Westwind

A Little Boy is Always Blue

Cameron Murphy

ACT I

The little boy was born.

 

A big baby, 12 lbs.

 

It was wintertime and the wind so whipped as to be somehow almost sensed, inside, within the metro area hospital in which the little boy was born’s sterile and spacious and white-tiled halls.

 

He made small squeaky sounds.

 

He figured out what people are.

 

He turned two, at which age it would begin—innocuously enough, the whole family surmised. A little one’s curious hobby. A precocious tyke’s age-apt interest. Like how some kids are just drawn to dinosaurs, just cause.

 

This was how Mom, Dad, and his big sister Sarah had regarded the little boy’s peculiar pastime; they’d considered it an odd and cute but probably fleeting phase; one at which they’d probably all of them look back one day and just sort of shake their heads. Share a good laugh, together. They’d basically thought nothing of it.

 

Which, to wit: the little boy started freezing things. Just like that.

 

Who knew why.

 

His first word: map.

 

So it was in this family of four’s youngest’s fourth winter alive wherein they’d all started to sort of catch on, as to what perhaps might be going on here. To this very odd hobby he’d developed so suddenly. Solidifying in ice whatever he could get his mitts on, evidently.

 

Which custom moreover customarily consisted of the little boy situating assortments of various “small objects”—the first incident of which’d involved a rotted, wrinkled strawberry, rather grotesquely leftover from its dinner—into a nice glass cup. Filled about to its brim with tepid, clear tap water.

 

And it’d just sort of nest there, frozen. The item in the ice would. For an indefinite amount of time. In his family’s big red freezer.

 

The little boy turned five.

 

Any sort of impetus or causation for the thing was wholly indiscernible to the family. But, all three of them were in collective agreement that it was all verily pretty darn adorable, somehow.

 

He was especially enchanted by Batman.

 

Yes, a bit bizarre, too, perhaps. Sure.

 

But with little doubt in their shared opinion they’d decided it was all very cute nonetheless indeed. In that way one’s kid can just sometimes be, to one.

 

So they just let him be.

 

His sixth b-day bash was Batman-themed.

 

And it became a weekly thing, his freezing things. Big sis Sarah started to intuitively brace herself, when in transit towards the fridge, as to what the heck she’d happen upon in there this time.

 

He played late into evenings with neighborhood kids.

 

He did his red toy race car. A shiny scarlet tack. Mom’s lush ruddy lipstick, sans lid.

 

He started reading unprompted. And swam, for his school.

 

The little boy then froze a single plucked-off petal from his visiting Aunt Viv’s Welcome Back from the Peace Corps potted cranberry-red peonies—for which this time he’d (finally, really) received a stern but due talking to. Which parental reproach betrayed a pretty pressing and understandable underlying urge to just get at some sense of the bottom of it.

 

His aunt’s name was Vivian but everyone just called her Viv, for short.

 

However, at the end of the day, as it were, never a thought of punitive measures were ever even like hypothetically entertained. Theirs was just not that style of parenting. All anyone ever wanted, really, was just to grasp just who exactly the little boy truly was, was all. What was going on. Inside his supple, biscuit-beige-skinned body.

 

His teachers circled Satisfactory on behavioral reviews.

 

He’d open up when ready.

 

And so at this juncture in the little boy’s early life they (i.e., Mom and Dad, mostly; Sarah having more than enough adolescent shit of her own on her plate right now; God knew where Viv was)’d concluded that the whole thing was just a small one’s one thing that made them special. Idiosyncratic. Colorful, even.

 

But still, the little boy’s always loving family would pretty much remain in the dark and bemused and befuddled as to why, exactly.

 

He regularly played Catch with a side of the house.

 

 

ACT II

 

So then it went on like this for several years.

 

The little boy ventured into pubescent times. He sported flat bills backwards.

 

He felt funny sometimes, southward.

 

Then, shortly after the puberty’s advent, something odd occurred, to the little boy: what had been heretofore a healthy head of congenitally maize-blonde hair up top had now abruptly taken on something of a light reddish tint. Utterly out of nowhere. It was gradual but striking and never brought up conversationally, ever.

 

And accordingly or no, at this point the little boy ceased to freeze just whatever.

 

His voice was smaller when he spoke. His eyes rolled often.

 

He spent an inordinate amount of time in the basement’s bathroom.

 

Surely something was going on, inward, in the little boy.

 

But alas, though, his was a most unforthcoming and detached and distant adolescence, like most everyone’s, such that his loving family had to be totally tactful and always assiduously mindful as to both what the little boy did and ostensibly definitely did not want to discuss, like at dinner.

 

He was away for weekends at a time, sometimes.

 

Mom and Dad (and now even to some extent Sarah, herself now finally at the finish line of her own life’s very trying such stage) could only just abstractly imagine notions of the probable crushingly negative tolls a totally precipitous and conspicuously apparent anomaly such as the changing of one’s hair’s hue—from a comely corn-blonde to redhead, no less—might perhaps have on a little teen boy’s inner psychic state. Whose inner psychic state’s plate is already way replete with copious helpings of hormonally-induced angst, of course.

