About half an hour later I found myself knocking at his door, oblivious to the very reason he had left the bar for. I kept knocking for a long time up until I realized he was not going to let me in. I knew something was wrong so I walked down to the back of his house where a ventilator from his bathroom opened at some height on the wall. I approached myself to look through it and he was there, lying on the floor straight, his eyes fixed on the ceiling, in the light of a green bulb. I called out his name like several times maybe but he just kept lying like that, like he just died or something. He looked horrible, and not afraid. And when I called him for the twenty-second time, he looked at me and said,
“It hurts so very much.”
Ian and I did not meet yesterday, he had some work with papers in the morning and maybe a bar trip with Everett in the evening. Though he invited I did not join, should leave old friends alone, I thought.
I rung him over this morning, he called me back after an hour, an hour before it could suddenly be noon.
“Late night party?”
“Late night bullshit.”
I laughed out.
I told him he could come visit me at the store in noon when William’d not be there.
He came a few hours later. Looked like he had not had a good sleep last night.
I said, grabbing him a cola as he sat down on the chair on the other side of the counter.
“If we occur to put the incidents happened last night in a simple order, it would look like: Everett left me at the bar in the middle of nothing, then locked himself up in his bathroom lying on its floor, and most importantly he never let me in. So I left him for good and came back home.”
“And you don’t know why?”
“And I don’t know why.”
He said looking confused. He looked cute when confused. All of the people look cute when they are confused, except some, like me.
He grabbed the newspaper from the shelf beside the counter and talked to me flipping through the pages.
“Do you read news?”
“Never have the time to.”
“People shitting, people shitting, people dying, and coming of the winters, all of this is filled with crap.”
“People die all the times.”
“Teenage girl dies in a car accident last evening at I-30.”
“Girl aged 19, named Amanda porter passed away last evening in a car crash at I-30….”
And he slowed down. It was for an instant. He glanced at me and he looked frightened, like he had been below a hammer waiting to be nailed to a wall and it was the moment between the strike and leaving. And it was when I realized it was Amanda.
Ian stood up and bolted towards the door and I followed him as fast as I could. I left the store door open. I just did not care about it. I did not care about Everett, or Amanda, or Ian in that moment. But I wanted to run after him. Sometimes we just run and don’t care, other times we care but never run.
His home was not very far from the store so were there after maybe three minutes of good running. Ian was knocking at the door and I was standing after him, panting with my hands on my knees.
Three or four knocks later Everett opened the door for us.
“Welcome my friends!”
He said, standing behind the gate with his arms wide open. Wearing a red tee shirt and no trousers. Ian reached up to him and hugged him tightly.
And then I hugged him.
We sat on the couch kept in front of the T.V, Everett sat down on the carpet below. So we all sat down on the carpet below.
He talked about the football match last night and then about some woman at the bar and almost about everything but Amanda porter.
He looked more normal than he had ever looked and fresher than he had ever smelled. I have heard words about what they do to corpses before funerals. He looked like them.
Ian said in the middle of something.
“She might be somewhere on her way to the world out of the box.”
“And it is okay, sometimes you have to let people go on the paths just so that they could reach somewhere you are going to be someday. And I pretty much guess all of us are going to the same place.”
He finished with a smile, a smile which had some satisfaction of knowing more than other people knew about the world.
“I don’t understand you.”
“You don’t get to understand everything in the world.”
“Amanda porter died yesterday in a car accident, which is what he is talking about.”
Everett looked at me, his eyes wide open.
“It is vague to believe that people die. And that is also not the question, the question is what you believe you lose when they happen to die anyway. I am not very concerned with what you understand as death, I am rather thoughtful about the halt. The inability of generating new memories to have and moments to live. That is the answer and if you occur to understand it properly, then you would realize that memories could be lived infinitely and that people never die if you don’t want them to.”
“I don’t get any of crap you just recited. What I get is, if you need me, I am here.”
He left us to the door. We bid him goodbyes.
He said. Again from behind the door as he closed it.
“If you had a box, where you could keep people forever, whom would you have kept?”
I smiled at him.
“And you, Cheryl?”
He asked to me.
“If such were to happen, people would have ended in each other’s boxes and there would be more boxes than people in this world. And I would have hated such of a world. I believe everyone must know of the air out of the box.”
“Some people get their throats choked when they smell the air though.”
He replied with a chortle.
“But I like you.”
Adding in the end.
I smiled back and he closed the door then.
Summers were almost gone and winter was yet to arrive. And I had some good days before I would have left to Lou. I looked at my watch, it was almost half an hour before the time we were supposed to meet at the bar. I locked my house on the front and left for the bar. The sky was brown and full of dust as it becomes after the passage of a storm. Clouds made patterns which looked like cotton balls spread amongst the chocolate. I thought about the clouds, all smoke and nothing. Closer and closer, as you go, they disappear. There are beautiful things you can’t have, I thought, and then there are clouds.
I reached the bar, it was almost untenanted. It would certainly have been populous if it were an hour from the late night. Music was slow and quiet and you would not have to shout to talk. Maybe all of these places were made to make sad people sadder.
Everett arrived after few minutes. He called in for no drink, so I just ordered a mint julep for myself. We sat down on the sofa kept in a low lit corner on the left of the counter. From where we could see everyone without being seen by them.
There were a few people, sitting and talking, and in the eyes of theirs they looked like liars. A woman, mildly aged, who wore red was sitting on the sofa right in front of us across the space. We could see her, so she could see us too. She had a glass of what looked like red wine in her hand.
“What do you think?”
I sent my words to Everett.
“A heartbreak maybe?”
He whispered back.
“Not at this age.”
I said resentfully.
“The only thing heartbreaks are not related to, is age.”
“Maybe they are not at all related to anything. They are the source.”
He contemplated the lady for a short while and said.
“But we all fall in love, with different people, imagining that only the probabilities we have are the best, yet knowing somewhere that all of the love in this world is meant to end in heartbreaks.”
