This was a sketch I wrote back in December. I decided to revise it a little today, and this is the final result... :/ This is actually sorta personal, by my standards at least.
A Cherry Red Gibson
His room said it all. I saw it a few years ago, when I went to his younger brother’s birthday party. There was a cherry red Gibson SG leaning haphazardly on the wall. His parents bought for him in a desperate attempt to find something he was interested in. He played it once, and when he found that he couldn’t play a single note of Stairway to Heaven, he gave it up. In another corner of the room, buried under dirty laundry was an easel with an unfinished painting of what appeared to be a train station. When he decided art didn’t suit him either, he turned into a coat rack.
He tried a lot of things in that last mad rush to find his calling. He tried football and broke his wrist; he tried acting and broke his heart when he was cast as a horse. And he tried writing, and was ousted from his school’s newspaper when he attempted to submit an article entitled “Cannibalism: Morally Bankrupt, or the Future of Conservation?” Nothing seemed to suit him, and he was quick to give up on his interests, perhaps to hastily.
It wasn’t a matter of intelligence. That was a fact his younger brother stressed every time the subject of Adrian came up among our friends. He did well in school and his grades were a source of pride to his younger brother in the years prior to Adrian’s graduation. He used to be a source of awe to us; a glowing example of what we used to think was growing up.
He thought a lot, and maybe that was why the job as a fry cook at Burger King he got when he dropped out of college was perfect for him. It wasn’t a job that required much effort, and so while flipping burgers he would dream.
I can’t imagine all the things he must’ve thought of. When my friends and I would meet there for lunch, we’d see him in the kitchen behind the counter, staring off into space and preparing food in autopilot.
His younger brother would always scold us for staring at him. “Stop it guys,” he’d say, “I hate how you guys have this strange obsession with my brother.” We did bring him up often because of how frightened we had become of ending up like him. His younger brother was scared too, and when he felt that he was failing, he’d hide his face under a hood.
I got some insight on all the things Adrian thought when I went over for dinner one night. He talked a lot during dinner, maybe too much, because his father would grow red, his hand tensing on his wine glass, and his mother and brother would become nervous. He never seemed to notice.
He always talked about his future. The future that everyone, including him, realized would never come. He’d go on about how he planned on getting rich, and how he planned on finally meeting a woman who ‘understood’ him. His future would change often, his younger brother would tell me during the rare times he was willing to talk about Adrian. “The whole ‘get rich, get married’ thing is pretty consistent,” he’d say, “but every thing else is a variable. It depends on what his interest is at that moment, and that changes twice a week. But he plans it all out, right down to some noble death.”
He played entire lifetimes out in his head. Each one of them was absurd, but for some reason, he seemed to be content with this. For a while, his parents were relieved to know that Adrian was looking forward to a future, but when it became clear that nothing was to come of it, they only lost more hope in him.
I remember the day he came home from college, completely unannounced. It was a Tuesday, and I was with his younger brother, playing the games we used to play then. His family was visibly surprised, but he didn’t seem to notice. “College isn’t right for me ma,” he said. And then he burst into tears. For the few hours that remained before his father returned from work, his younger brother and his mother poured sympathy over him.
His father was furious, his younger brother would say over lunch the next day. He demanded that he get a job immediately, which was what brought Adrian to Burger King. He was happy though, being able to flip burgers and just daydream all the lives he wanted to have. Even when his parents finally kicked him out of their house, he was happy. He seemed to have some strange fascination with simply being alive that was good enough for him. That he’d never go anywhere and that he’d never be anything more than a fry cook never seemed to faze him.
That’s why I felt guilty when I bought his SG for one hundred dollars at a yard sale when his parents kicked him out. It was obvious that he didn’t know the value of the guitar. The price he originally asked for was much less. When I went up to him to buy the guitar, I told him I’d give him a hundred dollars for it, and somehow I felt like I was shoveling dirt into a grave.
“It’s only fifty,” he began, but stopped. “Yeah, one hundred sounds good.”
I must’ve looked strange, walking down the street, holding a case-less guitar by the neck. I felt strange too. I felt that by not paying the thousand dollars the guitar was easily worth, I was dooming him to a life on the streets. It was inevitable though. No one could make a living with minimum wage, at least not in that town.
It’s for that same reason that I shouldn’t have felt better when I saw him working at Burger King later that week, when I met with my friends (his younger brother refused to come for emotional reasons). It was very likely that he would soon be evicted from whatever apartment he was living in soon, but he still smiled. He stared off into space as he always did, and was daydreaming about how great his impossible futures could be.
I told his younger brother that he was happy later that day. He glared at me for a moment, with a confused looking expression on his face. But it seemed to make sense to him as he thought about it. “I dunno,” he said, “I guess if he’s happy it’s alright.”
That cherry red SG leans haphazardly against the wall of my room. I daydream about it, and all the impossible futures I wish I could have.