Kyle Kouri

God Shines Brightest on the Highest Man

In college I had a roommate named Jason. Lord knows I gave that poor kid hell. The year was full of heavy drug abuse. My girlfriend accused me of being a pill popper. She said, “Jack, you’re going to die!”

Jason told me, “Jack, I come home sometimes and think you’re possessed by the devil. I get nervous when you lock yourself in the bathroom to take a shower because you’re in there so long; I never know what drugs you might be on, and if you’re still alive.”

I laughed and laughed and laughed. What fools.

In fact I was the happiest I had ever been. There’s nothing like snorting a bunch of painkillers and sitting down to work on a story. You sit there staring at the words you’ve written and suddenly an idea strikes you. You realize how it’s going to end. You understand that you have pieced together the impossible. You have scrawled lines, swirls, and scribbles on a piece of paper that vaguely resemble a maze and with one fateful stroke you’ve created the thread that’ll lead the mouse to the cheese. Your nonsensical ramblings have become a masterpiece.

One day I stood up at the desk in my dorm and yelled, “Jason, my beloved friend and companion! God has graced me. I have created something brilliant.” I ran over to Jason, grabbed his shoulders, and shook him violently. “Don’t you understand? Don’t you ever feel like everything has been put into place more perfectly than you could have ever anticipated? God has picked you, man!”

Jason trembled uncomfortably. “That’s great, Jack. What’s your story about?”

“I can’t tell you now. It’s too soon. But the time will come. Now I must go. There’s much to drink on this campus.”

The next day I caught a train to visit my girlfriend in Connecticut. I arrived at her house and found her on the patio, smoking cigarettes with someone I didn’t know. I was about to talk to them but got distracted by how green the grass was and how purple the sky.

“A storm’s coming,” I mumbled to myself and wandered around the patio’s perimeter, staring at the clouds, patting the bushes, trying to gauge how much time we had.

“Jack, what the fuck are you doing?” my girlfriend said.

“Me? Jesus, nothing. Stay where you are.”

“What the fuck are you on?” she asked.

I looked at her and flashed a devilish smile. “Be patient, baby. Be patient.”

“You’re such an asshole. If you’re going to do this stuff, you should at least wait until you’re here. I’m sick of you showing up to my house high out of your mind.”

I sighed and made my way back to her. I sat down and kissed her arm. “I’m sorry, I love you.” I licked her neck, her face, and then I threw myself on her. She started laughing, but tried to stop.

“Stop it, you’re crazy. Stop.”

I turned towards her friend and said, “Hello, Suzan. Kate? Mary? Who the fuck are you, lady?”

“Don’t listen to him,” my girlfriend said.

“Yes, yes, don’t listen. I’m Jack, who are you? Sorry, for my behavior. It’s something in the air.”

I sniffed.

She said, “I’m Jen.”

“Jesus, I called it! Didn’t I? Somebody rewind the tape recorder! I fucking called it!”

Later my girlfriend and I went to her room and made out on her bed. I started taking off her pants but she said, “Wait. I want whatever you’re on.”

“God damn it, woman. Why do you do this to me?” I retrieved my pocketed painkillers and decided I’d crush up some Oxycontin for us to split.

We snorted a few lines and she said, “Oooo, this burns my nose.” She started skippering around a little bit, all excited that I let her do drugs. “Wait, I have to go pee before we have sex.”

She ran to the bathroom and I bolted the other way towards my bag and searched frantically for the other pill bottles. I found them and after serious debate decided that the best pill to swallow was the morphine. I could save the Percocets for after we had sex.

I took the pill down the hatch and then looked at myself in the mirror. It was at this moment I realized my true beauty. My hair was all messy and my eyes were so glazed, pupils nearly gone, but that smile still so sharp, I was the sexiest man to ever live. ‘I’m so ready to fuck,’ I thought.

“You crazy motherfucker,” she said.

“You hot little slut.”

“Oh, yeah, fuck your little slut. Do whatever you want to me.”

And I did.

Early evening in the evening, I tucked myself away in my girlfriend’s mom’s office. I sat at her computer and finished my story while rain poured and thunder boomed outside. “Truly the writings of a true writer,” I whispered. “Thank you, God, for this gift. I will not exploit my talent.”

I prepared to print out copies for everybody to read. The story was forty-six pages long and judging by the stack of printing paper stacked by the printer, I could manage sixteen copies. “Meager supplies, but this will have to do,” I said and got to work.

A half hour later, my girlfriend walked into the room.

“Jesus, Jack. What the hell are you doing?” I was crouched down on the floor over sixteen stacks of paper, organizing. I had dropped some copies, slipped on others. Since I had forgotten to add page numbers, the task was long and tedious.

“I have run into some problems with the printing process, but things will work themselves out.”

“No, I mean. That’s all my mom’s paper!”

“I don’t have time to argue with you. Tell your mother I will reimburse her through my love, loyalty, and good care of her beautiful daughter.”

“You’re fucking crazy. What’s your story about?”

“The human condition.”

“What’s that?”

