I downed the two tall cans of beer that I’d brought to work in my knapsack, soon as my shift ended, walking home, welcoming the distant sun that seemed to be back for good. I walked through the hydro field and every which way, all around me, birds were happy and that alone can plant a smile on anybody. And so, warm-beer-buzzed and smiling, I raised my face to the sun repeatedly, probably sighing each time, “Make love to me sun! Make love to me!” Without a doubt a glorious day.
On my way, I sent a text message to Don, asking what his plans were that night, but no response. I turned onto Warden avenue, but before fully leaving the hydro field I turned and looked back, remembering the loss of my beloved iPod, a couple of years back, on the same stretch of grass, among those same towers. For some reason, that night a few of us had decided to run as fast as we could down that field. I remember pretending to be a soldier, ducking fire, and we weren’t even high or anything, maybe just buzzed from a bottle, and one of us had ran and the others followed. My beloved iPod left me forever. Music means the world to me and I’ve never fully forgiven myself, but life goes on and very much so, I turned my back on the hydro field and continued walking home.
More often than not, when spring is talking, I try and join the birds, whistling with my head held high. More often than not, I wish to mimic their movements, I wish to have feathers of my own, when spring is talking. That’s the state I was in, whistling down Warden avenue, smiling at the birds, warm-beer-buzzed and fantasizing feathers. Still no response from Don, but I didn’t care. It was a glorious day and I planned to stretch it out; I had more beers at home, cold ones, and I’d crack one and roll a joint and play some tunes while I sat on my balcony, my feet stretched out, letting the sun reach in between my toes, caressing my soul. Yes, I love the damn sun! Sunlight means the world to me. I was approaching the back gate to my building when I noticed someone’s shadow behind me, the sound of hurried steps, trying to catch up. I turned back suddenly and saw Ming’s dumbfounded face with that hollow smile of his, permanently glued to his mouth, his eyes full of nothing. He lived in my building, Ming, and he was retarded. At least that seemed to be the case.
“Hallo, hallo,” he said, eyes full of nothing, his right hand reaching up to his neck, saying, “You have necklace?”
“Every time!” I laughed.
“Necklace…You have necklace?”
He was obsessed with necklaces. I’d seen him for years and I still can’t recall him saying anything else. He’d approach anyone and everyone, asking to see their necklaces. I’d showed him mine a long time ago, but he didn’t care. He’d ask every time; every time we crossed paths, he needed to see it. Once, in the elevator, some guy was threatening to kick his ass, but Ming couldn’t understand, or maybe he did, maybe it was all just part of his act. Maybe he was on a mission to see as many necklaces as he could around the necks of strangers. He never meant any harm though. Either way, he would’ve received one hell of an ass kicking if I hadn’t intervened. And so, once again I showed him the gold chain around my neck, the one my grandmother had given me for my birthday.
“Ah, necklace,” he sighed.
“Yes, Ming, necklace…Are you enjoying the weather?”
He didn’t answer and just kept walking passed me with the same hurried steps, turning back briefly with his hand still to his neck, signalling me to show him my necklace again, and I did. “Ah necklace…”
I stood at the back gate and watched him walking away for a few seconds. “Crazy bastard.” Most people in Scarborough wont take kindly to random ass crazy people asking them about their jewelry. It was a risky endeavor in Scarborough, Ming’s mission, and deep down inside I worried for him.
Still no response from Don. I checked my phone and scrolled through my messages, walking down the hallway to my corner apartment. Cold beers were waiting, and a joint, and inviting melodies all waiting to dance around me on the balcony with my beloved sun. I was about to put the key in the lock when I heard my sister’s voice inside the apartment, saying, “He’s a fucking asshole!” She wasn’t yelling or anything, but I could hear her so clearly. It was still pretty early in the afternoon and our building wasn’t buzzing yet with the arrival of kids from school. I stood there, listening in and wondering who she was talking to. “Stay here tonight,” she said.
“What about your brother?”
“Are you kidding? He doesn’t care.”
I shrugged my shoulders to her notion and placed my ear on the door. “Who the hell are you talking to?”
“We’ll make dinner, or order in, whatever you want.”
“I just want to forget.”
“I know Jade. It takes time.”
