We ride the light rail as it silently moves through the city at night. The girl from this morning meets us downtown; she has combed her hair out in long wavy strands and looks very cute, and I feel a sense of pride for my brother. We walk through the city and I’m alive, and with the cold everything is cutting and distinct. The streets are full of people, but I don’t notice them, except for the occasional girl in a skirt that braves the weather for the sake of her fashion. Sometimes I will have to step aside for groups of boys that move headlong. Occasionally they will clip my shoulder, and I can feel them turn as I walk away, but I am in no mood to start fights, so I always try to stay out of their way. In the skyscrapers I find something that I missed, and I have the desire to leave myself and look at the city from a place that is far away and elevated.
My brother holds the girl’s hand as they walk down the street and I’m unable to tell who has fallen. She is older but looks younger, and I see other people watch the attractive couple as they walk down the street. They walk oblivious to the stares of the people around them. The people don’t notice me trailing behind, but I don’t blame them, as I look sickly, much like the color of the snow that is piled on both sides of the walking path. It hadn’t snowed very much before I had left, but I wouldn’t have minded if it had. It would have added something to the giant tree in the town center and maybe that disgusting spiced wine would have tasted better.
The building we walk into is old but refurnished. The elevator has the tiles on the ceiling that conceal video cameras behind their seemingly opaque screens.
“Maybe I should have brought something, I feel bad just showing up,” I say as we move toward the fourth floor.
“This isn’t like a birthday party or anything you don’t have to worry about that.”
“I told her that you are my brother, she really wants to meet you.”
“Making friends with older women, he’s much better than his brother ever was,” I say this with a smile and they both laugh.
The girl turns to my brother and puts her hand in his hair, “I know, he’s our little boy.”
The halls are wide and there are few rooms on each floor. We walk in without knocking. The apartment itself is completely open with people milling around. I walk directly for the kitchen counter and the line of liquor bottles. My brother is talking to a group of people in the entry way and I push down the guilt and pour vodka into a glass and drink it all. I recognize the vodka when it is in my stomach and my body relaxes. I can look around and gather my bearings.
The apartment is lined with wide windows that look out into the downtown. There are paintings on most walls, and red silk sheets on the bed. I drink another vodka, and feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around but not too quickly as I still have full control of myself. I’m introduced to the host. She is blonde and cute and a little too short. I want to grab her long blonde hair. I ask her about herself while restraining myself from another drink, it’s all very standard and I let her do the talking because she wants to. She is a nice girl, nicer than most in her position, and there is no acting when we talk.
“Where are all these people from?”
“I went to high-school with some,” she points at the girl who we came with, “and others are local artists and acquaintances. It’s pretty eclectic.”
“I’m beginning to think I should have become an artist.” She likes that and smiles.
“Here, come here, I want to show you some of their works.” She leads me toward her bed, and points above to very dry paper that has been cut out and placed on top of a black background. The picture is of people, holding scythes, with conical straw hats. You can’t see their faces but the two-dimensional detail is enough to see fingers and layers of clothing. “He made this for me,” she says pointing across the room at a pretentious looking boy in chic glasses and a green blazer.
“He looks like an artist,” I say, and she nods. I wait a few seconds and then add, “This place is beautiful. There is something nice about how open it is.”
“My only real complaint is that they don’t let you have pets, I had to leave my dog with my parents.”
Something is knocked over in the kitchen and we both look and see someone scrabbling to turn a liquor bottle upright.
“Do you like living downtown?” I ask.
“I love it, just being able to wake up, go downstairs, get a bagel, coffee… bottle of vodka.” I smile so she knows I find her funny. “In the suburbs you have to drive, and then it is too late. The feeling has left you.” I nod in agreement. “And of course the skyline here is amazing to wake up to.”
“With no walls I’m sure you can see straight through everything.”
“Yeah, but you can’t escape the sun.”
“The night is what really makes this beautiful. All the bright lights in the sky, I’m jealous.” She looks around the room when I say this. I offer to make her a drink and she says ‘of course,’ and I mix cherry vodka with 7-up. It tastes good but I don’t make another for myself.
“Have you been on the balcony yet? It is a million times better, you can see the tops of the high-rises and the other downtown,” she says as I hand her the drink, and I can tell she would like me to follow her outside.
