The American Dream
I was drifting. I drifted away between the blurred lines of reality and code. I spent a grand total of fourteen straight days coding The Depths, building more levels and developing a few flashed based apps. I was surprised my brain was still functioning. Everything felt like a dream. Nothing felt real. It was as if I was sleeping. Somewhere along the line I lost track and fell asleep. My dream was simple. I was in a dark damp hallway with lights flickering. It seemed like the hall went on forever until I saw a light at the end. But once I stepped through that light there was another hallway that mirrored the following one. I felt like I was trapped in a maze. It was as if I was on a hamster wheel, just going round and round. My dream was pretty accurate about the way I felt. Cassandra and the others still bothered me and told me I would never make it. But hey, it wasn't their life. They weren't use to getting shit on or having little to no wiggle room. That was all me. That was my life. They had peace all their lives. They had a home all their lives. I was always on the fence. I was always looking over my shoulder. I could never rest. I always was struggling to make my way out of a dark dank cave with almost nothing to light my way, but the end of the chasm.
My funds were low. I had about two hundred bucks from the six hundred I had saved for extra expenses like supplies and textbooks. I didn't have much a clue what I would do next. Everywhere I applied for work they rejected me. I didn't have much to lean on besides a few flash games I had made and sold for a dollar. But even that wasn't going anywhere. I felt like I was wasting my time. Very frequently doubt, uncertainty, and fear would take hold of my mind and torture me to death. They would say that I couldn't do it. They would call me a waste of skin. That I had no purpose in society. That I should have stayed in school. That I should have continued jumping through hoops. Somehow, I believed them. For the first time in my life, I was second guessing myself. I was smart, but the way society was built, made it very challenging for me. Even a degree doesn't ensure you a job, but you won't feel hopeless or stupid for taking a leap of faith and following your dreams. It was hard being an adult, it was hard being on my own. It was hard being alone. It was hard being neurotic with your brain pulling you apart limb from limb. It was hard staying positive when you've lead such a detestable life.
Somewhere along the line, I woke up. It was a dark Saturday evening. The clock said it was 8 o'clock. There was a pizza box with a note attached from Miki.
I had a galla opening tonight. Won't be back until eleven. I got worried about you so I ordered this pizza for you. See you when I get back.
I rubbed my head and took a look around. Everything was just how I remembered it. I walked out of the bedroom and into the bathroom. I took a grim look into the mirror and looked at myself. I looked pretty grizzly. Facial hair was prominent and dominant on my face. My eyes had dismal rings around them and I felt rather empty. I was a little pale and my face was thinner than usual. I sighed as I hopped into the shower. I came out cleaned myself up and attended to my laptop once more. I skimmed through my email, but found nothing but garbage and advertisements. I stared at my phone. I had ten missed calls from various people. I deleted them all because they weren't worth hearing. It was all just a bunch of useless information. It was all the same thing from every person. “Nathaniel you're being irrational.” or “Nathaniel you're not thinking.” I was thinking. I was thinking clearly. I wasn't just in the mood for being a puppet. I wasn't in the mood for a lot of things. Even if the fear, doubt and worry tore away at me I would still prevail, doubt and all. I sighed. It was apparent to me that I needed a brake. I needed a bullshit excuse to procrastinate and be irresponsible. I was pretty stressed. So I called the one person who was a pro at de-stressing. I called Mike.
He answered, “Hello?”
“Hey man, are you free?” I asked.
“I thought you died. Miki said you wouldn't come out of your room.” Mike said. He paused to chuckle a little. He continued, “But of course I'm free. It's Saturday night. The only day I reserve to unwind.”
“You want to hang out? I'm stressed as hell.” I said.
“Sure, wanna go to this bar deep in Willamsburg? I know the guy who owns it so we'll get free drinks.” Mike said. I could see his face and his trademark devious smile.
“I don't know man. I've never been drinking before.” I said honestly.
“Well now, is the perfect time to start.” he said.
“Alright, text me the address and I'll be there.” I said. I hung up and he sent me the address. I got dressed. I put on a v neck, some dark pants and laxed sneakers. I wasn't too sure if Mike would try to make me dance, so I had to come prepared. I sauntered out of the apartment and made my way to the neighboring train station. It was dark and cold like usual for a December night. I wasn't surprised. There were plenty of people on the street roaming in droves being dragged by the gravitational pull of their cliches. Every time one person wanted to do their own thing or go home their friends would convince them to stay or play with their ego to make them stay. I was glad I stayed to myself. I wouldn't be subjected to that type of stuff.
