Rose Water

Chapter 23

Time can pass quickly when your attention is somewhere else; when you are unconsciously focused on something that, ultimately, is beyond your control. I shut down my computer, walk out of my office and out of the front door. I don't speak to anyone. I don't have to.

Actions speak louder than words.

I get in my car and move through the traffic. "What the fuck are you doing?" I ask myself as my building comes into view.

What am I doing? Rushing to get Justin, caring about someone else? I am not really sure and really, does it matter? All that matters, in the grand scheme of it all, is that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing. I park my car and get out, not bothering to wait for the lift to take me the few stories up to my floor. I can walk it.

I place my foot on the landing and stop dead in my tracks. I come face to face with Michael's back. His hand is getting ready to deliver an echoing bang around the loft.

Sometimes… in the midst of it all, a friend can send you falling faster than your greatest enemy. Release me without letting go.

"Brian, I was just about to knock," he says as he spots me standing at the top of the stairs. I take the few steps toward him, closing the gap between the stairs and my door.

"What are you doing here?" I don't have time for long division. Show me a shortcut. He talks on and on about how I have not been out. I don't want to be. How I have not gone to family dinners. I don't want to go. How I have not called him in a while. I don't have anything to say.

He talks and talks and in the end… he says nothing.

"I am just worried about you," he tells me. His hands are in his pockets, no doubt flexing in and out, waiting for me to apologize, to consent to a dinner and a night out with the guys. I have better things to do.

"Don't be, I'm fine." I move past him, forcing my key into the lock and sliding my door open. He follows me in and waits for us to continue our conversation. But he is not Jack, and I am not eight years old. I hook my arm around his neck after turning off the alarm.

He smiles up at me, happy and content with our current position until he feels the pressure on his neck as my arm starts to lead him back around.

"Sorry Mikey, but, you have to go," I tell him as I deposit him on the other side of the door. He slouches and his whole body reflects his disappointment.

"Why, you have some trick coming over?" I could answer him, but I don't. Instead I smile as my hand taps out my frustrations against the door handle. The metal holds onto a soft disturbed sound, like billboards in a harsh wind. They cry out for you to see them, know them and feel them.

Inanimate reflections of human emotions.

"Goodbye Mikey." I slide the door closed and close my eyes for the briefest of moments. Focus. I move away from the door and walk up to the bedroom, stripping out of my suit as I move. I hang the suit up and get into the shower.

The heated illusion of therapy.

I move through the streets, my legs covered in soft denim and my arms hugged by leather. The black shirt that plays on my skin is virgin, the dye rich and waiting. I am moving toward certain death. I am moving toward more life than I have ever known. I am moving toward… uncertainty.

Cast me into the sun.


It all belongs to me.

Love... is only as good as you make it. Happiness… is a monumental achievement. Hope… is needed. Desire… is romantic. Despair… is tiring. Sadness… forms a chokehold. Hate… is blinding. Sacrifice… is altruistic… and selfish. Education… comes from more than four walls and books.

Anything… can change. Everything… is open to personal interpretation, everything. Fear… is a kaleidoscope. Life… is more than breathing. Death… is inescapable, but sometimes in the midst of it all…

Sometimes a friend… is all you need.

I walk back through the woods, my heart, head and hands empty. "Why'd you do that?" I jump back immediately at the sound of the voice.

"Fuck," I say as I take a step forward. "Freddy, you scared the shit out of me," I tell him as I walk along the pathway. He falls into place behind me, kicking rocks and sticks from in front of his path.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to spy," he says smugly.

"Right." I roll my eyes and pull the sleeves of my shirt down around my hands. Freddy jogs a little, until he is standing right next to me. He reaches out a hand and stops my progress. "I have a boyfriend," I tell him. I relish the ease in which that rolls off my tongue and the balls I have to use the word.

"I have a daughter," he counters. I turn to look at him and cross my arms, tucking them in tight to my body. It is not winter but the cool air from the other night is still lingering in the air. "I'm sorry about the other day. I just, I don't know, got caught up in my emotions. It should not have happened and I'm sorry."

I want to tell him to fuck off, but I don't. Instead I turn from him and keep walking. I spot a cement bench and head straight for it, parking myself on the cool stone. Freddy sits next to me, his hands in his pockets.

"It's okay," I say to him. He looks up at me with confusion in his eyes. "About before I mean, its okay." He lets himself smile but it does not look self-satisfied it looks… relieved.

"I thought you weren't going to forgive me, but Melvin said to try anyway." I let out a small chuckle at the thought of Freddy and his counselor, Melvin, talking about me. "He told me to just be honest."

"They all say that. They all want us to be honest. I don't know why, maybe we are like their personal real life soap operas." Freddy looks around and pulls a cigarette out of his pocket, along with a lighter. "Where did you get that?" I ask.

"I took it out of my mother's purse the last time she came to visit. I doubt she even noticed it was gone, the bitch," Freddy says with a laugh. He lights the cigarette and offers it to me. I gladly take it, my fingers welcoming a position along the white tobacco paper. I take a deep pull and hold it in for as long as I can before releasing it into the air.

"So," he asks me as I pass the cigarette back to him. He taps my colored bracelet with his free hand. "What are you in for?"

The bracelets are color-coded, but most of us are too busy dealing with our own pain, our own color, to be bothered with the meaning of anyone else's. Self-preservation.

