A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
by Jhett Myers
Couches are for Sitting: Growing up in the Neighborhood
The hoodrat children would flock to the alley every day. It didn’t matter if we had weed or not – we were gonna get some. We would split up and one would get some smoking device, two would look for a trap house, begging for a dollar on the way, and everyone else would sit on the rocks of the alley. After we got our needed supplies we would sit for hours talking about nothing in particular. Once it got quiet we would start up again. It didn’t matter that we had just talked about it, we wanted anything to keep our attention away from the now boring feeling of smoking or stealing.
That is until we found a couch. We weren’t squatting in an alley anymore. We were sitting and we loved it. We would hang out all day, with a set of different people everyday, with maybe the same two or three from the day before, and we were all planning on how to get money or get fucked up. Each time we went to the couch it was shittier than the day before, with some new smells, new stains, and new holes. It might have had lice from all the stray animals. We didn’t mind because it was still something better than the ground and that made life better.
We would end up roaming the neighborhood looking for each other even if we would end up beating each other. Our future plan was robbing a store. We thought that would also make life better. Some of the kids wanted excitement and for some the ride never ended and their final destination was some addiction to hard drugs, doing the same things for money, but we were still kids and had been hurting our families and robbing our neighbors so all we ended up knowing was the shittier part of life.
Car Rides: Getting to School However You Can
“Why do my kids hate me?” Roger calmly asked as he swerved.
“I don’t know, man,” was all I could say. I was too busy trying to live. It was a good balance between wanting to die and wanting to get to school. I was stuck with him taking the long way, the fresh sun blinding both of us, making it just a little more dangerous. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the right way to school so I just let him drive, confused, and sadly his jerks on the wheel didn’t have the deadly results he wanted.
He hated hip hop but that’s all he would play on the radio. I think it was so he could connect and learn about pop culture but with who?
I was finally at school and he found comfort being alone, able to cry without outside judgment which was less harsh than his own. Each heave for breath his Buddha necklace swung, beating into his chest like a drum. In his final days before leaving to die, he got creepy with my mom, his sugar baby, and his child. The last thing anyone heard him say was, “Let me smell your hair,” to his paid companion, and she said it smelt like ass.
After being ripped off on everything and battling his emotions, he felt he had one thing left to give: an honorable death, which was cringeworthy but respectable.
Babyface: An Addict Haunting the Neighborhood
Her high pitched voice cracked as she said, “Want to smoke a bowl?”
Without warning she was in my room, touching, smelling, and eyeing everything she wanted. I knew she was talking about ice so I politely told her to reevaluate her life and get out of my house.
But she lingered for a few weeks, showing up looking to sell herself and get high. She made no significant decisions or contributions to anyone’s life, like a rock, she existed.
Eventually Glenbo’s prayers were answered and Babyface found her way to his creekside manor (his mom’s shed). There she got the two things she wanted: a manchild’s peen and tons of meth.
This lasted for a week. Then Glen was robbed but left with a confidence he had lost for years. He was now a lady’s man again. He told me I should have tapped that but I said, “I didn’t want my peen falling off.” His was already six feet underground.
The only thing of substance she said to me was in a sweaty fit and was about a tiny ghoul man scaring her. And the thing that told me the most about her was her way of spraying air freshener on her body.
R.I.P. Aunt: Family Life
It starts out as a tap in the back of your head. That tap leads to a knock. That knock leads to a nosebleed. That nosebleed leads to memory loss. You black out. Now over the course of a couple weeks you’re worried and go to the doctor. Congrats: there’s a baby sized tumor in your head and we can’t give birth to it.
The last time I talked to Aunt Barbrane was 5 years ago. She thought I was seven. Time moved slower out there in that country. When she found out my real age she was devastated. My family was isolated from the rest. Now there will be no more Thanksgivings to make excuses for. No more avoiding that side of the family because she was the only connection, and no more of her signature perfume that coated the walls of the family home.
In her last days she wanted some closure on the type of people my brother and I had become, but instead we got an invite to her funeral on Facebook. We even missed that. This time there was no excuse except not caring. My family is shitty. My mom’s last words with her were about money from another family member’s passing cancer killed her, before we could even hug her.
Sandra, Mad and Clogged: Where we Crashed after Losing the House
The thick red blood tried desperately to reach the brain and break through the nasty clogged tubes that were the arteries. This plaque blocked everything oxygen blood and any emotion besides watching yourself die. Not only did this limit her social abilities to only talking about death but also made her pass out on the way to the bathroom.
