A Remake Chronicles Extra by Adam-Troy Castro
During my freshman year in college, I had a very good friend — actually, at that point, my only friend — in the engineering program who introduced me to recreational drugs. Nothing worse than pot, hash, and nitrous oxide…but where I pulled back, pretty much for good, after that brief flirtation, he did not. When I returned to school after summer vacation, he had graduated to coke and acid, and was about to drop out of school.
His argument in favor of drugs was that they made everything more vivid. I quickly noted that the arguments were circular. He thought drugs were great because they improved certain music and certain movies; conversely, he loved certain music and certain movies because they improved so much when using drugs. Before long that was his number one yardstick of quality. I asked him more than once about stuff that was most entertaining when sober, whether that didn’t have some kind of inherent value even more impressive, and he declared that such things were shallow, one-dimensional, not worth his time. He interpreted virtualy everything from this angle. For instance, he made a big deal about John Hurt in the kitchen-table scene in ALIEN (back then a new movie), because he thought Hurt’s cigarette in that scene was likely pot, and because he thought that meant the alien bursting out of the poor dude’s chest would “hurt even more.” Literally, that’s what he took from that scene. He had similar things to say about CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and how druggy it was; again, it was all he seemed to care about, aesthetically.
(Because I saw this syllogism close-up and ad nauseum, I have never been impressed by drug-influenced imagery for its own sake. Never, ever.)
A townie, he had been kicked out of his parents’s house because of his lifestyle choices, and he asked if he could stay with me for a few days. I was living in one room of a rooming house, in a space no larger than two hundred square feet; giving you an idea of my living conditions, my big steamer trunk was both my coffee table and my desk. Still, I said that he could stay if he didn’t mind using his sleeping bag.
Two nights later, I was already snowed under with work, and was about to go turn off my lamp so I could turn in for the night. He wasn’t ready to sleep yet. He wanted to read. In retrospect, I should have told him to go to the house’s communal kitchen and read at the table; it was late enough that he would not have been disturbed. I said, well, I need the lamp out to sleep; I have classes in the morning. He begged for ten more minutes. Ten minutes later, he was still wired from whatever he was on, and needed more time awake even after I insisted it was lights-out. Compromising, he draped his canvas dufflebag over the lamp, occluding the light to a little cone that only affected his space. Was that okay? Reluctantly, I said yes. But turn out the lamp when you’re done.
In the morning, the room smelled acrid. The air was visibly hazy. We’d slept through something. We didn’t discover what until he took the dufflebag off the lamp. It had melted and blackened. He’d left the lamp on all night, under the heavy canvas, and the trapped heat had built up, and there’d been a fire, fortunately smothered by the canvas. The lamp was many years old. He had destroyed it.
He acted contrite. He didn’t offer to pay for the lamp or recognize that he could have killed us and everybody else in the house.
Two days later. He entered the room where I was working on an important paper, and said that he had found a place to stay, three blocks away. All I needed to do was help him move his stuff. It would only take three trips. I was reluctant to leave my homework, but I did offer to help him on one trip. He said, “Well, can we take as much on that one trip as we can humanly carry?” I reluctantly agreed.
We got almost a block before the weight and bulk of all the stuff started causing us problems. I was putting some down so I could shift the load when he muttered, “Selfish bastard would only take one trip.”
Angered at this guy who had destroyed my property and who I had sheltered for a week, and who now called me a selfish bastard, I quite deliberately started to put my load down so I could abandon him.
I was still bent over my load, when he rushed over and brandished his fist in my face. “You put that down and I’ll beat the shit out of you.”
Now thoroughly incredulous, I said, “Fine. Let me stand up and we’ll go at it.”
He said, “You better not.”
I was still bent over and holding about fifty pounds. “Let me stand up and you can do whatever you fucking want.”
He agreed to let me stand.
I put the weight down, but before I could straighten even a millimeter, he broke his promise and slammed me hard in the ear. It sounded like an explosion going off. There was no question of defending myself. I was off-balance and he’d gotten the first punch. He didn’t have to do that. I was then, as now, a physical wimp; he would have beaten the shit out of me in any event, but he’d broken the contract and made sure this would not be a fair fight. I fell over and he was still punching me, in the back, in the stomach, and in the face, when a patrol car with two uniformed cops pulled over and yanked him off me.
I’ll give him credit for this much: his explanation to the cops was entirely truthful. He just didn’t think he was wrong.
One of the cops said, incredulously, “The guy who gave you a place to stay for a week was helping you move your shit and you beat him up because he wasn’t moving fast enough?”
He was taken aback, “Well, if you put it that way, it sounds pretty crappy.”
“How else would you put it, sir?”
“He was, I don’t know, being a dick.”
I was asked whether I wanted to press charges. I told them no, but I sure as shit wasn’t going to help him move his stuff. I said that I planned to return to my room and stack his belongings outside. He whined, “But I can’t move this stuff myself!” I told him, “Move everything in ten-foot increments and you should be fine.”
As I walked away, he was — I swear to God — asking the cops if they could give him a ride to his new apartment, with his stuff in the back seat. They might have helped me, as the victim, if the situation had been reversed. But not him. Oozing contempt, they told him that they were cops, not moving men; that he’d caused his own situation and that they had no sympathy for him.
A few hours later, after what must have been a humiliating moving job from hell, the guy knocked on my door. I at first refused to open it, telling him that all his belongings were outside for the taking. He begged to talk to me. There was still enough of a ghost of our prior friendship for me to open the door, even though I feared another attack.
Breaking what ended up being a thirty-minute, invective-filled conversation into two sentences, he told me that he was willing to apologize for beating me as long as I was willing to apologize for being so unreasonable with him. And I told him to get fucked. I certainly wasn’t going to help him move the rest of his stuff (yes, he asked).
He asked me if I was going to let our friendship end. I told him that it had ended. I wished him well but asked him to never talk to me again.
Last I heard, he was sleeping on someone else’s couch.
I don’t think he ever became an engineer.
I went through some rough times in the weeks that followed, because it took time to make some new friends and I was not then capable of being alone with my own head and not having rough times. I self-flagellated. But from the perspective of fifty, I look back on my young self and say, “You did the right thing. That guy was poison. He would have dragged you down with him.”