The following is a prologue for a developing character I have created for Shadowrun, a tabletop role-playing game:
Neon clings to the city’s surfaces. It crystallizes in rain slick pavement and contorts over glass. Its luminous presence ricochets between the thick crowds. It catches itself in the dissipating smoke and steam, lighting it up as if the citizens souls are escaping, vibrant and light. This neon carnival is a petri dish, a congealing of metaraces, magic and technology. It’s the gutter in which the boy came into fruition.
Peoples’ pasts are pliant and fragile. They can be reconstructed or destructed under the right circumstances or for the right price. And his was destroyed before it even came into focus. At the age of eight, blood and wiring washed over his youth and left him to the spasms of the cement playground. He was at the mercy of the streets, which isn’t much of anything at all.
The relationship between him and his parent was framed by the tug of war between addiction and income. She was always working, morning, days, and nights. She tried not to leave him alone or behind; this wasn’t a good thing. The sex trade isn’t necessarily the best business to endorse bring your child to work days. So she hid him. The boy’s home was found in back seats, closets, hallways, among other places one could stache their child. In these neglected corners, he heard things. Some sounds enter a child’s head and embed themselves in the darkest of recesses, and there they fester.
The two were tethered by a mutual dependence. Brutal in nature, they needed each other in a way that only a mother and child could. But tethers snap under pressure.
Bliss rode her veins and broke her like a mule. An overdose witnessed through closet shutters. Her body contorted as if she’d practiced ballet for years, and her mouth frothed the white color of swans. It looked bad from a distance, but only she knew how hot the water boiled in her insides. Young eyes watched the last pulsing twitches, almost orgasmic in nature. Then she was still. Her face glued to the shag. Their eyes caught on eachothers’ like barbed wire on flesh. One last time.
Pimps and drug dealers aren’t fond of dead working girls gushing white sea foam onto their floors, no matter how dirty they already are. Luckily for them, they had techniques that got rid of evidence in plain site. When a body hits the pavement and nobody’s looking up, no one will know which floor it came from. And when a building is so rich with crime, it’s even harder to pinpoint the body’s source. And this building was hot with crime. She fell from the third story window like a dishcloth from a laundry line. No one screamed. The only sound from below was the wet crack of her skull on that neon littered pavement. The pink motel sign’s light veiled over her. She bathed in its glow.
The boy lived in that closet for two days. A world of information passed through those shutters in restless hours. Violence, drugs, sex, and deals. So many deals. a plethora of crime was cast on him through those slats. People say children are like sponges.
They found him once the smells crept out and encompassed the small room. One yanked him out by his throat, hard hands on soft skin. The other drove his heel between his ribs, splintered them like wishbones. The alley, the first said, can’t have another out the front this soon. The other grunted in agreement. A stray glossy eyed girl looked between the three of them as if they were pieces in a gallery.She watched them from the coach in retarded contemplation. She would never remember this.
Dehydrated and broken, the kid collapsed into a familiar darkness, unconscious. In the void, all he heard was the brief rushing of passing air. In reality, he was falling. He ragdolled off the corner of a dumpster with a thud, fragmenting his leg beyond repair. It turned into a twizzler then and there, laying to rest under his spine. This should have been his grave, the alley. The boy should have received a service of rats and his last rites were destined to be muttered by garbage men. But sometimes things don’t work out the way they ought to. There are always anomalies in this world, and this city has had its fair share.
Every city has a pulse. It’s almost visible from the sky, descending in airliners. From there, the main arteries seem to pulse and branch out. Gushing lights stream through, melding together to weave the sprawling entity of the streets below. This eccentric overlay displays the energy of business. It runs the machine. There, lying faceup, agape at the grey net sky, he could feel this pulse. Its algorithms moved around him without care of his miniscule existence, an insignificant boy in a world of constant flux. As he stared into the pulse, something reached out, unprecedentedly.
It rolled on wheels, down the path of the alley. The robot crawled and rolled at same time, sputtering steam and smoke into its wake. With a spherical body the size of the softball, the droid sits at the boy’s side, waiting. Whatever it was processing is a mystery, but it sat a long while. Rain plinked and shattered on its cold steel as it whirred. Eventually, a sharp hypodermic needle darted out from its shell, transporting a dosage of adrenaline. It traveled through the boy’s body as if it was rush hour, grinding his DNA together, bumper to bumper. His body jolted in a communal orgie of muscles and tendons. Wide awake and oblivious to the pain, the child crawled, his crippled mass of meat dragging behind him. Scuttling insect like in front, the machine projected a spotlight at a near by door, ajar. It appeared to the child as a light that burned at the end of the tunnel. It was the only destination in sight. The door groaned as it closed behind him, blocking out the neon world outside.