It was not the simple cause of not having an answer that made me lack a reply for him but only the indifference towards all the peculiar things for a while.
I knew, all about the lady and red dresses and glasses of wines and love and heartbreaks and people who cause them but what is the worth of loving if we all start to believe in heartbreaks.
“I strongly believe that people drink to fill the voids in them.”
I made a bad attempt at answering.
“The voids of true things?”
Everett said, scratching the carpet with the head of his shoe.
“I am afraid I don’t know much about that.”
“More often than not, the voids are caused by true things. There is a time when you don’t say them and they find their place in some creek of your heart, and then a summer evening when the girl you love with all your heart dances right there in front of you wearing the most beautiful dress you have ever seen and all you want to shout is “Stop!”, you have this wide smile on your lips and you want it all to stop, the very moment, as if moments were feathers and you wanted them to pass but ever so slowly, not ripping through the wind but floating. And in the moment, you close your eyes and dive in your heart and search for the true things to be said but they are not there, my friend. They are somewhere in spaces, hidden deep, unsaid, easy to feel yet hard to search for.
The moment passes, people leave, smiles fade away and your creeks, they become the voids. The deal with true things is that they disappear.
You don’t know if the cat is dead or alive up until you open the box, but if you wait for too long, the cat certainly dies.”
He looked up at me.
“Did you tell her that you love her?”
“She seemed to know it.”
“And she left?”
“Yes, she left. Perhaps for a better day.”
He said looking up in nowhere.
The woman in red stood up and left the seat empty.
“All the voids.”
"It is always hard to promise a forever, but she has her today.”
"And the seat awaits."
He replied smiling.
I smiled back.
Everett’s phone rang from his jeans pocket.
“I have a call here.”
He said looking at the screen.
He stood up and walked out of the bar to take the call.
I finished the yet left julep and waited. And when after a long time he did not return, I had to go and look for him out of the bar. But he was not there, or anywhere to be found.
I felt a rush of anger and worry in my mind. I could not find a valid reason to think that he might have walked himself back home, but unthinking most of what I had thought, I furthered myself towards his house.
Everett had been back from his trip on Thursday but we had not heard from him yet. I did not bother disturbing him the night he came, though last night I had seen his apartment's lights switched on my way back home.
He was supposed to see me on Friday but did not, so I knocked at his door the Saturday morning.
The door had not been locked, I made my way in. He had a small apartment with a room up front attached to a bathroom and a kitchen on its back. And it was most probably the shittiest apartment in the block. Because it smelled like shit and pizzas. Walls were however freshly painted in dark green and curtains were closed all the times.
As usual, he was sleeping on his couch. His hair messed and mouth half open with saliva dripping on the pillow tucked beneath his head.
I rapped his hip with my hand. He woke up like a mad bitch on heat, with his eyes red.
"Oh fuck! Ian, You here, fucking let me fucking sleep."
And fell back on his couch with his head now diving into the arch of the pillow he had just made.
"And also make a coffee for me."
Said from there.
I kicked him on his ass.
"Why are you sleeping like Aspasia?"
"Who the hell is that?"
"The great whore from Athens who is said to have remained asleep for two days after fucking the king."
"Ah make us some coffee, I'll tell you."
I made my way to the kitchen, both of us badly needed some coffee. All the stories need coffee.
Half on my way, I could hear his muffled voice through the room.
"Also, I am no whore you filthy daemon."
After having coffee, we talked about the trip he had.
For a long while he kept telling me how they drove across fields full of purple flowers and by the lakes those concealed the actual sun. And waking up to the sound of birds those apparently sounded not any less sweet than Celine Dion herself.
And it was all fun until he kept describing how sleeping next to Amanda Porter on a night full of stars felt like.
But then he turned to the part where his face dropped like a sad widow. He told me Amanda invited him for a dinner last night which was actually a goodbye as she was going to leave the town the next morning.
"I am sorry."
"Yeah, no, I don't know man. Shit happens."
"Yeah, shit happens."
Nobody could have known more about how shit happens than I did. Especially after the uninvited show up of William at Cheryl's shop last night. I remembered that for a while and laughed.
"Well, you could keep on sleeping, I have some work at the college."
I said then.
"About you leaving?"
Everett asked, after completing his sip sound.
"Yeah, I need some documents withdrawn."
"See you then, Daemon."
"See you at the bar at night."
I said getting up.
I made my way to the gate, sneaked back in with just my head visible through the gap and whispered.
"At eight, pretty whore."
He frowned from his couch and dived back in it to sleep.
I shut the door off and left.
The week was mostly good, well except the William Patrick's emphasised notes on how much he had missed me during a fucking Sunday. But I still needed work to pay off my mother's hiking medical bills so I'd better not let him know what an irritating piece of shit he was.
An hour after William left the store last night, Ian showed up at the door. It was a usual part of the day for me. We ate some chips and talked about Everett and leaving summers. Since the night we had been back from the Old Man's bar, he looked a little bit changed. It seemed like he loved me more, maybe he started loving me since then.
There are times when we are so sure about loving some people that we almost occur to believe it as the truest thing and then there is a moment another, when we actually fall in love with those people and it's quite annoying because we have already said things we think of saying now and have already done things we find most amazing and still it is okay, it is, because being in love with some people we always know that it would be safe on the other side whether or not we find immediate expressions.
And so I was out of my stack of sentences about telling that I loved Ian, because I had never prepared for it. I had not prepared for running, I was just walking for a while and then I knew it was the most good I had felt in a long while. And suddenly there were no water bottles and I was too far away from home and yet, the sand under my feet felt good.
So there was Ian sitting beside me, both of us bent with our heads kept low on the counter. I'd stare into his eyes and he in mine as we talked about various things. Things those were really unimportant and vague but just provided us with the right time duration to come closer and closer and fall in a kiss. I breathed his breath and leant in forward to put my lips on his.
