CHAPTER 12: NOSTALGIA
When I was 12, I had a friend named Brian.
Brian was a piece of shit.
For about two years, we were inseparable. We would ride our bikes to the comic book shops together, we snuck into R-rated films together, stole porno rags from the mall bookstore together, experimented with alcohol for the first time together, made stop motion films with action figures, got in trouble with our BB guns, and all the rest of that nostalgic American bullshit that young boys are known to do.
I wasn't initially aware that I was the resident freak amongst this specific group of friends that Brian was the leader of. I was a running joke for them; I was their comical relief, although I never knew it at first.
I was always an awkward kid, not shy, but defiantly weird, and as far as these kids were concerned, I was borderline retarded.
My father never liked Brian, mostly because he knew his father. They were Armenian, and with my father being first generation Greek, he instinctively held a prejudice against them based on their nationality. I'm not enough of a history buff to understand the problem of where old world racism comes from; all I know is that the one thing Greeks dislike more than the Turks are the Armenians. Why? I couldn't fucking tell you.
But I was also told that Brian's father was a tweeker and a developing fiend, a piece of white trash shit that fucked around with high school girls and sucked cock for dope.
I didn't understand any of this as a kid, I was just happy to have a friend.
But my friend would like to play tricks on me. He hid gay pornography in my school bag and told the teachers that I was showing it to the other kids during lunch. He would lock me in his backyard tree house with a pad lock for hours at a time. He would make up all manner of strange rumors about me that always spread like wildfire.
I was only in middle school when I first developed facial and body hair. By eighth grade, I could grow a full beard and had a heavy coat of hair on my legs, ass, and back. I was teased relentlessly.
I was treated like a freak show. So I shaved it off, all of it. I shaved my legs, and ass, my chest, and my arms. And it only made things worse. Now I was a "faggot," a faggot who shaved his legs.
Brian was popular because Brian could play the guitar. He was already in a band when he was 13. All the girls were in love with him.
So Brian wrote a song about Greg the faggot who shaves his legs and who has no friends and is the butt to every joke. And he played that song with his band to the entire school during the 8th grade talent show.
I went into high school with every motherfucker passing me in the hallways signing that song aloud.
It's no surprise that we weren't friends anymore by that point. My best friend then was a Japanese boy named Yoshi. He came to America when he was 8 after his mother married a fat, abusive, but very wealthy American.
Brian would get random kids to prank call Yoshi's house at all hours of the night. Brian knew that Yoshi had a madman for a father, and he knew that madman would beat Yoshi, blaming him for the prank calls.
And Brian, knowing about my parents' divorce, would also get those same kids to prank call my mother, attempting to pose as my father, threatening to kill her.
Brian had a great sense of humor.
My father was outraged, he told me I had to handle it, that I had to put an end to it, and there was only one way to do it.
Unbeknown to myself, my mother would call the school counselor, who then organized group therapy sessions between Brian and I which only fed more wood to my geek status fire.
My father would call the school demanding the gym teacher to set up a boxing match between the two of us and let the best man win. But that was deemed unacceptable by the faculty board.
I was never good at sports, but I did enjoy exercise. I had joined the Army ROTC club at an early age because I wanted to be strong. I couldn't throw a football or catch a baseball, but I could do 50 pull ups and bench 200 lbs, and I liked to spend a lot of time hitting the heavy bags. And my father liked to give me books and videos on self defense and dirty fighting.
I felt confident that I could take Brian on, but he wouldn't meet me in a fair fight.
So one night, my father threw on his Goblin colors, put me on the back of his motorcycle, and rode us down to Brian's house, and he told his father that his son was a faggot, coward, piece of Armenian shit just like his dad. He threatened him that if his son wasn't going to be a man and fight me fair and square after what he had done, then my father would have to blame his father, and that the two of them were going to have problems.
It was embarrassing at first, but also exhilarating. Brian's dad knew my dad, and he was scared of my dad, and I was proud of that.
The next day, Brian met at a park to fight. But he didn't come alone. He was with five large African American students who I never met before.
He had told them that I was a white supremacist and that's why I had shaved my head. He told them that I had called them niggers.
And this stupid group of 15-year-old kids believed him; they believed that this random stranger was a rampant racist who had joked that their mothers should be hanging on a tree somewhere.
So they jumped me and Brian ran off.
But I took the beating and I held my own. I brought down at least three of the five kids and that night, I went to Brian's house with a baseball bat.
