Nick Farriella ~ Analogia Entis

1998. It’s August. There’s hard­ly any­one on the beach. The morn­ing sky hangs low in an over­cast, cre­at­ing coins of light flip­ping on the ocean’s sur­face. The sun seems fur­ther away than usu­al. Under it all, there are two fish­er­men sit­ting beside their rods that are being held up by two pieces of PVC dug into the sand with a red cool­er box between them. Their lines dis­ap­pear out over the green­ish water. A sharp gust whips off the dunes. One of the fish­men has a fat lip of chew­ing tobac­co. Both are drink­ing light beers. They stare straight ahead. A stone’s throw away from where they are watch­ing their lines, a woman holds an infant close to her chest. It doesn’t make a sound. The oth­er fish­er­man lights a smoke. The blan­ket in which the infant is wrapped waves like a flag. There is a light mist in the air. It’s hard to tell if the woman is cry­ing or not; she swipes at her cheeks. Her blis­tered feet dig into the sand as she walks toward the shore­line. Sandy Hook is known for its rocky and shell-filled fore­shore. From where they are sit­ting, the fish­er­men can make out the edges of New York City’s sky­line through the dis­tant fog. The woman is now near the break. The fish­er­man who’s smok­ing says to the oth­er fish­er­man that he’s been hav­ing a rough time, a cri­sis, feel­ing like late­ly he’s hav­ing a real lack of faith. The oth­er fish­er­man stays qui­et and spits tobac­co out onto the grey sand. The oth­er takes a long, seri­ous drag from his cig­a­rette and while blow­ing out smoke, tells the oth­er that it’s been like he’s been walk­ing around with quick­sand in his gut; that it’s been this non­stop sink­ing feel­ing there ever since the clock hit mid­night on January One. The oth­er spits again. This time the tail-end of a loo­gie blows and hangs off the seam of his jeans and he asks if the oth­er believes in omens. The oth­er draws from his cig­a­rette and says nope. Well, The Spitter says, once I woke up from a nasty dream where my moth­er had cut her own eyes out with a dull, two-inch long Santoku, right in front of me as if I were a mir­ror, and when I woke up I had this real weird feel­ing in my stom­ach where it felt like acid just slosh­ing around in there, and I thought noth­ing of it oth­er than maybe I drank too much the night before or some­thing, until the phone rang some­time lat­er and it was Dad breath­ing heavy and talk­ing all slow try­ing to tell me that Mom has been diag­nosed with stage five glau­co­ma. He spits again, then says, after that I’ve always been real mind­ful about feel­ings in my stom­ach; that some­how, maybe, the stom­ach was con­nect­ed to a world we can’t see, as if intu­ition, he points to his gut, and insight, point­ing to his head, are tools to two dif­fer­ent real­i­ties. They both con­tin­ue to stare straight into the chop­py tide. Seagulls loom over­head. The woman light­ly tip­toes back toward the cove she came from. She is vis­i­bly weep­ing. The blan­ket hangs freely over her shoul­der. The wind blows. The fish­er­man who’s smok­ing notices a heavy tug on his line. Clouds com­plete­ly engulf the sun, as if it’s being stubbed out. None of them will ever for­get this day.

***

A woman is feel­ing nau­seous on an air­plane. It’s 1995. Curls of cig­a­rette smoke hang above the cab­in. Outside, the plane pass­es through dense clouds that remind her of moun­tains. For a moment, she for­gets that she is off the ground. Below, the ocean reflects the sky and vice ver­sa, giv­ing her a feel­ing that she could only think of to call revuel­to, or Topsy-Turvey. Her child blinks at her from the win­dow seat. The man next to her is look­ing at her lips. He is not her hus­band. The cap­tain mum­bles some­thing in English over the inter­com. Her knees begin to shake. The man next to her shuf­fles in his seat. A stew­ardess pass­es by with a short skirt also the col­or of the sky, just like her lit­tle hat; she is tak­ing drink orders. The air onboard is stale and hot. Somewhere a baby cries out. The cab­in jolts as if on skis. Her child blinks and taps his lit­tle hand on the arm­rest between them. The cab­in shakes again and starts its descent. The woman in her seat now begins to pray. The man next her reach­es over and caress­es her thigh. Her eyes tight­en. The child stares at the spot­ted puz­zle of the man’s hairy hand. The cap­tain announces, Bienvenido a America.

