Time: 2:02 a.m.
... aaaand for the grand finale of this little series (see like the last four entries or so before this one) I hereby humbly lay at your feet an ACTUAL STORY I ACTUALLY WROTE. this one I got considerably frustrated and ended it with a description of what I wanted to write rather than the writing itself. I saved this version even later, when I came to my senses, and continued writing normally. I'm like that. I'm the 'crack king' like B.I.G. sometimes. yeah.
“Basically, the way it works is this. We’re designers. We design shit. It’s what we do. But I was talking to my other friend, see, this guy from home, you don’t know him, and I was talking to him and he was all ‘yo, I gotta get me a rio, man, those things are totally sweet, and like a, like a digital camera, all that stuff. I also want a new laptop, you know, a real thin one with a DVD player so I can watch movies on the bus’, and I was just listening to him go on like that, you know, just listening to it, right?”
“And like, I was like all ‘yeah’ and ‘yeah that would be hot’ and all that stuff but when I went home I was looking at both of my computers, I had left them on ‘cuz I always do that and the screens were on and full of stuff and icons and web pages and just tons of stuff, and like I was like, I’m a designer. Like at the beginning if the century- no. Fuck that. Like twenty fucking years ago, just like twenty fucking years ago, no one did shit with computers, the only computers were like Apple IIe’s and shit and there was no Illustrator, no Quark, none of that shit. No scanners. None of that bullshit that we, you and I, totally take for granted, you know?”
“And like, I’m thinking, now I’m fucked, I’m totally fucked because I have no choice but to use computers forever now, look, I go to school here and yeah I take all the basics, Drawing I and II, Foundations of Visuals, you remember that shit, you were in my class, we had Mira Cantor that crazy fruitcake bitch but like after that first year every single fucking time, like every. Single. Fucking. Time that I have to do a project I have to sit in front of a computer to do it and slowly like friccasse my eyeballs on a screen and fuck my wrists up and get my ass all crampy and like get totally fat from eating all that fucking bullshit junk food, and like, it’s like, the only exercize I get even is at, you know, these things.” Kensuke actually stops his constant speaking -not so much to breathe as to smack his lips repeatedly- and waves his hand around the thronging rave. Iris can hear the sounds of his tongue licking his lips over the bass hits, which she can more feel than hear anyway. She tries to guess what frequency offset the average lip-smacking sound would be from the bass kicks and gets distracted by a girl walking by in what looks like a yellow furry chicken suit, complete with chicken headdress and a beak.
Kensuke takes one hand off of Iris’ back to drink deeply from a 1-liter bottle of water. “I mean like, when my parents first got me the computer and all it was so great, you know, it was just like sooo great, because I had all these ideas in my head and now I could finally make use of them, like even though I could never really draw I could like allofasudden like make stuff, and I remember looking at the Magritte book my mom had when I was like eight, I mean c’mon, how many kids do you know look at Magritte when they’re like eight-“ He stops massaging her back momentarily to place his hands lightly -grab is way too strong a descriptive term- on Iris’ bare shoulders and shake her slightly “-and trying to draw it and just fucking up so bad, you know, so bad…”
Kensuke keeps yammering. It’s easy for Iris to turn him out as there’s just so much shit going on in the space they’re in. She isn’t on anything except coffee, but the rave still holds her in thrall. Lights spin and strobe, boys dance violently, girls delicately float by.
On the van trips up to parties like this, Kensuke usually drives on the way up, and he tends not to say much. Usually he just keeps a cigarette wedged in his mouth and bobbed his head to whatever was on the stereo, just being cool. That’s his thing, it seems. He’s just cool. Iris loves to look at him, because of how cool he is. This trip, she’d stared at him from the front passenger seat pretty much the whole way, her head down, pretending to read a magazine. He never looked bad or out of place or uncomfortable. He didn’t say much and when he did open his mouth to speak it was either very pragmatic or very funny. Like:
“We’re going to run out of gas in 20 minutes.”
“That’s bad for you.”