 

He started digging French New Wave.

 

The little boy at this point was almost unbearably morose and acerbic and unpleasant just to even be around; he was probably hurting a whole lot, though; they really did feel for him, and tried so hard to understand.

 

Interestingly it was soon discovered that he was now freezing single strands. Of the changed red hair. In the chilled ice water.

 

He’d hole up in their local library. Went to prom stag. And was accepted into the college into which he’d really wanted and hoped and even (though he’d never admit it) yearned to be accepted. Theirs was a top pre-med program.

 

He met a girl, and was seriously considering Pre-med.

 

And these frozen-solid blocks of separated, sole threads of hair seemed as if to signify . . . something, one would sort of have to suppose. Especially if one were to consider the all-too-coincidental timing thereof, no? What with him about to leave home for the first time and all.

 

He fractured his femur playing touch football with friends.

 

To a great degree of parental woe, this hoity-toity school into which he went and got himself accepted was all the way over on the opposite coast. And not their first choice. Dad’s alma mater was their first choice. That would’ve been nice. Also it wasn’t exactly “budget-friendly.”  And was he really sure he wouldn’t get just a little too homesick?

 

He was sure, he averred.

 

Not like they were upset at him or anything. Not at all, not ever. He would be given final call, of course—his future, his call, of course.

 

It was just, you know, that they’d miss him. An awful lot, was the thing.

 

But OK, both parents conceded. Alright

 

It was what the little boy seemed to want, so it was alright.

 

And so it was Mom acquiescently shrugging her shoulders at Dad so as to signal a sort of gesture of well-what-are-ya-gonna-do that tacitly and sadly affirmed to them both that it was high time to finally resign to accepting the grueling-to-swallow but elementally true fact that this, right here, is what being a parent unfortunately and ineluctably and more or less definitionally entails. Like when you sign up for the gig. Back in that bedroom.

 

So they started following the university’s soccer team’s season. And Googled famous alumni. And shopped around for stuff for the dorm.

 

And remarkably, there were what looked like sparkimbued looks, in both of the little boy’s blue eyes, as he set up his first semester’s schedule. Dad alongside, advising.

 

While still the top rung of freezer was allotted totally to the clear cups of locks. Still frosted still in ice-solid states.

 

The university fielded a sorry excuse for a soccer team.

 

But then, right before he left for that first fall semester, there was a new and notable development, seemingly, regarding the little boy’s strange hobby.

 

It ended, it seemed.

 

He’d up and cleared the whole upper shelf. Of all that he’d put in. As if to wipe his inner slate: Clean, pure. Perhaps putting pen to paper of a whole new chapter, inside.

 

Though again, zero words on why.

 

Post high school’s summer came to its close, whereupon the little boy was now ending his childhood in earnest, at the airport.

 

There were warm, ursine, see-you-later hugs all around. There was “something” in Dad’s eyes. And Sarah made a little comment like Try not to screw up too bad, bro.

 

But you could tell she’d really miss him.

 

He got in safe to the university’s small town. He abided Welcome Week.

 

And every single follicle on the little boy’s body went a bright, brilliant, almost blood red; even those on his two big toes.

 

Campus life was just his speed.

 

ACT III

 

They were all three of them there waiting for the little boy—Mom Dad and Sarah—there at his hometown’s airport’s baggage claim. Freshman year’d gone off hitch-less. He’d returned triumphantly—The College Boy, the little boy.

 

They helped him claim his baggage.

 

Mom just had to say something about how long his hair had gotten; and it was, still, no less that unaccountably lurid reddish shade; maybe now more so than before, even; which none of this was still not ever voiced at all, as was the well-known MO by now.

 

His tattered thrift-shop getup smelled of either marijuana or cigarette smoke, a little.

 

A summer job as a delivery driver for a regional sub shop chain of speedily-delivered-subs was grudgingly procured. Sluggishly performed. And coolly quit, after only about a month or two.

 

He came home late.

 

He left lights on.

 

And so that curious phenomenon of sorts of the little boy’s—a little boy who had had, it surely bears stressing, a real surfeit of time during his boyhood during which he was boundlessly free all over his bony little hands, during which free time, if you recall, he’d freeze those sundry trinkets and toys and then his very own hair eventually thereby amassing those translucently clear cups into a sort of unsettlingly odd and murky menagerie way back when he was just a little boy—was: over, it seemed.

 

Summer ceased.

 

And then, subsequently, a couple quick years later so too did the little boy’s undergraduate studies. End, that is. Over the course of which he’d ended up majoring in Bio-Chem. With an emphasis on this hot new emerging subfield therein. Cryo-Bio.

 

Plus too at some point in the little boy’s four undergrad years there was a pretty big pregnancy scare. With some crazy bitch. For whom he hadn’t exactly borne any profound feelings or nothing.

 

She’d wanted to keep it.

 

She did not keep it.

 

Sarah married a man who shook hands hard; Dad’s non sequiturs signaled ever towards Alzheimer’s; and Mom sought a vocation in volunteerism, with ole Viv.

