My unpublished manuscript ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’ chronicles Andrew Brown’s struggle to reconnect with his best friend Pete Goodman as a lurid secret Andrew has never told threatens to break them apart for good.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 11. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.
On the roof, looking at the highway I light a cigarette. A car’s broken down next to a guardrail. The owner, a woman sitting on the hood with a smoking hand, doesn’t appear concerned. A street lamp begins to flicker; she throws her cigarette in a puddle.
Now, another car is pulling up. A diminutive man exits and she gets off her hood and goes to him and he holds her firmly, like a man who knows even at one in the morning, even after his lady’s shit stack’s finally crapped out and just as the rain begins to fall on them, that he will do anything for her. Because he loves her.
Love, if only it was as easy as Al Green made it sound:
Love is a walk down Main Street…
Love is an apple that is so sweet…
Love is something you can’t beat…
L-O-V-E is strange to me…
Ah, there it is again – that familiar word I hate. I think I had it once with Ant. Maybe I’ll get it back. Maybe I won’t.
Pete thinks he has it too, but he doesn’t know Ms. Benevo like I know her, like others like me know her – that she’ll walk away and find some other Pete and keep on doing what she’s been doing without any consequence, without any justice. And I can’t let that happen.
So now, chasing each shot with water, one after another quenched with another until it starts to taste better and then doesn’t have any taste at all, I lean forward, gravity pulling my head down. You tried that out once before, I remind myself. My weight shifts back, almost as if my body’s responding. With Ant now I’ve got too much to live for. But it wasn’t always like that.
I remember taking the Volvo out to a party after she left. I didn’t even have a license yet, just my permit, but no one was at the house to stop me so I backed it out of the winding driveway like Ursula and I had practiced and punched it down Route 110. It was a Friday night like any other with expectations of drinking games and easy hook ups. At the same time, it wasn’t. Even though I was playing beer pong with the same people I usually did, everything felt different. I was different.
I’d swiped a bottle of something brown from Pop’s personal reserve that night – scotch or bourbon, I’m not sure – and I just kept pouring shots down people’s throats and my own. And I didn’t stop. I was trying to lose myself in it like a message in a bottle, so low with no one there to confide in, no one there to understand me. All I wanted was to forget about Ant and Ms. Benevo. I wanted to forget about myself.
I screwed Candace that night in some little kid’s twin bed barely big enough for both of her boobs. I was looking for any type of love to lift me up even if it was lust, in such a dark place I couldn’t see myself in the shadows that turned me and her into two silhouettes.
And I was so consumed in opaque self-loathing I wasn’t even focusing on her and how bad she was moaning docilely underneath me – workmanlike, a chore, a job. My thoughts were swinging from the end of the shower curtain in this little kid’s personal bathroom, they were in the garage with my car running and the window open, they were wrapped around the tree at the end of the block, but they weren’t there in that room with me when I rolled off her.
She kissed me harshly, clearly wanting to make something more of our romp than a one-night-stand, but I pushed her away and left her lying there in a position she’s definitely familiar with, stumbling down the stairs and out the front door – actually walking right through the screen. The last thing I remember – for how long, only the bottle knows – is me jumping behind the wheel.
When I came to, still in the Volvo, it was on the front lawn at my parent’s place. The brand new sod they recently had installed was mangled with tire treads. The mailbox modeled after our house lay somewhere underneath the front bumper. I was missing a mirror, had hit something on the way back I guess. In my hand was that that same brown bottle. And no one was there waiting for me. No one was ever there. It would be cleaned by the afternoon. I’d lie and say I was practicing and hit the gas instead of the brake and they’d accept it. Because they always accepted it. I guess it was easier than knowing the truth.
I could’ve died that night, all by myself in that car with no one else. And my parents, the papers, Balaam, my friends, everyone would’ve thought it was unlike any other drunk-driving death – a poor choice that yielded a poor outcome. But no one would’ve really known why – that I was conscious of what I was doing, that somewhere in me I wanted to die.
No more, I remind myself. Not over Ms. Benevo. She wasn’t worth my life. Because it was mine. Not hers. Anymore.
After one more swig the bottle takes, it staggers from my hand and shatters the serenity of the night on the street below. Alone again. I think about the rest of my friends. They’re probably sitting in one of the girls’ rooms taking shots, playing “Never Have I Ever” – Becky’s definitely the only one with any fingers up – and Pete’s there because Lilly gave him shit and people listen to Lilly. Me and Pete haven’t spoken anything more than good mornings and goodnights in what seems like days, though nothing’s been good about either of them.
There’s only one way to break them apart, I remind myself. But what’ll Ant think? I again hear that question in my head. What about Pete? And that same reply, more like a command, more forceful than before: Forget them. This is about you.
Up the stairs, my legs move. Room 4D. That’s where Pete stayed last night – her room, he told Tommy at breakfast – Tommy told me at lunch. She’ll be alone. Or she won’t be there at all. It’s past 10. The hallways are empty. I’m empty.
Copyright (C) 2017 Andrew Chapin