“No I haven’t been out there.” She puts on her coat, and I’m annoyed when she also puts on gloves and a stocking cap, but it is cold and she probably has not been drinking enough.
The balcony is almost as large as the loft itself, and I’m surprised, and she can tell.
“I’m sure this will be really great in the summer. I set up all the chairs but I haven’t had a chance to doing anything with it yet.”
I look at the chairs that are set around a table. The snow has recently been brushed off the chairs but remains on the table. I like when she justifies herself to me, and again I have the urge to touch her hair, but instead to run my fingers through the light curls at the ends. I walk to the edge and look down and then up at the peaks; it is much better. She comes next to me and rests her arms on the brick railing that surrounds the balcony. She is a pretty girl and she notices me looking at her.
“You know I, um…like the night too, I used to like it more. Down here all the people that don’t belong are walking the streets. They drive in and do what they please, just like tourists but they keep coming back.”
I don’t like what she said and I don’t acknowledge the statement. “Where are your favorite places to go out?”
She tells me where and when she goes out, and I’m surprised I haven’t seen her out before.
“What about college?” I ask. “How do you like it?”
“It’s only alright; I just switched my major to biology. I found out it’s going to take me five years to graduate.”
I look over the edge and down at the people walking by the entrance to the building. They deserve to be excited: a schoolteacher away from the classroom, wanting to get drunk and laid, and teenage suburban boys with new young girls to impress.
“What about you, what’s your major?” she asks smiling.
“Finance,” I say quietly, and then louder, “I’m a finance major, but I also liked biology.”
I imagine the people inside the loft on the balcony, and how it could hold them all. It feels too cold to be only two people outside. As we are talking a boy comes out onto the porch. She whispers something to me under her breath but I can’t make it out.
“Where have you been?” He doesn’t acknowledge me.
“Talking and showing my new friend the view.”
“Hi,” I say. He says ‘hi’ and returns his attention to the girl.
“Come inside its cold out here.”
“No, I’m fine out here, I need a break from all that.”
The boy turns his attention to me for the first time. “Hey buddy, can you give us a few minutes in private?” He looks back at the girl, “Well, I just wanted to talk with you about some things.”
“Ok,” I say. “I will go get another drink.”
She holds me by the coat sleeve. “He is going to stay out here and I don’t want to talk with you.” I try and wiggle my sleeve free without her noticing. The boy takes on a more aggressive stance, but I pretend not to notice and move away from the ledge.
“I will just be inside,” I say and the girl follows me for several steps but is stopped when the boy grabs her arm. She lets go of me and spins on him, and I can hear her voice escalating as I walk toward the inside. When I slide the doors closed I can still hear her voice outside and I don’t like it.
I walk to the alcohol and pour a glass. The art crowd talks about people I have never heard of, while on a large screen television to the side of the kitchen a French movie is playing without subtitles. A boy and two girls sit on the couch watching and every few minutes one will pause the movie and they will speak in Spanish. I look but I can’t find my brother. I tell the man with the glasses that I like his work and he tells me about the gallery hosting his exhibit. An older looking woman cuts limes, and we take tequila shots. It is smooth, but I make a face because the others do. Someone unfolds a small white package while another person tries to take apart a pen but the ink explodes and runs down the side. A bill is rolled instead, and I’m offered a line; I pause, look around and decline. The woman pours me a double shot, and I don’t take it until she lifts it up toward my mouth. My brother taps me on the shoulder. His cheeks are red, and the girl we came with helps herself to the coke. Another shot is poured for me, and I push it toward my brother, but stop and then take it myself. I smile at my brother and leave the kitchen for the bathroom.
The walls of the bathroom are blue with no pictures or decoration. I go to the square mirror and pull down my eyelid, looking at the white that is beginning to look red. The hair on the back of my head is sticking up and I try to press it down with my hand but it returns to its position and I give up and leave the bathroom.
The blonde girl I left outside is sitting on a decorative bench beside the door. She acts surprised, and I sit next to her. The bench is uncomfortable, and I’m leaning forward with my hands griping the cushion. She apologizes for what happened on the balcony, and before she can finish I tell her not to worry. We talk about her high school, and she talks quickly with her palms open and resting on her knees. When a strand of hair falls in front of her face I brush it out of the way and kiss her. She kisses me back and we move into the bathroom, where I pick her up and put her on the sink. I kiss her hard, and she grabs me while I pull her waist closer. She whispers in my ear that she likes my body, and I begin to take off her shirt when something slams into the door.