***

Marlon Reed, of Justice & Reed Restoration, fix­es his tie in the van­i­ty mir­ror in the crammed back bath­room of the shop locat­ed on the cor­ner of Vesey and Church. His eyes feel dust­ed shut. He’s just returned from a meet­ing with a Bank of America loan offi­cer on the eleventh floor of Tower One that was inter­rupt­ed by loud alarms and fran­tic direc­tives to exit the build­ing imme­di­ate­ly. He found it strange that upon push­ing through the front entrance doors into blind­ing light of the end of sum­mer sun, he was met with plumes of dust and what felt like buck­ets of water being thrown in his face. The air was thick with chalk, so it was kind of refresh­ing and wel­comed. At the sink, after per­sis­tent splash­ing of water in his face, he final­ly clears away the crud that seeped in his eyes as he was walk­ing back to the shop. When he looks again at him­self in the mir­ror, he real­izes that he is cov­ered in blood not of his own. He hears what sound like explo­sions in the street. The tele­vi­sion says, we’ve been attacked. Marlon can make out tiny specks flail­ing down beside Tower One and rais­es a ten­ta­tive fin­ger to the dried blood at his tem­ple. He has no idea where Daron is.

***

On a win­ter night in Charlotte, a man is drag­ging a Christmas tree down the block, cre­at­ing a wake of brine in his path. He is wear­ing a speak­er strapped around his neck that is blar­ing rap music up to the sec­ond-floor apart­ment win­dow where Julian Cruz and James Reed look out and watch their breath blur out their faces. The man with the speak­er walks up and down their street dai­ly, some­times up to four times back and forth to the liquor store on the cor­ner. They call him “Beat-Bop.” City lights dot the black veil of sky in the dis­tance. It’s their last night in town before Winter Break ‘09 and they are pass­ing a joint back and forth.

So, you think you’ll take the bus?” Julian says.

I think I’ll think about it,” Reed says.

Wait it out, yeah.”

It hasn’t even start­ed snow­ing, yet.”

And yet, we have plows.”

I can’t believe I have to drop out,” Reed says.

Julian lets his state­ment hang there.

A motor­cade of four trucks roll by; their plows scrape the pave­ment. Julian notices a film strip of orange box­es sput­ter­ing along the win­dow. He is think­ing that he wants noth­ing more than the sky to open up and bury the town in snow.

They are room­mates, often con­fused for lovers. After the joint burns too low to hit they shut the win­dow and turn on a movie. It’s a war com­e­dy and extreme­ly vio­lent. After the movie, Reed tells Julian that he thinks the film indus­try is dead.

They light anoth­er joint and bick­er over Reed’s use of the word “dead.”

Like no signs of life,” Reed says. He has low, thick eye­brows that move up and down when he talks.

Julian tells him he’s being an inex­orable douche, that every day there is some­thing good being put out into the world.

You’re so overzeal­ous.”

Purist,” says Julian.

Look, I get it. Joe Schmo’s across the globe now make cool art films on their iPhones and put it up on their YouTube page for 7 views or what­ev­er, and they’re actu­al­ly prob­a­bly pret­ty good, like bet­ter shit than a young Kubrik. But all I’m say­ing is that they aren’t indus­try.”

So, they have to be ‘indus­try’ to be rel­e­vant is what you’re say­ing.” He doesn’t even burn him on say­ing “Joe Schmo’s.”

I’m say­ing hit­ting a hun­dred homers in a minor league sea­son doesn’t count.”

Julian walks away into the kitchen and puts on a pot of cof­fee. He looks at his reflec­tion in the frost-bit­ten win­dow. He is wear­ing a hood­ie that some­how makes his nose look longer. Through the pane, he spots heavy clumps of snow falling in spi­rals and stick­ing to the street. Everything seems to be going as planned.

