Memories of Mark

Short Stories

Are you my big brother; yea. Do you smoke cigarettes too? Nah. The first words, as I remembered them. Weroe wore a blue cap, his head looking shaved. He had long hair that hid in his hat, I was amazed by that. We sat together, huddled over a pot, analyzing soil and watering its contents with care. The scent of fresh herb curled up my nostrils – ever since I have loved the smell of wet grass. The plant was small but together we helped it grow. Soon its fragrance would be overpowering. I returned a week later to find the plant gone, what happened to the tomato plant we were growing? It died. I didn’t understand until later.

Come with me diggity we’re goin bat cavin. Under descended darkness we clambered atop the roof of the apartment. We ran, hand in hand. Jumping from building to building, down below, far below, pavement and grass in a curious dark blend of grey and green flew by; two hearts pounded with the force of jackhammers in rhythm. We were above it all, running on top of the world. We ended atop the roof of a church and peed over the side onto the street below. He asked me to light his pipe so he could smoke. Its smell was beautiful, we sat and looked at the stars smiling at us from their perch just overhead. Together we could reach out and touch them. I imagined us in the heavens; we went bat cavin on stars, passing over planets and asteroids, witnessing true creation. What are those lights theres just a party going on. Are my mom and dad ok yea they’ll be fine Are you sure I’m sure. Okay. I’ll be here for you always diggity really Yes, really.

The rungs of the ladder leading down to the sewer were rusted and old. We are going on another adventure. The walls surrounding us are grey, and it smells terrible. The floor down here is slippery, a mixture of greens and browns – we tried to guess what sort of concoction of fluids we were walking in… after a while we stopped, too grossed out. Our first stop had been Mark’s Hardware store on Lankershim. They always had the best tips and colors, he was able to fit five cans in his the pockets of his hugely oversized jeans, I only took two [I am small]. We walked quietly through the park, past a family of Mexicans celebrating the birthday of a child. Two older men stared at us as we passed, holding our bag full of spray cans. Their eyes were filled with a stoic sense of righteousness, as if we were invading some sacred ceremony. We ducked our heads and continued walking. Those guys were scary, nah we’ll be alright they won’t come down here Come on let’s go Okay but you first.

How are we gonna write it? Let’s think first. He took out a napkin and a pen. Started drawing, tongue slightly protruding from his mouth. Forehead furrowed in concentration. I wandered back and forth, up to the wall, my hand running against its bare surface feeling the slight bumps of the old marks left by long-forgotten gangs and people just like us maybe. I thought of their stories did other diggity’s come down here with their big brothers to paint or am I the only one? Alright ready? Here take the thin tip and follow my outline use the red one. Okay. This is gonna be bomb diggity Yea awesome. Weroe&Me went up on the wall forever engrained on the decrepit back alley with a dirty Los Angeles sun as witness. The filth wafted upwards overpowering but we finished, almost. HEY YOU! It was the Mexicans. RUN DIGGITY.

We ran.

You’re going too fast
Keep up I’m trying
It’s too slippery
I’ll catch you come on we need to keep running

An eternity later we climbed up steel rungs back onto the street we didn’t know where we were. How are we going to get back home? We’ll find it. We’re covered in crap. I know.

The van was painted blue with white clouds on its exterior, it was parked outside the house. I walked out to go say hi. Clothes and bottles everywhere a pipe lay atop rumpled bedsheets black ash inside still with dregs of smoke dancing above it, recently smoked. Little pieces of paper squares on the floor, you know what those are? No. It’s acid, don’t touch those they’ll make you crazy. Okay. He collected them from the floor and put them into a plastic bag, tucked it away in his pocket. I have your tape here, sorry I listened to it last night. It’s okay you can take it whenever you want. His beautiful smile. Do you wanna drive the van? Ya sure.

I sat in the front seat on his lap, steer’d the van around the block twice. I got to press the gas a little but my feet could barely reach the bottom and I couldn’t see the road. You’re doing great.

Sunday morning, 6:30 am I woke up to play Starcraft with my cousin. With crust around my eyes and still groggy I heard thunderous pounding on the door outside. A silhouette stood outside, the black outline of a hand banging. I knew. Diggity Rob’s having a seizure wake up Ziggity quick. I ran. Momma get up Mark needs you. What? What happened. Rob’s having a seizure we need to help him. Ziggity Rob fucked up what the fuck what the fuck he’s gonna die man fuck. Fuck echoed in my brain while I saw Rob being dragged, body convulsing into the bathroom where the door was slammed shut with Mark inside with him. Rob’s eyes were rolled back into his head.

