“Fuck you.” I said directly as I stormed out.
It was really rather pathetic, actually. I had tried to slam the door only to find that it was one of those doors intelligently-designed not to slam, made with some sort of smart-hinge that meant when I tried to slam it hard I only ended up closing it somewhat comically with a “plop”.
My first mistake was wanting to go upstairs. I should have just left. But I didn’t know where to go, didn’t feel comfortable. After all, the 11th floor of the Tisch School of the Arts of New York University had been more of a home to me than my myriad apartments, a place I’d spent more time in, a place I’d come back to through classes, non-classes, summers and now, graduation.
I wanted to go up because, somehow, stupidly, it seemed like the opposite of going down, going negative, etcera, etcetera, etcetera.
Waiting for the elevators was waiting to get caught though and a girl from my group caught up to me and started talking to me as the elevator beeped open and we took a ride.
How long it had been?
I was unsure.
There were a number of ways to find out.
The first was memory, but memory had proved not only to be unreliable but to be treacherous–not in a synonymous sense, but in the sense that it might betray you and leave stuck somewhere undesirable, away from the here and now.
My blog was another way, but I couldn’t stand the guilt of that either. When I looked at my Facebook status where I advertise the new entry whenever I find to write it, all there was was a sad blank, stating incorrectly “updated over a year ago”, which was only valid if I took some symbolic license with days standing in for groups of months and the time for emotional wear–not the sort of hyperbole I tend to like.
But it raised questions anyway, that is, thinking of my blog. Why couldn’t I write about this? Why couldn’t I write about something else? Why couldn’t I write period.
“I’m sure you know not to write about this in any public forum,” My dad said through text in the late-into-the-evening.
“For legal reasons.” He added.
I was in a hospital, not for myself but for a friend, with his girlfriend who I’d hastily met and then road-tripped with, ambulance-chasing like we were low-class-lawyers.
I think my dad’s injunction was wise, so suffice it to say, I was electrocuted in Georgia sometime, some Thursday or Friday I can’t keep track which, somewhere in the middle and my friend was in the hospital and someone else I knew was dead.
I sat in the hospital burn-victim waiting room, where of course karma subjected me to the USA network and their poorly-titled show, “Burn Notice”, a 3 am-offering too stupidly fateful to not mention.
We also saw Miami Vice while we were waiting, my friend’s wounds being prepped and cleaned and examined by the Nigerian night-nurse (I know because his girlfriend later asked her if she was Ghanan).
We agreed that it was indeed, stupid.
But as I sat in the waiting room, the same night/morning, that fateful beginning of when time started blend, I notified friend-after-friend, “no I’m fine but I was electrocuted”, “no he’s fine but he’s in the hospital”, “im not back in town im in atlanta”, “no im fine but hes dead”.
Morbid text-message passed by morbid reply as hours sunk into hours like I sunk into the well-stuffed chairs of the anesthetic USA-Network hospital burn-unit waiting-room.
“He’s fine but”, “I’m fine but,” “They’re ok but”
On the 11th floor, the crewmember had taken me aside somewhere near the closed Pro-Tools lab, the first classroom I ever occupied at NYU.
I’m not sure how I ended up there, I only knew that in my conversation she was sane and rational and I was just veering between loud-and-louder, a hearing-loss problem exacerbated by anger, frustration, hopelessness, what?
Nothing was going to change. Nobody had changed. I wanted an apology. Recognition.
I was bound on another film shoot in 6 days and what would be different.
The people who told me not to go on another film set? Why not? I could take it. I could do it. If I didn’t do it someone else would have to do it, someone else would be threatened someone else could–
Die? I hadn’t died. I hadn’t even been properly shocked. I was alive. I wasn’t in the hospital. I had a pair of earphones that melted and burned in my ears but they left no scars, no hearing loss.
They worked even after they were melted and burned, on the plane ride back home.
The Apple store even exchanged them after I told them I’d been electrocuted through my headphones.
I also expressed my admiration for their products: I hadn’t been shocked through my computer or my phone, both plugged in.
They both worked, still.
I was amazed by this.
Amazed and also angling for a job.
Louder, more thoughts, mor talking, more case-by-case culpability, more situations, more things wrong.
I feel bad for the girl who was talking to me, bad she had to deal with that, but she told me she had been worried about me from the get-go.
Worried about me? What was there to be worried about?
I was alive. I was around. The Apple store had exchanged my headphones.
