I was watching basketball, doing laundry, drinking coffee, and chatting with Watts, “What’s the rush, Steven?” The questions Watts posed caused me to reflect and change my course. Here is what she told me “Take the next three weeks to introduce the relationship that Donavan and Travis have. Then use week three to introduce Laura.”
Watts was one of my more rational characters. Danyo was one of my favorites because of his devotion to chaos, and Watts helps me to make sound decisions. Watts was a free spirit. For example, as we chatted she was dancing around the room with her headphones on singing along to Hall and Oates the song was You make my dreams come true. She stopped dancing for a minute to make a statement. “Tell them the inspiration behind my character Steven.” “Watts, I went full-blown Austin Kleon Steal Like an Artist for you.” I looked up from the basketball game I was watching and proceeded to talk about the inspiration for Watts. “Watts, you are modeled after the character Watts from the lates 80’s John Hughes movie Some Wonderful.” If you would like to see what Watts looks like, check out this clip. What Watts does in the multiverse will remain a mystery for now. “Watts, what are we going to read this week”? ” She stopped dancing and came over to the table where her coffee was sitting she picked it up. Watts took a sip of coffee, then put down the cup. “This week, we will hear from Travis as he explains his infatuation with Kayla and DJ’s reaction to it.” Then Watts went back to dancing. Watts changed her song to the inspiration and title for the week- Ramblin Gamblin Man. Enjoy.
To deal with the stress of jumping between universes, DJ took up coloring. He read an article about adult coloring and how it helped deal with stress. So he went to the local dollar store and purchased some kiddie coloring books. When he colored in the office, he got strange looks. A co-worker told him that there were actually real adult- coloring books. He didn’t need to be coloring Spiderman at his age.
Rather than purchasing one of those cool adult coloring books, he just went with it and kept coloring Spiderman fighting Doctor Octopus. He pondered, coloring Spiderman purple instead of red. The phone buzzed. His coach had told him to take more risks, so why not color Spiderman purple? That was risky. He looked at his phone and saw TRAVIS.
DJ answered the phone, and instead of saying hello, Travis began to rant about music. DJ was pretty sure he ranted to lighten the mood before dropping some news on him.
Travis started his rant- “You remember the song Virtual Insanity“? Travis didn’t give me time to answer, he just kept going. “What do you think about the line about living underground”? Yes, you as a reader may be thinking, Why do you greet someone with a song lyric?
My response would be, well, why do you greet someone with a hello? Or greet someone with a what’s up? Breaking conventions are just a part of my life. It is who I am, and I am attempting to get more comfortable with just living as who I am.
In good times this was the nature of our relationship. Now it just didn’t feel the same. There was tension. Caused mainly by him. Yet I needed to play along. “Jamiroquai? I remember the video, Let me look it up now.
I pulled up the video on my work computer. I picked a random image from the video to keep the conversation moving forward. ” I never noticed the Raven flying around or the cockroach on the ground, the outfit he has on, is wild.”I think I will dress like Jamiroquai. A black turtleneck with a big old black hat, is he wearing converse all-stars ?”
So what’s up? I finally had to ask Travis or we would go on waxing about music. The phone went silent. “Hey, are you still there ?” I braced myself waiting for his answer. In the pause, before he spoke, my mind began to race. Do you ever fill the silence with scenarios and stories? I do. It is hard to just settle into the silence. So I told stories. I told stories trying to predict what Travis would say.
Here are some clips of what I expected Travis to say. ” Laura left me.” Maybe but he wasn’t crying. Perhaps he would say, “I left Laura” or “Laura caught me”. He could say “I got called into HR and was fired for dating a co-worker. ” Then I pivoted to ” Kayla found another boyfriend.”
This is just the way my mind worked. In a few seconds, I generated five different scenarios. The thing about it is that none of them would be true or accurate. I would simply get stressed out for no reason. I frequently do this. Do you? Here is another example. I told one of our young aspiring universe jumpers that I thought she was a natural, and she should enter into our intern program. One day a few weeks later, she sent me a text and asked if she could talk to me. I instantly thought to myself, well, she is quitting, putting in her two weeks. I also thought she was going to think I was the creepy old guy hitting on her. I got paranoid. I shouldn’t be sending text messages to interns. I would get Me Too’d. That is why people began to stare at me. I could almost hear them saying, there goes DJ the creeper. Instead, she wanted to tell me that she was going to apply for med school. I know I am not the only one who has wild thoughts?
