“Eventually, they all fall.” This alleged aphorism is not only the first and last memory that I have of my father, but it is my first memory, in general. How messed up is that? The first memory I have is a phrase that is so completely out of context that I can only guess at its meaning. Mind you, these are wild guesses. Maybe he had been looking overhead to see a flock of geese flying in perfect synchronicity, in their victorious V, and he felt like taking them down a peg. Or, maybe, he was nodding in the direction of high school bullies in their element, tinged with an air of superiority, and he was making an apt observation about their impending future. Eh, probably not, that would be giving my father too much credit. On the other hand, I did not know how much credit to give or not to give him because I barely remember him. I only remember that phrase uttered offhandedly as he looked down at me with his dull gray eyes, freckles like constellations etched around the corners of his eyelids, permanent and pulling me in like a black hole. Aside from this, I don’t have any other memories. He dropped the phrase and then just disappeared from my life.
Who does that? Who just throws down a random phrase, without explaining what the hell he meant, and then leaves? Not only did he just leave, but he left his only five-year-old son. That’s messed up, right? I was a kid. How the hell was I supposed to understand what he was trying to tell me without any context? It could mean anything, or nothing. Or, even more likely, it could be an answer to a question I may have asked, such as what is the meaning of my name? Well, what’s the meaning of my first name? My last name is no mystery, Garrison. A “garrison” just means that troops are stationed at some location that they are there to protect. Great. So, am I supposed to live up to that? The valiance and fortitude needed for that do not pair well with me in general or my first name specifically, Domino. So, if I am supposed to live up to my full name, then by design I am meant to eventually fall but simultaneously stand and protect a civilization? Isn’t that a contradictory expectation? It’s like saying, “Okay, dive into the depths of the ocean. Since you don’t have gills, you will need to come up for air, but your job is to stay down there and protect the merpeople.” What exactly are you supposed to say to that? Don’t be confused about the merpeople part. Just pay attention to the impossible mission.
Okay, maybe I’m overthinking this name thing. A name is not necessarily tied to one’s supposed destiny. It’s not like my father chose for my last name to be Garrison, but he definitely had a hand in choosing my first name; that’s at least what my mom told me. Suffice it to say, it’s ridiculous to name your only kid—or any kid for that matter—after a game piece. Potentially, he could have had a hankering for pizza when I was born and named me after a fast-food chain. It’s probably the former, given the last thing that he said to me. Either way, it’s just absurd, but then again, so is my life, so maybe it’s fitting.
I know many people, maybe millions if not billions, state that their life is absurd, and maybe they are right, but if we are measuring the absurdity of one’s life against each other, then compared to me, they are not contenders. I can almost guarantee this, that is unless their life is similar to mine, or weirder. If this is the case, then I abdicate my throne and wish them a lot of luck. Trust me, I would do this gladly. If I could have one wish in the world, it would be to hand my life over to someone else and to just walk away. I don’t know where I would go, or what I would do. As a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore, it’s not like I have a lot of options; however, I would still take my chances.
You probably think that I am just being dramatic, or hyperbolic, right? And, yeah, I am pretty verbose for a fifteen-year-old. Blame the PSATs. However, I can assure you that I am not exaggerating one bit. You see, my family is made up of one person, my mom. We live in one of the most run-down apartment buildings on our city block. Imagine if a turn of the twentieth century tenement housing still existed. Great, now add a splash of grimy green moss to the side of that building and some rusting black fire escapes. Got the picture? Now imagine this building at night with dimly lit, narrow alleyways on either side of the building. In one alleyway, you should see a woman with long, black wavy hair leaning up against the grimy moss, her eyes glued to the vibrant display on her iPhone as she waits for her dealer. Got that picture? That’s my mom leaning up against our home in Hell’s Kitchen.