***

The scene at the beach on June 17, 2002 is pic­turesque. The humid­i­ty of morn­ing has burned off, leav­ing a smooth plane of blue out over the water that bears resem­blance to the vis­age of an iris as far out as one can see. A red flag flaps idly next to the life­guard post where an over­ly tan young man stretch­es his back, flex­ing his greased mus­cles. A pack of three young women nod in uni­son to a boom­box near­by and pre­tend not to notice him under big, dark sun­glass­es. The shelly fore­shore is mild­ly crowd­ed with groups, some fam­i­lies, and some cou­ples lay­ing out on tow­els, some in chairs under striped umbrel­las, and oth­ers min­gling about throw­ing fris­bees and foot­balls, etc. etc. Off to the side, near a low, grassy dune, a young boy of about ten sits by him­self and begins to dig into the sand with a small orange shov­el. His face is con­tort­ed with a pout. No one around seem to notice. There is a deter­min­ism in the way he digs, like he wants out, like he is dig­ging as some sort of revenge to his fam­i­ly, who also don’t see him from where they are sit­ting on a beach blan­ket, look­ing out to the glassy ocean, unwrap­ping home­made turkey and swiss sand­wich­es. He digs and digs until his plas­tic shov­el clunks on some­thing hard. The ice cream man swings his bell at the planked entrance of the alcove. Kids run right by where the boy is dig­ging. He reach­es down and pulls out a wood­en box, then drops his shov­el and runs over to his fam­i­ly. His step­fa­ther is shoo­ing away a flock of six or sev­en seag­ulls that are plot­ting to steal his French fries. The boy hands his moth­er the box. The sun is direct­ly over­head. Jesus Christo nice find, she says, dan­gling wood­en rosary beads over the box in front of her face.

***

Yo, yo, yo, my mans, my mans, stop, yo, for real, just, yo, yo, stop, says Beat-Bop in the street being pat­ted down by a police offi­cer. Julian Cruz looks on from the store­front win­dow of Kindle and Burns’ Puzzle Emporium. In his hand, he is shift­ing around the Perplexus, a 3‑D mar­ble maze inside of a glass dome. He can hear the sleet falling off the shin­gles and plop­ping on the side­walk. The shop is emp­ty. His shift ends at three. As the police offi­cer takes the man with the speak­er down to the pave­ment, the phone rings. It’s Reed, he had to wait out the storm for a lat­er bus.

I’m think­ing of how many ways there are to die again.”

Would you care to list them out?”

Let’s see… just get­ting out of bed this morn­ing,” Reed says. “Cerebral aneurysm, ST seg­ment ele­va­tion myocar­dial infarc­tion, faulty dry wall screw anchors in the ceil­ing fan, cryp­to­genic stroke, car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing, bur­glary, black wid­ow spi­der bite.”

Okay, too far. Are there even black widow’s in North Carolina?”

Do you think you can feel an aneurysm com­ing on?”

You’re stressed. It’s Midterms.”

I’d love to see the sta­tis­tics in how many acci­den­tal deaths of col­lege stu­dents there are dur­ing test­ing weeks.”

Are you imply­ing that stress can man­i­fest itself in obscure, and by the way, extreme­ly rare ways for a young per­son to die? Hang on.”

Is that a sui­cide pun?”

The bell over the door rings and the police offi­cer is stand­ing there scan­ning the store. The win­dows are blur­ry and fog­gy from the cold ris­ing off the wet ground. Julian asks if he can help him with any­thing, and real­izes he is still hold­ing the Perplexus.

What’s that?” The offi­cer says.

It’s a mar­ble maze, essen­tial­ly.”

The cop’s nametag says K. Markson. He asks if he can see it and Julian hands it over, then goes back to the phone behind the desk.

My stom­ach feels like lead,” Reed says.

Have you called Shainey?”

Dr. Shainey O’Rourke, LCSW offers col­lege kids free ther­a­py in exchange for weed.

