention.
Was I aware people were talking about me behind my back calling me the “freak”? Of course. It’s high school, after all. It doesn’t matter though because I live by Benjamin Franklin’s saying, “Be slow in choosing friends, slower in changing.” To which Dr. Winston would one up me with an Isaac Newton quote, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” I may admire Isaac Newton a little more than Benjamin, however Benjamin has better beliefs in my opinion. After all, I’m looking for quality in a person which takes time to assess and judge. It’s junior year of high school and that just draws a visual about the types of people in this town.
When I jammed the missing puzzle piece in and completed the last group, Ms. Donalds grew somewhat content and moved on. She went on to explain that each group will be assigned a specific president in United States history and that the group will have two and a half weeks to analyze outside of class how they developed their morals and then how their character influenced their greatest decisions. I wanted Nixon. The fact that there were two parts to the assignment meant that the group of four would split into two groups of two.
Sitting with me was Will Shuford, Phillip Senenfelder and Michael Carter. The three cumulated to a trifecta of tightfisted jocks; they were the type of people that could be associated with the terms “unmotivated” and “community college”. They were the Bowser who hordes the pure, innocent girls such as Angelica Myers away from me: little, Italian Mario. Of course there is a theory that Mario is the bad guy who analyzes the situation wrong and that Princess Peach wants to be with Bowser all along. There are more in depth subreddits about the topic, but I can’t seem to indulge myself into the video game subculture. Video games are distractions from discovering truth about the world and it’s people like three stooges ahead of me that lack the comprehension for the truth.
Ms. Donalds tossed a xeroxed picture of Abraham Lincoln in the middle of our desks. “So, Phillip and I can take on the whole ‘greatest decisions’ thing since that seems pretty easy to Wikipedia and you and the lone wolf over there can take on the other thing,” Will instructed. While Will and Phillip collided their knuckles with one another, Michael groaned and slid his phone in front of me with the contacts application opened. I was unsure how much information to include in my contact, so I filled in every prompt: from phone number, to street address, to birthday. It asked for a picture except I wasn’t keen on him having a picture of my face saved to his cellular device. He would be the person to photoshop genitalia on my face and upload it to some form of social media. After returning his cellular device, Michael examined my contact and began scrolling through all the inserted information. He threw a glare of judgement which I could only assume was because of the picture not being included. Sometimes that is what you get when you don’t specify the whole package.
October 24th, 2017
Inside my bedroom, I sat upright at my desk; I was attempting to improve my posture as I wrote into my journal the final thoughts on my cycling theory. The entire universe orbits in circular motions around a black hole. What force could gravitate everything towards itself? My theory is that is where the aliens of DMT trips are located. Before you pull a Dr. Winston and tell my how crazy I am, let me elaborate.
Everyone has a pineal gland in their brain and it produces a drug called Dimethyltryptamine. In fact, many mammals and plants produce this drug. People theorize that it’s released at birth, when you dream and at death. When smoked for recreation purposes, everyone has almost identical “trips” where they experience talking to extraterrestrial beings. Since it is described as an out of body experience, what if you are taken out of your body and given a glimpse as to how the body assists the process of death? What if the actual “God” are these entities located at the center of the universe in the black hole? Dr. Winston is going to be flabbergasted by this one!
I peered over to notice that it was 8:14 PM. It had been about seven hours since history class and Michael had not sent me a message. I knew that World War Five would commence on this bag of bolts.
“You finishing up your homework?” my mother asked, peering in from my ajar door. Speaking of nuts and bolts being pried at, this one has to appear every night to make sure I have all my homework done before theorizing. I’m an A+ student so I don’t understand why an individual like herself has to have the nerve to ask such a question when I won’t get less than a ninety five on an exam, with the exception of Mr. Deerkoski’s exam on Hamlet because I can’t understand why in the name of the DMT aliens that Shakespeare cannot be translated from the old broken language it was written into modern day English. I peer out from my notebook and stare for a moment, “Yes.” I scurry back to my last sentence. “Okay. I have to get to work early tomorrow so don’t stay up too late, sweetie,” she said leaving my door a little more ajar than it already was.