 

And the little boy graduated after an extra semester with his hard-earned hardware—a timber-framed, burgundy-brown Bachelor’s degree that got his last name’s tricky spelling right—reposed square on his robbed lap.

 

He was ready for all that the Real World might hurl his way.

 

Someone he kind of knew of at school died, overdosing.

 

He buzzed his head bald.

 

And somehow or another he ended up securing this sweet post-grad study spot, in a nationally-renowned cryobiology lab, of which was the enviable stuff of what those in his field’s wet dreams are basically libidinally made.

 

Cum laude, the little boy.

 

 

ACT IV

 

Dad died. Viv too. Mom moved, westward, somewhere, possibly to the Phoenix area and Sarah called on salient occasions—last the little boy’d gleaned she’d divorced and decamped with the kid to some sleepy coastal town’s placid, watercolored life. Which definitely sounded nice.

 

The little boy lost all his hair.

 

And was a regular at local joints.

 

And never did find the one to whom he might “come home.”

 

Though Olivia (an admissions counselor at the school; a six foot sad woman) came seriously, achingly close, he told himself.

 

A nasty little war was waged with prescription drug abuse for a while there.

 

And over the ever-toiled course of his career’s long years—every single one of which the little boy’d been tirelessly if not maddeningly driven and devoted to myriad weighty academic pursuits all of and about which he really had cared so very, very deeply—he’d accrued a pretty staggering quantity of top-quality, peer-praised articles/studies in his field.

 

He didn’t much mind the bald look at all, actually.

 

He sort of just had to stomach his students.

 

Of particular esteem in the lot of high research was: an argument firmly for concertedly increased (but vigilant, mind you) efforts towards realizing realistically realizable monumental developments in the still rather nascent disciplines of cryogenics and -biology whereby the intensive and conscientious and  “all in” efforts of which might someday—some glorious, sun-soaked day—reduce the toxicity of the at issue and all important cryoprotectants with which (i.e., with the effectively detoxified cryoprotectants) cryobiologists might one day conceivably be able to make water in effect so substantially vitrify as to allow for banking of organs. For transplantations.

 

He put down a down-payment for a new place.

 

His big course thicket of pubic hair was all still there, though. Still a shade of light rust-red.

 

Which he’d only rarely regard. Like only when showering.

 

He rarely showered.

 

And moreover, w/r/t the little boy’s Work’s real aim or thesis or mission: he’d earnestly opined in spare academic prose that the toxicity that inevitably (for now, at least, in his (at that time) present opinion) occurs in the vitrification (i.e., freezing) of human organs (the benefits of which are endless and sort of self-evident, the little boy submitted) will one day be: reversible—but, though, only with a great deal of further research and corollary development of Future Molecular Repair Technology.

 

His rhetorical devices and own personal story really hit home. For the vast congregation of convention hall colleagues. At the annual conference, in Tampa, FL.

 

FMRT for short.

 

The little boy looked lost in pictures. His gaze lingered on the nubile for too long. And the feelings he found inside himself in these his old, cold, still years were more or less impossible to ever just even say.

 

In his own head, alone.

 

 

ACT V

 

It was in a late-winter’s wee AM hour wherein the little boy could’ve sworn he’d just heard someone. At his condo’s fiberglassed front door.

 

He was in the bathroom. In the basement.

 

He developed a penchant for biopics.

 

Applying pleasure to himself when the rap outside was heard.

 

He eschewed all dental hygiene.

 

It was Sarah, perhaps.

 

The toilet seat’s piercing cold porcelain struck sharp on his hot sweaty skin.

 

A surprise visit.

 

He made small squeaky sounds.

 

Or Mom, out there.

 

But the porn froze before he came.

 

They’d talk.

 

The glazed glassy-eyed expressions of the film’s players on the buffering screen were such that the little boy kind of mentally came back to; his body back-turned on the pot; nice mac laptop atop the white toilet tank. And he, there. Longing.

 

Just like a little boy.

 

There was no one outside.

 

So he slapped at the keyboard’s black plastic buttons.

 

Just the hard whip of wind.

 

As if he could set right the still clip.

 

With the weight of a life’s worth of winters. Spent always indoors.

 

The screen stayed frozen.

 

He never really figured out what people really are.

 

He rose up.

 

And went blue.

 

EPILOGUE

 

His posture ever canted. Old interests somewhat waned.

 

He got sick.

 

He scored tenure.

 

 

Since transferring from California State University, Northridge to the University of Louisville, fourth-year student Cameron studies an interdisciplinary major including a minor in Creative Writing with concentrations in Philosophy, Sociology, and Theatre Arts. Cameron plans on being a barista to pay rent and studying at the graduate level somewhere, for something. He’s been the recipient of two Creative Writing Scholarships at the University of Louisville and was awarded publication in the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s New Voices Anthology for his 2011 play, Naked. Most notably Cameron is sustained by black coffee, plays bass in two bands, and generally hopes to subvert societal oppression, somehow.

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