Kensuke had uttered the latter when he plucked a cigarette Iris had been storing between her ear and her head and lit it without looking up at her. Maybe you had to be there but the other four kids in the van laughed.
Now, Iris, at this moment in time, is somewhat embarrassed for him, because he simply dosen’t shut up. Her attention drifts back to what he was saying and she hears this:
“…but then like this other neighbor I had when I was 11, man, she was such a bitch, cuz she would call my mom up and…”
Blam, she’s back across the room, sizing up the chicken suit girl. She can’t figure that one out. Bound to fuck up someone’s trip, she muses, and has to suppress a giggle, because this is a rave and like if you’re going to wear a chicken suit you’re better off doing it here than on the streets.
A voluntary asylum, she thinks with a smile, and spins around on her ass to face her friend.
Kensuke retracts his hands respectfully. They’re sitting cross-legged on the floor. When they’d arrived at the rave, the van’s clock read12:11. None of them wear watches inside, as per the request of Carrinne, who’s more on the hippie side of the raver spectrum and abhors timepieces of all sort. Kensuke had eaten some pills and Iris had danced with him de facto, because the others weren’t as pretty to watch and plus they had some hang-ups lately. Keeping to themselves.
Iris grabs the pack of Kamel Reds out of Kensuke’s button-up shirt’s front pocket and pulls one out. “Got a light?” She has no idea at which point in his life story she’s interrupted him.
“Yeah, yeah yeah, one sec, hold on…” he stands up and begins looking through his front pockets. Iris also stands, and stretches.
Iris stands taller than Kensuke. She’s only wearing Nikes but she’s six feet tall. Kensuke’s like five-six. Iris brushes her short black hair out of her face and yawns deeply.
As soon as Kensuke stands up he stops talking completely and starts bobbing his head. He pulls his head down and jogs it up on the hihats and lets it fall back down on the bass hits. He curls inward, like a pillbug. Iris touches his arm, to get his attention, but he dosen’t feel it, or thinks it’s the music caressing him or whatever. She leans in closer but he’s totally absorbed. Bobbing up and down, his back still up against the concrete support he was leaning against.
Iris gives up and walks away. Kensuke takes no notice of her leaving. Fine, she thinks, his backrub was lame, anyway. She massages her own neck and walks towards the DJ booth, in the center.
Kids are all around her, illuminated in the flashing lights.
The sound changes slightly with every person that walks by and every step she takes towards the huge speaker racks; the waves of bass compression shape themselves around the dancers. A guy with his hoodie up walks past, his huge jeans swishing, his hand to his mouth. He’s mumbling, “ex, ex, ex”, like a mantra, under his breath, about three ‘ex’es for every step he takes.
Like a waltz, she thinks. Step-ex-ex, Step-ex-ex. The rave waltz.
A large knot of people, mostly guys, obscure Iris’ view of the DJ. He’s spinning hard house. Iris has two tables back in her dorm room. She cruises by the corner of the booth, glancing at the records in the crates there. I could slam this guy, she thinks, I’m waaaay better. Nothing new here. She smiles and heads off again, into the crowd, on a tangent.
At the back, opposite the entry doors, she finds her schoolmates. Carrinne and Nicki have their back to a concrete pole, slumped just slightly against each other. Their heads are down and they’re nodding to a beat much slower than the techno on the PA.
Iris looks at them quizzically, standing over them. She’s wearing her widest jeans and her tiniest white tanktop. Her belt, powered by a small battery pack on the side, glows electric blue. Carrinne and Nicki don’t acknowledge her at all. She kicks at Carrinne’s stocky leg. She dosen’t move.
Iris gets worried for a moment and stoops over. She grabs Carrinne’s forehead and pulls it up, to look in the eyes.
“WuuaaaaaAAAAGH!” Carrinne’s eyes flash open, wide and dilated.
“Sorry. I saw you here and I, ah, got worried. You, ah, you looked…” Iris dosen’t finish her sentence.
“Thaaat’s okaaay.” Carrinne’s voice slurs and she lets her head dip back down to resume bobbing, at almost the same rate Nicki’s head was bobbing at, but not quite.