No, but I talked to my dad. He called, say­ing all the plans are in order for me to take over the shop. He said I hav-”

Hey, is this thing even pos­si­ble?” Markson shouts, shak­ing the Perplexus.

Yeah,” Julian says. “Just try to think ahead. Get cre­ative a lit­tle. Think out­side the box.”

That’s your advice to me hav­ing to drop out of col­lege? To you nev­er see­ing me again? Think out­side the box? Maybe you’re hav­ing the stroke.”

Not you, Reed,” says. Julian.

The cop is get­ting more hos­tile with the Perplexus.

And so,” Reed says on the phone. “I was like but how could I pos­si­bly come live in New York. I feel so crammed there.”

Yeah,” Julian says. “At least we have some real moun­tains here. Escape.”

Then he said he needs help in the shop, that they are strug­gling, blah blah guilt guilt guilt.”

Hey,” Markson says, now at the counter, stand­ing across from Julian. “I need to get a state­ment from you, what you saw hap­pen in the street.”

Julian says to Reed he has to go and will be home soon and notices the smashed Perplexus ball sit­ting on the counter; the cylin­dri­cal orange fin­ish­ing cup had been removed and has the mar­ble rest­ing in it.

Markson shrugs. “I thought out­side the box.”

***

James Reed hates his father for being cold and dis­mis­sive his entire life but still couldn’t say no to help him with a new fly­er for the restora­tion shop. It’s the end of sum­mer, near­ing the first-year anniver­sary of the day his father start­ed to drink. He is sit­ting at the kitchen table in the Bayonne apart­ment. He is twelve. A breeze pass­es through every five to eight min­utes or so. Pills of light stripe the riv­er. The sky­line still looks void of some­thing, the way an amputee must feel. James won­ders how long that feel­ing lasts as he col­ors in the block let­ter­ing of the words, “Restoration Sale: Families of Victims Only. Starting September 1st.”

***

I, Julian Cruz, am noth­ing but a col­lec­tion of cells that change com­plete­ly every sev­en years.”

I, Julian Cruz, am noth­ing but—this is stu­pid.”

Say it,” Reed says.

I, Julian Cruz, am noth­ing but a col­lec­tion of cells that change com­plete­ly every sev­en years.”

Again,” says Reed.

Julian repeats him­self.

And I, Julian Cruz,” Reed says. “Will not judge myself based on the actions of those old cells, because I have com­pas­sion for those old cells, that know not what my new cells know.”

Oh, for fucks sake, dude.”

Julian.”

It’s bull­shit.”

It’s not.”

***

The street out­side of the Charlotte apart­ment is bustling with speed­ing cars and the dis­tant whirring of air con­di­tion units. It is mug­gy hot. Griddle hot, Reed’s moth­er, Jalisa says. They just brought up the last of his box­es and fur­ni­ture. Outside, the dis­tant echo of rap music comes and goes.

Still don’t know why you chose Queen’s College,” Marlon Reed says, dab­bing his fore­head with a wet paper tow­el. “There’s only two sea­sons here. Hot as fuck and cold as fuck.”

Marlon,” Jalisa says.

Reed ignores it and hears a knock at the door. In walks Julian, a tall brown-skinned kid with both of his ears pierced with fat rhine­stones and a fun­ny hair­cut that’s shaved on the sides and flop­py up-top. His t‑shirt can’t hide the fad­ing col­ored lines of a cheap tat­too on the inside of his bicep. He shakes Reed’s mother’s hand first then his father’s, final­ly Reed’s and says, call me Jules.

Where you from?” Asks Marlon.

Jus’ bout a stone’s throw away up yon­der past Gastonia.”

Later, on their first night as room­mates, where they rigged an apple into a one-hit­ter and got so stoned in Julian’s car Reed thought of the Carolina stars as a low-hang­ing canopy col­laps­ing on him, Julian laughs about not being able to keep up with the fake south­ern accent any­more.

Wait, what?” Reed asks.

