Chapter 7 – Raven’s Roof
Salem locked my door. He LOCKED MY door; he didn’t lock his door. It was MINE. That’s like untieing my own shoe lace. That’s like taking my lunch money and saying- “You owed me from last time.” That’s like walking into my house and eating any food that he wanted to out of my fridge, without even asking me, as I watched while he says, “Well, you ate at my house so, now, we’re even.” This is crossing lines of personal territory that I did not feel comfortable with, at all, especially, knowing how dangerous he could be. He can’t just lock my own door. He can’t do this.
Looking at his frozen figure, which was half not visible in my dimly lit room, I was frightened, honestly, dumbfounded & quite annoyed to be honest. Really? Is this really happening? I responded, “Salem, look. I didn’t mean to see anything. I didn’t. I swear! I just needed to know the time. It’s getting late. You have to believe me. Please. You-.” I said in a quick pace as he edged himself closer to me.
“Llllllliarr.” He said, softly.
“No. No I’m not. Salem please. You gotta believe me. Salem, PLEASE please. Don’t- don’t hurt me.” I said breathing hard.
Suddenly, he ran up to me so fast. I got so scared; I did nothing, but, get in a hunched position, trying to shield my head from him & crouched myself in the fetal position to hide my chest, naturally & instinctively, as I sat down. Oh my god. I thought-“He’s going to actually hurt me! He’s going to beat me! I’m calling my mom!” I started to yell for her, but, before I could even finish, I saw him to my left and he just picked up his phone & violently threw it across the room and it shattered to bits and pieces.
He blankly stared at his phone. He just stood there. He said nothing. He wasn’t really mad at me, I confirmed, which, was a relief. I was just thankful that I wasn’t in danger, at that moment to be honest. I really didn’t care about anything else.
“I told him not to call me that, anymore. F**king Moron! And, I HATE your stupid rooooooooom.” He said.
Is it wrong? Is it wrong that this type of behavior, on Salem’s part, did not really shock me, anymore? It had only been 48 hours. But, I was already getting used to his… outbursts and, I don’t know, “lifestyle” I guess we’ll call it. I was stunned, but, no where near as much as I had been when I had seen this behavior for the first time, two days ago, in his house when we were alone and he kicked his Xbox ONE & threw things at me.
In that terribly quick voice of his, he blurted- “You’re just like them. Always in my case. You’ve ALWAYS acted weird.” He said in an accent that was actually a bit different than the one he usually used to talk. Now, THAT was freaking weird. It was so strange. He sounded different. And, ME?! ME???!!! I’m Weird? Is he serious? I don’t do anything to him! He’s delusional!
After a few minutes of him just standing there and looking at his broken phone, I said- “Look.”
“NO, YOU LOOK.” He barked and turned around and darted to me.
“What’d you see?! Huh? WELL?” He said. This time he actually, violently, grabbed my shoulders and shook me really hard in sequence to what he was demanding me to answer really fast. It scared me! He didn’t stop! OW!! It made my head hurt.
“Well? Answer me! Answer me. I don’t have time for your crap! Hurry up! ANSWER ME! ANSWER ME!” He shook me harder making my hair flop back and fourth.
My eyes wanted to tear up, but I swallowed the tears.
“I-I-I just saw-uhm I don’t- I don’t know something about a roof and someone saying “Raven” and… that they’ll tell…” I said. He let go before I could even finish and walked over to my window slowly and just looked outside. He looked. I don’t know… sad.
“You don’t know what your talking about. You just don’t get it. I hate you. FU** you, Johnny. Go DIE.” He said in a low whisper to me.
It hurt. He hates me? It hurt so much to hear that. But, the more that I thought about it, as I sat on my dark blue comforter covered bed, I realized, that it didn’t make much sense for him to hate me. I was just trying to put all of this together. This wasn’t adding up as I stared at the reflection that I was able to see of his boyish and charming face in the window from where I was.
Nothing was said for about 20 seconds & complete and utter silence filled the air in a thick cloud of deafening nothing.
“Ughh. LOOK.” He said, startling me. “Don’t get all emotional, okay? It’s no big deal. It’s just… it’s just business.” He said all harshly.
What the hell is he talking about? Why does he talk in riddles, sometimes, making me get only one half of the story? Does he even realize that I’m not in his mind? Or, does he genuinely not understand that I don’t just, automatically, know what he’s thinking & saying. Maybe, he doesn’t understand that. Maybe. I don’t know… he’s just a bit off.
“What?” I said, softly.
“It’s not… it’s NOT MY FAULT. GOD! JUST STOP!” He said to me.
“Uhm, okay. I didn’t say-“ I started. I was interrupted.
“I was just STANDING there waiting for my mom. I got lost that night. Give me a break!” He said all frustrated in a low voice and clenching his fists together in the exact same way that I saw him do so when he kicked that milk container outside of Nelly’s, that time that I over heard his dad tell him he had two weeks of punishment added onto his current sentence of being grounded due to his behavior.