Iris stands there, her hands on her hips. She scowls and scratches her bare neck. After a moment she moves around the back of the pole.
Anthony and Miron are back there, their legs also sprawled, their heads also bobbing. Anthony is tall and thin and his pointed nose makes him look like a bird drinking, or some such thing. Miron is stocky and looks asleep. Between them, on top of Anthony’s backpack, there’s a little baggie with white powder in it. A little cut length of straw sticks out. Most of the bag is empty. It’s not that big a bag but it clearly had more stuff in it.
Iris steps over Anthony’s long legs. No one notices. She bends down and picks up the bag.
“Uuuhhhhhh?” Anthony opens one eye. Usually he’s the energetic one, the one that comes around and gets everyone in the van. Now he looks like he’s been beaten up.
“Guys? Is this K?”
Anthony looks away for a minute. “Um, yeah.” He closes his eye and looks back down.
“Are all of you, like, totally holed?”
“Yesh”, he says, without looking up.
Iris looks at the bag. She holds it right up to her face, where slivers of strobe light the plastic folds. There’s a little more light here than where she was with Kensuke; she can more-or-less make out the texture of the powder inside.
She has done K, once before. This doesn’t look like K.
“Guys?” She asked, the bag still in front of her. “What is this?”
Anthony shrugs and curls up, pulling away from her. “Nothing,” he murmurs, barely audiable over the music.
Iris holds the bag up for another thirty seconds before putting it down and walking off.
“Kensuke?” Iris shouts at him.
He can’t hear her. He’s jumping up and down, rubbing the back of his own neck.
“Hey! Kensuke!” She grabs his right forearm, halting him mid-jump.
“Hunh? Oh hiiii!” Kensuke hugs her big. “Where have you been? This stuff’s incredible!”
“What, the rolls?” she asks without smiling.
“No no man no! Yo! YO! It’s the music! It just…dosen’t … STOP!” He starts jumping up and down towards the end of his sentence. He grabs both of her hands and pulls her away from the side and into the dance.
Iris rolls her eyes at first, but then Kensuke is spinning her around, they’re holding hands and spinning like kids and she sees the big stupid grin on his normally oh-so-cool face and just laughs.
She rolls with it.
The sun’s all the way up when they leave. No pre-dawn glow, no spectacular golden yellows and reds, just the blazing sun in all of their faces. Iris squints and sips her water. Kensuke recoils and groans as they emerge. Anthony and Nicki huddle together under Anthony’s jacket. Miron and Carrinne walk behind them.
It’s Saturday in the spring. Iris has the directions back to Rhode Island back in the glove compartment of the van, which belongs to Anthony’s father. They all have things to do when they get back, but not right away.
They reach the van, a blue Ford. There’s a minor panic when no one knows where the keys are. Eventually Anthony finds them in his bag. Carrinne’s gearing up to yell at everyone, her voice escalating and cracking with a nights’ disuse, but then Anthony pulls the keys out of his bag and jangles them in her face, and she sort of crumples.
They get in. Iris drives, Kensuke gets shottie. The others pile in the back and immediately fall all over each other, moaning for sleep.
“I don’t see what’s wrong with you people, you guys barely danced,” Iris says, looking at the road. They don’t reply.
She throws a look to Kensuke, but he’s got his hand on his face with his feet on the dash. He dosen’t see her.
She raises an eyebrow to herself and revs the motor.
Iris loves driving back from the raves they go to. She doesn’t usually take drugs at these things, so she gets the car to herself on the return trip. She’s possesses the sort of mental constitution that demands frequent alone-time, especially after something like jumping around in a grade-B backwoods convention center with concrete floors to hardhouse beats all night. Everyone in the car always passes out sooner or later, and the trips are usually at least an hour, so she gets to mentally unwind and stare at the road in relative silence.
She puts a tape in the van’s stereo: a mix her sister Elise made for her, full of very slow, chilled-out beats. A few of Elise’s own remixes here and there, as well. No one in the van moves except Iris, who’s steering, and Kensuke, who flexes his right foot the dash ever so slightly in time with the stereo.
