I wasn’t born next to you
but I didn’t really grow up next to anyone
I didn’t really grow at all
So it was easy
when you uprooted me
Built a bed with me
and planted yourself, again
I wasn’t born next to you
but I didn’t really grow up next to anyone
I didn’t really grow at all
So it was easy
when you uprooted me
Built a bed with me
and planted yourself, again
I am staring at two men who are outside of the library which I am in. They’re both just staring at their phones. Well, one of them just started walking away, but still. They were just standing there, maybe fifteen feet away from each other, staring at their phones, facing the same direction – towards me. The man on the right (the one who walked away) had dreadlocks and a backpack, flip-flops (probably, I didn’t actually see, though), a t-shirt, and a headband. He was wearing orange headphones with a thick cord.
Okay, the other man is leaving now. He’s got a dog with him, on a leash. It’s a lab-something mix, it looks like. This man looks cleaner than the other man. Not like his skin or anything is cleaner, because the other man was not dirty, but ‘cleaner’ in the sense that he’d be more welcome at a nice restaurant or bank, even though he was wearing the same things – minus the dreadlocks and headband, plus he probably wasn’t wearing sandals. What makes one look ‘cleaner’ than another, and why do we want to eat or do our banking next to someone who resembles that image as much as possible? Will there be more money in my bank account if the guy being helped next to me has fresh-pressed slacks? Will my dinner taste better the farther away homeless people are from it?
Anyways, this guy with the dog has left now. There’s another guy now pacing in circles, staring at his phone in the same spot. I’m not sure why everyone is staring at their phone, and especially why they are doing so in this spot. The spot everyone is stopping at is maybe another ten feet away from a gazebo with a picnic table in it.
The last guy is now walking away, too. They all seem to leave in sort of the same way. They’re staring at their phone, just staring nonstop, and then they look up for maybe ten seconds, then back down. After that, they all walk, wobbly, like they’re going to fall over, towards the same direction.
Here’s another one now. He’s wearing the same clothes as the last guy, but it isn’t a uniform or anything like that. They both just have a blue shirt with an odd design on it and some baggy jeans. This guy is also walking around in circles, ten feet from the gazebo, still staring at his phone. He’s now walking to the spot where they all happen to look up for about ten seconds… and there it is! He, too, is now walking, like he’s extremely drunk, off in the direction of the others, after having looked up for ten seconds.
I’ve watched this happen for the last hour or so. People, all wearing the blue shirt with the weird design on it and baggy jeans would come to the same spot while staring at their phones, look up for ten seconds and walk away, drunk-looking. They would show up on the walking trail outside the library every five minutes or so, one at a time. They would quickly walk past anyone on the trail so that they could get to the spot to wander around, staring at their phones. This is what I witnessed for an hour, and then it changed.
The men have began coming more and more. No there is no one on the walking trail except the men in blue. There had been an abundance of strollers with moms, grandparents walking, small families riding their bikes together – now there is nothing except the men. They were still doing their same routine, but now they are coming every couple of minutes, sometimes two at once. They do not acknowledge each other. There is no speaking, no looking at each other, and their pacing patterns are kept away from the one another. They’re coming more and more. Three at a time every two minutes, five at a time every ninety seconds, seven every minute…
And now none. They all walked away from vision, there have been maybe two hundred all together that passed.
I am still not sure what could be going on with these men, or whatever mission they were on. But for a moment, I couldn’t help but think of you. Here I was, spending another day away from you to finish this book, and I don’t even know what the hell could ever become of it, yet I still choose to do this over anything else. I don’t know if I’m sorry, really, but I think I am? But I also know that I shouldn’t be apologetic for doing something that I love, and I know you feel the same way. Maybe I’m just apologetic that this is what I love to do, that this is how it is. Not that it’s good or bad, but that it would be more beneficial to my long-term relationship if I had a hobby that didn’t make me such an isolationist, but I don’t and I’m sorry that that’s just how it is.
I’m looking out the window again now, and I think I see someone running from the direction where all the men staggered off to. I think it might be one of the men, actually. He’s running towards the window as fast as he can. He doesn’t look like he’s running from anything, nor does he look like he’s running towards anything. His face is just flat and emotionless.
When he hit the window, it was easily loud enough for me to think the glass was going to break. The full force of his body hit, as hard as his person would allow, and he bounced back, then took a couple extra steps back and stood there staring at me. He was wearing baggy jeans and the shirt. It was blue, and had a teal and green vertical stripe of curvy, stylistic lines on the left side. His hair was black, normal for a man in the suburbs I guess. But then I noticed his eyes. They were black. Black, but not lifeless. No, they weren’t even black, they were swirling. His eyes were just empty, dark swirls, like two black holes engraved into his skull. His mouth was wide open, although his mind still seemed shut off. He kept staring at me.
