The Leaves to Rake Up

Nathaniel would catch spiders in his room. He would trap them in cassette cases, and stack them 10 high on his desk. He called it “spider prison”. Once he walked into a yogurt shop, walked past the counter, walked into the storeroom, grabbed a 10 pound bag of gummy bears, and walked back out, eating them by the handful. He did this as confidently as a man walking into his own kitchen might grab a snack. Nobody tried to stop him.

When I first met him, he was throwing hot dogs at the school bully. Here was Nathaniel, the only freshmen in high school who happened to be banging a freshman in college. While most of us were still learning how to jack off, he had surpassed hitting “33” on the cable box and landed straight into a full-time gig with a rock journalist from Berkley.

We would get stoned a lot, and listen to music. And when we got sick of listening to music we started a band. And when we got tired of jamming in his garage we started playing shows in Hollywood, partying with up-and-coming rock stars and consuming every kind of substance we could find. And by then, we were only 16.

And when high school ended and we got sick of each other, and sick of music, and sick of drugs and sick of lugging equipment onstage, we did what all best friends do who’ve been through hell together, we decided we hated each other’s guts and would never speak again. And that’s what we did.

This post is about Nathaniel, a man who gave me something this weekend I’d forgotten existed. If there’s a silver lining to the Facebook age, it’s turning 30 and running into old friends and enemies from high school. By the end of your twenties, most of your personal wars have been fought. And you have no more energy for bitterness or drama. You can kind of talk about the way things were and nod.

And so, when I hear this I can think about Nathaniel’s room, and the smell of pot, and the way that black light glowed against an endless row of empty cases called “spider prison”, and it makes me feel like I’m travelling through time.

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