The bouncer picked him up; you hidin’ anyfin in there kid? Nooooo as he was spun around upside down, laughing hysterically. His pants were a size 48 and he wore a huge belt to tie them around his tiny waist, with a dark blue shirt and a brown beret. Mark’s jeans were filled with his tags and graffiti, he was a walking piece of street art. He wore a shaggy goatee and his breath smelled like wet grass, his eyes faded but with a warm smile on his face. They were going to have a great night.

The music was deafening but they danced right next to the speakers, just like he taught. Both of their feet hurt but they kept dancing, all throughout the night. Hey diggity these girls want to talk to you do you want to talk to them No I’m ok, do you want me to talk to them for you? Sure. Stay here diggity I’ll be back, just listen to the music. I kept dancing.

The grass in the yard was a faded green but they lay panting side by side. He could never out monkey wrestle mark, he was too strong. They had spent an hour tumbling around the yard, their jeans were stained green and sweat dripped down onto the grass in solitary beads, climbing down individual blades of grass onto the starving maw of dirt just below. An orange sun setting in a pale blue sky without clouds. Ziggity was making pasta for dinner, the garlic could be smelled from their perch in the yard.

Diggity, is your mom there? Ya why? What happened Mark’s missing. Put your mom on the phone.

Mark took me to Groove Riders on Ventura to get some new tapes. On the way there we listened to Club Mix 96, I knew how to dance to all the songs. Groove Riders was filled with techno and people in long baggy jeans, bandanas, and nose rings. There were masses of scraggly-hairs bobbing their heads up and down slowly, in a trance; I joined them. Mark went to the back to talk to a friend of his, that smell was there again and I knew. I went to the counter and asked for some good music, she handed me a green tape. This is some experimental music, try it out you’ll like it. Her lips were red and eyes blue, she flashed me a smile.

I heard the sound of liquid dripping. One two three four five one two three, then it dropped off. My head moved up and down, hands twirling slowly. The melody rolled down my shoulders smoothly at first then cascading down like a waterfall increasing in tempo steadily then furiously as fires raged in my mind, a passionate inferno. It slowed to a simple dripping, methodically and calming. You want this one diggity? Mark was back. Yea.

Can I check out those shoes in size 11? Sure I’ll be right out. The attendant went into the back room. Mark’s arm snaked across the counter and he pulled a green alien workshop wallet from the cupboard behind it. A wallet for you diggity. Come on lets go.

His hair was long and matted, dreadlocks. His smile lost its flare; dimples took on sharp edges.

We gathered around the set, my mom’s Volvo was parked along the street in front of the house. Just go out and do your thing Yea ok Ziggity I’m just a little nervous. I was just happy to be taken out of school. I put in my green tape and turned up the volume. Mark walked up to the porch. Lights camera action – take one (and they only needed 1 take) and with music flaring Weroe danced, twirling in perfect unison with the music as if his arms, legs, and body were composing it as he moved, his face looked like pure joy and his eyes were intensely concentrated on his craft. Nothing was more beautiful.

The song finished and he walked back, I love you diggity. I love you too mark. He picked me up and twirled me around. I tried to tickle him but I was too small. We both smiled all way through Mulholland Drive on our way back home. We stopped at coffee bean for an ice blended first.

I woke up with the smell of a long night coming off his matted hair on the futon next to me. He was passed out or asleep or both. That wet grass smell permeated his shirt and everything else about him. I went back to bed.

I woke up again and went to the kitchen to eat cereal. Then I got strawberry jello that my mom and I had made last night and brought it back to the room. Hey diggity hey. Let me have some of that here thanks that’s good where were you last night?

Diggity look at me
Yea?
Make sure you go out and experience lots of things

I know I will and don’t ever do the things I do

It’s no good man you don’t want my life youre capable of so much more

I know

No really you can be great but you need to expand your horizons

Be a leader and everyone will love you you know I know I know

And stay in school you know I never did but you have to because you need to be better than me

Always do your homework ok even if its hard I know I will even though its hard I will

You have to I will

You know I’m always going to be here for you if you need me

Wherever you are I’ll be there alright? Alright

I love you I love you too and I always will.

I’ll see you soon ok diggity I love you

Bye, I love you too

Momma I really smelled it on him this time, I know boo.

Hello? Diggity put your mom on the phone. MOM it’s Michelle.

Boo. Weroe’s dead.

“I’ll see you soon” drawn in red marker on the desk. “D U R AN” up on the wall – signed Weroe 97. I looked down and cried.

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