This is Blahsmopolitan, a weekly column about one freshman’s misfortune as he navigates his New Adult Life in Chicago, and the songs that soundtracked it. New stories are posted every Thursday, alongside a curated Blahsmo playlist available on Apple Music and Spotify to complement your reading and get you through the week with some new music. This week, our columnist turns nineteen, is visited by a Prophet who spoonfeeds him Ramen, and has an intense encounter with a psychic in hopes you can learn from his mistakes.
In one day, I am going to be nineteen years old. There is something about the thought of being alive for damn near two decades that makes you feel like you have been milling around the world picking your nose and saying “duhhh” for your entire conscious life. Twenty years is a long time to be alive and talking about probably writing a book someday. Twenty years is a long time to be alive with little to show for it except two tickets for underage drinking on public record.
What would people say at my funeral at this point?
“Gosh. Good old Nick, man. Pretty loud and gay, huh? Anyway, l’chaim.”
I cannot stop tweeting. I was infamous for it in high school, starting fights, shouting into the void about how much I hate the menstrual fluid that comes out before ketchup does, then starting fights about whether I coined the term “preketchup.” I can’t wait for my birthday so I can change my name to “B’DAY PROLAPSE ALLSTAR” and retweet all the people who love me, and say things like “Thank you, angel” or “You are a saint, sweet one” to people I have never met before.
I wake up on a Friday morning and I’ve already slept through my first class. It isn’t even hard and the professor is decent. The very first day we talked about whether or not masturbating is gay. “Think about it,” she said. “Even though it’s your own, aren’t you touching a penis sort of a lot?” I remember thinking This is college. This is what got me looks in high school. I don’t sound schizophrenic here. We all think like me.”
I decide to give myself an early birthday gift and skip all my classes.
My birthday playlist is just “Break the Ice” by Britney Spears seven times.
It is 8 PM and my friends are pouring in. Let’s call all of them Jennifer.
Jennifer 1 takes bottles out of her backpack, organizing them by shape and size on a desk. “I love Break the Ice,” she says.
Jennifer 2 states calmly that she just took molly and is rolling. “Where were you going tonight, Jen?,” I ask. “I was just going to do some homework,” says Jennifer 2.
Jennifer 3 is wearing a puffy coat and has the collar flipped upward. “Jenny has a hickey,” says Jennifer 1. “No. No I don’t. It’s a bruise.” says Jennifer 3. ‘There is no way you could’ve fallen like that and if someone hit you, I am calling DCFS,” says Jennifer 2.
Jennifers 4, 5, and 6 file in and put a shot glass in their pocket and begin the circuit between the dorms in our cluster. Jennifer 4 wants “VAGINAS ARE AWESOME,” Jen 5 wants “POWER BOTTOM,” and Jenny 6 brought her own bottle of Fireball and says she’ll do just fine without a glass, thank you very much.
I feel at home with these Jennifers even if most of them don’t know me very well. They don’t mind the C-word and like themselves very much.
A Symposium of Jennifers
“What do you think about using the word faggot?,” asks Jenny 1. Her speech is slurred, but you can tell she cares.
“I feel like I know when to pick my battles,” I say. I tap Jenny 2 on the shoulder.
“Hey Jenny,” I say.
“No, do it, I’m doing a demonstration.”
“Okay. Faggot,” says Jenny 2.
“See? I know that he didn’t mean it because you can hear it in his voice. I know Jenny cares about me when he says it. Of course I don’t want him to say it a million times a day, and I don’t want him to say it for no reason, but I think there are times when there are words for words.”
“I think I get it. Faggot!” exclaims Jenny 1.
“Now see, I didn’t like that.”
Jennifer 5, 7, 9 and I pile into my dorm shower, close the curtain, immersed in an off-white wonderland, and get in a little huddle.
“On three, name the grossest person you would have sex with,” says Jennifer 9.
“One… two… three!” I chant.
Everyone stumbles and slurs and laughs but I’m pretty sure Jennifer 5 says Hitler.
We Are All Dead and Dying
“I read a poem every morning before I go to class. The same one every time. I want to be able to recite it,” I say to Jennifer 6.
“How far can you get?”
“Death is nothing at all. I’ve only slipped away into the next room. I am I, and you are you- whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Speak of me in the same familiar… I don’t know. That’s as far as I can get.”
“That’s a really sad poem.”
“How do you know? I didn’t even finish it.”
“Maybe it’s just you.”
“You smell like Chinese food, Jen.”
THE PROPHET ENTERS
The Prophet is a man of twenty years or perhaps sixty years and has deep cystic acne scars, but a face that is somehow soft and friendly, and authoritative at once. I am scared of him, but I love him. Or maybe I am scared that I want to sleep with him. I could make myself want to sleep with anyone. I wonder if he is Jesus as he stands in the doorway.
Me and the abundance of Jennifers are spread out across the room, splayed in various positions, curled up in beds or in corners, shivering and uncomfortable on the stained carpet. The room smells faintly of onions, goldfish, and fresh fertilizer.
Me and Jenny 4 are looking each other dead in the eyes and reciting the beginning to “Pilot Jones” by Frank Ocean.
“We once had things in common!,” I whisper, my eyes wild with a drunken haze.
“Now the only thing we share is the refrigerator!,” says Jenny 4.
“What’s cooler than being cool?” I say.
“Wrong song,” says Jenny 4. Jenny 4 rolls onto the floor.
The Prophet moves slowly, making his way around the room.
“I am going to make you into a burrito, Jenny.” says The Prophet.
“It’s okay. I was a babysitter. I love you, Jenny,” and wraps her into a burrito.
He makes his rounds burritoing the Jennys, and makes his way to me.
