Wade never knew his father. The old man, Jack, was a vagrant in the Allentown section of the city, known to all the other down-and-outers in the area. Jack frequented coffee shops when he had a dollar, walked the streets of Allentown day and night, and finally collapsed of a heart attack in the rooming house where he lived the past eighteen years.
Wade saw his mother from time to time, when he made his way back to Somerset for a visit. He didn't believe in the government, working and paying taxes, commercial products, shampoo or toothpaste - all were designed to entrap him, to suck him in to a world he feared and detested.
He spent his time travelling - hitchhiking from town to town, where he panhandled and sold handmade pouches and braided necklaces. His teeth were rotting and he smelled from lack of showering and deodorant, but he was still a handsome man - he had an angel's face, soft blond hair, and a warm, gentle smile. He didn't resemble his mother - or his father; they were characters that seemed separate, irrelevant, out of place in his life.
I often wondered why Wade's mother allowed his father to wander around Allentown like a displaced soul, a penniless degenerate; why she didn't intervene when Wade carried on as he did, running from society, begging for dimes, and going nowhere. She was a nurse's aide - she took care of people, didn't she? Where was she when her family was torn apart from the inside? I had never really met his mother, but tried to envision what kind of person she was. She had a big house in the nicest part of Somerset - she wasn't poor. But she must have been impoverished in some way to lose both her husband and only son.
I remember the last time I saw Wade. He came over to my apartment for a small party. My friend Colleen was there, her good friend Henry, and my boyfriend Joe. Wade began his anti-society propaganda, but not in a way that challenged anybody's point of view. He was speaking of his own personal values. "You gotta turn off that Doors music!" he said. "It makes me uncomfortable, it draws you in."
Nobody listened much. "We like the music," Colleen began, changing the dial at the same time. "So where've you been?" Joe asked him. "The last time I saw you was about three years ago, you were headed for New York City." "Yeah, I was there for a while," Wade said, stroking his beard. "I sold my handbags and played my own music. I met some cool people who shared things with me, like life should be. They worked for themselves, they believed in free love - " "Get me another beer, will you, Colleen?" Henry interrupted. "Wade's gonna lay his trip on us." "I'll have another one," Wade said. "Here, put this stuff in it."
Wade opened a large jar of white powder that he said was "organic herbs that made you healthy." He poured teaspoon after teaspoon into my glass. I drank some. "Hey, this isn't bad," I said. No one else was willing to try Wade's secret formula. As I sipped the drink, I was surprised to find it was an actual improvement to the beer: it made it thicker, more foamy, and gingery. "What is this stuff?" I asked.
Wade was complaining about the music again. "You can't get away from this band!" he whined. "Too bad, too bad... It's just music, Wade," Henry said. The conversation continued.
After some time, I looked at my drink again, and the powder that was once diluted had congealed and become almost solid. The beer was undrinkable, and I was horrified to see the transformation of my beverage into something like plaster.
"Is that stuff gonna harden in my gut?" I asked Wade. "I'll puke all over the walls!" I held my stomach. He had already forgotten his organic white powder, and no one heard me over the loud music. I was growing fearful about what this stuff would do. Was it poison?
Wade was becoming angry. "I can't stay here if you're gonna play that Doors music," he said. "I'm gonna crash at the park, and take off again this weekend." "Where are you going?" Colleen asked. "I don't know yet," he answered. "But I've got some ideas..."
I felt the poison thickening in my bloodstream, clotting in my arteries. I was going to have a massive heart attack and keel over - worse yet, my heart would explode and blood would splatter all over everyone, and I'd die. "Wade, what was that stuff you put in my beer?" I screamed. "Gimme the antidote!"
He shook his head. "You guys are crazy," he said. He put his things back into his backpack and walked out into a star-filled, moonlit night.
The sound of the Doors' urgent, pulsing beat dragged me in, it was almost hypnotic, and when the spell broke suddenly, all I could hear was the echo in my mind, "You guys are crazy..."
"Wade!" I yelled. "Where are you going?"
There was no response.