I’m not from here,” he says, in no accent that Reed can place at all. “I just live here. I was born in Colombia. Moved around a bit since. Boston. Jersey. Virginia.”

Not even the wind could wipe off Reed’s smile.

***

What’s up with him?” Says Carly from next door.

Reed is hug­ging him­self and shiv­er­ing, pale white, and rock­ing back and forth on the floor of the com­mon room of Oak Hall.

Midterms,” Julian says.

***

After the third day of the vis­i­tors, his moth­er says the house is cursed. Julian is ten. He calls them the vis­i­tors because they come at night and wake him up, three tiny gob­lin-like spir­its dressed as Mariachi men march­ing around his bed­room. When they come, he feels hot and tense and breath­less. They are so vivid, like made of green fire, and so intense, their laugh­ter makes him cry. After night one, he tells his moth­er, I fig­ured it was just a bad dream, and after the sec­ond time, I fig­ured it was because I was think­ing about them all day long, but three nights in a row… Julian’s mom, Esmerelda, twists her lips and gives him a quizzi­cal look. She tells him that for the past three nights she has had intense night­mares about an old man spir­it who stands over her bed, waits for her to wake up, and tries to stran­gle her. Julian cries in his mother’s lap.

The next day Esmeralda goes to the mar­ket with her acquain­tance Elaine, whose fam­i­ly has been in the neigh­bor­hood for four gen­er­a­tions.

You’re in the blue shut­tered Victorian over on Forest, right? The three-fam­i­ly?”

Esmerelda nods.

Oh, well, you know with any of these old homes. Could have been a mur­der, a sui­cide. That stuff lingers.”

Esmeralda swal­lows a heavy lump in her throat and adds two more toma­toes to the hang­ing scale. The cold mist of the pro­duce sec­tion feels good on her new­ly sun­burned neck from the beach the oth­er day.

***

Car acci­dent, stray bul­let, crushed by bails of tele­phone poles off an eigh­teen-wheel­er, hit by falling scaf­fold­ing, grand theft. Rabid dog. Lightning strike. Trip on uneven pave­ment and crack skull.”

This is just some­thing he does?” Leo, from 905, asks Julian.

And that’s just walk­ing down the street?” Julian asks. “What about snor­kel­ing?”

***

The rela­tion­ship between Julian and Reed is one of lus­ter and con­fu­sion. The kind of sup­pressed mas­cu­line love that express­es itself through wit­ty ban­ter, red-faced argu­ment, and the occa­sion­al drop-every­thing-wrestling-match to prove who is bet­ter when words begin fail them. It’s child­ish, but it’s real. It’s the kind of rela­tion­ship that is found­ed in con­trol. One that could last a life­time or explode any day now. There’s a cer­tain code­pen­dence, espe­cial­ly for Reed, who needs Julian around in the morn­ing to start his day, make his cof­fee, and slow­ly tran­si­tion into func­tion with some back-and-forth, sports replays, shoot­ing the shit. Without it, Reed is a wreck, irri­ta­ble, moody, down.

Julian is sev­en­teen.

Reed is nine­teen.

Julian is the son of a Colombian immi­grant, his moth­er. His father, in his mother’s words, was, “the Holy Ghost.” Julian was born in Pereira – a mod­u­lar city plant­ed right smacked-down in the mid­dle of the Andes moun­tains – and moved to the U.S. when he was about three. It was just him and his mom in a tiny, slight­ly haunt­ed Somerville apart­ment, north of Boston, until he was almost ten, and she got a job in a plas­tics fac­to­ry out­side of Plainfield, New Jersey. His step­fa­ther, Frank, was her shift man­ag­er. Soon after, they moved into a three-fam­i­ly home that had a flower-woven arbor over the front entry­way and ghosts in the attic.

