I get tired (I just got off an eleven hour shift), and I make a hint to Jack. He doesn’t seem to want to go to bed with me, so I kiss him goodnight, and rub his head. I say goodnight to the boys and they respond from within their zombie eyed trance induced by Futurama. I head to the closet by the front door that is Jack’s room.
The room is so narrow, the mattress on the ground curves up on either end like a taco shell. We are forced to cuddle by the slope. When I sit alone in his room, it always makes me like him more. His pride is invoked in the various colors he chose to paint the plywood paneling. Neon green, construction orange...lavender pink. A small make-shift shelf runs up the wall on the left side of his bed, with stacks of Joseph Campbell textbooks. "I like the pictures," he says. Once in awhile, all his clothes are folded and in order; but usually I have to clear some pile from the bed. A folder on the shelf contains his birth certificate and his social security card. One day he'll lose that folder at a bar.
There’s no window, but a tiny hole in the top right corner of the room leads to the outside hallway, and this circulates air; or so we tell ourselves. In this room, I learned quietly how Jack loved me. On the door one day, I noticed he posted a Guest Check I had ripped from a pad at Zirzamin and stuffed in his pocket while he was visiting me.
Dear Mr. Grey, I love you so much. Always, Mr. Marsh
...in my juvenile handwriting. Behind it were ticket stubs to various shows I performed at which he attended; always standing quietly in the back where nobody could see him.
I remember being surprised when I saw it displayed so privately and publicly...on the inside of the door at eye level.
Some of my friends say the way Jack lives is crazy, and I don’t really disagree. When he’s drinking or smoking until seven in the morning in the living room, and I’m lying on his mattress on the floor staring at the ceiling, I wonder where the line between living and losing exists. Is Jack more free because he’s not so concerned with trying so hard? Is Jack more free?
James Baldwin’s character David narrates in Giovanni’s Room, “It was not the room’s disorder which was frightening; it was the fact that when one began searching for the key to this disorder, one realized that it was not to be found in any of the usual places. For this was not a matter of habit or circumstance or temperament; it was a matter of punishment and grief.”
When I look around Jack’s room, or stare into his eyes, I always feel like he's taken a step off an existential plank before I have, and now he's falling, pleadingly staring back with hope at the naïve boy that might extend an arm to save him and bring him back; but I'm staring at him like he has all the secrets about the fall I'm eventually going to endure. Jack's room is dark and suffocating and still. Musty and wooden.
Is he digging his own grave?
I drift off quickly. I sense him come in the room a few hours later. He sees me laying there, the mess I am, and tugs off my boots and pants, and cuddles up next to me. We always sleep like puppies.