I glanced back at my phone to observe the time once again and I notice a message from Michael. It read :
Hey. Its Michael. I have practice til 6 tomorrow but we can wokr on the project afterwards at ur house since u decided to go overboard and put ur address.
As much as I admired his attempt to start progress on the assignment, I cringed at the sight of the child’s grammar and questioned how the hell someone mistyped “work” to “wokr” when the letters k and r are quite a fair distance apart from one another on the keyboard. I took a deep breath and decided to distract myself from the horrendous disaster titled Michael Carter by researching Abraham Lincoln’s childhood.
My typical conspiracy websites didn’t hold much use so I resorted to a random website titled “America Comes Alive” captioned “These stories are about Americans - people just like you (Excuse me Kate Kelly, did you just assume my nationality?) - who have made a difference and changed the course of history. Look around the site and see what inspires you - Kate Kelly.” I rolled my eyes at the cliche wording and proceeded to discover that young Abraham Lincoln was abandoned with his sister for six months while his father sought after a new love interest.
Six months in a cabin with one other person as your company? I would barely last a few hours. Then I realized that I was going to be in a room with Michael Carter for several hours doing research. I consider that worse than almost starving to death thinking you’re an orphan. Sorry, Abe.
October 25th, 2017
Well. It’s currently 7:15 PM and Michael Carter is currently a no-show. I even cleaned my room; I hid my conspiracy journal for crying out loud! I waited another two minutes and gave up on the kid. Retrieving my conspiracy journal, I began noting some information I found on DMT. I swear, if mother recovered this artifact of mine, she would think I befriended a drug dealer. Correction: acquainted. Befriending is a strong term to use for someone like myself.
Thinking about befriending someone made me worry about Michael. Sometimes I experience slight nervousness when interacting with a new stranger. Dr. Winston insists it is typical for a teenager to experience social anxiety but I tell him that social anxiety is much more than slight nervousness. I am just always afraid of direct judgement. It’s okay if it’s behind my back because then I don’t witness the hatred. Hence why the hallway routes are necessary, the sitting in the back of the room and the inability to speak in a classroom setting. When I was in elementary school I theorized that teachers were like the Tyrannosaurus Rex. If you don’t move a muscle, they won’t notice you’re there. That progressed to me applying the same thought process to the student body. And now I had to interrogate the Tyrannosaurus Rex. I had to initiate conversation with Michael.
The doorbell rang and my mother escorted Michael the entire forty feet to my room. “Sorry I’m late, I had to shower and then my dad got lost on the way here. It’s okay though, I’m getting my junior’s license soon.” Substantial excuses bore me. I pulled up Kate Kelly’s website and pulled the monitor closer to the edge of the desk to prompt the child to read. As I finished scribbling beside the phrase “black hole” in my notebook, I could see him nodding along to the article in my peripheral vision. I couldn’t tell if that was his understanding of the article or his pretending to understand the article. “Yeah, we can definitely use this,” he said. No shit Sherlock, that’s why I showed you.
It was quiet for a slight moment, I forgot I had to participate in a conversation instead of making witty remarks in my consciousness. “What’s you working on over there?” he inquired. I never shared my notebook with anyone and by anyone I mean mother and Dr. Winston. “Uh.. It’s just a journal that I- I keep and jot notes down in... About... Stuff,” I replied.
“Well what kind of stuff?”
“It’s personal stuff.”
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to be nosy. I just thought I’d get to know ya if we’re, ya know.”
I realized I wasn’t excellent at keeping a conversation flowing. My hands grew clammy and I wanted to cower in a turtle shell and not come out which reminded me of the mythological concept World Turtle . According to Hindu mythology, a turtle supports the Earth on the back of its shell. This was of course idealized when it was presumed that the Earth was flat. Now we know it’s a sphere. A sphere that rotates in circles and adds to my Cyclic Theory.
