Fly on the Wall by Rockford Rowley

Most people we encounter don’t understand us. They merely occupy the relatively fleeting, disposable roles in our lives we inadvertently have but seldom gain insight from. But we can hope. We can hope to be understood. We can hope to find people who perceive our personality exactly the way we so carefully present it. There are a lucky few who find people who perceive it exactly the way they intended. As if they’ve been an un-perceivable fly on the wall your entire life, carefully observing you, only to be miraculously transformed into a human being the moment before meeting you. And on one unsuspecting evening last summer I felt like one of those lucky few.

A short night it had been, having slept very little before having to go, though surprisingly willingly, to work the next morning. The twenty-four hours within which these events took place began when my phone rang one afternoon. I heard the dull vibrate from atop my kitchen table, as I was foraging my cupboards in hopes of easing my after-work hunger. Work had been stressful lately, so a call from one of my closest friends, Mark Wilson, who recently moved a hundred miles north was a pleasant surprise. “I’m coming down tonight”, adding “And I’m bringing my roommate Chelsea” in a tone that seemed to be asking for my approval. I had never met Chelsea before and had no idea what to expect from her.

“Of course! See you tonight!”

Mark was one of my closest and most admired friends for several years. A pseudo-big brother, he taught me most of what I know about navigating a world that isn’t necessarily receptive to our type. We were prideful and stubborn about our convictions, but entirely self-made. And he taught me that that was the only real way to live. I grabbed a box of angel hair pasta and muttered “This’ll do”, no longer caring what I ate because I knew Mark would be there soon.

Mark and Chelsea arrived several hours later, greeting me on the back steps of my apartment building. I gleefully hugged Mark, and we exchanged compliments about each other’s appearances. Being such close friends we perceived subtle differences in each other, such as fashion choices or facial hair patterns, and being individuals who were in a constant a limbo of re-inventing ourselves. I introduced myself to Chelsea, and took a quick liking to her. We went inside for a few minutes and gave little previews about what needed to be discussed that evening. One of those conversations you have with a friend you haven’t seen in while, that sets an agenda about what needs to be caught up on. The conversation drifted into what our plans were for that evening. It was decided that before the night really got going the three of us had some errands to attend to. In later months my opinion of Chelsea deteriorated, due to her very minimal sense of responsibility that eventually led to her having to move out of her and Mark’s house up north. But that evening I was very content with her company.

We arrived back at my apartment with the necessary provisions: beer, tea, cigarettes, and enough lucy for the three of us plus my friend Courtney who was to arrive later. Courtney was also an old friend. In fact I’d known her longer than Mark, having met her in junior high. She also lived up north, not as far as Mark and Chelsea, but far enough that I only saw her occasionally. Once the four of us assembled, it was only a matter of time before things got beautifully out of hand.

When the lucy began to set in we left my apartment with nothing but my keys, several bottles of water, and cigarettes. We wandered pleasantly through the quiet evening streets, commenting on things previously unnoticed. We reached a small neighborhood not too far from my apartment, next to the local high school.

“It’s as if nobody actually lives here”, I noted. And it was true. It was a movie-esque scene of perfectly groomed lawns, empty houses and late-model cars parked in driveways. A far cry from our top-ramen, bicycle sustained lives that rarely saw a spare $20 between the four of us. Feeling as if were visiting some previously undiscovered land, we glided gently through the surreal evening making Faustian hopes for our near futures. We stopped at a burger stand and ordered five orders of fries for the four of us, combining them into one big communal bag. The evening continued on like this until we eventually made it back to my apartment.

After several hours of listening to music and casually watching movies, Mark, Chelsea and Courtney resigned to sleep on the couches in my living room. I went to my bedroom for about thirty minutes of sleep before I needed to wake up and prepare for work. Work that day was surprisingly pleasant despite my state. I came home to find the three of them still at my apartment.

Arriving home, I talking casually about last night’s escapades on my front steps with Mark. During this conversation Chelsea and Courtney joined us on the stoop. Lighting a cigarette, Chelsea peered inquisitively into the nearby park that was visible from my building.

“Pretty”, she remarked. It was the kind of park that a child from a foreign country might mistake for Central Park. Green, rectangular, impressively proportioned and heavily populated with trees of admirable growth. By day it buzzed with families, joggers, dogs, misfits, vagabonds, and people who fancied themselves intellectuals. By night it became a place more comfortably traveled with a hefty pocketknife. I had always considered this park a microcosm of the city itself. The intersection of everything the city has to offer. A place that is exquisitely beautiful and vaguely dangerous in equal proportion. “Like a woman” I thought.

It was at that moment I realized I was surrounded by three humans who very well could have been three flies on my wall that miraculously transformed into people the moment before meeting me. I knew this feeling was partly circumstantial. Though I also knew plans for a better future were unraveling, and Mark knew this too. As I looked around at the small slice of the world I occupied, the small slice that also perfectly represented the transient American culture I so admired, these were my friends and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.


* Born in Tacoma, WA, Rockford Rowley spend most of my extra time and resources traveling across the United States. He wrote for The Weekly Volcano for about a year, and is now working and attending school.