Mystery Loves Company Excerpt

June 20, 2002

 

 

Just take a step back,” Patrick said, placing the palm of his hand on Carter’s shoulder with a slight shove.

“Why? Huh? Why did she do it? How? Huh? How. Was it me? You? Janie? Dad? Who?”

“Just take a step back and realize the reality of it all.”

“It was me, I know it was. It’s because I got expelled. She didn’t want to deal with another fucked up kid.”

“Just take a step back and realize the reality of it all.”

“It was Janie. I heard them fighting almost every night. It was Janie.”

“Just take a step back and realize the reality of it all.”

“It was you. You joined the army. She was afraid…mad…confused…” Carter trailed off whispering, “It was you.”

“Just take a step back and realize the reality of it all.”

“WHAT reality? That our mother found it easier to end her own life than to keep it. WHY! Why? Why.”

“I don’t know, Carter, nobody does. She had her reasons. Just take a step back and realize the reality of it all.”

 

 

***

            “Give me some of that.”

“You’re too young.”

“For what? What can I honestly lose?” Carter asked with almost too much honesty. The kind that hurt. Patrick looked Carter over for a second or two as his eyes turned pitiful and tired. He brought in as much air as his lungs could hold, only to exhale it with such force. His hand ran through his hair a few times, maybe to help relax his mind into making a decision.

“You’re old for your age and I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” Carter asked. I began to play with the lighter on Patrick’s desk and he snatched it from me, flicking me on the head as he muttered something about catching myself on fire.

“Because it shouldn’t be like that.”

“But it is,” Carter said.

“You’re right. It is.”

“What’s the problem with that?”

“Well, the sooner you grow up the sooner you accept…”

“Accept what?” Carter asked, starting to get irritated by his brother’s dazed presence.

“Death.”

Carter sat up a little straighter, moving his shoulders back to puff out his chest a little as he declared, “I’m not afraid of dying.”

“You should be,” Patrick muttered.

“Why?”

Patrick’s eyes suddenly scrutinized Carter.

“Because fear will save your life.”

“Fear is just an excuse,” Carter spat.

“I’m not afraid of you dying, I know you’ll die,” Patrick began, “I know I’ll die. I know every goddamn person on this goddamn earth this very goddamn second will die. That’s not what you should be afraid of. Be afraid of growing up. That’s the real death you should be afraid of. Your mind becomes empty, your identity,” Patrick chuckled, breathing in a simple hit of the joint, “Just a number. Someone who owes money to someone else that owes someone else that same money. There’s always someone looking for someone. For something. You’ll find love, think it’s enough, and in that moment, it might be. Then you’ll lose it somehow, just because it was never really yours. Not really. Nothing is ever really yours. No matter how much you prepare, how much you pay, how much you fight, how much you love them—nothing will ever really be yours.”

“I don’t understand,” Carter replied to the silence that preceded Patrick’s epiphany.

“I’m sorry, Carter,” Patrick said, a simple tear resting dangerously in his tear duck. He blinked it away, coughed a little and breathed in, “I’m just really sorry.”

He reached out his arm to pass Carter the patient burning joint he had been using to gesticulate his nonsense. Carter’s eyes, wide with interest and confusion, followed the rhythm of his brother’s hand as he cautiously stretched out his arm to his. I swear I could hear the creaks of Carter’s curious bones.

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