From within the Solarium

by Galvin Chapman

with photos by Max Deeb

I look around myself for evidence of a good life every day. Sometimes it’s easy to find, sometimes I only find evidence to the contrary. On days where the latter predominates the former, I see all of my co-workers and their smooth ability to communicate and socialize with each other. I see their connections and their bonds build thick. I hear them laughing and having something to say next, without it infringing on their ability to listen. I hear them say things to me, only to be deflected by ineffable walls that restrain me from affable responses. My bonds don’t build and my connections don’t thicken. I rarely honestly laugh and it affects my ability to listen.

I leave work and I forget all about it. Until I get home.

As I’m greeted with open arms at home, what I lack stares me in the face. My emotions hang low, like ripe fruit on a tree ready to be picked—or, perhaps more appropriately, like the fruit laying rotten on the ground below the ripe fruit, dissolving into its environment. Right on the other side of the door, on the couch, my roommate and his current emotional and physical romance lie on the couch holding each other. I make small talk. I see their bond growing tighter by the second. I see their fears of what could be fading away into pure hopefulness and excitement for their future. Down the hall I hear the thumping of an emotionless, yet emphatic fuck-session taking place in my other roommate’s room. I hear the moaning of desire and pleasure. I see the walls vibrate from passion. I make dinner for myself. I jerk off. I go to sleep.

I’ve never truly felt connected to the social network manifested by the human spirit. It’s like everybody’s playing this game called sociability and I’m just standing on the sideline, scaling the field with the players, but never participating. Everybody jumps in and out as they please, so fluidly, so without thought. I consistently want to jump into the game, but every time I see a play, the game becomes so clearly ridiculous to me. Like, the rules are arbitrary and the plays unoriginal; the players self-indulgent and the laws of motion predictable; the winners always celebrating the losers always sulking; stats reflect each players’ unattainable status and unveil those who aspire to attain the same; and I turn around to find the bleachers empty and that I am often the only spectator while everyone else has joined this clusterfuck of a game at some point or another. 

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Friday nights I like to take my guitar and ripped up clothes to the curb of the city. Give the impression that I’m poor and fashionably hungry. Play songs of guilt and misery to the stumbling suits and dresses.

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Sometimes I run into Scuzball and Cookie, and we kick it at their squat, which is under a bridge, but above the underpass. They shoot up while I sing songs to them and drink my forty ounce of malt liquor. They often doze off into oblivion together while I enter the lonely, self-loathing stage of my inebriation. Like clockwork I dangle my feet over the architecture, 100 feet above the underpass. I sing songs to the cars whizzing by below and consider the easy way out. And like clockwork I look up. Ten feet above my head, spray painted on the concrete of the underside of the bridge is my saving literature. It reads:

So, here’s to saying all the wrong things at the right times and, for that matter, saying all the right things at the wrong times;

To those who demand absolute perfection, but emanate imperfection;

To having the choice to perceive the world as we please, but only growing to learn one way to perceive it;

To living interpersonally unified, yet intrapersonally disconnected;

To the words that tie everything together except the absolutes that provide a foundation for a society limited by the refusal of the possibilities beyond those absolutes, by which is dismantled;

To the heart of art that is, apparently, not worth much more than a glance over and a few bucks;

To the deceased that had so much more to say and to the living, that they may stop thinking they have the fucking right to say it for them;

To the emotionally distraught, that one day your highs be low and your lows be high;

To whoever thought that anything, good or bad, wasn’t transient. Your gullible hope is what keeps the rest of us going;

To my coworkers who only ever see smiles and handshakes and will never read this, because personal disclosure is inappropriate in the workplace;

To whoever the fuck found a profession that they enjoy and is also self-sustaining;

To those whose lives are not oversaturated with social endeavors and where loneliness is their prevailing emotion;

To when tomorrow becomes today and today becomes yesterday, that we can just say:

Here’s to living just one more day.

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And like clockwork I stumble home along the sidelines, singing songs to empty bleachers and a vibrantly lit up scoreboard. I don’t care who’s winning, I don’t want to participate.