“I don’t really under-“ I tried to respond. He continued.
“It was raining so I had to stand under that old Lounge Club entrance. Their business was shot. It was all empty. So, I figured no one would care.” He said.
I remained silent. Salem’s making no sense, whatsoever. I was done trying to figure him out.
“That entrance had those old vintage roofs on the top. It had the old fancy dark green kind. You know? It’s where those bellboys or security people or WHATEVER they are greet you and let you in.” He said.
Uhm, okay. “Okay…..” I said.
He continued in his city boy accent. “Pshh. So yeah, like, I was standing there. It was, obviously, the only shield that I had from that storm. Then, that, Parker, guy shows up. It was 2:14am. He asked me how much it was.”
I didn’t know what he was talking about. I was actually getting annoyed. How does this have anything to do with what we were talking about?
“I was only 11. Fu**, like, I didn’t know what he meant. So he offers to give me a ride and we showed up at his place. Then, he offered me a good bud of cash. $1000. Fresh off the ATM. I saw it. I was shocked. Then, he told me the deal. And-“ he continued.
I couldn’t even hear everything that he was saying as my mind went numb for a moment. I was beginning to piece it all together.
“He saw my Raven’s Jersey. I told ya; I love that team. Put his hand on my shoulder. Called me Raven. Said he liked that as my name & if he could call me that the rest of the night & that it suited me & my long dark hair. I didn’t care. Why would I? I loved the team, anyway. Whatever. I didn’t want him knowing my name, anyway. Then, before I knew it, I learned my ways & the ropes & I stood there every week. Word spread out among the folks, pretty quick. You’d be surprised. Lots of people are into that stuff & it’s a buttload of cash. So yeah, word got out that I’d always be there under the roof. It became my place. It was my spot. Everyone knew. Everyone who isn’t anyone, if you know what I mean. So, I snuck out whenever I wanted and-“ He kept going. I couldn’t even believeeeee this. No way. NO WAY was I hearing this. It was some dream. It was some nightmare that I was dreaming up. It wasn’t really Salem telling me this… It couldn’t be.
“Everyone knew. That’s what they called me. Yep. Raven. Became my code name. It was just for nighttime stuff, at first, but, soon, the whole gang found out. Like I said, word spreads pretty fast. September found out and got all-“ My mouth hung open & my body went cold as he continued.
I remembered what Salem’s father had told him while I was eves dropping on their conversation they had exchanged amongst one another, outside of their family’s business last weekend. “And, what about that PROSTITUTE September bragged about to his brother……” he said.
That prostitute was… that was… that prostitute was SALEM!!! Oh my god. And, his dad didn’t even know. This whole time, I’ve been with a prostitute!
EWWW!!! Salem sleeps with– with random people for money?!! And he was just a kid!? That’s horrible!
I wanted to sit down. But, I was already sitting. What else could I do? Could I lay down? No. Should I sit on the floor? No. I just sat there too weak to even hold myself up. It all began to finally make sense. It was all coming together in the black puzzle of Salem’s life. I couldn’t really react. I was stuck. I wanted to scream and also cry, but, I was stuck in this limbo where I could just feel everything at once, but, had no way to release it all. It was like if someone had made me place my hand over an open flame and light it on fire & burn it, entirely, and made me not make one scream or reaction. I just had to feel all of the agony and do nothing about it.
No wonder why Salem acted so strangely. No wonder why he got so crazy. I understood why he acted like he was… I don’t know, like two different people; it was because he WAS two different people. Well, not exactly. He just had to be that way. He was almost wearing a mask. His mind had subconsciously created two versions of himself. It had created this “alter ego” in order to protect himself. It was the only way that he could “survive” and keep his sanity, intact. It was his mind’s way of protecting itself. It was the only way he could do all of those terrible things that he had to do with all of those people using his “PokerFace” and, then, be able to “switch” & sanely go about living his life without loosing his mind. However, I don’t think it lasted long. And, he lost control of his “switching”.
I, finally, understood why Salem was the way that he was with me when we, uhm, had sex with each other. When he held my body and held my bare sweaty thighs with his own hands, it was so erotic and sexy to me. It was so amazing. It was so- it was so exciting to me. It , instantly, turned me on. But, to him, it was just “work.” All of those things that he had taught me how to do, as he just blankly spoke to me in the way that he did, were all of the things that HE was taught how to do. They were the very same things that he was TRAINED to do by all of those people on a regular basis to make sure that he got them done, perfectly & correctly in order to get the most out of their money. They were just playing around with him…. It was just business. So, he did the only thing that he “knew” how to do with me- he played with me. He was used to it, already. It was nothing to him. He had been so used to playing the game & dealing money. He knew nothing else. He was oblivious.
