Project Sadie

Love is not patient. Love is not kind.

Love is ritualistic suicide.

When someone falls in love, they are literally dropping themselves into the dark abyss.

Who can truly say whether the bottom is an hour or a lifetime away?

~ Sadie Nosek

Prologue – Clouds

I think I learned the meaning of life that day. I just didn’t know it yet.

It was the week after graduating high school. We figured we had all the freedom in the world now but we weren’t even sure what to do with it. So we just dicked around in Boston Common, laid about and stared at the sky. Given all our options, it seemed like the best choice.

I used to stare at the clouds a lot when I was younger. Dad used to love looking at the sky. He’d say, “That one looks like a mastadon!” I thought he’d made that word up. He liked to make up names for constellations too. To this day, I still remember where to find Pac-Man and Titania. And Dad’s star.

So it surprised me when Dizzie said, “That cloud looks like Pac-Man.” She pointed and sure enough, the cloud looked like a cheese wedge with a piece cut out. Even as we spoke, though, it was breaking apart into something unrecognizable. Clouds were like that. At first glance, they just drift along, boring and white. But as soon as you focus on a cloud, try to learn it like a painting, then it’s already halfway gone.

“I wonder where the ghosts are?” Chev joked.

I thought about it for a moment.

“Maybe we’re the ghosts,” I said without thinking. Everyone laughed. I smiled.

“Hey, Dakota,” Dizzie nudged him. “Better watch out for clouds when you’re flying off to Canada. Don’t want to get eaten, eh?”

We all knew Dakota was going back to Ontario but now it was finally dawning on us. I think it was hitting Dizzie the hardest because she rarely let the subject drop. We didn’t even see Kira much since she’d gone to college and now another bandmate, another friend was completely gone.

“That’s okay,” Dakota pulled out some grass from the ground. “Didn’t you know? Canada’s got mounties with flying moose that shoot lasers out of their eyes.”

“The Canadian airforce? Well, I guess you guys need something to protect all your maple syrup. I still don’t know why you want to live in America’s hat. Is the view that good up there?”

“From the top bunk? Yeah. It’s not bad. How is it being our bitch?”

“What?”

Chev chuckled. “Yeah. They’re bigger and on top.” He and Dakota made an awkward high-five from the ground.

“You’re not supposed to defend him, douchebag! You’re American.”

“As apple pie, Diz. But the man’s got you on the ropes. I gotta reco’nize that.”

“Screw you!” Dizzie rolled over to look at me and I stayed frozen. “What about you, Sadie lady? You’re always so quiet!” She ignored Chev who whispered “you’re always so loud” so that we could barely hear it.

I’d been looking at the Pac-Man cloud the entire time. It was just three small wisps now and even those were turning into vapor. “I’m just looking at the clouds.”

“See anything interesting? Flying moose?”

“No. Just regular clouds.”

“Hey!” Chev said. “Look at that one!”

“What is it, Chev? Is it your mom?”

“No! That one looks like a dong!” He laughed.

Our eyes immediately looked to where his finger was waving. He’d sat up in his excitement. But very clearly, just above the treeline, was an erect cloud penis, complete with two balls. We stood up to get a good look and were knocked down by laughter again.

I think I learned the meaning of life that day. Then again, I’m not sure how much meaning life really has.

Chapter 1 – Sleep is for Cats

If I never have to wake up again, I’ll be the happiest kid on Earth. Nine years of school is too much for any brain to endure. Now I have four more years of torture. If I was Amish or born in Jamaica or something, I’d already be done with school. I’d live on a farm or an island or something until I died. But now…

“Seamus! Wake up!”

“Mno,” I groan into my pillow. The side I rolled my face into was slick with drool and it got all around my eye. “Mnooo!” I groan, though Mom hadn’t yanked the sheets off yet. What was keeping her?

I open my other eye–the dry and crusty one–only to receive a blast of even more wetness, blinding me completely. Mom had acquired one of my old squirt guns.

“Maaawm! You wet my bed!” It sounds weird now that I said it out loud.

“Put yer sheets in the dryer an’ take a shower. I wonder sometimes if I raised a boy or a cat!”

Aw, man. What a crappy morning. What a crappy life.

“Dizzie!” I hear my mom yell down the hall. Why’d she have to wake me up first? I impress even myself with my mighty yawn as I hurled my pile of sheets into the dryer. They’re pink with flowers. My parents decided to give me a queen-sized mattress one day but I guess couldn’t bother to buy new sheets. I think these ones belonged to Grandma at one point, thought maybe Grandpa had them thrown out. Oh well. It’s not like I ever had much of a choice.

Showering is kind of fun nowadays. I won’t go into details, but I never have enough time to clean anything else.

Breakfast is not so fun. I can’t stand being around Dizzie and now that we’re both going to high school, she’s going to be driving me there too.

“Morning, Freshman!” She gives me a noogie as I come down the stairs.

“G’offa me, Ditz!”

“You’re gonna have to come up with better ‘n that if you’re in high school, little Shamey-wamey.”

“Let. Go! Maaawm!”

“Dizzie. Let go o’ your brother! Seamus. Grow a pair. I don’t want you gettin’ the livin’ snot beat out o’ ya on yer first day.”

Dizzie rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on, Mom. This isn’t your high school in Ireland. We don’t have soccer hooligans ready to pounce on fresh meat. Just jerks and douchebags.”

“Like you,” I mutter.

“Exactly. So stay sharp!” She smacks my ass and if I’d been chewing gum, I would have swallowed it. “Where’s brekkie, Mom?”

We notice Mom is sitting with sunny side up eggs, toast and tea.

“Whatever’s in the cabinet.”

“But… eggs!” Dizzie hops from foot to foot and points at Mom’s plate.

“You wanted eggs, you should have been up when I was making them.”

We grab some wheaties and milk.

“I’m leaving!” Mom says. “Have a good first day, you two!”

The drive there isn’t actually that bad. Dizzie blasts Sonic Youth the entire way there so we don’t have to talk. But she did say one thing as soon as we got into the car: “If anyone actually does want to beat you up, you tell me. Kira and I will kill that fucker.” She gave me a lingering look and then buckled up. I think she might have been serious.

Chapter 2 – Sadie’s Blog

Sometimes, at 3 or 4 in the morning, when I’m all alone, I think about drowning. At first it seems like a peaceful way to die—nothing but water all around you, dampening out the noise of the world, covering your senses like a warm blanket—but then I think of the actual dying part. I mean, think of it—you’d try to breathe and breath wouldn’t come, and then your lungs and chest would start collapsing and you’d try to breathe but only water would come in, and you’d start choking and you’d feel like your head would explode from the pain. And the water tries to come into you, take over you, and death tries to make you nothing, take you from yourself. In your last moments, you’d wish for life, a breath of precious air. And that’s when you’d lose consciousness. Your brain loses function, your body turns to ice, and you shit yourself. The water seeps inside and changes you, warps you into some swollen doll, and you sway at the bottom of the ocean like some corpulent buoy or float to the top like a long-forgotten diver with flesh like cottage cheese. The fish would probably eat at your crap-filled clothes, ‘cause fish’ll eat shit like that. Heck. They’d probably eat your cottage cheese face, too. And when all’s said and done, you’ll probably get fished out with a hook by some fisherman and maybe someone would spew chunks into the water just look at your hideous body— and the fish would probably eat that shit up too. Fish are disgusting.

Anyway, it kind of loses its appeal when you think of it that way. I’d probably never drown myself. And I know she loaded up her pockets with a bunch of rocks, but Virginia Woolf must’ve had some serious balls to take on the water like that. I wish I had that kind of strength. I’m such a coward.

Posted 2/2/08 3:58 AM by angelintheattic92 – Private – add comments – edit – link

Mom and I fought again today. She says she’s going to take away the computer when she gets home. She thinks I’ll sleep better then. Sometimes I just hate her. And I’m not being an emotional teenager. I hate her like a knife in the eye. Sometimes I wish my dad were still alive. Maybe my mom wouldn’t be such a bitch then.

Posted 2/3/08 6:30 AM by angelintheattic92 – Private – add comments – edit – link

I’ve started cutting myself again. Mom said she’d let me have the computer again. She doesn’t know what to do when I “act out” so she just caves. She’s so pathetic. Every night she tells me that Jesus loves me. I hate when people say that. It’s like they’re using Jesus as a crutch to feel the love they’re incapable of. I hate myself for making my mother cry but she cries too much. I don’t even believe her anymore. Well, she can cry all she wants but I wish she would leave me out of it. I always feels like there’s all this tension building up inside of me, and when I make that first cut, it all just melts away. Maybe she’s afraid someday I’ll just decide to go for the veins. God. Maybe it would be better for her if I did.

Posted 2/6/08 7:47 PM by angelintheattic92 – Private – add comments – edit – link

We keep gauze around the house all the time. I know how to bandage myself up and I always wear a sweatshirt or long sleeves, so it’s not a huge problem at school. I used to just let myself bleed and Mom would take me to the hospital, but we don’t have the money for all that. She works cleaning people’s houses and now she’s started going to school to be a nurse. I don’t know why she still pays for the internet. Maybe she’s afraid of what I’ll do without it. I can hear her praying for me in the next room right now. She does that every night before bed.

Posted 2/6/08 10:28 PM by angelintheattic92 – Private – add comments – edit – link

There’s only one person who makes school remotely bearable. Dizzie and I are kind of friends but not really. We don’t really hang out but she talks to me sometimes. I mean, she has her own circle of friends, which is mostly her band. Somehow, they straddle being cool and being outcasts. They kind of float around among the stoners, the nerds, the band geeks, and other assorted freaks. Sometimes we talk at lunch. She’ll start drumming tables and people’s heads and then stop at me to chat before moving down the drumline. I don’t know why she talks to me. I was suspicious before but I think she really likes to talk with me (because I have weird stuff to say?). I find myself smiling sometimes when she’s around and I have to stop myself so I don’t look like an idiot.

Posted 2/7/08 4:25 PM by angelintheattic92 – Private – add comments – edit – link

Currently Listening: Alien She by Bikini Kill

It must be so easy having a penis. I know it’s a cliche, but boys have no idea. These are cramps that would take down a bull elephant. No lie. Mom says it runs in the family. I told her that the women in our family should all be sainted as martyrs.

Posted 2/8/08 6:57 PM by angelintheattic92 – Private – add comments – edit – link

Sometimes I have the weirdest dreams. This middle-aged woman set herself on fire. She was smiling. And then she started shaking all over. She opened her mouth like she was about to scream and it was all blackness inside her mouth. Then, I heard the scream in my head after I woke up. It was the most haunting thing, like the sound a cat would make if you used her ribs to sharpen knives. But the weirdest thing is, I read an article today about Kurdish women setting themselves on fire. I don’t know if I believe that dreams are God sending us messages like my mom does, but I do think sometimes that I know things that I don’t know when I’m conscious and aware. If that makes any sense. Maybe I just know how people respond to all this pain in the world. I mean, think about it. You’re trapped. Your parents have abandoned you since you married. Your husband hates you for being ugly and barren. He beats you. Daily. Everyone in your community is blind to it. They just stare ahead with those dead, vagrant eyes that just look away from the truth. You feel tired and invisible. What can you do? How can you make yourself heard when no one will listen? How can you be redeemed when you feel like your role in life is to be discarded and forgotten? You light the kerosene stove for dinner. There’s no way out. But the stove looks so warm and inviting. Maybe there’s a way… and then you do it. Woosh. Pain. Unimaginable, hold-a-hot-frying-pan-to-your-face pain all over your body. Your hair and clothes ignite. Your skin bubbles and melts. Your eyes boil out of your skull and the fire climbs into your mouth as you scream. It feeds off of you, turns you into a shrieking bonfire. When your husband breaks down the door, he finds a smoldering corpse, like a doll made of ash. The only part that still looks human is the blackened shape of a person. You wear an eternal grin, the result of your lips melting from your face. I could never be as strong as that.

Posted 2/9/08 11:23 PM by angelintheattic92 – Private – add comments – edit – link

Currently Watching: Reign Over Me

I accidentally told Dizzie about my blog. She wanted to read it but I told her it’s private. She didn’t push the issue. She just shrugged and went to eat lunch with her friends. I feel bad. I mean, Dizzie has always been really cool to me, but there’s a limit to how much freak someone can take and I don’t want to ruin what we have. I can’t tell Dizzie. She’d end up just like the rest of them. I can’t give up what little things I have that hold my sanity together. Dizzie is all that I have to hold on to right now.

