I don't know how many times we are going to have this conversation. I am starting to feel like I have paid to hear this bullshit. "I told you already Lindsay, I really don't want to have another kid," I tell her as we move from the confidential comfort of her office to the vast expanse of space that is the museum.
"I know but that was a while ago, I thought you might feel differently now that Gus is about to turn two," she says. I feel her slip her arm around my back and I know my resolve is breaking. "Could you just give it a little more thought before you close the book completely?" she asks. I turn my head and give her a smirk.
"Fine, I'll think about it," I tell her. She kisses my cheek and I blush on the inside, cherishing the feeling of friendship and love. Needing more.
"That's all I'm asking for," she says smiling. God, I just know I am going to end up caving.
We walk through the Museum, Lindsay pointing out different pieces. I am so fucking bored, and she knows it, but she shows me anyway. As I turn to look at another piece I see the most piercing set of blue eyes connect with mine, they burn with fear, knowing, uncertainty, passion... and pain.
I stare at him, memorizing every inch. I see the bruises and the bandages and then they vanish, leaving only skin that resembles untouched bone china. The kind your mom has locked behind a layer of glass and displayed in the dining room.
I feel Lindsay touch my shoulder and I direct my brain's attention to her but my eyes never leave the swirling pools of blue. I feel her lean a little closer to me and start to speak, "I see you have spotted our very own piece of living art," she says with a sort of sugary tone to her voice.
"Does he come here a lot?" I ask her. I do not want to ask about the blond enigma, but I feel as if I have to.
"Yeah, he is always here. He has been coming in more and more lately," Lindsay says, her face still facing the painting. My eyes have not left the younger man's.
"Have you ever talked to him?"
"No, whenever anybody tries he just gives one word answers until they fuck off," she whispers. "It's sad really," she says. "He's seems like a really smart young man."
I nod my head and blink. It seems like ages since I have last performed the function. I blink again and the beautiful blond is gone, leaving an almost ethereal feeling in his wake. A feeling that lets you know it is not your last encounter.
"Thanks Daph for everything," I say as I move to get out of the car. I look at the bandage on my arm and I know it will be impossible to hide it from my mom. Not to mention the one on my head and the split lip. I can't stop licking it.
"Anytime, are you sure you're okay? Do you need anything?" she asks me. I shake my head no. I can hear the questions that are really dying to escape from between her lips, "Is he depressed? How long has he been doing it? Why didn't I see it? How much do I really know about him?"
I push the door closed and watch as she pulls away from the curb and continues down the street and around the corner, to the sanity of her own house. I turn toward my house and for one brief second it smiles at me. Not warm and inviting but sinister evil.
It's the look that you receive from someone who harbors a terrible secret that has everything to do with you. I take a deep breath and for a moment I can feel my blood pump through my wounds, and the pain is sweet. I open the door and step through, placing my keys back into my pocket.
"Justin, are you okay? Where have you been?" I hear my sister ask as she takes a look at my face. "What happened to your face, and your arm?" she asks as the door closes, sealing me in.
"I had to go out for a little while," I say ignoring her last question. I take a tentative step toward the stairs, waiting for my presence to cause the house to swell and collapse. "Where are mom and Craig?" I ask. I can't bring my lips to form the word dad and it hurts. Somewhere deep inside it hurts.
"Dad is in the basement and mom is in the kitchen," she says. I nod my head slowly and start the climb to my room. The stairs are swaying beneath me like I am floating on water and the door seems unbelievably far away. I reach my door finally and rest my head against it, steadying myself. I turn the knob and open the door.
The entire room is destroyed, all my drawings are ruined. Clothes and other items are peppering the floor. I close the door behind me. I am too tired to put up a fight, too tired to care, just too tired. I step toward the bed when I see my book bag underneath a shirt, I move toward it with the speed of a lion. I grab the bag and search frantically inside for the box. I find it and wrap my hand around it tightly, pulling it out and clutching it to my chest.
"I am losing it. I need to get a fucking grip," I tell myself as I take the box and lay back on the bed. I close my eyes and try to pull myself back together. "You have to control the pain. Don't let the pain control you," I whisper. I close my eyes and fall into darkness.
"What the fuck is this?" he asks me. I want to answer him. I want to scream, to shout at him. I want to tell him that I love dick. That I have always loved dick and I always will. I want to say all those things but I don't. This fight isn't about that, it's about my art.
The rational part of my brain thinks about what I would do if he kicks me out. What would I do? I have nothing of my own. I look at the remnants of my art books and I think. "I said what the fuck is it?"