Everything I thought about him acting like we were just playing a game in reaction to him making me loose my virginity, whether he knew it or not, was not far off at all. If fact, it was right on. I was just his toy in the same way that he was a boytoy to others. I was just a card. I was a playing card in his “Deck of Fun” of people that he’s played with. And, now, I was a player, too. It was too late. I was already playing. He taught me how to play & I had a deck of my own.
As I stared at his neck while he looked outside, the same neck that I kissed yesterday so sweetly, the same neck that smelled like the sweet ocean & boyish aroma that turned me on in ways that were so private and unusual to me, the same neck that, God only knows how many other people’s mouths, lips, and other parts have touched, I realized that… I just slept.. with- with a HOOKER.
I was dizzy. I lost my virginity to a person that I knew for less than two weeks who has slept with possibly over one hundred people. I dealt him & gave him my V-Card as he just took it & played it with a smile. I gave the same look that i would give as though someone told me that my very own mother died by exploding from the inside out.
Everything sank in. And, what was sinking it, was his Black Water. He was drowning everything that I knew about him since the day that I met him.
I was “Half & Half”. I wanted to leave and I wanted to stay. I wanted to yell at him for doing such terrible things and I wanted to feel bad for him. The sad thing was, I was half scared of him and half entranced by him. And, I liked it. I liked how dangerous he was and, yet, somehow, made me feel safe. I liked how predictable his unpredictability was. I liked his toxic love. I loved his Pretty Poison. I loved tasting his black water and smelling his dark roses.
The question, now, was- Do I drink? Or, do I sink? Do I stay? Do I play? Do I go? I don’t know.
He stared, blankly, and looked down a bit. I think he was ashamed at that moment. In a much softer and lighter voice than I had ever heard him use to speak with, I heard his REAL voice. His voice was so soft & beautiful. It was like mine. It was actually lighter than the one he usually spoke in. He sounded like a happy kid for some reason. This was the first time that I was ever able to really hear & see him “come out and talk to me.”
“I told you.” He said in his light voice. I was shocked by its real sound.
“What?” I asked.
“ I told you…..” he said, blankly. “…I told you to kill me.” He said, softly, as he turned & looked up at me. His eyes looked so big and almost glassy. He said to me in a very slow voice. “I told you I was disgusting…” He looked so sad.
Remember that boy that I saw on his bed the other day that I said looked like he came out and greeted me. There he was. He was looking at me. I ran up to him. I wanted to hug him. There he was! That’s Salem! No one understands. But, I do! Nobody gets IT!! I don’t even know if his family gets it!!! He’s right there! I SEE HIM! DOES NO ONE ELSE IN THIS GODDAM WORLD SEE HIM?!! I DO! HE’S SCREAMING FOR SOMEONE TO SAVE HIM AND SEE HIM JUST LIKE I WAS WISHING FOR SOMEONE TO SAVE ME! I SEE YOU, SALEM. I SEE YOU. YOU SAVED ME, SOMEHOW, AND I-
*knock knock knock*
“Sweetie. I got you guys some Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches to eat if you’re hungry. I couldn’t make a hot dinner with all of that paperwork due for the County.”
Nothing. I said nothing in response to my mother’s offering. Her words were all heard too deep in the subconscious part of my mind for me to even be able to correctly respond to her. I was barely even paying attention.
“Johnny?” She said.
“Uhhh— uh- yeah. Sure, c-come in.”
My mother opened the door and smiled at us both as Salem glared out the window and then turned around. He took the large plate with our toasted sandwiches which were cut into triangles.
“Oh, sure thanks. I love peanut butter.” He said as he just took a little nibble from the sandwich. My mother looked at him with a grin.
“Johnny loves these, too. Sorry about the grape jelly. I, usually, use strawberry preserves to add some bite.” She said to him.
”No problem. Grape is perfect. Anyone who has a problem with grape, just, has issues. You know? Thanks.” He said, abruptly, to her. He just ate his sandwich so nonchanltly. It was nuts. I’d say he’s been bipolar. But, he’s even more than that. I’d say there’s something spiritually wrong with him or haunting him. But, I had no justification or evidence to prove that statement to be a reality. This boy who had roamed the streets of Brooklyn, NY, slept with strangers, had a tough life, was my very first crush, & SLEPT WITH ME AND MADE SWEET LOVE TO ME, … was just eating a toasted PB&J sandwich that my mom had cut up into little triangles for him in my room. I just stared at him as he ate it for a moment as my mother left and closed the door.
It was so apparent to me why Salem used to pull his own long locks of hair. He probably couldn’t deal with the traumatic memories of that GUY giving him his “Hooker Name” in correlation to its long length. So, he, subconsciously, hated it so much & just didn’t know what to do about it or how to deal with it other than to violently pull it all out.