I realized that while I was conjuring these thoughts in my mind, there was another moment of awkward silence. Michael was looking around the room trying to pick out an object that he could start a conversation about but all my science decorations seemed to dumbfoundhim. I decided to take a deep breath and break the tension. “Have you ever heard of World Turtle ?” I asked. He shook his head to indicate he hadn’t. “Dating back to the late sixteen hundreds, in India, people believed that the Earth was being supported on the back of a turtle shell.” His face scrunched together in confusion; the child clearly didn’t comprehend ideology. “But then where was the turtle? In another Earth?” he asked. I was taken aback that the child was hypothesizing. “Um, well, that starts up other theories such as turtles.. Turtles All The Way Down . I actually, uh, keep the- the theories listed in my journal..” I explained, “I try to invent, um, new, uh, theories.” Michael nodded, which felt encouraging to a degree.
“What do you do when you’re not theorizing?” Michael asked. I stared for a few seconds and hesitated to answer, “I breathe.” He chuckled for a few seconds until realizing I was being one hundred percent honest with him. I started to go over Turtles All The Way Down with him and how it parted into modern day variations. It helped me dictate my words clearer and minimize the amount of “ums” and “uhs” between words. Michael proceeded to question about my personal theories. I decided to test out the Cyclic Theory on him so I could predetermine Dr. Winston’s generalized reaction.
Michael was blown away, “How do you know about DMT? Did you try it?” I laughed for a good minute at that question. He thinks that I do drugs? I mean, I was prescribed the depression medication for a couple of months until Dr. Winston realized I did not, in fact, have depression, just “anxiety”. There was also the time I obtained strep throat and was on antibiotics for a week. But legitimate hallucinogens? “No, I haven’t done any drugs,” I chuckled back. “Quentin, how are you supposed to determine it’s true by not doing experiments?”
“I watch Youtube videos and research on Reddit.” “Or you could acquire-”
“Where would I find dimethyltryptamine?” “Weed is a hallucinogen too.”
I gulped. This is what poor underrated Mrs. Millian tried to teach us in junior high health class. Peer pressure affects forty percent of high school students according to Dr. Winston and marijuana is perceived of as a gateway drug which can lead me to do more illicit stimulants and then I will become dependent on them, not being able to soberly invent anymore conspiracy theories which will impact my personal essay next year on college applications and affect my chances of getting into a good college. I’ll end up with the trifecta of jocks at community college and I am to be much more prestigious than that. I mean, I want Harvard to help eliminate my general education requirements. Who knows where I’ll end up for my bachelor’s degree! At this rate, I’ll only obtain an associate’s degree!
“I mean, I have a vaporizer in my bag if you wanted to try it out,” Michael added. I needed an excuse, a way out, a way to cleanse myself from being in the same room as this sinner. “Well, we’re, uh, here to work on- on the project,” I insisted. I rubbed my palms on my jeans attempting to relieve them of the clamminess although the stuttering and attempted breathing exercises showed my uncomfortableness quite well.
“The project isn’t due for two and a half weeks, we have a while,” the sinner added. Why was this jock so good at peer pressure? Has he had experience in this domain? I had to outwit him. “Why would you, let- let alone anyone, come to hang out with me if, uh, you knew you could delay it until down the road?” I asked him. I knew it would stop him dead in his tracks.
“I came over because, well, um, I’m sick of my friends,” the sinner responded. Now he was stuttering and showing signs of discomfort. “Sick of Will and Phillip?” I ask making sure he wasn’t already high. They’re the “coolest of the cool” and admired by all the girls so why wouldn’t Michael want to associate himself with them? I couldn’t hypothesize as fast as this conversation picked up. “I always get the short end of the stick with them and I always feel like they’re talking about me behind my back because right now they’re at Will’s house and I know them well enough to know they aren’t talking about Abraham Lincoln or sports, but me. They’re one hundred percent talking about me. I’m like their jester,” he confessed, “So I wanted to come here so I didn’t sit at home thinking about what they’re saying about me.”
