The grass isn't just greener. It's vermilion, lime, sour apple, a toxic tropical tree frog, an energy drink loaded up with booze, a glowing radioactive spill with superpowers lying in wait for just the right lucky loser. It's change distilled of all its best chaos. That other side of the fence is the utopia, the nonplace packed into a cluster of several billion neurons crammed into a few cubic centimeters, explosive excitement under unbearable pressure.
I have always been alight for you guys, a fire burning up the space between my ears where the secrets choke on the smoke. You'll never know. Your lives sketched out in impossible glory over the sinews of my starved, emaciated imagination. You'll never know.
Travis. You asshole. I'm still trying to impress you, this many years later. I still ram my feet into skater shoes that will never touch a deck again. I still try to get my pants baggier, more torn at the cuffs, sagged lower. I still muss up my hair in some fussy imitation of neglect. I could never even manage a goddamn ollie on that skateboard I sold off when you disappeared. I followed your lazy gait to the skatepark day after day and memorized your vulgar eloquence night after night as I practiced gymnastics and you perfected slacking.
You were better than me at everything. At fashion, at fucking, at pissing off parents, at screwing up plans, at being a man in a sixteen-year-old's body, at making a bloody open wound of yourself up the asses of every authority figure. You're far gone and still I watch the X-Games in awe—this stick-thin sack of skin, bones, and overworked brains entertaining delusions of a someday when I could grind the curbs of downtown and outrun fatass cops with a scuffed-up board clutched in my pumping fist. Like you did. I still want to be you. You're not even here to completely fail to notice.
Alyssa. The stir-crazy she-bat careening from the bowels of hell and down high school hallways into detention after detention. You were going to learn Gaelic and move to Bumfuck, Nowhere, Ireland. I may have been the only one to know that secret plan. Exclusive witness to a selection from your quick-cook schemes, aspirations on the fly junked for more fantastic and implausible upgrades at five minute intervals. You yelled at teachers I worked hard to endear. You dragged your nails across the faces of bullies I cowered before. You cut yourself and venerated yourself and hated yourself and hid yourself and marketed yourself.
Yours was an insanity that could somehow still spare a half-hour for a private shock and awe campaign aimed at the pimply nerd in the study hall back corner. Yours was an insanity that would never know one of its own. My more palatable form of total mental disfunction was far too quiet. My delusions were whispered instead of screamed. My self-loathing was too tainted with terror to put itself forward so brazenly. You were dancing my secret disease. I can never tell you how I wished I was in your place.
Evan pulling script-kiddy shit over the networks. Damian huffing gasoline in the forest behind the school. Janice stealing clothes that weren't her size, just for the thrill. David running away from home over a pile of dirty dishes.
You metal-studded punks. You stoned stand-up comedians. You hostile hate-screechers. You bad apples, you rotten eggs, you defiant little boys and girls who knew shit-all and distributed your wisdom liberally. You're in jail, in destitution, in therapy, incommunicado. You are anti-particles. You slam into the basest bits of reality and blow up.
You are supernatural.
And you—goddammit I will never know why—you liked me. You talked to me. You showed off for me. Years and miles away, you passed me compliments and commendations through third parties. Admiring how I got along with my parents, turned in all my homework on time, won the awards for good behavior, never got in trouble, never seemed too flustered, and somehow still wanted to listen to your half-truth tales of tragedy and triumph.
You will never know how much I want to be the best of what you are.
Sons and daughters of hungry ghosts. Forgive me.
Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts is the name of a song by the band Wolf Parade from the album Apologies to the Queen Mary.