Iris thinks, as the road stretches out along the southern Connecticut shore towards Providence. She thinks about her freshman-year major projects, all of which are due in two weeks. The most menacing of the approaching deadlines is next Friday. She has to make a chair for Visual Foundation II that must support her weight, out of cardboard. She dosen’t even have the cardboard yet.
But between the rave building outside of New Haven and the RISD parking lot she heads towards, she builds the chair in her mind. She tests different approaches and weighs options. She throws out two designs before reaching the state border, because they contain too many 90-degree angles, which have been bothering her lately for one reason or another.
When she turns off the van’s motor, the dash clock reads 11:09. After she parks the van and wakes up her friends, she marches up the small hill between the parking lot and her building without turning back to see if they go anywhere. The sun is shining brightly and she squints. Her pants drag a bit and make a currrh-currrh-currrh sound on the asphalt and concrete as she makes her way. She pulls her keys out of her pants’ enormous back pocket and opens the door. She quickly hops up the steps, two or three at a time, to the third floor.
She is blessed with her own room. She flings open the door and slams it shut behind her. Out the window she can see the four from the back seat starting to stagger out of the van. Kensuke isn’t there; he must have left already.
Iris falls onto her bed and sleeps within minutes. She sleeps through Anthony knocking sheepishly at around one, and the phone ringing a few hours later.
At six, the phone rings again. Iris reaches out with one arm and pulls the cordless off of the end table. “Mmmyellow?” She tries to sound as tired as possible.
“Hey! How are you?” A singsongy voice floats out of the phone.
“Mom?” Iris pulls herself up. She kicks off her sneakers, which she’d left on, and crosses her legs. An observer in her room would have seen the legs just sort of vanish into the expanse of Iris’ pants.
“Ooh, you sound tired, honey, did you go out last night?” Iris could hear shouting and banging in the background. Iris’ mom is a choreographer well-known for her avant-garde site-specific dance. She’s out in the midwest, setting up for a large piece at a public sculpture called the ‘Wave Field’, at the University of Michigan.
“Yeah.” Iris picks up a 2B pencil and began to draw her Mom’s face on the back of an old sketchbook. She held the phone between her chin and her shoulder.
“Another rave?” The voice on the phone lowered a little on the word ‘rave’.
“Yeah.” She can’t see her clock from her bed, which is positioned under the room’s large window, because of the glare of the setting sun off of the clock’s Plexiglas face.
“Well make sure you get some rest, Iris love. I was just calling to check in, see how you’re doing…” Margo Makasado, Iris’ mom, called almost every Saturday at the same time, always just to check in.
“I’m doing fine, Mom, I have a lot of stuff to do, finals are like, right on top of me.” Iris drew her Mom as smoking a cigarette, even though she’d been done with nicotine for years. She drew smoke curls pouring from her Mom’s nose. This made her smile.
Her mom went on: “Yes, yes, good luck, good good luck dear with all of those things. I’m out in Michigan right now, we’re trying to do a full-on lighting design for this thing indoors, it’s been raining here for three days, I’m not sure what we’re going to do.”
“Yeah, and there’s other problems, like Smyth, remember him? He came over for dinner a few times, right before Easter, you remember?”
“Well he didn’t come through with- oh, I can’t explain it to you now, but there was a kind of light controller that I absolutely had to have, you know, it was an absolute must, and he didn’t get it, these only control x and y, not zoom like I needed, so we have to redo practically all the good scenes, and it’ s just a nightmare-“
“Yeah listen Mom,” Iris said suddenly, throwing the sketchbook with the half-finished caricature to the floor and standing up. “I’d love to talk but I can’t. I’ve got to run.”
“Oh. Of course.” Margo slowed down. “Of course honey. I didn’t mean to get going like that, it’s just this project-“
“I hear you. I really do but I have to go,” Iris raises her voice and starts pace back and forth in the thin strip of carpeting in the room that wasn’t covered over in papers, books, or records. “Can you call me tomorrow night? We can talk then.”