Michael looked saddened by saying the truth. I was surprised the boy had so many layers to him; a sports guy, a druggie and a character from Desperate Housewives. I started to sympathize with him and wondered how I could make him feel better. I decided the right course of action was to change the subject. “So, you get high a lot?” I asked. He shook his head and waved the vaporizer in the air, “Not really. I only bought it because Will had one.” I had to put this into perspective for a moment. The child who tried to peer pressure me, gave into peer pressure. “Well, I don’t really have an interest in getting high, but, um, I’m open to talk about, uh, other things,” I said, hoping the more experienced socializer would pick up the slack of my terrible conversational skills. Michael decided to teach me about basketball for teaching him about existential theories.
October 29th, 2017
“How do you know we’re gravitating around a black hole?” “Google. Specifically Yahoo answers.”
“What do these ‘aliens’ look like?”
“They don’t have a physical form, they’re just energy.”
“How does energy communicate?”
“Sometimes these questions are beyond my explanation. But it’s a form of telepathy.”
Dr. Winston finished scribbling on his clipboard. I always wondered what the man took notes about. His prolonged writing establishes the theory in my head that he’s writing down every detail he can of the Cyclic Theory to claim it as his own. I wasn’t against the idea of Dr. Winston plagiarizing my ideas; at least it won’t be me that people look at as crazy when he begins talking about the DMT aliens. I suppose if someone with a psychology degree spoke of DMT aliens, their therapy license could be revoked.
“Quintin, I think you need to take these theories and upload them online.” The internet is quite a terrifying place. Why publish my works of genius on a website that coexists on the same HTTP server as the black market?! “I believe that you can make suitable connections with other individuals on forum sites such as reddit,” Anywhere you can acquire friends, you can acquire enemies. Make friends slow, change slower . It’s a very simple rule of thumb to follow and I don’t think Dr. Winston understands such things. “Perhaps you could even expand deeper on these theories with other individuals that you meet.” Dr. Winston doesn’t want me to make a fortune; he wants me to split the money from NASA when they use my insight to investigate the center of the universe. At least that’s how I figured one becomes rich. With great ideas, comes great success. I suppose that’s not true with the forty fifth president, but I stand by my case. “Perhaps creating online friends will result in social anxiety in face to face conversation to lessen.”
Here we go again with the social anxiety. Prying at the same nuts and bolts just like mother and never getting the answer he deserves. Today, I could throw the dog a new bone. “Well, actually, I have a friend and his name is Michael. Yeah, we do a lot together. We talk about theories and weed and, uh, basketball,” I said, “Shall I continue?” I heard pen marks soar across his clipboard at lightspeed pace. It was as if he had a eureka moment that I experienced when I unraveled the Cocoon Theory! He spent several moments translating his thoughts to paper and so I sat back in the chase lounge and decided to recount the six by four array of ceiling tiles to quadruple check my basic math skills and to also pass the time. He cleared his throat. “So, how did you meet Michael?” he asked, ignoring my reference he the illegal drug known as marijuana. “I was on the brink of World War Five and the enemy surrendered, so we bantered about a treaty in my place of residency.” Dr. Winston didn’t know how to pry at this bolt, he was so in shock.
He peered over to his clock to notice that we were at the end of our session. Part of me loved leaving Dr. Winston in a state of astonishment while the other part of me despised having to leave the man on such suspenseful accords. Either way, it didn’t matter because I stuck in an upset mood for having to deal with mother.
“How was Dr. Winston?” As shocked as audiences seeing The Blair Witch Project for the first time. “What’d you talk about?” We talked about my discussions of weed and basketball. Too bad you’re such a conservative that even minor hallucinogens make you appalled. “Why do you have to be so aggressive?” Some people just are born this way and you should be happy to have birthed an aggressive child. Are we done at the prying of nuts and bolts for today?
The rest of my car ride with mother was silent with the nice background noise of the wheels gliding across the asphalt as well as the winds the vehicle pierced through. We reached Collins Street and the second we pulled into the driveway, my mother asked who’s car was in front of the house. “Michael’s. He got his juniors license the other day.” Mother decided to aware me that a juniors license only allowed Michael to drive to and from school and to and from work. “Well, Michael and I are going to the school,” I said looking at the clock.