Posted 2/10/08 5:44 PM by angelintheattic92 – Private – add comments – edit – link

I keep thinking about Dad lately. He and my mom were high school sweethearts. Probably not a good idea but they went with it. I was an accident, and they got married because of me. Another bad idea. Dad got into highway construction. Mom did, well, pretty much what she’s doing now. She didn’t get the nurse idea until after Dad died. Depression runs in my family down my mom’s side. She had postpartum pretty bad with me. Dad had to take time off of work, which was not really possible with the financial situation. He must have thought she would have killed herself if he wasn’t there.  So he sacrificed his time then and worked a second job later. My mom tries to be more and more like him every day.

It’s weird but I feel like I should remember more about my dad but it’s only some small things that stay vivid in my head while the rest kind of fades away. I remember my dad had that kind of booming laugh that came deep from the gut. He always smelled like sun and asphalt. After that man hit him while he was on the job, I remember wanting to find that man and murder him. I would dream up the most vivid scenarios of me pulling off his toenails or tying him up in barbed wire or cutting off his penis and shoving it in a knife wound in his side. They say everyone grieves in a different way. Maybe my dad wasn’t being careful. I just don’t know. They wouldn’t let me see him in the hospital. I was 13. I cried and cried and it’s been hard to cry since. There wasn’t anything noble about his death. He just died. In a stupid accident. The only one I can really truly blame in the end is God.

I didn’t mean to write so much tonight. I need to settle down and get some sleep.

Posted 2/11/08 4:32 AM by angelintheattic92 – Private – add comments – edit – link

I talked to Diz today and told her she won. She just raised a pierced eyebrow at me. I told her I’d post my stupid blog. She had this big stupid grin on her face, looking all smug. I tried not to smile, too, but she’s like a virus sometimes. So, every post from now on is going to be posted publically. I don’t have to say everything that’s on my mind. I can start out small. You can do this, Sadie. No you can’t. Why did I have to open my big mouth?

Posted 2/11/08 5:09 PM angelintheattic92 – Private – add comments – edit – link

So. This is my first public post. I mean, how’s it going? This is kind of weird. I don’t know what to say. Okay. Let me start over with something familiar.

“And then a Plank in Reason, broke, / And I dropped down, and down – / And hit a World, at every plunge, / And Finished knowing – then –” -from poem #280 by Emily Dickinson

All right. Now that you know how weird I am, I guess I’ve broken the ice. So, school is pretty lame. I just read the entire time during classes. Mrs. Troutman is a total bitch, though, and she always takes my books away. Luckily I keep spares around in my bookbag and my binder pockets.

God, I sound lame. Sorry, Dizzie, if you’re reading this.

Posted 2/13/08 4:38 PM by angelintheattic92 – Public – 1 comment – edit – link

Comments: np sadie lady! chillax 4 a while. eat your wheaties and get back on it k? Love that Em D. Keep her comin sadie the sadist! Mrs. T is dbag no doubt! lol catch you in school, grrl ;P

Posted 2/13/2008 7:55 PM by DizzyGrrrl16

Thanks, Dizzie, for the pep talk. I’m not really fond of that nickname, though, Dizzie. I still feel weird about this. But since you requested more Dickinson, I might as well:

“I’m Nobody! Who are you? / Are you – Nobody – too? / Then there’s a pair of us? / Don’t tell! They’d advertise – you know” -From poem #260 by Emily Dickinson

Mom’s never around, but I get the house to myself a lot. I just like to hang out, watch movies, and surf the internet.

Posted 2/14/08 5:15 PM by angelintheattic92 – Public – 1 comment – edit – link

Comments: sry, Sade. u know the Marquis is my idol! btw, did u call me a nobody?! JK. i was doin some serious teletubby giggles after reading that. Keep rollin with it, Sadie lady. ttyl!

Posted 2/14/2008 7:31 PM by DizzyGrrrl16

I just can’t do this anymore. My public messages are just sad. Why is she even reading them? And why is she talking to me at all? Today she invited me over to her table with her friends. I felt like she was expecting something out of me but I really don’t know what to say at all! This is a nightmare. I should just stop.

Posted 2/14/08 5:25 PM by angelintheattic92 – Private – add comments – edit – link

I swallowed my pride and talked to Mom. She told me to pray. I told her to try again. She sat down – crumpled, collapsed, imploded – and put her face in her hand. I tried to fight this deep revulsion for myself, this emotion in the pit of my stomach like wanting to cry and throw up at the same time but with cathartic/purging release. Nothing new. But then she told me to sit down. She was smiling and crying at the same time, and she started stroking my hair. She told me how beautiful I am, and how much I’m like my father. She said that my father was a bit of a loner but he hoisted everyone’s problems on his shoulders. She said he would have walked on water for me. Yeah, right.

But then she put on her amused Mom voice “Your father is probably being a big grump up in Heaven. He needs somebody to talk to.” And then she told me to pray with her. I kneeled down by my mom’s bed and tried to pray in front of that ghastly crucifix, Jesus body wracked with pain and dying on the cross. Then I had a weird thought. If you put more weight on Jesus, he’d look a lot like my dad. Kinda weird, but I felt a little more comfortable with him on the wall. We all ended up sleeping together, wrapped up in a polar bear comforter. It was actually kind of nice not having my mom fussing over me. Tonight, I felt like a daughter instead of a mental patient for once.

Posted 2/15/08 4:23 PM by angelintheattic92 – Private – add comments – edit – link

Diz, we need to talk. Rather, I need to talk. And I need you to listen. If you’re not okay with that, it’s fine. I’ll live with it. I’ve been alone for a long time, anyway, and I don’t expect you to mold yourself around my lifestyle. I don’t want you to sacrifice anything for me. Not even your time. It would hurt too much. Understand? Okay.

The truth is, I’m messed up. I think about death on a daily basis. I think about killing myself, about other people killing themselves. I hate myself. I cut myself just to see my own blood. I cut myself just to inflict pain on myself. Because I’m a bad person, because I hate my mother and she’s done nothing but good for me. And I also hate my dad for dying like he did. I can’t talk to anybody. I don’t have any friends. All I do is sit on my computer and surf around, maybe writing something of my own every once in a while. So, I’m going to bare myself to you. I’m going to set all my entries to “public” setting. Read them or don’t. But only do it if you really want to. I don’t want to hold you back.

Posted 2/16/08 4:07 PM by angelintheattic92 – Public – add comments – edit – link

Posted 2/18/2008 7:11 PM by DizzyGrrrl16

Mom was ecstatic to find out I was going to hang out with “friends” this weekend. I told her I hadn’t even met any of them except Dizzie. She kept on grinning and washing dishes. Then she started singing “Strangers in the Night”! Ugh. Sometimes my mom’s like a virus too.

Posted 2/19/08 8:28 PM by angelintheattic92 – Public – add comments – edit – link

Currently Listening: In the Garage by Weezer

Guess I haven’t written in a while. Every writer needs a room of her own and I guess every band needs a garage. It’s not where I saw myself even a month ago, but I’m enjoying the company. I still stay up late but I don’t have as much trouble getting to sleep. Even Mom’s happy, but I’d never tell her too much about the “Bayside Sex Deviants.” She’s much happier not knowing, I’m sure. Dizzie’s bandmates are pretty cool people. I’d never really talked to them before in school. They were sort of inspired by riot grrl bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Voodoo Queens. Dizzie says they’re also going for the “stage presence of The Clash and the sexiness of The Ramones.” No small feat. It’s kind of weird writing music. Not all the lines have to make sense. It’s kind of hard to explain, really. I suggested that Diz and I collaborate on writing a punk ballad of the Marquis de Sade. We’re using Dead Kennedys as a model to work from. I don’t want to step on their toes, but the band seems totally cool with getting some original ideas. I’ve never been complimented for having a “disturbed mind” before : )

Posted 3/11/08 4:32 PM by angelintheattic92 – Public – add comments – edit – link



Chapter 3 – Band Meeting

“So, is she cute?” Dakota was chewing on a stick of Pocky. He and Chev were trying to unlock the last songs in Rock Band. He liked to chew on stuff while playing bass. At first, Dizzie guessed he thought it made him look cool, but he probably just needs it to focus on something. Dakota always seems distracted.

“She ate lunch with us, Dakota! What, did a zombie moose swallow your brain?” Dizzie shouted.

“Heh. Zombie moose.” Chev chuckled, eyes locked on the screen. Dizzie hated the way those toy drums sounded. The tapping blocked out the music coming from the game.

“So, she’s cute?”

“It doesn’t matter.” Dizzie pouted. “No band romances allowed.”

Chev chuckled again and Kira held Dizzie back from charging over tackling him. “Not worth it,” Kira said.

“Oh, come on. I wasn’t that bad, was I?”

“Let’s not go there, Chev,” Kira cut in. “You’re a decent drummer but we don’t need things between you and Diz getting in the way of the band.”

“Only decent?” The song ended and Chev paused to glare at Kira. She glared back, her gaze unwavering despite the rabid Dizzie prying and gnawing at her arm to get loose. “Fair enough.”

“There isn’t a huge pool of talented players at the high school level, Chev. If we don’t stick together, there’s not even a chance of having another band. Let’s play it cool.”

“I’m always cool. Like a motherfuckin’ cucumber. Let’s tear this shit up, Coda.” Chev was the only one who called Dakota that name, though he seemed not to care either way.

“F this!” Dizzie had pried herself away from Kira. “Let’s get some real playing in.”

“So, what does she play?” Dakota asked.

“Who?”

“The girl.”

“What… oh, Sadie? I don’t think she plays anything. We have all we need for the band. She’s just going to be writing for us.”

“It would be cool if we had a keyboard player.”

“We don’t need a fucking keyboard player.”

“Yeah, but it would be cool…”

“Dakota! She doesn’t play keyboard!”

“So, what is she, our mascot?” It was Chev this time.

“Chev, I’m only going to say this once. March your ass into that garage or I will kick your ass so hard, your spine will curve right into your cock.”

“So… then she’s your pet project?”

Dizzie screamed, leapt over the couch and started beating on Chev. Dizzie and Kira stood nearby.

“Help!” Chev screamed to them. “Heeelp!”

“You know, I think he enjoys this,” Dakota said to Kira.

Kira stuck her hands in her pockets. “…yeah. Let’s go set up.”

Chapter 4 – Insomnia

“Whoa! What the?” Seamus convulses in surprise, flying back into the kitchen counter. A hundred dishes rattle in the cabinets. “Dizzie? Is that you?”

“No.”

“Whoa!” Seamus stumbles toward the closest light switch, turning on the energy saving bulbs hanging over the kitchen’s island. It blinds them both.

“Who…?”

“I’m Dizzie’s… friend.”

Seamus puzzles over her awkward pause, then realizes he iss standing around in his boxers. “I’m sorry!” He sprints upstairs on all fours, grabbing the first pair of pants and t-shirt he can find on the floor.

His heart is pounding in his chest and he is sweating. Quietly, he tiptoes back down the stairs and tries to slow his heartbeat down. The girl is pale with long dark hair. She reminds Seamus of that creepy girl from The Ring. “I’m… sorry. I was… out. I didn’t know Dizzie had a friend coming over.”

“It’s my fault,” she whispers. “I’m sorry, did I wake you?”

“No,” Seamus breathes. “You were like a ghost. I mean, I was already awake… what are you doing up? It’s like two in the morning.”

“I don’t sleep.”

“You don’t…? What are you, a vampire?”

“I don’t sleep much I meant. You must be Dizzie’s little brother.”

“Seamus. I know, I know. Weird name.”

“Like Seamus Heaney?”

“Huh?”

“Sorry,” the girl says. “I read a lot.”

“No. It’s fine. I’m just used to getting Seamus Finnigan. Anything other than that is golden.” Seamus pauses for a moment. “So, why can’t you sleep?”

She leans her elbows on the counter. “I don’t know. I just think about things a lot.”

“Yeah. Me too. I can’t seem to turn my brain off. I’m always thinking about all sorts of stuff like whether there’s a God and if there’s some creeper standing outside my house and what the best way to go to sleep is. I heard that you’re supposed to get up and walk around if you can’t sleep after an hour, so I usually do that and heat up some warm milk.”

The girl looks at him blankly.

“That’s not what you think about,” Seamus says to himself.