“Jade!” I exclaimed out loud behind the door and instantly closed my eyes and compressed my face in the famous “D’OH!” fashion of Homer Simpson. It was now time to open the door. I walked in and saw both of them staring at me. Jade had obviously been crying. “Hello,” I said, clearing my throat and added quickly, “I’m sorry, I was, um…”
“Eavesdropping?” said my sister.
“I heard you talking. I was wondering…” I replied, taking off my shoes and awkwardly avoiding eye contact from across the room. My palms were sweaty, my voice cracked. “Jesus Christ,” I thought and went on to say, in an attempt to change my tone completely, “How are you Jade? You’re looking good.” Right away there came a voice in my head, rhythmically repeating, “Idiot, idiot, idiot!”
My sister was shaking her head and Jade burst into tears, dropping her face into her tiny hands. My sister waved me away, furious, piercing me with those eyes of hers. I shrugged my shoulders and made a face, the type of face that a dog might make after shitting on the floor. I remember mouthing the words, “I’m sorry,” but she just waved me away and Jade was crying, her head trembling in the tiny cage of her hands.
Standing in my room, I dropped my knapsack on the floor, the tension seeping through the dry wall. I could almost even hear my sister’s hand moving up and down Jade’s back. I must’ve looked like Ming at that point, a stupider Ming, completely at a loss. I don’t remember how long I stood there, soaking in the tension, staring around my room, trying to remember who I was a moment ago and what I had planned for my spring smile. Shaking my head and snapping out of my daze, I thought, “Fuck it,” and I stripped out of my clothes and dashed to the shower.
My sister was waiting outside the bathroom, her arms crossed, her head hanging low with her eyes fixed to the ground, biting the corner of her bottom lip, when I came out of the shower. “Mary, I’m sorry,” I said, before she had a chance to say anything, “I didn’t know.”
“It’s okay,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief. “Jade’s gonna stay here tonight.”
“Yeah, of course. What’s going on with her?”
“Michael,” she sighed and walked away back to the living room.
A part of me wanted to whisper to her as she walked away, “Mary, I’ve had a long day. Just wanna relax in my room. Please tell her not to cry so loud!” Of course, I would never have said such a thing. These thoughts are all just Don’s influences. I walked back to my room, closed the door and checked my phone. Still no word from Don. I wrote him another text: “At home now. What’re you saying tonight?”
It was time to smoke. I rolled a joint and before bringing it to life, I tiptoed out of my room and into the kitchen, leaping to the fridge like an alcoholic ballerina, and grabbed a few tall cans to save myself from going back and forth.
Hendrix comes to me in waves, waves that ripple through me and my room. I feel Jimi, at any time of day, after any fall…And so, I left it up to him at that point to help empty me, to spread that sheet of impartiality, that fabric of not caring. Jade was still crying, I think, and regardless of how hard I tried, my ears focused in on the dry wall, and I thought of my sister’s hand, probably still moving up and down Jade’s back. Just like that, with these thoughts, my short-lived emptiness formed into anger, and I downed the first tall can and cracked the second, thinking, “Goddamn assholes ruin everything for everyone!” I met Michael once, but I knew Jade for years; practically a sister to me. The thought of him dragging her to this point made me clench my fist and shake my head, downing the second tall can, without a second thought. I burped violently afterwards and became more or less empty once again.
“Yeah,” I said, turning from the window, the joint burning gracefully in between my fingers, the smoke rising up to dance with Jimi in the air. My sister walked in and right away I asked, “Is the music too loud?”
“No, it’s fine. Do you have any liquor?”
“Do you mind coming to the living room?”
In my gut, atop those Moosehead waves, rippling with hunger, a thousand butterflies suddenly soared. Why? Beats me. I put it on account of my angry drinking as I burped once more, reaching behind my bed and pulling out a mickey of brandy. “My emergency stash,” I chuckled, looking up at the door, but Mary was already gone. I looked at the bottle, then at the door, then back at the bottle, the butterflies whispering tales within my veins.
“Sam? Are you coming?”
I joined them in the living room after I had gotten a few glasses. “Thanks,” said Jade.
I dropped myself on the couch opposite them and said, “Don’t mention it.”
