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Banned for Life

So I walked back out to Nick and I said, “You know, I think he thinks I just need a place to crash.”  And Nick said, “Well, good.  I mean nothing personal, Jason, but you’re a big guy and we haven’t got much room as it is.  So see what’s up with Rico, and if it doesn’t look good give me a call and we’ll work something out.” 

So I went back in the kitchen and told Rico in sign language I wanted to see his place, and after he’d changed I followed him down the road to an apartment complex just inside the city limits.  It was relatively new and cheap; a kind of mini-city unto itself, not unlike those gated communities in Southern California, only without the gate.  And Rico parked, and I did, too, and we started walking down the courtyard toward his place.  And by then it was maybe eleven-thirty, and most of the windows were dark and yet, somewhere close by, somebody was playing music.  Loud.  It was a pissed-off, ragged sound I knew I’d heard a few times before, and yet it was all I could do to give it a name:  punk rock.  And guess who was playing it?  Guess who I was about to live practically right next door to? 

You got it. 

Mark’s injuries weren’t that severe, after all.  He did have a broken nose, but no concussion, and those cuts on his face, caused by my class ring, weren’t nearly as bad as they looked.  So, within a few days, he was back at school, and I was sentenced to six months on probation on a misdemeanor battery charge.  Also, I’d have to perform fifty hours of community service at a state-run home for retarded kids.  But that wasn’t the end of it.  Mark’s dad was a lawyer who filed suits against me, the school, and the manufacturers of my “defective” class ring, so I had to hire a lawyer myself and gave at least two depositions where I was asked about everything from the time I slept with Gail to the time I told Mark to Mark’s encounter in the high-jump pit with Tammy Ducey.  She was deposed, too.  So were Mark, Megan, Gail, and Paula.  And there were depositions from people I barely knew, people who’d seen the fight, several of whom had seen the fateful shove that got it going.  One person said Mark had tried to bite me.  Others mentioned his threat.  Which is why the suits eventually got dropped:  how sympathetic is a plaintiff going to be if he shoves his attacker after threatening his life?  And it’s not like those who mentioned it were trying to help me:  a few made a point of saying they weren’t right there in their statements.  Yet they told the truth anyway and, for that, I’m still grateful.  Meantime, my parents paid most of my legal bills, and I’m grateful for that, too.  Of course, it’s been thrown in my face a few times in the years since.  In fact, beginning from that time, my relationship with both my parents has never been the same.  I’m on very good terms with both my brothers, but in their heart of hearts, I don’t think my parents have ever quite forgiven me, and I suppose that’s something I can understand.  Still, seven years later, after a trauma so bad it made this one look like the joke it was, they were right there to help me out. 

As for Megan, this is one of those things that boggles the mind, but only a few days after I’d moved in with Rico, she phoned my parents and found out my new address and came over and just about fucked me blind.  You think I’m kidding?  She just showed up one Friday night with some stuff I’d given her, claiming she wanted to return it, and I took the moment to say how sorry I was and, suddenly, she was all over me.  But this had nothing to do with forgiveness.  No, she just had to get even with me and Gail, and I was going to let her.  No more reservations on Jason Street!  Uh-uh.  Now that everything was out in the open I was more than willing.  And I whisked her off to my mattress on the floor, and the whole time she bit me and scratched me and called me names like “You pig” and “You filthy piece of shit.”  She gave me hickeys as dark as beets!  And that was just the first of many occasions.  For months, she’d show up once a week or so to do it all over again.  It wasn’t always so rough, but it was always really fast, seeing that she was sneaking around to do it.  She was just terrified word would leak out.  In fact, that’s how I started talking to Peewee.  The second time she came over, she shut the door and said with a look of terror, “You didn’t tell me Bernard Mash lives here!” 

“I didn’t know it myself.” 

And she went to the window and cracked the blinds and pointed to a door down the courtyard where she’d seen him go in.  And he’d seen her, too—at least she thought he had.  And then, right on cue, we got a blast of souped-up music, and I said, “Oh, he’s the one.”  Because, by then, I’d gotten a better-paying job painting houses, and it was difficult, back-breaking, grueling work, and almost every night I’d come home to some jerk putting on a punk show for the whole complex.  And it wasn’t like I couldn’t sleep—not after the days I put in—but, still, it seemed pretty inconsiderate to be playing that shit at ten or eleven o’clock at night, and all I knew about punk rock was that the people who liked it were supposedly pretty violent, so I figured if I complained I might get in a fight, and I really wasn’t looking for any more trouble.  I just wanted to keep the lowest possible profile and, eventually, get my diploma and head off to college—to basically pick up where I’d left off and put this whole mess behind me. 

But now—now I knew who was playing that crap all the time.  And Megan was afraid he’d seen her at my place and, at some point, he’d run his mouth at school, so she asked if I’d go over and have “a word with him.  You know, just kind of tell him to keep it to himself.”  In other words, she wanted me to threaten him which, up till then, had been very unlike her.  And it’s not like anybody was going to listen to a goddamned word he had to say anyway, but, after all, I did want to speak to him about the music, so I told Megan I’d be right back and walked down the courtyard and up the steps leading to his door.  And it was pretty hot that night, so the main door was open and, through the screen, I could make out his living room, which was almost as threadbare as mine:  not much furniture, but a big shelf filled with books, and a stereo sitting on cinderblocks with at least a hundred and fifty LPs lined up beside it. (Some belonged to his sister, but this was only half his collection. The other half was back in his bedroom, including all his singles.)  And I think—but I’m not positive—the record playing was Sandinista! by the Clash, since I have a distinct memory of seeing that cover sitting on top of the stereo.  Plus, the TV was playing with the sound turned down, and yet the room was empty, or at least I couldn’t see anybody.  And I knocked and nobody came.  And I knocked again and, finally, Peewee walked out from what I knew was the kitchen, since all the apartments in that complex were laid out exactly the same, and he looked across and saw me on his front porch, and he just fucking froze, man.  I mean he looked like he’d seen a ghost.  And he turned down the stereo and walked up to the door and said, “What are you doing here?” 

Posted at 2pm on 10/15/2005 | comments are closed Filed Under: Fiction

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