She shakes her head. Seamus ducks into the fridge and pulls out some milk. “I was gonna heat some up. We have hot cocoa too if you want to stir some in.”

“I’m fine.”

“You sure? It’s the good stuff. The cocoa, I mean. The milk just comes from a cow. But I don’t know. She could have been a spectacular cow.”

She stares at him again. Seamus shuts his mouth.

“Sure. I’ll have some.”

Seamus gestures to the stools propped up at the island. “Grab a chair.” He pours some milk in, then some powder, stirs, and repeats this several times.

“Why are you doing that?”

“It’s the best way to mix it together.”

“Oh. I never thought about that.” She leans onto her elbows. “So you were trying to sleep until now?”

“Yeah. Conan O’Brien just ended.”

“So, you weren’t trying to sleep.”

“Sure I was. I was just watching Conan while I was trying to sleep.”

“But… never mind.”

“I guess vampires sleep during the day, though.” Seamus said while popping the hot cocoa into the microwave.

“Huh?”

“I said you don’t sleep ’cause you’re a vampire. Vampires sleep during the day.”

“That was, like, twenty minutes ago.” She shook her head. “Your mind really does wander, doesn’t it?”

Seamus chuckles. “Yeah, I get that way when I’m tired sometimes. Here you go.” He pops open the microwave and delivers her the drink.

“Thanks,” she blows on it. He heats up his milk and watches her blow and sip at her hot cocoa. Her black hair is hanging over her face. He walks over to her and they drink in silence, enjoying the aroma and the feeling of the steam over their eyes.

“Thanks, Seamus.”

“I’ll take care of that.” He grabs the cup from her and washes it out in the sink with a cold shower of water. “It was nice to meet you, but, uh… I should get to bed for real this time.”

“Have a good night.”

“You too.”

“Shit!” Seamus cussed. He forgot to ask what her name was. Maybe she really was a ghost haunting the place. But why did that thought turn him on?

Explosion

“Oh, Joey Ramone. Sing to me, Joey Ramone.” During their nightly forays, Dizzie always referred to the Ramones lead singer by his full name.

“Oh Dizzie… you make me… dizzy.” Joey Ramone threw up on the floor. It wasn’t the most flattering gesture but Dizzie was in love.

“Joey Ramone, you make me melt.” Dizzie started sweating. She was melting away. Joey Ramone started spinning around. She looked up and saw her little brother, ten stories tall and holding a giant heat lamp.

“Seamus! You did this!”

“It’s for your own good, Dizzie girl!” He said in their father’s voice. Then he shined the light on Joey Ramone.

For a moment, Joey Ramone looked so sad standing there. Then came the explosion. He splattered apart like a cheap goo mess from a Troma movie. Dizzie screamed and looked up again. It was too bright and she couldn’t see anything. Then, someone turned out the lights and she was blinded once again.

When she opened her eyes, there was a field of dead heads, severed and bleeding out of the neck. When she closed her eyes, the heads turned into pumpkins. She wasn’t sure why she knew this because her eyes were closed, but then she opened them again and the heads were back.

“Cool.”

She walked up the hill of severed heads and saw her band in goth makeup. “What’s wrong?” Kira said, though she was the one who looked pretty sad. Dizzie wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be frightened by the whole thing. It was kind of like watching a clown amputee.

As if summoned by the thought, a legless Sadie crawled from behind her with a long needle in her hand. “Shit! Don’t do that, Sadie lady. You’re creeping me out!”

Sadie kept crawling toward her goth band members. The thought “Sadie the sadist” popped up in her mind. Dizzie began to suspect that this was a dream. She tried to imagine her and Joey Ramone in a kink dungeon.

Sadly, she opened her eyes and there were only severed heads at her feet. She kicked one and it started crying. Dizzie looked up and legless Sadie crawled up to Dakota. She poked him with a needle and he exploded. Next came Chev and then Kira. Sadie began tugging at the sky. She seemed to have a hold of something.

“What are you doing?”

Her smile was a row of razor-sharp teeth, much like a shark’s. “I’m trying to pop reality.” She pulled on the sky and it bent toward her like a wrinkled table cloth. “Got ya!”

Then came the explosion. She should have woken up by now but there was a rumbling like a pressure in her ears. She tried holding her hand in front of her face but there was no hand. There wasn’t anything at all. Was she dead? Joey Ramone’s severed head came out of the darkness. “Kiss me.”

“But you don’t have your long legs anymore, Joey Ramone.”

And then Joey Ramone’s severed head was gone too. She was all alone  and everything was silent in her dream. Dizzie finally woke up to the sound of her own heartbeat.

Lady of the House

Dizzie Catalano wakes up to Joey Ramone’s unintelligible angel voice blasting on her phone. Joey serenades her from her bedside. He’s coming through a tight wind. The kids are losing their minds. So says the voice of Joey Ramone. She reaches out to put an end to him.

After shaking off the cobwebs in her head, Dizzie realizes she had the most fucked up dream in the history of dreams. “Hey, Sade!” She throws a stuffed octopus at her friend. She is lying on the floor, halfway out of her sleeping bag. “Sadie! I had the most fucked up dream in the history of dreams!”

“Huh-wuh?”

“You were, like, crawling around with no legs. And then you started popping everyone with a needle!”

“I’m sorry.”

Dizzie clicks off her “Blitzkrieg Bop” cell alarm. “No, it was pretty cool! Pretty f-ed up but awesome!”

“That’s good, then. I guess.” Sadie lets out a power yawn. “What do you think it means?”

“Means? I didn’t know dreams were supposed to mean anything. Just random firings in our brains—blammo!”

“My mom says dreams are God’s way of telling us stuff.”

Dizzie slips a Tank Girl t-shirt over her tousled purple hair. “Whoa. God must be dropping acid, like, all the time!”

Kira’s the first to show up. More than anyone, she’s dead serious about her art. When she’s playing guitar, she’s like an Indian Carrie Brownstein, the guitar alive and wriggling from her fingers like a live snake. Dizzie respects the fuck out of her, but she’d never actually tell her. That would be super gay.

“What the fuck are you doing entering through the front door! Go through the slave entrance, bitch!” She smacks her ass. Kira responds with a headlock and a noogie. Dizzie’s scalp burns with retribution.

“Ah! You’re like an angry giraffe!”

“I’ll enter through the front door if I want, and you’ll like it!”

“It burns!”

“It burns like what?”

“I don’t know!”

“Yes you do!”

“Like herpes-infected glass on a trampoline!”

“Good. Your brain’s all fired up for the day,” Kira smiles. “What about you, Sadie? You need a brain charge this morning?” She holds out her fist. She still has a couple strands of purple hair sticking out of her knuckles.

“Uh… n-no thanks.”

Kira laughs, a sound which Dakota once compared to a flash flood pattering on the roof. “I was just joking. Don’t be so jumpy, mate. You’re part of the band now, right?”

“I don’t really know too much about music,” Sadie grimaces.

Dizzie claps her on the back. “Don’t sweat the small stuff, Sadie Lady. You’ll find your rhythm. Or die trying!” Dizzie and Kira exchange a nod. It was no joke. For them, failing at music is a fate worse than death.

“I didn’t eat breakfast this morning,” Kira says. “Got any food?”

“Please, Kira. Does the sun rise in the morning? Do Koreans have an insatiable lust for waffles?”

This time it’s Kira’s and Sadie’s turn to exchange glances. They both shrug.

Dizzie tongues her lip ring in anticipation. Like all of Dizzie’s bad habits, it helps her focus on the here and now.

Chev and Dakota rolls in a little after lunchtime in Chev’s Mazda RX-7. Contrary to popular belief, the band didn’t actually name Chev after Chevrolet. After all, he hates American cars and he’s definitely not built “like a rock.” but after the character Jason Statham plays in Crank. Dakota actually came up with the name. He said that Chev is just like the character. He’s always amped up, like his heart would also keep ticking after getting knocked out of a helicopter.

Dakota’s from Canada. He has a funny hat and says “eh” and “aboot” sometimes. Dizzie figures this is what every Canadian is like. She’s decided never to go there.

“Yo,” Chev kicks off his shoes unceremoniously. “Parents gone?”

“Yeah. The family’s out in the city today. Little bro’s skulking around somewhere.”

“No interruptions, huh?” He raises an eyebrow.

“In your dreams, Martin.” Chev hates it when people use his real name, which is the point. Dizzie back-kicks the door closed much harder than intended. The crash shakes the chandelier a little.

“Seamus!” Chev yells. “Bro!”

It takes a moment before Seamus peers over the upstairs balcony. “Hey, Chev. What’s up?”

“Get down here, man! We’re seriously lacking in testosterone over here.”

Seamus’s head darts around like a trapped mouse. “ ‘Kay.”

Seamus looks like a little dweeb. He has bad posture but not the kind that makes you look cool. He keeps looking over at Sadie and looking away.

“Oh, Seamus. This is Sadie.” Dizzie jerks a thumb back to Sadie. “Sadie, Seamus.”

“Nicetomeetyou,” Seamus sputters really fast.

“God, you’re so awkward,” Dizzie laughs. “Hey, Sadie. This guy does a good Eeyore impression. Do your Eeyore impression, Seamus!” She jumps up and down.

“Woman!” Chev huffs. “He’s a man, not a toy. Don’t emasculate my man, Seamus.”

“Not your brother! Step off, punk!” Seamus look down at a spot on the floor.

Sadie shifts from one foot to the other. “Uhhh, Dizzie? Shouldn’t we start… practice?” Chev and Sadie meet eyes for a moment. Sadie nods her head toward the garage.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Chev mumbles.

“Heh. First time I didn’t have to force you,” Dizzie laughs.

“Hey! I’m always ready to wail ass on the drums!”

Chev saddles up to his drums. “Has she been taking good care of you? Has she?” he purrs, rubbing his hands around the base of the drums.

Dakota starts plugging in the amps, turning up the volume. Chev tests out the tightness of his drums, banging out an improv rhythm. I turn up the volume a little more, so Kira’s playing will drown out his drumming more. Not that he isn’t good. He’s just… well, he’s Chev.

Kira stands well over six feet, a girl of Amazonian proportions. And that’s not just the height. The girl would probably chop her right breast off if it got in the way of her playing guitar. As soon as she enters the garage, her faded, once-black sweatshirt comes off. She’s sporting a charcoal tanktop with a tattoo of a phoenix on her shoulder. She got it as soon as she turned eighteen last month.

“All right!” Dizzie screams. “Let’s bring down the house!”

Chev opens by tapping on his cymbals. He drops the beat down and even Sadie who’s seated in the corner is bobbing her head. Out of nowhere, Dakota comes down hard on the bassline. Kira drives her pick down hard while Chev’s sticks flash across the drums. Her fingers dance across the frets like a squad of angry pixies.  Dizzie pumps up her voice for a siren’s maleficent shriek.

She’s confident now as she’s ever been. The Bayside Sex Deviants are going to work the shit out of the Battle of the Bands. Record labels and eternal fame is ahead. This moment now is all there is, all there will ever be, and it will only get better.

Virus (Raw version, to be edited)

[Mr./Mrs. Catalano drink too much wine and get in an argument about stem cell research – Grace is against because of using unborn children for adult benefit;  Renato agrees]

It’s the weekend and Seamus’s parents are drinking again. Seamus usually stays up in his room but he hasn’t been feeling well.

“What’s wrong, hon?”

“Mom, I think I’m in love.”

“Ohhh no. Are you sure? What are the symptoms?”

“It feels like a shiver from the pit of my stomach up to my heart.”

“That’s it all right. You wait here. I’m going to get your father.”

Three minutes later, Mr. Catalano comes bolting in.

“My son is in love? With who?”

“Uh. Just some girl. You wouldn’t know her.”

“Are you sure he’s in love?”

“He has all the symptoms.”

“What do we do?”

“We’ll just have to wait for it to run its natural course. After he goes through the

rejection phase, he should be clear of it.”

“Isn’t there another way?”

“I’m afraid not, dear.”

Dad collapses on the couch.

“Uh, rejection phase? Aren’t you two being a little pessimistic?”

The parents look at each other and laugh.

“You’ll learn all about it soon enough.”

“But it worked out for you two.”

“Why, we both went through all sorts of crazies and idiots before we settled on ours. My crazy

wife.”

“My idiot husband.”

“Maybe it’s time we told him.”

“You think?”

“Suuure. He’s old enough.”

“Tell me what?”

