The Cloak of Nothing: Chapter 6

by Mark Figueroa | Featured Art by A Forgotten Pen at @theforgottenpen

Chapter 6: What more can I say?

We laugh hysterically. Arsen can deal with popularity. I’m not the biggest fan of it.

“Anyway, whuzzup, kid? Pound it!” He shouts extending his hand.

We bump fists.

I lose intelligence.

“Not much,” I respond, leaving my hand out. He’s still my best friend. Honestly, he isn’t so bad. He just weaves between the superficial world and the one of substance better than I am willing to.

Arsen forcefully punches and screams, “One Punch!”

“What the fuck, man?! You almost hit me as hard as I hit your mom last night!” I roar in retaliation.

“Bitch ass nigga!” Arsen says. He smirks. “You’re too much, Em’.” Arsen takes a deep breath and shakes his head. “That’s a played out comeback, on some real shit.”

“Who said it was a comeback. I’m explaining the Dominican blood in you, son.” I reply with a straight face.

We laugh even harder. The five-minute bell rings. If I’m going to be late, it might as well have fun.

“Really?” Arsen responds, giving me a funny glance. “I’m a Black Rican through, and through. No Dominican or Haitian venom in my blood!” he says. He messes with his backpack’s straps.

“Yeah. Yeah. I get it. You’re mad hood… with your collared shirt and khaki pants. You realize you’re the only cat here wearing the non-mandatory school uniform.”

Arsen scoffs. “I’m confused. Who’d that chick with the fat ass say hi to?” he asks, rubbing his chin obnoxiously. 

“Yeah, let someone else validate you too. Just like a Puerto Rican,” I say, roasting him. “You’re a splounge. A straight up splounge and a half.”

“Nah, man. That ain’t me,” he responds, nonchalantly. Arsen sighs. “On some real shit, I can’t help it, man,” Arsen replies. He shrugs. “My mom hasn’t done laundry in weeks and all I had time to wash and dry was a handful of clothes.”

“My bad. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“All good, kid. My mom’s been avoiding reality.” He shakes his head. “Not really anything I can do about it, except take care of myself.” Arsen sighs again. We walk to his locker and he grabs a book. “Anyway, how’s the privileged life, platano-face? You been eatin’ enough Mangú?”

Privileged? I laugh and shrug, observing the textbook he just grabbed. I can’t tell what class it’s for. “Still weird,” I respond, shaking my head. “My mom and dad are doing their dance. They have this whole New Year bonanza planned out, and they want me to either go to The City with them or stay with my aunt—”

“Elisabeth?! God! She’s so hot!” Arsen shouts, frantically shaking his fists while holding the text. He stares at the ceiling and bites his lower lip. “I fail to see the problem here, Em’!” He shouts compulsively. “Stay at your aunts! Imagine the bitches going over her house! Oh, man! You need to go. And, you need to invite me!”

“What? No!” I blurt out, giving Arsen a dirty look. I shake my head. “She’s annoying and I don’t want to spend Christmas with her.” I sigh and shrug. “But, on the flipside, if I go to The City, I have to spend it with my ‘mira-mira’ side of the family.”

Arsen makes a funny reluctant face. “Don’t bring your nice shit, then,” he says passively. “My cousins came over last week; my mom’s meds are missing, my brother’s missing a pair of sneakers, and, somehow, my Xbox 1 controller doesn’t work. It’s like Dipset just raided my house.”

Arsen has a point. I really don’t want to find myself having to share shit that’s going to get ruined or go missing. It’s happened every time before; it’s inevitably going to happen again. “My parents wanna’ talk about shit later to see if we can come to a reasonable agreement.” Arsen closes his locker and we continue walking down the hall.

“First world problems… You’re lucky as hell, man. Your parents are amazing. You honestly—”

“Whoa, bro. My parents decided who they wanted to be before I was born. That isn’t my fault. It doesn’t make my problems any less meaningful than yours.”

“Relax, man. I’m just calling it how I see it,” Arsen says. “Don’t get me wrong, I can see the struggle; however,” he says, dramatically raising a finger. “Your extended family is like my entire immediate family. My brother and sister are probably going to live at home forever. Probably raise their kids there too—while my mom still sleeps in the same bedroom she grew up in.” He sighs. “I’m telling you, Em’, you don’t know how defeating that feeling is. Every day is another slow crawl through the depths of Brinstar. I have to observe them wallowing in self-pity, buying shit they don’t need, getting high and drunk talking about depressing shit, while continuing the self-destructive cycle…” Arsen sighs and puts a hand on my shoulder. “Just be glad your problems don’t include those kinds of problems, or anyone else’s. I’d gladly trade my shoes for yours. My mom can barely afford to send me here as it is.”

“Fair enough.” I nod. “I do think about it every now and then. But still, the way I see it, we’re different people with different experiences makes my complaints are still just as valid.”

Arsen shrugs. “I guess…”

“How is your mom doin’ anyway?” I ask. “Can she walk this morning?” I laugh hysterically.

He ignores my joke. “Like I said, Em’, she’s placating reality.” Arsen sighs. “She’s constantly bitchin’ about her load. Jorge and Renee are tired of her shit, but complain about everything too, without helping.” Arsen takes a deep breath and exhales controlled rage. “It’s unstable, dysfunction at its finest. They don’t realize how dumb they look and sound. I mean, I live in the same house and look at me. I ain’t perfect, but mentally I’m free from the pollution of daytime tv, church and drugs thanks to Lupe, the vidya and anime,” Arsen replies. He crosses his arms and sighs again. “It’s annoying as hell listening to them ramble on about me having to go to college and shit so I can be someone they can leech off of when I get rich.” Arsen adjusts his backpack as we continue walking down the hall. “My mom always yaps about how it’s too late for them because their lives are up to God.”

“God?” I freeze and think about Aemon. I turn to Arsen. Should I tell him about what happened? He probably won’t believe me. “Speaking of God… Do you think it’s possible there’s more than one?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” He asks, pausing in the middle of the hall. “Never mind, I don’t want to know what occult shit you’ve been diving into lately… But, I’m not sure, man. My relatives are devoted Catholics… I’ve read the Old and New Testament. To me, it seems like they both hint at there being more than one god, so who knows. It’s possible.”

“Fair enough.” I want to tell him what happened, but what if he thinks I’m crazy? What if he tells my parents or someone I know? What if it gets back to Roslyn?

“Whatever made you ask that, is something you should keep to yourself. You’re my boy, but if I feel like you’re in trouble, you know I’m going to do something about it.”

Yeah, that definitely answers that. I’m not telling him shit about Aemon. “I gotcha’. I can see why you’d do that.”

Arsen nods. “You don’t have a stable history and your brother just killed himself… so…”

“I get it.” Would I do the same thing if I were him?

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