I was staring into his swirling, black-hole eyes and he was staring back. I could feel something in my spine, as if his stare injected itself into my bloodstream and I was just now feeling its effects course through my veins. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t look away, I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t scream.
Abruptly, his neck twisted his head fiercely to the left, so he was looking back where he had come from. With his mouth still wide open, he let out a shriek. It was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. I thought his crashing into the window with his body would break the glass, but I was sure that this shriek would shatter it. It was high pitched and full of treble. It made me feel like my eyes were going to pop out of their sockets. It was also low, though, and I could feel a deep pressure on my back, like someone trying to push me over from behind. The shriek continued for what felt like minutes, but was more realistically thirty seconds or so. I dropped to the floor halfway through, I felt like my spine was going to snap. I took my glasses off and quickly cleared tears from my eyes and stood up. With my glasses on, I could see something at the end of my field of vision. It was something large and blue. It looked like a banner being pulled through a field. As it got closer, I saw that it was the men in blue and jeans. All of them. They were sprinting toward me, just like the first one had done.
It was dark when he woke up. He was disoriented and confused, and so the dark was thicker and deeper. It was cold and he was wearing only a short-sleeve shirt, jeans, and ragged shoes. The ground was rough, like concrete that hadn’t been leveled-out the right way. He could feel that there wasn’t much space in whatever room he was in, and as he felt the walls around him, his thoughts were confirmed. He soon found it best to sit on the ground. He could hear wind, and trees and bushes, and didn’t know how to reach them but knew that their sounds made him feel slightly better about the position he found himself in. He wondered where he could be, and why he had not been more alarmed at finding himself in such a predicament. Nothing came to mind about what he could have been doing that would end with him inside a cold, dark, concrete room. The last he could remember, he was back at the shop. In that small general store, he could remember himself talking to his coworkers. It had been a slow day filled with time consuming chatter, and him and his friends were debating what the best way to die would be; best here in the sense of quickest and most painless. This conversation eventually took the obligatory one-eighty, and the three of them in the store began to converse on the worst possible way to die.
He ruminated on that conversation for a long while, there in the dark. Partially because it was the last thing he could remember, but partly because he also remembered his answer to the question at work: alone. The worst possible way to die would be alone. A death alone is a testament to a life which deserved no one, he thought. A lonesome death was the sign of a monster, of someone unable to connect with others, and ultimately, he thought, himself. And now here he was. All alone. Was he dead already, and if so, did he deserve isolated death? What does someone have to do to deserve not to face their worst fear? Can anyone avoid such a monotony? Was he really a monster, or was he just like everyone else?
When he woke up, the dismal amount of daylight didn’t do much to calm his worries. He was, in fact, surrounded on all sides by concrete. However, he now realized that he was in the bottom of a large cylinder. The concrete stretched up maybe fifty or sixty feet, which explained why it was still so dark in the middle of the day. He looked hard at his surroundings until he found a small drawer within a part of the wall. The drawer was about three feet up, and about two feet long and one high, blended in completely with its surroundings. He opened up the drawer to find various supplies. The most abundant was the piping; there were dozens of different pipes of all shapes and sizes, in different angles, each of them fitting together with the same size threads. There was also cloth – white, used, about ten feet by six feet, rope – new, thick, about fifty feet or so, and a flashlight.
He thought for some time about what to do next. What was supposed to be done with the supplies? Was this some sort of test? Was he in prison? He assumed that the many, many pipes might just reach to the top of his cylindrical confine. Constructing such a thing would require tremendous amounts of work, though, and he was tired. He was also cold, as taking stock of his newly found inventory had taken up a majority of his day, and night was now beginning its approach again.
It was then his executive decision to construct a bed, several feet off of the cold, concrete foundation of which he found himself on. The walls of the tower were jagged enough as to allow him to climb, ever so carefully. He found that the air became thicker, warmer, and more pleasant as he climbed. At about twenty feet up, he could no longer find a place to grab hold of to continue climbing. However, the air here – though still not quite halfway up the tower – was welcoming and comfortable enough. Over the next several hours, he worked tirelessly into the night to procure himself a bed, and to situate it twenty feet up the tower walls. When he was finished, he was left with a hammock-mocking, very large, very thin bed to call his own for now.
Laying in his makeshift resting place, he began to think of what his next step would be. I’ve single-handedly made myself a perfectly acceptable place to reside for now, he thought. Many people I’ve met and know would still be on the ground, wondering as to how someone could be so comfortable! I found myself in a predicament. Whether or not this predicament was of my own doing I do not know, nor do I care. I have seen the immediate problem and have addressed it, and I am now comfortable and warm and content enough with where I have found myself. He slept there for weeks. Every morning he would wake up, and find that the drawer that once contained the supplies used for a bed, was full with enough food to last him through the day. He would wake up, eat the food on the floor, and climb to his bedding in the evenings. I’m not sure what to think of this situation. If I am to be a prisoner, why am I treated with such amazing food? Why am I allowed to reside comfortably in the bed I have made myself? Why am I not forced to confront the err of my ways, is this rehabilitation or just torture?!