"Don't you listen in group?" I ask Freddy.

"Do you?" Freddy smiles when he sees the look on my face. No one in group listens, except for Gerri.

"I cut myself," I say without emotion. Freddy gets off the bench and swings his leg over, straddling the cement, facing me.

"No shit, I've never roomed with a cutter before. Doesn't it hurt? It has to hurt." I move back on the bench a little and fold my legs under my body, facing him. I have never bothered to know too much about anyone else, never cared, but now… now I figure having a friend might not be so bad, even if his tongue was down my throat the other day.

"No, it feels… better," I say. Freddy nods, telling me without telling me that I don't have to say anything else. He understands. "So," I say as I take the cigarette from him. "What are you in for?"

Freddy shifts a little and looks over at the clinic before looking back at me. "I have to pick just one?" He asks with a laugh. "Alcohol and sex mainly, they are an <i>oh so deadly</i> combination, ya know?" Freddy laughs some more and takes the cigarette from me. He takes one last pull and watches as the burning tip disappears into the filter.

I have decided that I like Freddy. Freddy is not as big a dick as I thought he was. Okay, he is but now I like him so he's okay.

"They put you in rehab for sex?" I ask. Freddy nods and scratches at the hair on the base of his neck, a nervous habit that I have already noticed has.

"HA, yeah, they do if you are a diagnosed sex addict," he says. I nod my head and watch as he reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a folded picture. "That's Ally, my daughter. She'll be four in December and I have only seen her a few times since this picture was taken, and I was barely standing on my own two feet then. I was so drunk. I can remember it like it happened five minutes ago."

Freddy stares at me, his lips moving without his brain as his right hand plays with the bracelet on his left arm. "What happened?" I ask cautiously.

Jim is not everyone's best friend. Some people run from him, hard, and fast. Others love his burn.

"It was her second birthday and Tracy, that's her mom, had finally saved up enough money to buy her a birthday cake. We didn't have any money then, we were just two stupid sixteen year olds with a kid. I got angry, I don't remember why but I do remember spending the money for the birthday cake on alcohol. Tracy wouldn't even yell at me, she just picked up Ally and left. I passed out on the floor." Freddy let himself come back to the present and look at me.

"Well, at least you're in rehab now," I say. I don't know what else to say.

Everyone is smoke and mirrors.

"Yeah, well, this ain't my first time… and honestly, I don't think its going to be my last." I don't say anything. I just sit there, too stunned to talk. I never thought of Freddy as a real person with problems. I never thought of Freddy at all.

"Yeah, well, it's going to be mine," I say as I unfold my legs and get up off the bench. Freddy puts the picture back in his pocket and gets up too. We walk back to the clinic together, talking about nonsense and trivialities. Simplicity.


Fast forward into my future. Stop, and wait for me.

"Are you excited?" Gerri asks as I sit in her office, my feet propped up on the coffee table. That's a stupid question. Why wouldn't I be excited?

"Not especially," I tell her. She looks at me, waiting for more. Always leave them wanting more. I look at her and sigh. I re-adjust my feet and prop my sketchbook and journal up higher on my lap. My fingers tap on the front of the hardened cardboard. Nervousness.

"I mean, I am happy to be leaving… if that's what you mean. But, excited, I don't know," I tell her. I don't want her to know that I am excited. That the thought of seeing Brian when I wake up makes me so excited I could die and be happy about it. She doesn't need to know that.

"It's okay to feel a little confused about leaving." I did not say I felt confused. I cross my arms over my chest and stare at her. "But just remember, you're not alone out there. You are going to be seeing Marc and you have Brian and your other friends."

"Yeah," I say. I am leaving in an hour. She can assume she knows everything about me for all I care. My time here is over. I feel… exactly the same, and completely altered. She talks to me about all the progress I have made. I can't eat without supervision. I can't shave without someone watching me. I was lucky to have gotten the pencil to draw with.

Yeah, I feel so lucky. Liberate me. Set me free and watch me die.

I walk out of Gerri's office and head straight to my room. I close the door behind me and start to pack my bags. I pack as fast as I can, not really wanting anything. Freddy opens the door and walks in, flinging the door closed behind him. "Hey," he says as he tosses his journal on his bed and flops down, crushing it beneath his body.

"Hey," I say as I move into the bathroom. I make sure I take everything. I am not coming back. I walk back into the bathroom and dump all the toiletries into my duffel bag; One duffel bag. My whole life zips up.

"You don't feel any different do you?" Freddy says as he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a cigarette. He lights it with his mother's lighter and takes a deep pull. I zip up the duffel bag and carry it over to the door, dropping it down to the floor.

I stand at the side of Freddy's bed, waiting. "They tell you that you are cured when you walk out that door. It's all bullshit." He stands up and looks at me, his eyes bleeding into mine.

Freddy wraps his arms around me, the smoke wafting up and circling us like secrets. "You don't get to be cured. You are what you are. It lives in here," he says as he pulls out of the embrace and taps at my chest. "You can't run away from it. No matter how deep you bury it, it will always be there, lurking, waiting… for you to fuck up."

"Then what are you supposed to do?" I ask quietly. He talks like he has all the answers, all the knowledge.

"Know it," is all he says before laying back on the bed and closing his eyes. The words swim inside my head. Know it… know it… know it.

Knowledge is power. I hear the roar of a Corvette's engine.

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