It was four thirty seven in the afternoon and the basketball game was just going to start in twenty three minutes and I had to assess the knowledge Michael had been teaching me in a game setting. Mother rolled her eyes and let me go, hoping that I would do more than jot more and more in my conspiracy notebook. I hopped out of mother’s vehicle and opened Michael’s car door to expose myself to deafening levels of bass boosted music. “Yo,” Michael stated as I closed the door. “Greetings and salutations,” I said. Michael chuckled and lowered the music to a tolerable level, turning towards me, “How was lunch with your mom?” I remembered that I hadn’t revealed my actual location to Michael; I couldn’t expose my entire self to the guy. He would kick me out of his vehicle and speed off if he knew the real me.
I began to assess who the real me even was. The real me is just some intellectual nerd who conjures up all the theories inside his head to make the real seem less shitty than it is... Is that the reason I conjure up theories? The multiverse theory. The cyclic theory. I said the other day that the reason I have no friends is because there is another me out there with a lot of friends and if I gain a friend here, I lose a friend in the other universe. Other Quentin may have lost a friend, but he still has a father over there. “It was okay, I guess,” I said, snapping myself out of my flow of consciousness,
“I had a McDouble and some fries.”
“That seems like a lot for someone who analyzes nutrition facts.”
“Yeah, it was. Sometimes you have to push yourself outside your comfort zone.” “Does that mean you’re ready to go venture into the stands?”
Hesitantly, I nodded.
Michael took off being a little pushy with the pedal. I gazed out the window, watching my house slide out of the frame of the window. I couldn’t see it, but I knew my mother was watching from one of the windows. Other houses on Collins Street took its place and they slid out of frame faster and faster until I realized we were accelling at a wild forty three miles an hour. “It’s a thirty zone,” I alarmed him. He pretended not to hear me, pushing against the pedal faster, then slowing down to thirty chuckling. “Sorry, I just like speed. I like the feeling,” he said. I didn’t like speed. I wasn’t able to examine each house on Collins Street; I wasn’t able to live in the moment. I don’t understand how people breeze over life like that; how people can take time for granted and how people can find glazing over the big details fun. Michael never even asked about where my dad was. “So what’d you do today?” I asked Michael.
“I was in and out of the hospital,” he answered, “My grandma is in there.”
“Oh, I didn’t-”
“It’s cool. No one ever does.”
“I’m being cliche, aren’t I?” “Just a little.”
“Well, how do I help?” I asked.
“You don’t,” Michael said. He took one hand off the wheel and retrieved his vaporizer, inhaling a large hit for twenty seconds. He put it down and returned to the normal procedure of two hands on the wheel. The sinner returned.
“I thought you didn’t use it?” I asked. “Not normally.”
“Only when I feel down.”
Charming. He has a problem with substance abuse. That was irrelevant to the main issue at hand. His posture exposed a state of depression to me. I didn’t mean to be such a downer except I felt urged to pry at his nuts and bolts. He interested me. “Is it me?” I asked. He took a deep breath, “No, just what you said. And don’t worry about my driving skills, we’re already here.”
I looked up to see the school. I hadn’t even considered the fact Michael was so ignorant by putting my life at risk while he was intoxicated with that hallucinogen because, when it came down to it, I wanted to trust him. Maybe I didn’t trust him with my deeper issues, but I want to trust his decisions. I know that doesn’t make sense, I know. There’s a part of him I admire; his ability to let loose and have fun and the fact he has a deeper side to him. I never saw anyone more than a flat two dimensional image. Dr. Winston was just a therapist and mother was just a nosy woman; no other flipside.
The ignition turned off and I was halted in my train of thought once again. We reached the school and I was preparing myself to endure a mindless game of passing the orange ball back and forth for four quarters. We started walking towards the gymnasium and I stopped. “Question. I know this sounds weird coming from someone like me, but how about we just smoke and, um, hang out,” I offered. It took him a second to process the question, “Why?” he questioned. “You have a lot on your mind and I have a lot on my mind,” I answered, “Thought we could just walk around the school and, I don’t know, talk it out.”
