I was fifteen, standing on a step ladder in my parent’s closet, holding my dad’s gun to my head. No, wait, maybe I was sixteen? Either way, there was me and this ladder and this nine-millimeter to my temple. The ladder was ‘cause Dad kept the gun on top of a large dresser. The gun was ‘cause I was done with the bullshit. What happened next doesn’t matter, because it didn’t end there – all the angst and inner turmoil, I mean. I’d try again with pills. And again with a rope in a campsite shower stall. I was a happy kid, but goddamn, was I depressed. The act of rolling out of bed every morning was a chore. It was a small religious town I grew up in, which is another way of saying we lived in search of trouble. It’s what you do when you grow up bored in a quiet community where bad things are done in the dark, but never spoken of. At that age, I was reading S.E. Hinton, mostly, but – had it existed – I would have been reading Troy James Weaver’s Temporal, wondering how in the fuck this dude from Kansas was able to articulate in such raw fashion what it felt like to have so much garbage in your heart.
I met Weaver in Norman, Oklahoma in 2014. We had a day to kill before this reading event, and part of it was spent driving around in his car. I wish he’d been listening to Lush’s Gala album or something, so I could say, “he was listening to Lush’s Gala album,” and it’d have been a sort of omen about the work he’d put out in the few years to follow. He was listening to Björk, though, so that doesn’t work. Regardless, the best way to describe the writing of Troy James Weaver is to put on a shoegaze album. This would work for any of his books, but especially for Temporal. If books made noise, this book would sound like ambient effects echoing beneath a thunderstorm of distortion. Just listen, feel the volume in this passage:
I got to thinking about this book I was assigned once in school called Things Fall Apart. I’ve never read it but I disagree with that title. Things don’t fall apart, they implode, fade away, become never-weres. Like having a tattoo made with invisible ink. You don’t remember everything clearly, details are foggy, somewhat invented, but you sure as shit remember the pain, don’t you? You remember what you felt—and no, I’m not talking about scars. This is different. But that’s the reality, isn’t it? You feel it, don’t you? I don’t know, you tell me. I don’t feel a thing. Everything’s a mystery.
The narration of Temporal is shared among three teenage friends, a storytelling device usually used to offer multiple vantage points of some elaborate plot, but in this case, it’s used to shine a light on these characters – these harsh portraits of depressed American youth – to follow them into the places they keep hidden from each other, to explore the mysteries they keep secret. Weaver is in touch with his inner teen, here, reminding us how it feels crying out to be understood while still trying to understand ourselves.
As heavy as the emotional content is, there is a deadpan sort of observational humor going on, as well. Between the guilt, the love, the sexual confusion, and the anger, there are darkly funny moments like this:
I smoked weed with a homeless guy at a park downtown, broad daylight, while I was waiting for the mechanic to finish putting new brakes on my car. But something about it hit me hard, like, super fucking hard. I felt amazing, but not just weed-high, so I asked him: Where’d you get this, this is amazing? And he just looked at me straight-faced and said: Oh, that, yeah, that’s not the weed, that’s the meth I sprinkled in.
Temporal is both relevant and timeless in the way it captures the essence of today’s disaffected youth, while reminding the reader of when they were one of these teenagers themselves. If the shit on the news makes you angry, if you’ve ever felt lost inside your own head, or hell, if you just dig My Bloody Valentine, I couldn’t recommend Troy James Weaver’s Temporal more loudly if I screamed about it in your ear.
by Troy James Weaver
Disorder Press; 115 p.