An Ode to Calypso


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He slunk down next to me one morning in ninth grade English, bloodshot sclerea, marijuana odor sifting through the inner Velcro and zippers of his winter jacket where he kept the limey ounce purchased yesterday afternoon in New York City from the comic book store that served as a cover for drug deals. Past the trapdoor, upstairs men with machine guns guarded the hallway, the old woman Eleanor patrolled with her son, selling hash, weed, more nefarious substances we weren’t yet into.
“Can you smell it?” he asked.
“A little,” I said.
He looked nervous, good-looking but beneath the surface some centrifugal force was pulling him under, breaking him apart bit by bit. He excused himself to the bathroom. Minutes drifted into the snow banks outside the frozen window where we watched first period slip away, waiting for icicles to melt in springtime.
As a teaching tool for Homer’s Odyssey, the young Hawaiian teacher was handing out lyrics to The Police ballad, “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” the song blasted from the boom box on the instructor’s desk.
“It feels so good to take a shit,” the boy once told me.
That’s all he was: a boy; until drugs possessed his curiosity, obsessed his body, sparking some inextinguishable fuse within the back of his mind. His frontal lobe became flammable, easy to ignite, difficult to douse. He married Calypso, grew a third eye, metamorphosed into the Cyclops Polyphemu.
Wasn’t that surprised to learn that he died of a heroin overdose little more than a decade later when his parents went on vacation and left the boy to rot in their luxurious house until a neighbor found his body, no longer curious, only furious for not having any of his friends around, I wonder what could have become of this golden son, this boy who burned too bright to last. Why must his adventure be over so soon? Did he have to anger Poseidon so?
Why should his corpse be burnt into a million fragments of frontal lobe, while I survive two thousand experiences which should have been the catalyst of an exploding heart? Where does the decrepit flesh and soul rot when it disappears into the snowy winds of December? Can he still hear The Police? Can he still feel the sting of the hypodermic needle in his veins? Will we meet again one morning between the clouds and the moon? I wanted to be him. Will Penelope and Telemachus be in our arms again; is the current enough of a deterrent for students to follow in our footsteps? Are you anything more than the interminable melting icicle in the back of my mind? Am I nothing now but the faded pattern of dust on a butterfly’s frozen wings? Can you hear me call your name in the middle of the night and shed a tear and gaze into the abyss where the ocean once existed? Did we wish it would end; can we mend what we said; can the sirens sing no more?

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