I didn’t know if I was ready to talk about my issues with someone, except my mind had the idea and I said it before I could even think like how I jot my ideas down in my journal the second they come to mind. There was a moment of silence and Michael looked me in the eyes with a conformational, “Okay.”
We entered the school, passed the gymnasium and into the darkened unlit hallways of Hamilton High School. It was peaceful to walk down the hallways without anybody there; I was able to see new areas of the school and take it all in. The paintings that the art students crafted, the lockers decorated to each student’s personality, the darkened classrooms I have never seen; it was refreshing to expose myself to a new change in scenery. Michael guided me through the darkened hallways. The red exit lights were the only things to illuminate our bodies.
Michael halted at a corner, stopping me. I could hear footsteps approaching us from about thirty feet away. “Security guard, in here,” he whispered, pulling me into a dark classroom. I felt my heart race like my initial conversation with Michael in my bedroom. My hands grew clammy, nervous at the thought of getting caught. There was a sense of nervousness to the situation, yet there was an exhilarating aspect to it. “Close call,” I whispered. There was a loud buzzer, initiating the basketball game in the gymnasium. “We’re almost there,” Michael stated. I wasn’t sure where we were headed, but I began to grow eager to find out our destination.
We exited the room. Michael looked both ways and saw that the coast was clear and we continued around the corner. I remembered this area of the school; it was the cafeteria. I could imagine the echoes of the crowded lunchroom and how the dozens of voices tormented my ears. I walked faster, reaching the staircase I use to get to history class on the second floor. Michael jogged so he could keep leading the way, he climbed the stairs to the third floor. There’s only two classrooms on the third floor though. The rest of the rooms are custodial staff and administrative offices. “Where are we going?” I asked. Michael didn’t answer, he opened up a door that revealed a ladder that crept upward into darkness. “You first,” he said.
I was hesitant, but I grabbed the cold, rusting metal bar and ascended into the darkness above. The ladder seemed to drag on for over a minute of climbing. I tried to suppress the thought of any of the rusted metallic bars breaking off any me falling to my doom; of course Michael would cushion my fall so that’s a pleasant thought I suppose.
I emerged to the cupola, windows three hundred sixty degrees around me, illuminating the room with the light of the stars in the night sky. It provided an excellent view of the town leaving me in an awe. I had always seen the cupola rest on the top of the school building, yet I never thought there was access into the structure. “Yeah, it’s a pretty amazing view, huh?” he said sitting on the benches that sat below the windows leaning against the circular formation of the room. I could hear the cracking sound of his vaporizer from behind me. I adjusted my vision to see him in the reflection of the window. “So, um, about your.. Your-” I stuttered, not wanting to trigger Michael. “Grandma?” he finished. I nodded and he looked at my eyes through the reflection.
“She has amnesia. Forgets a lot. She started to forget where she was. Then she started forgetting my name. Now she’s on respiratory support so she can remember how to breathe. I go there so she doesn’t forget me.. I think she already has though.” He passed the vaporizer over to me. I held it in my hands and examined the glossy box shape. “Hold the button. Breathe it in. Then breathe in again. Hold it for a few seconds. Exhale,” he instructed. I took one last sober breath before delving into my research for the DMT theories. Following his instructions, I didn’t feel different. I passed it over to him and he continued to tell me about his grandmother. “My parents used to always be at work so my grandmother would take care of me when I was young. She would teach me everything I know to this day-”
At that moment, my body grew warm inside. His words sounded fuzzy and my head felt like it weighed more than it should. There was a sensation of happiness spreading to my limbs that directed my head to the purple and black night sky. The star shined brighter than they had before creating an amazing portrait that I wanted to save as my wallpaper. I realized that Michael was still talking to me so I snapped my head back over towards him to divert my attention to him. His face seemed upset as he rambled on about his grandmother, “I blame myself sometimes.” Then, without any thinking at all I blurted out, “That’s stupid. He made eye contact with me and I felt lost for a moment in his eyes. “I mean, you can’t change what life gave you,” I tried to cover up my initial thoughts, “What happens to her is her fate, ya know?” There was an exaggerated moment of silence and the thought hit me that I used the slang term ‘ya’.
