When the Evening Reaches Here

It's 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. This I know. I’m still trying to piece together last night. This is not uncommon. I wasn’t at my own house when I woke up. It took me a while to remember where my car was. Then I remembered, I didn’t drive there last night, and my car was most likely in my driveway back home. This was me then feeling responsible.

When the alarm went off, I didn’t know what it was. I put my hand over my ear, waiting for it to stop. Danny reached over me and slammed his palm down on it, till it went quiet again.

Last night he said he wanted to sleep on the inside, the side against the wall, in his twin sized bed. It was one of the few times he let me sleep on the end. He usually claimed it first, and I spent the night being pushed against the windowsill.

I don’t remember falling asleep last night. Most nights I stay awake as he spreads his body out, on top of me at times, forgetting I’m there. Danny isn’t a big guy, but that doesn’t mean he’s easy to move.

We had sex before I fell asleep, the usual him gently tugging at my underwear and directing me to get on top. I think it was good. I think it was better than usual. He came, but not inside of me. In the bathroom I wiped the cum off my ankle with a piece of toilet paper. I believe it was gravity that caused it to find its way down there, on my walk from the bedroom.

When I got back in bed, he was facing the wall. I crawled in, behind him. I brought my arm over his chest. He reached his arm back and grabbed hold of my leg, just behind my knee.

Before we went to sleep, before we had sex, we were sitting up in bed. The lights were still on. I was five whisky cokes and half a beer into the night. I hadn’t eaten in two days, unintentionally. Danny was telling me about a Dutch girl he met one night. He said he met her after me, I think. He said something happened between them, but I can’t remember how he put it. I stopped listening soon after he began. I never did get to hear the whole of it and was almost relieved when I interrupted him to say, “Could you hold on? I think I need to throw up.”

In my head I did this gracefully, though I’m sure it was anything but, as I pulled my body up, off the mattress. I made my way out of the bedroom through the dining room and kitchen before reaching the bathroom. I got on my knees, and again in my head, it came out in a beautifully graceful sweep. I released the little content left inside of me. I stared down into the toilet bowl and the thick yellow ring inside. I’d noticed it before, but never so close. I thought about the Dutch girl.

On my knees and in my head, she was a natural blond. Her face held the qualities of being both seductive and innocent. Her lips were full, so were her breasts, but not too much in the ass. She cared enough to wear make-up, a discreet amount to highlight her attributes, which were many. Her eyes were big and deep and impossible to read, making Danny want to find a way inside. She didn’t say a lot, but when she did her words were brilliant and direct. Her words affected Danny on a physical level. She was cool and calm, but not indifferent or cold. When Danny saw her, he knew he had to talk to her, even though he very rarely made the effort to talk to women. This Dutch girl wasn’t like other women.

I could see him kissing her up against a wall. He couldn’t even wait to take her home. He kissed her in the bar by the bathrooms, even though normally he doesn’t like to show affection in public. She was different, the Dutch girl. Even the bar looked better. It was no bar I’d ever seen or been to with him before. It was clean, and the walls were painted red. The lighting was perfect, and a dim spotlight shone on them. He took her home, but that’s where I stopped, that’s as far as I could go.

I pulled myself up from the bathroom floor that was damp and cold. I flushed the toilet. I reached for the soap when I got to the sink, but there was no soap. It was normal for there to be no soap, but I always reached for it anyway. I turned on the faucet and cupped the water into my hands, bringing it up to my mouth. There was a light tap on the door behind me. Danny didn’t wait for a response before opening it. He had our drinks in his hands.

“I’m better now. I knew I was gonna be sick tonight, I just thought it would of been sooner,” I said. I took my beer from him, setting it on the edge of the sink. There was a time I took pride in never throwing up. There was a time both of us did. I would say I could hold my liquor, I knew my limit.

“It’s okay. I say if you need to puke, you should puke,” Danny said, still standing in the door way, watching me from behind, through the mirror.

I turned around and shoved his body out of the bathroom, out of the doorway, into the kitchen. Then I shut the door. He didn’t resist. He just laughed and so did I. I took some mouthwash in and spit it out.

