I don’t know how it reaches us, but a letter reaches us at my home — or my parents’ home, I should be calling it.
My room has been converted into a “crafting” room, though it’s clear no crafting happens in this room. There’s a sewing table set up under the window — likely giving the room its name — but it’s covered in dust. Boxes line the walls: clothes, books, CDs, shoes, junk that has no place anywhere else. Unusable pottery fills an otherwise empty closet. On the walls, only one poster still hangs from my younger years here — Scarface, though I’ve only seen the movie once and am not sure I actually liked it (I liked the poster though). The edges are ripped at the corners as if someone had tried to take it down, but gave up, having found the adhesive backing too strong. The rest of the walls are bare.
Of course my bed is gone too, a futon replacing it. It’s folded out into a bed now and lathered in quilts, far too many for this hot, dry, California summer. I drop my bags and collapse into this bed, not my bed, and bury my nose in the pillows. Musty, spicy, floral — like Grandma’s. Suddenly it hits me that my mom is old enough to be a grandma. I’ve failed her there.
Anyway, the letter. The letter arrives the night before we arrive, in the middle of the night, and like the others there’s no postage, no return address, just Tommy’s scrawl that reads—
My mom taps on the door. I roll over and groan something.
“What?” she says, quietly from the other side of the door.
She comes in, with the letter in her hand, says a letter came for Brian, she had forgotten about it, is Brian still around? Have you seen— him? The letter is for Brian.
I take the letter. No, Brian is not here. I don’t know where he is.
She seems completely unperturbed by the lack of postage and its mysterious arrival in the middle of the night. She seems more perturbed by my own arrival, no warning, no heads up, nothing. The minivan clanking, grinding down the cul-de-sac, and smoking to halt behind the Prius and Avalon in the driveway. I’m pretty unwell at this point, pretty weak and beaten down, so Brian has to just about drag me to the door.
“Am I okay?” I ask Brian, barely able to stand without his weight under me.
Brian rings the doorbell.
“Do they know?” I ask. “Will they see it in my eyes?”
“See what?” he asks, shifting himself under my weight.
Brian doesn’t answer. He rings the bell again again-again-againagainagain. It’s 6:30 in the morning.
My dad opens the door, still tightening a robe around himself. He says nothing, but his face says he smells us, the reek all over us.
“Dave?” my mom calls from their bedroom. “Dave, who is it?”
My dad looks to Brian, who then nods to my dad, which causes my dad to sigh. He steps out, feeding an arm under mine, and the two of them help me into the house and lay me on the living room couch, where I’m quick to close my eyes.
I’m consumed by the familiar smell of the house, which no longer feels familiar because I can smell it.
“Oh dear,” I hear my mom say. And then I hear nothing. And then I hear whispering in the kitchen. A lot of whispering in the kitchen. And I hear them — my parents — thank Brian for bringing me home. Home, they say.
Brian doesn’t say anything, but I imagine he nods, or something. Everything about this feels wrong. Like betrayal.
“Do you need a place to stay?” my dad asks Brian.
“I’m okay,” Brian says.
More whispering, jangling of keys, and then the door slams and Brian’s scent leaves the scent of the house, which leaves me with just the scent of the house, which I find suffocating now. I’m sweating. Everything is spinning. I’m at the center, and everything around me spins. Or I’m spinning and everything else is still. My eyes are closed so I can’t tell.
Outside, the van starts up, and then I can’t hear it at all.
“She seems nice,” my mom says from the kitchen.
Now they’re back in the hall, watching me. I think they think I’m asleep, holding myself in my sleep even though the whole house spins itself around me. They say nothing. They go back to their room and back to sleep.
A few days later I move from the couch to the craft room which used to be my room, dragging the bags that Brian left for me in the entry way. Other than delivering water and soft foods, my parents don’t say much to me. They seem to be taking a hands off approach like the last time. I’m not confident, however, that it’s even an approach at all — more just a case of not knowing what to do.
If I had any strength to leave I would. Also, Brian is gone and he took the van.
Anyway — sorry — the letter. I don’t open it. Holding it in my hands, weighing it in my hands, turning it in my hands, I can only imagine what’s inside. I place it on the pillow next to me, turn to my side, and stare at it.
I wonder if this was the plan all along, that this was always the end of the road, or if it only became the end of the road after what happened in San Francisco.
Nothing happened in San Francisco.
Nothing happened in San Francisco.
What happened in San Francisco?
Nothing happened in San Francisco.
I’m not even convinced San Francisco exists. I doubt I could find it on a map. I’m not even sure I could find Bellingham on a map. All my memories of the last five years are becoming dreams. Brian, a dream… Jane, a dream… Mags, a nightmare. Brianna? A dream within a dream.
Did any of the past five years even happen? Jesus, it’s still 2011, isn’t it? Nothing has changed. Nothing has…
No. Because this bed is not my bed. This room is not my room — it’s a craft room.
I don’t open the shades and I don’t leave the room except to go to the bathroom. My only contact with the outside world is my phone, but I’m only using it to text Brian and Brian isn’t responding. I avoid Tinder.
Time passes in alternating graynesses and blacknesses, and in the blacknesses comes the glow from several unwanted alarm clocks keeping me awake, none of them keeping the same time.
I label the clocks to make sense of them. This here is the time in Paris. This is the time in Tokyo. This is the time in 2011, this is the time in AD 36. A broken clock — the time it’ll be when I’m finally dead.
I don’t know how many nights pass this way. The days are just as hard to count.
My recovery shows signs of recovery when I get up in the mornings to sit on the front porch and watch the sun rise. I don’t stay out long though, because it gets too hot too quickly, the air too dry to breathe. Later, I start taking walks at night, going nowhere in particular, just walking around the block barefoot. The cool cement feels sharp beneath my feet. I watch my feet. Besides my feet, I don’t look at much else.
All the lawns are dead, some flaunting signs that say, GOLD IS THE NEW GREEN, and by gold the signs really mean brown, because there’s nothing gold about dead things. Only one lawn on our street is green as opposed to brown, and this house is for sale.
My house — I’m guessing I’m calling it my house now — sits at the end of the cul-de-sac, and my dad went as far as tearing out all the grass with the intent of replacing it with bark or something drought-friendly like it. The thing about drought-friendly things is that they’re usually dead things. Or cactuses.
This is Sunnyvale, California.
This place reeks of death. I take long showers to wash it away, but they’re never long enough, there is never enough water. If I was better I’m sure my dad would say something about my water usage, but since I’m not, since I’m considerably unwell, he says nothing. This day coming out of the shower — relieved to see the mirror is fogged so I can’t look at myself — I smell something besides my house, which just means I smell something other than nothing, since at this time I no longer smell my house at all.
My heart pounds. I lean over the sink and wipe an arc across the mirror with my hand. I see my face. I regret it immediately.
I follow the new smell to my room, towel at my waist, and pause before stepping inside. And then I step inside.
“Brian,” I say.
“Hey,” he says. He’s holding the letter addressed to him.
“You got mail,” I say.
He nods and places an unlit cigarette in his mouth. He tucks the letter away without opening it.
“How’re you doing?”
“Okay,” I say.
I lean against the doorframe, and neither of us say anything for some time.
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“This wasn’t the plan,” he says.
Again we’re both silent for awhile, and then he says, “Shit,” as if looking at me for the first time.
“What about them?”
He shakes his head.
I sit down beside him, and he looks away.
join man next week for journal #38 (in which said man revisits the one-armed Jesus)