At that certain moment, William knocked on the door and we had to unhook. He stood there for a while and kept looking.
And then he passed on a smirk.
Coming in he asked.
"Is that your boyfriend, Cheryl?"
"Yeah, I am."
Ian answered firmly from his place.
I looked at him with an interrogative expression on my face, I liked it though deep somewhere inside me.
"And do you often do this at my store once I leave?"
"I occasionally visit her."
I was still standing in middle of them. It felt the most awkward situation I had ever had. So I interfered.
"We are sorry, Mr William, Maybe I'll leave early tonight."
We left the store with him still in it. I did not know why he would visit at such a late hour of the night.
We walked back home together crawling in slowly toward our homes as we strolled hand in hand. The night was beautiful, Ian planted a swift kiss on my cheeks when he left.
I slept a while after having dinner with my mother.
Thirty ninth night.
I reached my home and sneaked downstairs right into the basement before my parents could spot me. I really wanted to be alone for a while because that is what everyone does when they have a secret thing hidden in their front pocket since last few hours.
So, it was the letter meant for Marry green. Apparently I had not given it to her. I just did not feel like it.
I locked the door, turned the A.C on and took off my jacket after pulling the letter out of it.
I was in my bed, still with my shoes on, collapsed in between pillows with the ‘yet-unopened’ letter in my hand.
And before I could have read it, there was a knock at my door. A big knock, kind of which you see on T.V when they break the gates of fortresses with logs. I knew it was my dad there on the door.
I hid the letter beneath the bedsheet, ran to the gate and opened it quickly.
He stood there with a baseball bat retracted back to his shoulders ready to hit my head, with my mother standing behind him.
“Wait, wait, it’s me, Ian.”
I was like shit scared of any probable hit coming from my giant built dad.
“Whoa! You just fucking scared us.”
He said loosening up his grip.
“Yeah, sorry I have just come back.”
“Yeah, Okay, we just heard the stairs creak and thought it might be some nasty bastard in our house. Anyway, were not you supposed to come back on Monday? It’s just Sunday today.”
“Looks like you have got some plans for tonight.”
I said with a smirk on my face.
“Well, right, I and your mom have planned to go for a movie.”
He was still talking with his waist resting upon the bat’s head.
“Sure, carry on. I have also got some plans for tonight.”
“Study and shit?”
“Yeah, Study and shit.”
My mother started dressing up later in the evening. She would wear a black pearl necklace every time she’d go out, now maybe half or all of those pearls were not actual pearls but my mother liked to wear it. Unlike dad, she was small. And she still looked well. Perhaps because she had a smaller body to maintain than most of us guys. With her brown hair having strands of grey in middle of them breaking the dawn of her old.
“We’d be back by midnight.”
She said from her room still adjusting her dress.
I replied back from my room.
They were happy going out.
After they had left, I thought of going to the basement to read the letter where it was kept safe beneath the bedsheet. But an idea of watching T.V for a while took over my mind. I was dead tired of the day I had had.
I made a safety boat out of my pillows on my bed and turned off the lights and switched on the T.V and A.C and jumped right into my boat hopping across the table in between.
And the bed was ocean and I was safe.
I fell asleep in a while.
In the middle of my night, or maybe it had been some time around the same. I felt my throat drying out of thirst. I woke up to have some water from the lamp table. Rolling on to my left I glanced at the table clock. Hands were at 11:23 pm. I pulled myself out of my pillow boat and sat up on the bed resting my back against the headrest. There was still time for my parents to get back.
I reached out my hand to the phone on the table and dialed to Cheryl.
So, it takes a moment before the lines get connected. In between you send the signal from here and some machine in the sky gets to know you want to talk to someone on this earth and then it tells them. In that moment, I thought about Cheryl.
“The life is afflicted. You don’t get to have a say in when things come and go and what you get from them. Most often, people get what they want and they start believing this is the secret. But the secret is not this. The secret, is that people can have their wantings but they will always be deprived of what they deserve to have.”
She said while we were in the park, I remembered her eyes from there. The corner of her eyes welled up with tears, resisting her say.
Everyone at some point wants to believe most in the thing they firmly hold disbelief for. And maybe she always knew what she was saying, like everyone else. But then she always possibly knew a little more than that, she knew that most of what she said was true while it should not have been.
I heard the dialer’s ring. She attended it up after four of them to be exact.
She said in her imperceptible breath.
“The phone rang like a death metal band at this hour, mom was this close to waking up.”
“Could you talk?”
I was already feeling guilty.
“Oh dear, sure I could. In a low low voice, but yeah I could.”
“I had a bad dream.”
I sunk in my pillow boat back.
My parents were out for some movie, Cheryl’s mother was probably sleeping, the rest of the world was possibly doing some other sort of shit and I could not care lesser about everything. But the point was that we have gotten some minutes, important silent minutes. Where nobody would have noticed us and for a short while, I felt important. And we could sink together deeper than anyone else could in middle of indiscernible breaths.
“What kind of bad dream my dear had?”
I went lower in bed, pulling the blanket up until the top of my head and tucked it back of it and breathed.
“I saw you, not that I could see your face but I most certainly know that were you. I could feel it. In the middle of a lush green garden, rows of mountain laurels, and you were running away...”
“And you could not catch me?”
She breathed. I could hear the buzz through the speaker.
“Yeah, I could not and when I was about to, you just disappeared.”
“Maybe when we live, we dream. And when we dream, we live.”
She took a pause.
Perhaps she always had the idea that I always fail to understand what she’d mean with her words.
“I want you to know a thing.”
She said after thinking for a while.
“I am here.”
“Yeah, and when it would be morning, we can go have a coffee and if you want we can try the running part at the park and you could most certainly catch me.”
It was the most comforting this I had had heard in a while.
“I am in love with you Cheryl Campbell.”
“And you shall always be loved by me, Ian Martin.”