In my line of work, I often think to myself, am I making any sort of a difference? I would love to be on stage singing or throwing footballs to open wide receivers, singing Hey Jude, for example. Did you know they Nah, Nah, hey Jude for about 4 minutes? It is so easy for me to get distracted.
Ok, let me get back to the phone call.
Travis said to me, that he had started a relationship with Kayla. They shared a love for horror movies, He took Kayla to see the latest talking doll movie. Travis had held her hand and kissed her goodnight. He went on saying that Kayla made him feel secure, with Laura he was a caged bird. He needed to fly again. I snapped on him. I told him that this was crazy, he was committing adultery. I didn’t want to hear any more about Kayla. I knew Travis and Laura. We ended the conversation, and I was furious with him. Travis had made a commitment. The commitment to be with Laura for the rest of his life. It doesn’t matter how you feel. Your feelings are not a valid argument made to break a life long promise you made before God and the people who attended your wedding.
Travis opened up his photos app. He looked at the least picture of when he and Donovan had hung out. It was at a baseball game. DJ was eating a donut cheeseburger. DJ always seemed to eat bad food but was super healthy. We all called him DJ, but his real name was Donovan. Donovan has been my best friend since third grade. Travis recalled with fondness that Donovan didn’t really care what people thought about him. That was his superpower.
One example from our childhood was his behavior at lunch in grade school. He would bring BBQchips to lunch every day, and when people would beg him for food, he would spit in the bag. That would stop people from asking. In addition, Travis admired that Donovan was incredibly confident, and at the same time, remarkably shy.
For example, he won the school talent show multiple years in a row; by doing singing impersonations, one year, he would dress up as Elton John and did a stellar version of Rocketman. The next year he would sing an obscure Otis Redding song. DJ was the starting quarterback for the football team. He was an all-state talent. Yet he was petrified around the opposite sex. For example,- Jasmine Henderson was the captain of the cheerleading team. DJ had a crush on her since he was in 5th grade, but he would never talk with her until his junior year in High School. He took her on a date, they saw Batman. The Micheal Keaton version. DJ wouldn’t hold her hand or try to kiss her. After the movie, he got frustrated with Jasmine because she didn’t understand the symbolism in the movie, also that she didn’t know about the Cesar Romero version of the Joker. I listened to him as he ranted about how she was beneath him intellectually. DJ read too much and then tried to take on the roles of characters. For example, he had this fantasy that he was Gatsby from the Great Gatsby. Most of us just read the book and took the test. DJ started a fight with our High School English teacher because he felt the teacher wasn’t being consistent with Fitzgerald’s intent. He failed the test as an act of protest.
DJ had an unusual approach to romance. He would pick up Jasmine in his mom’s car, and he would make a mixtape for Jasmine, one that included Bobby Brown, Whitesnake, Charlie Parker, and White Lion. Like I said, DJ was eccentric. The relationship was odd and very one-sided.
Jasmine was dating Lawerence Jackson, who was a year older than us, Lawerence was in college, and he came home to watch the football game. After the match, when DJ went to hug Jasmine and ask her to go to Ronnies pizza, there was Lawerence. Lawerence was holding Jasmine’s hand. Broke DJ’s heart. I told him he needed to go confront Lawerence, and kiss Jasmine, then take off with her. DJ didn’t. He hung his head and slunk away. He spent the next two weeks in his room with the lights out listening to sad music.
DJ moved to the east coast after college. He said that he wanted to emulate Frank Sinatra in the song New York, New York, if he could make it there he could make it anywhere. He came home for my wedding to Laura, and we would see each other on holidays, and reunions. The cool thing is that DJ introduced me to Laura.
