Previously, on A Young American…
To start at the beginning, go here.
The fall faded quickly and before I knew it my parents’ Deathversary was once again upon me.
Joy to myself.
I used the occasion to buy Barbara a new pair of earrings. They were hoop ones like the kind she normally wore, with the exception that these ones were in the shapes of raindrops and made of 18k rose gold. I was hoping it would help put a stop to Barbara’s recent aggravation about me staying up all night. She would come out into the living room in the morning when she woke up and see me sitting on the couch, wide-awake and watching the news. I knew she wanted to bring up my no job situation, but hadn’t come up with the courage or reached the boiling point yet, but it was coming: that Volcano would erupt, and soon.
That afternoon I had another dream. This one seems to be an 8mm reel of my life as I observe it. I simply sit back and watch as one year old me takes steps toward my father, dressed in his detective’s suit. He hugs me. My mother’s very 1950s with her office dress and curlers in her hair. Fast-forward to nine, and the fireplace behind me erupts in flames. The front glass shatters from my dumbass attempt to throw water at it.
My mother puts out the flames as my father scolds me for being so careless. There’s an eerie absence of sound, and it feels as if my ears sink down a black hole. Fast-forward again to 11, sitting in my father’s hotel room. I look out the window, watching him talk to a strange man as they hail a cab. I wave right before he gets in. Another jump to me lying on my bed, making out with Janis, my first fuck. Sixteen’s a good age.
I’m not nervous on that night. I put on the condom she gives me, and before I go inside, I’m transported to my 18th birthday, sitting in a courtroom and dressed up nice and fancy, just like Dad, with the exception of a party hat I chose to wear to the courtroom, against my lawyer’s advice. Across from me sits my Aunt Nancy, accusing me of staging my parents’ death for the money.
Luckily the judge isn’t a huge idiot, and sees no evidence of foul play. The only sound in the dream comes from the gavel slamming down, causing a ripple effect in the reel. The ripple tears the film apart, and through these cigarette burns, Barbara awakened me. She came in and threw her bag on my head, which I doubted was an accident, and started screaming at me.
“What the hell, Logan! It’s fucking six o’clock!” Zero to 60 was her forte.
“What? Did we have plans?” It was a rhetorical question. I knew we didn’t. I would have remembered.
“No, but while I’ve been working my ass off all day, you’ve been enjoying my nice TV and sleeping in my comfy bed! Every time I see you it’s only in two different places! It’s getting ridiculous.”
“It’s not like I’m sloppy. I clean while you’re gone.”
“I don’t need you to do that! If you had a fucking job half the messes you clean up wouldn’t even be there.” She sat in her chair and buried her face in her hands. “Logan,” she continued, “it’s just…I’m trying to make a name for myself. I’m out there every day working hard and trying to keep a career going, and you’re-” She stared at me with that look of pity. I fucking hated that look. “You don’t work.”
“I don’t need to.” I said sternly.
“That’s the problem. You only work when you feel like it and then three weeks later you get bored and quit!” My face turned red. “You said it yourself.” She said in defense.
“So!? You don’t have a plan for your life. I’m at a point where I need to start settling down with someone! I want to be with someone who doesn’t need to be carried.”
“Hey, I can take care of my own Goddamn self just fine, you snobby fucking bitch! I’ve never counted on someone to pay my way, or take care of me.” I stood up and put my shirt on. “And for your information, I live like this because I don’t wanna be like you! You’re working a 40 hours a week, at minimum, and often putting in an extra 20 or 30 here and there. Everyone walks around the office on Monday saying, ‘Man I can’t wait till Friday!’ You’re all wishing your lives away. There’s no time to enjoy anything, except for 104 days out of the year, providing they don’t force your weekends on you. Working constantly makes you put life on the back burner except for the little week long vacations they give you every year that don’t stack up. And that’s the good jobs.”
She stayed in that chair, face in her hands. I watched as tears fell between the cracks of her fingers. It was the first time I had ever seen her cry, genuinely cry, but I didn’t give a shit then. “And I happen to get by just fine this way. ”
“Oh, Logan.” She muffled. She liked me, probably loved me, and she wasn’t looking to break up. No, she wanted a compromise. She came in willing to negotiate, but unfortunately I don’t negotiate with terrorists or women. Not on things like this. I loaded my bag and just stared at her. She looked up at me, her makeup running wild down her face and on her hands. Why haven’t they found a way to make that stuff water resistant yet? Her anger had all but disappeared, and what remained seemed to be a hollow shell of what was once a woman I thought I couldn’t live without.
I felt a strong urge to embrace her, tell her I loved her with every ounce of my being and that I was willing to go out to find work, and that she could even help me do so. But it would be a lie. Even if I wanted it to be true, whatever job I got would end in me shaking it off in a year’s time, and then we’d be back to square one again. It wasn’t right of me to string her along like that. I didn’t want to be that guy. I couldn’t keep her hangin’ on. She knew that. I kissed her forehead.
“Well, Guess this is it, kiddo.”
“Yeah,” she sniffled. “Can I get that key?” She was a real sweetheart, a shame we had to let each other go. Could’ve lasted years, maybe even a decade. I pulled the fob out of my pocket, laid it on the nightstand and began packing.
“Wait.” She said. “That’s all right, don’t worry about it.”
“You sure? Might come back one night in a drunken stupor with broken flowers.”
I heard her chuckle, which she tried to pass off as a cough, “You can leave your stuff here until you find a place to stay. You know my hours. I just want you to make sure and leave the key on the table after you’ve come to get them.” Our hands touched as I took the key from her. The last time I would ever feel that slick fingernail polish. I didn’t know what to do.
My head swam with contradictions. I knew Barbara was better off without me. We loved each other but we just weren’t right enough. I knew that staying in the city would result in a temporary get together that would end in rekindling a dying flame. I had to get away.
Just for a while.