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A Blooming Jasmine

by Galvin Chapman

photos by Max Deeb

For obvious reasons, you’ll only find night-blooming jasmine in the southwest division of the city. The reasons are obvious because the affluent line their gardens with the aroma. Within the walls of the night-blooming scent lies daily groomed grass, well kempt by endless amounts of water and money that’s not so endless for the rest of the city. Nobody’s ever witnessed the faces that enter those homes because they’re rarely ever there, while the rest of the city claims the rarity of personal space as their home.

I know the scent of Jasmine because it’s the only part of the city I’ve been to that evokes memories of losing my virginity with John. They say that the human sense of smell conjures up memories stronger than any other sense. It’s like the experience of deja vu for an event that actually happened. It’s like when you listen to a song you haven’t heard in years and it slams you right back into that car seat at age 15…

“So…how was your day?”

…looking out the window at nothing…

“It was fine. I guess.”

…and being emotionally blown away by the sound traveling from the CD…

“Well, anything fun happen? Did you learn anything new?”

…to your brand-new portable CD player…

“Nope.”

…through the auxiliary cord to your brand-new headphones…

“Hm, well the weather’s nice at least, right?”

…through your ears and into your fucked up adolescent brain.

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Just like that, the scent of night-blooming jasmine slams me back onto the streets of the southwest division, the portion of the city cultivated by yuppies visibly concerned about the two wasted skinny jeaned teenagers skating around their neighborhood at night. That was always our plan: skate and bus around getting fucked up on whatever drugs or alcohol we could get our hands on to stumble upon the next adventure the city had to offer. Driven by our desire for pseudo-independence at the age of 15, we had claimed several public locations all over the city where we would duck out to drink and smoke free of parents or cops. “Headquarters” was our primary meet-up spot. Perfectly nestled in the middle of a block, it was an alley camouflaged by overgrown weeds splitting the backyards of several homes. That’s where we took Tim when we first met him.

Tim was an avid horse lover. He was also a 40-year-old skinny, white redneck with schizophrenia living in his brother’s backhouse. He once told us that when he had episodes, he would sometimes walk around the neighborhood at night with an axe ready to chop the head off anything that moved. So, that was Tim. We met him when we were loitering outside of the local smoke shop trying to cop cigarettes. Tim agreed to buy us cigarettes on the condition that we smoked him out. So, it was settled.

After he bought us cigarettes, we took Tim to Headquarters where we whipped out our bottles of Jack Daniel’s, new pack of cigarettes, and large sum of bud. We smoked and drank while Tim told us all about his mental illness. He was so tranquil and halcyon about it. This naturally led to a discussion about the medications he took and which medications he had on him at that moment.

“…some Arpripazole, Clozapine, and some muscle relaxers.”

“Oh shit, man. That’s a lot.” I said, not really paying attention.

“Wait,” said John, “you have muscle relaxers? Which ones?” John had clearly done his research.

“I have some Somas. Why? Y’all want a couple? I’ll warn ye though, them shits will make yer dick soft all night.” He said as he dug around his backpack for his medication.

“Ah, nah, fuck that man. I’m good on the Somas,” John responded, disengaged once more.

“Fuck it, I’ll take ‘em,” I said, not knowing what I was getting myself into.

Tim handed me four small pills and began to warn me, “But don’t take all those at once, you’ll wake up in the emergency roo…”

Before he could finish his sentence, I had swallowed all four pills and washed them down with some whiskey.

“Oh fuck, kid. Well, I gotta get outta here. Thanks for the bud n’ booze! Y’all probably see me walking around here with my horse, so I’ll see yuhs around.”