“Open the fuck up!”
I pull her shirt back down and open the door which flies into the wall, pushed from the other side.
“It’s open,” I say as the boy I left outside predictably storms into the bathroom.
“You fucking slut, you fucking slut,” he repeats it as he paces around in the bathroom. I move toward the girl, which gets his attention, and I can tell he is considering lunging at me. Before he does the girl begins yelling, and the boy becomes hysterical having to be dragged out of the bathroom by people from the party.
In the hall my brother is waiting for me and we don’t say anything. I can hear the screaming as we walk toward the door. As I’m putting on my shoes, I’m shoved from behind and slide across the hardwood floors. A fist connects on the back of my head before I can stand. My brother pulls him off me and I get to my feet slowly, watching as he tries to push past my brother who is holding his arms. I don’t say anything, and I stand in place, rubbing the back of my head, until he begins to calm down. His arms slowly drop and he no longer fights to reach me.
“Get the fuck off me,” he says, pushing my brother who stands in his way. My brother hits the floor on his back. I’m on top of the boy before he can move. I knock the wind out of him, which drops him to his knees. While he gasps for air I kick him under the armpit, then in the ribs until he’s on his back.
“I will kill you if you ever touch him again!”
He rolls over on his stomach and I stomp on his head, I can hear the thud when it bounces off the floor, and I leave quickly. On the ride home my brother asks about my head. I reach back and feel the rising lump. I tell him it will be fine and silently watch the short dumpy storefronts pass by.
The lights are on when we get home, and I know my parents have returned. The smell of wine is heavy in the entry room where they have laid down on the couches. My father falls over when trying to get up and I can tell my mother is saying ‘Kyle’ but the rest is intangible. I hug my mother and go into the kitchen. I put ice in a zip bag and go upstairs, leaving my brother to help put my mother to bed. My father tells me to come in and talk.
“In the morning,” I call down.
ahoooy Kyle, thanx 4 mail,nice to hear from u
i’d like to write u something inetresting…haha,but i am still at home like in prison,and studyng fukcking 700pages of economy…i hate that..it is icreadible booorrriiinng.Yeah exept yesetrday i couldn’t anymore so i went to the cinema-for improving my mood… i hope that i will pass the stupid exam and than i will spend all the week somewhere in clubs,pubs,or of snowboarding..i hope
Actually this studyng is really good for my healthy..no alcohol,no cigaretts..but the problem is that i prefer a bit diferent lifestyle..i am suffering!!i should have choosed some good job..something like cleaning toilets..no sorry i am just kidding,it made me crazy. i was happy to hear your flight to home was safe and not very bad..i have always the luck of a screaming baby next to me..great…
About the world outside ,i can not tell u anything,if there was some nuclear war, catastrophe or alien attack..but i would like to leave..
So i am going to continue with my work,papa Kyle(i miss so so so much)
Yesterday i had a dream that u came back and that u are sleeping in my bed,so real dream..and when i woke up i couldn’t understand where are u..so confusing..i hope to see u again soon..
papapapapapapapapa and many kisses
The malls are full of people, and I wade through the crowds to look for DVDs, but there is nothing left that my brother would want. My stomach is a wreck, and I have to sit down several times because of stomach cramps, but despite it all I can’t go to the bathroom. The girls walking around the mall are cute but young, too young for me, and probably still in high school. I wonder how old I must look to them with the dark circles under my eyes and sunken cheeks. In the food court I order a tray of Chinese food but I’m only able to eat the rice and little pieces of the chicken. I find a pair of designer jeans that fit me well, and I buy a size longer. When I get home the house is empty except for the cleaning lady and I say ‘hello’ but she moves past as if she doesn’t hear me. When I move my bed away from the window I knock over a stack of books. The layer of dust on the top book is so thick I have to brush it away to read the title. It’s a book about the French Revolution, given to me in high school. The cover is yellow and the characters are storming a castle, possibly the Bastille. The pages are still very white and they smell clean when I thumb through the book. Slanted and underneath that are novels: Dead Souls, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Catch-22, Darkness at Noon; nothing I want to read again. I notice A Farewell to Arms, as the pages have fallen out of the binding. I bought it used, and I haven’t read it.
