Breaking the Nothing

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It was a Thursday afternoon during the great escape known as summer break. The sun was blazing so much heat, we were forced to melt next to a fan while attempting to watch television. But there was nothing on.

I turned to the three sitting next to me and said something along the lines of, “Why don’t we go out and do something?”

They gave me this poisonous look and one of them mumbled, “The fuck’s there to do in a town like this?”

Unfortunately, he was right. In a town like Seymour, Connecticut, there ain’t the damnest thing to do. And that’s why I was desperate to do something.

My name’s Chad David and I’m your run of the mill Millennial punk. A bastard who hopes morals are still in enough people’s hearts just so I can break them. I want to be a stuntman. Running through fires and jumping off cliffs and what-have-you. My problem is people are starting to find that sort of deal stupid rather than daring.

Though I ain’t the brightest one of the bunch, I’ll be damned to be considered stupid.

“Chad, if we go out right now, you’re just gonna act like a fucking idiot.” That was my friend Lucas. Truly, he had the most brains out of the four us. Best in school. Best with abiding by the law. Hell, he had this special gift where he could predict our consequences months before they were bound to happen. The crazy thing was, he always got it to the T.

Like this one time, he warned our buddy Rocko that his mother would eventually find his magic mushroom garden. And when she did, she’d first flush almost all of them down the toilet. Second, take the money he made from selling it. And last, force him to eat what she didn’t flush only to kick him out onto the streets.

All of which happened.

Lucas was a clever son of a bitch, but he had no leadership skills. This left him aimlessly making attempts at authority through a group of people who didn’t take him seriously. I mean, Lucas really thought his word meant something. Especially to us. I almost felt sorry for the poor bastard.

“At least I’m smart enough to get laid,” I attacked while lighting a cigarette. Rocko laughed. He always laughed at my jokes. “Besides, what we’re doing right now is pretty stupid. Sitting here, pretending to watch Family Feud while scrolling through our phones. You guys are making me fucking numb.”

I admit I was going through sort of a big epiphany at that point in my life. I had this sudden burst of passion that just seemed to shit out of nowhere. It wasn’t really for anything in particular. Nothing more than an extreme sensation that my youth was prime and something (anything) needed to be done.

To my disappointment, my friends were never really down for this. They were comfortable in their acts of nothing. They didn’t have the slightest urge to mingle with the likes of someone as aimlessly ambitious as I was.

“You know, Chad’s right. The fuck are we doing here staring at a bunch of screens?” That was Dominic and this kind of behavior took me by much surprise.

He had an aggressive conduct. One of which never agreed with any of us.

To be fair, we as a crew kind of egged Dominic on. We used to rave about his gorgeously hot sister (hell, Rocko once boned her), steal cigarettes from his pack (and weed from his baggie), and push his anger problem beyond proportion (he was just all the too sensitive).

I felt bad for the guy. He had no confidence and was, admittedly, the biggest loser of the crew. The first to have a paranoid high. The last to lose his virginity. The type of guy to make you feel smart just because he hadn’t a single clue what he was doing.

Just another wandering soul hoping life would figure itself out. And getting really angry when it didn’t.

Still, like the rest of the crew, he was most comfortable in the act of nothing. For in that act, life didn’t need to figure itself out.

But here he was agreeing to break the nothing.

This is odd, I thought. Dominic must have something on his mind.

He stood up and walked out the door. His steps seemed to move without the care of whether we followed or not. Of course, I wasn’t far behind. And almost immediately, Rocko and Lucas were too. They must’ve felt awkward or something because it took them a minute.

“Goddamn, this heat!” Lucas complained. I knew he’d be the first to protest. He always was. Especially when we pulled him out of the nothing. For as smart as that bastard was, he really enjoyed doing nothing. Almost as if he deserved it.

I ignored him and began to think about something that was on my mind earlier that day. You see, I had done my share of extreme shit – my biggest break was letting Rocko hit me with his car – but I never recorded any of it.

