Disappear Here.

Disappear Here.

Chapter One (Part one: The Roach Motel0


Literary fiction


Lewi Lews (United States)

Eighteen is a terrible age.
But of course, like everyone else, i didn’t think so at the time.
Like everyone else, from the moment i had the ability to project into the future, form more complex thoughts than the infinite immediacy of Saturday cartoons and snack time, i waited impatiently for It, rarely going more than a few days without fantasizing about that impossibly far off, magical number: who would i be, what would i do with that unflinching, sudden freedom; what could i do with that unflinching, sudden freedom. To be able to go out, go anywhere, be anyone, do anything i pleased, wings all at once exonerated from the sentence that kept me prisoner.
And of course, the closer we got the more we talked about it, the more woolgathering we did. In between games of tag, hide-n-seek through the labyrinth of our neighborhood; baseball, basketball – any ball really – we accumulated hours spent lazily and excitedly planning for a time that seemed anything but inevitable.
Nick, Ethan, and i, our faces turned toward the sky, resting on our backs on the elementary school’s sprawling grass fields, staring into the clouds, pulling out futures out of them with sooth-sayer faces as if they were our own shifting, intersecting crystal balls.
Everything happened so long ago; when i try to reach way back into the dusty nooks and crannies of memory, trying to come away with any sort of solid detail, i succeed mostly in merely touching and feeling the shape of things, like a game where i have to describe what object i’m touching while being in a pitch dark: i know what it is, surely and without a doubt. But could i prove it beyond my own interpretation? The memories unfurl themselves in abstract colors, distinct smells; fuzzy pictures that resemble heat waves radiating off hot asphalt. There were so many days spent in the same way that they blend together almost seamlessly: laying back looking and picking out futures.
One day Ethan was going to be a lawyer, the next it would be something else.
Nick, in this aspect – although he never made it to eighteen -, was more stable, more constant. He was always going to play in the Major Leagues. He had introduced me to competitive baseball, that odd and often surreal and curiously serious reality of Little League. Nick loved the game; he was a fine player but lacked any inherent athleticism that would ever set him apart. My first year playing we were on the same team, and despite the fact that i played, not because i was passionate, but because at that age everything you do is little more than an attempt at finding yourself amongst the ranks of your peers, it was apparent that i possessed much more of what he lacked.
Had Nick not died, i imagine we would have gone through school together with a constant level of competition between us, him getting close but always coming up short to making this team or that, or beating me.
i on the other hand, rarely knew what i was going to be.
i would lie there searching for clues in the clouds, trying to see some shape that i could pull out of them to share with my two best friends, but more of the time, for me, those clouds remained shapeless.
One day i remember with startling clarity, probably for good reason too. i don’t imagine i will ever be able to forget that day, even if i wanted to. Trust me, i’ve tried.
It was April 19, 1993.
Even though it was a Monday our mood was light: summer was so close we could taste it. The sun had just started to dip below the rounded mountains to the West, turning the sky into a sea of dark purples; the mounting clouds charcoaled and grey – i could smell rain.
Having just finished a game of Flys-up (Ethan had miscalculated, it was getting hard to see; the sharp crack of the ball thumping squarely on his forehead, and the subsequent blue-black molehill that popped and formed almost immediately, and though both Nick and i laughed, razed him about needing to learn how to catch, we realized that yet another day was close to coming to a close), the three of us on our backs, staring up, silent except for the storm’s preceding breeze; our chests rising and falling in hear unison.
Ethan was the first to break the silence.
“1966 Ford Mustang,” he said, pointing up to a cloud. “I’m going to be an automotive engineer when I become an adult.”
“Maybe you should become a doctor, then you’d be able to treat the dumb-assness you suffer from,” i said, and slapped the ugly welt on his forehead. It took us awhile before our laughter died down, before Ethan stopped cursing.
i didn’t know what an automotive engineer was – hell, i still don’t – but Ethan was mentioning this here and there for awhile now, talking about cars more and more.
“That’s cool,” I said. “Long as you fix my car free. i don’t know anything about’em.” He said he would, anytime.
“I’m gonna pitch for the cubbys,” Nick said. “Or catch for the Yanks. I’ll probably have my pick, so I’ll decide then. And then, I’ll have so much money after winning the Series, during the off season …” he paused savoring the thought of it, taking it all in as if it was already a reality, and then continued, explaining that because of the loads of money, during the off season he would be able to sit around playing video games and eating Funions all day long.
Even at that age it seemed a pretty bleak future, i thought anyway; one that would never come to fruition. In less than an hour though, i would come to see just how bleak his future was.
An ocean scientist, i sometimes thought and expressed. An astronaut, an astronomer, a teacher maybe. i changed as many times as the clouds shifted, rolling the sound of the profession around my mouth, trying to get a taste, a feel for it. But today they all seemed sour, lip curdling bitter. After a beat, i said:
“i want to be eighteen. When you’re eighteen you can do anything.”
“Yeah, me too.” Ethan said.
“Yeah … eighteen. That’ll be so cool. We can share an apartment together while I try out for college teams, that is if I’m not already in the MLB by then.” Nick’s voice was an airy longing.
i looked over at him, his face was so placid, eyes bright and round, shimmering with future. He was smiling, all of us were.
Yeah, that’d be so cool.

i hadn’t thought about Nick despite what happened for years, really. Although he was always there (i had come to expect that he would be for the rest of my life), projected onto the insides of my eye lids like a small smudge on a pair of glasses, i had to push him to the edge of my mind’s peripheral in order to get along as much as possible.
Getting ready for school, two days after turning eighteen, i heard in passing, the news eliciting out in the background, that the then US Attorney General, Janet Reno, named former senator John Danforth to head an independent investigation into the fire at the branch Davidian Church near Waco, Texas. The explosion six years earlier that caused the fire happened on Monday, April 19, 1993. The same day Nick died. He was eleven years old.
Eighteen is an age that paradoxically marks both the beginning of your life and the end of it, and i realized, as i snapped the television off, Nick suddenly bobbing up and down in my thoughts, a surfaced bloated corpse face down skimming the top of a dirty pond, that the whole of my youth had been sacrificed to a delusion.

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