Growing up I spent a lot of time in my room. Not because my parents punished me or anything. I just liked the time alone to do stuff I enjoyed doing without interference from the outside world. In some ways, I still do that whenever I withdraw from everyone to write my zombie tales of madness and survival. Let me give you a quick peek into my formative years for Freedom Friday, this way you’ll know where I’m coming from whenever I insert a reference of some obscure book, movie or music into my insane writings.
I value my time alone. How’s that for an attention-getting statement? Life moves fast. If I don’t slow down, I’ll end up wishing I had spent more time smelling the roses. I know it’s a cliché, but it works in this case—the smelling of the roses bit, that is.
As a boy, growing up in an active Italian family, I didn’t have time to think about the future. I was having too much fun enjoying the present running around with all my cousins. Not a weekend went by that we weren’t doing something with my relatives, whether it was cooking a BBQ, eating a gigantic meal or stuffing ourselves with oversized sandwiches.
Given my parents had four siblings apiece, it’s debatable since I don’t have my mom’s full history, our get-togethers were massive feasts of food and fun. My dad had recorded some of those events on one of those Super 8 cameras he had purchased. Back then, video did not come from a phone you concealed in your pocket, but from a clunky, old brick you held in your hand. Every so often I’d watch them wondering whatever happened to everybody.
When I reached the age of self-awareness, a teenager (a.k.a. the age of reason), I’d spent a good chunk of my time in my room. I don’t know why. I mean, I had friends and all, and my parents had friends, but I felt as though I needed time to understand who I was.
I learned I enjoyed playing chess. I remember having bought a portable electronic chess game that would play me on different levels, including grandmaster. I can’t say how many hours I’d dedicated to the game, by now most of that is lost in my memory. Yet, because of the time I’d poured into it, my team in grade school went on to win second place in the Ontario Regional Chess Tournament for that year.
About a year later, my interests had changed and my mind had focused more on music than anything else. I learned how to play the guitar. I guess I was pretty good ‘cause I played gigs with a few bands and had my own band by the end of high school.
How can I ever forget those summer nights when I knew my neighbors had gone to some party, and I’d be in my room, cranking out the tunes on my Gibson imitation. My poor parents. They put up so much with me, it’s a wonder they hadn’t disowned me by the time I had completed puberty.
In all this, I discovered Shakespeare. My first exposure to the behemoth playwright was in the ninth grade English class where we began studying The Merchant of Venice. At the time, I couldn’t get my head around a man possessed with the thought of collecting a pound of flesh for a debt owed. It became an obsession with me to want to find out what it all meant.
A pound of flesh? From where? The arm? The thigh? The buttocks? And when Shylock gets his pound of flesh, what will he do with it? Will he use it to heat his home? Will it be a mantelpiece for use in conversations? Or…will he reduce himself to zombie status and eat it?
Romeo and Juliet. Oh, how I fell in love with the notion of lovers wanting to sacrifice their lives for each other. It haunted my nights. It made my days nightmares. I had obsessed over the book. I read, reread, and reread the text, going to the library searching for commentaries to hear what the experts had to say. I wondered how a story so simple could make me feel so insignificant. I contemplated on those last moments when Juliet held the dagger in her hand, waiting to thrust it deep within her bowels so she could be with her lover once again, Romeo.
During my formative years, my room became my sanctuary.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.
Do you have memories of wanting to spend time in your room? What did you do? Did you learn anything?