Reed is the youngest of four broth­ers, from American-born par­ents. Born and raised in Bayonne, New Jersey. When asked about his eth­nic­i­ty he says, in a sort of dance, “A lit­tle bit of Chek, a lit­tle bit of Pol, a dash of Italian, some Irish, a lit­tle bit of this, a lit­tle bit of that. I’m a mutt.” Being the youngest, Reed nev­er got the atten­tion that a first or sec­ond-born son would nor­mal­ly get. There is such a thing as too many tro­phies. “Probably out of sheer exhaus­tion,” Reed once told Julian. “My par­ents let me get away with any­thing.”

They fell into friend­ship extreme­ly fast, seemed bond­ed by the sec­ond semes­ter of their first year, spend­ing late nights in the library or dorms, tak­ing shots of cheap Russian vod­ka, talk­ing or some­times sim­ply star­ing at each oth­er in thought. Their rela­tion­ship has a tinge of homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, a hint of attrac­tion, the kind that play­ful­ly encour­ages the oth­er to be at their best, but nev­er to the part of sex­u­al curios­i­ty; they both unabashed­ly straight, maybe deeply deeply clos­et­ed.

They chal­lenge each oth­er intel­lec­tu­al­ly. Reed is more of a real­ist; Julian, an ide­al­ist. Reed’s argu­ments ground­ed in facts and sta­tis­tics; Julian’s in intu­ition, art, and some­times spir­i­tu­al­i­ty.

Julian’s depen­den­cy on Reed lies in his need for a male role mod­el, some­one to fill the father-shaped void inside of him, even if he is only two years old­er. He thrives on Reed’s encour­age­ment, his atten­tion. He depends on Reed’s weak­ness to make him feel strong. Where Reed looks to Julian for emo­tion­al sup­port, his mir­ror of remind­ing him that he still exists.

All of this is com­plete­ly unknown to the two of them, of course.

They are men.

***

What’s the worst thing you ever done?” Reed asks.

They are in their usu­al place near the win­dow. It’s September of their sec­ond year. Reed’s head is shaved. He keeps run­ning a clam­my hand over the scalp, as if he can’t believe it’s gone. Julian is lying back on the floor, rest­ing up against a yarned pouffe. It’s still sum­mer hot.

Um. Hm,” Julian says. “When I was kid, I would pee in the cor­ner of my room.”

Some seltzer drib­bles out of Reed’s mouth.

What the fa—why?”

Laziness most­ly.”

The both laugh and then Reed relights the end of his joint that had gone out.

But come on,” he says. “That’s like not even that hor­ri­ble.”

Julian says okay what’s yours and tries to think more. Reed tells him that one time at a par­ty in high school, this kid Steez that every­one picked on was wast­ed out of his mind and at first it was pret­ty cool cause he was just danc­ing like an idiot and mak­ing them laugh, but then it got pret­ty bleak and Steez con­fessed to the group of guys that he wished they were dead, that if he could buy a gun, he would blow them all away.

I mean now I can under­stand,” Reed says. “We picked on him kind of a lot.”

And so, Reed con­tin­ues, the guys had just laughed it off almost, like okay psy­cho, and the par­ty went on, but lat­er, on the way back from the bath­room Reed had found Steez passed out in a room, just all alone, face first on the floor with his ass in the air.

I shouldn’t have said any­thing,” he says.

Next thing, Reed says, the guys were hud­dled around Steez and hand­ing Reed this emp­ty beer bot­tle and chant­i­ng.

You didn’t,” Julian says.

Reed slides both of his hands over his shaved head and leaves them there for a sec­ond. When his face emerges, it is beet-red.

I did,” says Reed.

You shoved a beer bot­tle up some guys ass?”

What made it worse,” Reed says. “It shat­tered when he jolt­ed up and fell on his back.”

***

The TV says, “Aren’t you DYING for a new tele­vi­sion? You’ll DROP DEAD at these low prices.” It’s ten o’clock. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Dense clouds are break­ing up. A hand­ful of stars col­lec­tive­ly pop­ping. There is no music com­ing from the street. Reed is still vis­i­bly shak­ing and hasn’t said a word since lying down in the com­mon room a few hours ago. Julian sits above him on the sofa and pats a cool, wet wash­cloth around his face. He notices his lips are bluish with white cracks. When Julian looks deeply into Reed’s iris­es, he sees a murky green tide reced­ing into black. He clicks off the TV. Outside a car pass­es and the sound of its tires pass­ing through the flood­ed street sound like glass break­ing over and over and over. Julian feels as though he is los­ing con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion.

