What generation are we, anyway? We're the ones who hate the kids these days while we're still the kids these days. We're the ones who saw the world past our mothers' lips and said with our first breath, "Fuck caring about any of this." We were bred to be world-enders, guzzling down whatever we can get our hands on without even feeling like that's enough. We should all take mallets to our own heads. We are a generation of parasites. Even our spiritual journeys are exercises in consumption. Our greatest weapon is complacency. Our greatest weapon is thinking everyone else is an asshole. Our greatest weapon is our own stupid mouths that can run unceasing while our hands do nothing. Take your pick, smile all the way, stop worrying about it and listen to the story.
We’re back at the hospital again. I’ve been writing all this out of order. It’s full of inconsistencies that I’ll have to go back and fix a million times until I’m never satisfied. Maybe an editor will come through behind me and clean it all up, but I want this sentence left in. And this one.
Because every word of this book is put on paper for a reason, although I can't recall or even tell you why right now as I am putting them down. Sometimes I think anxiety and doubt are the only feelings I have that are real. I just know that the words seem to go together just so, and it’s the only way possible, at the time. Maybe it is more behaviorism—the sum of my experience. It would explain why I change them every time I get it in my head to do so. I’m sitting here, feeling sick in the pit of my stomach, having just heard some bad news, cutting words away and patching in new ones, cobbling. I’m here at my desk with the shades up, watching the wind, hoping for just the right next word for you. I’ve been trying to hide myself from you. I’ve been trying to remove little bits of consciousness and just tell the story. But I can’t.
Right now, this story is just about two people careening from one event to the next in a vacuum. Atoms in my body may or may not be bouncing back and forth in the same way, I don’t really know how they work, but I like to think so.
Molly is there again, like every day. She is sitting on the bed, on the space Jake had cleared by losing a leg. She says that’s ironic. Everyone is always arguing about whether or not something is ironic because the word has taken on so many fractured meanings that it now means nothing. Most things just happen, though. They are both being very quiet. It’s lunch time—it seems like it’s always lunch time. This whole story is just a collection of meals. Jake is going to be allowed to go home soon. He’s trying to decide where that would be now.
Molly jiggles his gelatin in the palm of her hand. I call it gelatin because Jello is trademarked and I don’t want to read about fair use if it’s not regarding song lyrics. I just remember that one band had to change its name when I was younger.
Someone told me that my writing style keeps changing, but then they got distracted and didn’t elaborate. They said I should focus. My creative writing teacher in college told me that my flirtation with post-modernism, well, he didn’t really say anything about it, he just gave me a C+. He said I didn’t need to include myself in my stories. I said fuck him, and went home and screamed and wanted the A- because I thought it was really good but not great. What do you expect given the generation I belong to. When I read that story now I can’t help but agree with him. When I used this book to get a master’s in English, my thesis director said it was either shit or it was a masterpiece. He couldn’t tell which.
My mom says I swear too much in this book and the ending isn’t happy. I told her I’m just writing the honest language of my generation, the ones who don’t bother knowing any better, and she needs to look closer because I think it’s about as happy as any Goddamn ending.
Molly is jiggling the gelatin in the palm of her hand.
“Jake,” she asks, “how did we meet?”
Jake looks up from the picture he’s staring at again and smiles. I’m withholding the picture from you on purpose, thinking I should go back and take it away from Jake until it really matters.
“What do you mean? You don’t remember?” He’s teasing her.
“Shut up, assface,” she says, still staring at the non-food in her hands that we never like to admit is made from hooves. “I’m interested in your perception of it. I mean, how did you get there? It seemed an awfully out of character thing for you to do.”
Maybe that’s an out of character thing for Molly to say. Maybe she’s stealing my thoughts again to frame the story and move the plot forward. It has occurred to me that I do not know Molly that well.
“Yeah,” Jake says, “I know.”
“Well, then, why did you do it?”
Jake looks back down at the picture, at the past reaching out to him, trying to grab him by the throat and choke the life right out of him.
“I was tired of myself. That’s why I left Barker in the first place.”
Molly doesn’t really understand because he didn’t actually say it out loud. He is withholding things on purpose too. He doesn’t know that he’s ready to say anything else out loud just yet. He hasn’t figured out what his home is yet. He hasn’t figured out how she fits.