There wasn’t much to it. No grand display. It wasn’t like a, “hey look at me, I’m going down,” type of thing. He just fell, and even though he was unconscious before he hit the ground, the way he collapsed seemed so deliberate. Poised. There was a grace to it. He looked so calm during his descent that I wasn’t even concerned. What a cool thing to do, to just lie there in the middle of the sidewalk like that, I thought. Be damned pre-established social constructs of how sidewalks should be used. I wanted to lay down next to him. When I asked if I could and he didn’t respond it did get a little concerning.
His son was a prolific graffiti artist, maybe that was it, or maybe as an art teacher he appreciated the progression of my stupid drawings into new mediums, or maybe he just didn’t want to see me in trouble. Whatever it was, that day in class he knew it was me and decided not to threaten, scold, or turn me in for it. Instead he was encouraging. He told me he liked the rotating cast of characters I’d always draw, all he asked was that I stopped spray painting them on the side of the high school.
After the four-hundred and fiftieth listening of “All the Small Things” by Blink 182, he finally identified the word Tom De Longe spat out in the second verse through the whiney, muck-mouthed filter of his pop-punk dialect. “…Watching, waiting, COMM-IS-ER-A-TING.” He had no idea what it meant and was taken off guard by the band’s decision to ramp up its vocabulary. Where was the monosyllabism of the songs he’d come to know, love, and would unfortunately permanently memorize?
His mother, a voracious reader, would know what the word meant. He slid out of his room and across the hardwood living room floor to her. “That is not a word.” She declared without looking up from her Anne Rice novel. He was confused. Would Blink 182 just make it up? Even to a ten year-old they seemed like a bunch of idiots, but artistically liberal to the point of dishonesty? He didn’t think so. To be sure he pulled the dictionary from his school bag.
“commiserate |kəˈmizəˌrāt|: to express or feel sympathy or pity”
There it was. He’d been lied to by his own mother and educated by a band that would go on to pen a song about having anal sex with a dog. Not sure what to do about this revelation, he stretched out on his bedroom floor, head against the door. He grabbed a bag of Skittles from his backpack and began tossing the little candies into the air, catching them in his mouth before they hit the floor. His mother had once said that it was dangerous to eat lying down, that you could choke. Bullshit.
One, two, three Skittles in a row he caught and chewed defiantly. The fourth went straight past his tongue and lodged in the back of his throat. He had never choked before so he wasn’t exactly sure what was happening, but he figured this wasn’t it. It couldn’t be. That choking thing was another of his mother’s lies.
She pushed hard against the door but it wouldn’t budge. “This is the last time I’m going to ask you, come set the damn table.”
The tribute was almost done and it was touching. Or, he was pretty sure it was. It covered all the bases anyways; the tough upbringing, the myriad of struggles they faced on the path to success, the list of eventual impressive accomplishments of which there were many, the admirable love and devotion they had for their family and friends, and a short, inspiring paragraph encapsulating the importance of their work and how it will undoubtedly go on to influence people for generations despite their corporeal selves moving onto some other plane which is still TBD depending on their personal belief systems, which he wasn’t quite sure about. He’d have to send someone an email about that.
Unfortunately, there was one issue with his tribute: the subject wasn’t dead yet. They wouldn’t be dead for a while either. But the web traffic he received after Bowie, Prince, and Ali passed was so huge he needed to be prepared. The first one out of the gate always gets the most retweets.