***

It’s the Thursday before Fall Break ‘09. The sun is a white pool in the cen­ter of their liv­ing room. The songs of birds are being pushed out by Beat-Bop’s music from the street. Reed just con­fid­ed in Julian what his father said to him before start­ing their sec­ond year. They are shar­ing a cig­a­rette in the win­dow.

He said that?” Julian asks. “That if you don’t get a 4.0 this semes­ter, he’s pulling you out?”

The shop is real­ly strug­gling,” Reed says. He ash­es out onto the gar­den box.

Julian notices ten­sion in Reed’s fore­arm, notices the grip he has on the cig­a­rette.

So, what does that have to do with you?”

Reed tells Julian that he wouldn’t under­stand, that he wouldn’t under­stand try­ing to please a man to no avail, to want some­one to look at your life and say you did it, say they are unbe­liev­ably proud. That Julian is lucky to nev­er have to know what it feels like to nev­er be good enough to a per­son who is bio­log­i­cal­ly con­di­tioned to love you.

Do you know what that feels like?” Reed asks. “Like nev­er end­ing car­diopul­monary arrest.”

I do,” says Julian.

***

In a reoc­cur­ring dream, Julian is perched atop his mother’s house in Plainfield and has large, dirty white angel wings. He is watch­ing some­one in the street. Sometimes it is his moth­er, some­times it is Frank, but most­ly it is Reed. Julian watch­es as Reed walks down the sloped dri­ve­way and into the street, around to the driver’s side of a tan sedan parked at the curb. Always, before Reed opens the car door, Julian swoops down to the street and kneels before Reed and lets him rip out his wings feath­er by feath­er until he is bleed­ing out from two gash­es in his back. Julian has noticed that he nev­er cries or screams, and that he awakes with a strange notion that he deserved it.

***

Outside the hos­pi­tal on Christmas Eve, from the view from the tenth floor, Julian notices the way the sun splash­es right up against the heavy grey clouds and dis­pers­es shards of light around to the thin­ner, papery clouds and across the win­dows of near­by build­ings. It’s prob­a­bly going to snow again. He can’t stand the con­stant beep­ing of Reed’s heart mon­i­tor; it’s like each one pricks his chest. When Reed wakes, Julian gives him some luke­warm chick­en noo­dle soup from the cafe­te­ria. Julian points out how he looks like a baby bird.

I feel chewed up and spit out,” Reed says.

I’m sor­ry,” Julian says.

It’s not your fault I got so stressed out that I had some sort of episode, some cytokine storm of bod­i­ly respons­es. That’s anoth­er one, by the way.”

Julian lifts the pil­low behind Reed’s head and pours him some more water. Reed says he doesn’t remem­ber much since miss­ing his bus home for win­ter break and his dad call­ing him, that it’s all pret­ty much a blur since the night they got snowed in togeth­er. Pellets of pre­cip­i­ta­tion fleck against the win­dow.

Thought of one. Anesthesia over­dose.”

How do you live with your­self after doing some­thing hor­ri­ble?” Julian asks.

Define hor­ri­ble.”

Unethical. Immoral. Sinful. Shameful.”

I’ve been think­ing a lot about this sto­ry my dad once told me,” Reed says. “He once told me when I was real young how he used to get pre­mo­ni­tions or some­thing, and that one day, while fish­ing with his old busi­ness part­ner Daron, a woman had dropped her baby in the ocean.”

Holy shit. Like on pur­pose?”

Yeah. And that, before that, he had this nasty stom­ach pain that whole day, that whole year basi­cal­ly, and all of sud­den, while explain­ing his stom­ach to Daron, his line got hooked on it, the baby, and they had to untan­gle the line from its neck and—”

Fuck.”