“I think so honey, I’m not sure but you know what? If I can’t I’ll just email you and we’ll talk next week. Ok?” Iris can practically feel Margo beaming from across Middle America into the phone.
“Ok. I love you, Mom.”
“I love you too honey,” -smack!- “I’m sending you kisses. Talk to you later.”
Iris is in the alley behind the convenience store, rubbing her temples. The alley is full of garbage bags but RISD students have pillaged all the cardboard. The supermarket, where she’d been first, had yielded nothing for her either, nor did the liquor store.
The sun’s setting and were it not for the stench of rotting food and excrement, the alley would make a perfect place: sheltered between two brick buildings, it was cool without being cold, and the sun fell across half of the walls, lighting them up, warming the maroon to a golden yellow that any first-year right out of Basic Color Theory couldn’t help but adore.
Iris eventually shrugs and turns back to the street. She calls Kensuke on her cellphone halfway to her dorm. He answers right away.
“Hello?” She can hear DJ Honda on in the background.
“Hey, it’s me, I’m down the street.” She says, her eyes searching the building for his dorm room window. He lives in her building; that’s how they met. “Can you do me a favor?”
“You want my car, to go get cardboard.”
“How’d you-? Yeah.” She paused, her cheeks slightly red. “You, ah, want me to pick up some for you if I find any?”
“Let’s just go together, ok?”
“Be down in a second.”
“Bye,” she says, but Kensuke’s hung up already.
At the rave, Kensuke’d been wearing orange UFO pants and a black button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled. His hair had been gelled and spiked. Now, his hair fell thickly against his scalp, almost coming down to his eyebrows. He’d traded the UFOs for loose charcoal-gray Diesel pants and a black hoodie vest with a charcoal t-shirt underneath.
Iris looks at herself as she approaches him, leaning serenely against the van, smiling thinly. She’s still wearing her rave clothes. The batteries had ran down on her glowing belt, but aside from that she’s dressed completely the same.
“Can’t let go, can you?” he says, nodding at her attire. “It was that good.” Kensuke draws out the words that good.
“Whatever. I drove, you slept.”
He smiles, the last of the sun glinting off of his teeth. “Yeah. Let’s go.”
They walk down three slots and climb into Kensuke’s car, an old but well-kept maroon Volvo station wagon. When he starts the engine, a Boards of Canada tape begins to play halfway through.
After a minute Iris says, “Can we change it?”
“Why?” Kensuke eases the car out of the space and pulls a smooth U-turn around a student walking with a portfolio.
“I listened to this, like, all through fall.”
“So it’s spring.” She stabs eject and the tape spits out in her hand. She puts in a hip-hop mix; he turns the volume down and the bass way up.
“We’re suburban now, yo,” Kensuke’s ‘yo’ was almost ‘you’.
He drives them along, down the hill and into Providence. The streetlights start to come on as the last of the sun fades out. Providence lines its nicer streets with replicas of the old gas lanterns from ago. Iris looked at these while they drove.
She inhales through her nose, sharply.
“Do you always wear Issey Miyake?”
“So. How you feelin’?” He takes his right hand off the wheel for a moment to brush her bare shoulder.
“You took nothing.”
“I took nothing.” They share a smile.
“The other guys were doing H.”
“Yeah. They’ve been getting more and more into that shit.”
“How about you?”
“You ever do ‘that shit’?” Iris made air quotes when she said ‘that shit’.
“They’re art students.”
“Yeah. It’s still bad.”
“My brother says that’s what his freshman year was like. Sort of trial by fire. He went to business school but still. Lots of kids can’t handle it.”
“Handle what?” Iris chuckles at this.
“School. They can’t handle school, like managing their own shit.”
“How could you not handle school?” Iris shakes her head. She had marked off the days to her departure to RISD on her organizer calendar for the last eight months before she went. Her dad had wanted her to go to Harvard, right up the road from his apartment. It had not been easy to get her way.
