I sailed to America a thousand years ago on a sharkboat, Nathaniel says. He can hear Saddam Husseim speak and he is lonely. Outside dead birds fall from his sky.
I am 25 years old, habitual marijuana smoker, strange dream dreamer, I date the drug dealer down the block and we can stay friends as long as she gets me high. Nathaniel does poorly on his IQ test, and will not take off his hat. I give him no hard time about that, though Dr. Bromburg sees it as a sign of disrespect. I see Dr. Bromburg as a man-child drunk on this tiny sliver of power over the lives of our clientele. When he takes it off we can see Nathaniel's hair is beautiful.
But it does not change the fact Nathaniel taped his cousin to a chair and made him do what someone sometime clearly had done to him, though he won't admit it. He doesn't see how all we need is an explanation, a reason to believe that this was not casual cruelty or genetic predisposition to monsterhood but a ten year old who has just been through too much. There are limits to things; I once took too many mushrooms too late and unprepared, and felt in the shadow of my wall the presence of Absolute Evil. I fled the house and spent the rest of the night chasing what I thought was my roommate's cat. The cat was home all along, and in the morning, tired, sad and strange, I watched Jackass the Movie until I finally felt a little more sane.
Dr. Bromburg makes video games for his stepdaughter, and makes me play them. They are full of fireballs coming her way, one thousand and one ways to die, bonus points and when the game starts she isn't wearing any clothes. Step 1, he says: find your clothes.
But it is not all that bad. I make forty thousand dollars a year, Bromburg makes me mix tapes of rare Dylan recordings and expects full reviews the next morning. It's not that bad. Sometimes I even like Bob Dylan. And when I get high at home the world is mine to cruise around in, slow and lazy, making connections out of smoke and then blowing them away. Nathaniel never tells us the full story. He puts his cap back on as Bromburg leaves the room and we are alone. I don't ask what he wants to be when he grows up. I don't tell him his IQ score, and there is no mom or dad to ask worriedly what do we do about our little son. I ask, Do you feel like Saddam Hussein sometimes? He looks me in the eyes and says this: I was born a thousand years ago. I sailed to America on a sharkboat but they killed us. I just want to be left alone.