But someone had to answer for the pair I’d lost.
It was at that point roughly, in my mind, in the conversation, that I was accosted by three female NYU administrators, concerned-looking, smiling, who trapped me like I was General Zod in a triangle.
It had been some sort of grieving group, a bad idea for me, I knew, but I felt I should go.
Everyone else kept on talking since we left Georgia, since we left, about being a family, about being close about depending on each other.
I remember in Georgia trying to be dependable, trying to be strong, trying to take care of people. If you took care of people, you didn’t have to take care of yourself.
It was something to do anyway, some way to not be alone. But I didn’t depend on anyone, but my friends who had kept me aloft like a crowd-surfer going from activity to activity in my days back in New York.
But when I got back, when I sat there in that grief-counseling-group, I didn’t feel like a family, I didn’t question my emotions.
I just felt angry. I felt an anger inside of me, not burning, but more of a nauseus anger, a feeling undulating inside you spinnily back and forth through the residue of pain and experience until a jolt or a jab causes you to ralph it all up.
In this case, it was the director telling me he wanted to finish the film.
And I, I just couldn’t take that.
I didn’t feel like a family, I didn’t feel any gratitude or sympathy or kindness to this man. I nearly died, someone else had died, someone was in the hospital; these thoughts rounded my mind like Fates, spinning and measuring and cutting and spinning.
They dominated me as I blamed him and his ilk and others for endangering me, for endangering them.
I entered the world of television, movies, films, writing: a word of absolutes, where men are guilty or innocent and judgement is always passed.
I can offer nothing, but that sometimes, this is an easier world to live in than the world of real.
“Fuck you.” I told the director and left.
As I walked to Chinatown to meet Simon and Frank, old high-school friends, for a night of Dance Dance Revolution, 69 Bayard Restaurant and Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (an adolescent reminder), I walked with my thoughts masticating like I would on a slice of cheesy-New-York-pizza.
I thought of what those people on the 11th floor must have though of me, thought of the women who surrounded me to make sure I had a plan, to make sure I was leaving.
I thought of my old counselor, who’d gotten me through earlier anger whose message not to be the punishment of the designated wicked, but rather that it was impolite to tell people to “fuck” them.
I thought most though of my conversation with my hospital-bound friend, still in Georgia, still down-there. He had caught the worse of it between us, I thought jokingly, nobody would ask him if he’d been electrocuted or if he was ok; they’d take a look and see or hear for themselves.
I talked to him and told him how angry I’d been that day, how much I blamed people and needed that, needed for those responsible to acknowledge their part, to not be coddled.
“It isn’t enough for them to live with it.” I told him. “If you still want to make your movie after someone’s died on your set, you haven’t learned your lesson.”
To my surprise, he rebutted me, rebuffed me at every turn. He, scars-and-burns-and-all, defended the very people I focused my now self-immolating rage on.
We went back-and-forth as I felt more and more desperate; I was arguing with someone damaged, someone who’d gotten the worse of it than me.
“Fine,” He told me. “Then don’t work on it when it starts again.”
“I don’t want to fight with you.” I said a little dazedly, upon the realization that that indeed had been exaclty what I had been doing.
But his parents had come back to the room and he couldn’t talk loud and he’d talk to me later and he hung up and I did too.
At home, I find myself shaking, fiind myself examing my shaking, sneaking glimpses at my own hand, still for a moment, to see how it shakes and to try to figure out with the power of my mind, whether there are any lasting effects from the electrocution.
If there were, would they validate me, would they validate my anger, my blame, would it make me right?
“Static Shock”, my friend Frank called me, when we met up in Chinatown, an allusion to a nerdy superhero invented for urban early-2000s youth.
I played a game of DDR and did alright, I was tired out easy, I was out-of-shape, I was fat, I was unemployed.
I had left Tisch today angry, performing my anger for the 11th floor, requiring administrators to converge on me in order to calm me down.
In effect, I had been exorcised, like a demon, from a place I once thought of as home.
Now, if I went back there, I dreaded that, being that guy, being angry, being a problem, being outcast once more.
It felt like a true end to my college days–a reversion, finally, long-expected, to the self-hating-exile of my time in high school.
At Frank’s house, I played the game “Little Big Planet” with Frank and Simon and laughed until I cried, dragging a battery the wrong way down a level, and smacking the other burlap-characters I played with.
I came home and my body tingled and I wondered about tomorrow.