A Whale Fall is when a whale nears the end of his life and decides to commit his body to an abyssal zone, which is a relatively deep area within the ocean, where he collapses and rots into the floor. The amazing thing is the life that comes about because of his death. Scavengers feed and multiply and thus, a cycle evolves and, as follows, an ecosystem. It comes from the husk of this beautiful creature, which commits itself to this place upon sensing its own demise.
I walked into my friend, Milky G’s, ancestral home. It was a place that he’d grown up, raised as a boy, well after his father left. He’d never known his father, although his mother had a few partners. None of her partners stuck around and he was left with her to care for him. She would die from a drug overdose when he was around the age of ten. After that, his grandmother took care of him, along with a few other members of his family. His uncle and grandfather also died in this house. I don’t know how much death it takes for a house to be considered haunted, but certainly, if there were ghosts to infect the city it would be here.
It was his grandmother who, being the only one to survive, after seeing two of her children die, not to mention a third who died years ago in childbirth, decided to raise him. Unfortunately, she was one of the great enablers of her time and thus, spoiled a young Milky G. He found out long ago that he could get away with murder, at least in her eyes, and when other family members would try to punish him she would intervene. She did the best she could for him, but the world and everything in it was rotting around them. We couldn’t see it then, but the chipped paint and gnarled corners with nails jutting out that tore open our arms and shoulders as careless young men who ran down the halls should’ve served as warnings.
The utter lack of interest in the twelve people who lived there should’ve been a dead giveaway. Nobody wanted to work on it, because it would’ve cost more than the house was worth. Towards what would be the end of his family’s time in this house, Milky G would be the last one in the house. The thing is that Milky G wasn’t handy. Within a few weeks, the plumbing seeped into the basement and after hours of trying to fix it, he finally had to call an expert. The second floor bathroom leaked into his first floor apartment and the water damage was everywhere. Tiles had to be removed and it left empty spaces in his ceiling. The floor of the bathroom mutated a putrid yellow and brown, which came out much clearer against the white ceramic tiles, which chipped and left the grey floor showing underneath.
Milky G wasn’t set on saving the house, but he didn’t have anywhere else to go. He had to make it work, because he had no idea what to do with himself. He never bothered with college, which was probably a fair assessment of his skills. He’d never been a good student. He never put the effort into studying, reading, understanding for him to be successful. It was much easier for him to be the clown. Becoming a clown for everyone was a mode of self-preservation, which claimed his entire life. He wasn’t good at telling jokes or making people laugh. He just… was a trickster. He manipulated and conned and, although people should’ve been mad, it never worked and usually ended in a catastrophic blunder. It’s terrible to think about it, but his life was a long-running, much more depressing episode of ‘The Three Stooges’.
He thought he was tough. He thought he was a force to be reckoned with, but none of that was true. He knew it, but refused to accept it. Several times, he was forced to acknowledge who he was and, although he surrendered every time, deep down it tore him apart. Deep down, Milky G wanted to be something so much more. I don’t know what he wanted to be… maybe he didn’t know either, but he understood that although he was this person, it isn’t who he should be.
Although it shouldn’t it most certainly was and he would never escape it. When I returned to his ancestral home years down the road, Milky G greeted me at the front porch. The porch is made of three concrete steps that are cracked and falling apart. Someone painted over them without sealing the cracks, so now the paint oozes into the slivers of broken ground. Milky G smokes a cigarette and stares at the other side of the road. The problem is there’s nowhere to stare. You can’t look down the road, across the street, a few blocks away, because you’ll be staring into someone’s apartment or right in their face and that’s just god damn rude.
He’s staring at his neighbors sitting on their porch. They don’t seem to notice his gaze, but he stares for most of the time that he’s talking. This entire block used to be full of people our age. They got old. They moved away. They found bigger and better things. Milky G let his cigarette burn out, before tossing it into a can next to the stairs. He led me into his home. The front hall light doesn’t work, but there’s enough light that we can make our way to his apartment. The scent of stale cigarettes and trash bombard my nostrils. The room is tossed, destroyed beyond all repair, as if it’d been raided. I don’t even notice at first that there’s a baby on a bed that’s just placed in the center of the room, amidst trash and rubble and filth and depravity and utter, ugly vulgarity that, although we claim we’re decent creatures, does exist and never, ever should. It’s one of the most horrifying sights I’ve seen and, for the life of me, I can’t believe the tranquility of this innocent baby boy. He’s far too young to understand. Ma and Pa needed an accomplice in life, so they decided to yank him out of that ethereal slumber beyond time and space. It’s not fair, but that’s the god damn cycle.
His girlfriend, Slinky Nostrils, was one of the most annoying creatures I’d ever known. When you’re young and you’re annoying people expect it, but when you’re old or have a child and you’re still this person it’s just infuriating. I know you can’t be expected to grow up in a matter of minutes. Logically, these are things I understand, but seeing the child nestled snugly in filth and debris… I’m glad I didn’t take a picture.I’m glad I can’t show you, although it’s an image I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Milky G tried opening a door into one of the rooms, but there was too much junk on the other side. He put his shoulder into it, before it budged and he could reach in and grab a clean shirt. Clean is not a word for anything in this place. He walks me out to the kitchen, where I see a large pit-bull in a cage. He owed someone money, as was often the case, and now had to care for his dog. That explained some of the smell at least, although I hadn’t noticed the smell of piss until we walked into the kitchen. The dog had apparently grown tired of waiting to be taken out and instead peed in his cage. Milky G threw down a few old newspapers to soak it up, but there were no windows to let out the smell, so here it would stay.
He opened the back door and let the dog run down the stairs. We could hear it barking and then another dog joined, as they ran along the fence, knocking it back and forth to get at each other. Milky G walked onto the back porch and lit another cigarette, as he watched his friend’s dog running along the chain-link fence. It had only about ten feet of fence to work with, so had to go back and forth. The neighbor’s dog did the same and it went on like that for a few minutes, before he turned back to me.
Milky G. The weight of his eyes is something I’d never want to measure. He thought he’d be great. He believed with all his heart. The lights on the back porch don’t work. I remember when we were young that one of his uncles got electrocuted trying to turn it on. Several of the lights don’t work and the sockets are frayed, broken and eager to ignite in a magnanimous fire that would get rid of this building once and for all. The only thing standing in its way is Milky G. The only one keeping this building from certain doom is a man who could barely pass gym class.
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember a word that was said between us and, now that I look back, I don’t think any of it mattered. I have no idea how long I stayed. This place has a power about it, like one of many kingdoms of the Underworld. When I left, the sun was still out. The baby was still on the bed lined with garbage, but his mother was changing his diaper. I’m not rude enough to leave without saying goodbye, so I must’ve done that. I remember noticing on my way out that the ceiling was leaking outside the bathroom, at least enough that I could see the brown spot growing in the hall. I can’t think about that spot without imagining a biblical flood.
Milky G thought himself a great man, but that never came into being. His success was one of mass production. Countless Milky G’s roam the streets of, not just our town, but cities nationwide. They’re men who believe they’re greater than they actually are and have never given a proper assessment of their abilities. It’s a dangerous world that they create, because it has always sustained itself without a question. They worship the whale fall, because it gives meaning to this cycle. It promises that in death they will find meaning. It promises that their lives aren’t pointless. While I can’t deny this, I couldn’t see the point to Milky G. I don’t know why life seemed to take a particular appreciation in tormenting him every step of the way, but we all like to think that life enjoys kicking our asses more than the other. I mean… what about the whale?