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Mixtape for the apocalyp.., p.1
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       Mixtape for the Apocalypse, p.1

           Jemiah Jefferson
 
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Mixtape for the Apocalypse


  Mixtape for the Apocalypse

  Jemiah Jefferson

  “All in My Mind”, “The Disease”, “The Back of Love”, “Rescue”, “Stars Are Stars”, “Over the Wall”, “The Yo-Yo Man”, “Going Up”, “Nocturnal Me”, “Blue Blue Ocean”, and “Ocean Rain” written by Sergeant/McCulloch/Pattinson/DeFreitas. Published by Zoo Music/Warner Bros. Music Ltd.

  “Song to the Siren” written by Tim Buckley and Larry Beckett. Published by Tim Buckley Music.

  “How Soon is Now?” and “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” written by Morrissey and Johnny Marr. Published by Universal Polygram International Publishing, Inc.

  “Sound of Thunder” written by Duran Duran. Published by Gloucester Place Music, Ltd.

  “The End” written by the Doors. Published by Doors Music Company.

  Cover art by Ben Bittner

  ISBN 978-1-4659-9268-0

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Printed in the United States of America

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  Prologue

  Chapter One: On Any Other Day, That Might Seem Strange.

  Chapter Two: Squire Takes Love in Stride.

  Chapter Three: Mirror in the Bathroom.

  Chapter Four: I'll Show You the Life of the Mind.

  After

  The Mixtape Tracklist

  About the Author

  This story is dedicated to everyone who ever lost it,

  But the music was still good.

  PROLOGUE

  September, 1998

  Bellingham, Washington

  Autumn sunlight slants through the bookstore window and draws a perfect diagonal line in the air, an inverse of the letters I painted on the glass in shadows on the floor. I stop shelving for a while, wondering if I should grab my sketchbook and try to draw it. This moment is so rare, and any drawing done from memory can never be truly accurate. It could be days or weeks before the sun comes back out, or I might never see this particular angle and color of light again, and the opportunity to describe it gone forever.

  I let it go. Let time pass. I shake my head, shrug it off, and return to stacking copy after copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves, the expanded new edition, now in oversized paperback. It’ll sell like crazy to the new crop of college girls, the ones who saved themselves, or the ones who hadn’t and wished they had. These budding feminists are our biggest customers. Mom thinks I should pick one out and go on a date with her, since I’m only a little bit older than most of them, but I don’t feel quite right thinking about them in that way. I’m not quite there yet.

  I’m not ready for a new girlfriend. I don’t know if I’m over the old one yet.

  “Squire,” my mother says, snapping her fingers. “Hey, you, kid, with the face. Squire, honey, c’mon, wake up.”

  “Huh? What.” I meet her eyes. She’s behind the register counter, smirking at me over her glasses. “Sorry; I was thinking about, um, women,” I murmur, turning back to the bookshelves.

  “You can think and shelve at the same time. The syllabi get handed out tomorrow; we’ve got to get those books on the shelf before we open. Anyway, you got mail, sweetie.” She waves envelopes at me—white ones that are probably bills, and a fattish padded manila envelope. There’s also a magazine. Mom looks curiously at the cover. “Fortean Times? What’s that about?”

  “Supernatural phenomena,” I say, taking the mail. “You know, like vampire cults, ESP, the chupacabra.”

  “Never heard of it.”

  “It’s British. It’s pretty tongue-in-cheek, but kind of scholarly.”

  “Did Larry put you up to this?”

  “No.” I smile at her. “I ordered it myself. I used to pick it up off the newsstand. Y’know, before.”

  She kisses me on the cheek, a simple warm peck; perfect. She gives fantastic mom kisses. Mom doesn’t ever ask me about Before; I don’t know if it’s too upsetting, or if it just doesn’t make any sense. I can understand that perspective. She’s done a good job of pretending not to worry that I’m going to flip out again, but my therapist’s emergency number is still taped to every single phone in the building. I’d like to reassure her that I’m fine, but she’s going to believe what she wants to believe.

