The dream starts, stops, picks itself up. Suppose I breathe sometimes. So what! Not easy! Never was. To relax. Do nothing. And breathe. Well, it must be nice: all that nothing, all that breath. Anyway, here’s what matters most: it’s the beginning of something fresh, the start of summer, 1997. And this is what I’m wearing today: blue jeans, a tee shirt, tennis shoes, and the widest smile I’ve ever done. Plus a thing I haven’t brought up yet: I wish I could wash Jack away…
She, on the other hand, breathes often. She lives to relax, have fun. She went to clown college. She never stops making great art. She paints the rainforest and the solar system on her blue jeans. She says Syracuse has the best Salvation Army. She says poverty is totally relative. She says David Letterman is the sexiest man alive. She says her best friend took a Klonopin and put away a six-pack and never woke up. She says everybody at Marijuana Anonymous talks soooooo slowly. She says LSD totalled her brother. She says things were bad at Christmas. I went to a pretty normal college. I say things were bad at Christmas, too.
What? Jack? My brother’s looks? Last time I checked, my brother’s looks were natural, sadistic, over the top. My brother’s looks were put behind bars. With my brother, I was paralyzed; knew how to run, stopped dead reliably. It was actually Barbara Allen and her daughter Janet who heard me crying for help, who called the police on my brother, who was just about to perform open heart surgery on me. “This is how they do it in South America,” Jack murmured over my body. He was very certain my heart was rotting. “You have to understand,” he whispered into my hair.
Her and me––we have different brothers. Her and me––we just met. Her name is Cameroon Diaz, but she’s kidding. My name is Peter Paris, and it’s life and death. (And, to be perfectly honest, I’m worried God hates me. Like, I’m worried He’s obsessed with me. God, it must be so hard to change His mind.)
I tell her my father works in sports and sales. I tell her The Silence of the Lambs is my favorite movie. We hold hands like there’s no more brothers. We make easy jokes about serious matters. We walk through a filthy gang-infested neighborhood. We bump into a school of piranhas. We try making the biggest guy laugh. We say all the wrong things. We almost get ourselves killed. We almost learn a lesson. (Thank God!)
Then! Great sex! No joke sex! Jack would’ve been proud! Just saying! She has these green eyes that are always really eager. She got the ditches of my arms real sweaty. She already knows I can’t stand lessons. I’m not sure how I got through college. I never could stand my brother’s lessons. Trauma, I said trauma, she said early childhood, an uncle with no conscience named something unwashable.
Dirty sheets. Middle part of the afternoon. Hard glare of an angry sun blinds us. Heats up the dead mouse in my wall. Need to get rid of the smell. Stuck here forever. Gotta cut my nose off. Before it’s too late. Sooner or later I’ll have to get around to it, you know? Quit smelling for good, don’t you see? It’s the worst smell. It’s killing me. It’s Jack escaping prison. It’s a sunny day. It’s a hell hole. It’s always something funny with this apartment. It’s things getting bad and staying bad––that nightmare scares me the most.
I turn to her. I pop the question.
“Don’t you smell that?”
She shrugs. She kisses my forehead.
Some more big fears: letting my parents get old without me; hurting this sexy clown girl (think I’m in love, think she’s thirsty for round two––it’s her eyes, it’s my ditches); selfishness unchecked; shitting the bed; clowns that don’t go to college; my brother’s violence, his complete insanity––when attacking, his face was such an ironing board; brain cancer; piranhas; the end.
And I’m glad my brother’s locked up. And I’m happy he can’t hurt me anymore. And I’m positive he’s still laughing. He was hurting my lovely parents, too. That hurting, too, happened severally.
In bed, I tell Cameroon, “That prison makes me feel crazy safe.” She passes me the spliff we’ve been sharing and says, “Man, your safety is far out.” Also my skin––I think it’s broken, unfixable. Also hold on––this should never be an ending––when someone like me refuses to remember the rest of it.
Myles Zavelo’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the following publications: The Alaska Quarterly Review, Open Pen Magazine, The Southampton Review, New York Tyrant Magazine, Joyland Magazine, Muumuu House, Maudlin House, The Harvard Advocate, Berfrois, Hobart Pulp, and elsewhere.