I met a kid at the library – Luke, 24, stockbroker. Beneath the fold of one rolled-up white sleeve a messy stick-and-poke tattoo of the skeleton of a dinosaur spread across the pale skin of his inside forearm. He told me, when I asked, that it was based on a recurring dream he had had as a child when shipwrecked with his two brothers on a small and uncharted island in the Phillippines, where his parents had been sent on missionary work. They had died in a storm between two posts, swept from the deck of the boat while the boys were in the hold. Luke was four at the time and had grown tall and thin with the set and unexpressive face of someone who has lived in New York too long. The tattoo he had done himself drunk in his Columbia dorm room before dropping out after two semesters when he was recruited by the firm at which he now worked. It is advantageous in the field to be feral, to love no one. Luke cared for his brothers and them alone, the way animals care for their kin. They had lived on that island for two years. When fishermen found them the boys balked at the sight of people. They were sun-browned and had forgotten most English. They had forgotten their names.
When Marsden killed himself his parents were in Cannes so I had to go up to Allsaints and make the provisions for the funeral. In doing this I met his roommate, Nate, 22, who had found the body, and who shyly showed me the drawings of dreams he had had when I asked about the stacks of paper on his bedside table. They were all abstract gray fields. When I looked into them closely I thought I could sense something looming in the darkness. It was not apparent but it was there, very present, and when I put the drawings facedown on the table I thought I could still feel it. Nate had big eyes, the kind that asked something to which you wanted to say “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.” I asked if Marsden drew anything and Nate said he didn’t think so.
Nate and I went for lunch in town to talk about plans for the funeral. He ate ravenously. Marsden was to be buried in his family’s plot in Westchester as per his parents’ request. We spoke for a while and Nate told me he thought maybe he had been in love with Marsden once but it was a long time ago and nothing came of it. He wasn’t sure if it was love really because who knows what love feels like? It was like looking into a black pool and seeing it went all the way down, seeing nothing, not your own reflection. Like being swallowed, like opening up into nothing, like walking the edge of yourself. Feeling the exterior possibilities. Nate’s eyes got bigger when he spoke about it, his gestures more animated. It felt, he said, a long time ago, when he looked at Marsden, exactly like it had in that moment, that beautiful and crystalline moment in that cavernous test room at NYU when the course of his life revealed itself, as though it had been obvious all along, and he took hold of the corners of his Formica desk in his hands and smashed his head against it, once, hard. I was thinking about whatever it was moving in the darkness in the dream. Nate said again “It was a long time ago.” He meant everything. “It wasn’t Marsden anymore in the end, if it makes you feel any better,” he told me. It did not make me feel anything.
At Marsden’s funeral I finally met Lev, 23, the best friend from college Marsden had always talked about with a weird knot in his voice. As was his custom Lev had taken two vicodin prior to the ceremony, purportedly to relieve his jet lag. He had taken after relatives in Israel and was prospecting on oil in Saudi Arabia. He had flown in, two nights earlier, from Dubai on the red-eye to Newark. Marsden had not had many friends by virtue of his aloofness. He was a person whose very existence seemed alienating. It ended up Lev and Nate and I stood together among the sparse elderly family who had deigned to hear his eulogy read in the rain. It was a brief eulogy because Marsden had done nothing much of consequence in his life and it was hard to know if anyone would miss him.
Nate had brought an unopened sheaf of papers he had found beneath a floorboard on Marsden’s side of their room, and he and Lev and I looked through them at a diner down the road from the cemetery. It was mostly math, weird reasoning of numbers and symbols, of which none of us had any comprehension. Nate asked Lev and I if Marsden’s parents had been there and I shook my head while Lev said “No.” The vicodin was wearing off and his hands trembled like a bird’s wings. He told us Marsden had once told him he was raised by birds, the kind that collect shiny things and fill their nests with them just to have them there.
this is unfinished and probably will not go anywhere but i wanted to post it here. i like making up characters especially if they are feral or institutionalized and i was bored at work and wrote this because there was nothing else to do. the math thing is inspired by THIS fabulous story i read randomly.
there are two things i am working on right now that i am really proud of so i will tell you about them. one of them is called “the lives of the saints” and it is about THIS and THIS. the other one is called “the seven vivian girls” and it is about THIS and THIS except HERE. neither of them are done yet but maybe i will post pieces when they are.