After coming out of the bathroom I found Danny on the back porch, where we smoked. The wind was coming in cooler than it had all summer. I knew soon enough I wouldn’t be able to get away with wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The fall was coming. Soon enough we’d give up on going outside for a cigarette and just crack open a window instead.

Danny lived on the second floor. It was the top half of the trees that surrounded us, on his back porch. I sat down and lifted my legs up on his lap. I apologized for not having shaved in a couple days. He said it didn’t matter. Then he dropped his cigarette on one of my legs, causing me to jump. He apologized as he tried to get hold of his cigarette again. It was taking him longer than it should have. When he finally got it he put it out in the ashtray, on the table.

It was a good sized porch, and the round table was the center of it. Danny’s roommate and I carried it in from the sidewalk on the day the neighbors moved out. It was coming apart now. It must have been the rain that caused the black top to peel off, that and us picking it apart. It’s almost impossible to resist picking at something that’s already coming loose. There were a lot of folding chairs around the table, but the one I liked most was wood. The one I liked most and fixed my eyes on was painted red and black.

It was on one of our better nights when Danny and I found the chair walking home from the bar. It was maybe six months ago. I was wearing a red coat, it wasn’t my winter coat, I remember. So, it must have been late winter, early spring.

We found the chair and both fell in love. Danny picked it up and threw it over his shoulder saying, “It’s coming home with us.” It wasn’t a very big chair, but it was heavier than it looked. It looked like a good chair to play poker in.

It was one of those nights when we spent the whole time at the bar talking to only each other, smiling constantly, because we couldn’t not. We sat in our stools with our legs slightly touching. We sat until the bartender threw us out, but that part hasn’t changed.

Danny carried the chair most of the way home until we got to the baseball diamond across the street from his house. He put it down and said, “Watch the chair. I’ve always wanted to take a piss on home plate.”

I sat down in our new chair and watched him run over and unzip. It was a beautiful sight. I watched the outline of his body like a fountain in the dark.

That was a different season, though. Last night, before he told me about the Dutch girl, before I threw up, before we got home, we closed the bar as usual. It seemed a long ways from the night we found the chair. The chair, I might add, turned out to only look good. The next time I came over and tried to sit in it, it wobbled and I felt like at any moment it might tip over or collapse underneath me.

We still sat in stools next to each other at the bar last night, but we weren’t looking at each other. Everyone else didn’t fade into the background. We didn’t talk to each other, but rather the people to the other sides of us. I faced the bar and Danny’s back was to it. Danny was talking to some guy and watching the football game. I was talking to some guy who remembered me from high school, but I didn’t remember him. He said he was a senior when I was a freshman.

A few drinks in, the guy decided to express his true feelings for me. The ones he’d kept bottled up for the hour or so we’d been chatting. “I find you attractive, both physically and intellectually. I just like talking to you. I don’t know what you think, but I think we could really have something here,” he said, looking at me with blue eyes that were just beginning to wrinkle around the edges. He was a big guy with a beard that didn’t hang too low.

He was twenty-nine, he told me on the first drink. He said he felt he was starting to look it too. I lied and told him he looked much younger. He told me I looked much younger than twenty-five. That’s when I knew I was getting old, because I took it as a compliment.

After the guy expressed his true feelings for me, I said my usual, “That’s nice of you to say. I appreciate it, I really do. I can’t really say at this point, but thank you.”

The guy gave a look of disappointment. “I know it would take time,” the guy said.

A couple drinks before that, the guy told me he’d never had a relationship that lasted longer than three months. He asked me if three months was too soon to tell someone you loved them. I told him yes, it was.

At one point while talking to the guy, I turned to Danny, but he wasn’t there. I tried to carry on my conversation, but was distracted. I kept looking at the empty seat on the other side of me, where Danny’s body should have been. His drink was still there, and it was still half full. I’d never known him to leave before finishing his drink. I’d never known him to leave without saying goodbye first. I’d never known him to leave before morning.