  She tosses her gray-stranded braid over her shoulder and replies breezily, “Oh, okay. That’s fine with me. Besides, it’s out of our ‘market niche.’” She makes pantomime quote marks in the air. “The local weirdos can get their vampire cult stories at the other bookstores.”

  I play along. “I’m glad I qualify as a local weirdo.”

  “The very best there is. You know what; why don’t you take off for the rest of the day? Tomorrow we’re going to have a stampede. You should take it easy while you can. I’ll finish up over there.” She gives me a smile that’s only slightly sad. “Go get a cup of coffee—on second thought, go upstairs and make a nice cup of hot Ovaltine.”

  “Oh, great; powdered drink instead of an afternoon’s pay. I’m going on strike.”

  “Hot Ovaltine kicks ass. Full o’ minerals.” She gives me a quick hug, and picks up where I left off with the shelving. “Go look at your mail. The sun’s out. Maybe do some art.”

  Upstairs in the apartment I wash my hands and put the kettle on. I open the curtains and sit at the kitchen table, parking myself exactly in the center of the square of sunlight.

  Naturally, I open the big envelope first, pulling out a slim hardbound book with a folded piece of paper rubber-banded to it. The paper is stationery from the Wellington Bed and Breakfast, Perth, Australia, its top edge raggedly torn from a notepad. I don’t know anybody in Australia, but I recognize that handwriting.

  August 27, 1998

  Yo yo Squire,

  How are you? I miss the hell out of you! I’m sorry I haven’t written you before now. Or called you. Or . . . anything. I guess I was scared. Or angry, or probably a lot of stuff mixed together that I couldn’t untangle. I needed some distance before I wanted to make contact with you again, but I always knew I would. I’m not mad anymore. I know you couldn’t help it, and even the parts that you could help, I don’t mind anymore. I still want to be friends and I think we can be; I hope you think so too.

  Australia is fun, but I miss Portland. I’m having a good time hanging out with my dad, though. He is shooting footage for his next documentary project. I can’t believe it! I’m a production assistant! I get paid and I’ll be in the credits and everything. It is so not glamorous, though. Who knew those photocopying skills eventually come in handy.

  I actually ran into Kimmie and Renton Sutton and they told me you were friends with their dad. They are really cool—I met them in a pub a couple of nights ago and we’ve been hanging out a lot. They made me think about you. I didn’t tell them too many details about you, just that we used to live together in Portland before I came out here, and that you live in Bellingham with your mom now. Their dad sounds pretty amazing, which would make you being friends with him make a lot of sense. I think you should totally write a comic about him. Just think about it! No pressure!

  I’m sending you one of your journals. I found it when I was packing my stuff for shipping while you were in the hospital. I didn’t read it, I promise. I thought that you might like to have this so you know that it’s safe. You can burn it or whatever, but at least you know where it is.

  I miss you a lot—so much—I wish you were here—but hopefully I’ll see you again before too long. Give your Mom a kiss for me.

  love (still),

  Lise

  I laugh. “I’m not mad anymore, either,” I say out loud.

  Then I feel guilty, and sorry for Lise. She must think that just having access to my journals, where I wrote down all of the
crazy things that I couldn’t say, is going to send me over the edge. Like Mom, I guess she doesn’t understand that it’s not like that. And I was so shitty to her when I was in the middle of it. But I’m better now. I changed. My thoughts changed. Stabilized. I survived. The world didn’t end.

  The journals didn’t make me insane; that happened on its own. I only wrote down what I thought. Personally, I think it helped me. I can’t even consider what I would have been like if I hadn’t written them.

  I feel a sense of relief having this missing piece of myself. I’ve had all of the journals from my time of mental distortion, except for this one, the last one that I did Before. It’s not even completely filled, with a handful of blank pages at the end.

  Ever since I moved back up here with Mom, I’ve been itching to read the journals that I wrote in the time Before. Without euphemism, it was just last year, but I have huge gaps in my memory from that time. I remember a lot of it, but not enough; I want details. I want them back.

