The Blue Mattress (Beds, Burritos and Boys)
“Write about your last days of college,” I jot in my iPhone notes, far too sloshed, out at a bar whilst I have no business being out, crippling debt looming and lacking a current paid position. “Ooo, that’ll be good. 125 S. Penn, yeah, good stuff, people will relate.”
It’s been four years next month since the time I laid on the flattened twin bed in the dimly lit back room, just two feet from the kitchen. On the mattress I manically tossed for three days, drinking two bottles of wine, leaving only for Sheets burritos and cigarettes on the mud-stained carpeted back porch. The mattress, faded powder blue and depressed, age stained from years of leaning by the window before being brought down and out of my grandparent’s attic 300 miles West, to my Junior year apartment, lie beneath me.
My brother inherited it this year, before being abandoned in the four bedroom we shared with our best friend. Family now, Zack grew up not 5 miles away from our home, but met here, so seemingly far from the familiarity of city lights and five-lane highways, long gone with my brother for the final three days I’d roll back and forth, pinching pot into my pipe. We'd dispersed after growing into a sort of trio; I graduating, my brother back home to community college, soon to earn his degree from Temple, and Zack to Rhode Island, from which he’d graduate on time and move to LA, then New York...
My Senior year twin bed went home with my brother and roommate on the U-Haul for the summer, and the original bed drug down the stairs in front of the 90s-style large screen t.v. we too left for the landlord to dispose of. (We left a lot of large items, and honesty, I spent my last month’s on overdue bills and who knows what crap; why we’d never receive a return on the security deposit. That, and the damage to the door from being kicked in at one of two parties we hosted, as the result of a locked bedroom with no one inside. That all eats at me through writing this, and now, I’ll leave it, along with the mattress.)
I tried to take advantage of the three days left before I returned home to no job, no plan, no. No, I’ll stay for a few more days, clean and finish packing. No, no, I’ll be fine driving home, Todd’s still here if I need help, thanks, though!
I tried to take advantage of the premium channels we paid for, somehow still had access to, despite returning the boxes days before…Hardly seeing “Penny Dreadful,” through blurry narrowed slits in my eyes, drowsy, drinking from the neck of a 6 dollar bottle… Maybe I’m imagining that all, maybe I didn’t watch anything as I lie, drunk and horrified at what await 300 miles back East. Maybe I kept one box to myself and returned it to Comcast before merging on the Turnpike. The alcohol won’t let me remember much other than the indigestion, the depression in the mattress that cradled me, and that boy.
In my mind’s eye dwelled the soft-faced, slim, slightly gapped-tooth and thick-haired anomaly I’d fallen (hard) for, just weeks before graduation. The boy who grew up a couple counties away from mine, who was one-year my Junior… Spiraling on, how he walked me home one street-lit, early Spring evening, fingers laced in mine, swinging arms by “townie’s” homes, past one with a trampoline by which I’d rushed back and forth to campus daily, thoughtlessly, straight through two semesters.
Pulling me in through the netting that surrounded, he bounced me higher, yet even higher, till we fell into each other, lips messily locking and shirts tangling over heads and arms, buttons undone and zippers pulled. We’d later stay up till dawn on the fold out-couch in his living room, doing just what you’d imagine, and in between, talking about Foster the People and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and american history, I think. In my head, on the mattress, him gone, back East, re-kissing him goodbye as he slept, re-running my fingers through his thick, brown hair. All the while, on repeat, “Twisting and turning/ You’re feelings are burning/ You’re breaking the girl.”
All the while, I knew just how I’d spent the weekend before families arrived to celebrate their children’s effort and ultimate panic, in the form of a ceremony rewarding an empty certificate case (diplomas are mailed weeks after the walk). Envy and regret flooded my eyes; certainly I wouldn’t be returning with him in the Fall (he ended up transferring to another state school over the Summer in any matter). and certainly, I’d only ever see him again on the internet. No talking of bands, no more bouncing higher, higher… No, no boy 300 miles East, no.
Three days blurred with boys and bottles and burritos on the mattress in front of the huge 800 lb. glowing box that may or may not have played out my fears before me. Then, Todd came over to help me load my Malibu, watch me sweep the carpet (the vacuum now unpacked, in my Dad's garage; the U-Haul returned, 300 miles East), light cutting through the stagnant haze of the bowl we smoked near the door, saying our goodbyes. I’d be back for homecoming to see him in the fall, where I’d make more messes that’d turn me into the woman I am now. Years later, even, he’d welcome me to his home in Florida at the end of the coldest winter in many-a-moon. But that was far off and not foreseen; the Summer without my friend I’d grown to love so dearly, despite "hating" him in high school, hung like the smoke cut by sun around our heads. With a hug, I climbed into the tightly-packed seat, not able to see the reflection through the rear or right sides, down the driveway of 125 S. Penn, headed 300 miles East on the turnpike, to… No.
No. It was everything I headed toward on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, East, I realize as we toast. The last four years crack my skull, with a shot of Jack, a rush of horror in my mind; this has been everything. All the discovery, the love, the becoming—that fear pummeled toward me then, all exploded into a severe depression followed by complacence; an obsessive relationship blown into toxic break up; unemployment due to layoff from a “decent enough” paying job. Standing here at the bar, with old friends and new, it’s not all un-welcomed now. It’s absolutely not "nothing," not buried by bottles and burritos and beds on the floor in four-bedroom rentals. It’s not regret welling in my eyes, dread forming nooses thrown over trees I run from. Embracing all that limited me for nearly four years, it’s home, not 300 miles Anywhere. And West was a home, still remains, as do all the heartaches I have survived and will survive again.
I wanted to write about those three days right then and there, in the bar, but I was too blitzed to jot down more than “Write about your last days of college,” in my iPhone notes. Forget the three days; it’s been four long years of blur that I tossed and turned, drunk, sunken in the depression left in the mattress, unsure what I’d really been watching, wheezing through clouds. I finally pack the curtains before I leave, and the light cuts through, clearing the smoke to show all that’s left; not boys or burritos or bowls, just me. I’m moving far now, not 300 miles Anywhere, but thank god I finally pulled myself off that mattress.