Kensuke exhales sharply, puffing his cheeks up. “Not the same, I guess, these kids, they could always do whatever they want, more or less. School is too much. No limits.”
Iris dosen’t follow. She discreetly rolls her eyes and says: “Hmmmmmm.” She pauses, continuing: “They’re my friends, I hope they know what they’re doing.”
Kensuke smiles and shrugs, his eyes on the road. “They’ll be fine. They’ll get all fucked up and fail classes, maybe. At most. Anthony’s brilliant, he’ll do all right no matter what.”
“Yeah,” she says, brightening. “Did you see his 3D animation?”
“Yeah, I have no idea where he gets the time to do that shit. It’s fucking genius.”
“For real, he’s almost done with it too, it’s like 7000 frames or something.”
“Yeah man, you just can’t get away with that kind of shit on the nod, that’s for sure.”
They pull into a supermarket on the southwestern edge of Providence, past the intestinal concrete ramps of the highway. The sky’s a very deep blue and the large parking lot’s lights haven’t come on yet, so Iris and Kensuke are lit only by the thin sodium glow from the highways and the red of the huge “Stop ‘n’ Shop” neon sign. The lot’s only about half-full.
They grab a cart and head for the edge of the lot, to the huge broad side of the plain tan building where the loading docks are. They find what they’re looking for behind the trash compressor: rows and rows of stacks and stacks of tied-up folded cardboard boxes. Nice and neat, no mess. They abandon the cart and Kensuke jogs back to the car to pull it around. Iris crosses her arms against the slight marine breeze and stares out over the skyline of Providence, to the little deep blue sliver of Atlantic ocean. Lights are coming on in the larger buildings of the city; the ocean stands out as a thin lightless patch.
Kensuke pulls the car up right next to her and honks. She yelps out of her reverie and spins around on her heel to face him, scraping the hem of her pants across the ground. She shakes her fist at him in mock rage; he recoils, feigning horror. They break into smiles and he gets out. Together, they pack the rear of the Volvo with parcels of cardboard.
Now, let’s take in on faith at this point that these two, Iris and Kensuke, get together. Let’s all assume that, for like the sake of brevity or some such thing.
Let’s say this is what happens, for those of you who are into that soap opera shit and want to know how it goes: Iris rides back with Kensuke, and they share the same kind of guardedly flirtatious banter they’ve been tossing about on the way. They part ways at the dorm, taking their cardboard back to their rooms. Iris stays up late making the chair. Kensuke comes in when she’s done and is completely wowed by her design. She has this crazy shit going with honeycombs shot through with spiraled curves of cardboard, the whole thing looks positively insubstantial but miraculously bears his weight and hers, et cetera ad nauseum. They go back to his room, he shows her his chair, she’s not impressed but then he gets all cathartic about not being able to make a hot chair, he’s kind of put off by how hot her chair is and how she’s a hot designer in general and she asks what, what’s wrong with you, when he gets a bit withdrawn, and then he gets even dodgier when she asks this and to pre-empt any frank discussion he suggests that they go for coffee, and they flirt more on the way back from the coffee place, which is a sort of run-down-looking dinerish place down the hill and closer to the skankier parts of providence, near the highway, lit with flourescent bulbs, where they drink weak but powerful coffee from thimble-sized ceramic mugs whose glaze is scratched smooth as they sit on stainless-steel stools cushioned in lackluster maroon vinyl. As they reach the dorm on he gets himself into some sort of conversational jam and fueled by the warm springtime night air and his own caffinated confidence he lets on to Iris that he thinks she’s hot, but like in a non-chair-making human-attraction kind of way in addition to thinking she’s one hellacious firecracker of a chair-making wizard. Naturally he does not actually say the words “one hellacious firecracker of a chair-making wizard”, that’s totally not his style. Anyway that’s when they start making out, of course, because Iris totally thinks he’s hot as well, and they run back to his room and do it, which is fine because his roommate’s pulling an all-nighter in the film studio editing his big documentary about marching bands.
How’s that? I think that’s decent enough. Yeah. Anyway. That’s the current scenario, like right now. That’s where it’s at.