CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?
A short story and poem - by Shelley Cass. 2015.
Lying and thinking, fuzzy and doped. The storage crates I slumped on dug into my bones. “Can you see me?” I cried out, just shambling words. “Can you hear me?” No one there. Nobody heard. Was I even trying, fighting to stay in this world? It felt separate from me, spinning on while I grew so cold. So numb, so young and so soul-weary-old. My heart, was it beating? Would I wake up this time? Was it worth it to get up, back into the crime? Just a hoodlum, unloved, a menace and thug. Hooked on the madness, hooked on the drugs. I wouldn’t be missed. My rep was like mud. No memories of happiness - I’d always been scum. Street lights and music, blurred boys’ nights and jail. Liquor and fighting, mind gone off - stale. My motor had been anger. The feeling that seethes. That claws deep inside, til internally you bleed. The blood bubbles loudly, the fists bunch and squeeze. The flesh crawls with heat and the stomach seizes and screams. Anger to drive me, to push me right through. Anger to guide me, to spur me to move. And my battery had been pain. Like a bullet to the brain. The searing of abandonment, the bruise of neglect. Never noticed, never heard, a victim - a reject. Living loudly and sadly to waste time before death. Dejection and abandon; wilder with each breath. Pain to misguide me, to cloud who I could be. Pain to spur me, my unending misery. With the pain came the need, such need to be seen. Together they bit me; crushing and mean. Like physical agony, like nails in the skin. The only band-aid: being lost in the sin. Dancing and laughing. Stabbing and snorting. Sleeping in a cell or out in a park. In and out of institutions - a life in the dark. Blind or passed out, a stone for a heart. Hollow intentions, a brain of empty space. Less than human, with blank eyes and blank face. I’d started so early - a childhood disgrace. Outside the old apartment, the one I’d called home, I’d puffed on the weed my friend had homegrown. Under the smashed window, beside the wrecked steps, I’d drawn that stuff in and hoped for the best. I was twelve and in hell, craving an uproar, That should come from my mother as I’d stumbled in, through that beat up front door. But she was slumped in a daze, dribbling on the floor, Her hand still dipped in the powder that coated her slack jaw. Fridge was empty, her latest man gone. One after the other since the old man had passed on. I’d slouched to my bedroom, alone and ignored. I was here, I was living, did she even see me any more? I’d got good grades just to please her, and waited with held breath. But she would grunt and shove past me, The fumes filling her head. At fifteen I stole cars and would graffiti the streets, I’d stayed out late and met the worst crowds I could meet. She said nothing and looked past me, each morning unchanged. I could’ve been dying at her feet and she would’ve shrugged just the same. A nuisance, a burden, useless and dumb. The invisible boy, the world’s least wanted son. Then I’d watched as they’d put her in the ground. ODed on the good stuff, partying her way down. I’d remembered her last days, cheek to the door. Flirting furiously, shamelessly, at the druggy from down the hall. Behind on the rent, in need of a hit, Her lipstick had been smudged by his sleazy young lips. And when the empty funeral had come to its end, I’d been whisked off to a new life that promised more dread. The government had swept me under the foster home rug. Just a number, a lost kid, destined to run. Didn’t know how to love - passed from warm house to warm house, I abandoned my sixth family, fleeing at last, And came to my new home in the old downtown warehouse. I crashed with guys who made good stuff, Like me, so street-hardened, so dumb and so tough. We made each day empty with the leaves, powders and jabs. Was numbed to the truth, and loved to be bad. Known as the doper and not by my own name. But got good at the selling, and playing the game. There were other kids my age who seemed to be free. But those normals, those bores never once noticed me. I was a background to their lives, already filled up with their dreams. I hated those clean-cuts - so judgmental and scared. Stuck in monotony, weighed down by their cares. Who wants to be average, with taxes, bills and clean hair? Who wants to be weak or to learn how to care? I lobbed rocks through stained windows - smashing for fun, I cracked pictures of the baby Jesus, cuddled up with his mum. No angels of vengeance burned down like the sun, So I lit up my joint, no chance of repair, And decided at last that nobody cared. I sold and I took, and I worked on my own. Seventeen and no friends, no allies, or hope. I held up