|A post-finale short story|
I’ve always liked the sound of glass shattering, it’s so visceral, so blinding, like white light turned into noise. A scream of the right octave can shatter glass, we saw it on film in physics class years ago. You can drive a jeep through a glass window and make an almost unbearably satisfying noise of shattering glass. You can punch your fist against a mirror and hear it shatter, hear the shards of glass as they pop loose from the frame and cascade to the floor, and you won’t feel the tiny slivers of glass buried in the skin of your hand, the red drips of blood curving down your arm in narrow slow-moving streams. I look down at the sink, bits of myself reflected a hundred times in jumbled glass shards.
Someone’s pounding on the door. Wish they’d go away. Then I shake my head and it clears my brain a little, pushes back the drug-fog and I turn, automatically, involuntarily, and glide an inch above the polished wooden floorboards toward the door. I remember this drug, I haven’t tried it for a long time, I remember that it raises me above the floor, and I smile thinking, I’m above it all, aren’t I?
My hands fumble on the door latch, and it’s then I see the blood on my arm, not much, nothing to worry about, but it’s dripping onto the hardwood floor and I should wipe it up before it dries, my cleaning service probably draws the line at cleaning pools of blood. The moment I manage to get the door unlocked, it’s pushed back roughly and I’m startled by the sight of Michael’s bugged-out eyes and open-mouthed stare. It almost makes me laugh, Michael’s dramatic silly-putty faces can still make me giggle all these years past our childhood. I smile, but before I can say a word, Michael’s grabbing my arm.
“What the fuck? What happened?”
He lifts my arm, tries to hold it over my head to stop the bleeding, and then I do laugh, a really strange, unfamiliar choking laugh sound. Michael's too short to hold my arm up, and his fingers tickle my side and it makes me laugh some more. The laughter gets away from me, I’ve lost control of it, it’s echoing off the walls, getting louder and louder. It sounds crazy. Insane.
“Brian! Brian, stop!”
I can’t look at Mikey’s hilariously contorted face or I won’t be able to stop laughing.
Then I look at him, I have to look at him, and I feel my laughter grow, a separate entity, another presence in the room with us. I see Michael raise his hand and watch as in slow motion it approaches my face, and I know he’s going to slap me because I’m hysterical. Just like in the movies. And that makes me laugh, too, until his open palm connects with my cheek and I hear the smack, and it stings, it fucking hurts, and just like in the movies, it stops my laughter abruptly.
“Ow,” I raise my left hand and massage my face, repeating, “Ow, you fucker.” I pull away from Michael but he grabs me, drags me toward the sofa and pushes me down onto the cushions.
“Stay!” he shouts at me, like I’m a puppy who’s pissed on the floor. I can hear him at the fridge, and immediately he’s back in front of me, pushing a bottle of cold water into my good hand. I take a sip, then realize I’m parched with thirst, and suck every drop from the bottle before letting it fall to the floor.
“Stay!” he shouts again, and I hear him mounting the stairs to my bedroom, hear his shoes crunch glass as he walks into the bathroom. I love that crunching sound of glass being ground beneath a sturdy pair of shoes. I hear him mumbling but I can’t make out any words except “Jesus” and “Christ,” but I don’t think he’s praying.
“Brian – “
“Mikey,” I swivel my head around to stare at him, he’s almost in focus. “Take off your shoes before you come out of there, you’ll scratch the floor.”
“Who gives a fuck about the floor?” But he’s bending down, untying the laces.
“I do, it’s my fucking floor.”
He steps out of his shoes and pads in stocking feet to the kitchen sink clutching a white towel from the bathroom, which he soaks under the nozzle and wrings out, then rejoins me in the living room.
”What did you take?” He grabs my arm and holds it up, the bleeding has stopped, my white sofa is safe from harm.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m okay.”
“Yeah,” Michael agrees sarcastically as he spreads the towel on the arm of the sofa and lays my arm down on top of it, twisting the wrist so he can judge the damage. “Christ, you’ve got a dozen chunks of glass under the skin. Let me take you to the hospital.”
I look into his scrunched-up worried face and resist another laugh. “Mikey, it’s nothing, a few scratches, it doesn’t even hurt.” It’s true, the cuts don’t hurt, I can’t feel a thing. Being numb is good, very good.
“Where’s your tweezers, do you have tweezers? I think I can pull these pieces out, okay?”
With a sigh I agree and let him find the tweezers. He pulls a chair close to the sofa and goes to work removing tiny shards of glass from the side of my hand, the side that smashed my reflection in the mirror. I want a drink but I decide to wait till Mikey leaves. “What are you doing here, anyway?” I finally think to ask.
