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.
As the night fell, silence took over the laughter and chuckles.
There were only few cars on the road now. I watched the lines of oak trees lined by the road. I closed the windows, Coyotes and wild hogs were dwellers in the night, their eyes would sparkle in the dark when the car's light fell upon them.
Everett fell asleep upon the back seat, having his coat tucked beneath his head and legs arched.
I looked at him, he looked innocent.
"He is a lovely boy."
"Yeah, he is."
I looked at Ian.
Ian was not one of those guys who smelled of lavish and vanilla, like Brandon from my sophomore year did.
Instead, he had a point which described him more than people are described by how they smell like or look like.
I could see him, clearer than I ever had. And he looked beautiful. In his yellow tee shirt, his hair flopping over his forehead from the wind through the gaps. Eyes blinking often, his soft ear lobe and nostrils moving slightly every time he would breathe.
That is the deal with some people, they are beautiful.
And I had always spent my short life in company of beautiful people.
Yet there is another thing about beauty in this world. It makes you part of a system in the end of which people are bound to get hurt.
After a while, the lines of oaks were replaced with buildings and farms out of the city, we were about to reach.
"Everett, wake up, we are home."
I leaned on to the back seat and reached out my hand to his head and ran my fingers through his hair.
"Ah, yes, waking up, yes."
He half opened his eyes and took a long breath.
"Do you know cheryl, what happens when some people die?"
I could have said something, maybe like, 'they get rot under the land', or like 'maybe they go to heaven.'
I did not. I asked,
"When some people die, they get loved for the first time, cheryl."
He said and closed his eyes, pulling out his coat from beneath his head to upon it. And slept again.
Everett's home was in same block as Ian's. We dropped him first to his home.
He lived alone in a small house located in the south of park.
I still had two hours left of allowance to get back home as the eat-and-run plan was not how the fair wandering was supposed to be.
"And where do you live Ian?"
"In the last row, third house."
He said with his lips turned up.
"I would like to see."
I turned towards him crossing my legs upon the seat and asked in my baby voice that almost gets everything done easily.
Ian stopped Alaska in the backyard. We closed the gates and headed to the main door.
His house was bigger than that of Everett's.
He lived with his parents and his pet dog Roxane.
We entered the house, a short aisle which was lighted up blue led to the main hall which had a kitchen across itself, Ian's room in the left and his parent's in on the other side. A staircase led to the basement.
I sat down on the chair in the main hall and he turned the t.v on.
He called his parents in.
"Mom, dad, she is my friend cheryl."
"The girl from the store, right?"
His mother said.
"I am Lisa by the way, you can call me, umm, I am afraid if Lisa can be made a short name of or not."
"I am cheryl campbell, the girl from store, yes."
"And I am Ben, Ian's dad."
His dad said with a smile.
"And we are glad that you are here tonight. Ian never brings his friends. I shall make something to eat for you guys, enjoy yourself until then."
His mom said.
"Ah, mom we are full."
"You don't say no to mom."
Ian looked at me and arched his eyebrows down.
"I am not the king here."
A few minutes later, we were in his room.
Ian had a blue chevrolet car given to him by his mother when Ian's father got her another one.
He had named it 'Alaska'.
So, it was technically a she.
Now, while I was not in favour of naming cars or providing them with a gender, I also did not have a say in it. Because, I had never had a car and if my calculations were true, it would take me seven years to get one old car. So I liked Alaska.
And yeah, the thing about her name was that even in the superior hotly summers of texas, Alaska was cold.
She would not start until she felt like it.
Everett sat behind while me, beside Ian as we fared. Ian drove slowly. His hands were firmly holding the wheel, I liked them. He looked at me and smiled.
I smiled back.
Everett kept reading something which looked like a letter in the light of car's middle lamp.
"What's that Everett?."
"This is a letter from Amanda."
"Who is she?"
He pulled out a picture from the side pocket of his coat and reached out his hand to me.
There were three girls in the picture.
"The girl with brown hair, she is Amanda porter. I am going to propose to her soon."
Amanda looked elegant and beautiful. Well, more than me.
I said, handling him back his picture.
He glanced it and put it back in the pocket and smiled at me.
"We are nearly there."
I could see the lights from a distance. A cowboy figure raised up, smiling in the lights from its base. And as we got closer, we could actually smell all the different barbeques. All the four types of them.
"Let's take a bottle each."