[later, Renato passed out – Grace goes through his wallet]

“This is what I love about your father.” [he has personal fortunes made – that’s how they met. He carries one in his wallet that has a Futurist Manifesto quote] “He’s always taken the initiative, created his own future, but he knows the future of the world will always be left to you–the next generation.”

“I’m worried about our generation.”

“We were just as dumb, maybe even stupider. Don’t think your generation is special in that respect.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“You weren’t there. Trust me, we were pretty fuckin’ stupid all around.”

“I know it shouldn’t but why does that make me feel better?”

Keyboard

I want Dizzie to be closer to me, to the point where I disappear into her entirely. However, there are some things I want to keep private from her. I never wanted her to see my home, our little studio apartment. But there wasn’t a band meeting this weekend. Kira was at some sort of convention with her parents. Dakota is enjoying going to Six Flags with his host family. Chev is probably hanging out with his other group of friends. So, I find myself with Dizzie in my bedroom, looking around at my stuff.

“What’s this?” Dizzie says, flicking on and off my lava lamp.

“It’s just an old piece of junk.”

“Looks like something you’d put a dead baby in.”

“Gross…” Whenever Dizzie talks about dead babies, I get a bad taste in my mouth.

She’s already moved on to my closet. “Why are you so interested in my stuff?” I ask. “Dizzie? Dizzie?” I’m worried about what she’s found.

“Sadie! You play piano?”

“Piano?” I ask. “I don’t have–” Dizzie pulls out an old dusty electronic keyboard. “I haven’t played that thing in years.”

“But you can play.”

“Barely. I don’t even know if I can choke out “Twinkle Twinkle” anymore.”

“Do it!” she thrusts the keyboard at me.

“No, Dizzie. I can’t play.”

“I can’t sing. That never stopped me.” She grins wide and sucks on her tongue ring. The thing I’ve learned about Dizzie is that she seems completely full of herself but she’s frighteningly humble and down-to-Earth. Even more than the urge to run away, I feel the need to run to her and dive into her arms.

“Okay,” I say. “But don’t laugh.”

She holds up three fingers. “Scout’s honor.”

I play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” It starts slow and awkward but picks up a bit. I would have thought that I had forgotten everything but my fingers remember playing it. I can smell the cheap cigar smell when my dad used to listen to me play while blowing smoke out of the open window. I think it was spring; there was that scent of moisture in the air.

“Encore! Do ‘Chopsticks’!” Dizzie bounces up and down on the bed.

“Am I taking requests now?”

“I’ll give you a buck!” She digs around in her Gir wallet and puts a dollar in my shirt.

“Ah!” I scream. “Your hands are cold!”

“Sorry,” she says in a baritone voice. “Let me warm them up for you.”

I laugh. ” ‘Chopsticks’, right?”

“Yeah!”

When I finish playing, Dizzie is silent. I wonder if something is wrong. “We need to keep practicing Sadie. We need some piano in our band.”

“You’re joking, right? Please tell me you’re joking.” I have this  desire to run away, but equally as powerful, I want to dive right into her.

Wanderlust (halfway edited)

“Dude. Ballerinas get mad chicks.” Chev takes a hit and passes the blunt to Seamus. A muscular dancer across the street is doing handstand push-ups and backflips off a fence. “Showoff,” he says, blowing out a curtain of smoke. “Makes us normal guys look bad.” He offers Seamus the roach.

“I don’t think they’re called ballerinas if they’re guys.”

“Then what? Ballerinos?” They laugh.

Chev stares up at the clouds. “How’s Dizzie been?” he asks. The ballerino jumps into his mini cooper with his buddies. Seamus starts coughing.

“Pain in the ass. Completely insane. The usual.” He takes the roach from Seamus’s hand.

“Seamus, Seamus, Seamus,” he blows out a little smoke, examines the tiny nub of weed between his fingers like it’s holding out on him. He shrugs. “All women are crazy, my man. That’s just their nature. But the really crazy ones also put out like crazy. You’ll figure it out when you’re older.” He pushes last bit of the roach into my hand. “I’ve got to bounce, little dude. Coda and I have a Halo tournament to rock. You want to come?”

Seamus hesitates. “No. I should get home.”

“Guess I wouldn’t want to further contribute to your delinquency. Later, Seamus.”

Seamus stares at the blunt burning out in his palm. With no one to give it any air, the cinders die out. He looks to see if anyone is around, then pushes the thing to his tongue. It tastes like ash. Seamus spits repeatedly. For reasons unknown, it finds its way into his pocket. It made him feel powerful. A little suburban White kid testing fate.

He takes his first step, but his feet feel like lead. His breath catches and he tries using his hands to pull his leg up. No use.

Of course that won’t work. Use your leg muscles, a distant voice tells him. Seamus knows it’s his own voice, but it sounds like it is coming from behind a curtain. Walking in a straight line is harder than one might think. Seamus is already a relaxed person but get him high and he’s practically catatonic.

A line of ants makes a beeline toward a fallen ice cream. Seamus scratches his head at the line of ants, going about their daily routines. Ants have to be the busiest little bugs on this entire planet. The ants all work in a straight line, moving back in forth to feed their colony and their queen—all except one little one. It looks lost. Seamus puts his shoe down to turn it around and it walks right under where my toes curve up. He finds a small twig and put it down in his path and he walks right around it.

“Hey,” he says to the ant, “you’re going the wrong way. Why would you want to leave your home?” Seamus is not an ant but he thinks he knows the answer. He can’t count the times he’s wanted to just pick a direction and just wander off, but then he’d probably starve or get mugged and killed. He read ants from other colonies will just bite each other’s heads off and he’s sure humans do the same thing to each other. It’s a harsh world: much easier to let one’s mind wander than to actually do the wandering itself. Seamus is sure the ant will figure it out. He steps past it and continues on home.

[continue edit here]

I put Gavin DeGraw’s “Chariot” on my ipod and chill for a while with one earbud hanging loose and the other caressing my eardrum. I’m ready to start walking again. This time I know which muscles to use and it’s easier to start. As I walk home, I think about when I was a little kid. I used to daydream all the time. I remember one time I yelled at some kids for squishing an anthill. They seemed a little guilty at first, but then I guess they thought better of it. Stephen and Nick spent years tormenting me after that. They’d call me names like “Shayla” and “semen” that made me curse being half-Irish and having a ridiculously patriotic mother. Maybe all women are crazy like Teek says.

But why am I thinking about these things? Home is just a block away, a block away. My ipod shuffles to Modest Mouse’s “Float On.” And I do.

By the time I get home, I’ve got Jello Biafra screaming in my ear. I turn off my ipod. I’ll head straight for shower and bed. I’m not feeling well, I have to tell myself. I’m not feeling well.

Dizzie opens the door. I hold my stomach, ready to repeat my rehearsed lines.

“Are you high?” She looks like I brought home a dead skunk in my teeth.

“No. I’m not feeling—I’m just dizzy.” My sister does not think this is funny. I, on the other hand, start giggling into my hands.

“Shhh. Shut up. Do you know what Mom and Dad do when they find their little baby high?”

Other people’s thoughts scared me. Other people’s thoughts shut me up. I hadn’t thought about other people’s thoughts. It frightened me when she called me “their little baby.” That’s a big responsibility to live up to and I hate it.

“Who’s been selling you weed? Where—Teek, that goddamn motherfucking cocksucking Nazi slut! Am I right? It’s him, right? I’m going to rape that fucker with a tire iron!”

I’m a bit dismayed that I’m so predictable, that there’s only one person that could possibly be my dealer. Am I that see-through? “No! It’s not—”

Fuck that motherfucker! I’ll fucking kill that fucker fifty times before he realizes I fed him his own cock through his asshole!”

I let her vent a little while longer. Sis had a temper sometimes, though I’ve rarely seen her quite this angry. “He wanted me to tell you he said ‘hi,’” I finally say, but I find it’s the wrong thing to say. She puts me in a headlock and drags me upstairs.

I can hear my dad from the kitchen. “Seamus? Is that you?” Then my mom: “How was the ballet?”

“He’s in the bathroom!” Dizzie yells, almost squeezing my head right off. She tosses me into my bedroom and slams the door behind her.

“Really, Seamus. What was going through your head? Why would you do something like that? You’re not even in high school, kid.”

I feel small, tiny, minuscule. Like an ant.

“At least you’re not actually going to watch ballets and musicals in your spare time,” she rubs the area around her eyebrow piercings. “Okay. Here’s what you’re going to do, Shemp.” That’s Dizzie’s nickname for me. “You’re going to take a shower, go down to the kitchen, act natural… and there’s a plate of leftovers in the fridge. We had porkchops. Do not eat anything else. Just dinner. Then bed. Understand.”

She’s talking too fast but I nod. “Why are you helping me out like this?”

She looks at me like I’m retarded or something. “I’m your big sister. You act like I’m going to bite your head off or something.”

“Well—” I consider telling her about the ants.

“You know what? I don’t care. Don’t eat everything. Shower and change. Now!” She kicks me in the butt so I go hurdling into my bathroom.

“Where are Mom and Dad?”

“Watching a movie. Something boring.”

“Oh.”

I turn on the fan, then I peel off my clothes, getting my shirt caught around my face and my pants caught around my ankles, but they come off and I guess that’s the important part. I almost forget the pot I have in my pocket. I wonder again if I should eat it to get rid of the evidence. Maybe flush it? But I really want to keep it, kind of as a keepsake. Something about this day has already made me feel nostalgic. I take a picture of it with my phone and then take a picture of me looking like I’m about to toss it in my mouth. Happy that I’ve recorded the day, I feel better about flushing the burnt out roach.

The water shooting from the shower nozzle feels like a million different sensations balled up into one, so that I can’t distinguish one sensation from the other. After a while, I don’t even try. I’ve probably already been here for a while just staring at the floor. But how long? Could be five minutes. Could be fifty. Time gets all distorted in the shower, which is probably why I’m always late for school. I take my loufa (Mom loves these things) and scrubs some fruity-smelling gel on my skin. When I get to sudsing up my crotch, I get a little too friendly. “No,” I tell my hands. Bad hands. I’ve already done enough today to make me feel guilty without filling the drain with my spunk on top of it all. Maybe tomorrow. I turn the water a bit colder to rinse off then I reach blindly for a towel. The world outside the shower is cold and lonely, but at least I have my towel. I feel a little like the curtain is finally lifting.

Kitchen scene: Mom gives me a kiss on the head. Dad is sighing and looking listless. It must have been a sad movie.

“What did you guys watch?” I ask, trying to sound normal. At least, I think I sound normal.

The Darjeeling Limited. It was a really weird movie. I don’t know if I’d watch it again,” she’s in a good mood for some reason. “Your father liked it, though.”

The giant Italian sighs delicately. “Yeah. It was really good. Just so sad, though.”

“Hon, it was a comedy.”

“That doesn’t mean it can’t be sad.”

My mom rolls her eyes. “We just had leftover porkchops tonight, Seamus. You want me to heat up a plate?”

“Sure, mom. Thanks.” A perfect act. She’ll never suspect.

“Are you all right. Your throat sounds a little hoarse.”

“Oh, uh. I’m not feeling—I’m not feeling well today.”

“Well, you’d better get some sleep after you eat. That’s the best thing if you think you’re getting sick.”

“Yeah. That’s what I was thinking.”

“So, how was the ballet?”

“Good. Good.” I pause for a moment, thinking of the ballerino king. “It was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The costumes were really well done.”

Mom and Dad exchange looks. I cringe. They think I’m gay. Well, yeah, I guess it’s better than the truth. Dizzie walks into the kitchen, giving me something between a worried look and the stink eye. I pour some milk. “You want some milk, Diz?” She gives me the stink-eye and grabs juice instead.

I cut into my porkchops and I realize I could eat ten thousand of these things. I can hear the meat bounce of my throat and it echoes in my ears. Life is good.

Kung Fu (unfinished)

“Hey. Want to come over and watch a kung fu movie?”

“That’s the sexiest thing anyone’s ever told me.”

Dizzie could hear Kira sigh over the phone. “You coming or not?”

“Geez! Give me a minute to warm it up first!” She slaps her cell phone against her arm.

“Oh baby,” Kira says in a Ben Stein-esque voice. “You know what I like.” She waits for Dizzie to stop. “Seriously, Diz. You coming or not?”

“Should we invite the guys?” Dizzie asks. “They love kung fu, yo.”