  I want them even though I know they’re grim and terrible details that lost me my previous life almost as effectively as if the world had ended, and I’m currently in some kind of afterlife. But Lise’s package anchors me. It was real, and it happened, and she remembers it, too. She was there.

  I take the journal and letter into my bedroom, and press Play on the face of my battered portable stereo. A Björk song resumes in the middle of its orchestral introduction. I didn’t think I liked Björk until Shandy succeeded in changing my mind.

  Well, it’s still the same mind. It’s just missing a few pieces from the center of the puzzle.

  I slide my foot locker from under the bed and open it, briefly imagining that it’s the Ark of the Covenant and its contents could melt my face off, but instead of the flesh-dissolving wrath of an Abrahamic god, it’s only full of journals and sketchbooks. Once I find the first in the series of notebooks inside, I rest it face-up on the floor, lie on my bed, and examine it from a safe distance. The first journal is housed in a grey composition book with a marble-printed cover, the black plastic spine now cracked; it makes a crunchy sound when it opens and closes. There is a faded Hitting Birth sticker on the cover, my name in black-marker block capitals written on the inside cover.

  As much as I try to deny the power that a simple object has over me, I still feel an almost supernatural jolt of emotional power just from seeing what my handwriting looked like. It’s so precise, like I knew exactly what I was talking about.

  ONE: On Any Other Day, That Might Seem Strange.

  7 August 1997, 4:07 p.m.

  You say stop looking for answers

  and reasons they’re all in your mind

  Ah, that’s better—nothing like a good quote to overcome the terrifying tabula rasa of the first blank page in a blank book. That one, of course, is Echo and the Bunnymen. They are one of the things that defines me, Michael Bronwynn Squire, just like it says on the tin.

  This is a journal. I’m documenting. If you are not me, please do me a heap big favor and PUT MY MOTHERFUCKING BOOK DOWN YOU PIG-SHIT EATING COCKSUCKER!!!! Still reading? You must be me, then. Hi!

  I’m supposed to be at work right now, but I called in sick, claiming a migraine (a very convenient excuse. How can they prove me wrong? A CAT scan?). Instead of going to Link-Up and instructing a whole new wave of subhumans on how to merge onto the Information Superhighway, so that they too can “surf” the “web,” I did something good. I went to Art Store. I love Art Store—I love anything called only what it is—Liquor Store, Restaurant, Café. I bought a package of watercolor paper, a set of Micron pens, more crow quill tips, and a huge, lovely bottle of dark green ink that I actually kissed as I was in the checkout line. The cute underage goth girl who works there laughed at me. I don’t know her name, but she knows mine—I’m in there about once a week, usually when I know she’s working. She was wearing some kind of tattery velvet thing today—hair up in chopsticks.

  Also I bought this composition book to use as a journal. I’ve been using my sketchbook too much for random text observations, and not enough for drawing street corners, hands, or ugly people on the bus. Lise suggested I start writing a diary, so here we are. Actually, both Lise and my mother have been on me to start a diary; Mom because she thinks it’ll improve my writing skills (she’d rather have an author for a son than a lowly comics artist), and Lise, so that I’ll stop talking about myself so much. I think I can quote her—”Obviously you’re a supreme egotist, Squire. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that—but sometimes I don’t want to hear about what your favorite kinds of cheese are, and a detailed explanation why.”

  Lise is my best friend. Mom runs a bookstore in Bellingham. They are best friends, too. I have to co-best-friend Lise. She and my mom have been friends for one day less than Lise and I have been friends. I try not to be jealous, but I kind of am. I’d kind of like to have Lise all to myself, and also I know that the two of them must talk about me. But it is what it is.

  Right now, this minute, just past four on a hot afternoon, I’m sitting in my room having some coffee, writing at my desk, and listening to a mix tape Lise made for me. Side two starts with “Temple of Dreams” by Messiah. Only two years after it was released, it already sounds quaint. I remember when I thought this 160-beats-per-minute shit was the hardest of the hard, and now it sounds like Lawrence Welk. Techno hit the wall after 180; once you can’t dance to it anymore, it gets too avant-garde for the Youth Majority.