small kids and filched from the shops. I bashed up a rival and swiped all his stock. I picked up and used all the easiest chicks, I got into fights, lashing out just for kicks. Every day was a blur; the things I did just a dream. I reveled and raved, blowing off rabid steam. But at seventeen I was noticed at last. Pissed off the wrong guy, who busted my ass. I was found in the street, all mashed up and marred. Had to be patched up for real, by docs who squealed to the cops – And that’s when the law also noticed me, and went hard. No more squinting and aiming, Or squishing pin-pricks into pulsing veins. In the cold hard cell there were fevers, And the ice leaked right out of me til I was going insane. The world came into focus and I didn’t like what I saw. For the first few nights I was a ball on the floor. At eighteen, an inmate, I had to live for real for a while, But I’d fitted quite nicely into the jail’s unique style. Got in with the tough crowd real smooth and real fast. Made the effort to impress and became all that they asked. I would initiate brawls and escape without blame. I was the one cracking skulls in all the cell lanes. I had built up a family, of brothers without love. It was more than I’d known, and more than enough. Then twenty-two and I was free, outside in the slums, Without my jail allies, my back watching chums. I possessed only clothing; jeans with frayed ends. Had to get back up there, to find some new friends. Nothing to do but get back to work. I called up a guy and got back in on the dirt. Clubbing and drinking, laughs and high screams. I wouldn’t be silenced this time, I had to be seen. To taste the wildness and live for the smack. I built myself up, I headed the pack. The faces around me were never the same, There were high turnovers to death, ‘accidents’ or jail. But a steady stream followed me, in on the game. Old faces were replaced, New followers came, With updated tricks, Selling my death drugs, shameless, so slick. Top notch, climbing ranks. Drinking scotch, being thanked. Cronies, loyal dogs. Scared minions in the fog. Loving life. Treated right. Empty, empty, stupid and wild. The higher I went the harder I was. The harder I was, the less that I felt. The higher I went, finally the harder I fell. Pissed off the wrong guy again, a big deal this time, And found myself beat up, back on the streets, back with the slime. A street-rat once more, I crawled back to my old home. Invisible. Invisible. Cold and alone. Back to the warehouse, back to my hole. Now filled with different street-rats, younger than me, All desperately trying to also be seen. The die-hards, the freshmen, the ‘way cools’ and ‘far outs’. The grinners and sinners in their little club house. The sellers and makers, The groovers and shakers. Trying their best to claw their way up. Living to impress, don’t know they’ll get stung. Yellers and fighters, so young but not sweet. In the drug haze and fist fights, living always on heat. All feelings, all motions, all beliefs - so fake. These children, these babies, already dead, dreaming awake. I could see them. I could see them. As no one saw me. But I was flat, I was wasted, couldn’t help them get free. Couldn’t be the angel or parent they’d need. They ignored me when I ODed, just like my mum, A flopping corpse on their crates full of pills and cheap guns. I’d overdone it, they knew it, they’d seen it before. No point checking for a pulse anymore. Not for an idiot who’d gone too far with a score. Now curled up and shivering in my coffin of crates, Shuddering and crying, wracked with the shakes, Lying and thinking of my life and soul’s stains; I let my anger slowly seep out and felt my angry batteries drain. Away, Away, Away. No point in anger anymore, when I could no longer feel pain. Sadness was all for this wasted shell. Broken and sobbing and waiting for hell. Too stupid and weak, A fate fitting for me. Had lived for the buzz and the bad kind of fame. I’d become my mother. One and the same. My heart, was it beating? Would I wake up this time? Was it worth it to get up, to continue this fight? In crept my ghouls, and visions of night. In crept my fear and terrible dread. Tasting the bile and smelling the end… I cried to my mother, to me as a kid, To the bullies in jail, and the foster parents I’d skipped. I cried and I pleaded, please, anyone, I’m scared. They would not listen, no one cared. I was a nothing, a waste, a child of despair. But I rasped and I rambled as if everyone was there. Words bubbled forth while my eyes blinked and stared, Each word in a tumble, out fast and then slow. Each word in a song that only Death himself knows. Can you hear me now? Will I die unseen? My pulse, it was racing, but nobody could see. I was there all alone. Only me.