In her swayed breath she muttered.
It was a promise. I knew. That is the thing about promises, they are made long before they are said.
I heard the intercom ringing in the main hall.
“Mom and dad are back, I need to go, see you, take care.”
“You too, see you tomorrow at the store. Love.”
She whispered back.
I held the phone closer to my lips and planted a kiss on her lips across all the distance between us.
I said and kept back the phone and rushed to the aisle to get the door.
Mom and dad ambled right into their bedroom without saying a word, they had a sly smirk on their faces. Secret and secrets of the world, I thought.
I passed out on my bed after a while.
She looked up at me.
“Oh, Cheryl. My Dear.”
She said, surprised, trying to smile. Wiping the tear from her eye.
“I am really sorry, I did not think you would be back home so soon, I would cook something for you.”
Her face was as pale as a peeled potato, her freckles embossing the trail of tears those flown.
I said softly.
“Could I just sit with you for a while?”
I took off my bag pack and laid it by the wall before she nodded.
And sat beside her.
She was inexplicable, when you would see her you’d start asking questions to yourself and most of them would have an echoing ‘why?’ attached to them.
But she was beautiful, and that was certain.
And when you see beautiful people falling into a cliff for unexplainable causes, you decide that life is not always hard, it is sometimes just unfair.
I slid my arms in the gap between her arms and stomach and around her back and leant in towards her. She unbowed her legs and I found my place in her lap. She ran her fingers through my hair.
“Where does it hurt?
“Everywhere; But where it should be.”
I looked into her eyes, a shade of blue floating in the middle of white of them.
“It is the poisoner, and it is poisoning what it needs to stay, and then there is me somewhere in between this and it is so unfortunate that I am not the one who decides who would win, but in the end, I know, I’d lose.”
“I always thought that I am more than what makes me, but now as I slip, I realise I am nothing more than the structure inside my skin.
Deteriorating each moment, faster in your absence.”
“I am always here.”
“When I was your age, I loved theatre. Every Saturday I would head to the Broadway in the download by the cloth factory and they would play ‘Death of a salesman’.”
“And then in a scene, Willy tells Charlie that ‘Ultimately a man is worth more dead than alive.’
So, when the first time I saw it, I cried with everyone beside me. When Willy would die in the end so to provide his son Biff with the insurance money.
But in the next times, and each of it, I would start crying when he’d say ‘Ultimately a man is worth more dead than alive.’
Because every moment after it being said, I could see the death in the eyes of the old man playing Willy. Because he knew it and I knew it. And it did not matter if anyone else did.
There are some people, Cheryl, who think that they are meant to do something special in this world and fail themselves when they can’t
I am one of them.”
“Do you remember being young?”
“I remember everything, and I don’t want to forget it.”
“I love you, Mom.”
I rolled myself burying my face in her stomach.
“Love you too sweet.”
She kissed my hair.
We remained there for a while.
She had not cooked for herself that noon, I made ourselves some pasta by the evening.
She looked happy for the rest of the day. We talked and waved to cars those would pass on the road.
I felt tired, early in the night I collapsed on my bunk and slept while thinking about the old man from the bar.
After a few hours, I opened my eyes and rolled on towards Ian, facing him now.
With his eyes closed he looked more innocent and unsuffered. Perhaps I knew less about him, because from what I had figured out, everyone was suffering at every point.
Like me, like the old man and like Marry green.
I could not sleep back. I kept thinking about Marry, and the first thing I thought about her was that nobody had ever thought about her probably. And about how besmirching it is to make a person another person.
She might have been looking over the old man for years and every day she would become more like him. Legless and decrepit. Maybe she waited for Bob to die with an idea of unfairness of what she would wait for.
I thought about my mother, and her eyes. The way she had stopped looking at herself in the mirror. Her golden hair shedding slowly from her head, making her balder and she would not care. She would smile and open the gates every night for me and like Marry she would say with her elegant smile.
“Welcome to the evening.”
I withdrew myself from Ian’s hand encircling my waist, slowly, and rose with my legs crossed, still half covered in the blanket. I could look the old man sleeping now, his eyes closed, and for a while he too seemed to be unsuffered and escaped of all the things he had in his head.
I reached out to my bag which laid down under the old man’s bed and priced it to my lap. I searched for my pen and notebook and pulled out with almost no sound. Then in the meagre light from every small lightened up thing, I wrote a letter to Marry green.
I finished up and kept back the bag at its place. The old man had awoken, he rolled on the bed facing me and tucked in his palms under his head, and smiled. I put my finger over my lips and did a shhh. And he nodded.
He whispered through his feeble breath.
I inclined back in my mattress.
I woke up late in the morning. Bob had done away with his usual grooming by then and lain back in his bed against the headrest reading an old novel.
I rose back on my back and smiled towards him in my sleepy eyes. He smiled back and continued reading. Ian awoken a few minutes later.
“Good morning, young fellows.”
Bob said when Ian regained himself back from his eternal sleep.
“Good morning, Bob.”
We freshen ourselves up and had some coffee from Bob’s kitchen.
And then there was time to go.
There are these few minutes, always. Minutes before you leave out of somewhere and they are always somewhat sad for a person like me who would leave a little bit of herself everywhere she would go.
Like if I am ever calling the 911 and they ask me what shit I have gotten myself into. I will tell them the shit is called ‘attachment.’
“You could visit me anytime. We are friends now”
“Yes, surely we will.”
“Gotta go, Bob.”
I said after I finished the coffee.
He said with his arms open.
Ian ran into his arms with me and he hugged us both for a moment.
The old man kept smiling as we left the room.
We waved him a goodbye.
Maybe he wanted to walk.
At the staircase I pulled out my letter to Marry from my bag. I could not find her on getting down, she was not at the door now. I wanted to get back to the old man and ask him if he knew where she was, but that would have ruined the whole goodbye ceremony so I forbid it.