“No. I was thinking of having a girls’ night out.”

Dizzie moves her mouth from the phone. “Sadie,” she says, “you want to hang out at Kira’s tonight?”

“Wait. Diz. Sadie’s there?”

“Yeah. ‘Zat a prob?”

“Well, you could have asked me,” Kira huffed.

“Girls night out, I thought you said.”

“Yeah, but you guys hang out all the time now, don’t you?”

“Yeah. Sade’s always sittin’ at home, so she comes to hang out… Kira. What’s eatin’ you?” Dizzie snickers.

“Why are you laugh… oh, grow up, Diz.”

Dizzie starts laughing obnoxiously over the phone’s speaker.

“Sadie’s probably getting the weirdest one side of a conversation ever.”

Dizzie wipes away a tear. “Yeah. We’ll be there in half an hour. Cool?”

“Yeah.”

Kira’s place is filled with Jesuses. Jesus hanging on the wall, Mary praying in the entryway. It strikes Dizzie as a little odd. Sadie frowns and looks around.

“I didn’t know your parents were Christian,” Sadie says

“Catholic, even. Yeah.” Kira says a little brusquely. Sadie gets the message and shuts up.

“So, uh, what are we watching tonight?”

“It’s called Last Hurrah for Chivalry, the best movie ever created. It’s a John Woo movie back when he was more awesome than he is now.”

“I don’t really know too much about kung fu movies.”

“Just don’t ask what’s going on when ninjas start busting into people’s weddings.”

Dizzie laughs. “Yeah, that’s a good part. Well, any part with ninjas, really.” She rubs her chin sagely and nods to herself.

[later]

“Sadie, are you serious about this band?”

“Huh?” Dizzie interjects.

“Shut up for a sec, Diz. Sadie?”

“I’ll try my best.”

“That’s not what I asked. This is important. Music isn’t just something you can stumble into.”

“I don’t think I stumbled. I think I was led here. Maybe it was meant to be.”

“Don’t feed me that bull crap. Fatalism makes me puke.”

Cold Eggs

It’s Sunday but the sun isn’t even out. It’s cloudy anyway. Sadie pokes her eggs with a plastic Little Mermaid fork.

“Why aren’t you eating your eggs?” Her mother inquires. ”You always like them scrambled.”

“Not always.”

“When you were a little girl you used to love–”

“I’m not a little girl anymore.” Sadie glares at her mother. She keeps glancing at the seat to her right, the one her father used to occupy when he was alive. It’s a nervous habit. “I’m just not hungry.”

Her mother doesn’t say anything. She continues eating.

“It’s cold, anyway…”

Metal crashes on the uneven table. The noise makes Sadie jump. Her mother clutches her head. Sadie hates when she does that. She hates that her mother acts like she’s this constant headache. She’s so dramatic.

“I pray every day–”

“Here we go again.” Sadie rolls her eyes.

“How about this, then! I work every day for you and I have been working to put this food on your plate! And the least you can do is when we have these rare moments where I’m not at the hospital and you’re not locked in your room or hanging out with your friends, then we can have some mother-daughter time together! Is that so much to ask?”

“So,” Sadie cringes, stirring her eggs. “It finally comes out.” She stabs the fluffy morsel. “You don’t like who I hang out with. You don’t like Dizzie.” Her fork pushes against the plate.

“Please, Sadie. Don’t do this. I love your friends and Dizzie has been a blessing, but all I have is you.”

The fork skids violently against the surface of the plate. The muscles in their jaws jump as they wince.

“Sadie…”

“Mother. Stop. I’m going to hang out with my friends and that’s that.”

“At least come back to church with me,” her mother pleads, hands folded like the virgin Mary.

“Sadie, I’m glad you worship at home. Believe me, ever since you set up that shrine in your room, I’ve thanked God every day. I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to go to church. Pastor Thomason knows more than anyone I know about God. He can give you a new perspective.”

“Has he met God? Has he shook His hand? Has he stared Him in the eyes?”

“Well, not exactly. But he–”

“Then he doesn’t really know, does he? I’m sick of all this speculation and all this talk about what could be. What about right here? What about right now?”

“Sadie, please. Think about it? It’s what your father–”

Sadie’s chair screeches on the floor as she stands.

Her mother sighs. “I’m sorry, Sadie. Just… please help me understand what it is you want out of your life.”

Sadie leans over, takes the fork and pops the fluffy piece of egg into her mouth. She straightens herself out and stands there, chewing and then swallowing. “Right now the eggs are cold. And I want to go to my room and go to bed.”

When Sadie gets to her room, she slams the door behind her.

Wit’s End (incomplete)

The pounding at the door came as a surprise. Ren’s first impulse was to grab his baseball bat from the bedroom. He and his wife just kept asking who the other thought it was, but neither could come to a conclusion.

When Ren peeked through the eyehole in the front door, there was Sadie’s mother breathing heavily and looking rather frazzled. Ren opened the door:

“I’m at my wit’s end!” she cried, slumping her shoulders.

“Janet?” Grace pushed past Ren. “Are you okay? What happened?”

“Sadie’s locked herself up in her room!”

“Don’t you have a key?” Ren asked.

“She took them. I don’t know what to do. She hasn’t eaten in two days.”

“Come on in. I’ll put some lasagna in the oven. We’ll have some wine. Or are you in a whiskey mood?”

Janet observed the formal outfits of her friends. “Oh, no. You were both going out, weren’t you?”

“Yes,” Ren said.

“Shush, you little goblin!” Grace turns to Janet. “It’s not a problem, dear. Have a seat. Renato will entertain you while I’m gone.”

“You want me to juggle? You know, Sadie’s probably eating right now. I’m sure she doesn’t want to do her mother would approve of in front of her… like, you know, eating. She’s a teenager, after all.”

“I just don’t know. That’s the problem.” Janet paced back in forth.

“Please, you’re a guest. Make yourself comfortable.”

Janet scrutinized the chair as if it would bite. “I’ll try.”

Ren began loosening his tie. “So what happened? You get in a fight?”

“Same as usual, but she never came out. I just keep hearing noises like on a keyboard coming from her room. I keep pounding on her door but she’s stopped responding to me.”

Ren scratched his chin. “I guess you can always have the door torn down if this goes on for too long.”

Rise

Sadie had changed. We all saw it, though Diz never seemed to notice or pretended like she didn’t. I can’t say whether the change was bad or good. She seemed more driven, she had direction, so I wanted to say “good,” but I’m not sure where this drive came from either.

I decided a while back that though I think I liked her, I am too young and too much of a screw-up to be of any interest to her. She is Dizzie’s friend and I’m Dizzie’s brother and that’s just weird. That’s what I decided.

“There she is!” my mother cries. “You see her? She looks so gorgeous!”

It takes me a moment to realize she’s talking about Dizzie. Mom is giddy with excitement. She never actually graduated from high school, having run away from home weeks before her own graduation.

Even though I’m here to see Dizzie graduate, I find my eyes firmly locked on Sadie. She looks vaguely like the ghost I knew when I first met her, but now her hair is tied back and her eyes set straight out in front of her instead of at the floor. If she is still a ghost, she has become one that can affect the tangible world, kind of like a poltergeist except she doesn’t throw stuff around so much. Maybe that was a bad analogy. Well, anyway, she definitely seems more… present. Lately.

The valedictorian makes a speech about this year’s theme: rising to the occasion. It all seems very canned. She talks about how her friends have helped her make it through high school and the challenges in classes, especially Mr. Boon’s Chemisty class (laughter from the audience), however she rose to the occasion as we all have to graduate. But her especially. No, she didn’t say that. I just added that part. I guess I’m being mean, but it doesn’t seem right to me to put the most successful student up front to talk about rising to the occasion. Maybe that’s just me.

After that, it’s alphabetical, so Dizzie walks first. They made her remove her lip ring and eyebrow ring for the graduation, though I guess a few years back she wouldn’t have even been able to walk with her hair dyed purple. Sadie’s eyes follow her the entire way down and she looks like she’s in pain. I wish I could take away that pain.

Dizzie grabs the diploma greedily. It’s her ticket out of this school. She’s bitched about it for so long now and finally she’s free. Even though we’re not supposed to, our family cheers like crazy. We planned this out beforehand to wait until she has the diploma in her hand so she doesn’t have to go back to her seat and walk again. Our school is really like Nazis when it comes to graduation. I mean, people want to cheer for their family and friends. What’s so strange about that?

In contrast, Sadie grabs the diploma with hesitation. She doesn’t smile at all while the principal is shaking her hand. In fact, her eyes never really meet his. The principal’s lips move in the standard congratulatory pattern. Sadie turns and walks back to her seat, adjusting the cap on her head as she walks. She twists the tassle in her fingers. I want to be that tassle.

We all rise from our seats and applaud like mad. Someone brought a beach ball and it gets passed around a few times before one of the teachers confiscates it.

We go to the Olive Garden where everyone else seems to be. I’m not sure why Mom and Dad chose this place because there’s a wait and we’re all hungry. Dizzie starts whooping and hollering in the entryway. “Eat it, school!” she cries triumphantly. She already has her piercings in their rightful places. “We did it!”

Sadie smiles. For the first time, I see her smile. Dakota and Chev are eating at a diner with their friends to celebrate, but Kira shows up to meet with us.

“You guys finally did it, huh?” Kira rubs Dizzie’s hair playfully and gives Sadie a hug. And as all this is going on and we sit and eat I keep watching them and wondering: what’s waiting for me at the end of the tunnel? What am I supposed to do until then? How do I cope with myself after dreaming of her for so long?

Sadie smiles and looks at me. I stare at my breadstick.

Break

* * *

Summer break crashed into our lives before we even knew we were high school graduates.

“Can you even believe we passed?” Dizzie cackled.

I smirked. “Yeah. Especially after that essay arguing the pros and cons of stab wound fucking as a military weapon.”

“Mrs. Johannsen was such a bitch about that essay. It was totally on topic with our assignment on military history!”

“I still  don’t know how you found so much information on that.”

“Me either!”

“Well, just be thankful she let you redo it.”

* * *

I don’t think anyone realized before then that Dakota was the pin holding us all together. After he left, Chev went off the deep end. We already knew he was hanging with the druggies, but we didn’t realize back then how far his problem went. He and Dizzie started hooking up again though they both knew it was a terrible idea. Kira was pissed about the whole thing and has been kind of AWOL, especially with her college workload. It tore me apart from the inside but I still stayed by her side. The last time the Deviants met, it was just me and Diz.

“Want to break open some wine from the basement?” Dizzie asked me.

“Won’t your parents notice?”

“They won’t care.”

“I’m not so sure about that.”

“Well, I don’t give a shit.”

I watched in silence for a moment, trying to understand what she was feeling. “…Dizzie.”

“Don’t. Just stop, Sadie. The band’s broken up. Even if we could rope Kira and Chev to play, he’d be too much of a mess to be any good to us. And you know Kira hates his guts for choosing drugs over music. It doesn’t even fucking compute in her mind, she’s so straight-edge.”

“She’s just passionate about her music.”

“Whatever!” She sounds harassed. I’ve elicited the same sigh from my mother a thousand times over. “They say the band follows the drummer. When did it get so… Ah, fuck me, I need a drink.”

She starts toward the wine rack.

“Dizzie…”

“What?!”

And that’s when I kissed her.

*

*

*

Summer Kisses

After that awkward kiss with Sadie, I needed something harder than wine to keep my head clear.

“I’m sorry,” Sadie whispered.

“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”

“That was my first kiss.”

“Why are you telling me that?” I stepped on the gas.

“I don’t know. I just want…”

I’m not sure why I was so tense. Maybe it was Dakota’s physical absence or Chev’s absence of mind or Kira thinking she’s just better than us now that she’s in college and doesn’t have enough time for us anymore.

“Sadie, I can’t give you what you want. I’m not gay, for starters. And you don’teven want to be with me. Trust me on this one. I’m not worth it.”

“I’ve never wanted anything more in my life.”

“Then you’re not at smart as I thought!” I immediately regretted those words. I wished I could have taken them back. Why was I even mad at Sadie anyway? I glanced over at her and the look she was giving me just broke my heart. And it scared me a little. I think she’d always tagged at me like a puppy dog, and I had just kicked her. Now, she was hurt and confused. But Sadie’s not an animal, she’s a human being, and I caught a very human sense of loathing in those eyes.

The rest of the ride was silence.

“Are you gonna be okay?” I asked. She shut the door and walked inside.