"Sketchpads," I offer, unwilling to test the waters. I watch as the colors of fury take their place behind his eyes. I watch as he swallows the bitter shame that is creeping under his skin and up his throat. I watch him. I have never 'watched' my father, I have seen him but never watched him. I never gave him much thought, he was just my dad. Now, I see something, something else.
I open my eyes five hours later and look at the clock. 6:00 p.m., I wish it was later. I want to close the book on this day. Seal it up and bury it beneath a layer of memories.
I slide the loft door open and step inside, pausing for a moment. I turn around and close the heavy door and it clicks into place noisily, sealing in the silence. I walk across the hardwood and remove my coat, tossing it lazily toward the sofa. I step up into the bedroom and lay back on the bed after removing my shirt.
I think back to the museum, to the blue eyes, and the secrets that they seem to harbor. I want to go back, to ask more questions. I want to know him but I am also hesitant. "What the hell," I tell myself. "I have always done what I wanted, why change now?" I say as I close my eyes and take in the silence. I am getting tired of silence.
I drift off to sleep and before I am enveloped in the depths of my subconscious I see the blue swirls appear in my mind, offering a quiet sort of comfort.
Hours later I wake up and stretch my limbs, groaning with the movements. "6:00 in the afternoon, great," I say as I push off the bed and go to relieve myself. I finish the necessary task and go to get a bottle of water.
As I stand in front of the refrigerator I realize that I have no food. I release the door and allow it to swing close on its own, the noise a suctioning thud. I turn slightly and see the answering machine light blinking urgently. I groan inwardly and step toward it. I push the button and wait.
"Brian Brian, if you're there pickup the phone. Come on Brian. Shit, look, an emergency has popped up and I need you to watch Gus. I'll explain when I get there," she says before the machine clicks off, signaling the end of her message.
"Shit, I wonder when she left that," I say to the empty loft as the machine beeps and spouts out its extra information.
"4:30 p.m., end of messages."
I am saved from thinking by the pounding on the door, like a slightly muffled gong. I move toward the door and slide it open. Lindsay is standing there with bags hanging off of her and a very cranky Gus. Her face is flushed and tears have obviously been telling her cheeks about all of their adventures.
"Did you get my message?" she asks as she moves through the door. I take Gus from her as he starts to slide out of her arms along with the bags. She takes my silence as a green light. "I am sorry to do this to you Brian, I know its last minute," she says in one breath.
"I need to leave Gus with you. My parents were in an accident at their new place in Washington State. I have to go there and find out what's going on," she tells me as she fumbles through her purse, desperately searching for something.
I watch her movements and place Gus on the floor. When he has gained the little balance he has I release his hand and pull Lindsay close to me. I feel her tears as they rip into my chest, penetrating my heart. I don't cry. Somebody somewhere would say that it's rude not to cry. They would tell me to offer the emotionally supportive tears. Fuck that.
"You don't have to apologize or explain. You just go do what you have to do, we'll be fine," I tell her as I release her. She nods her head as she retrieves a crumpled piece of paper from the dark cavity of her purse.
"These are all my contact numbers and his doctors number and daycare number and," she says as I cut her off.
"Lindsay, I am quite capable of reading. I know all the numbers and I have an identical list," I tell her. "Plus, Melanie is still here. I can call her if I need anything," I say.
Lindsay gives me a weak smile and kisses Gus on the cheek and me on the lips before moving toward the door. I know she hates talking about Melanie. They never could get it together after I refused to give up my parental rights. I have never denied that Melanie is one of his parents but I was not going to budge on the issue, it's one of the smartest things I have done so far. I shut the loft door behind her. I lift Gus up higher in my arms and watch as he looks at me.
"What is going on?" he seems to say. I walk over to the futon cushion and deposit him on the top, turning to get him a toy. When I turn back around, toy in hand, it is only to discover that Gus is now planted firmly on the top of my glass coffee table. I walk over and remove him.
"Maybe we should put your playpen up," I say as I carry him over to the pile of stuff Lindsay has deposited onto the floor. I look through the bags and it is painfully obvious that there is not a playpen in the heap.
"Shit, well, looks like we are going to the store. There is no way you are going to destroy my place," I say as I look at Gus. I feel a genuine love radiate from him.
There is a quiet tension lurking in the house with us, breathing our air and amplifying our pain. I have been playing the quiet game with Craig since I came down to dinner on Saturday night. He insisted I come down; I didn't eat. I couldn't. I am sitting now, waiting for the night to reject me. I am waiting for the darkness to tell me I don't belong.
I watch every car as it goes by, secure in my spot under the overpass. Secure in knowing nothing at all, nothing goes through my mind. Right here, right now, I have no worries. Tomorrow is another story.
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