I recall being a young writer and feeling for the first times in my life, the world’s exquisite, crystalline offerings. Most often these came to me as a mixture of overpowering beauty and shocking sadness. I recall walking out in a field one day, the sun skimming through dark trees, golden rays outspread and discovering the shadowy remnants of a deer. I remember how the tragedy of those bones caught me off guard. Back then, in my teens, the event pulled me directly out of warm reverie into cold reflection.
Young people have a gift in feeling things deeply, but it is a hard gift to bear.
The world does not deal kindly with gentle souls.
From an early age, there are many ways to strike out from shore, and attempt to grapple with this place. Some of us choose writing.
Christopher Vass was one of us.
The struggle against ongoing unhappiness has been fought by the likes of Mark Twain, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Tennessee Williams, Anne Rice, Emily Dickinson, J.K. Rowling, and yours truly. All who fight this battle, win or lose, fight valiantly.
I was touched by Christopher’s obituary, which read in part that he had left early in the morning on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 to tilt at windmills. He was a bright boy and tender-hearted. And he was my good friend’s son.
I present below, as a tribute to Chris and to all young writers’ struggles, two fragments from Chris’s tenure as a budding fantasist.
Every writer I know, can surely relate.
The mountains pierced the sun as the young woman continued to talk.
“If there was a time to say it, it would be now”
The young boy just barely seemed to come out of his barren fugue and look up to the girl questioning him on his right.
The hill they sat on was something to notice. It was a small peninsula rising from the black water of a lake that nearly surrounded it. There was only a small, but high, strip of land that connected the peninsula to the shoreline. No matter how much ferocity stirred the murky tides, it could never overcome that small band of rock that bonded the small hill to the mainland.
And a little farther north from the knoll of earth that rose out of the lake was an isolated compound hidden it the mainland’s forest cloak.
“Sorry. The clouds were distracting me.” Beautiful blonde hair curtained the girl’s wide blue eyes. He wished not to lay his anxieties on her.
She was caught off guard by his remark. “You were distracted? By clouds? Sorry, kid, but I can’t believe that. You’re not really the distracted-by-clouds type.” She articulated the last few words with a comical emphasis, lowering her tone and hunching her shoulders as her lower jaw jutted out.
The boy looked at her face for a moment, then broke the stare and limply hung his head down, his chin to his chest. “You’re not funny” he said harshly. He actually meant the term to be ironic, but it came out as biting derision at her attempt for comedy.
“Stop it. Tell me. ” she said. Her tone and face did not reveal her hurt feelings by his conceived scorn, but perhaps her jump to the serious issue was a sign itself.
“No.” the boy bluntly stated. Usually, he would be more tactful with his replies, wishing to be honest but not inelegant and disdainful. Today, however, his heart did not care whether she was offended or not. “It doesn’t matter to you”.
Unfortunately, his bluntness did bite her, and she stopped her friendly tenor toward him. “Tell it to me now.” She whispered icily.
“Why do you want to know so badly? It doesn’t matter to you!”
“Of course it does! Something is upsetting you, and I want to help. Well, I wanted to help, before you ended up acting like an ass!” She was moving away from him now, angry and confused at his scorn. He never acted like this, and they never argued like this. Not that she could remember.
Nor could he. But he was finished with the nursing treatment everyone gave him and expected in return. “Stop acting like you care. At least for me.”
“What are you talking about?” The girl suddenly turned from indignant to outraged. “Don’t be immature. You still have me and Trab and Jami and…. look, I don’t know what the hell you saw, okay? I don’t know what happened, none of us do. You won’t talk about it, so we keep making guesses. Trab and Jami are thinking the worst. They’re saying that you snapped and offed her. I keep telling them to stop the crap, but now they just won’t talk to me either. If you just-“
The boy’s eyes displayed recognition. “So that’s what you’re worried about? That the gossiping rats won’t talk to you anymore? Why the hell should I care about that shit?”
“The same reason that you are talking to me now; because you need someone. We all do. You need me, and I you.” The girl glanced downward, her posture now a portrait of shame. “You’re right about them though. It doesn’t really matter what they talk about. I don’t need them. Really, I’m fine without them. I would…” She turned her head further away from him. “I would rather be with you. I don’t know why, but I just can’t leave you out of my life.”
“We can’t keep doing this, waking up every damn morning to nothing but the screaming memories from the dark of the night before. Every day, we hope for something. Something to change. Something to save us from hell. Something impossible!” He wasn’t talking about her anymore. It was all about him now. But he couldn’t stop.
“I’m tired of hoping. I’m done feeling. Those burdens have pulled me down just too far. It’s not worth it to feel, not in this constantly warring world we’re in. From now on, every sliver of possible freedom is gone, boarded up.” He kept his face where it was, but spoke to her now. “Don’t expect anything more from me.”
The girl’s face showed absolutely no expression. Slowly, she got to her feet, looked at him for a moment, and left. She refused to look where he was looking. Those same mountains, that same blank horizon, that same history, and that same future.
The boy did not move. Hours had passed before he decided to sit again. Still, he continued to look at the black night. Sour tears stung his cheeks and frigid wind bit his barren toes. He didn’t care. Not anymore. Now, he was a shell.
“Gidan and Damon Discuss”
Pace sat by himself turning over as he saw his superior walk toward him from the back entrance. The time was long overdue; his food had no appeal to him right now. Not when he was so on edge.
“Am I ready?” He asked as Gidan reached his table.
The superior looked around. “Are we still eating by ourselves?”
“I am eating by myself. You still didn’t answer my question.” Faro sat with a mask of patience, but a mask nonetheless.
Gidan gave a playful smirk as he reached across the table and grabbed a plum off Pace’s tray. “Poor Faro, the boy who didn’t eat his vegetables”
“Fruit. I told you not to call me that.” He reached over and attempted to recover the plum, but Gidan pulled away. Apparently, he was in one of his moods. Although annoying, this always meant some sort of good news. Faro just hoped it was good news for him.
The plum was now dancing on the end of Gidan’s fingers. “You should not correct your superiors. People will think you’re being cheeky.”
If it makes you spill it any faster, cheekiness is not a nasty alternative, he thought. “So what? From what I’ve heard, it makes no difference how I act.”
“Oh, look at you, being all charming! Your tongue is turning silver!”
“Tell me. Is it going to happen? I’m ready.”