I smashed all the windows on the first floor. He came running out threatening to call the cops. He didn't think I would do anything further. He didn't think I'd take a swing at him because I hadn't yet.
And I didn't use the bat on him, but I put him in the ER and I shut him up for good. He wasn't going to be spreading any more rumors or prank calling anyone, because they had to wire his fucking jaw shut for three months.
I beat him bad enough so that his balls would shrivel up into his stomach every time he saw me after that.
Brian's dad did call the cops, but after a brief talk with my father, charges were dropped, and the case just kind of dissipated into the ether.
I had heard that someone set Brian's father's car on fire shortly thereafter. But that wasn't me.
That was my father, and the rest, that's who I am.
Although I was priority suspect threat number one after Columbine a year later, I was never picked on or teased in school ever again.
CHAPTER 13: A FATHER AND SON BONDING EXPERIENCE
My father and I have been riding in silence for the better part of the last hour and half in a presumably stolen 2009 Prius.
We've left the city far behind. I'm not exactly sure where we are, but according to the GPS built into the automobile's dashboard, I only know that we're somewhere in the Humber
Valley, a forested area just outside of Toronto.
It's now reaching 7 p.m. and the sun is starting to go down. I only have an hour, maybe less, until my father turns. Sometime in the next sixty minutes, I will be face to face with an actual monster, and I'm probably going to have to do something about that.
Staring ahead through the windshield towards the road, my father begins to speak.
"You know that I do love you, son."
"I know that."
"I've never really understood you, but that doesn't mean that I was ashamed of you. Few fathers understand their children, just as few children can understand their fathers. It's just sort of the way it is in the world. It's the way it's always been."
"So it seems."
"But I have always been proud of you. I want you to succeed and sometimes, it's difficult for me to see you struggle. And it bothers me that I can't help you. It's frustrating, really frustrating. I know nothing about the world you're in, I don't really understand how it works, and it just seems like it's all fake and bullshit. I do know that you have my pride and my temper. I know that you have to do what you feel like you need to do. But I know that this, all of this, what I've seen here at this film festival, it's not for you. These people, they're not your people. But it takes guts to do what you've done. I never would have had the guts to pack up and move to a new city, or a new state, or a new country on a whim. I'm not just proud of you because you're my son; I respect you because you're willing to work for what you want."
"But we both know that this isn't going to end how we wanted it to. And I apologize for that."
"You did set me up after all."
"Everything's a trade-off in this world. Haven't you learned that by now?"
"What do you mean?"
"The connections you've made, don't you think they might help you when you get back? I've tried to help you the best that I could, and I think it's going to work. But there's always a price to pay. I'm sorry if it was too high, but it is what it is."
"I don't know if those connections will be much use now. Not after what's happened."
"We're going to fix that tonight."
My father turns off the road onto a dirt path. I haven't seen any other buildings or cars for a few miles. He's brought me out to the middle of nowhere.
He puts the Prius into park and gets out of the automobile. I do the same.
He leads me around to the back and opens the trunk. I should have already known what was going to be inside. But somehow, I'm still startled.
Both Emmy and Neumann are gagged, blindfolded, and tied together in the claustrophobically cramped space. Their bodies are fidgeting, wiggling, and withering around like a litter of new born kittens. There's something almost alien to them, as if they've been stripped of their humanity and rendered anonymous piles of meat.
I know what my father believes has to happen now, and I don't like this. I have enough explaining to do, the grave I've dug for myself is deep enough already.
My father is waiting for a response but the most that I can muster is a simple, "No."
He's not pleased with the answer.
"Don't tell me you're gonna shed any tears for these two shit stains. You have any idea what this little faggot was saying about you when I picked him up? This fucker sold you out to the cops."
"And you set me up as bait to get to your friend Ralph."
"You don't know my reasons for doing that. You don't know what he did. He had it coming and I had it under control. This shit heel specifically fucked you over just because he doesn't like you. And this bitch is fucking him and not you just because he's more successful, because she's a social-climbing whore. And right now, they're the only two people who can and want to identify you to the cops. How can you possibly fucking tell me no?"
"NO! We're letting them go. We're not doing this! I'm accepting responsibility for my own wrongful actions and you need to as well. And you need to do it before the sun goes down. And they're not the only ones after us now. There's also Gina."
"Who the fuck is Gina?"