I needed something stronger than wine. But where was I going to get it aside from Chev? Grinding my teeth, I make a u-turn at the stoplight on her corner and head in the opposite direction of my house.

I was drenched in sweat that evening from the humidity. It was going to rain. New England weather sucks anus, but summers I can take. Winters on the other hand. Well, at least it’s not… Canada. I step on the gas.

* * *

I pull up to Chev’s apartment. He lives with his dad but he’s always away on work, so Chev usually has the place to himself.

“It’s me!” I shout, knocking on the door. “Open up, mother fucker!”

He takes a while and I imagine at this hour he’s either passed out or maybe with some bimbo. He finally cracks open the door and looks like he’s seriously tweaking.

“Hey, Dizzie. What’s cracklin’?” He hovers at the door.

“Can I come in or are you just going to keep getting in my way?”

“Whoa! Firecracker!”

“I’ve had a bad night. Weed and alcohol, please.”

“Well, since you said please.” He thinks he’s being charming, I guess. I’m beyond caring at this point.

” ‘Kay. Musta been killer. Let’s start with some shots.”

“Fine.”

He pours something from a Jager bottle but I’m not even sure it’s Jager at all. Tastes like rocket fuel and the tears of a newborn child with some urine mixed in for kick. I hold out the shot glass again. “Hit me.”

“She’s feelin’ it tonight!” He can’t stay still. He keeps scratching at stuff on the counter.

I put the next one back and it tastes even worse somehow. My throat feels like it’s coated in venom. “You know there was a band meeting, right?”

“Oh, was there? Shiiit! I bet Kira was mad.”

“Kira didn’t come. It was just Sadie and me.”

He comes back with his bong. It’s shaped like a cock.

We light it up and he keeps staring at me. He has the most terrifying bags under his eyes. “What?”

“You’re sexy right now.”

“Great.”

He leans over and kisses me.

“Chev! What the fuck!” I push his face away.

“What? Let’s do it!” He reaches for my crotch and I smack it.

“Me likey!” he whoops.

“Chev, no. Chev. Chev!” He doesn’t listen. “Chev, what is wrong with you?”

He keeps kissing my face while I’m moving it away. His tongue feels dry like a lizard’s. I’m tired of being kissed tonight.

I start hitting him but he takes this as a cue to put his entire body weight on me. He’s lost his fucking mind.

Someone else is in the room. “Chev! What the fuck? That’s my sister!”

Seamus?

“Fuuuck,” Chev whines. He’s upset about being interrupted. “I told you to leave out the fire escape, bro.”

“Chev, get off my sister… Chev. Get. Off. My. Sister. Now.”

Seamus tries to pull Chev off unsuccessfully. He tries punching the bigger guy but Seamus has always been built like toothpicks. Chev gets up and knocks my little brother over. I don’t even try to yell at him. He’s too far gone. He knocks over Seamus and starts kicking him. I go for the closest lamp, which doesn’t come with me, probably because it’s plugged into the wall. Chev is still beating the shit out of my little brother. I pull the plug on the lamp and run over to Chev, swinging the lamp into his face. Something shatters. The lamp hits the ground and breaks.

I pant heavily, my heart thumping in my chest. Seamus is back on his feet already, hugging himself with and rubbing his arms. “Ow! Is he okay? Should we call an ambulance? We should call someone.”

“We probably shouldn’t for both your sakes.”

We stay for about twenty minutes to plug up Chev’s nose. He may have had a concussion but he looks fine. “Seamus, get in the car.”

“But…”

“Get in the fucking car. I don’t want to deal with you right now!”

Chev is holed up against the wall with a freezer bag full of ice against his face. “You’re a fucking bitch,” he spits.

How had it come to this? What had happened to our friend to make him such an incredible douchebag? I’d met his friends before, but so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. But to get Seamus mixed up in this? I want to kick some sense into him. Or just kick him. But it’s really not my problem. “Get some help, asshole.”

Seamus is pacing impatiently around the Mini Cooper. “Get in the car, Seamus!”

“It’s locked!” Whatever. I’m too angry to think straight. I dig for my keys and click it unlocked.

“There! Now get in!”

We pop into the car. Seamus tries to run his mouth. “Dizzie, I–”

“We’ll talk about it later. I need to focus on driving right now.” The car is silent for a moment. In spite of my own words: “You’re such a fucking idiot Seamus. What were you even thinking. No, don’t even say a fucking word.”

My phone, which had been plugged into the car charger, starts vibrating.

“It’s a text from Sadie,” Seamus says. “You have eight. That doesn’t seem normal.”

I sigh and run a light just as it turns from yellow to red. Someone honks. “Shit! She’s probably just upset about tonight. Don’t worry about it.”

Seamus is already pawing at my phone. “Put down my phone!” I smack it out of his hand.

“Dizzie. We need to go to Sadie’s.” I want to laugh at Seamus’s shaky voice.

“Really, Seamus. It’s not an emergency.”

“She says she needs you there. She took some pills.”

What the fuck is with tonight?

Hold Me. I’m Drowning.

“She’s not answering,” I had called Sadie’s phone five times in the last two minutes. “Should I call an ambulance?”

Dizzie’s mouth was scrunched up in deep thinking. I tapped my foot impatiently. “Dizzie? Should we—”

“Shut up! I’m thinking!”

I kept tapping my foot. I needed to do something. I’m not sure why, but I felt partly responsible for Sadie. Maybe it was because I liked her or maybe because I was guilty about what happened with Chev. Dizzie would never forgive me after tonight.

“We don’t know what happened to her. She could be fine.”

“She could be dead.”

“Shut up! Shut the fuck up!” Dizzie was shrieking like a banshee. There was a wild look in her eye and she stepped on the gas pedal. I didn’t say anything for the rest of the car ride, even though I was scared for my life and, above all, for Sadie’s.

We pulled up to her duplex and Dizzie kicked me out of the car. “I’m going to find parking. Keep knocking on her door and don’t stop.”

I ran up to the door and began pounding at it. Someone the next building down shouted at me to shut up. I didn’t stop, and he eventually poked his head out.

“Shut the fuck up!”

“I need to get in!” I yelled, still banging on the door.

“I’m calling the police!”

Fine with me. Dizzie ran up to me by this time. “Nobody’s answering!” I told her, a little out of breath.

“Fine. You can stop knocking.”

“Someone’s next door says he’s calling the police.”

“We don’t need this,” she said under her breath. “Can you drive?”

“I’m not leaving.” I sounded braver than I felt.

Dizzie looked at me for a moment before scratching her head. “We don’t have time to argue.” She looked up at the building. “Window’s open a smidge. Give me a boost.”

Fueled by Chev’s meth, I cupped my hands and pushed her up to the window. “A little higher,” she said. I was also feeling the ass-whooping I got from Chev, but Dizzie was able to slip her fingers under and pop the window up. “Yes!” She kicked my head crawling in.

I looked around, panicking about people watching. Aside from a few moths in the streetlights, the streets were pretty empty at this time of night.

“Dizzie!” I whispered shrilly to the window. She didn’t answer. “Diiizie!” I tried to jump up but it was slippery on the ledge. A hand shot out of the window like the saving moment in an action movie.

At the other end was my big sister’s scowling face. “Get up here and help me!”

I dug my feet into the wall as she hoisted me up. Dizzie pulled me through the window frame and fell over backwards. “Phew! You really shouldn’t be so heavy if you’ve been taking meth.”

“It was just that one—”

“Come over here for a sec. I need your retard strength.”

It’s pitch black in the room except for one light coming out of the back.

“I can’t hear anything coming from inside,” she said quietly, though the room seemed to make even our breathing seem obscenely loud.

“You think she’s all right?”

“I don’t know.”

I ran to the door and began pounding on it. “Sadie? Sadie! It’s Seamus!” My mind kept running to the worst case scenario, that I would find Sadie sprawled out, pale as a ghost with vomit running caked to her cheek. I rammed my shoulder into the door and busted a hole in the exterior after the fifth time.

“Seamus! Hold on!” Dizzie pushed me out of the way. “Sadie! Can you hear us?” She knocked again. “It’s no use.” She pulled out her phone and tossed me the car keys. “I’m calling for an ambulance. Check the drawers in the kitchen for a screwdriver.”

I darted off toward the kitchen and started throwing open drawers. I could feel my heart trying to tear itself out of my chest. I kept repeated the word in my head: screwdriver, screwdriver, screwdriver, screwdriver. I was amazed to find it already in my hand. I was so excited that I nearly stabbed Dizzie on the way back.

“Shit! I’m sorry!”

“The door!” she screamed. “Get the fucking hinges off!”

I started at the top and then removed the bottom hinge. I held on to where my shoulder had cracked through and pulled the door toward us. A bright light filtered into the room. Dizzie ran in as soon as I had the door out of the way. I threw it aside and heard it thump against a wall.

Dizzie had already reached Sadie and was checking her pulse. Sadie lay there wide eyed and moving her mouth open and closed like a suffocating fish. The bathroom smelled a little acrid.

“She vomited before we got here. That’s good.” Dizzie was mumbling to herself. Without even taking her eyes away, she said, “Get her some water.”

I threw open all the cabinets in the kitchen before I found a plastic Scooby Doo cup to use. It went under the tap and then into Dizzie’s hand.

“Drink,” she told Sadie and poured the water gently into and on her mouth. “Help’s coming.”

Sadie coughed. “I. Wanted.”

Dizzie shushed her gently.

“N-no. I wanted. Let. Go.”

“I’m not letting go of you, Sadie. I’m right here.”

I wasn’t sure what to do or say then. Watching my sister folder her arms around her, I felt embarrassed that I ever thought that I loved Sadie. It was ridiculous to think that I could be as strong as Dizzie had been tonight with Sadie and Chev. Though I guess that wasn’t really my fault. I guess I was mostly ashamed for making her go through the trouble of taking care of me and being my big sister. She didn’t deserve a screw-up brother like me.

“Seamus,” Dizzie said, this time looking straight at me, her face like stone, her friend limp in her arms. “Go home.”

I left out the window and took the Mini Cooper to our house. I tried to drive slowly and it just ended up being sporadic toe-tapping on the gas and the brake to keep with the speed limit. There was one police car out on the way home. I immediately made a right turn just to get out of the way of him. It took a lot longer to get home than it should have. All the while, I was thinking about Dizzie and Sadie and Chev.

When I finally got home, I couldn’t sleep. I was incredibly parched so I grabbed a glass of water and paced around back and forth most of the night. Dizzie got home the next morning and reported that Sadie would be okay.

After this, my sister did something I’d never seen her do: she cried. I stood there for a moment just watching her face get rid and contort until I didn’t even recognize her face anymore and she was just a sobbing mess. I folded my arms around her like I’d seen her do.

“They’re gone, Seamus. I don’t have anyone left.” I don’t think I really understood what she meant back then. Still, the words caught me in the throat. We stood still for what could have been at least ten or twenty minutes. All the while, my heart was beating hard against my chest, trying to break through.

Raindrops

A storm broke last night and I don’t even remember it. Normally I love the rain hitting the window. However, the rain glancing off the hospital just infuriates my already raging headache. I feel like I’ve woken up from a nightmare and I only have myself to blame.

Dizzie came by today along with Seamus. They’d both saved my life. Seamus looked like he hadn’t slept a wink but still somehow had energy. If raindrops were meant to soothe and rejuvenate, Dizzie was the lightning and the thunder that followed. Mom and Seamus left so we could be alone.

“Why’d you do it?” was all she said.

I actually wasn’t trying to kill myself that night. Not exactly.

“Somehow I don’t believe you.”

But it was really the truth. I just wanted to let go and forget. I didn’t want to feel like myself anymore.

“Dying would have helped you forget.”

It wasn’t my goal, though. The doctor said I probably wouldn’t die since I threw up most of the pills.

“Then what was your goal? Fucking with your friends?”

I didn’t want Mom to know. She wants to send me to a psych ward.

“Maybe it would be good for you.”

I was shocked. I figured Dizzie would be on my side on this.

“You have a problem,” she told me. “I mean, just look at your arms. They’re all sliced up.”

Not since I met you, Dizzie. I’ve stopped myself for you.

“You’re no better than Chev. You know he’s doing meth now? And he got my brother into it? You’re addicted to pain, Sadie, and now it’s affecting us. You need help.”

I thought you were my friend.

“I don’t really need this right now.”