He, then, just put the rest of his sandwich down on the plate and walked to the middle of the room, facing me, & layed down on my floor, curling himself in the fetal position and hugging himself as he just stared at nothing. It was so strange & odd.
As I looked at him just randomly curled up on my floor for no reason at all, I began to realize, I think Salem… I think Salem had lost his mind back home. I think he was sick. As I remembered what he said about those “People putting him in that room and cutting his hair off”. I think… I think one night he completely cracked & went bat sh** crazy kicking, screaming, crying, & hurting himself due to everything he had been through & had done with all of those people. I think it was so bad, that he probably got in trouble for it & for lashing out. Only, that time, he was self-harming. I think whatever happened, it was so terrible that they sent him to the nut house where they had to restrain him & cut all of his hair off so that he couldn’t hurt himself any longer as he screamed, cried, & yelled bloody murder as he threw a tantrum, yelling at absolutely nothing. He didn’t have to tell me. No one did. I already knew. They couldn’t hide him from me, anymore. And, as I stared at him and looked at that haircut of his while he was hugging himself on my floor like a caterpillar staring, blankly, at the space underneath my bed for no reason at all with half- widened eyes, I realized that the one thing that I liked since the day that I met him about his hair and how it made his ears look, now, made me frown, knowing, what it’s original reason for being there even was.
I wanted to say something. But, as I opened my mouth I heard, “Johnny?” He said in a low monotone way & not blinking, once.
”Y-Yeah?” I asked him.
He said so blankly- ”Can I-can I stay here a little bit? I- I don’t wana go home. I dont- wana see those people. I don’t want that room. Please?” He said so softly in this weird, kid-like, & monotonous voice.
“Uhh-.” I said.
”Do you? Do you have a blanket?” He asked me, sweetly, while on my floor, not even blinking, as he stared at nothing & laying on his side.
I wanted to, honestly, just show someone this sad display in front of me. It was just so… pulling. Does that make any sense? It just reeled my heart in. I got up & picked up my bed sheet, automatically, which was to my left. I carried it over to him & put it around him & carefully tucked it into his sides.
As I heard the rain begin to fall on my window, I realized as I looked at him while he just unusually laid on my floor, that Salem needed more than a new town. Sarah was right. He didn’t just need a new school or mental help. He needed someone to- to see him. He needed someone to know him. He needed someone to be his friend. He needed… I don’t know… he needed me. I felt like I was the one who was always meant to help him as crazy as that may seem. It couldn’t just be a coincidence that we met the way that we did. It couldn’t be. I thought that as I tucked him in with the bed sheet on my hard wooden floor and just stared at him. He was – he looked so alone. He was still staring at nothing. In a high, sing-song pitch voice he politely said- “Thank you.”
I looked at his turned cheek as he was looking away. I, finally, did it. I did what I had been wanting to do since I was thinking of him at that Frozen Yogurt place when I thought of his cheeks and how I loved their shape & texture. I took my hand and rubbed my palm against it, softly.
That was it. That was the moment that I had been wanting from him. It wasn’t sex. It wasn’t him being my boyfriend. It was that one moment of me caressing his cheek that I had been wanting to do since I first tried that frozen yogurt treat as I sat alone on that couch that, finally, fully satisfied me. That was what I was waiting for the entire time that I had known him. That one moment meant more to me than any crazy sexual interlude he would ever provide me with or the frisky frenzy of my first time the previous night. His soft & supple cheek filled the void that I had been desperately trying to fill over the last year. He closed his eyes as he felt my touch. I think he liked it. I think he …needed it. I think he needed it just as much as I did. He needed me & I needed him. I realized that when I did it.
I moved my hand away from it, slowly, and I bent down to kiss him. I kissed his cheek. I left it there, though. It was a lingering kiss. It was a long and sweet one where my lips caressed his cheek’s skin. It was my way of my soul whispering to him- “I’ll save you, Salem...”
I didn’t turn my back on him. I didn’t turn away. I didn’t judge him or hate him. I didn’t leave him. I didn’t miss my chance. I kissed him right on his cheek. If I had the choice to stay or to leave, to “Kiss” or to “Miss” my chance with him, I stayed.
As I was about to get up to leave, I heard- “Johnny?”
”Uhm-yeah?” I asked.
In that same sing-song voice, again, he asked, almost robotically, “Could I have some Orange Juice please? It’s my favorite…” He said.
I don’t know why, I teared up and my vision became blurry as I said in a choked up way- “Uhm- uh- yeah… sure, okay.” I got up, from my knees, and slowly made my way to my kitchen where my mom was.
”Hey hon- how’s everything? It’s getting late. You two have fun?” She said as she was setting the table for Tommorow so that it was clean & prepared for breakfast.
I said, blankly, looking at the tiles on the floor in her direction, “Yeah, Uhh. We were just playing a game… We’re just playing…”