There were some SnapChats of me lighting myself on fire and jumping into a body of water. And there was this one video that made it to YouTube where I got tasered. But that’s not what I was going for.

I won’t lie, I had this strong urge to get famous. I didn’t care what made me famous, I just wanted attention. I know that makes me sound pretty conceited, but I don’t think there’s a Millennial out there who hadn’t thought about it at some time or another. The internet just offers the potential so easily to anyone.

I figured my stunts were the only talent I really had to offer this world. I was a pro at taking a kick to the balls and laughing at myself later. Not everyone could do that.

I wanted to do something crazy. Something that would really freak people out. And that’s all I was thinking about when I was ignoring Lucas. What the hell could I do?

“I’m sweating bullets over here,” he wailed.

“Maybe you’ll lose some of that weight,” Dominic joked.

Rocko laughed. Lucas crossed his arms like a little bitch. I continued to ponder.

If I was going to make internet content, it had to look good. I wasn’t about to risk some shit just to have a half-assed viral. I wanted people to come back and watch more. I wanted consistent attention. And I needed a bit of professionality to do that.

We were coming up to the edge of the Naugatuck State Forest. This was our marijuana getaway and – for the most part – the only place we ever went out to.

We came up to this site that looked like something out of a fairytale. A tree was bent perfectly around the trail with the sun shining through the leaves to create an array of glittering light. We all walked in a daze. Still somewhere in between the act of nothing and something. Unsure of what direction to take our sweat-filled afternoon.

Rocko pulled out a joint and lit up. I figured maybe a little weed would help my creativity. So, I took a hard hit.

Unfortunately, it did quite the opposite. I felt myself getting more dazed and began really thinking about what I was trying to do. I wanted to throw myself in serious danger all for the sake of people liking me. I mean, my God, would they even give me the attention I really wanted?

Dominic, who was leading this pack, stopped at Beaver Brook and stared heavily into the streaming water. We all watching him for a moment, as if he was about to say something deep and mystical. I knew something was on his mind. You could see it in his eyes as he looked into some abyss.

“Yo,” Dominic suddenly spoke. “Check out this snapping turtle.”

We approached the edge of the brook only to find a gigantic beast. He was stooped on a rock that stuck out directly in the middle of the stream.

Man, was he ugly. This monster’s eyes were blank and seemed to be made out of the same material that was his dried-out skin. He opened his mouth in a powerful defense. Revealing the brown mulk that was his tongue.

This kind of creature would make anyone freak out, I thought. Then it clicked.

This little beast could be my first piece of content. I just had to let him bite me and film it like a professional.

“Guys,” I beamed. “Let’s make a YouTube video.”

“Of what?”

“I’m gonna let that snapping turtle bite me.”

“I knew it!” cried Lucas. I was expecting this reaction from him. “Chad, if you get anywhere near that thing, it’ll chunk a part of your skin off!”

Good God, was that the consequence he was predicting? I thought. Am I really crazy enough to let a wild animal eat a chunk of me?

I shook off the bad vibrations with the notion that Lucas couldn’t always be right. Sure, that’s what he wanted. But I’d take pride in being the first of us to prove him wrong. Even if it meant getting bitten by a snapping turtle.

“Chad! That thing’s going to deform you for life!” Lucas screamed.

“You’re crazy, bro. But I don’t think you’re crazy enough to go near that thing,” Rocko reassured.

I turned to Dominic, but he looked at me the same way he looked into the water. With a thought all too deep to put into words. Man, something must really be on his mind.

“Well, what else are we gonna do?” I questioned. “Besides, all you guys have to do is film it. Not like I’m asking you to get in there.”

I took out my camera and began recording the turtle. Making sure to get Hollywood worthy angles and aesthetic B-roll of Connecticut’s natural environment. My friends watched me and questioned. I explained how if I was going to put myself in such danger, I was going to do it like a professional.