Dizzie called my mom and Seamus back in. They looked so sympathetic and it made me sick. The raindrops hit the window and each one felt like a tiny dagger piercing my brain. Is this going to be the rest of my life? Are the ones I love the most going to always leave me? My dad? Dizzie?

“You need help.” My conversation with Dizzie kept echoing flooding through my brain like a torrent. I felt that pain in the pit of my stomach like broken glass. All that self-loathing and guilt that threatened to puncture a hole in my stomach and spill out all over the floor. This is why I used to cut myself, and it was even more tempting now.

I can’t believe what happened to Chev and Seamus. Now that I think of it, Seamus didn’t really look so well and I haven’t seen Chev since after graduation. Those days somehow seem simpler now. I feel like we knew everything there was to know about life and then we just couldn’t take it anymore. We lost it. We fell from grace.

I once read a story by Ray Bradbury that really stuck with me. It was about a group of soldiers who crash land on Venus. It rains pretty much all year there and the soldiers go insane and die. Except for one who made it to this patch of sun that sounded imaginary. At least, I used to think it was. But if it is real, maybe Dizzie can make it there. Maybe she can reach the sunlight. I’d like to help her there but I’m just another dead soldier. I really can’t help anyone in this position.

“Maybe it would be good for you,” Dizzie had said.

I sigh and close my eyes. In my mind the rain takes me and I am drowning. Dizzie is standing on the shore. I reach out my hand to her and she just keeps them in her pockets and shakes her head. She’s abandoned me. I’m on my own now.

The storm tonight has been raging outside my window all my life. I’m afraid one day soon it’s going to finally break inside and claim me.

“Dying would have helped you forget.”

Somebody help. Anybody.

Worry

Kira is worried. She slides out her discount office chair and hops onto her laptop. She sends a message:

“To: Dakota Long

Subject: worried

Have you heard from Chev or Diz? I’ve tried to call them both and no answer. Starting to worry a bit.”

Kira goes out to her classes. She has Guitarmony and then her Jimi Hendrix lab. She has coffee with friends and then goes home to check her messages. She doesn’t have a cell phone. She doesn’t believe in cell phones as a useful tool in everyday life. Kira logs back into Myspace to check out band info she heard from her classmates. She has a new message from Dakota:

“To: Ashkiran Chopra

Haven’t heard anything from them, Kira. I’ll be doubling my efforts, though. I tried Sadie’s phone but I’ll give parents a call tomorrow. Don’t worry. What once was lost will soon be found

– Coda”

Kira feels a little better, but something is still nagging at her. She goes to sleep listening to Black Sabbath. That night she goes to sleep and dreams of pigs charred from napalm fire. She can still remember the smell of burnt flesh when she is awake.

I’ve Got My Philosophy

I came up with this theory that man can live off music alone. I try this while recovering from my concussion. I put in my earbuds and begin listening to my ipod library with the intention of listening to every song (which will take over three days). In the meantime, I have to keep myself occupied. My car needs its brake pads changed, so I decided to start there. I took out the brake pads and figured my bandages needed to be changed. I’m not really sure how the concussion happened, exactly, but I guess that’s the nature of concussions. I looked it up and it’s called retroactive amnesia. It probably had something to do with my lamp broken and in the garbage can, though. Dizzie must be pissed at me for what I did. My head feels like a shitstorm. Dizzie must be mad at me. I tie an ice pack to my head and do a line. It’s a strange sensation. When I go outside again, I realize my car needs a better radio, so I begin taking it out of the car. I’m not sure why I didn’t do this before. It’s such a simple thing. I probably need more oil so I pour a little in. What’s Seamus doing right now? He’s a good kid. If I ever have a son, I’m naming him something Irish like that. Like, you know, Colin or Roland or something. I take the radio and the brake pads inside with me and set them on the counter. I’m not sure but while I’m taking a piss, I realize the bathroom needs to be cleaned. The chemicals smell bad but they make the floor shine. All the while, I’m listening to my ipod with no food at all. Man can live off music alone, I think. You just need to keep your brain alive and you’ll be okay.

Hospital (extremely unfinished rough draft)

10/21/11

I told my mom about my desire to write. It’s a private desire but I’ve always had some sort of outlet. I might just wither up if I didn’t have something to write. So I told her. She gave me one of her old journals that she never started…

10/22/11

I can’t even get myself to think about what happened. I let myself lose control. And Sadie’s right. I’m an addict. I really fucked things up. I’m such an idiot.

10/23/11

The doctor thinks they may have been giving me the wrong medication all along. They need to change my meds, observe and adjust. What complete bullshit. We should be able to sue for malpractice, right?

10/24/11

How much longer do I have to be here? Why can’t they just let me go?

10/25/11

Seamus brought me flowers today. No Dizzie. Seamus said she was busy. I wish he hadn’t come. He was just a reminder of what had happened. I feel bad but I made him feel more awkward than he already was. The new meds make me queazy.

10/26/11

Dreams

If I had a dime for every time I had this dream, I would shoot myself. I’m walking down a hallway and Sadie is sitting there with blood on her hands. Sometimes she says it’s her own blood. Sometimes it’s mine. Or Chev’s. Or she’s licking it off her fingers. Occasionally Chev comes by with an axe or a chainsaw. Sometimes he sneaks up on me and I turn around and the dream ends. There are nights when the dream repeats over and over again. I will wake up in my bed only to see Sadie there with blood on her hands. At first it freaked me out, then I got angry, and now I’m just exhausted. When I wake up to see Kira standing over me, I know that it’s probably just another dream again.

“Why haven’t you returned any of my calls?”

I think it was at this time I realize that she is real and I panic. I shoot up in the bed and hit my head against the wall trying to get away from her. I’m not sure why the real Kira standing there is more shocking than a dream Kira. Just unexpected, I guess.

“Whoa, Diz,” she was cracking up. “I’m sorry. I just wasn’t–” she catches her breath, “I wasn’t expecting that.” She wipes away a tear. “Are you okay?”

Seeing Kira in my room laughing at me makes me want to cry, and not because I’m upset at her. It’s almost a release seeing Kira here again. I want to unload all my worries on her, but still…

“Why are you in my room?” I ask, rubbing my head.

She stops laughing and pulls out her phone. I watch her with my jaw locked and my gut tells me something bad is coming. Maybe this is a dream after all.

From underneath a pile of clothes comes The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.”

Kira clicks the phone shut. “That’s my ringtone, is it not?”

“Mhmm,” I grunt, palming a hand over my eye and through my hair. I probably look like a mess.

“So why haven’t you been calling me back. We can’t get through to Chev or Sadie, either, and your mom just said she didn’t know what the Hell was wrong with you. So?”

“So what?” I snapped. “I didn’t feel like calling you back. It’s fine.”

“It’s not fine.”

“What do you even care anyway? You’ve already moved on, started a new band.”

“I’m sorry. I thought we were still friends. I didn’t realize I was just your lead guitarist.”

“Don’t try that guilt trip shit on me.”

“Get dressed and be downstairs in ten minutes. We’re going for a walk. You don’t come down, I’m dragging your sorry ass down.” She slams the door on the way out.

Red lights on the clock tell me it’s almost noon. Why do I feel so tired? My head keeps humming with Sadie mumbling about blood on her hands. Outside the window, the jays are chirping. If only the world could stop and be quiet just for one moment.

It only takes me two minutes to get up and get dressed but I was sitting in bed the other eight. Kira is in the kitchen having a cup of coffee and chatting with my little brother.

“Morning, sunshine!” Kira says, chipper and put together. Her jeans and shirt look washed and her hair is tied back in a ponytail. I must look like a mess. My hair always sticks up in strange places in the morning.

Seamus was smiling but now that I’m here, he’s staring gloomily at the table. We haven’t talked much since that night. And when he does, he only talks about visiting Sadie. I yelled at him about how she’s a dyke and he needs to stop getting in her pants. We haven’t spoken a word to each other since then.

“Want some coffee? Breakfast? You guys have real maple syrup here! I’m so excited about it.”

“No, I’m okay.”

“You sure?”

“Let’s just get this over with.”

Kira sighs and pushes back her chair. She pats Seamus on the shoulder and says something in his ear. He’s smiling again, though I can’t help but wonder if it’s at my expense. Whatever.

Silently, we grab our coats. It’s one of the warmer days so far since the beginning of the month. I can’t even see my breath when the door opens and I wonder if I need a jacket. I glance over at Kira and she doesn’t say a word.

In fact, the entire walk occurs in silence. It wouldn’t be so bad if my head wasn’t tumbling around in a million directions.

“So, what’s up?” I ask. Kira stops abruptly. I turn to see her standing with her arms crossed.

“You tell me. Why has everyone dropped off the map? Seamus says he doesn’t know what’s up but he’s a terrible liar.”

“At least he knows when to keep his mouth shut.”

“So that’s it? You’re keeping something from me? Why? Because I haven’t been there to hold your hand?”

“That’s not–”

Kira breaks her stance to free up her hands. She puts a finger at my nose. “Come on, Diz! Are you really such a fucking baby all the sudden?”

I can’t meet her eyes.

“It’s none of your business.”

“Fine. I’m heading over to Sadie’s house next since it’s on the way to Chev’s. Maybe they can tell me something.” She spins on her heel and walks back to her car.

“Seamus didn’t tell you? About Sadie?”

“What about her?”

“She won’t be home right now.”

“Don’t fucking play games with me. Where is she?”

“She’s under surveillance at the hospital.”

Kira taps her foot three times and sighs deeply. “Get in the fucking car.”

“No.”

“You can explain or not explain but you’re coming with me.”

“I can’t.” An image of Sadie with blood on her hands and Chev sneaking up on her with an axe comes to mind. It makes me shiver.

“Why? Tell me, please.”

“I just… please don’t go to Chev’s, Kira.”

“Does that mean you’re coming? What else are you going to do all day?”

Stay inside and watch T.V.

“Fine. Let’s go.”

Maybe I’m still dreaming, I think as I buckle the seatbelt. The wheels scratch against the ground as the car pulls away.

Induce Vomiting

When I was six, I ate a wild mushroom in my aunt and uncle’s back yard. I always hated mushrooms, so I’m not sure exactly what compelled me to do it. I guess even back then I was always challenging myself. Tastes change over time. I knew about this because my parents always told it to me. So maybe my tastes had changed. It turned out the wild mushroom was delicious. I was so excited by this revelation that I liked mushrooms, I told my parents right away. Instead of being pleased with me, they were horrified. This bothered me because they’d always been trying to get me to eat my peas and my mushrooms. But now they were trying to get me to throw it up. They put syrup of ipecac down my throat and I hated them for doing that to me.

I’m not sure why this memory went through my head when I was listening to Sadie tell her story. She’d overdosed, vomited, waited to die. I wanted to relate to that pain but I couldn’t. My mind went back to mushrooms. I’ve never been in love before, but if it’s anything like what Sadie has had to swallow, please stick a finger down my throat. I don’t want it.

Jumper

Dakota had been telling Chev for years to come out and find him if he needed help or a place to stay. Of course, the only catch was he couldn’t use anymore. So, it came as a shock when he heard a raspy, shivering voice over the phone.

“I need a place to stay.”

Dakota paused. “Chev?”

“Yeah. Who’d you think it was?”

“I’m sorry. You just sound… are you all right?”

At the end of a trail of coughs, Chev says that he’s not.

“I just tried to hang myself with a shoelace. It snapped”

Dakota wanted to laugh and cry all at once. He sounded so embarrassed. Chev was always impulsive but at least he wasn’t dead yet and for that, Dakota was thankful. The girls, and Seamus too, had all given up on Chev after what he’d done to Dizzie. Dakota kind of hoped he could salvage the old Chev.

“I’ll have a plane ticket ready for you if you want it.”

The line was quiet and Dakota thought the call had been dropped. “Hello? Chev?” He heard a sniff, like the person on the other line had been crying.

“Can I leave tonight?”

“Sure. I mean, but don’t you need to pack or something?”

“I don’t have anything. My dad kicked me out months ago.”

“Where have you been living?” Dakota asked, though he kind of guessed at the answer but it still surprised him when Chev spoke.

“Nowhere. A shelter.”

Dakota weighed his next words. “Do you have a way of getting to the airport?”

“I’m in walking distance.”

“How long?”

“Two hours, maybe three?”

Dakota sighed. “I’ll see what I can do. Can you call me when you get there?”

