The next morning I woke to some movement. The type of movement that stirs you even though it doesn’t make a sound. You can sense it through closed eyelids.
“What the fuck are you doing?! How the fuck did you get in here?!” Sitting upright, switching on the light – the door still looked closed.
“Through your window, I didn’t think…” Sam trailed off, seemingly hurt that I was angry.
“Dude, get out. Honestly.” I reached for the knife. It wasn’t on the pillow next to me. I fumbled under the sheets, holding his stare and blindly pricked myself on the forefinger. My right hand quickly resembled a strawberry sundae; I didn’t bother preventing droplets of blood from taking to my sheets.
“Man, you’re bleeding.” A hint of concern in his tone.
“I know”, I said calmly, “now please, please, get the fuck out.”
When I got out of bed, I used a pillow case to stem the bleeding. Sam had left my room and I saw what he’d been doing. At first I was angry, then confused, then dumfounded by how he’d done what he’d done with such little light.
On a sheet of butcher’s paper – the origin of which created even more confusion – Sam had sketched out a pyramid that resembled Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Funnily enough, on the top of the butcher’s paper, was the title of his creation: My Interpretation of Malo’s Hierarchy of Needs. I didn’t know who ‘Malo’ was – it could have been Sam’s idea of a cryptic joke. It could have been an example of his extreme wit, or, just as probable, an example of his ridiculousness. Though, knowing Sam, it was probably just something ‘stuck in his head’. He often described these thoughts as permanent graffiti. How they were expressions of someone else’s idea, completely unsolicited and lodged on the side of his ‘brain wall’. I always figured this gave him room for the ideas and thoughts to be ridiculous and potentially destructive.
His theory read, from top to bottom, in a pyramid shape:
‘My Interpretation of Malo’s Hierarchy of Needs:
Dating all the way back to the time J explained the need hierarchy thing to me, back at high school. I like to think of that dude’s pyramid as a tree. And thus, my interpretation of the “NEEDS” is as follows:
Climbing to get an apple
Get higher so you’re away from a tiger
Higher so you feel like you’ve gone high
Higher so people respect how much higher you are than them
Most people will stop here. Only a few will feel there is more tree. But no one gets to the top of the tree.’
I re-read it four times. I surveyed it. I tried to imagine the landscape. This place with an apple tree and a tiger and people climbing. I imagined those falling, along with apples, to the base of the tree, being torn apart limb from limb by ever-hungry tigers. People screaming, until there was only one person left on the final branch.
The branch snapped and I shook the thought from my head, left-to-right, and marched the long Victorian corridor to the kitchen.
“Sammy. We need to talk.”
“I didn’t mark the wall, I swear. The marks were already there.”
I hadn’t seen any marks.
“Forget the marks, dude. We need to talk.”
“I’m sorry, I think my feet scuffed the wall when I tried to climb it.”
I couldn’t be angry. His mind was agitated, throbbing like a mosquito bite that he couldn’t keep from scratching. Even as kids he’d had a beautiful mind. Seeing things from different angles, smelling things that weren’t there, tasting ingredients that, for most seven year olds, had never existed. With every year his way of seeing the world grew more informed – to him at least - and more reckless and less linear for the rest of us. There was an excitement added to every trip to the beach that would, or could, never have existed without him. A moment at the dinner table that no one else could create. An insight into a movie that not even its writer could have dreamt. I suppose Sarah shared these reasons for loving him, and ultimately, falling in love with him.
“Have you still got that deck I bought you in Tokyo?”
After a four-day ice bender, Sam had used the last of his money to buy me a skateboard. When he returned to the hostel, after his 96-hour adventure, I cried. I’d filed a missing persons report at the police station two days earlier. He’d quite literally had me worried sick. I couldn’t help but vomit, constantly living out the moment where I’d explain to his parents, Marg and Simon, how their son had been lost on my watch. But when he finally returned to me, I cried, and he smiled and then held out the skateboard with extended arms. I want you to learn, he had said. In the five years since, I think the board had left its shoulder bag twice. Both times, this vehicle had left me bruised, physically and emotionally.
“Yep, it’s still in my closet. Why?”
“I thought I’d go for a skate in the city. Near the Parliament steps. Like we used to.”
“We never skated near the Parliament steps.”
“Not even as kids?”
“Not even as kids.”
“Well, no time like the present.”
While I’d never understood the saying, I felt compelled to follow him to the city. There was an energy about Sam you just couldn’t deny, even after being bitter and angry at him for so long.