Leave it to my brother to throw a small soirée that lasts until early dawn. When I get home after work, the living room reeks of reefer, booze, and odor-neutralizer. I walk through the door and my brother and Peg are cuddled up on the couch, feeding each other chocolate chip cookies, and stoned out of each other’s mind. Dougie, the bassist for Fintan’s Flood, is crashed out in the recliner chair. A few other people I don’t know are scattered on the floor drugging out on whatever they took. By the looks of it, it looks like they’re tripping on acid. A girl hollers as she rolls along the tile floor to “get the fire out” kind of confirmed my suspicion. Or she could be on crack? I don’t really want to know. I do know I want everyone out of my house. Alastair knows better than to use the house as a druggy den. But how practical would it be to send stoned fools out into the night? The last thing I need on my conscience is one of these idiots killing someone on their drive home.
First, I drag the girl on fire to the bathroom, shove her in the tub, and run cold water on her from the shower head. That calms her down enough that she falls asleep. I would leave the water running, to ensure the fire stays out, but knowing her she could drown from running water, hence why I shut it off. Second, I pick up all the trash from beer cans to junk food bags and packets. Any remaining remnants of drugs I find goes down the toilet. Third, I scan the living room to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
Loudly, my brother whispers to me, “Good news bro!”
I’m not really in the mood to hear his hogwash. But he doesn’t let me ignore him. He manages to snatch my arm, and I’m not sure if it’s just because he’s my big brother, but his grip is like bear-strong.
“What?” I hound very agitated, quite ready to punch him.
“Fintan’s Flood is going on tour bro…” He snickers with delight in his high state.
A little surprised, I double check, “You’ll be out of the house for a few weeks?”
He groans a lowly, “No,” and huffs, “a few months dude…”
A while ago, just after Peg left the band because she broke up with my stupid brother, he said some guy from a label in L.A. was interested in signing the band. When Alastair failed to bring it up again, I assumed it wasn’t legit, but I guess it didn’t go through because Peg wasn’t a member anymore. I’m about to tell my brother congratulations, when I wonder about the security of his job.
“What about your job?” I ask.
Without both of our jobs we can’t afford our living expenses. We can’t cover the mortgage… I swore I’d never lose the house, even if it meant me working three jobs or becoming a drug dealer, I’ll live in this house until I die.
Alastair forces Peg to move over, to lie between him and the back of the couch, and he digs into his pocket that faces the open. He pulls out a huge wad of cash and slams it in my hand as best he can. It’s an awkward position for his arm since I’m standing close to his head.
“You should be good until I can send you more dough.”
I’m hoping this money is from a signing bonus and not his side job. The income of his side job buys all his music-related needs. I know I’d said I’d do anything to keep this house, but I couldn’t really ever be a drug dealer… like my brother… Okay, he’s not like a legit dealer… I’m not sure how he gets his inventory, I just know he doesn’t pay anyone to smuggle it over from Mexico and he doesn’t grow it himself. But he makes money selling it at parties and in the parking lots of bars and clubs.
In my room, I count the money roll; it’s nearly 6k… I could pay four months’ worth of mortgage payments with this alone, if I use parts of it to go half and half with my share, I’ll be fine for three-fourths of the year. Knowing that I’m taken care of should bring me some relief, but only more worry stirs in my heart. Yes, it will be epic to be free from my brother’s crap, but I’ve never been all alone in my entire life. Since my birth, it’s been me, him, and mom… with mom out of the picture, it’s me and him… without him it’s just me… Would if I go crazy from living inside my head too long? I do that when I’m alone a lot. My mind climbs into a think tank and I overthink everything. I even attempt to get deep. Such as what’s the meaning of existence? When will all of humanity figure it out and instead of destroying the world, we build up the world to last until the sun gives out on us? And if we’re so unified, could we solve the solution to a supernova sun or could we find a new world to start again?
I’m not even alone yet and just the idea of loneliness is driving me toward madness. I know it’s late, but Gracie sometimes struggles with insomnia, maybe I’ll be lucky and she’ll be up. I text her a random hello, hoping she’s up. The disgusting habit of chewing my fingernails has returned. I thought I conquered that nasty nervous tick when I began acting, but tonight, when faced with mental peril, it returns. Is it odd I like the taste of my fingernails? What isn’t odd about me? I’m like the king of oddness!
Staring at my phone doesn’t manifest the desire of my heart. Gracie doesn’t text back. The healthy thing to do would be to drink some chamomile tea and at least try to get some shut eye, but the idea of lying in bed alone… a predecessor of lonely days to come in this house… I have to get out of here and go somewhere with people, but where?
As I exit my room, with my wallet in my pocket and my keys in hand to go out to a place booming with people… a whiff of musty, dull potpourri caresses my nose and a vision of mom flashes to mind from the recesses of my memory. The potpourri in her room should be stale by now and scentless. Unless a part of my psyche aches that deeply to be connected to someone, I’m imagining the aroma that once potently came from her room. I turn toward the end of the hall. I face the very last door at the end. Drawn to the room I walk down the hall. The closer I get to the room, the stronger the vision of mom comes to me.