“I couldn’t tell you, but I think it will prove very important to us one day.”

“I want more.”

“Sex?”

“No, painkillers idiot!”

“Well, when I’m around you, I have trouble doing one without the other.”

I got what I wanted.

Later my girlfriend and I lay naked on her bed. We were both pretty far gone. She looked at me and said,

“Hey, I think my pupils have disappeared.”

“I know, isn’t it beautiful.”

“And my heart’s not beating anymore.”

“…I know, isn’t it beautiful.”

The next day I left early so that I could make it to my class and hand out the story. My girlfriend was half asleep as I got up. She groped at me and pulled me back towards her. I was trying to put my boxers on and she was trying to pull them off. I was trying to put my dick in my pants and she was trying to jack it off. She said, “Don’t go, stay with me.”

“Listen, love of my life. I will be back soon enough.”

“Wait, I’m still so fucking high from last night. Is that bad?”

“I’ll tell you what, I’m extremely exhausted and I need to borrow some of your ADD medication. I will repay you by leaving some of what we did last night in the bottle. It’ll be a trade, okay? Baby? Have you dozed off again?”

“Don’t go,” she whispered and then was gone. I scrambled to get my clothes on and then ran over to her bathroom to swap medications.

The day started early for me. It was not yet an hour before noon, and I was soaring. I was so high. I had a backpack full of sixteen finely crafted short stories and a head full of opiates and Adderall.

I was taking a shit in a public bathroom at Grand Central before transferring onto the next train, which leads back to school. I was listening to ‘No Woman, No Cry’ by Bob Marley on my iPod.

I breathed in the stink of the loo. I stared at the piss stains in the creases of the marble floor. I studied the leg and feet fashion of people at the parallel urinals. Businessmen in slacks and loafers; truckers in blue jeans and Timberlands; young rockers in purple jeans. Men, unified in the shitter. It was truly beautiful.

It occurred to me that this was the answer and it had been revealed to me. I needed to deliver the message. I jumped out of the stall and yelled, “Friends of all shapes and sizes, occupations and races, monetary statuses, sexual orientations and political sway! God is love and YOU ARE LOVED! Goodbye and take well care of yourselves! We… Are… Chosen.”

I ran out of the bathroom and made my way to the train, smiling at the good work I had done. I turned my iPod up and whispered, “Rest in Peace, Bob Marley. Rest… in… peace.”

In class I passed out my story. The teacher began dealing with preliminaries and I watched some of my peers start scanning the first few pages. I stealthily studied their faces. One smiled, another frowned, another yawned and looked at her watch, clearly bored with life. What are you even doing here? I wondered. Another flipped to the last page and began reading that. You fucking idiot, have you no respect! I wanted to yell. I wanted to breathe fire and watch her flesh burn. It didn’t matter, I told myself. Just read it and weep, assholes.

Read it and weep.

Later that day, Jason and I had lunch. I asked him a question. “So Jason, you’re into urban renewal and essentially an anarchist, or wait, was it a Marxist? I forgot.”

“I’m undecided, politically. But I think we need to rework the whole structure of our cities if poverty is ever going to end.”

“But why would you want it to end?” I slammed my fist onto the table, our glasses of OJ waxing and splashing dramatically in the pale, sun-speckled cafeteria air. “It’s so fucking beautiful! There would never have been any great art if this world wasn’t such a dirty, stinking, shithole!”

“I don’t want to argue about this, Jack.”

“Fine, I’m going for a drive,” I said, and stormed off. I went back to my room and took some Xanax, but it ended up being Seroquel, so I passed out until past midnight. When I woke up I was in a truly terrible mood.

“Jason! What fucking time is it?” I yelled, but all that responded was silence. I jumped off my bed and ran to his. He was sleeping soundly. I pulled the covers off him and screamed again, “Jesus, Jason. I don’t have time for games. What time is it?”

“Wha? What are you doing? I’m sleeping, Jack.”
“Yes, fine. This is all well and good. But you need to wake up for a minute and tell me the time.”

“What? Are you kidding, just check…”

“Oh my God. Never mind. I’ll do it myself.” I went over to the lamp and flipped the on-switch. Then I sat at my desk and started searching for the morphine. I found some lying around my desk drawer next to a Playboy magazine which I had hid in Jason’s bed one day to piss him off because he’s a feminist.

I started crushing up the pills with an empty beer bottle and cutting up lines with my student ID. Behind me Jason was groaning and stumbling out of bed.

“Jack, what are you doing.”

“Nothing, man. Sorry for waking you up. Go back to bed,” I said, soothingly.

“But you turned on the light.”

“It’ll be off in a second, don’t worry bro.” I took out the tampon tube from my shirt’s breast pocket and started snorting up the lines.

“Jack… are you… doing… co-cocaine?”

“Does this look like cocaine to you, Jason?” I said, my voice rising in anger.

“I don’t know…”

“It’s fucking blue, man! Come on,” I exclaimed, finished the last line and then got up. I went to my closet and grabbed a coat. I put it on and headed for the door.

“Where are you going?” Jason asked.

“I’m going for a drive.”

