Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sixty Five and Sunny

“You know, for someone training to enter one of the most rewarding professions you can get into, I sure spend a lot of time wanting to shoot myself in the face,” I complained, sarcastically. It was a twenty-eight degree Wednesday night in February and I was going for a walk around campus with my friends Joyce and Chris. “I mean, I’ve got two portfolios and a final exam in her class alone. No, don’t worry about it, you shriveled-up shit encrusted ball sack! I don’t have four other classes to worry about!”

“Oh, please. You’re in good shape. I’ve got a fifteen page research paper due next week. I asked my professor for help, and he told me that I’m in college, and he shouldn’t have to hold my little hand through a research paper,” remarked Joyce. She was so furious that I half expected some of the nearby objects to spontaneously combust due to the fire I heard in her voice. She’s a sweetheart with a streak of passion and a definite hint of stubbornness. She’s the kind of person who will go to any lengths to help a friend, but would easily throw you under the bus if she got a bad feeling about you.

“Oh, I know who you have. He did that to a kid in my class, too. We don’t need hand-holding, we need some fucking direction!” Chris said, supporting her. Chris is just as stubborn when he comes across something he’s passionate about, but he doesn’t come across something he’s passionate about very often. He used to be a hiding-in-his-room-antisocial-nerd, but ever since he joined a fraternity, he’s either been in the middle of a party, red face and bug eyed pulling the gathering together, or freaking out over every little bundle of troubles that happens to come his way. There is no in between.

The three of us have a tendency to overanalyze our lives, so every once in a while we take a walk and get all of our thoughts out into the open. See what these other over-analyzers think. Let the over-analyzers over-analyze our over-analyzations.

“Guys, it’s freezing out here,” said Joyce. “We should go inside.” Joyce tends to be the most rational of the three of us, and we usually to follow her advice. Not because she’s rational, more because she’s bossy. “Really, I’m so cold. Aren’t you guys cold?”

“Just walk faster,” said Chris. “We’ll be inside in a second.”

Mid-complaint, we noticed a heavily intoxicated young gentleman standing outside one of the dorm buildings. The guy had snowy blonde hair, which was plastered to his forehead by the drunken sheen over his pale skin. He had a broad Cheshire Cat grin on his face and was stumbling around the campus looking up at the sky, wearing nothing but jeans and a t-shirt. No hat, gloves, scarf, not even a jacket. We all looked up at the sky with him. Damn, no spaceships. After deciding that whatever was making him happy was more in his head than in the sky, we decided to go over to him and make sure he was okay. Once he took a moment to look down around him, he didn’t realize right away where he was, or what was happening. Once his glazed eyes focused, he called out:


As a friend of his, Chris walked over and asked him how he was.

“I’m great, man! Have you taken a look at the stars? It’s so beautiful tonight! It’s so nice outside!”

“Yeah, you should probably get inside… It’s pretty cold out here.”

“You kidding me? It’s be-yoouu-tifull!”

“No, seriously, it’s 25 degrees. Let’s go in.”

“You know what?” the young man replied. “It’s gonna be 65 and sunny on Friday. I’m waitin’ it out, guys, I’m waitin’ it out.”

After this inspiring remark, I was half expecting him to break out into a musical number, maybe have a fairy godmother fall out of the sky, or be offered a poisoned apple. It seemed too perfect to be honest. Chris ushered him inside the building

Joyce and I just stared at each other for a moment. We had the same thought at the same time. This kid was stupid, but he had a great attitude.

“That guy,” said Joyce. “Was awesome.”

“That guy,” said Chris, walking back outside. “Was drunk.”

I probably shouldn’t base my life philosophies on the words of a drunken college student but something about this statement struck me as meaningful, almost insightful. Just a minute ago, I was walking around campus, bitching about my problems, and with the remark of a drunken party kid, all of a sudden I realized that I’m just waitin’ it out too.

His optimism amazed me. And not only was I stunned by his attitude, but I was astonished by his determination. Maybe it was below freezing outside, but goddamn it, he was going to wait out there until it was nice on Friday! And not only was he determined to wait for the nice weather, but he was going to do it with a smile on his face, appreciating the beauty around him. The stars were gorgeous that night!
Look at the pretty snow on the ground! The lake looks so nice at nighttime! He wasn’t going to let a moment pass by without fully appreciating it. And while I’m sure he didn’t remember anything that he was talking about that night, I took his words as advice.

We only saw this guy once again, ever, and in passing. We would never have been able to miss that snowy blonde hair or Cheshire Cat grin. He was yet again stumbling around the campus at the dead of night, and definitely enjoying himself. Joyce and I ran over and yelled: “THAT’S HIM! SIXTY-FIVE AND SUNNY!”

The first thing he said was “What did I do?” While he was drunk, he was in much better mental condition than he was the first time we met him. We could practically read his thoughts: How do I know these girls? How well should I know these girls? Would I be able to tell my mother this story? We told him about his drunken almost-insights, and he chuckled uncertainly at them, still looking at us as if we had told him about our sex changes or the kittens that we liked to drown. He remained nameless to Joyce and I, and we have been calling him Sunny ever since that night.
Honestly, I would rather not know his name. Now he’s just a random kid who came into my life to tell me what I needed to hear. I feel like if I knew his name, it might ruin my image of him.

Sunny, up to his bleary blue eyes in alcohol, was able to shatter my bad attitude and force me to see my world through the positive reflection beneath it. Happiness is a choice, and I can either focus on the negative issues in my life, or on any of the great things that are happening around me. Maybe it’s cold outside now, but it’s gonna be sixty five and sunny on Friday. I’m just waiting it out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Flushing Freddie

There was a sharp rap on my door, and 100 pounds of somberly silly Carrie Drake came exploding through my door. She was wearing a black tee shirt and had a skinny black headband. She also had a deep frown and a look of concern in her eyes, open wide. Only the corners of her mouth tipped up to give away her laughter.