I made my way down the street and up the train station stairs. I got on the J train heading for Manhattan once more. Tonight was different. It felt like I was at a party. There was so much noise. There were so many people. So many of them swayed by the pluses from their headphones or friends. They were lost in the moment and excited for whatever came next in the night. Not one dared to glance at me. They were gone mentally. That made me happy. For one night, I wouldn't be stared at like I was some type of specimen. There was no purpose trying to understand me because they would never understand the caliber of my mind or how I felt about things. I would never broadcast myself to the world. The world wasn't worthy of knowing who I was. Once they knew, they would lie, use and exploit me for their own purposes. I was not a guinea pig.
I was Nathaniel Stone. I was capable of amazing things. I was my own universe, my own solar system, my own nebula. I was my own everything. I could sustain myself and had the ability to take care of myself. However, that didn't mean I didn't get lonely. That didn't mean I didn't long for anyone else who understood me and the way my mind worked. Someone who I could truly socialize with, without fear of judgment. Maybe that was just a dream, just a fantasy. I was Nathaniel Stone, I didn't make friends like that. I made users. People who would exploit me for my intelligence.
My stop came up and the horrible ride ended. I got off the train and made my way to Zeke's the pub Mike was talking about. The air was sharp like daggers and the degrees dropped even lower. I shivered a little in my jacket. But the pub wasn't that far from the train station, so I wouldn't be cold for very long. I looked around at the people and their faces as I walked towards the Pub. Not a single one looked happy. They looked sick and irritated. I guess Saturday night wasn't always a fun night. I turned a corner and went up another block and there I was in front of the joint. You couldn't miss it though, the banner flashed vibrantly against the dark sky. I walked through the door and put searched for Mike. I saw him in a crimson sweater. He had the sleeves rolled up swigging beers. He waved. I walked over to him.
“Dude, why do you dress so gay?” he asked.
“This isn't gay. This is nice. I don't like looking like crap. Why do you dress so gay? No guy rolls up sweater sleeves.” I teased.
“What? Yeah they do.” Mike chuckled.
“Whatever. So, how are you man?” I asked.
“Good, good. I finally have a few days off so, imma get drunk and get some sleep. How about you?” Mike sipped his drink.
“Rough, haven't found a job yet. Haven't slept in days. I haven't eaten much either.” I sighed.
“Then you need a drink my friend. Hey Zeke, I want you to meet my buddy Nate. Whenever you see his face, I want you to give him a drink.” Mike said.
“Nice to meet you.” the man said. He was a larger man, with protruding muscles. He had stubble and short sandy brown hair.
“Likewise.” I said politely.
“So get this man a beer stat, he's had a rough week.” Mike's tone was playful like usual.
“Can I get some nachoes too? I'm hungry as hell and I didn't think to eat the pizza at Miki's place.” I rubbed my temples.
“Sure.” Zeke placed the beer in front of me. Then he placed a hastily made plate of nachos before me.
I stared at the bottle for a minute before Mike looked at me.
“What?” I asked.
“Don't be a pussy. Drink it already, Nate.” Mike demanded.
I popped the top nervously before taking my first swig. It tasted pretty bad. My stomach turned. It was bitter and it burned like hell. I quickly swallowed before I felt any worse. I was wide awake, at least.
“I should have warned you not to chug it like that.” Mike chuckled.
“Man you're a douche.” I laughed. I munched on my nachos.
“Hey, least I’m going up a girl's snatch. Anyways finish that bottle of beer and then go flirt with some girls.” Mike teased.
“Nah, I'd rather get drunk and go home.” I said.
“Virgin.” Mike scoffed.
“What? I've got laid.” I said.
“By who, huh?” Mike asked.
“Miki.” I clarified.
“Liar! Lies.” Mike said.
“True story, the first day I came over. We did it three times, in three different positions.” My tone was pretty casual.
“What? A good guy like you? Nah, that's a bunch of bull.” Mike said.
“Why do you think she treats me differently than you?” I asked.
“Because I'm forward with her. You're a big fat pussy with her.” Mike said.
“Yeah, well I'm a big fat pussy that made her squirt all over her couch and bed. So I win.” I grinned. I took another sip of the beer. It still stung like hell.
“Yeah, well not so much. Miki has been blabbing about some guy she met at some museum. His name is Hayden. She sent me a picture of him. I don't like him and his hipster ass. If I had to lose to anyone I'd rather lose to you.” Mike said.
“Oh really, what does he look like?” I asked.
Mike flashed his phone at me. He looked like a basic hipster: glasses, hoodie skinny jeans, camera, toms. Wasn't anything special about his figure either. His face was slightly more masculine and he was clean shaven. His eyes were dark and soulless. He was pale. He had little to no hair. This guy for some reason made me obscenely angry. I could feel the fire rising in my gullet. I tossed down the rest of my beer and demanded another. I didn't like this guy at all. He seemed like trouble. He looked like trouble. If he ever hurt a hair on her, I'd kill him- scratch that. Mike and I would kill him.