This nest is where the boy would live for nine years. Neglected space in the city’s growing complex is rare, but this place was somehow misplaced, forgotten. The cramped room resembled the inside of some giant mechanical monster, its chrome intestines were bursting out of the walls. Tubes, wires, gears, vents, all jutted out at bizarre angles, as if the room was buckling under some industrial pressure, ready to implode. Most importantly, a workbench seemed to erode from the middle of the floor, covered in a thick layer of tools.
The space had once been a garage, but on that night, it was a surgical room. Coding rained on the monitors that littered the walls. Whatever was inside that modest medical droid had embodied the entire room, showing itself to be much more. The machines consciousness danced between mechanic hands extending from the ceiling. Its surgical tools were crude but efficient. Tangled webs of bone, muscle, and skin were removed, replaced with non-organic material. Whatever this AI was, it had weaved him a new leg
The only trace of the boy left outside was his lost appendage, cold, twisted, and broken. Tost aside to rot.
Informally adopted, His new home accepted him with all the loving care of a parent. Anything he needed, the room provided in silent. The relationship between the entity and him was strange, distant yet close. The droid scavenged the outside world for sustenances, audio stories were played for him as he nodded off to sleep, and his education was structured around video tapes and hands on learning. Most of his teachings revolved around mechanics and urban survival. At the age of nine, he had jury rigged his first copter-droid. It was a collage of scraps, and had limited programming, but it was functional, and it was his only friend. Throughout these years, he tinkered endlessly, building, modding, and experimenting with robotics. It was a lonesome existence, but the child was busy and engaged with his work and studies. He also had nowhere else to go.
But things changed. The AI that possessed the room left, leaving only a husk behind. No explanation was given, and at seventeen, the adolescent was forced to provide his own means of existence. Finding work didn’t turn out to be that difficult, for he had been sharpening his skills all that time. Installing a security system for a local tattoo shop landed in his lap, and the realization that his skills could be compensated for set in. This first trade resulted in pocket cash and some ink, free of charge. Chiseling his flesh with a needle tip, the artist carved animal stripes over his body from the neck down. Zebra’s stripes are used to motion dazzle predators in the wild, making them harder to pinpoint in their natural habitat. For some reason, this appealed to the kid.
Now, he is released into the Sprawl, contained in this zoo. Still operating out of his forgotten nest, he works on his mechanic animals, and more importantly, looking for ways they can make him the cash he needs to survive.
I am a sheep in a lions’ den. The strangeness of the athletic theme park that is the gym hasn’t left me yet. The mass of bodies is an obscure amalgamation of people, all twisting, turning, pushing, pulling, and posing.
There’s an unspoken (and always broken) rule at the gym: don’t make sexy eyes at the other members. But for some reason, making sexy eyes at yourself in the mirror is totally OK. I guess it’s harder to creep yourself out. I ponder this accepted egotism as the guy next to me locks eyes with himself in the mirror, practicing his imaginary basketball shot on a non-existent net.He’s a Nike commercial incarnate. Somewhere in the distance, another pulls up his shirt and snaps a selfie. I feel as if I’m in a changing room, watching other people try on their new self-images. No one seems to mind the spectators. We all exist in our own bubble.
I believe everyone is here to improve themselves, mostly physically, but also mentally. It’s for your health, but there are members whose presence reminds me that it can go too far. Unnatural super mutants stalk the weights, walking meat mountains whose hobby has transformed them. I guess no one told them they couldn’t be a gorilla when they grew up. I enjoy the irony of health addicts, those who pursue the perfect image but end up distorted. It’s almost poetic. That being said, these members could probably tear me in half. So they have that.
Sometimes they come in pairs. Power couples, I call them. The upside down triangle men are accompanied by vertical thin rectangle women. They take turns contorting their geometry, tuning it up. I guess they’re here to improve their conjoined image, or maybe it’s an outlet for their frustration. I imagine them at home, eating cereal. They take turns eating spoonfuls ten at a time in sets of three, counting for one another: optimal fiber intake routine. They probably have sex in front of mirrors. Only they know these things.
I named one member at my gym The Elder. I think it’s clever because he’s old, like real old (OK, so it’s not that clever). His persistence and existence fascinate me. Simply put, the guy’s jacked. You would never expect it seeing him on the street, with only his withered face showing. I like to imagine he’s a retired crimefighter. One who simply got “too old for this shit.” Now he’s forced to take out his street fighting rage on dumbbells and deadlifts. Either that, or maybe his wife left him. It’s either one or the other.
