Chester on a 16 year old's afternoon
I drew the above sketch on notebook paper back in 2003, and I remember exactly every stroke of the pen and what was going on in my head.
I was listening to Linkin Park on the radio.
I was an angsty teenager with limited power over my own life, so I drowned that anguish into music and video games. Linkin Park speaks to most of us from broken families and tattered dreams because the lyrics in their songs strike the self loathing, self destructive cord we often want to scream at one or the other parent, or in other cases, because we fight the hardest, pull the most weight and yet come up empty handed in life.
On this such afternoon sometime in 2003, I was imploding.
I had gotten into my umpteenth fight with my father, who looking back, was probably going through his third puberty. (We call this a midlife crisis, boys and girls.) Apparently when I asked him why he blew through an entire loaf of bread that was supposed to feed the whole family for a week, I was being "disrespectful" and a "horrid bitch" again. (His words, not mine.) My mother was at work, so I thought my lunch would be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But since he felt like eating half a loaf by himself, I was now relegated to that same PBJ, only now served on generic Ritz crackers.
This was just a few days after he had broken the family computer, erased all my school files, and then called me "ungrateful" when I demanded to know why he was stepping on my motherboard. The sad heap of eBay Dell and Geoworks parts in the corner hiccups and beeps as the giant CRT monitor scrolls a static roll of my new desktop theme that I had just made in Adobe Photodeluxe 2.0. As I am seething, trying to use smaller and smaller words on my father to explain to him the fact that I am angry because he blew through a week's worth of food on a binge, the Bitchslap 5000 suddenly reboots, scrolling the Windows 98 Plus screen before once again, deleting an important essay I had just written for school.
Oh, apparently I'm ungrateful about that. How nice to know. I had no idea I should be thanking my father for breaking my computer AGAIN and deleting the thing I need for SCHOOL.
Orion was just about a tween here. He was finally able to take off his wrist gauntlets for a while. Gauntlets you say? Yes. Because he was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at seven, and needed wrist gauntlets and knee braces along with an extensive amount of medication to walk. But the medication was starting to kick in, so off came the Velcro straps, in time to play Pokemon cards before I set up his school work. He's picking out his water team wisely, after I smoked him with my all colorless deck, lead by Team Rocket's Dragonair.
My mother was at work. But even though today was my dad's off day, I was left in charge. A recent, previous incident where he neglected to read the warning labels on my brother's medication that read "DO NOT LEAVE CHILD OUT IN SUN" disqualified him permanently from the role of 2nd in command. So I was now in my 9th year of being Riker to my mother's Jean-Luc Picard.
Oh by the way, I'm 16 for those keeping score at home. It's like April, so I won't be 17 until November.
As Orion is finishing his nearly-Ritz sandwiches, I'm scootching some items off of the couch-bed, which eats up my living room. My mom, brother and I share the living room as our sleeping quarters while my dad has a room to himself. This is also our study room (this was a crappy house for $950 a month) and it's time for my little brother's lessons. (We're homeschooled.)
One of the items I carefully remove from the couch is a "In Memory Of" letter. My third cousin Garland was laid to rest just a few weeks prior, the victim of a shooting in mistaken identity. At this point, I'm still having nightmares about looking into his six year old's eyes after I was the only one clear headed enough to explain to him that Daddy is never coming out of the scary box again.
Orion is taking to his spelling sheet like a duck to water. He's having trouble with tiny words like "dog" and "frog" but "neanderthal" and "Cassiopeia" are coming along swimmingly. So while he works on his reading assignment sheets (yes, we do get graded, thanks for asking) I'm listening to the radio, and Linkin Park is on.
It's Two for Tuesday on Q101. A rarity for the station, which usually rolls onto the next act.
"Numb" just wrapped up, and angsty song accompanied on VH1 by a video of a teenage girl, who's selfish mother is making her feel like dirt, so she's slapping the canvas, making an angry watercolor only Jackson Pollack might be able to appreciate. I had just seen the video on the channel an hour ago, before fighting with my dad over the missing sandwich bread.
I've already finished my homework for the day (algebra sucks by the way) and "Numb" is resonating with me, strongly. So much like the angry little girl in the video, I have a pen in my hand, and I'm sketching.
Of course, I'm sketching Ki-Chan, who has been a figment of my dreams since 1995.
So the second song for Two for Tuesday is playing, and it's the song that hooked me as a Linkin Park fan. "In the End".
There's a story I have been writing and re-writing over and over, based on a dream I had while I was recovering from my fourth concussion in April of 1995. In it, Ki-Chan is about to fight Hadagi and Panti, and if you've read Book #1 yet, then you already know this point just in looking at the above picture. Panti has revealed a crucial point in Ki-Chan's past that outs her darkest secret, but also exposes that she and Hadagi are responsible for Ki-Chan becoming an orphan.
Unsure of where to start drawing, I sketch a few rocks before actually drawing Ki-Chan herself, as she's diving into her rage mode. But I'm not sure how to draw her expression.
So putting down the pen for a moment, I listen to Chester screeching out the lyrics to "In the End".
I had to fall, to loose it aaaaaallll, but in the eeeeend, it doesn't even matterrerreerruuurrr.
Flipping back to VH1, the video is playing on a playlist they neglected to advertise. The video is synced slightly off of the radio, making Orion and I laugh. "It's in stereo!!" We giggle, as the rap part of the song doubles.
One one thing thing I I don't don't know know why why it it doesn't doesn't even even matter matter how how hard hard you you try try
It's the simple things that make us laugh together. So pencils rolling off of the bed, we take in the concert of a Comcast cable box and a radio.
But as I'm laughing at this digital brouhaha, I'm watching Chester, the ever angry and often self destructive lead singer, who is taking a backseat in this video. We somehow tumble and giggle our way into his solo bit, and he is projecting through the oncoming rain storm.
This was what I was looking for.
Picking up the cheap, $1 for a bag of 10 Staples pen, I return to drawing Ki-Chan, only this time, I'm not drawing her with her usual Dragonball Z mouth.
I'm sketching Chester.
Or rather, his anger.
So there's a smaller curve of the mouth. There's a curl in her fingers. And in lieu of the rain, there is debris, since this takes place on a partly cloudy sunset in Shinjuku. Her clothes have been tattered to the point that the cotton fray of her shirt is starting to resemble the faux fur of a stuffed animal. Her aura is spiking up chucks of concrete, and her eyebrows are furrowed in a proper mix of sorrow and anger, as she looks ahead to unleash her angst onto Hadagi and Panti.
I never did finish this sketch. I wasn't thrilled with her fingers and I couldn't decide how to color it.
I keep that song on a play list here, and I listen to it every day I am writing. Chester had a way of capturing anguish in his singing, and he spoke to teenagers and tweens everywhere.
And maybe that's why I am so shocked by the news.
It's July 20th, 2017. I'm not that angry 16 year old anymore. Instead, I'm a groggy 30 year old, starring at my laptop, trying to figure out what I want to do today. I sketch Ki-Chan again, only this time for an upcoming t-shirt design, and once again, I am trapped with her fingers.
I'm about to listen to my usual playlist, but first, Facebook, where I spend way too much of my time.
... And there it is.
Chester, age 41, has hanged himself.
Suddenly, those self destructive, self loathing lyrics he sang resonate in my head, like a bell being slammed inside an abandoned church.
He wasn't just singing to reach out to those of us hurting, those of us suffering.
He himself must have been screaming for help.
And all we did was dance.
If you or someone you know is in this position, don't ignore it.
The Suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255.