The daily sweat burning August sun into the red of my neck, head bent day long placing pavers up a driveway to a three car garage. Exhaustion is when limbs get numb, dehydration underestimating the volume of a gallon water jug. When the lightpost by the cascading stoop comes on, lights an orb with edges dissipating into a night hiding the house’s upper-floors… there is something I’ve missed. I am supposed to be home and I am still laying bricks. The stars in the sky out-competed by the porch lights deck lights driveway lights garage lights lawn lights of the much-acheived sub-division. I stand up from the bricks and turn a confused circle. I am pushing a brick-loaded wheelbarrow back down to the pick-up, curb parked. The pick-up has accrued at some point several tickets beneath the wipers. The wheelbarrow catches an unevenly-laid brick and the weight is a moment tumbling free of my hands. I was supposed to be home. There is something I have missed. My kid is asleep and my wife on her one night off is waiting up for me. It wasn’t supposed to be this. Suburban lights have lawns glowing green, surreally, past the windows of the pick-up. I must have made a wrong turn. The GPS doesn’t plug in anywhere and my flip-phone isn’t receiving 2G. Somewhere in a cul-de-sac I have become lost. I am sweating needle-pricks from my goosebumps and I don’t know where I am. In the windshield are memory-versions of myself sitting in college classrooms, studying in the library, taking rum from my empty pockets sleeping nowhere, and in a mindless storm of impulse rocketing my future down a highway away from school, towards towns I’d yet to explore. And needed. And desired. A life not spent bent supplicating paychecks from the boss’s desk. I am on my own. And I am crushed. And my family has no future in a townhouse past the gentrified edge. And I am sinking in debt and insurance and credit scores I refuse to check. And I am told to hire a crew. If I’d just stayed in school a degree and then ten people working under me. I must have become confused. Or corrupted, with some sick ideal a dozen people shouldn’t work beneath me. I am a fuck up. The windshield a translucent reflection bloated to dimensions of pathetic ethics, face pallid stained with blood sinking into a gut that won’t climb itself a single capitalist rung. Idealistic refusal and the delusion my children will be better off. That I work for no one and I run no one, and I am confused. It is four in the morning in a cul-de-sac and the pick-up still a mile down the driveway. There is something I have missed. I am placing the bricks back in the wheelbarrow and this is the day beginning. I was supposed to be home.
What I disliked about college was that I wasn’t working my way through it (impossible now, anyway). My parents paid for some, god bless them for it, and the rest was covered with loans. I didn’t need money for housing, food, gas. As long as I didn’t drop out, I had everything I needed, and I didn’t have to work very hard to keep it – keeping a 2.5GPA in Journalism isn’t difficult. I was lazy, indolent, decadent; excessive drinking, daily gravity-bongs, lots of time reading or on the couch bingeing TV. I was melancholic mold-hearted.
What I wanted more than anything was to be an adult, to be on my own. But I was living in a house, had a car, enough food, lots of leisure time, all on the parental- and Federal-dime. I had a rot in my gut, an empty childish uselessness; everything I needed was provided, life through an umbilical cord. No one who is so completely dependent, is living their own life… I can’t imagine how a womb-bound 20-year-old is alive.
I did have a lust for life: I wanted to pour my guts across the city in a serendipitous rush of excitement and intoxication. But I also wanted to struggle for my future. I wanted the vinegar in my blood to burn away nights working. I wanted to worry about finding my next meal, but then get distracted by the excitement of determining my own future.
I didn’t want to be eating well and getting plenty of sleep on handed-down dollars, studying to get a booster-seat degree in four years.
I needed death’s breath on my bare soles. I needed struggle-in-the-moment, do or die at this very hour, not the safety of collegiate provisions, cozy study time to have a career in four years.
This has been my only motivation: Do now, or shiver years in an alley dead.
College didn’t work for me.
I only ever felt alive after dropping out of school and cutting ties with my parents. I needed the risk. I couldn’t bear to have a safety-net, or a step-stool, or a placental studying-period. To me, the risk of death is all that feels alive. A lot of people have called me an idiot over the years, or crazy, but I know I have company.