“Looks like someone's angry.” Mike hummed.
“Why would she do something like that?” I asked.
“Well, I don't want to get between two great roommates, however she said she felt like you were just toying her. After what happened the other day, she was sure that you didn't care about her.” Mike answered.
“Whatever. I tell her shit and she doesn't believe me. But wait, she told you that she felt like she was being toyed with, how do you not believe we had sex?” I said.
“I mean I understood what she meant, it was just hard to believe you're you.” Mike took a sip of his beer.
I took another angry sip from my beer bottle before demanding another one.
“Hey man slow down, you're on the fast track to destroying you kidneys. I also know about all that damn coffee you drink with her every morning.” Mike said.
“I didn't know that you guys were that close.” I said.
“In a way yes, but not really. She just is my comic relief during my morning shifts. She tells me funny stuff and it cheers me up in the morning. Though sometimes when she needs to talk about something, not with you, she talks to me.” Mike sipped his drink.
“I'm not going to ask why she doesn't want to talk to me.” I munched on a few nachos before throwing back the bitter brew.
“When you blew up on her the other day.” Mike said.
“I don't know about women, man. Miki is too touchy. This hurts her, that hurts her. I'm not being insensitive it's just a lot. Why couldn't she just be simple?” I said.
“Well you know chicks and Miki is not for the no strings attached thing. To top that off she's had a series of horrible shitty douche bags, don't be mean to her man. Don't break her heart. If she clings to you, it's good. You're the only one she actually bothers to cling to. She's a really distant person. I mean she'll tell me things, but ultimately she'll never tell me what she's thinking or what's running around in her head. But she'll let you know.” Mike gave me a pat on the back.
“Why are you so squishy with her?” I asked.
“Isn't it obvious that I love the girl?” he asked.
“We both love her.” I said.
“But it's the fact that, you're you. The distant, emotionless, pussy that we've all come to know and love.” Mike said.
I gave him a grim stare before polishing off my beer.
“Don't do anything stupid man, I know you're happy to actually be living now, but don't hurt her. Don't be selfish. Don't break her heart.” Mike's tone was oldy sincere for how many beers he had.
“Who do you think I am?” I asked.
“Nathaniel Stone.” Mike said.
“Yeah man, that's obvious.” I said.
“Listen, I don't like this Hayden guy. I want you to be sweet to her. Get her away from that poison. Something about that guy just rubs me the wrong way.” Mike shuddered.
“Then you do it.” I chuckled.
“Yeah, but I didn't sleep with her. You did.” he said.
“So what do you want me to do?” I asked.
“Go home and be romantic. Bang her if you have to. Be sexy as hell, before it is too late and we have another asshole to deal with.” Mike said.
I thought about it. Miki post asshole boyfriend wasn't good. It was red puffy eyes, crying, blasting screamo music, angry video game playing, dark and sinster poetry. It was like she would become a whole new person, someone we never even recognized. I didn't like that side of her. She was different. She was different that way and honestly, I didn't like her that way.
“Alright, I'll do it.” I said.
“That a boy. I'm surprised you're not drunk.” Mike chuckled.
“I guess I'm not as intolerant as you thought.” I said. I sighed and looked at my phone. It was 9:54. “Listen man, I gotta go.” I said.
“No problem, I'll catch you later bud.” Mike said.
I put a twenty dollar bill on the counter and headed out.
“Nate's not bad people. He actually tipped me.” Zeke said.
“Yeah, cause he's a pussy.” Mike said.
I was a little warmer now, I guess it was because of the beer. I felt a little more energized too. I wasn't woozy or anything. I kind of felt invincible that nothing could stop me. For some reason I had more confidence, though it probably was just the booze rattling around in my system. I made my way to the train station swiped my metro card and made my way back to queens. It was empty on the train. It was weird. I wasn't being analyzed or stared at. Maybe because it was a Saturday. But the more I thought about Miki and Hayden together the more it boiled my blood. I reached my stop and got off the train. I checked the time. It was 10:40. I was just in time. I went around the back and shimmy up the firescape, since I didn't have the keys to the place. I got in and closed the window behind me. I tossed off my coat, rolled my sleeves enough to where my forearms were visible, put some aftershave on, and gave myself a quick hair cut. My hair had grown quite a bit. It was down to my collarbone now. I just cut it back to my jaw line. I also did something that hated doing. I pushed my bangs back. I didn't like doing it because it allowed people to see my face. I didn't want to be seen. I just wanted to hide away. With a hint of five o'clock shadow left, I was pretty attractive, at least to Miki.