They didn’t buy it. Especially Lucas. “I want nothing to do with this, Chad,” he whined. “You’re gonna need to go to the hospital and I’m not gonna take you.”

“But you’re the only one with a legal license.”

I mentioned earlier how comfortable Lucas got in the nothing. Now his discomfort was more than apparent. But as I also mentioned, he had no leadership skills. Not enough to stop me and he knew it. After some persuasion, I got him to just go with it.

With enough extra footage, I made my three friends take out their phones and set each up with a different angle. Making sure to capture the stunt through a variety of images. The final touch was placing my phone directly centered and hitting record.

“Holy shit, we’re actually doing this.”

“Shut the fuck up.” I retorted. I wasn’t about to put up with my crew’s annoying shit. There was so much on my goddamn mind.

It was dead silent. The snapping turtle was staring me down. As if he knew I was about to get into that brook with him. As my feet entered the water, his head extended out of his shell and his face grew mean.

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared. When it comes to messing around with nature, you can never be too sure of how things will go. When I let Rocko hit me with his car, there was more to coordinate. I was able to tell him the top speed he was allowed, to slow down a little as he approached – I had much more control.

With the likes of a wild animal, there was no control. It went however this beast wanted it to go. And that’s what scared me.

As I got closer, his neck kept extending. His mouth grew wide. And his eyes turned vicious. I could feel his defensive vibe telling me to back off before it was too late. And I’m sure he could damn well sense my fear.

Once I was about five feet in front of him, he gave a sort of hiss. I didn’t even know he’d be capable of such noise. It sent a shiver down my spine.

A wave of adrenaline hit me like Rocko’s car. Everything slowed down. My body tensed. I couldn’t breathe properly. Uncertain thoughts clustered my skull. I became fixated in the moment. Fixated by–

Snap!

“This fucker got me by the balls!” I screamed in agonizing pain. It was my left testicle to be exact. He dangled there like a monkey from a vine.

All my friends immediately freaked out. I could see them throwing their hands up in a terrified excited. They better not be messing up my camera angles. Not now.

I punched the little bastard, hoping he’d let go. He only bit down harder. I bellowed out any cuss word the dictionary has to offer. What if he didn’t let go?

I didn’t know what to do. And I could already feel the blood running down my leg. This was bad. Way worse than I had expected.

All these thoughts began running through my head. Will my balls be deformed for life? Will I be able to have children? Is this the kind of shit I’m going to have to keep doing in order to get the attention I desire?

Suddenly, he let go. A moment of quick relief. I ran out of there and (without even thinking about it) right in front of my phone’s camera.

I sat down and my friends surrounded me. “Dude, your balls are fucked,” one of them blurted. I don’t remember who. But I remember being eagerly nervous to look down at them.

I took a quick peek. My skin was ripped off and blood was pouring out like a sewer.

“Somebody take me to a fucking hospital!”

“I knew it!” Lucas asserted. This was not the time.

Rocko came in close to me and asked, “Is it really that bad?” I simply nodded, hoping he’d help me out. He was always the one to take care of me when things got bad.

He grabbed Lucas by the collar, got in his face, and said, “Get your car and drive it to the lake. We’ll meet you there.”

“I ain’t turning my goddamn car into a maxi pad–”

Rocko punched him. This surprised me. “I said get the fucking car!”

Lucas, in shock, began running towards his house. Dominic followed. The sight of me must’ve been too much.

Rocko got back down and reassured, “Don’t worry. We’ll fix you up.”

I was trembling in fear. I would’ve never predicted the beast would bite my balls. I had figured the leg or something. The was worse than my expectation and in that moment, I began contemplating if I really wanted to attempt a career as a stuntman.

“Can I see it?” Rocko hesitated. “No homo.”

I showed him. I needed someone else’s opinion on how bad my balls looked. His disgusted face said it all.

“Shit, we better hurry. You’re bleeding good.”

“I’m so fucking stupid, Rocko,” I began to confess. “I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I just wanted to make a video.”

“Trust me, you got your video.”