“Yeah. Don’t have a charger for this phone, though. It’s, uh, not mine.”

“Turn it off while you’re walking, then,” Dakota said, but he remembered something. “Chev! Promise me  you’ll go through with this. You’re going to go straight to the airport, right?”

“…yeah.”

* * *

After their talk, Dakota had called everyone he knew. It would take a lot more than just one friend to take care of and keep an eye on Chev.

Dakota shifted from one foot to the other. Chev finally came out of the airport and he looked like Hell. He was dangerously thin and painful to look at. He’d always had some weight on him but now it wasn’t even the same Chev. Dakota was worried that the Chev he knew had been peeled away.

“How was your flight?”

“Landing was a bitch. Security practically buttfucked me.”

“But at least you’re here.”

“Yeah. Fuckin’ cold, though.”

Dakota handed Chev a coat.

“What’s this?” Chev asked, eyeing the garment suspiciously.

“Just a jumper.”

“A what?”

“A sweater. You know, to keep warm.”

Chev took it without saying anything. He put it over his shoulders. It was too big but he kept it there.

“I’m tired,” he said.

Dakota wanted to laugh. Or cry.

“Let’s get you home.”

Green

I’ve always been a hopeless romantic, so I decided to go by ship. Maryland has treated me well over the years, but I need a change of scenery. So, to Ireland I go. My dad was disappointed I didn’t want to go to Italy; my mom was scared for me because she’d grown up in the thick of the fighting between the IRA and the Protestant government. Thanks to my mom, I never had a rivers of Guinness and Lucky Charms view of the Emerald Isle. The Irish have their bastards and assholes just like everyone else.

But still, this is what I want to do. The environment I’d lived in was poisoning me to some extent. Granted, I’d let that happen, but I had to go somewhere else to break past ties and past habits. Especially after everything that happened with Chev and Dizzie, it was hard to show my face around the house. I think I knew then that as soon as I was out of high school, I was going to go somewhere else.

The ocean is beautiful but it’s not really as blue as everyone says. There are greens mixed in and if you stare hard enough, the darkest blacks. I felt like that’s how much of my life has been, though growing up I never really used to look down at the darkness underneath. The younger Seamus would have looked down and saw only blue; now I can’t stop staring at the water, now mixed with reds and oranges from the sunset.

Having always lived on the East Coast, this is my first time seeing a sunset on the ocean. I can only say that I would recommend it to anyone. There are a lot of couples on the ship, holding hands and watching. The captain told us that the conditions are right for a green flash. He quoted Jules Verne, who called it the ”true green of Hope.”  I’m not sure what to look for, but I’ve never been so intent on the sun. I don’t care if it ruins my eyes. I don’t care. I want to see hope for myself, to know that what I’m doing right now is the right thing for future Seamus.

I can see heads turning as the sun turns a deep blood red. Ahead of me lies the greenest hills and the darkest beers. Ahead of me lies old family ties and a new beginning.

The horizon eats away at the sun and I wonder if the green will ever come out. Maybe some eyes don’t see it at all. And then, just as predicted, a tiny dot of the brightest emerald green glows at the apex of our setting Sol. And just like that, it’s gone.

I sit there long afterwards amidst the newlyweds sucking face and wondered if all there was to hope was just a flicker. For some reason, maybe because I’m a hopeless romantic, but I feel like I have experienced a change this day. My childhood has officially ended.

Hockey (unfinished)

Chev felt like a truck ran over his chest and then shat on it, so he had little fight in him when Dakota and his buddies decided to take him out to play hockey.

“I’m American. We don’t even play hockey.”

“It’s okay,” said Dakota. “You’ll be on my team. I’ll show you the ropes.”

One of Dakota’s friends was a hawk-faced bastard named Dean. “You going to drag that Yank around, Dakota? I feel sorry for ya.”

Chev ground his teeth together. “How does it feel to be America’s hat? Thanks for keeping us warm.”

“Oh?” Dean had a shit-eating grin plastered to his face. He looked to his guys and they started smiling too. “I was under the impression that America was Canada’s bitch, eh? We’re bigger and on top.”

Their muffled mitten hands slapped together in celebration. Chev always thought that America was a bigger country than Canada, but he hated this guy either way.

Dakota nudged him in the ribs. “Just a little pre-game banter. No worries.”

Chev coughed from deep in his chest. He was exhausted.

“I haven’t skated since I was fourteen years old.”

Dakota smiled and shrugged. “Should be exciting, then!”

After some deliberation, Chev decided not to strangle Dakota. He was too tired, anyway.

* * *

The hockey game went splickety-splack. Stuff happened.

* * *

Chev passed out when they got home but woke up to the sound of drumbeats.Bump. Bump. Bump. It was monotone but consistent, like a heartbeat. He felt drawn to the rhythm just on the other side of his walls. He opened the door and a flood of light washed over his eyes. It felt like some tiny man was punching the back of his eyeballs. The drumming had stopped. Chev rubbed his eyes, blinked out the light, and saw Dakota and his buddies in a drum circle, getting high as kites to the point where they couldn’t even play right.

“You fucking hippies,” Chev grumbled. He pushed Dean out of the way. “Hand me the drums.” They stared at him. “All of them. Now, please!”

He patted one drum, tightened it up, patted another and loosened it. This went on for a good fifteen minutes. The Canadians simply watched this strange, strung-out American tooling around.

Then Chev paused, took a deep breath, and began hammering at the drums. He could feel his muscles protesting. They weren’t used to exertion, especially after getting owned out in the bitter cold in a game of hockey. Chev was in no condition to do anything much, but the music quickened with his heartbeat and he felt a rush of energy like he hadn’t felt since he was first getting high. The drums made a semi-circle around him and he beat on them all in a rapid progression. He started to breath heavily and leapt out of his sitting position. His hands came down like thunderclaps. His deep inhalations caught in his chest and he suddenly began coughing so hard he was heaving on the floor. Everyone came to help him, though the crowding only made him more nauseous.

Dakota tucked him back into bed. He had no dreams that night, but if he did, they would have been about music.

Release

I really hadn’t seen Sadie much once I’d handed her the piano. I figured since I had triggered a suicidal episode, it was best that I keep my distance. Even so, it was really lonely for a while. Kira was mad at me for a while (and I guess with good reason), Dakota is Canadian (as usual) but also I heard Chev was up there to. I’m still a little torn about that whole idea ever since he told me. Seamus and I didn’t talk too much after what happened but now he’s set sail for Ireland, of all places. I’ve always had the same friends; I don’t even know how to make new ones:

“You okay?” Sadie asks.

“Yeah, I was just thinking,” I tell her.

“That’s so un-Dizzie-like.”

“Yeah, I know. But look at you, all smiles. Remember when you used to spend all lunch staring at your food? I always thought your lunch must have had some interesting things to say.”

“Is that why you wanted to talk to me back then? To find out what my lunch was saying?”

“Oh, I was such an attention whore. You know that!”

She looked good. Healthy. Her hair had grown out but she kept it trimmed back so it didn’t cover her face. The wind from the moonroof whipped her hair violently but her eyes were closed, her face serene. I was jealous.

The Foo Fighters “All my Life” was playing quietly on the radio. “I like this song,” I said, wanting to change the subject from high school and the past. The energy from the song, quickening my heartbeats. Kira once told me that music rises out of the Earth and it needs somewhere to go. Try to contain it and you’ll just go crazy. Music needs to rise. So, I usually keep the moonroof open when the radio’s on. Kira also said that her ears lost their virginity when she heard Dave Grohl for the first time. I guess I really can’t escape from the past.

“Do you think every song has a collective memory?”

Sadie opens her eyes, taking this question more seriously than I’d anticipated. “Maybe. I think it’s more that music invokes something from our own personal memories. But you never know. There could be something locked inside there that comes from something more spiritual.”

Sadie talks like that now. I mean, she always said weird shit, but she’s been focused on spirituality a lot, even if she’s not completely sold on the same interpretation of God that her mother believes in.

We pull to the curb. I haven’t seen Sadie’s place in forever. It all looks the same from the outside. But smaller, I guess. Isn’t that how shit always works?

“You won’t recognize it,” Sadie says. “We redecorated.”

I really didn’t. The second we walked in, I could see sunny wallpaper all over the place. Then I looked down and there was a huge piano taking up a third of the living room.

“What the F is that monstrosity?” I gasp.

“It used to belong to my aunt.” I stayed respectfully silent. Sadie had a time where she lost someone close to her every year. I took her as proof that God doesn’t exist. “Mom had it in storage and took it out when she saw me practicing in the hospital.” She is almost jumping up and down now and I wonder if she just downed a shot of Monster while I wasn’t looking. “Take a seat! I want you to listen.”

Before I know it, I’m being ushered to an old twine-seated chair, planting my butt on a must cushion. Sadie takes a seat on the piano stool and begins playing a somewhat familiar tune. Then she starts singing:

“I’ve got a little black book with my poems in…”

Her voice is like holding a fragile baby bird in my hands. I don’t think I’d ever heard Sadie sing before. I’m entranced and the music flows through me or out of me. Maybe both. She has some false starts and is in the wrong key at parts, but she is completely into it. Sadie’s been practicing her ass off for the past year to get to this point.

When Sadie ends on “roots,” the last key dies out and I feel like something was left unfinished. My dad used to play that song when he was sad and drinking. I always wanted the singer to finish what he was going to say. It was always something of a relief when he started singing about Vera Lynn.

Sadie is just sitting there on the stool. My twine chair creaks as I move toward her. She wipes her face and I touch her shoulder. “Sadie?”

Her voice is fragile and broken. “I’m okay.” Delicate as a tiny bird.

I hug her from behind and kiss her on the top of the head. “You’re amazing.”

I’m not sure what is going through her head, but she seems to relax. Something she is holding inside just seems to rise right out of her lungs in one wrenching sigh.

“Thank you.”

Argument (unfinished)

“Tell her I died. She’d be happier that way.”

Chev was sitting at the edge of his bed, sulking, but Dakota was having none of it.

“That’s not true. The whole gang needs to be back together. You included.”

“Bullshit.”

“Chev. You told me not a month past that you’d be willing to do anything for me after I took you in and sobered your ass up…”

“Not this.”

“Yes. This. This or nothing. It’s the only thing I’d ask of you. Isn’t this part of your twelve steps? To apologize to people you’ve wronged.”

“Don’t have to do it in person.”

“Yes. You do.”

Concert (incomplete)

Kira’s band was friggin’ phenomenal. And it made Dizzie more than a little jealous. Even so, she was cheering so loud the people around her were giving her funny looks. But you know what? Fuck them.

“That’s my fuckin’ girl up there! That’s my baby girl up on stage!” She elbows the guy next to her. “The brown one on the stage. Isn’t she precious?” Dizzie bounces up and down, screaming at the top of her lungs.

Kira must have heard her yelling like an idiot because she grimaced slightly. She was going to regret inviting Dizzie to the front row.

Unlike their old band, where everyone’s instruments crashed violently together, the [band name] had more of a jazzy appeal and focused on solos. Kira had become a master of the power chord. And again, Dizzie was jealous. What had she done lately? Did she ever even hold a candle to Kira?

“That’s my sweet baby darling! Go get ‘em! Fuck ‘em up!” The guy next to her had stepped away. There was a small empty bubble around Dizzie on the concert floor.

“Oh well,” she mumbled to herself. “Fuck ‘em.”

Kira finished her solo and kneeled down toward Dizzie. “Thank you,” she mouthed. Dizzie winked at her.

Kira winked at

Epilogue (synopsis)

Sadie and Seamus speak via a Facebook chat [author’s note: unlike most of the main characters, Sadie and Seamus prefer FB over Myspace]. The dialogue between the two begins as a casual catching up with things lately (Sadie talks about the group getting together again at last and the awkwardness), but it turns into something of closure for the two. Sadie and Seamus come to the conclusion that they aren’t to blame for what almost happened and that even Chev isn’t entirely at fault since he was not really in his right mind (that doesn’t entirely excuse him, though his sobering up shows that he gives a shit about himself and others). Seamus and Sadie come to terms, as well, with their unrequited love (Seamus for Sadie; Sadie for Dizzie) that will never actually come into fruition because the other person does not/cannot feel the same way. Their friendships remain most important (d’awww!). They realize they’ve been talking for a very long time and about more than they intended. Though it is daytime for Seamus, Sadie states that she is unusually tired and states she will sleep well (having had a burden finally taken from her). The end.

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