"So that all the people don't drown in our saliva at the fair."
Waving his head in the air pretending to had smelled something very delicious in his long breath.
We parked the car by the main boundary surrounding the ground. Ian did not care much about Alaska being stolen.
In his words
"Only the king Ian with his tender hands upon the soft steering wheel of Alaska could make her hot."
I exited the door and looked in the sky, closing it back. The moon was in the sky. I could see some ferris wheels high with people shouting inside the built cabins.
I wanted to be there, on the top, as high as it goes. And remain there for a while. More than the while, the top usually remains there.
I had had felt good in my life most of the times. I was cheerful and laughing. But I lacked being on the top. Ruling everything or maybe at least having that feeling of ruling everything.
I had always felt like a mishap somehow dropped into the base of a shit pile.
As much as I could laugh, I felt nobody ever heard it.
"Ah cheryl, we gotta go on that shit to ride it. You can't just watch it all night long."
Everett said from the out of his door.
I smiled and turned back to get to him,
Ian was standing behind me.
"What were you doing?"
I lightly punched him on the stomach and laughed.
"I was watching what you were watching."
"And what did you watch?"
"I watched the desire to be there."
"From where the stars are closer than everyone else yet far enough to reach to. From where, for a brief moment you can learn being someone without the tiny world laid down."
I was about to say, but Everett interrupted.
"What the fuck guys? Are we even going to eat those sauce dipped, cheese bathed, roasted steaks? Or let alone ride that damn good wheel? Mmm."
He said, finishing up in his action of waving his head in the air smelling some delicious shit from it.
I looked up at Ian, in his eyes and smiled. He nodded.
We all ran towards the entrance of the fair.
In the first rows there were candies, all the hell lot of them.
Oranges, pineapple and most abundantly peppermint.
We bought different ones.
I exchanged mine with Ian's after eating it a bit.
"Where are all the good things?"
"There they are."
Ian said in a deep, deep voice.
Pointing his finger towards the stalls in the third row.
"Well, thanks, though I had figured it out miles back in the car with the sharpest nose God ever made."
"God did not make noses, evolution made it. And sharks are pretty good with theirs."
"Shut up, boring Ian."
"Shut up, boring Everett."
"Are you guys coming or I am eating this fair alone?"
I said passing through in between them.
"As the queen says."
"As the douchbag follows."
We entered the third row.
If there were a heaven, it seemed to appear, it was in the damn third row of fair stalls where there was food which I presumed tasted like all the good shit in the t.v advertisements.
Ian had butter and cheese sandwiches with a thin cut roasted beef layer, pacan pies and we shared a large chicken fried steak.
Everett was more interested in brisket.
"They smoke it like for damn eight hours."
"Like it was always made keeping me in the mind."
I was not as hungry as I felt before being here. I had an ice-cream after I was finished stealing almost thirty percent of their food.
We wandered for a while but it felt heavy in our asses when the food signalled us to lie down on the ground forgetting about everything including nice peppermint candies and pink gorgeous cotton candies and the close to stars ferris wheels.
I wanted to sleep. I had not had a good sleep since I started working at the store or since my mother fell ill or damn since I was born. When I feel sleepy, I make myself remember that I have not slept in days.
"Guys, Ian, I can't move."
"Me as well."
We decided to go back to the car and sit there for a while before we would drive back home.
We headed back to where we parked our car, I bid a bye to the high cowboy.
There was a red car parked along ours now.
I looked at it.
"Whoa! That's Mr. Patrick's car."
"What is that fucker doing here."
"That is where all the people go on sunday, stupid.
Maybe he is with Martha.
She called back at the store too."
"Maybe, though as I last saw, Martha was pregnant, belly inflated like a hippo's, I don't think she would be here."
"We gotta see."
"We are ninjas of the dark."
"Nobody can escape from Ian the ninja."
"Who has eaten shit load of steak he can't even move."
Everett laughed in between.
I closed his mouth.
We sneaked in the dark from where we could see who was in the car still remaining unnoticed.
"What do you see?"
Everett flopped upon Ian's shoulder and asked.
"I can't see shit, there is no one in there."
"Are you sure it's patrick's?"
He asked to me.
"From the number, yes. Also from the broken tail light."
"Whoa, wait the fucker is in."
"It's olivia wilson with him."
I looked Mr. Patrick kissing a woman on the back seat of his car.
"Asshole isn't even let letting her breath."