DJ never married. He was 46 single, and oddly happy. I think he had one or two relationships, but he acted as if he lived by some strange code. In fact, his last relationship ended right after he took a job at the tech company he currently worked at. A very odd place. DJ was very secretive about his work. No one really knew what he did. Yet he always had nice cars and plenty of money. If he wasn’t my best friend, I would think he was involved in something nefarious.
DJ was upset with me after I told him about Kayla. I don’t know what happened. I still loved Laura. She was my wife, we had two kids together. I was happy with her. Yet Kayla was magical. I don’t know why. She was a child, I mean I could be her Father. Yet she made me feel strong, powerful. I had a second chance with Kayla. People would look at me, and think wow, this guy has it going on; he is in his forties and can still bag young girls. I find myself at night thinking to myself, that I wanted to leave Laura and the kids for Kayla. Why didn’t the DJ understand? I needed him to understand me. To acknowledge my truth. I didn’t need his judgment.
DJ felt physically ill after hanging up the phone. He felt this onslaught of guilt descend on him. He wasn’t even married but he felt as if he had committed a sin. DJ got up and began to pace. He walked in circles around the office. Picking up items from his desk and moving them around.
He thought to himself – Travis was straight up looney tunes. What in the world? Was he going to leave Laura and his kids for Kayla? A 23 year old fresh out of college?A teacher at his school? Yet this was what Travis was like. When they were kids, he always talked about making memories, living life to the fullest. For example once over winter break he got in the car and drove to the Grand Canyon just for the heck of it. Travis reminded him of a Bob Seger song- Ramblin Gamblin Man. He was turning into a rolling stone. Travis was stubborn too, he wouldn’t listen to my advice. He would have a relationship with Kayla, and to heck with Laura. I needed to put Travis out of my life. My coach had told me to read a book about safe people. Travis wasn’t safe. DJ opened up his desk and pulled out two expresso pods and made them to drink. He then went over to his desk, picked up the coloring book, and placed it in the drawer. He would deal with the stress by pounding a few Expresso’s and then make a universe jump.
DJ was mad at me. I mean, he would never understand my feelings for Kayla. DJ was loyal to a fault and inflexible. He was irrational, that is why he was so successful, but his perfectionistic tendencies were also his downfall. This is why he sat single in his late 40’s. He could’ve married Jasmine, Lawerence was a knucklehead. He didn’t fight for her. Instead he found faults with her. There was a string of women he remembered. He would bring them to double date with Laura and myself. There was Donna when DJ was 30, Melissa when DJ turned 40. Now. DJ was married to his career. Love had eluded him, so who was he to judge my decisions? DJ was merely jealous. He coveted my life.
Travis was insane, I don’t know what has bewitched him, He really feels justified in this relationship with Kayla. I feel trapped. I think for Laura and the kids, some part of me says that I should tell Laura, yet another part of me knows that this is the wrong thing to do. One, I am not a snitch. Two- Travis needs to tell Laura himself. I am not going to endorse his actions, but I am not going to let him off the hook. I am just going to put my head in the sand and get back to my job.
” So that’s it, DJ puts his head back in the sand and goes back to work ?” Danyo had sat down next to Watts and myself. I offered him some coffee. Danyo declined. Instead, he pulled out a RedBull and mixed it with mountain dew. ” Steven DJ is a mess, I mean what in the world? How can a guy with a stable job, and a career, not have a stable relationship? ” The sheer amount of contradictions in this character’s life is driving me crazy, and I am crazy. ” Danyo sipped some Redbull and Mountain Dew. ” Plus, Steven, why are we drinking all the time?” Could you get a tad bit more creative in our interactions? Danyo put the drink down, and looked up and saw Watts. ” Why is she here”? I laughed. Danyo,” I told you that you would get to do a few weeks and Watts would get to do a few weeks. Watts laid out a perfectly nice plan for the next few weeks. ” ” I sure hope so” Danyo was agitated. Watts stood up and gave him a hug. ” Don’t worry Danyo, next week you will get some action, right Steven? ” Of course Watts, next week we are going to explore DJ and Laura’s relationship and how she got away. Which is going to be the title next week. The one that got away. ” Sure Steven, you say that know but you know you always change your mind.” I had to give Danyo credit for that. I am going to try hard not to change my mind. In the meantime the enjoy some pasta.