We left the bar. I looked back at it, ‘The Molten Snowman.’ It read.
After a few steps Ian told that he had seen Marry walking in the bar.
I sighed. It would have been easier if I could have found her in first and given her the letter and walked away. But now I did not want to go back, I handled Ian the letter and told him to give it to her.
I stood back near Alaska and saw him leave.
He returned back after a while with car keys whirling in his finger.
We seated ourselves back in Alaska.
I did not ask him what happened back at the bar.
It roof felt melting over our heads, I switched on the A.C.
“Are we still going to the padre?
“What’s your say?”
I questioned back.
“If we are to get back as planned we would be having two hours of the mid noon there. It would not be a rational decision to go.”
He said in a single breath.
“We should go back, we would still have two good days of vacations left at home. Maybe Everett would be back by tomorrow and then we can have some fun in there.”
I said, taking off my shoes and kept my legs crossed over the seat to feel the cool air right on them.
“I am afraid he would not be back until Friday.”
“No problem, we still could have some fun.”
I talked about fun, or having fun, or things associated with fun but I just wanted to go back and see my mother. She was an art. The most beautiful one having the point more than any other art in the world.
I remembered the point.
We drove back to the town. Green mile stones and the grasslands again with would not howl back fear now. I opened the window and let my hand glide with the wind. Watching myself in the side view mirror. I had looked myself after a while. I loved the pink smile.
Ian turned on the radio.
It played ‘Doesn’t Really Matter.’ From Janet Jackson.
“Doesn't matter what your friends tell you
Doesn't matter what my family's saying too
It just matters that I'm in love with you
It only matters that you love me too.
It doesn't matter if they won't accept you
I'm accepting of you and the things that you do”
Ian sung with her.
I did not remember the lyrics so I just moved my fingers in the air with him.
More cars as we approached more towards the city, blocks and streets.
Ian slowed down the car as we reached my block.
“I did not expect it to be so short of a tour, but I enjoyed.”
I said and planted a soft kiss on the back of his hand.
Ian dropped me at my home.
The door was unlocked.
My mother was not in the main hall. She might be in the kitchen I thought.
I skipped myself into the kitchen but it was empty. So I strode to the backyard.
There she was, sitting against the bathroom’s wall. Her legs arched and stiff and her face dumped in between them as she cried softly.
I walked to her, and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Are not we already friends by now?”
I asked leaning my head into middle of them.
“The girl is smarter than you, child.”
He said with a chivalrous smile.
“Let me order you some drinks.”
He reached out his hand to a call bell and pressed the button on it, in a short while Marry knocked in at the door.
The old man said with his usual smiling face and Marry responded with her lips curved upward without a smile.
“Get my friends some drinks, the best of ours to be certain.”
Marry swirled back on her place and went downstairs.
“Does not she talk?”
“Oh of course she does, she talks a lot, but she is a little shy with new people.”
Both of us stood up to look around the room.
On the left wall, as we approached, the old man said pointing his finger to the painting hung there.
“That is a copy of ‘The Starry Night’.”
We looked at it and nodded and moved forward towards the next wall.
“Look at it, what do you see?”
I looked at it.
“I see the moon, the stars, a town and a church maybe in middle of that.”
“And you, boy.”
“The same, maybe I even see a little lesser that she does.”
“That is what most people see, you see? You look at it and see what the painter sees but you don’t see what the painter feels and this is the secret behind paintings.
People think that they will never be able to decipher what the painter had felt. But what if he was just bored and drew the only damn scene he could see out of his window?
Isn’t there a probability to it?”
The old man said.
The old man looked at us with his deep eyes. And he spoke slowly.
“Van Gogh painted it from the window of his asylum, he drew almost twenty one variations of it.
‘Through the iron-barred window,’
he wrote to his brother, Theo, ‘I can see an enclosed square of wheat . . . above which, in the morning, I watch the sun rise in all its glory.’ ’’
“So he did not draw it in some lonely boring night.”
“No, I am sure not.
“A man who lies in the middle of a room, knowing he might never walk again, or maybe that the last world he can experience is limited to the sight he can see, and when he looks out of his window, and in the burnt off fire. He looks more than you would ever do. And that is beautiful.
“And beautiful things, my children are made to be felt and not to be deciphered.”
The old man said.
It is hard, I thought, to have something for a limited amount of time in your life and to be able to rightfully decide if to feel it or decipher the very mean of its being.
The old man looked pale, lacking the blood that could flow through his veins and heart.
The skin on his face wrinkling and he looked right in the middle of another painting on the wall.
“Do you know her?”
He asked with a glee.
“She is Ophelia, from the Hamlet.”
“I remember her.”
Bob looked at me, as if I were his dearest friend knowing something only two of us knew.
“She dies in a weedy ditch, fallen from a tree. Singing songs. Drowning and drowning.”
“And how is that when a character reveals into an emotion and the death of it is not the primary concern anymore, which had been actually created to kill a part of those who see it, even long after it is gone.”
“Would not it be a treacherous thought to believe that a character is always something else but himself?”
“That is the point, treacherousness is the very point of art.”
Marry knocked on the door, she had many bottles of different drinks kept in big serving plate covered by a large white cloth.
“I shall bring the glasses in second run.”
She said, assuming the incoming question.
“Thank you Marry, I will appreciate it.”
Ian sent ours with his.
Marry smiled, kept the plate on the table beside Bob’s bed and returned just to show up after a while with three glasses.
“Would you like to drink with us?”
Bob asked her.
To which she revealed the fourth glass from back of waist and chuckled.
Bob sat up against the headrest and Marry on the side of his feet.
We got back to our stools to enjoy some oarsman Ale and third cost beer.
“Rafael liked the Amber Ale, he would drink a lot of it, glasses and bottles.”
“A good friend he had been to me.”
“The friend who died last winters?”
The old man said, sipping the drink from his glass.
“It is so ridiculous that people die all the times.”