“What happened to your dad?” Michael asked, breaking the silence. He asked me afterall. I tried to evade the topic by looking back to the stars, but the constellations in the night sky seemed to form a shape of my father’s face. “My dad, um, he got shot.. He was a cop and one day he got a call he said he, uh... He would be right back just like all dads do. But.. The next time I saw him was at his open casket... He was confident being a cop... But he showed me that no matter how confident you are, you can still be a target to the world. That was pretty artsy wording there, huh? I should jot it down in my notebook the next time I conspire.” Maybe his face had amplified expressions or something because of the marijuana, but Michael began thinking the way I do. “So that’s why... You’re so close with your.. Mom?” he asked, “And you make the theories because... Closure?”
I never questioned why I made the theories. I just found an interest in them; dad was the big bang that triggered my theorizing. Dad was the reason mother sent me to Dr. Winston. Dad was the reason I didn’t want to talk to anyone. “I don’t like my mom,” I said. Did I know if I fully meant that? No. In the moment I thought I had, only remembering how she threw me to a therapist because the damned woman had no idea how to consolidate her broken child after the passing of her beloved. She was a broken record trying to make everything look bright and happy, but nobody’s life is bright and happy. Michael is a prime example of that. “I don’t eat lunch with her.. Or.. Any meals. I, um, I go the therapy because ya know.. Yeah,” I explained trying to gather my thoughts in a coherent sentence. Michael looked at the ground, still processing all the information. The only words he could say was, “I’m sorry.” I held up a hand to cut him off,
“You don’t,” I said.
“You don’t help me. You said it earlier, I think.”
“Oh? Yeah, I guess I did.” “... You did what?” I asked.
“Said that earlier.”
“Yeah, that’s a thing you did. Ha, ha.”
“You’re a cool guy, Quentin,” Michael stated. “Thanks, you are too.”
“No, I mean.. I mean I think you’re a cool guy that deserves other friends than just me.” “What do you mean, you’re pretty cool.”
“You deserve more popularity than Willip,” he said. “Willip?” I asked.
“Phillip... And Will... Willip,” he explained.
I bursted out laughing not knowing why it was so funny. Maybe it was the way he said it, maybe it was his face, maybe it was the thought of Will and Phillip having the same brain capacity as one person, but I found it funny. I realized that while I was laughing, that I was smiling.
“I don’t know when the last time I smiled-”
“Quentin, you didn’t make a complete sentence.” “Was. Period.”
“If you want my deep philosophical thought,” he said, “It doesn’t matter.” “Why?”
“You’re happy now.”
At that moment, an epiphany struck me. “You’re happy now.” I don’t need to talk to Dr. Winston, I never did. I just needed someone there and I needed to stop prying at the same nuts and bolts in my life, and start prying at someone else’s to be able to confide in them. Weed wasn’t the solution to my problem, it was Michael. Sure, friendships don’t last forever but it doesn’t matter how fast you go by the houses on Collins Street because it’s about who you are with on that road, not where you are. I didn’t have to be at the school to realize this, I could have been at the beach, at my house, or still in the car with Michael to talk about my father.
My father was a strong man. His death was a tragedy, but it doesn’t have to be a Shakespearean tragedy drawn out for five acts too long. It doesn’t matter if there’s a God watching over us or if the DMT aliens are controlling our fate, my father is still out there somewhere watching over me. And that’s what I want to believe. I want to believe that there is hope in an afterlife. Yet I still have a long while until death knocks on my doorstep; that is when I’ll let the fear and anxiety and depression or whatever Dr. Winston thinks is wrong with me take over. For now, I want to live in the moment, not to be held back by my theories or by my lack of social skills. I want to live a real moment in the life of Quentin.
RYAN BUCHHOLZ: My name is Ryan Buchholz and I am a freshman at UAlbany! I grew up on the North Fork of Long Island where I learned that I have a passion for writing short stories and poetry at the young age of eight. In my free time, I involve myself with theatrical productions; fall semester of 2017 I was affiliated with the MTA in their show titled "Heathers". My love for writing has aspired me to pursue a double major of English and Journalism.