"That breast grab move was awesome."
"That would have hurt."
"Who is she anyway?"
I looked at Ian.
"Evan wilson's wife, they are neighbours to Patrick and Martha."
"Also, stay away from this guy."
Everett added in Ian.
"I do think so."
We watched for a while and then decided to cover up our faces with our shirts and head toward Alaska. Everett said there was a 4% probability he would notice us leave.
And half of it that he would recognize us.
We executed the plan carefully and in he did not notice us leaving.
In minutes we were back on the highway to the city.
"He told me Martha cheated upon him for Evan."
I said looking at them both.
"He is a shitty liar. Why would Martha cheat upon that douchebag?"
"Anyway, who did notice that breast grab? Did you see the look on olivia's face?"
We laughed in unison.
Seventh day at the work.
I woke up little bit later than I'd usually. However, I made it to the store at time.
Mr. Patrick was at the door, standing and looking at his watch.
"Oh dear cheryl."
He said as he saw me and leaned on for a hug. It was brief and he smelled like somebody had thrown a bucket of shit over a stack of rotten meat loaves. Well, not that bad but not so far of it.
"I am in hurry, I gotta go somewhere, you keep the store in your watch, close it whenever you like to once it is past 9."
That felt good, so good that if he would have told me that he was going to say that. I might have given him a hug all by myself or two if he asked to.
Ah, not maybe but who cares.
Cheryl campbell, I thought, is the store queen for a day.
Though it was not the best place to become a queen of yet it sounded almost good while pictured in mind.
Mr. Patrick left soon after I got in. I did not change today. I liked my pink tee shirt and black jeans. They looked good on me, I looked good in them.
There was a large mirror in small room at the back of store where we kept goods. I locked it in and stared myself for a few minutes. The mirror in my bathroom, which also happened to be the only mirror at my home was small enough not to show me all at once.
I wanted to see myself, the whole of me.
I specifically liked my breasts, Ryan young from highschool was mad for them. He was gross. So that if asked, he may or may not remember my face but I was sure he would recognise it's cheryl campbell's damn pair of breasts if shown to him.
I liked it though. Everyone is mad for something, I had some of those things. It was funny in its own way.
I got back to the window, and turned on the radio.
"From the days when it rained,
When the birds could really fly,
From the days when it rained,
When you had love in eyes.."
I liked the song, I sang along it. It was my song now.
For a short while, I believed everything was mine.
A few people came by the noon, until I felt sleepy and rolled on the window shutters at the doors and windows.
It was dark now, I left the chair and grabbed my uniform from the locker in the backroom and laid it upon the floor behind the chair at back of the counter and lay upon it.
For a while I kept thinking about everything, my mother back at the home watching the road across the window, Mr. Patrick somewhere trying to look across some bras, Ian and the skinny boy laughing somewhere. The world was a big place I realised, I had it in my small heart.
I fell asleep.
"Cheryl" , "cheryl!" , "wake up you damn sleepyhead."
I heard somebody saying it loud.
I opened my eyes and saw both of them with their flat faces pressed upon the glass window.
"Yeah, yeah, awaken, wait."
I stood up and adjusted myself.
" we gotta go."
"That's not how you ask someone to go with you."
Everett interrupted him.
"You try then, shithead."
Everett nodded and made a stupid gargle sound with his throat. And said.
"Yeah, so cheryl. We fucking gotta go before it's late."
"Where all the fucking people go on a sunday, to the mighty fare at dallas."
"All the fucking people don't have a store on their watches though."
I said lifting both my hands to my waist.
"No, we don't."
"Ah, okay, but first I need to call my mom about it and then you gotta purchase some real shit from the store so that it could make up to the customers I am going to miss being at the fare."
I reached out my hand to the phone to call my mom but it rung in halfway.
I signalled to both of them.
"Hello, this is cheryl from Patrick's groceries how may I help you?"
"No, Mr. Patrick is not the store today."
"Yeah sure. What's your name again."
"Thank you, bye."
I hung up the phone.
"Who was it?"
"It said Martha taylor."
"She lives in the same block, next street to us."
I remembered Mr. Patrick said Martha is his wife.
"It's his husband's store."
"Yeah, I know. He is a freak though."
I sold them some chips, colas, candies, peppermint sticks and icecreams. I sold myself a packet of sweet breads.
I closed the store and we left for the fare at eight pm.