"She's the reason why you're going to be howling like an animal in the next 20 minutes."
"What the fuck are you talking about, Greg?"
"Don't you remember what happened at the Terminal Bar three nights ago?"
"Again with the stories, Greg, always with the stories. Where do they come from? What happened at the Terminal Bar?"
Before I can answer him, Neumann has somehow gotten the ball gag out of his mouth and starts to scream.
My father gives me a disapproving look before pulling a sub-compact 9mm Glock out from the back of his pants. I should never have thought that he only brought the one gun.
He puts the firearm up to Neumann's head and pulls the trigger, and just like that, blows his brains all over the trunk of the car, remnants of grey matter splattering onto Emmy.
He kills him with a casual nonchalance as if he had just swatted a pesky fly.
He proceeds to lift Emmy out of the trunk and cuts the strands of rope that are binding her legs and hands together. He even removes her blindfold.
A stream of piss is leaking down her leg. I feel terrified and humiliated for her. My dad puts his index finger against his lip; signaling for her to be silent as he removes the ball gag.
I'm amazed I hadn't heard the two of them bouncing around in the trunk on the drive out here.
Once Emmy is free of her bondage and restraints, my father tells her, "Run. Run as fast as you can."
She doesn't scream, she doesn't say or ask anything. She does what she's told. My father has that power over people. He's an intimidating guy.
So she runs. She runs off into the dark of the woods.
It's now almost past dusk. My father unloads the clip from the recently fired gun and tosses it into the brush. He cocks the gun, cycling the last round out from the chamber, and then drops the empty weapon onto the ground.
I have the Smith and Wesson tucked into the back of my pants. I haven't made my father aware that I took it and that I am now carrying it. I debate with myself whether I should make the threat. Should I tell him that I went to a gunsmith and had my silver jewelry melted down into silver bullets, that I can definitively end this right now. But there's no use in making threats as a means towards negotiating. The asshole already fucking killed Neumann. We're already at a point of no return.
So I find myself asking, "What game are you trying to play here?"
He shakes his head. "Everything I do, I do to help you, to make you strong."
And with perfect timing, the sun has gone down and my father starts the process.
The undressing, the spasms, the convulsing, the stretching, the bones breaking, the screaming, the growing, the transformation.
The beast now standing before me only looks at me with pleading eyes before it takes off into the woods.
CHAPTER 14: LAST DITCH EFFORT
I didn't turn myself into the police; I never reported what happened to anyone. Emmy was still unconscious when I left her in the Prius, which I parked in front of her hotel.
I'm on a bus back to Philadelphia now, wondering when we'll be pulled over and searched or when we'll hit a police checkpoint before crossing the border.
But it never happens. I'm in the clear, for now.
I'm nursing a bottle of Jack Daniels that I've concealed in a brown paper bag, desperately trying to drink the bad memories away. But no amount of whiskey is going to wash off what I've done.
As my shit luck would have it, Danny is riding the same bus back to the states. He sits down next me and I offer him a nip.
He asks, "So how was the festival for you?"
I shrug my shoulders. That's a loaded question right now.
He continues, "So what films will you be reviewing?"
"Yeah, what did you end up seeing?"
"Oh... This and that, nothing to really speak of."
"Will you be going out to Austin for Fantastic Fest next week?"
I'm having a hard time paying attention, I can't follow him, and his words elude me.
So he repeats his question, "Are you going to Fantastic Fest?"
I've been cut loose from ScreenAnarchy and I'm pretty sure that I'm now a wanted fugitive. What business do I have at Fantastic Fest?
But then I also realize that I've already been booked for an art show in Austin, I'm actually expected to be there in five days. I was never going to get in for that festival. I always had the intention of crashing it. I had been able to score a solo exhibition with a fledgling gallery on 6th Street. That was going to be my means to afford the trip. Unlike the majority of others who travel this festival circuit, I just don't have money to burn.
And the curtains are about to close on this play, and I think, maybe I can try one last encore, maybe I can just give it one more shot. Maybe I can still get in, although I don't even know what it is that I want to get into.
So I finally answer Danny, "Yeah, I'll be going to Fantastic Fest. I'm going to start the drive out there in two days."
Danny asks, "Can I hitch a ride with you?"
I suspect that he's crashing the party too.
I tell him, "Sure."
FEAR AND LOATHING COMES TO AN END FOR GOOD AT FANTASTIC FEST 2013