“Suddenly I realized you were gone. I saw you dancing with some guy, after. . .after he left,” Michael doesn’t say who ‘he’ is, I will him not to say that name right now; later, just not right this minute. “I assumed you went in the back room with the trick, but I couldn’t find you there. I was – kind of worried. So I decided to come see if you were okay.”
“Of course I’m okay, Michael.” I’m not going to talk about it; I’m willing Michael not to talk about it either. Later, just not right this minute.
“Yeah,” Mikey agrees with a grimace, glaring at me. “You’re okay all right, you just happened to smash the bathroom mirror. You could have cut your wrist, you could be bleeding to death right now.”
That makes me smile and I reach my good hand to caress Mikey’s face. “Drama queen. It was just an accident.” He looks at me a moment in silence, then drops his eyes from my face, and nods.
In silence Michael finishes his impromptu surgery then urges me to get up and I follow him to the kitchen where he turns on the hot water full-blast in the sink. “Hold your hand under there for a while, let it bleed a little more, maybe it’ll wash out any tiny pieces I missed.” I obey him, leaning against the counter for support. Suddenly I’m exhausted, just worn out.
Michael grabs a broom and dustpan from the closet and goes into the bathroom to clean up the mess I made. I like the angry crackling sounds of the broken glass as he sweeps it up and dumps it into the waste basket. He puts the broom away, puts on his shoes again. Then he’s back with a box of band-aids, turns off the sink. The bleeding has stopped, and he uses paper towels to dry my hand, then applies three band-aids to the cuts.
I watch him with such love and affection, but also with smoldering anger and resentment. Michael forced my hand with Justin. He did it for the best, he did it out of love for me, and I don’t blame him, I don’t. But right now I’ve got equal parts love and anger battling inside my heart for Michael, he really needs to leave me alone for a while. He looks up and catches sight of my face, which I hope is blank, but then, Mikey’s been able to read me most of the time since we were kids. Not always. But maybe this time he does, because he looks away and whispers, “I’m sorry.”
I don’t ask ‘what for?’ because I don’t want to hear his answer. Maybe he’s sorry that I hurt myself, maybe he’s sorry Justin walked away from me tonight, maybe he’s sorry he told me about Justin’s lover. At the moment I don’t really care; later I will. Later maybe we will talk. Maybe not. I’ve never talked to Michael about Justin, and I don’t want to start now.
Bandaging finished, Michael pulls open the fridge and hands me another bottle of water, he’s always worried I’ll get dehydrated when I do a lot of drugs. To assuage him I drink the bottle down in one gulp, let go a hearty burp, and grab Michael’s arm.
“Thanks for the first aid. I’m going to sleep now, so go home.” I’m propelling him toward the door.
He digs in his heels. “I want to stay.”
“No.” I stop pushing Michael and give him a smile. “I’m fine. I want to go to sleep, and I need you to go.” At his mutinous look, I insist, “Please go home.”
“Okay.” He gives up. “But promise you won’t, umm. . .do anything.”
“Michael, I’m not going to off myself. I promise. It was an accident. Stop being so dramatic, will you? I’m just going to sleep.”
We’ve reached the door and Michael turns to give me a hug. “Call me tomorrow?” I nod. I can hardly stand being touched but I manage not to let it show, instead I hug him back, gently move him through the door, pull it closed and lock it behind him. I stand silently waiting to hear his feet descend the stairs, before turning toward the bedroom.
I’m tired, I’m exhausted, I am almost asleep on my feet. Slowly I climb the three steps to my bedroom and stand staring at the bed. I can’t sleep there tonight. Instead, I pull off the duvet and turn back toward the living room, dragging it behind me. I collapse onto the sofa, my knees pulled up to my chest, and the duvet settles over me like a dark blue cloud.
I’m cold, shaking with cold, and I cling tight to the duvet, pull it up to my chin. Christ, it smells like Justin. It smells like our last night sleeping together, his back turned solidly against me. I caressed his arm and I ignored his tears, as he wanted me to. I fell asleep with my face pressed against his hair, and I can still smell it, the sunshine-smell of his clean hair, his skin soft under my fingertips. Now I clutch fistfuls of duvet and try to stop shaking, shaking, shaking. If only I can sleep, everything will be okay.
Suddenly I sit bolt upright on the sofa, and reach out blindly to grab the crystal ashtray from the coffee table. I raise my arm and prepare to throw the ashtray with all my might through the plate glass window. At the last moment a measure of sanity prevails, and I twist my arm, throw the ashtray as hard as I can against the brick wall over the t.v. Then quickly I drop back down onto the sofa, and will myself to fall asleep while the sound of shattered glass still echoes in my ears.