  My housemates Melissa and Rob are in her room, listening to the Beach Boys. Half the reason why I put on Messiah is because I know that techno annoys Melissa. She’s one of those people who’s a fascist about music made after 1968. I like old stuff as much as the next fellow, but for God’s sake, join the twentieth century sometime.

  Things I need to do today:

  -Balance checkbook. Yuck.

  -Return videos (BEFORE 6 p.m.!)

  -Check e-mail. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

  -Check in at Squirrell and see if Lucas is done penciling page 17.

  -Call Mom.

  -Call Lise.

  Old-fangled or not, I love this track, overused Funky Drummer beat and all. Did I dream you dreamed about me? It’s time to start RUNNING!

  After finishing that first entry, I’d closed the book with a resounding slam and went back to the kitchen to rinse my coffee mug. My housemate Melissa and her boyfriend Rob were in the kitchen, cooking another one of their fright-meals that always seemed to contain lima beans or TVP, and from which Melissa never ate more than a few bites, leaving the remainder in the fridge for me to discover and toss weeks later. I leaned against the doorjamb of the kitchen and lit a cigarette, trying to think of a devastatingly witty and cutting remark. Unfortunately, before I could come up with it, the telephone rang. Melissa and Rob completely ignored it, so I had to run across the room and pick it up. “Laika, Melissa, and Squire’s Angst Volume Warehouse, how can I take your order?” I answered.

  “Hi, honey.”

  I sighed. “Oh, hi, Mom.”

  “You sound even more bitter than usual.”

  I walked the phone on its long cord back into my room and shut the door. “Oh, it’s that fucker Rob. You know, Melissa’s boyfriend? I’m so sick of him being in my house smelling like Brut and scratching his basket all day. He doesn’t pay rent; he doesn’t pay bills; he just sits around the house and stinks.”

  As usual, Mom laughed her ass off at my ranting. “Why don’t you just confront him, Squire? It’s your house, too.”

  “Confront? Me? You mean the kid who saw the bowl of every toilet in high school from close up, courtesy of the wrestling team? That’s a great one, Mom. Why don’t I just join the Green Berets?”

  “Come on. Get Laika to help you.”

  “No. Laika doesn’t care about him one way or the other—she’s never home. She’s over at her girlfriend’s house all night. Rob’s a really scary guy. Lise saw him beat up some guy last weekend. We’re talking bloody nose here.
And it wasn’t even for any reason—he was just drunk.”

  “And you told me you wanted to live with these people. What happened to ‘Melissa is such an awesome girl, Mom, you’re gonna love her,’ huh? I told you, Squire; never move in with friends. Especially friends from your college days.”

  “Yeah, I know. It’s everybody’s favorite phrase, ‘I Told You So.’” I leaned against my art table, scattering pencils and wads of Art Gum. Melissa and Laika and I had been Student Center fixtures all throughout senior year, holding down couches, drinking hot tea, smoking, and filling out crossword puzzles. While we each had our own distinct social group—me with the artists (and Lise, who wasn’t in school but hung around with us on campus), Laika with the stoners, and Melissa with the hippies—the three of us spent hours a day with one another, courteously bringing each other tea and newspapers and keeping an ear out for good drug deals. “I thought I could trust them. We all knew each other so well. But she just turned on me all of a sudden. I think it was Rob. Everybody likes Rob except me and Lise. Nobody can understand why I don’t love living with the big lug.”

  “Speaking of Lise, tell her to call me. I haven’t heard from her in weeks!”

  “She said she sent you e-mail. She’s actually been wondering why you haven’t replied.”

  “Oh, actually, that’s what I was calling you about. I can’t get the internet to work.”

  I ground my teeth. “Mom, it’s totally easy; I even wrote you custom instructions.”

  “Squire, you’re assuming a level of fundamental knowledge that I just don’t have. Pretend you’re teaching a six-year-old how to do it.”

  “Half the six-year-olds in America could teach me my job.”

 
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