Eternal Boy Syndrome
COPYRIGHT: According to the United States Copyright Office, a copyright is secured automatically when the work is created. I will have the ability (and certainly the desire) to take legal action against anyone who infringes upon the ownership of my work. I am in law school and have friends in high places. When I catch you, and I most definitely will, you will be sorry.
Note: This story was published by me (EJE) in NYU's The Minetta Review.
© 2009 McQuinn (FictionPress User ID: 474896)
DISCLAIMER: This is a modern retelling of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan.
I think it's all bullshit, if you ask me, but they keep complaining that I have this complex. So every day after classes (unless I'm skipping), they send me to visit the loon-doctor.
"Come in, child, come in." He speaks slowly and eloquently, with a smarmy British accent. He curls his finger inward and attempts to hypnotize me with his brutal smile. I enter his wood-paneled office. Everything smells like the sea, because my loon-doctor is obsessed with boats and the ocean. You can tell, with all the pictures of ships hanging around his wood-paneled office.
"Thanks," I say, but I'm not thankful. In fact, I get pretty cynical when I'm forced to visit Dr. Hook. I get like this for three reasons: first, Hook has a moustache. It reminds me of a small, grey tail—one that's been detached from a mouse's body. The 'stache is long and curled at the tips; it's practically begging for you to roll its rough tendrils between your fingers. The thought of doing that is enough to make me want to slash his throat. Second, Hook has an amputated arm. Apparently, you're not supposed to feed crocodiles in the Everglades—I mean, who knew? And the worst part about the arm thing is that he "forgets" to wear his prosthesis when we have our session. It's basically all just a ploy to freak me out. Third, Hook is an old, spiteful and hypocritical bastard who can't stand the ticking of his own watch—it reminds him of how close to death he's getting. We're actually a bit the same, him and me—like two counterparts of the same whole. He is a pain in my ass, and I am undoubtedly a pain in his. We love verbal sparring—do it all the time, in fact. His method of torture is attempting to analyze why I do the things I do. It kind of goes something like this:
"Peter, my boy…" He twists the end of his moustache. "You are wasting your life away because you'd like to avoid an inevitable reality. I think, if I do say so myself, you need to put your fantasies to rest and simply move on."
"Dr. Hook?" I say pensively, lying on the couch.
"I think maybe you're an asshole."
Name-calling is my sweet revenge—Hook completely deserves it, because the guy makes me feel like crap. After the session, I amble out of his office a lot more depressed, asking myself why things have to turn out so shitty when people get older. Around me, there are birds chirping, cars driving on their merry ways down the street, and little girls telling their mothers they love them.
In spite of everything, really, Hook does do one good thing for me. He makes me realize I'm a sore thumb on a hand of regular fingers. He gets me to understand I am an eighteen-year-old boy who's afraid to look at what his shadow is becoming. It's difficult to notice those kinds of things on your own, when you've been living with them all your life.
It takes a few minutes for my dad to pull up in front of Hook's office. He picks me up in his dowdy car every day after the session and makes me drive. I don't want to, really. You see, when I turned sixteen, Dad had to drag my ass to the DMV—kicking and screaming, with "Idon'twannaIdon'twanna" being repeated like a desperate mantra to the gods. Now, though, I've got a permit. But I keep picturing this accident in my head, with me flying through the windshield and cracking my skull open on a rock. Blood everywhere—even coming out of my mouth, like in the movies. When I drive, I'm so afraid I'll crash and burn and die. I'm just a kid, for god's sake. That's not supposed to happen.
When we get home, we eat dinner. Spaghetti with tomato sauce, and a bit of garlic bread on the side. Minimal stuff. We don't have much, so we don't eat much. Dad and I barely speak at the table. That's because when I look at him, I see an old man whose life is withering away. In more ways than one, he's my anti-role model—and I think he's realized it.
Hook calls Dad after dinner—you can probably guess how the conversation went:
"Mr. Pan, your son called me an asshole!"
"That boy of yours is a problem child," blah-dee-fricken-blah.
I go to my room, lie down on my bed and look out the window. It's a starry night—the moon's a bright, little banana sliver in the sky, and I wonder how many people are staring up at the twinkling lights right then. I've never felt so scared and pissed in my entire life when Dad barges in at that moment, huffing and puffing and pointing his long, chubby finger.
"Damn it, Pete, I've given you everything. Everything! A home, a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear, an education, my support, my love."
You also gave me a psychiatrist, old man. Don't forget about the psychiatrist.
"What more do you want?" he asks me. I can tell he's trying to hold back from crying, because he knows one of the things I want is a mother, and Dad could never give me that. "You're eighteen years old, and you're still acting like you're thirteen! When are you going to grow up? What are you going to do with your life, huh? I gave you so many opportunities, Pete. So many…"
I don't want any goddamn opportunities. You can take your stupid opportunities and shove them up your ass.
"You give your kid so many opportunities and he never does anything with them. He just likes to fool around and amuse himself with stupidity. Well, I'm not going to let that happen anymore, son. So what are you going to do? Hmm? What are you going to do?"
Run away, of course. I think that's pretty obvious. I'm going to run away and join this Native American tribe I discovered while watching a documentary they were broadcasting on a public station. They'd like me there, accept me into their community but respect me for who I am and what I don't want to become. I'd do exactly what they were doing on TV—swim in a lagoon, catch fish with my bare hands, spark fire with two rocks, and befriend a young, pretty squaw. Her name would be Tiger Lily, and we'd fall for each other and live in a cove under the waterfalls and steal secret kisses when the chief wasn't looking. And when anyone would try to kidnap her, I'd save her and kill the bad guys. We'd generally live happily after that, beneath the stars and at peace with everything.
"Well?" My dad still expects an answer.
I don't feel obliged to give one to him, even if he's starting to bawl. When he chokes up and starts cursing the crap out of me, wishing I was never his kid, I turn away from him. I roll up into a ball like I'm in my dead mother's womb. That's when he leaves, and I start feeling sick to my stomach.
When I close my eyes to ignore the nausea, I hear a bell chime from outside. I like the sound, but it takes me a second or two to get up and open my window. When I finally do, I poke my head out and step onto the ledge of the building. I am seven stories up. My feet are close together and my hands are sprawled against the brick. The wind is hot against my skin and the stars are bright and the bell chime is proud in its tinkering, so calming yet so proud. The ringing is distinct but lost in the darkness, not growing, not changing—staying dependable and fierce.
But when the sound abruptly stops, I start to notice how near my feet are to slipping off the building's edge. I start wondering how free I would be if I'd spread my legs apart and lean forward. Laughing, I think about doing it—about how goddamn stupid it'd be, about how everything would change.
If only life could be as simple as a bell chime. If only it wasn't this difficult to let go, to leave the world behind. If only we were brave and able enough to take one step off the edge—a single, measly footstep forward—and just know how to fly.