I could hear him calling me in the dark, whispering my name. I was lying on my side on the ground and there was a slight pain in my throat. He kept calling me but for about a minute or two I said nothing.
“Bobby? Wake up. Hey Bobby, you awake?”
“Are you awake?”
“I was in the middle of something.”
“You’re still asleep. Wake up Bobby.”
“I’m awake. What do you want?”
“What is it Sean?”
“I heard something. I just remembered I forgot to lock the top lock.”
“Oh yeah, don’t worry about it.”
“Bobby please, I have to work tomorrow. I can’t sleep.”
“There’s nobody there. It’s late. Just go to sleep.”
“Please Bobby. Please go and lock the door. I know I heard something.”
“Alright Sean, take it easy,” I said, sitting up slowly and giving him a look of disgust that I knew he wouldn’t see in all that darkness.
I got up and left the room grunting and clearing my throat and pretending to yawn. It was raining out, I think. Maybe it had stopped. I don’t quite remember. It was windy as always and I knew all too well that wind can sound almost like anything. I stood in front of the door and before looking through the peephole I kicked Sean’s shoes out of my way. “Thought you heard something huh?”
It wasn’t long before I heard something too. Right when I’d put my hand on the lock, I heard something like a whimper. It was so low of a cry that I had to place my ear against the door just to make sure it was there. I looked through the peephole again but couldn’t see anything except for the door across the hall. I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell it was that Sean had heard this silent sob from inside our room with the door closed and the wind constantly howling. I guess his ears were just as sharp as my eyes, maybe even sharper.
I opened the door and saw this girl sitting in the hallway with her head in between her knees and her hands in her hair, which at that point resembled a light brown waterfall with narrow streaks of gold. I cleared my throat and she jumped up nervously and it was then that I recognized her.
“Jane? What’s going on?”
“I-I’ve been trying to call Mary, b-b-but…”
“She isn’t home. What’s wrong Jane?”
“Come inside. Come inside,” I said, coming out into the hallway and putting my arm around her. She was shaking like crazy and her clothes were wet. The poor girl was all over the place. I led her inside and locked the door. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” It was a stupid question to ask once I’d already seen her. “Forget it,” I said. “Come sit down.”
“She’s staying at Paul’s house tonight,” I said and my answer seemed to trigger a lot more tears to flow and she let out a desperate moan. I took her over to the sofa and she dropped herself like a corpse that cried and whose face would shake uncontrollably. I heard the creaking of Sean’s bed and knew that he was getting up. “Listen; just sit tight for a sec.”
He was sitting up in bed when I walked into the room. “What happened? What’s Jane doing here?”
“Yeah, listen, don’t worry about it. I found her in the hallway. Don’t worry about it, alright?”
“What the hell are you talking about? What do you mean ‘don’t worry?’ What’s wrong with her?”
“I don’t know. Like I said, don’t worry about it. I’m gonna talk to her.”
“Listen; just try to get some sleep. She’s breaking down like crazy.”
Sean gave me a look that was empty of a whole lot of things. I disregarded his confusion and went over to the corner of the room and grabbed my cigarettes off the table. “She was in the hallway?”
“Yeah, I’m gonna talk to her just now and see what’s going on,” I said as I went back towards the door.
“I knew I heard something.”
“Please don’t turn the light on,” she said. It seemed that her throat had cleared up a bit.
“Okay, I won’t.” I sat down across from her on the next sofa. Her eyes were closed and her lips were dry and trembling. Her brown complexion had turned abnormally white. I grabbed a blanket that almost always sat idle on the sofa and placed it gently on top of her in a way that only her neck and head could be seen. “Your clothes are wet. I was gonna give you some of Mary’s clothes but her door is locked. She locks it whenever she leaves the house. I can give you some of mine if you like.”
“I’ll be fine.”
I sat back down again and stared at her attentively. She opened her eyes for a moment and closed them again once she knew where I was. The living room didn’t possess the same darkness. “Is it still raining out?” she opened her eyes again and closed them and this time she did it much quicker than before. “It’s probably still raining,” I said, cursing myself and my stupid questions. Suddenly I remembered the thought I was wrapped in before all of this had occurred; before Sean had started to call my name. I was thinking about a city with no walls; better yet a place that certain words were never created, certain emotions never came to be. I was wondering whether there is a place out there with no attachments, where you carry nothing but yourself. I don’t know how this thought suddenly came rushing back to me, but I tried to brush it away back where it’d come from.
“Do you have a cigarette?”
“Of course, I was gonna go have one soon enough.”
“Go where?” she asked.
“The balcony,” I said. “We can’t smoke in the house. You don’t mind do you?” She said nothing and just pushed the blanket away and it fell onto the floor and she got up. Her eyes were open now and she followed me out onto the balcony. I gave her a cigarette and held my lighter out towards her and quickly after I lit my own. I only had four cigarettes left. I remember this precisely because four is my favorite number and I always remember when I have four of anything, or anything with four in it.
Jane smoked her cigarette like any other true girl of innocence. I couldn’t stop staring at her. She seemed calm now, even if just a little bit. But it started again. Tears began to burst. She threw her half smoked cigarette off the balcony. Her hands trembled like twigs in the spring when storms bring about winds of awakening, and her neck seemed as if it no longer could bear the weight.
“Oh Jane, what’s wrong?” I quickly grabbed a small stool from behind me and made her sit down. It was better to talk, or cry or scream on the balcony with the wind. She said nothing and only covered her face with her tiny trembling hands. I hesitated but soon enough my hand was moving gently up and down her back.
“Don’t. P-Please don’t Bobby.” My hand fell idle once again as I stared down at her.
“It’s not your fault.”
“Are you cold?”
“Do you want a drink?”
“Is there any liquor?” she said as she looked up at me. Damn was she beautiful!
“I think so.”
I opened up every cupboard in the kitchen but couldn’t find anything. I hurriedly made my way to the storage room and was greeted by a bunch of shoes, rows of records, boxes and boxes of junk and a bottle of Brandy. It was half full. Standing there, I was reading the label on the bottle when I heard it again. I could feel my hands trembling and I felt as if I’d swallowed a brick. She was crying again when I went back onto the balcony. I poured her a drink and she downed it. I gave her a cigarette and her crying stopped.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“About what?” she said.
“Is there anything you want to talk about?”
“Nothing important,” she said and closed her eyes.
I don’t remember what time it was. The wind was ferocious still, and the Brandy seemed to sit well on the brick in my throat. It wasn’t me at all. It was the taste that carries courage. It was that one glass that made me say, “Sweetheart, he doesn’t deserve you.”