“Drink with me,” she said.
She reached for the bottle and poured two shots, running her right hand through her hair, while with her left she held out her glass, waiting for me to pick up mine and give her a ‘clink.’ The butterflies told me to hurry. Goddamn she was beautiful! I wasn’t ready for the brandy, or the silence between us, but I wasn’t going to break it. I’d probably just say something stupid again and so, we all just sat there, silently.
She poured two more shots and said, “I’m sorry, Sam. This is probably the last thing you need right now.”
“No need to apologize,” I said, reaching for my glass and smiling at her. She almost smiled too.
“I’ll be right back,” said Mary, rubbing Jade’s back one more time as she got up and left the living room.
Brandy always knows what it’s doing, and it travels inside with great ideas in it’s pockets, and revelations, bringing forth a gentle rain that soaks sense into everything. Hell, I was definitely an alcoholic. The taste alone on my tongue, unleashes words and simplifies my fears, breaking down barriers of shyness and embracing the flutter of butterflies in my gut. All of a sudden, I said, “It doesn’t matter. None of this matters. So much care we put into things and people, for what? I’m not going to ask you about it, because it doesn’t matter.” I leaned back smiling, but not sure what I had just said. She was staring at me attentively, so I figured I must’ve made some sense. “I have some pot,” I added, “If you want…”
“Let’s do it.”
We got up and she followed behind me as I walked to my room. My palms were sweaty again. I could hear Mary talking on the phone. Then a voice echoed in the living room, “Knock knock!” and both Jade and I stopped in the hallway, she looked baffled and smiled at me awkwardly.
“I think someone’s at the door.”
“Knock, knock, knooooock!” he said again, louder this time, and he laughed and he sighed. I went over and flung the door open to find Don standing there, six pack of beer in his hand, his face beet red with his pupils bulging out of his eyes. He burst out laughing soon as he saw me, and hunched over, laughing and gasping, he almost fell to the floor. I grabbed his arm and was instantly disgusted by how sweaty he was. His shirt was soaked completely. “Thank you, my friend!” he screamed.
“What the hell, dude?”
He came in and I took the six pack from him and he stretched out his arms and back, letting out a deep sigh. Then he turned to me suddenly, whispering, “Dude, I dropped some acid,” and again he burst out laughing, a couple of tears trembling out of his alien eyes and rolling down his face. I wanted to knock his teeth out, but instead I led him to my room, my fist clenched again, my gut calling for the remainder of the brandy. Jade was sitting on my bed and seeing her, Don exclaimed, “Hello!” with his arms stretched out to his sides like a bird about to take flight, or Jesus on the cross.
“Hi,” said Jade.
I shook my head at her apologetically and turning to Don, I said, “Sit the fuck down, will ya?”
He dropped himself on the bed, sighing repeatedly, his hands on his stomach, squirming around, while he took turns crossing his legs, first left over right, then right over left, and so on… “I’m done,” he said, smiling at Jade. “No! No! Don. I am Don,” he added firmly, his relentless flow of giggles flooding my room.
“I’m Jade,” she said. “It’s nice to see someone so happy.”
“Yes, yes,” he replied.
“Acid,” he said, and I could almost feel how damp my blanket was getting under his fat sweaty ass.
“Do you have any more?” she said. He didn’t answer, only jolted up as if shocked into an upright position, reaching into his pants pocket. He pulled out a tiny bag and threw it over at Jade. “I’ve never done this.”
There was a strange silence flowing through me, and I think my fist was still clenched and I still kind of wanted to knock Don’s teeth out, but my eyes fixed on Jade, who was staring into the bag, wondering perhaps if this was the forgetfulness that she yearned for so desperately, whether the contents of that bag would dry up her tears, inside and out. I said nothing. The thought of Jimi passed briefly through my head, his sheet of impartiality gliding in the spring air; he wouldn’t have thought twice about the acid. “Will you do it with me, Sam?”
I don’t remember saying anything, but next thing I knew, both of us were standing, the bag in my hand now, as I took out the two tiny tabs, separated them and gave her one. Don was spinning around and giggling still, then he dropped himself back on the bed. I gave in to the butterflies and put the tab on my tongue. She did the same. Goddamn, she was beautiful!