I take it with me to the chair that I push underneath the window, but I can’t sit still and I pace around the attic. I don’t want to be in the house anymore, and I avoid the housekeepers as I walk out the back door. In the cold my nose begins to tingle, and after a block I turn back around as my fingers, balled inside my jacket, begin to feel cold. I trip on a crack, and for a moment I hate my body but it passes, and I enter the house and lie in the chair and take Xanax so I will no longer have a longing.
Before I can wake I feel my body being rocked back and forth. I knock the arms away quickly but I can’t open my eyes. I continue to try but a force doesn’t want me to be awake, and it is painful when I finally can see my brother.
“We’re leaving for dinner.”
“Alright…I, um, I just need a second,” I stand and then sit back down. “I don’t uh…” I push my palms into my eyes, “One sec.”
I change my shirt and follow my brother down the stairs. He is dressed sharply, and I begin to feel self-conscious about wearing jeans.
“How is your head?” he asks.
“What? Why, um…it’s ok.” I feel the bump in the back.
At the restaurant a long table is set in a private room, there are almost a dozen relatives from my dad’s side, but I don’t see my parents. I take another Xanax and leave the room for the bar. My parents are already drunk at the bar, and several of my aunts and uncles are drinking also, they are all swaying in their barstools and laughing too loudly. I give up on the drink and go onto the patio overlooking the river.
The water in the river that usually freezes is still running. The restaurant has stacked the patio furniture in a corner, and I pull down a chair and sit listening to the river, unable to see it from the light behind me, and the darkness in front.
“Tim, hey, I need you to pick me up.”
We are silent as he drives toward my dealer.
“You don’t have any questions for me tonight,” I say after the silence becomes uncomfortable.
“I was just timing how long it would take you to say something. Six minutes, that’s how long it took you. I would have thought about two.”
“What are you trying to imply?”
“Nothing of course, just a game, and this time you were quiet for a long time.”
“Well, I don’t have much to say. I just ditched my family to meet my dealer.”
I see him turn his head toward me. “What are you getting?” he asks.
“Nothing special, just the usual. Why, do you want something?”
“No, no, I wouldn’t have uh, you know have any use for that.”
I shrug and look out the window as we drive through a forested area which blocks the view of the river. Eventually it breaks to reveal a long strip of modern condominiums. I direct him into the entrance of one of the developments and toward the back where the condos sit directly on the river.
“This is where your dealer lives?” he asks skeptically.
“No, a friend, he’s just over here.” Before I shut the door I stick my head back in. “That was four minutes in case you wanted to count.”
When I come out of the house I can see Tim watching me closely, and as I near the car he continues to watch the door.
“Thanks for waiting,” I say.
“It’s no problem. Where to next kiddo?”
“Just home for tonight, do you remember it?”
“Sure I remember it.”
I nod in appreciation and sink into my seat. The trees begin to pass by my window again.
“At least you won’t have to pull over tonight,” I say.
Tim laughs, “Are you sure about that?”
“It’s still early; you’re cab is safe.” I look at the floor of the cab and the seat. “This is the first time being sober in your cab, you keep it clean.”
“This is nothing, it needs to be scrubbed.” I take out my phone and scroll down the names, looking for nothing in particular, just hoping that someone grabs my attention. “You don’t have much to say when you haven’t been drinking,” Tim says.
“I don’t think I’m that talkative when I’ve been drinking.”
“No, no you’re not. Its relative I suppose.” As he pulls into my driveway he turns in his seat to face me. “What are you going to do tonight?” he asks.
“I’m going to get stoned and fall asleep,” I say as I hand him cash and refuse the change.
In the house I open a bottle of champagne and crush my remaining Xanax with the bottle until I can drink the dust without feeling the pieces. I drink several glasses, until the powder that had stuck to the sides after the first glass has also gone down.
I feel drunk before I feel worked, and I keep drinking until I get the hiccups. I drink water until I forget to swallow and it runs out of the sides of my mouth onto my shirt. I walk around the house and my phone rings but I can’t answer it. I stare at it for a long time and concentrate, I have to concentrate, and call the number back. There is a female voice on the other end, and I want to speak but my mouth won’t make the noise. When I tell her my name, I forget that I had already told her my name, and then I’m unable to remember if I said anything at all.