The old man glanced at him with his all ever kept soft smile and continued drinking.
Marry kept his half emptied glass on the table and looked at Ian with her eyes half closed. I could sense a denial on her face.
“No, people don’t die all the times. They die once, it is not ridiculous…”
Bob said in reprimanding voice.
“You children think that the world is so big and there is so much to explore and someday, some evening you would be sitting in the balcony of a wooden house rolled in a blanket with a coffee beside you.
Living In the large green ground at the feet of some white snowy mountain. And there is a chance to it, as far as I know, there is a chance to everything.
But that is not the story, the story is that you can’t have all the stories at once.
You might be having a pleasant life and drinks with friends at your bar while the music runs across the walls and next evening you realize you can’t walk anymore.
And then there is a last time you remember walking out of the kitchen and that seems to be the only time you did not walk enough it to be remembered forever.
A last time when you go to the next city and then you realize that you would never ever be going more than few feet away from your room and it stops mattering if the snowy mountains or oceans or skies even exist or not.
All you can see is the things out of your window and that’s it.
The world becomes more and more insignificant with each next beat and in the end it shrinks so much that your own body becomes insignificant.
Death is a disappointment of ours from us that takes everything over someday.
And that’s how you die, little man. And nobody does this way all the times.”
“I would like you to leave the room Marry.”
“No, I apologize, let her stay, she is right. I should not have said that.”
Marry left the room.
Everyone remained silent for a while.
And then I hugged Bob. Ian hugged him as well.
The old man smiled.
“You guys might be tired.
There are some blankets kept in the Almira there. Grab them and lay them on the floor. Have some sleep and then you could continue tomorrow.”
Ian brought the pillows and blankets from the Almira.
We bid each other a good night.
“We go all the way to south.”
Ian said with a smile as he opened the gate for me.
“Until there is no more south.”
“Well, there has to be water technically.”
“You are a smarty-pants technically.”
I shrugged him off.
He started Alaska and we drove our way out of the city.
It was a dull night but you could think about the white beaches all the way to ignore that. I saw the blocks leaving behind, and then the streets and freeway exits, leading us to highway.
I had never had a road trip before that, maybe I never had needed one. Miles after miles as we kept crossing the state, I counted the yellow lines on the road and the green mile markers those passed by.
I switched off the light, we could not see each other now. Maybe Alaska was invisible for the world too. Well, except for the headlights.
I looked out of the window, wide spread grasslands which looked substantial and no matter how fast would we drive they would return back a yowl of fear, like we were always in their claw, like some eyes were looking from across, always.
I rolled up the window back.
Ian was driving, I could feel him beside me. I felt safe. Few cars would pass every now and then with their high beams on.
It would not have been a nice idea to distract Ian, so I laid my head back on the headrest and thought watching the roof over my head.
I concluded that you can’t do too many things in a car, and when you can’t do many a thing, boredom takes over your mind slowly and then all of a sudden you feel like the most bored person surviving.
We had had our food at our homes and what we had to do was to drive all the way to somewhere far we had never been before.
I saw some lights at a distance on the road, I looked at Ian, pulling up my legs up to the dashboard.
He said, glancing me.
“I would like to stop for a while.”
He looked confused.
“There are lights at some distance, maybe there is some bar or something.”
He looked towards the lights as we drove closer to them.
“Yeah, seems like it.”
We reached there, I keeked through the window. It was a small bar named the ‘The Melted Snowman.’
He stopped the car by the road.
It was not a pee call, it doesn’t call me that often.
I just wanted to breathe for a while. I walked up to the bonnet and on my toes I jumped upon it just to get my ass fried like a steak.
“Fuck, Fuck, and Fuck it burns oh my God.”
“Why the heck would you sit on Alaska’s head, it is sure not expected to be as cool as its name.”
I kicked in the sand.
We left the car there.
The bar looked like a chalet, having no décor at all, at least on the outer. The main door had a knock ring. After a few knocks a young woman opened the door for us.
“Welcome to the night.”
She said with an elegant smile. And
welcomed us in.
I smiled back to her.
Ian followed me inside.
The summers were leaving and it was cold at nights, but the inside felt warm and cozy.
There were round tables placed unorderly and few men were sitting on the long straight benches kept by them.
Some gossiped with beers in their hands.
‘The Yellow Rose’ was being played softly from an unknown source. It seemed to be an old man dive kind.
We approached the counter, there were plenty of drinks in the back bar but none to serve, so we sat down on the stools kept there.
From the left, a staircase led to the first floor.
After a while, I looked at the woman and called her to ask if there was any bartender present there.
She had sat on a small stool kept few feet away left of the main door.
“You might be willing to be a friend first.”
She said from the distance and stood up to approach us.
“Friends with whom?”
I squizzed Ian and asked looking at the Woman.
“With the old man.”
She said pointing her finger towards the staircase.
“Isn’t this place fucking weird?”
Ian whispered in my ear.
“Seems so, let’s look out for the old man anyway.”
We stood up and walked up the staircase which led us to the first floor.
The roof was arched and coinciding on the top like a hut’s, forming a long line across the large room, it was almost as high as our heads where we stood but high at the center where the bed was placed.
There were a few paintings, copies of some famous ones hung and a fireplace along the left wall.
An old man had been lain on the bed, contemplating the burnt off wood in the fireplace. Looking right into the amber of it.
He did not notice us entering.
“May we come in?”
I said in a low voice hoping to get noticed.
The old man looked at me, just with a slight shift of his eyes.
“Of course, children, you are welcome, come have a seat.”
He said in his low deep voice with a smile more elegant than the woman at the floor below had, which was also considerably good.
This person looked true, tenable and convincing his oldness with his looks. Freckles and wrinkles on the face, a little beard on the chin and a bunch of white hair sprouting in a disarray on his almost bald head. He looked wise.
We approached him and sat on the stools kept beside his bed.