Then there’s the cardio athletes. Relentlessly running on a treadmill or pedaling a bike; they’re always pushing but never going anywhere. The screens positioned on the machines display a virtual bike route, their speed, their rpms. Or they stare out the window, gazing at the seawall only a few feet away. Cyclists and runners pass by on the other side of the glass. It’s a world away. Why do we choose to exercise in confinement as if we’re no more than hamsters on treadmills? Except hamsters don’t pay membership fees.
But where do I fit in the ranks of the gym? Nowhere specific, I think. I attend for the structure it supplies. The type of structure that lacks advanced problem solving abilities and critical thinking. It’s a space that has a very linear path that I follow. I just turn off my brain and lift shit. Then I lift heavier shit. Sometimes I switch it up and lift different shit. Whatever. It’s relaxing in a primal sense. If only life could be organized into sets of three, with resting intervals between. It would be much simpler. A weird satisfaction washes over me as I cross the day’s exercises off my list. Immediate self-gratification through numbers exists at the gym.
Luckily, I’ve also been exercising my tunnel vision at the gym. I’ve become an adept at ignoring the presence of these other members as I work down my checklist. The only thing that exists now is me and the inanimate objects that I pick up and put down. Here, it’s just me and my list.
I think about these things as I listen to one of my roommates hacking and horking in the shower. These sounds reverberate down the hall in a symphony of phlegm. I’m grinding my morning coffee.
Sharing is Caring
Growing up, I was always instructed that strangers equal danger. Drilled into my infantile mind were lessons such as: don’t get into cars with strangers; don’t talk to strangers; don’t accept candy from strangers; etc. But what about living with strangers?
Shared living is becoming more acceptable. Young adults are frequently casting their fates into shared households as they roll the dice on Craigslist or Kijiji. It adds another layer to househunting. Now suitable living doesn’t just come down to appliances and landlords, but the people that dwell down the halls from you.
I moved into my shared basement suite roughly two months ago. Despite numerous red flags, I decided to make the move mostly because of the neighborhood and the season. The West End in Vancouver is unsurprisingly rad in the spring, and it’ll only get better in the summer. Because of the area, I have no regrets. I stay here because my room is bright and my lawn is green. Now, on to the bad (and more interesting) things.
There’s a total of four of us in my quaint basement suite, and there’s a total of seven units in the heritage home itself. The ceilings are low, but I’m not too tall. The appliances seem to be designed to accommodate either hobbits or dwarves. Unfortunately, I am neither of these things. Small problems among others.
When I initially saw the place, it was getting a paint job, new doors, and other fixes. Of course these things would be finished before I moved in; but of course they weren’t.
I spent my first week painting the ceiling and washroom with my roommates. I take the word with with a grain of salt these days. After the first week, I’d painted the majority of what was left, threw out enough junk to form a small thrift shop, and dumped more CLR on the washroom than pig’s blood on Carrie. My roommates marveled at my OCD while contributing to the permanent haze of weed vapor that hangs in my living room. This suspended mist seems to be a permanent fixture..
Thankfully, this dark age is now behind me. I’ve set it up to be livable. Some would call it bohemian. Whatever. I’ll take it. Now that I’ve set the precedent, the house remains suitably clean. This is aside from the relics of stonerism that litter my living room: gatorade bottles with a fraction of neon left inside, empty Oreo icecream containers, roaches, a bong made out of a Gingerale bottle, and other usual smoker droppings. These forget-me-nots are left by roommate #1 and her boyfriend (but not boyfriend, because it’s complicated). I guess the garbage bin looks like an epic journey comparable to all three parts of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy when you’re high on the couch. And if you’re comfortable, why leave The Shire?
The Animal Kingdom
The next issues were the animals. Note that I say animals and not pets. They’re not quite worthy of that status. Kovu, the house cat, is the master of the meow, sorcerer of spraying. When I first moved in, Kovu wasn’t neutered. No one wasted less time in establishing their territory than this feline fuck. It took two weeks until roomy #1 got Kovu’s manhood nipped and tucked. It took another two weeks for it to stop leaving it’s mark. Thankfully the house Chiwawa is there to pick up the slack. The two of them are more efficient than a WWE tag team. The dog’s name is Jackson. Jackson was kind enough to remind me that my dirty laundry bin needs to be washed by leaving me a present there. Thanks, bud. Point taken: close my door at all times. Got it.
Thankfully the superintendent dog-sits the majority of the time, but she’s a beast of her own.