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After that, my night was a little fuzzy. We hopped the bus, southwest division bound. I was so fucked up that I walked up and down the bus asking all the passengers if they wanted to smoke weed. Poor old ladies with their groceries didn’t know what to make of this scrawny 15-year-old with skin-tight jeans pacing up and down the bus asking the same ridiculous question repeatedly. The next thing I knew, the bus came to a stop somewhere near the southwest division and I was sitting at the back of the bus. I looked up as a cocky cop walked up the steps of the bus. All I could think was, Why the fuck is a cop taking the bus? Doesn’t he have his own car? Sure enough, the cop was not hopping on for purposes of public transit.

Once he laid eyes on me, he knew exactly who he was there to see. He walked slowly and confidently up the aisle all the way to the back of the bus where John and I were sitting.

“What the fuck is this?” He asked, looking down at the bus floor in front of me.

I looked down to find spit all over the ground. Loogies covered the bus floor as the cop—cognizant of my sputum—stepped closer to me.

“I dunno. Wasn’t me.” I said.

“Sir, it’s right in front of you. Are you telling me you didn’t do this?” He said and then looked over at John, who was clearly not as fucked up as I was.

“Did he do this?” the cop asked John.

“Man, I don’t even know what you’re talking about, alright?” I interrupted.

“Alright sir, come with me.”

He grabbed me by the arm and yanked me out of my seat.

“What the hell, man! I didn’t even do anything, okay? I’m just riding the bus home with my friend, what the fuck, man?!” I began yelling.

He pulled me off the bus and sat me down on the curb as the bus took off. I sat there cussing him out and calling him a fascist pig while he just stared and smiled at me.

“Jesus, kid. You’re fucked up.”

He then stood me up, handcuffed me, and gently seated me in the back of his cop car as I wildly protested the nature of my detainment

This is where I blacked out. I don’t remember anything inside that cop car. All I know is that somehow I got out of that jail on wheels and immediately called John to meet up again in the southwest division. We weren’t, and didn’t claim to be, good at skating. In fact, we often wore scabs as badges of honor from eating shit, fucked up on whatever. Skating was simply a form of transport from one of our claimed public locations to the next. So, we skated around that night stopping at our various locations, earning our right to more badges and face planting in the middle of the street in front of dismayed yuppies. That’s when we met Jasmine.

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I was a whole block ahead of John, probably because he had eaten shit a ways back, so I met her first. I came to a red crosswalk light as she was standing there waiting for the crosswalk to turn green.

“Hey, whoa…you’re hot.” She said.

“Uh, what’s up?” I responded, still brought down by the Somas, bud, and booze.

“What’s up to you, cutie?”

Finally, John showed up stumbling to a stop on his skateboard next to me.

“Holy shit—you’re sexy as fuck too!” She exclaimed, with a suspiciousness to her expression.

“Uh, well hello there…” John muttered with an odd sensuality to his voice.

Jasmine was nineteen and had just gotten out of rehab. Somehow, the reason why she was in rehab was never discussed.

“Wanna smoke some herb?” John asked her in an almost too ridiculous Southern Californian accent.

She didn’t even hesitate, “Fuck yeah, I do. What d’ya got?”

We felt she was worthy enough to introduce her to one of our secret spots, “The Bat Cave,” which was just an oily underground public parking garage that was often vacant. After we finished the last of the Jack Daniel’s and smoked her out, my night got a little fuzzy again.

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I remember arguing with John…

“Because it was my fucking weed, man!”

…in a park, right in the middle of the southwest division…

“Well, she wouldn’t have been down if I hadn’t suggested it to her!”

…yuppies walking by with their purebred dogs and pure minded children…

“That’s because she asked me if I was down to fuck first, man.”

…the fire station just across the street…

“But she saw me first!”

…night-blooming jasmine infiltrating our nostrils…

“…maybe this isn’t a good idea, guys…”

…and into our fucked up adolescent brains.

“Fine, fine, whatever man,” John relented, “you can go first.”

I’m not sure where she got the blanket from, but she laid it over us after laying me up against a tree. I didn’t know what to do, where to put my hands.

“Okay, fuck this. You’re never gonna cum. Go get your friend over here.”

I don’t want to remember, but night-blooming jasmine won’t let me forget.

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