“I am going to make you into a burrito, Nick. I was a babysitter.”
“But I am not a baby,” I say. “I am nineteen years old.”
“But you want to be a burrito, don’t you?” asks The Prophet.
I think about this question. “Where are you from?”
“I was a babysitter. I am going to make you into a burrito.”
“Okay. Do you have any snacks?”
“No. But I am going to make Ramen.”
The Prophet keeps his word and makes Ramen. He feeds all the Jennys, but he feeds me first. He feeds me Ramen how you are supposed to- a solid twisting job on the fork and a huge glob of nitrate-soaked noodles that seem to reach down miles from heaven, like Rapunzel’s hair. I think one day I might like to have long, beautiful, salty noodle hair.
“I love you, Nick.”
“Okay,” I say, and feel like I could cry.
It is now my birthday and my dad’s name is flashing on my phone screen. Even the slightest vibration sends a tremor through my gut that is already threatening to rise up and overflow.
He tells me to come home because he has a surprise for me. I say “nnnnNnnHhhn,” and round up the Jennifers.
I pick up every Jenny one by one and say, “You are a very little burrito, and I love you, but you have to go.”
Except for Jennifer 2, to whom I say “You are a very little burrito, but please clean your vomit off of my toilet seat.”
My dad drops me off at the front door of a house on my best friend’s block. He tells me I am going to get a psychic reading, and hands me fifty dollars, and I walk inside.
The Psychic has an old dog named Doug, who has a lot of energy and has breath that is surprisingly good for a dog, and monumentally good for a dog his age.
The Psychic sits me down and plays “Claire de Lune.” I feel like this is a good sign. She doesn’t dim the lights and she doesn’t have a crystal ball.
“So, before I read anyone, I have a two hour meditation session in the morning before they come over to see what I can get on them.”
I take a moment to think of how much information a person could get about my soul from my Facebook. But then again, every Irish person in the world is named Nick Malone, so I think I am okay.
“Tell me when things make sense to you, and when things don’t make sense to you,” she says.
“That makes sense to me.”
“You are an old soul,” she says. “I know a lot of people always say that about the young people in their lives- “oh, they’ve got an old soul” just because they read books early or something. But you are different. You have one of the oldest souls. Some people have one of the oldest souls, but they don’t retain the knowledge. But you have.” She looks at me deeply when she says this.
“You were an artist. In Europe. You were a mobster, here. You were the right hand man, pulling the strings and trusted by some of the world’s most powerful people- because you are smart, you are creative, and you don’t care about the rules.”
I feel like James Gandolfini might be there with us.
She knows my best friend’s first and last initials. She asks if I have any questions.
“Whenever I’m alone, I feel somebody there with me. Not in a scary way, but sometimes I can feel a presence entering and exiting the room. I feel safer when she is there. I feel scared when she is not. Who is that?”
“That is your sister. Your soul sister. She has been there with you in all your lives.”
“Yes. Between you and your brother, your mother lost a girl, a great feminine energy. I do not know how. It may have been a miscarriage you don’t know about, it may have been a lost twin. But you were in the womb together, and in past lives, you were the closest friends. But she wants me to tell you that she walks with you. And that you are amazing. And she hopes to join you one day as your daughter.”
“I feel something about the number 32. You were destined for partnership. You were destined for love. But you also have it in you to chase it away.”
“What if I always chase it away?”
At this question, her eyes widen and she grabs my wrist, hard. I am not scared. I feel safer than I have ever felt.
“You are wondering if it was love.”
“Yes,” I admit.
“You are harboring love for a spirit you were never meant to come into contact with. He is a predator. He is a Sick. Man.” She rests on this point for a while.
“But if you are wondering if he really loved you,” she says, “Because of how treasured he made you feel, and how good it felt when he touched you and how tender and sweet he could be, the answer is yes. He really loved you. But he is a predatory spirit that needs to be let go of.”
Through tears, I say “My best friend always says that. Not the part about spirit but that he wants to beat him up.”
“You cannot keep that sort of love in your heart. He killed you. Your soul was dead for a while. You know that right? But you’re not dead anymore. You are the oldest soul. You have been here before.”
There is a song that I discovered earlier this year called “Here Before” by Vashti Bunyan, and it made me okay with dying. She watches her children, she watches animals, she watches the people in this world either grow in knowledge or go through the motions. I have been here before, and I will be back. Maybe not America, maybe not with The Prophet, maybe not with the Predator Spirit. I am nineteen years old and I have unfinished business that three quarters of a life cannot settle. But I am so close.
I am nineteen years old and I have a paid subscription to The New Yorker and I actually read it.
I am nineteen years old and I published an essay about phone sex that’s being sold at Barnes and Noble, and I bought a copy for my grandma because doing something important is always embarrassing.
I am nineteen years old and fifty million people voted in an election that said “America would be great without you.” But I am astronomical. I am one of the oldest souls.
I am nineteen years old and my father had been my brother and he still is. And brothers fight. And brothers love one another.
I am nineteen years old and I am holding my sister’s hand.
I am nineteen years old and I want to be wrapped up like a burrito. I want to hear what people have to say. I want to fulfill my potential. I want to have fun.
I am nineteen years old and I am not afraid to die.
Nick Malone is a writer and astronomical being from Chicago. He would appreciate a belated birthday message and does not recommend lucid dreaming. Find him on Twitter @VLRTUALBOY and on Grindr wherever chakra stones are sold.
One portion of this piece, “THE PROPHET ENTERS” was modeled after “THE GUIDE/THE PARTY” by the amazing Jen George, from her book “The Babysitter at Rest.” Check it out here for an absolutely wild read, one of my favorites ever.