Though these questions riddled him, he was not encouraged or outraged enough to ever force the answers of his questions into his consciousness. He never did strive hard enough, willfully enough, passionately enough to receive any answers.
One day, while laying on his back in his makeshift bed, he noticed small holes that went all the way up the tower. He wasn’t sure if they had always been there, though he was certain they had to have been placed there somehow while he was sleeping at night. There were dozens of them, though they followed a specific pattern. He spent an evening there, staring at the small holes until he could piece together their entire image in his head. This mental connect-the-dots led to the realization that there was planned on the inside of the tower, the making of a ladder, a tool which would easily allow him to leave his prison. He looked at what he had already constructed, and looked at what he would still yet have to construct, were he to follow this new plan laid in front of him. The very thought of undoing what he had created and then piecing something new together exhausted him. I am fine. I am content enough in the situation I am in now. The exhaustion of embarking on a new, very expansive task would cause me more negativity than just staying where I am now. And so I will not exhaust myself, I will be comfortable for now and leave when I feel as though it is best for me.
That night after he had fallen asleep, a piece of the top of the tower – about one hundred pounds of concrete, the size of a medium dog – had chipped away at the top due to age and wind and was sent hurling to the bottom inside of the tower. The concrete block barely missed him, but destroyed his carefully constructed bed, the home he made. Because of the angle at which the bed was constructed, his fall from the crash happened slowly for him, with him slowly rolling and waking up, realizing what was happening, and climbing down to safety after the crash had settled.
He knew he must now make a decision, to rebuild the home he had made for himself, or to follow the new path which was laid in front of him. Neither would suit. I’ve started from scratch, and now it is gone. It is finished for me, and I do not care what happens anymore. I do not have the energy to do anything, and I do not want to waste the time to find myself in this situation once more. The more he thought, the more upset he became. He thought and thought and grew red and grew red. Finally, after several minutes of loud, belligerent pacing, he grabbed one of the pipes which had come undone from the crash. He began furiously hitting the wall of the tower where the drawer was, but right above the drawer. He began pushing the loose blocks of the tower out with the end of the pipe. Hit, then push, and then hit and push. And then he got to the other side.
He didn’t crawl through to the other side, because seeing her stopped him in his tracks. She was standing there, smiling, but also she had a very nervous look on her face. He didn’t know what to do, there were too many questions, too much that needed answering. He tried to speak but just stumbled on his words. She didn’t say anything, she just kept standing there. The tower was now revealed to be located in an empty field. Just rolling, green hills as far as the eye could see; and then there was the tower, and there was her.
It soon became clear to him that this girl had been taking care of him, so to speak. There was no one else out in the field, who else could have been doing it? She had been coming by every morning, filling up the drawer with food, and then coming back every single day for weeks now. Did she put me in this prison, though? Why didn’t she say something to me? he thought. He still had no words for the girl, and so he still said nothing. He just stared back at the girl, grinned, and thought. As he was thinking, the girl gave out one big smile and turned and walked away. He found that he could not yet crawl through the hole he had made to chase after her, no matter how hard he tried. He didn’t want to break the tower any more, and he knew she’d come back in the morning to fill the drawer, so he decided to just wait until then.
That night he thought about everything. He thought about why he might be here, if the girl had been helping him or not and why, he thought about who made this tower and where it could be. Then he thought about his prison. Perhaps it’s not really a prison at all. I have been treated to incredible food, I have been able to do whatever I please inside my tower, and now I am finding out that perhaps I am not even alone. Maybe there is more outside of this tower for me, and maybe it is up to me to find out what it is. If these tools and these holes in the tower have been left here for me to find a way out of my own prison, then I will! I will leave this tower the way was intended for me to leave and I will do it tonight!
His newfound confidence and energy allowed him to prepare his ascent over the tower in a matter of minutes. He then quickly began assembling his vision of the ladder. He set the first pieces into the wall and began to climb. With more piping in his left hand, he would hastily assemble more length into the ladder and keep climbing, stopping every twenty minutes or so to climb all the way down, get more pieces, and climb back up. In the darkest moment of the night, he made his way to the top of the tower. He stood on the edge to find that there was a ladder on the outside of the tower as well, to climb down. As he made his way over to the ladder in the dark, he forgot about the piece at the top that had broken off. He assumed that his footing to the ladder would be consistent, and so he didn’t see the missing patch when he began to place his foot down.