Two nights ago, I got a DM from Sarah. She sent me some pictures she took in her bedroom while she was bored. I’d never gotten anything like that before so I told her thanks and she asked me what I wanted to do about it. “Everything,” I said. “Good,” she said, “now show me yours.”
Yesterday morning, lying in bed in the morning darkness before my alarm I considered the possibility that I was already dead. Looking up at the ceiling, dark blue in dawn, I felt like this would go on until the end of the world, and I would wake up with the rest of the dead, and we would all be singing. But then my alarm came, then the dawn, then the day, and I was still alive.
Last night, I got a ride back from taekwondo practice with Jason’s dad. I rode in the back, while his dad gave us a lecture about manhood. I slipped on my headphones, and Jason messaged me from the front seat that he was sorry about his dad. I said np. I said all this talk of manhood made me want to look at power tools and jerk off, like I do. That made Jason snort a little.
His dad stopped talking and asked what the fuck was going on. He reached over for Jason’s phone, but Jason pulled away from him.
“I pay,” he said to Jason, “for that thing, and you just want to dick around on it? And you,” he said to me, “your dad pay for your phone, son?”
I told him yeah, I didn’t have a job so.
“Exactly,” he said. “That’s what I’m talking about. Son, would you say you’re more a daddy’s boy or a momma’s boy?”
“Fuck off, dad!” Jason said.
“I’m not picking on him,” Jason’s dad said. “I’m just asking a question. Your friend doesn’t know the value of a dollar. That’s his problem. Kids are soft these days. They’re hermaphrodites.”
Jason kind of went off then. He told his dad never to talk to his friends again, and the brakes engaged, and we slammed forward. My seatbelt locked. Jason’s dad stopped the car on the side of the road. A car passed us, taillights receding in the distance.
“I’m waiting,” said Jason’s dad in an almost singsong voice. I could see Jason’s face, expressionless in the dashboard light.
“Oh, I see,” Jason’s dad said. “You both want to walk.” And he got out of the car and came around to the passenger side. He pulled the front and back doors open and stood there, just in front of the ditch.
“We don’t want to walk home, dad,” Jason said.
But I said it was fine by me. My house was close, I said. I’d just walk. I got out of the car. There was water in the ditch behind Jason’s dad, and it dropped off sharply just behind him. It wouldn’t have taken much.
Jason started saying something.
“It isn’t a big deal,” I said. “Thanks for the ride, sir.”
“Come on Trey,” said Jason. “My dad’ll give you a ride home, he just gets—”
“No I won’t,” said Jason’s dad, taking a step toward me, framing up on me like I was some kind of physical threat. He was talking to Jason, but looking me in the eyes. “Your friend can find his own way home now. Get a job, son, maybe you drive yourself next time. Want some advice? Don’t be a mooch—don’t be a mama’s boy.” I told him okay, and I turned and walked off.
It occurred to me this morning while my dad was driving me to school and the sun was coming up over the prairie that maybe North Dakota is one of the passageways to heaven and we are all passing through it on our own way; we are living inside of it somehow, like a huge cathedral, driving around inside. The passageway is so big it doesn’t even look like a passageway anymore. It just looks like North Dakota.
This idea flared up in my head and then it disappeared, and I was left with my dad and Slipknot pounding in my headphones and the blur of brown grass and the feeling of motion. It’s the same way Sarah’s naked body sometimes occurs to me, lasting a few seconds then disappearing before my mind can fully understand it. My vision of heaven today was something like that.
Kaj Tanaka’s fiction has appeared in New South, The New Ohio Review, Hobart, Joyland and Tin House. Kaj teaches creative writing classes at the Harris County Jail in Houston, TX. Find him online at kajtanaka.com or tweet to him @kajtanaka.
Photography: Jon Flobrant