She intermittently peels herself away from this state, and promises me that she will “quit cold turkey, once and for all.” I merely roll my eyes at the empty promise, and respond with, “Right, Mom.” Calling her out on an empty promise is futile. At the time, she may mean what she says, but her promises never stick. Everything about her is Teflon. I think that she knows it as well because eventually I catch her sliding her needle in between her toes. Yeah, she’s that good; she knows how to hide the track marks. Initially, when she is caught, her piercing blue eyes are pools of startled liquid, but in a split second they become congealed ice as eyes narrow and her brows furrow in defiance, as if to say, “Who are you to judge me?” I am neither startled nor aggravated; I am merely resigned to this reality. So, in turn, I ask something innocuous like, “Do you need me to take out the trash?” It’s not because I’m avoiding the issue or enabling her in any way, but trying to stop my mom from using drugs is like trying to stop an oncoming train with a flashlight and a wave of the hand. Why even bother?
However, having a drug addict for a mom and living in a run-down apartment building is not why my life is absurd. In fact, I am sure that many kids have drug-addled parents. Okay, maybe not many, but a fair number for sure. It is an unfortunate situation, and for some kids it causes a great deal of strife and loss. For me, I am just used to it. Shockingly enough, my mom has never ODed. Maybe that’s because she does not take heroin on a daily basis or because her intake is strategic. For whatever reason, she survives in spite of her continued usage. This, however, is not weird. What is weird is what happens after I offer to take out the garbage.
In that same alleyway, where I need to dump our garbage bags because our incinerator is broken, again, I’ll find a 20-foot dragon with purple teeth wearing a vibrant pink tutu rifling through the dilapidated dumpster brimming with practically a week’s worth of pungent trash. Sometimes it’s a Pegasus, but it’s usually a dragon. Immediately, I find Hermon adorned in paint-smudged overalls, another user and neighbor, sliding to the ground, eyes transfixed to his hallucinogenic creation. He usually names these hallucinations after himself, as if they are his imagined descendants.
“Hello, Hermon the Third,” he slurred as his head sagged forward.
“What happened to the Second, Hermon?” I asked human Hermon, knowing that he cannot hear me. He is so enraptured by his hallucination that reality no longer exists for him. Unlike my mom, his drug of choice is PCP. How do I know this? The dragon—sometimes Pegasus—told me.
The very fact that I can have a conversation with a psychedelic manifestation of a drug-riddled mind is why I have earned my crown.
As if distracted by my presence, the dragon turned to look at me and tilted its head to the side, studying me.
“I have nothing for you, Hermon the Third,” I stated, throwing our trash bags on top of the garbage heap. “That is, unless you like garbage. I don’t know what dragons eat.”
Dragon Hermon gave me a slight nod, and then turned back to the dumpster. His scaly claws pawed through the black, robust garbage bags.
Before heading inside, I took a close look at human Hermon to see his fluttering dark eyes still mesmerized by his fantasy.
“Take care, human Hermon. Don’t stay in the land of dragons too long.” At that, I leave Hermon to his imagination.
Now, I know what you are wondering, How in the world can you see a dragon in an alleyway? Then you may also be wondering, Aren’t you afraid that the dragon will burn you to a crisp? I’ll answer this question first. Hermon’s dragons usually do not breathe fire, but even if they do, they are imaginary. While I would feel the heat from the fire on my skin, I would not feel the intensity of actually being burned alive for the sheer fact that this dragon is not real.
To answer the first question, that’s why my life is completely and unequivocally absurd. Ever since I can remember, I have had the uncanny, useless ability to perceive other people’s imaginings. This is not only reserved for those on narcotics. Oh no, I can perceive anything that anyone imagines. I say perceive and not see because I experience these fantasies with every damn sense I have, and all five are in perfect working order. That’s right, I can even taste someone else’s fantasy. Yeah, sometimes it’s not appetizing, especially when someone imagines a cafeteria food fight in which bologna sandwiches are practically catapulted across the room, and I find the taste of bologna repulsive. This does not happen often, but when I was six years old and saw a bologna sandwich headed right for me like a heat-seeking missile finding its target, I ducked for cover, which looked pretty ridiculous in a room where nothing was happening except for inane conversations about Power Rangers or math. Okay, maybe not math. No one talks about math at lunch, but still, I don’t know many people who would literally dodge a conversation about math.
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