She wanted no help but needed a charity dedicated to her needs. The most desired donation was human contact, something no one felt like giving, so they just took what they wanted. Anything not in her eyesight was fair game.
Sandra alternated from being happy and helpful, chirping in the kitchen like some kind of country princess, to crying behind a door in the dark. Half her days she was lying down thinking about the day the cholesterol would slip, infecting her brain with a nasty bowel releasing stroke. I would be gone and her only physical contact would be the still humming vibrator and two dogs scratching at the door desperately looking for care.
She clogged me and my mom’s days with cruelty like her jugulars were clogged with years of fried food. I felt bad for her, but she didn’t feel bad for me. The threat of being homeless was as distant to me as dying was to her.
Even with a failing heart, though, she did have love to give.
Grocery Store Love: Surviving
The buzzing light is the north star for any homeless person who wants a couple cents. They challenge my story with their years of irresponsibility, all for a dime. The crippled cart’s bum wheel hobbles and shakes. The cart feels no shame for its disability, while the shopper feels everything from the pierced dignity to the lack of money. Instead of getting a new cart, unaffordable products are thrown in and a victory lap taken around the unstocked aisles, the bum wheel begging and skidding, looking for release.
The quick decision of which front door is the best for an escape – there is no real thinking done. The pounding of your heart echos through the cart and into all the stolen goods. You become one pulsating creature. Now the shame is shared. The door slides open with no judgement and more grace than you could ever fake. The cart rumbles against concrete as you jog towards your freedom. Your stomach interrupts the broken cart and your jumbled thoughts, reminding you why you did what you did. So does the cashier, but it’s too late. You’re in the car, rotisserie chicken in you lap. Hot grease floods your pants. This amplifies your disgust that is now curdled between the piping hot bird and your stained white t-shirt. Half the food will go to waste and the other half will fill that shame up, replacing it with a void.
Your clammy back is slapped by a man who doesn’t care about who you are – only your willingness to do crime and the chicken in your lap.
Crusty Guy Who Loves Shirts: Working with an Addict
The air was getting thicker with the smell of paint thinner and hot unfresh linens, one of which was a guilty pleasure, the other of which was uncomfortable and scratchy. The other thing making the air thick was the intensity of the night. Everything needed to be done. Everything had a place in that shop, except for me, who was awkwardly working around my boss trying to fold shirts that would only be worn once and then looked over forever, sitting in a cabinet or on a hanger or on the floor. That’s how I wanted to be: to give up all my responsibilities and just let time and life pass me.
On the other hand, my boss had real responsibilities that needed to be done. My boss’s gloves were all over the place. He had latex gloves, work gloves, and weird arm length gloves that were very unnecessary, but my boss needed gloves because his fingers would split at the creases and folds. All that paint thinner had worn down his skin.
But he never wore the gloves. The arm length gloves would have been for the best to protect him from the harmful chemicals he was covered in. The only downside is that it would have added to his already uncomfortable nature, the sweat building up underneath his gloves and the stuffy feeling going up and down his arms.
I couldn’t wear the gloves without getting a rash, but he didn’t mind because this man’s entire body was a rash and he didn’t care. All he cared about was shirts. Nothing mattered except the shirts and venting about his divorce and children which had left him bitter and dangerous. He could die and he would be at peace, the stress of his problems gone, and he would be pumped except for the lack of shirts and paint thinner, because no one prints shirts in heaven.
Summer of ‘15 (Summer of Nectar): Getting Clean
My body was an uncontrollable power house, fueling my desire to not exist. Nothing could get rid of the impending sense of doom that came out of my skin. My days were filled with lying down waiting to sleep and reaffirming the idea life was over.
Eventually after days of begging to be hospitalized, in the middle of a meatball sub I realized I needed to stop. So I backed my brain into the corner and took control of my life – not fully, because there were drug addicts robbing me of a childhood that was too far gone to enjoy.
I just did what I did before: lay down waiting for a lack of consciousness and reaffirmed that my life wasn’t over.
Jhett Myers is a seventeen year old junior at Bryan Adams High School Leadership Academy in Dallas, TX. He was hand selected for a creative writing program and is developing a body of work through this class. He has also participated in after school readings such as the end of the year creative writing program exhibition and the Dallas Festival of Ideas.
An excerpt and announcement of this story’s place in the contest was also published here, on Hypertext Mag, the site that hosts this contest and sister site of Hypernova Lit.