He wore a sky blue coloured night suit with full sleeves and a thin blanket covered him up until his waist. A glass of milk was kept on the table in front of the bed with a radio and a television.
“The woman on the ground floor said we might be willing to be your friends in order to have drinks.”
Ian said with a slight hesitation in his voice.
The old man laughed slightly, and then he coughed, lifting himself a little bit with the support of his hand against the mattress.
I pulled out my water bottle from my bag pack and offered to him.
“No, it’s okay, Thank you sweet.”
He said and laughed again lying back on his bed now.
“Marry is a sweet girl, but she is stupid. That is the deal with most of sweet people anyway. Before I came here up on this floor, I told her to let only my friends drink from the bar.”
“So, we would not be having our lone stars tonight?”
“Oh certainly you would, there are also Lakewood, Deep Ellum Brewing, Rabbit Hole kept in the store room.”
The old man smiled.
“What is the thing with friends then?’’
He replied and then continued.
“Whither go you?”
“To the south padre Island.”
“Then I am afraid you would have to wait for a while before you could continue your odyssey.”
“The radio broadcasted a thunderstorm on the highway 83 a while ago.”
I looked at Ian with a pile of shit in my eyes. He looked back and laughed slightly.
“Then you tell us the story, sir.”
“Call me Bob.”
Ian reached out his hand to shake with Bob’s.
Bob took a sip from the glass on the table and kept both of his hands on his chest, his fingers interlaced and then looking at the roof he said in his husky and slow voice.
“I have owned this bar for thirty long years, I have seen evenings when it was full of women and boys and men and the evenings when music and beer would flow through their minds. The world was better those days. And I had stored barrels and barrels of Ale and Wine in the store room so that I would never run out of it to serve. I was an obsessed person, obsessed of the smooth life I had.
The woman you met, Marry green, has been working here for few years. She is a sweet stupid woman, which you would not be able to recognize at first.
So, as I grew old and the crowd grew lesser and lesser, I started making friends who would visit me regardless of a few things others would have minded. And to keep them intact, I started to serve free wine. And then only the friends remained, maybe because the wine was free.
But I was never worried about it.”
“You had a lot of wine.”
“Yeah, you mix a little of water in it and nobody notices it.
So I had five friends, before I felt this strange immobility in my limbs and had to lie down on the bed for my days and nights, which I still do.
I was still fond of my friends, so they would visit me often in here. Gossiping as they would sit here on these stools and drink. Eventually they stopped coming, one by one and I was left with only one friend, an old Mexican guy, Rafael. Who happened to die last winters.
I was left alone. With the small house and a lot of wine in the store with only Marry left to serve me.”
He took a brief pause.
“I told her to serve only to my friends for free, and to have the rest of pay if others come. Hence, she asks everyone entering if they would be willing to be my friend first.”
“For the free drinks.”
Bob chuckled through his old lips.
Thirty seventh night.
A month had passed since I first kissed Ian martin in his bedroom.
Which also happened to be the only good thing I remembered about the days passed.
Summers were leaving and though the colleges had started admitting students, I was still working at the store.
There was something pleasant about the world.
Or at least it seemed so.
And all the pleasant things have a relation about their proximity with the silence, it’s when you stop guessing about the world. When the certainty takes over the oblivion. And when, for a brief while, all the voids are filled.
Ian visited me often at the store after Mr. Patrick would leave, which he would, sooner those days. Maybe Martha was expecting a child.
He mostly talked about Louisiana, where he was expecting to leave after taking some exam at his college.
He would convince me about how moving there was a better option than working my ass off in Texas for maybe the rest of my life.
He was right about most of the things, moreover it was not all about the money because most Texas colleges required an almost perfect GPA to get accepted and even after this, LSU could still be a much less expensive option.
And when I would refuse to understand the sole of it, he’d tell me how beignets at Cafe du Monde tasted better than tacos from in here.
I could not leave my mother, she was ill all the times, fading away like a little scar on my wrist. Just when I started talking to it and just when it was the only friend I realized having. She would look at me every night when I’d be back from the work, and say
“You look beautiful, honey.”
She had started saying it in recent days. I believed that she knew of the fall and that it was important to see the beauty before a fall which is treacherous and does not promise a rise again.
I would tell her that she looked beautiful too.
People start becoming beautiful at some point in their lives when they occur to realize that the end of life is not subjected to death, it’s way before that, when the life stops giving and only takes back.
But I was glad, she seemed to have some time. I’d see her each night lying on the softest mattress we had. She struggled to have the air from the world, and her chest would heave like sadness of a caged rat.
Her nose, from which the life seemed to escape in bits. In the moon when her freckles would lighten up like a thousand stars from the sky and the wrinkles would go away for a while.
I liked her, and most importantly I did not want her to go. I did not want a night to come when I would roll over to ledge of my bed after a disrupted sleep only to see her absent.
Maybe it would be easier to sleep on the floor then, I thought.
Everett was lesser around us now, he was planning for a road trip with the Porter girl.
“Tomorrow we head to the red mountains, flower valley and around the lake Travis and until the end of horizons.”
He’d say with a shape on his lips that looked more like excitement than a smile. I figured out he would have wanted to smile more than he could.
“So, would it be next month or sooner that you would be leaving?’’
Everett asked Ian last night in the park.
“Not any sooner than the next month for sure.”
I grabbed a small branch from the ground and scribbled my name on the grass.
“What do you think about that, Cheryl?”
“I can think about people.”
I replied. I plucked out a leaf of grass and smelled it. It smelled like life. Dead things sometimes smell most like life.
“And what do you think about the people?”
Ian asked, looking at me.
“The life is afflicted. You don’t get to have a say in when things come and go and what you get from them. Most often, people get what they want and they start believing this is the secret. But the secret is not this. The secret, is that people can have their wantings but they will always be deprived of what they deserve to have.”
Ian leaned in, I could see his eyes reflecting my face. He took the branch out of my hand and interlaced his fingers in mine. And in his ever soft voice he said.