No, but they saved him. My dad and Daron saved that baby. And so, I’ve been think­ing a lot about how that morn­ing affect­ed them and like rip­pled through their lives in so many ways. It was after that my dad and Daron went into busi­ness with each oth­er, and they both looked at restora­tion as some sort deed for soci­ety. That it was an hon­or to uphold antiques and mem­o­ra­bil­ia for peo­ple try­ing to hold onto the past. So, a good came from that bad morn­ing.”

So, you’re say­ing that you don’t believe in hor­ri­ble acts?”

I’m say­ing, I don’t know. That I wouldn’t be so sure to call one out right away.”

What about Steez?”

He moved away after that. His par­ents sued the shit out of Rodney’s par­ents, whose house it was, and made near sev­en fig­ures in com­pen­sa­tion. I think he end­ed up at M.I.T.”

What about how when Daron died, your Dad start­ed drink­ing heav­i­ly and con­vert­ed the shop to only restore objects of only 9/11 vic­tims’ fam­i­lies and then he became so entrapped in this want/need to help these peo­ple by restor­ing their mem­o­ra­bil­ia, that he real­ized that by mak­ing changes to their stuff, it is no longer their stuff, that a fireman’s ax with a new­ly sand­ed han­dle and replaced head is no longer that same fireman’s axe, dri­ving him to near sui­cide, to the point of rip­ping his son out of col­lege just to pro­pel his delu­sion?

Or what about if you were around the age of three and can vivid­ly remem­ber the sali­va hang­ing off a stranger’s lips as he fin­gers your moth­er on an air­plane, and you did noth­ing except pre­tend not to see?

Or what about if you were ten and you were at the beach with your moth­er and your step­dad and you couldn’t take hear­ing your non-father’s laugh and see­ing his ugly yel­low teeth, so you went off and just start­ed dig­ging and dig­ging until your shov­el hit some­thing that made you stop dig­ging. It was like a trea­sure, but a curse—”

A curse?”

So, what does that mean? What does it mean when some­thing appears to be a trea­sure but ends up a curse? Those rosary beads I found at Sandy Hook that day caused these haunt­ings, inex­plic­a­ble coin­ci­dences. My step­fa­ther got ill; my moth­er had these vivid night­mares; I saw these lit­tle green spir­its. I can’t remem­ber what they looked like but it was like a ter­ri­fy­ing parade, they grinned and laughed at me while I hid under my blan­kets, and all this went on for three or four days, up until my moth­er brought the beads to a priest and had them rinsed in holy water. So, what does this all mean?

What does it mean that you would put grinds of poi­so­nous mush­room in your roommate’s cof­fee on a night where you thought the snow would take care of can­celling his trip, and you watched over a two day peri­od as the poi­son flowed through his blood stream until attack­ing his ner­vous sys­tem, caus­ing him to have a ner­vous break­down, all so he will stay. All so he will stay here with you and stay in school and far from his crazy, abu­sive father?”

Reed just blinks.

So, are you say­ing you believe in curs­es?”

***

Dr. Shainey O’Rourke, LCSW folds the lit­tle plas­tic bag­gie and stuffs it into the inner coat pock­et of her scar­let blaz­er. She is with­out shoes, dan­gling her right bare­foot over her left knee. Reed notices dim slits in the cloth in her under­shirt where, if he tried, could prob­a­bly see through. He’s not try­ing. The car­pet has a dense pile height and a fad­ed medal­lion print. There are two acrylic lamps on both sides of the accent chair where she is sit­ting, dim­ly spew­ing light through round cream-col­ored drum shades. Even though he is active­ly not try­ing, he still takes account for how freck­led she is. The sun is being mut­ed by heavy laven­der cur­tains behind her. Dr. O’Rourke tells him they have an hour. It’s the first day of the spring semes­ter.

~

Nick Farriella lives in Montclair, New Jersey. His fic­tion has appeared in McSweeney’s, Joyland Magazine, Hobart, Barrelhouse, and else­where. He is cur­rent­ly at work on a sto­ry col­lec­tion and a nov­el.