When I was younger I used to have to take shits at inconvenient times. I’d be in the middle of traffic on the 405, stuck between Wilshire and Santa Monica exits, and it would hit me. A really messy crap out of nowhere filled up my ass. There’d be no options, and I wasn’t even getting off at Wilshire. I was going to the fucking valley, man! Or I’d be walking from point A to point F, and I’d only be at point C, and bam, the shit came. I’d have to waddle for miles in brutal discomfort. Once I started doing drugs, everything became easier. I barely ever have to shit, unless I want to. And then I do it on command.

I woke up around 6am, finding myself sprawled in the backseat of my car, parked outside my girlfriend’s house. On my lap sat a moleskin journal, scrawled with fresh poems of depression, drug addiction, and the guilty ramblings of a young man who’s lost all his friends. I needed a proper place to sleep. I called my girlfriend’s father. Clearly I had woke him up.

“Hello, Bill? It’s Jack.”

“Jack? What? It’s 6am. What are you doing calling me?”

“Yes, I’m aware and I’m very sorry. But you see, it turns out I’m in the area. Do you think I could come over and take a nap in the guestroom?”

“No, Jesus, are you kidding? Absolutely not. Don’t call back.” He hung up the phone. I decided to drive to the high school where my girlfriend went and park there. I would wait for her to arrive and see how things turned out.

Two hours later I was crouching outside the school’s entrance. As my girlfriend trundled along to the blue boring door I pounced.

“Baby, it’s me. Can we talk?”

“Jesus, Jack! What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you.”

“At eight in the morning?”

“That doesn’t matter, how are you?”

“Ugh, come with me.” She dragged me inside and took me into the closest girl’s bathroom. “You know, asshole. You let me have so much of that shit the other day that I spent all yesterday throwing up my stomach lining. My friends say I shouldn’t even be with you. They say you’re just a drug addict now and don’t even care about me.”

“Listen, that’s what I wanted to talk about. I think we should break up,” I said.

She looked at me. Her face dropped. The shock didn’t last long and her eyes began swelling with dewy teardrops.

“…What? What are you talking about?”

“We’re in two different places with our lives. I need to be alone so I can focus on my writing. You need to enjoy high school, baby. That’s all.”

“You’re fucking kidding me? This doesn’t make any sense.”

“Listen, you’ve never understood me! You think you know me but you don’t, okay!”

“Jack, don’t do this. It’s the drugs talking. You don’t mean it.”

“The drugs don’t mean a thing! This is the realest me I’ve ever been. I’ve never felt so in touch with myself, baby. I love you, but I have to go.”

“I… I hate you. I fucking hate you!” She started hitting me with her purse, and the tears were really flowing now. I pushed her close to me, kissed her forehead amidst all the violence and then ran to the door.

“I’m, I’m sorry,” I said, quickly dispensing a fresh tampon from the wall machine before I left.
Back in my car I listened to music loud and tried to sing along to the songs. My ex-girlfriend had left her purse on the passenger’s seat so I took a few of her Adderall and then dropped the bag off in her family’s mailbox before leaving for school. The mixture of Adderall and morphine is a twisted combination indeed. Pure ecstatic oblivion. I was having trouble remembering the lyrics to any of my favorite songs, so I started singing gibberish to the tune of the melody.

“Do-da, skippy-town, flip, bla, blow. In the blitz, of a high town woah. Blam, diddy, damn day. Motherfucker, yeah, hey. Whaa”—

A few days later it was time for my story to be workshopped. I took some Xanax before the class and had trouble keeping my eyes open from minute one. It’s true I didn’t realize I had taken so much, but this also worked towards my advantage. Now people knew I didn’t care so much about this stupid class.

“Well, I really, you know, I liked this story. But I think…” Ha, I knew it. Going exactly according to plan. He liked it.

“This story was really, um, unique… but…” Unique. I’m one of a kind. The Xanax was really taking hold of me now. I had to excuse myself.

“Listen, people. I have to be right back.” I went to the bathroom and quickly cut up some lines of my ex-girlfriend’s Adderall and snorted them on the crusty lid of the toilet bowl.

Back in class, another kid cleared his throat and picked back up the discussion. “The narrator is an… interesting one.”

Enough. I understood it all very clearly. Pretty soon class would be over and I would prepare to submit to the publishers. It was all so easy. My body shivered. A smile was creeping on my face and I knew it wouldn’t go away for a long, long time.

Later on, I walked into my room and saw Jason at his computer. My face was grim. I sagged my shoulders and collapsed onto my bed like it was six feet under the ground.

“How’d the critique go, Jack?” my poor roommate asked.

“I don’t know anymore, Jason. I’m doing everything all wrong. I have to get my shit together. I broke up with my girlfriend, and everything just feels so off.”

“Really?” he said, his voice filled with honest concern.

I sighed and paused a beat.

Then I jumped off the bed, ran to Jason, grabbed his shoulders, and shook him, shook him violently. “NO! HA! Of course not,” I yelled. “They love me, man! They really, really love me! I’m going to be a star!”

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