"My Life as a Rock Star" By Jaan Landheer
-A Glimpse of Paradise-
After being away from Santa Cruz for a month, I finally get a chance to drive up with my mom to talk to the Provost about letting me back in school. Just the thought of seeing Grace and my friends again in Santa Cruz makes my stomach knot up. Grace wrote me a letter about how I sound like the ocean when I sing, and I know she would think of being with me if I was better.
I step into the Provost’s office with my mom for our meeting.
“You must be Jaan.” The Provost beams a forced smile. Her tone suddenly resembles a shrink. “So how have you been doing Jaan?” she asks.
“I’m doing a lot better. I’m on medication now and I feel my normal self again. I think I’m ready to go back to school for Winter Quarter,” I say assertively.
“Well, you understand we can’t have any risks of someone being a threat to public safety on campus,” she says.
“Yes I do, and I assure you I’m better and in no way a risk.” I’ve learned a thing or two from the hospitals about how to put up with bureaucracy and get what you want.
“Well, I understand you were just diagnosed with bipolar and this was your first episode. You seem to be more stable now, so if you agree to stay on your medication and you have a doctor you’ll be seeing regularly, I think we can allow you to return to campus life,” she says cautiously. I’m one step closer to being where I belong. “But if you’re not on your medicine and there’s another incident, there won’t be another chance.” The Provost agrees I can stay in the dorms for the night.
I have plans to see Grace and some friends at the Saturn diner, so my mom drops me off downtown.
“Call me if you need anything,” says Mom. “If anything doesn’t feel right, I’ll be at the Sunset Inn, okay?” Her bottom lip is quivering.
“Yeah, don’t worry.” I shut the door and she waits to see me walk in the restaurant before leaving.
My friend Kristina shrieks when she sees me.
“Oh my God, Jaan!” says Kristina, “How are you, baby?” She runs up to give me a hug.
“So how are you doin’?” asks Grace.
“I’m hangin’ in there. Actually, I’m really sick of being at home in Santa Barbara. I want to be up here with you guys.”
“Well, we all want you to come back,” says Grace, smiling sympathetically. Kristina interrupts our moment and presses her face up to Grace.
“So how’d your date go last night, girl?” Grace glances at me uncomfortably.
“Nothing special. We went to that fish place on Front Street, but he wasn’t much of a talker. It was awkward.”
My heart sinks. She’s already moved on since I’ve been gone, but I’m not ready to give up.
We take a bus back on campus and I knock on the familiar room 213. Nanden looks at me like I’m a living ghost.
“Holy shit! Jaan you’re alive!” says Nanden.
“So it’s cool that I crash here?”
“Yeah, Man. You’re not still crazy, right?”
“No, just don’t fuck with me.” Nanden looks concerned, then cracks a smirk when he sees I’m joking.
“Hey, is Steve around?” I ask.
“Yeah, probably smokin’ hookah in his room.”
“Well, I’m gonna check it out. I’ll see ya tonight.”
“Alright, take it easy man.”
I knock on Steve’s door and smoke seeps out when it opens.
“What up dude?! Shit, come in, are you back?” he asks, wearing a sleeveless shirt. We grasp hands, clutch and snap.
“I’m not back yet, but soon enough.”
“I heard some crazy rumors ’bout you, Man! You gotta tell me what happened. You wanna smoke?” he asks.
“Come in, quick.” His eyes are red and he’s got a grin glued to his face. We go in his room and spark one. My mind starts racing and I get ideas for melodies. There’s some hip hop playing in the background and I get into the beat. I start to rap to the snare as fast as I can talk:
Every place looks just the same as the last one I was visiting, only thing that changes is the name
I see different faces in similar clothes, eating lunch at the same place across the globe
and I can’t help but think it’s strange…
“Hey man, can I tape record this?” asks Steve. I ignore him and keep flowing, closing my eyes to concentrate on the blending colors and words forming like a movie in my head.
I don’t want to live to find that everything’s the same
it’s time we arm ourselves with the process of change!
Steve turns off the music and starts playing a hand drum. We take turns freestyling between spliffs, when I’m interrupted by a phone call from Kristina.
“Hey baby, Natalie and I are outside if you wanna hang out,” she says.
“Alright, I’ll see you out there.”
I say goodbye to Steve and meet Kristina and Natalie outside my building in the quad. I realize it’s raining, but I don’t have a raincoat.
“Jaaaaaaaaan! Heelllooo!” Natalie runs at me and gives me a tackling hug. “Isn’t the weather great?”
“It’s awesome,” I say. “We should go on a run or something.” I have so much energy, I need to do something.
“Let’s go down to the field and do mud-slides!” says Natalie.
“What’s a mud-slide?” asks Kristina.
“You know, when you slide on the muddy grass on your stomach,” explains Natalie.
“That sounds kind of messy,” says Kristina, looking at her pink Abercrombie sweatshirt.
“Ok, let’s make up a rain dance!” shouts Natalie.
“Alright!” says Kristina, and starts moving her hips to the imaginary beat. I stomp my feet to complement her groove, as Natalie dances and makes chanting yelps. We all break into laughter.
“What’s going on down there?” Grace asks from her window, wearing her pajamas.
“Dancing in the rain, come join!” I say.
“It’s two o’clock.” She looks flustered. “Jaan, is that you?”
“Where are you sleeping tonight?”
“In Nanden’s room.”
“Do you have a key?”
“I’ll come let you in.” I say goodbye to the girls and Grace opens the door. She gives me a hug even though I’m sopping wet, but her eyes are strange, like the night I sang to her on the knoll.
“You’re soaked! Do you have a change?”
“No.” My teeth are chattering.
“Here’s some blankets. Why don’t you take off your clothes and I’ll put them in the dryer.” She helps me take off my shirt, and I give her my pants from under the blankets.
“Do you have your mom’s number, Jaan?” she asks like a therapist. I give it to her without thinking. She hands me a pillow and I lie in the middle of her floor. I overhear her on the phone in the dorm hallway.
“Hi, this is Grace. Yeah, Jaan’s here, and I think he needs to go home… Ok, we’ll be here. No, don’t worry, he’s fine… OK, bye.”
“So what’s going on Jaan? Are you alright?” asks Grace.
I don’t know what to say. Why did she call my mom? Did I do something wrong? This is not how I expected to first be alone with Grace, sopping wet, needing shelter again. I should have learned my lesson last time. I wanted a new start, candlelight dinner or a walk on the beach. Instead, I lie on my side, unable to understand what just happened. She kneels down and rubs my shoulder. My eyes close and my thoughts slow down for a moment.
Ten minutes later, my mom is in the room asking questions.
“I just want to know what’s wrong. How are you feeling?” she asks.
“I don’t want to talk about it, Mom.” I say goodbye to Grace and walk through the towering redwoods to my mom’s car.
We drive South on the 101 through Pismo Beach and Gaviota, but it’s too dark to see the coast.
“I’m just not sure Santa Cruz is the right place for you,” says Mom.
I put on some Eminem, and Mom immediately turns it off. We drive in silence the rest of the way home.