It was weird the way I felt. I cared about her, sure, but I didn't want to be with her because how damaged she is. But at the same time I didn't want that creep with her. I saw it. Mike saw it. This dude was going to reap irreparable harm on our best friend. We would be there getting drunk and picking up the pieces. That process was never fun. I heard the door unlock, open and slam. Miki was home just like what she as she said at eleven sharp.
“Nate? If you're alive I'm back.” Miki yelled from the hallway.
I walked into the living room and Miki dropped her coffee. Admittly, I was a little shocked too. I didn't know Miki could dress that nice professionally. I never seen her do so. Every time I saw her she was wearing boy clothes. Her hair was straight and long, she had on a figure hugging dress and wore pumps. I was pretty sure Miki wasn't the only one melting.
“Whoa.” we said in unison.
“Are you the same person?” she asked.
“I don't know, are you the same person?” I asked.
“Dude, I can see your forehead.” Miki said in shock.
“You're not short for once.” I said.
“What's the occasion?” she asked. She bent down to pick up the coffee cup, but I stopped her. I cleaned it up instead.
“Sit down on the couch and I'll tell you.” I said.
“Alright...” I could sense that she was looking at me strangely.
“Well for starters are you interested in anyone else?” I asked.
“What's that suppose to mean? Have you been talking to Mike?” she asked.
“Just answer the question.” I said. I could make out a mark on her neck.
“Generally speaking, no.” she said.
I sat next to her on the couch and took her shoes off. I could smell her perfume. It was nice and sweet. It wasn't overpowering. She looked at me nervously. Her face was red.
“Then how do you feel about me?” I asked.
“Well right now, I'm a little uncomfortable.” her voice was soft.
I stopped touching her and said, “Tell me, tell me everything.”
“No, I won't. You're Nathaniel Stone, you'll build your own empire. All I'll be is a distraction. Besides, you don't care for me much anyways.” she said.
“That's not true. Every leader has a person helping them lead, helping with progress and keeping their mind out of the trenches. So far, you've done that well. If it wasn't for you, I’d probably still continue doing something I hate. I'd probably would have quit on my dreams. You're understanding.” I said sincerely.
“But I'm just a tool to you. Something to aid you in the journey up the pyramid. You don't really care about me beyond that.” Miki said.
“Yeah I do.” I placed my hand on her arm.
“Prove it.” she said.
“I don't want you with that guy. He's trouble.” I said.
“You don't even know him.” she stated.
“Yeah, that is true. But I want you.” I looked her in the eye.
“Sexually you mean.” she giggled.
“No, I love you. We could do nothing tonight and I would still love you.” I said.
“Why?” she asked.
“You were the first person to actually care about me. I want you so bad it hurts. If you really do want to be with that hipster douche, you can. But if he screws up Mike and I will kill him.” I wanted to kiss her so badly.
She looked at me for a moment, before kissing me. Her lips were soft. Her touch was soft. It was weird how such a soft and meek being could make me feel like this. These weird aggressive sparks and urges she caused. It was weird being human. How it would infuriate me to see her with another guy, and the weird blissful happiness I would feel being with her. But in a way she was right. She would serve as a distraction. Well then, I guess I would have to multitask.
“I love you, Nate.” she whispered.
“I love you too, Miki.” I said.
She undid my pants.
“What are you doing?” I asked in shock.
“I'm horny as hell. You looking all hot and sexy. You're making my snatch drool, Nate. I want you. But tonight, I want to exploit you for ego building pleasure.” She gave me a devious smile as she slid her hand in my pants.
“Oh,” slipped out of my lips as she continued. “I didn't expect you to crumble that quickly.” I said. I tried to hold any visual sign of pleasure back.
“You're you. You're my weakness hot and sexy or insomniac and grizzly.” she said.
That was the first time I heard anyone refer to me as their weakness. Was I drug? Was I a distraction? I was just me. I didn't do anything.
“When we're banging later, call me 'Lis.'” Miki said.
“Thought you didn't like your real name.” I said. She managed to get another moan out of me.
“I don't I only like the middle of it. I chopped off the beginning and the end of it.” she grinned.
“Alright, Lis.” I said.
“So, will you be my sex slave tonight?” she grinned.
“Will you be my sex slave tonight?” I asked.
“I don't know. You're crumbling under my touch.” she said.
“I made you crumble to the point you wanted to do this.” I said.
“Nah, you're mine tonight. It's only fair we take turns.” Miki said.
“Fine.” I sighed.