We learned to smoke in the spring, watching The Big Lebowski, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, or Superbad on nights when the wind whispered through windows, and smoke rose into the air so wide and wondrous. Adulthood was something nascent, a still-forming beauty, something tender and wonderful to hold. We laughed at absurdity of adulthood, pissed on rugs, using it and losing it. We took to our rented basements, brushed off notions of bills and social politics and said fuck it, a cry that rose into the night. And obviously, we mocked parental visions of the future as reactionary, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, things to be relegated to Trotsky’s dustbin of history while we strode up and down streets, laughing, into Burger Kings and McDonalds’s when late-night munchies called, and Coke fizzled with joy. Of course, we wake and baked and we carried six packs with pride, even if they were just Budweiser, while others shook their heads and told us to just grow up again. Accept responsibility, the world’s a jungle. We love you, we love you, but love always was followed by a but, a defect on display. Hair’s too long, laughter isn’t professional enough, sounds like a constipated goose, walk straighter, don’t march like a bunch of kids. In spring, they told us a thousand don’ts, but not a thousand dos. All in good time, we said, we’d learn, we’d made it to adulthood, hadn’t gotten run over, hadn’t ended up in the gutter.
In spring, we wanted to do, do, do, and don’t was a dirge from Debbie Downer.
By summer, we smoked a little less, adulthood beginning to demand in voices we couldn’t pacify. We began to see debts, interest rates rising from screens like unbeatable creatures. Cars broke down and we had to learn how to fix and not just cruise. We tried to bury them, but collections calls rose, words like delinquent, risk, payment plan, installment, and debt peppering our parlance. Wallets grew tighter and appliances broke. We partied a little less and withdrew into the world of news alerts, political deals, shootings, families dissolving. Those stories became our daily companion. We communicated in texts, boiled greetings to emojis and abbreviations. Learned to become obsequious, sir and ma’am our steady companions in offices, even if douchebag and fascist were bandied in secret. Oh, how we graded student exams, edited manuscripts, and worked behind call centers, trying to boil technologically befuddling principles down to simple English. And we absorbed criticisms, storing them as carefully as possible in consciousnesses, piles of a Jenga tower that threatened to collapse. Too slow, not smiling, smile more, be upbeat, ask the customer about their day, don’t ask them too much, you asked too much.
By fall, we rose from beds with groans, slunk downstairs, to cars, coffee, oversized Diet Pepsis, and to office spaces. The criticisms in our mind began to fall, but we couldn’t find the words to stop the fall. We nodded, nodded, as if nodding could banish. When we boozed, we did it at home, too weary to trudge blocks to the sounds of pulsating jukeboxes and windows lit with warmth and welcome beer was replaced with the sharpness of vodka, the occasional reverie of overpriced moscato or merlot consumed in the shadows, while the moon tried to get us to come out and play and we drew the curtains tighter. We stopped answering texts, promising tomorrow, the tomorrow after tomorrow, watched some cynical Netflix show or another. Or watched people kick each other in certain bodily regions, because we felt too old to absorb dialogue.
When the curtains were open, we yelled at people partying in apartments across the way, in courtyards, and we lambasted bodies bouncing and laughing up and down our streets. We dissected stained, skimpy purple tank tops, tight jean shorts, baggy midnight-colored sweatpants that smelled stale. The pot they carried, wafting into furniture-polish scented apartments. Lemon or pine scented, naturally. We mocked the rap beats that rose from cell phones and Spotify playlists and we demanded they go, go, go, be gone, be gone. But sometimes, when they were gone, we looked their direction and offered a vaya con dios, followed by a long and cracked smile. We tried to follow them up the street, but couldn’t track their paths, trying every street and avenue, looking to capture an ember of laughter. We yelled, hello, hello, sorry, sorry, cried out contrition or something that resembled it. We even leapt, standing on tiptoes, but catching only the charcoal-colored clouds, the chill and the crackled leaves descending, their dance dissolving, leaves landing to cold, crunched earth.
Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. His stories, “Soon,” “How To Be A Good Episcopalian,” and “Tales From A Communion Line,” were nominated for Pushcarts. Yash’s work has been published in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Write City Magazine, and Ariel Chart, among others.