The hospital visit was short. They fixed me up but said I ran myself a huge risk of genital infection. They also claimed my ball would never look the same again.

However, after the pain eased and the doctor’s said I was good, much of that didn’t concern me. What was on my mind was the video we capture. And, man, was it raw.

My friends and I gathered together one late August night and uploaded all the clips to my computer. As they watched their Family Feud, I edited the clips together. It was strange watching myself get bit in the ball by a snapping turtle. Every angle I captured didn’t properly frame the memory I had.

Sure, I had experienced more pain than the viewer. But I remember clearly how ugly I found that little beast to be. And though there was no filtration that could pretty his picture on my screen, he didn’t look nearly as menacing.

There was more an innocence in the snapping turtle’s eyes. I mean, it’s not like he wanted to bite my balls. If it were up to him, he would’ve peacefully rested on that rock all that afternoon.

Upon completing the video, I put it on the big screen for everyone to watch. We all laughed at our reactions. They were so genuine, you couldn’t fake the terror we gave off. But more importantly, we felt ourselves laughing at something more than watching myself get my testicles snapped. We were laughing at the lengths we went just to eliminate boredom.

To break the nothing.

Not everyone’s group of friends had a story like this to tell. We took pride in being different. Even if our contrasts were rather weird.

I uploaded the video to a YouTube page I had just created for the sake of my stunts. Yet, I wasn’t sure if I was going to go through with anymore. That bite to the balls really made me start thinking.

I couldn’t shake off the notion that putting myself in such danger – through such pain – was worth the outcome. I knew all too well that if anyone even saw the video, they’d probably just perceive me as a dumbass. Still, there remained this sense of fun in running such risks.

It’s hard to put into words, but the rush of adrenaline really feeds me like a drug. Some might say, I’m addicted to it.

I was outside smoking a cigarette while contemplating these thoughts – and more importantly, contemplating the future for myself – when Dominic came outside and lit one himself.

“How you doing?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he mumbled. “I’m just tired.”

“Aren’t you always?”

“No, man. I’m tired of watching you get all the praise,” he said with some revulsion. I was a bit unsure of what he meant by this, but he continued, “I mean, you go out there and get yourself snapped in the balls by a turtle and the boys love it.”

“I think I’m safe in saying that this isn’t the kind of attention you want.”

“Well, it beats being the kid everyone can make fun of.”

Holy shit. Maybe Dominic was beginning to understand his position in our group. And maybe he wasn’t liking it.

His deep thinking from the day of the snapping turtle would make sense. Maybe he wanted to go out only to prove he wasn’t as much of a little bitch as we considered. Maybe he wanted to go out and find something that would make us appreciate him more. Maybe he ran off after my balls got bit because he was angry I stole the spotlight once again.

Holy shit. I always felt bad for Dominic, but my God, was I feeling even worse now.

Then he said something I’ll never forget, “Chad. I wanna be in your YouTube videos. I wanna be a stuntman too. It looks like fun.”

From that day on, our crew was no longer a bunch of nobodies. We were stuntmen.

Admittedly, I was the leader. Dominic was my sideman. Lucas was the wimp we had to force into stunts. And Rocko was primarily the camera guy, but on occasion, we’d get him in front of the lens and doing crazy shit.

Our videos gained traction. Not a whole lot, but enough to give us the motivation to continue. More importantly, though, Seymour didn’t seem like a whole town of nothing.

Everywhere we looked, a stunt could be performed. There were roofs to jump off of. Winding roads to skate behind cars on. Large hills to roll down in large tires. Trees to climb only to light ourselves on fire and fall into a lake below. And, of course, animals to use their instincts as a means of perpetuating pain.

For the rest of our high school careers, Seymour wasn’t such a bad place to live. In fact, we suddenly felt grateful to be living there. For we realized that we had missed out on so many of its little wonders by doing nothing.

And now that we broke the nothing, we had the opportunity for to make up for all that we missed.

Illustration by A.A.D.

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