It’s the last time I saw her smile. She was in her room, lying in bed, propped upright due to a mound of fluffy pillows. She wore a pretty puce head dress to cover up her balding head. Alastair was sitting at the foot of the bed smoking a joint with her. They tried to hide it when I walked into the room. Mom knew I was okay with her smoking her legal medicinal marijuana, but she knew I had a problem with Alastair joining her. The comforter began to smoke because Alastair foolishly hid the joint beside him, on top of the bed. Alastair alertly squirmed to his feet and patted the smoke out with his gray, tattered sweater before the smoke sparked into a flame. They were already laughing and mom endured my half-serious, half-joking lecture about allowing Alastair to smoke with her. I used to remember her response and the tone and pitch of her voice perfectly… but now I remember neither.
All I remember is her lifeless skin, nearly gray and very pasty. Her peach lips cracked and chapped; the yellow, sickening hue of her teeth, and the immense exhaustion in her pain-stricken ice blue eyes. She stretched out her arms to me and made me sit beside her on the bed. Holding my hands, she smiles at me. As clear as if she’s with me now, I see her mouth the words I love you. Then she reels me into a hug tight despite her frailty.
Now I’m sitting on her firm, king size, mahogany frame bed, made with her favorite floral bed-set. Crème flannel sheets with tiny little pink flowers with sage little stems. The matching comforter satin-like on top and silky underneath… The pillow covers and the throw pillow cover patterns a perfect match. To most people, a bed set like this would be boring or bland, but my mother insisted everything matched. She was a little OCD about it.
The memory of her hug isn’t enough. I clutch a throw pillow into my embrace and immediately the indescribable scent makes me feel young, vulnerable, and naïve yet somehow strangely secure as if my mother were near me now, which is impossible because she’s gone and dead in the ground and I’ll never see her again, although I would love to… if I could… I would sell my soul to see her in person and give her a real hug.
Tears flood from eyes and a pain jabs in my heart. The overwhelming need for my mother to comfort me weighs me down. Lying on the bed, I curl into a safe ball, and cling to the puffy, light throw pillow as my lifeline. If I were to let go, I think I would die of some sort of spontaneous combustion or severe heartache.
Even though I’m wallowing in loss, I feel less alone. I feel more connected to family than I do to my living brother when he’s around. Here in this room, the terror of lonesomeness flees and a little ray of peace finds me.
Shutting my eyes, I recall the feeling that stirred inside me when my mother tucked me into bed. An emotion that could only be labeled as contentment found me again. Focusing all my thoughts and energy on that simple memory of such a feeling weaves a dream state in me so deep… I can actually sleep.
I wake up a quarter past ten in the morning, my mother’s throw pillow soiled with a small pool of my own drool where my mouth met the cover. In a half awake, groggy state I’m not ready to go anywhere. For me to make it to my Introduction to Acting Class on time I should leave now. But with the desire to sleep, the unwillingness to be a functioning member of society, I turn the throw pillow over and lie back down to sleep a little more.
An alarming sense of danger wakes me a second time. With one eye open, I stare at a bleary, golden, pointy object about to poke my eye out. I tilt my head back a bit to notice my house key threatening to gouge my eye out. The urge to stretch forces me to sit up and I stretch for the ceiling until the compulsion to reach high leaves me.
In the kitchen, I notice the time on the stove clock and it’s safe to say I missed both of my classes today. I might as well eat, shower, and got to work. Tending bar ought to be fun… There will be some fool that will make me laugh on the inside.
PREVIEW OF FUTURE CONTENT, from B/C of Faith
Suddenly, a presence looming behind me makes me feel self-conscience. Am I standing in a weird position? Does my hair look alright? A deep gurgle vrooms from that looming presence and a question follows, “You don’t like the script, huh?” I here David ask.
He steps around me and stands beside Gracie. She reaches out to him and he swoops in her an embrace, lifting her high off the ground. Once he sets her down, talking the speed of a fret train, she tells him everything she loved about the play, which is everything. Once David confesses how he struggled for months to write the script, I suddenly know why Gracie loves everything about it. He also directed the play… no real surprise there. Some actors aren’t meant to write and direct… they’re just meant to act… but some think they can do it all.
“Grady?” I hear a half-excited, half-shocked shrill from behind me. I turn around and Kelsey Cadence rushes to wrap me in her arms. Sighing partly with relief and partly with enthusiasm, Kelsey confesses, “I’m SO glad you came!” Abruptly, very repentantly, she removes herself from my person and asks, “Did you come with a date.” She looks around past me, directly at someone, and gazing over my shoulder I notice she’s eyeing Gracie, probably wondering if she’s my date.