Stolen Wallpaper

Words but a whisper, deafness a shout

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Location: Zeeland, Michigan, United States

Hi. I wish I had a job selling squirrels. They're so furry, and give you toothy grins. Unless they're rabid, in which case they will eat your face off and then find the rest of your family. That's not so good, I guess.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Hermit Of Prout Hall

He walked. January, 1995, a night so cold that his breath froze before it even left his throat. He could hear the power lines and the street lights hum in the stillness as he crossed the college campus at 2 AM after finally parking his car at the chapel after another two-day bender. Some people got drunk, took drugs, or had one-night stands; he got in his car and got out of Dodge when he needed to forget himself. He had gone to Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky, taken the nickel tour of the biggest hole in the ground on earth, then gone back to school. One more place to check off on the map, two more days of classes missed, and now it was the wee hours of Sunday. He would go to church in the morning, because that's where all his friends were, but other than that he had no plans beyond the next ten minutes. His scholarship was leaking out through his fingers. His brain just wouldn't let him attend all his classes; he would want to, need to, but, seemingly against his own will, he couldn't get out of bed. He would lie there in the dark, listening to the announcements over the dorm PA, to the people passing by in the hall laughing and running, to the knocks on his door that had become less and less frequent the less he answered them. He loved this town, this campus, this way of life, but he couldn't stay much longer. He was failing, flailing. Taking on projects, trying to snap himself into accustomed overachievement, but then bailing out and letting people down, almost on a weekly basis.

He walked at night, almost every night. The school was empty, peaceful; the weather woke his senses, letting him feel something from outside himself, the external stimuli overriding his brain for at least a little while. A lone girl walking from the other way saw him, then walked a circle around him on the crumbling concrete of the closed road that ran between the Union and the education building, watching him warily till she was safely by. He had to smile at that, bitterly: as if he, the nutless wonder, could be the campus rapist. He reached the doors of his dorm, showed his ID to the red-eyed desk clerk, and climbed the stairs to his room. It was a single room, all by itself at the end of a hallway behind the resident manager's apartment, a perk that only ended up contributing to his isolation. He had taken out the fluoresent bulbs and put in some red ones he'd found in the back closet at his church; when he turned the big light on, it did not really illuminate anything. It just made everything blood-red and spooky as hell. A blacklight might be a sign of geekdom, but a bright red bulb? That was a sign of mental illness, he was almost sure. Not that he was ever gonna let anyone diagnose it. Better to flail, fighting gravity, than free-fall with your arms at your sides, speeding toward the ground.