When Gestalt McKenzie crossed the threshold of the Music Camp bungalow, I dropped and shattered my Mickey Mouse mug.
“I will have top bunk, dear friend Richard, if you don’t mind. I like to be closer to the stars.”
He wore John Lennon glasses with clear holograms of lightning stuck onto the lenses, and walked with a cane that had a tennis ball stuck on the bottom, despite having two working legs. His white shirt was stained with either blood or pasta sauce, and read “Kansas isn’t believable.” He came without bags, without a musical instrument, without restraint.
“I like bottom bunk anyway, Gestalt,” I answered after a long pause, mispronouncing his name. He corrected me and then fell asleep, snoring heavily.
Living with Gestalt at Music Camp was interesting, to say the least. It turned out he had brought a musical instrument; he was a maestro on his full-sized harpsichord that had to be brought in on a special truck. I was right in thinking he didn’t have bags – someone had stolen them. Gestalt thought it was the bus driver, but he couldn’t prove it. He borrowed my clothes until his uncle sent him new ones, which were hand-me-downs from his fat cousin.
His uncle also sent him his chemistry kit, which he used to mix “Good Humour Potions” for himself. Gestalt explained them at length as tinctures and medicines to increase his appreciation of his fingers and tie his primal brain more securely to his higher musical brain. A couple of the guys drank it when Gestalt wasn’t around and said it was just like weak herbal tea.
We were an all boy camp, but once each month, we would play a concert for the girl’s camp across the lake, and then they would play for us. The year before, most of us hated girls, but something had happened since then. Now we were nervous, and had equipped our bags with vats of gel to slick back our hair, and deodorant, to mask our smell.
The night of the concert, Gestalt disappeared, even though it had been him that chose Rhapsody in Blue, to showcase himself and impress the girls’ camp. I thought he got cold feet and had decided to spend the evening back in our room, playing Super Mario Bros. But just when our jitters and nervousness were about to coalesce into adolescent rage, he appeared. He wore what looked like a low rent magician’s outfit. His coat had long black tails, and he wore white gloves to keep his fingers warm and unharmed.
After we played, he cornered me in our bungalow, still in his tuxedo pants and bowtie, and demanded to know the first chair violinist’s name. They had kissed, he said, in the archery field that both camps shared.
“That’s why I was late,” he said, flopping onto my bed. “I was kissing a violinist. She told me I was dashing.”
“You are the most dashing penguin I have ever seen, G. But I have no idea who that violinist was.”
He became obsessed. He asked everybody. No one knew the girl’s name, or believed his story, and he always looked so angry when they accused him of lying. His lightning holograms would flash over his eyes, and I could tell his storm was brewing.
It was the morning of the second performance for the girl’s camp that Gestalt noticed his iPod was stuck. He would put it on whenever conversations got boring to him, which was often, and he would hit shuffle so that orchestral movements would mash together incongruously. But today, every time he hit the next button, Pachelbel’s Canon in D would just start over.
“Well, mathematicians say that randomness dictates that if you shuffle a card deck enough times, eventually it will go back into suited order,” I told Gestalt, who was on his third restart.
This gave him pause.
“So this could signify something? The randomness in the universe could be off-balance today, rendering this meaningless life full of meaning, suddenly?”
“I don’t know if your shuffle reshuffling to the same song means that, but it doesn’t mean it can’t mean that,” I conceded, which was my way of agreeing without sounding like a yes man.
He smiled and threw his iPod on his bed, grabbing his tennis ball-softened cane. “I have to take advantage!” he said. “We both do, come on!” I followed, bewildered, as he marched through our camp, right around the lake, and into the girl’s camp, shouting for the violinist.
A couple girls came forward as violinists, but Gestalt shook his head.
“First chair! I demand First chair!”
“She was sent home a long time ago,” a girl told him, shaking her head.
“She was too homesick.”
Gestalt was crushed. I was too, to tell the truth. I had wanted a girl to appear from nowhere, right all the wrongs in the universe, balance the scales, and tip everything our way. I figured a win for Gestalt was a win for me.
He played horribly in our concert that night, and threw his iPod away the next morning. I started finding playing cards hidden in the pockets of all my clothes and stuffed into my pillowcase, which I took as my comeuppance for making him dream of something better. I would wake to a 3 of clubs in my pillow and the sound of Gestalt crying some nights.
Gestalt ended up leaving 2 weeks before camp was over and stealing almost half of my clothes. He had left a phone number that called a Hooters restaurant in the area and his tincture making set, but other than that, it was like I never had a roommate. I drank both blue beakers the morning he left, and tried to feel the appreciation for my fingers, but all I could think about was randomness, and how I would never be as in touch with who I was as a boy who didn’t believe in Kansas.