“Freddie Flash died. We’re gonna hold a funeral right now if you want to come.”

“Finally,” I said.
Freddie Flash was the laziest beta fish I had ever seen. His name suggested speed, life, and personality. In reality, he moved on an odd occasion, and usually only when fed. This fish had been dying since the day Carrie’s roommate, Joyce, got him. On a daily basis, she would walk in the room and tap on the fishbowl, wondering if little Freddie was still alive. Tonight, he wasn’t.

Carrie and I paced down the hallway, feeling a little bit like we were out of The Matrix or Men in Black, and Carrie probably could be. She is the son that her father never had. On the outside she seems small and spritely with snowy blonde hair that looks like it’s straight from a Pantene commercial, but on the inside it’s all ships and snails and puppy dog tails. She loves blood and guts, guns, scary movies, and that’s what she said jokes. Yes, she is participating in No Shave November, and most guys I know had a big crush on her until she beat all of their asses in a burping contest. At the same time.

Joyce and Carrie are two of the craziest people I’ve ever met, making their room a pretty interesting place to be. Last time I came to visit they were having a nerf gun war. The time before that, they were making forts. This time it was a fish funeral. We got to their room and there was a message written on their white board: “Beloved friend and faithful fish Freddie Flash passed away this evening. Flushing at 8:15 pm in the girls B-wing bathroom.” Just a normal night in B313.

The first person I saw when I walked in was Joyce: “Look! I have gold shoes!” she yelled, holding up a new pair of metallic gold flats. Joyce is saccharine sweet with a heavy coat of sarcasm and is peppered with defiance and ADHD. She’s the kind of person who will go to any lengths to help a friend, but would easily throw you under the bus if she got a bad feeling about you.

The only other person in the room was Danielle. Danielle tends to take herself much more seriously than other people do. Her love of ridiculous and distracting patterns doesn’t help her. Right now she has on a pair of blue pants with cartoon fishes swimming on them, and an oversized Rider hoodie with a tiny black tee shirt over it. From the waist up, she looked like a tootsie roll. She’s a fangirl nerd with the boobs of a porn star. This makes her very popular with the fanboy nerds, which is a shame, since she’s a lesbian. Danielle was feeling pretty grumpy that night, and since she doesn’t quite understand the meaning of the word “no” on a good day, today she was having some trouble. She also had a fish that died recently, plus she knew Freddy personally.

The first thing Danielle says to me is: “You aren’t wearing black.”

I didn’t realize this was such a formal event. I threw a black cardigan around my shoulders, J-Crew style, and remarked:

“Well, I’m not quite sure whether your fishy pants are appropriate, either.”

“Where is the deceased?” asked Carrie, loudly, probably in an attempt to keep Danielle and me from bickering like six year olds. We both feel like we need to get the last word in, so if Carrie didn’t interrupt, no one could have guessed how long we’d be snipping at each other. Danielle and I have less of a friendly and more of a sisterly love for each other, whereas Carrie, Joyce, and I and a lot more noticeably affectionate. Danielle and I do a lot of fighting and competing with each other, but deep down, we know that we always have each other’s back. If I’m with Carrie or Joyce, it’s a lot less of a battle.

So we all looked at Freddy, floating belly to the heavens, mouth gaping open as if he were searching for just one more snack. Joyce stood up on her desk chair and fished Freddie from his swampy bowl with an orange solo cup. She took a moment to look at her dead fishy friend, perhaps to say a few final goodbyes and said:

“Ew. Let’s go.”

We hurried down the hallway, in a rush to get Freddy out of the solo cup in Joyce’s hand, and back in the water where he belonged. She was leading the way, holding little Freddie her full arms length in front of her. As she is the tallest among all of the participants, I can only imagine that she looked like a mother goose quickly leading her goose lings across the street, with all 4-11 and three quarters of Carrie a half a step behind.

“Slower! We need to go at a funeral procession,” Danielle demands. Please, she was just tired.

Joyce stopped and looked around. “This,” she said thrusting the cup under Danielle’s chin. “Is gross!” and dashed to the bathroom.

We rushed into the bathroom, and Carrie began to read her eulogy:

“Freddy was a fish of few movements. He cherished the simple things in life, such as floating, sleeping, not moving, and eating- hey! You can’t dump him yet!” But it was too late Joyce had already dumped the fish into the toilet bowl.

“It’s okay, he’s in his coffin!” she states.

“Oh, alright! He always seemed to be puckering up for a kiss for the world to see, and no matter how hard life got, he just kept on swimming. Freddy was a good fish and he will be dearly missed. So long Freddy; may you find your way to bluer waters. NO, DON’T FLUSH YET!” So imagine. You head into the bathroom, walk into a stall, and there’s a beta fish floating in the toilet. And on a stroke of genius, Carrie yelled: “WE SHOULD LEAVE HIM HERE!”

Brilliant idea, Carrie. Well done. If we knew we could have seen the face of the poor soul who saw Freddy next, perhaps it would have been executed. In the end, we just didn’t have the heart. Poor Freddy had already suffered through the humiliation of being rushed through the hallway with a solo cup as his hearse. He had already been through enough. We flushed him. And with a “Farewell, Freddy” he went down the bend. Just like that, Freddy Flash was six feet under.

We went back to their room for a reception of leftover Halloween chocolate bars and cleaned out Freddy’s now empty fishbowl. Joyce sat on her bed, looked at her stuffed monkey and said: “Well, It’s just you and me now, Nelson.” But as we were sitting in a circle, it was almost like Freddy was back with us, and there is only one thing that he could have said:

“So long, and thanks for all the fish food.”