“Unlike you, I am not very well in acquaintance with the secrets of this universe. But I am pretty much sure that the only wanting I have is you. Maybe, our lines if drawn on a ‘who-deserves-who’ graph would never intersect. And maybe it proves your theory true, but it would still be relishing for me to have you in the end of everything.”
I smiled lightly. He planted a soft kiss on my lips.
“Oh I so badly want to kiss Amanda now.”
Everett said in between with his lips turned downward felling into a chortle.
Today was a Saturday evening, Everett left for his road trip. It was a public holiday for the Labor Day which falls on Monday. So we all had a Saturday night, a Sunday in between and then a Monday of vacation.
I would not be at store, and the time was rare so Ian and I planned to visit somewhere. Maybe the Padre Island at the Cameron County. I would have liked Alamo as much though.
Before Mr. Patrick left he paid me my salary for that month.
“You have done a great job, Cheryl.”
He said, handling me the cash.
His fingers seemed to have touched my skin more than it was necessary.
“Thank you Mr. Patrick.”
I passed on a formal smile.
“Call me will.”
He said with trace of a disappointment in his eyes.
“Thank you Mr. will.”
“My eyes would miss the beautiful sight of your face for a while now.”
A wide smile overlapped his disappointment.
I did not respond.
This man was weird.
I left the store at eight and told my mother about my plans with Ian.
He was ready with Alaska at my house after two hours.
He opened the door, I followed him.
Before he switched the lights on, he turned back and held my arms and told me this in his soft voice;
"You are going to watch how all the mess of this world can get collected in this small space of what I call my room."
There was a brief pause. I felt the ambience and imagined how would everything look like under the lights.
Since the last nineteen years of my life, I grew up in a room which me and my mother shared. I did not know if Ian meant the mess to be some crumbled blanket or unorganized pillows.
Maybe a dusty rug laid by the wall, but I had seen some real shambles in my house.
Maybe everyone is afraid of showing his mess to others,
because at some point in our lives someone walks in and tells us that we are nothing more than a disarray.
And then people start to grow afraid of everyone, thinking that all of the world's mess is nowhere else but around them.
I lifted myself on my toes to reach up to his ears and in a softer voice than his, I said.
"Why don't we leap across the seeing part then?"
He slid his palms all the way until my shoulder's curves and said.
I realized we were playing and I told myself that I wanted it. I felt contented by his palms rubbed against my body.
"We let the lights turned off."
He held my hand and three steps later we were on his bed. He told me that he likes pink bedsheets. I guessed he had one. I never knew.
A ray of light traversed through the window across the bed.
It fell on the floor and gave us the spot to lay our eyes upon.
There was nothing but the dark yet it felt more brightened than it had to be.
Ian did not say anything for a long time.
He just twirled his finger on the back of my hand. On and on.
And for a while, I forgot that I belonged to some other world.
Because it felt light, and complete.
Maybe it's not always that the wholeness lies in finding,
Sometimes, it's about forgetting.
And I wanted to forget the most of what I remembered for a while.
I wanted my ribs and all that to fall down, dearth of which would not harm the last of my existence. And I wanted that tiny thing, which absolutely comprised me to get absorbed in him.
I felt stuck in somewhere I did not belong to.
I closed my eyes and holding his hand I fell on my back. He followed. His bed was soft.
"Do you feel good?"
He murmered with the slightest of his breath.
I let it escape myself.
"Do you believe in souls, cheryl?"
He whispered, turning towards me. His arm formed the only distance between us. I let go of his hand and reached out mine to his other hand. He overlapped his on mine. I could see his eyes in the little moonlight and our palms touching each other, and the absence of light in between them.
He felt closer.
"Maybe, I like the idea of it.
Its idea is more important than the argument of its being."
"And what is the idea?"
He muttered and budged in a little bit more. Our noses touching.
I liked it, as we talked his breaths hit me on my lips.
He did not smell of the food we had eaten an our ago. He smelled of himself.
His eyes sparkling.
I whispered back.
"The idea is that people believe in their little, safe forever. The belief that sometimes, people go somewhere we can't get to and that there is still a line which connects them.
The idea that makes us believe that going does not always mean leaving."
I let his hand go, he tucked back my hair behind my ear. And placed it back around me, encircling my ribcage.
"I am afraid, that I won't be knowing enough. And of the fact that every time someone goes, they leave a trail, a large rope with thousands of thorns ripping through the skin of your heart, skimming the layers up unless you realize that the only thing a forever comes with, is pain."
I knew it, I knew it from always.
Things about pain. And then still there always had been a void for the oblivion, a pain. Something I did not know about. And he was afraid of it too.
Everyone is afraid that they won't ever be knowing what much there is.
I felt my skin dissipating, layer by layer in between us.
Defeating the very purpose of its being. I did not want to fight, I did not care enough. I wanted to go naked. The kind when you shed off the encrusted layers one after other and in the end you find yourself to be someone else. Someone, who could breathe more air in the lungs and return back all the love back to universe.
I leaned in towards him and the light stopped going through us.
I could feel his sternum on my breasts. His ribs going up and down and his heart beating after mine.
I reached to his ear.
"It's important to go, and there is a certain pain that follows. But what would be the staying worth if it were not the pains of leaving."
I bent back and my lips were on his cheek. I left them there for him to decide. He combed my hair from behind my neck with his fingers and pulled back his head so that my lips were touching his.
He leaned forward, I opened my mouth and my lower lip was in between his lips.
We were drowning, and we did not know to swim, and yet we were there to save each other.
He was gentle, tasting like the most tender skin. Travelling inside my spaces, and I gave him the most I had ever had in the moment that elapsed.
We were breathing again.
He looked at me and we smiled.
"You shall come back."
His mother called in after a while from the kitchen, inviting us for food.
I stood up, held his hand and kissed his palm.
We left the room.