She’s issue #3. Living in the suite above me, with a booming voice to match a Spartan, and enough girth to make each footstep count above my head, she held little regard to our privacy. To her credit, she wasn’t negligent of our privacy, more just oblivious to it in her permafried existence. It took two discussions to clear things up (for the most part). The first was fairly casual. “Please don’t come down whenever you feel like it. Just knock, or better yet, call.” This translated into three quick knocks before barging in to talk to one of my roommates about rent. Fuck. Ok, round two. “I don’t care who you need to talk to, you walking into my house is an invasion of privacy.” She apologized and life has gone on. Sure, she’s not just coming down whenever, and she leaves me alone, but she has taken to yelling into people windows to ask if they have time to talk. Conversation three will have to happen soon. I’m the hero that this basement suite deserves.
Roommate #2 is a dancer. Roommate #2 is a private dancer. Roommate #2 is a stripper. I’m ashamed it took me so long to catch on. Maybe I’m just as oblivious as my superintendant, just in my own unique ways. Anyways, It’s safe to say that me and Roommate #2 have conflicting points of view. Being okay with “living in a man’s world”, she pokes fun at my feminist affections. This topic came to it’s pinnacle at her idea that women in third world countries shouldn’t be allowed to vote. So my attempts at critical discourse came to a quick close. Don’t poke the bear, I’m told. Now we talk about Zoloft, yeast infections, fake boobs, cellulite, and how her boyfriend told her to die of AIDs. I’ve learned that I’m versatile when it comes to the art of conversation.
One night, the conversation slowly turned towards lewder things, as most do after a few beers. Birth Control became the central topic. Roommate #1 doesn’t like condoms, she says. More than that, she doesn’t like pills, and more than that, she uses no birth control at all. Her reasoning being that her light weight and small frame restricts her body from becoming pregnant… Supposedly, it’s just science. I didn’t even know what to say. Didn’t this person unravel condoms over bananas like we all did in highschool, turning our classrooms into the worst puppet shows ever displayed? Hasn’t she watched Kids or Philadelphia? Doesn’t she have the ingrained fears of pregnancy and disease that were instilled in us during our days of youth? I guess not.
These conversations enrich my life, I think. Sure, they might lead to a hefty dental bill after I grind my teeth into pixy dust, but at least I’m getting a diversity of opinions in my day to day. Coming from a fairly left leaning family, it’s refreshing to get a look at the opposite end of the spectrum every now and then. It’s all too easy to surround yourself with friends that share the same opinions as you, but it doesn’t mean you should live life unaware to the opposition’s existence.
Things That Go Bump in the Night
Roommate #3 is a mystery. His presence is more rare than a shiny Pokemon card. He is the distant cough in the shower, the murmur of daytime T.V. leaking down the hall, the cold cigarette butts in the ashtray, the creaking door at 3am. Sure, I’m making him spookier than he is, and honestly, he’s the best roommate a guy could have. I barely see him and he’s quiet. His lack of presence is the best presence in the house. I only see him in the kitchen, the communal watering hole, where cheetahs drink next to zebras. He eats, he cleans, he leaves. It’s pretty cool. They might as well have advertised two roommates and a wisp in the Craigslist ad.
So What Have We Learned Today, Class?
I don’t fucking know. I’m sticking it out because I love the neighborhood, my lawn, and my room. It’s not that my roommates are bad people; they’re just different people. They don’t walk the same line as me, and that’s ok. We’re just a mishmash of strangers who live separate lives under one roof. And every now and again, our schedules align and we end up in the yard under the sun, laughing and drinking together.
I’m at the stage in my life where I’m not interested in settling down, so it’s fine that this house isn’t the place to do it. It’s just another chapter in my youth, and it’s an interesting one. At this stage in my life, I’m not building a home; I’m building character. And this house is a hotbed of character.
I only have two resolutions for the New Year: be more productive and be honest with myself. Now if I’m being honest, I’m honestly not going to do either.
The fact that I’m doing a New Year’s post on the 21st is a testament to this statement. What can I say? I guess I’m just busy in all the wrong (and right) places. This is another year of finetuning, of learning to balance my lifestyle choices in an equalized manner. School, personal writing, art, friends, family: I realize this a balancing act that I’ll be perfecting for the rest of my days.
Honestly, there are no such things as a purely good years; every one has its ups and downs. It’s when you step back to see them compiled together, that’s when it all begins to make sense. So I try not to put too much emphasis on a single year. In the end, it’s just time bookended by calendar dates. It’s the complete package that matters.
There’s nothing like coming back to your neglected blog, only to find it taken down due to my your own ignorance of bills and punctuality. But hey, this is a clean slate, a fresh start. Happy 2014, etc. And what would I do without my personal outlet? Where would I expel my mental vapors to the wind? So, I should start this year here, on this modest blog, my brains deposit box. Maybe it’ll help me organize my thoughts, or maybe it won’t. I guess we’ll see.
Happy New Year, everyone.