I know what she is saying but I just can’t say the words. I can see the words I just can’t say them.
“Hi, Yeah I, did eh…sorry, I’m tired. Did, uh…you call me?”
She is laughing, “Yeah, I just thought I would call and see if you wanted to go to a Christmas party.”
I can’t tell who it is. “I think I’m going uh,” I breathe in sharply. “I’m going to, I uh…eh, stay home tonight, I think I’m going to stay at…,” I’m falling asleep every few seconds; I can’t remember what I have said. “Do you want to smoke?” I know I haven’t said that before, or I don’t know, but I don’t think I have. She keeps talking and I try to focus, but I can’t remember five seconds, and I can’t roll a joint, and I end up lying across the futon with my arms over the sides, and the phone is off, but I don’t remember turning it off.
I wake when the doorbell rings. I’m in the study slumped against a bookshelf. I can’t walk right but the person at the door doesn’t ring again. At the door I don’t recognize the girl but she says hello and I hug her and she turns her face to kiss me and I realize it is the girl from last night.
“Did you, um…get my number from your friend?” I ask.
“No, no you gave it to me.”
We go into the kitchen, and we drink what is left of the champagne. She rolls a joint and lights it on the stove, and I can’t tell how many we smoke or how much I drink. She chews pills and her mouth tastes bitter when she pushes the moist powder into my mouth with her tongue.
She smiles and I can’t talk right, and then her eyes look droopy and we drink more. I can see myself in the attic making out on the bed, but now downstairs I’m looking through my parents’ records. We smoke and listen to the records, and I pick her up and drop with her onto a couch.
When the sun is in my eyes I’m in the living room, on the hardwood floors, and I don’t remember falling asleep. I wake up the girl, who has passed out in one of the large arm-chairs; she is covered in the comforter from my bed and wearing her clothes. She wakes violently, making a gasping noise.
“Do you remember coming in here last night?” I ask her.
“No, no, the room, but do you remember the house?”
She looks around the room, “Were you sleeping on the floor?”
“Yeah, I remember like five fucking minutes of last night, but it’s just sort of snapshots. I can’t…put it together.”
“The last time I looked at a clock it was like eleven.”
“I wonder if my family came home.”
I go upstairs and my mother is in bed but I don’t see my father. When I come back down the girl is putting on her shoes.
“I told my parents I would be at the house in time for brunch.”
“I understand. What did you ask for, for Christmas?”
“A purse, what about you?”
“Maybe a camcorder, some other shit, I can’t remember.”
She stands waiting for me in the doorway, and I pull her by her arm toward me and kiss her goodbye. She closes her eyes even though the kiss is short and her arm continues to touch mine when I move my head away.
“If you’re not doing anything for New Year’s, I will probably have some people over.”
“I’ll be there.”
“And if you like want to do something later-”
“It might be tough today; I probably should spend it…with my family.”
“No totally, I meant like later this week or something.”
“Ok, sure, I’ll call you. My parents just came home though and, eh…they will probably want to spend some time with us or something”
“No, totally, it’s the holidays, you have to spend it with your family,” as she says this she lets go of my arm. I open the door for her and go back inside. I can hear my father asleep on the couch in the next room.
I’m naked and showering when I notice the deep blue mark below my shoulder. In the mirror I can make out the individual teeth and places where they had broken the skin. There are deep scratches on my back and lighter ones on my chest.
When I come back downstairs I can hear my father calling from the next room. He’s wearing his clothes from the day before, his hair is flattened on one side.
“Yeah dad?” I say.
He has propped himself up on the middle of the couch, using both his arms as braces. “Kyle, can you do me a favor and get me a glass of water?” He asks while rubbing his head.
“Sure,” I go into the kitchen and drink several glasses myself and then return with a full one in my hands.
“Thanks pal,” he says, taking large gulps until it’s gone. “I have to stop falling asleep on the couch,” he says with a laugh. “Who was the girl?” he says, motioning with his head.
I have to pause for a second, “Oh, the girl, she’s a friend from the city.”
“She’s cute,” he says.
“Yeah, she’s cute.”
“Here take a seat.” He points with his finger to the leather chair close to the couch.
“I’m actually on my way out. I’ll see you tonight.”
He nods and rests his head back in the corner of the couch.