Though, for some reason every time I saw him, I thought it would be the last. Even in the beginning, but in the beginning it didn’t really make much difference.

I told myself he was just in the bathroom. Five minutes passed and then ten or at least what felt like minutes, but it’s nearly impossible to remember nights based on time.

I was stuck there with the guy from high school. It was getting harder to maintain a conversation without Danny on the other side of me. I was trying to come to terms with the possibility that he was gone. I knew it was inevitable, but I wasn’t ready yet.

He did come back, though. I looked over and Danny was sitting there again, on the other side of me, watching the game. At that point everything was maintainable again. I gave my attention back to the other guy, on the other side of me.

“Are you with that guy?” he said, pointing in Danny’s direction.

“Yeah, kind of,” I said, not wanting Danny to hear me. We hadn’t once discussed it in the year or so we’d known each other. It was just another thing, on the growing list of things we avoided.

At some point in the night, I asked Danny if he wanted to go outside and have a smoke with me and the other guy.

“I just had one without you, but I’ll have another, sure.” Danny said, extending the word ‘sure’ for far too long.

“So, what’s your name, man?” Danny asked the other guy.

“I’m Christian, what’s yours?” he said, putting out his hand.

“I’m Atheist,” Danny said, shaking his hand, with as straight a face as he could manage.

“I’m sorry, what’s that?” the guy asked.

“He’s joking,” I jumped in and explained it to him.

The guy understood, but didn’t seem the slightest bit entertained. His face scrunched up with agitation and Danny laughed.

We stood outside in a circle on the sidewalk, blowing smoke. We talked, but I don’t remember what we all said. Words came out of us one after the other, none worth remembering until Danny told the story he loved to tell and I hated to hear. It wasn’t even really a story and in itself wasn’t all that bad. What was bad was how often he told it. What was bad was that he told it at all, that he told it with pride and the way he laughed each time, his evil laugh. The laugh that was a joke only he was in on. The laugh that made me wonder what I was doing there.

I’m not sure how it came up last night. It was more than the three of us at that point. A couple of Danny’s friends, a girl and a guy, were outside with us too. It might have been one of them who brought it up. It might have been me when I said I thought Native Americans were the most beautiful people I’d ever seen.

“…the time I pissed in that girl’s mouth” Danny said, and like I said, I don’t know what came before it.

“How did you piss in a girl’s mouth?” Christian asked, but I don’t know what his expression was, because when Danny told this one I tended to keep my head down and turn away. I thought if I couldn’t see him or the people listening, then I wouldn’t have to hear it again, I wouldn’t be held responsible.

“She was going down on me. I was drunk as shit and piss is what came out.” Danny said, sticking to the short version, but I knew the long one. I knew that he was nineteen at the time. I knew it was the first time he’d ever been with a girl. I knew he still wet the bed on occasion. I knew she was Native American and lived on a reservation in the small town where he grew up. I knew she spit it out, but it took her a while before she realized what it was. I knew that she didn’t get mad or leave. I knew she stayed and he held her and they fell asleep together on the urine soaked mattress. I would like to think he cared about this girl. I would like to think it meant something to him, because she stayed.

These are the details he leaves out when other people are around. He told his story in short and as usual he was the only one laughing. Christian turned to me and asked what I already saw coming, “Did he ever piss in your mouth?” He had a half smile and it was smug.

“No, luckily he never did,” I said.

We all went in and had another drink until the lights went on bright and they told us it was time to go. Danny and I were going to take the bus back to his house, but Christian insisted he give us a ride. It took a while to find his car, an activity that seemed to be a reoccurring theme in recent months. Christian drove fast and it would have made me nervous if not for my obvious state and the warm, end of summer breeze that felt so good coming through the open window. I put my hand out, letting the air pass through it. I closed my eyes.

I sat in the front and Danny was in the back. Christian blasted rap through the car speakers and I could feel Danny hating it from behind me. Christian let us out at a convenience store near Danny’s house, because I said I needed cigarettes.

Danny got out first and waited for me, he focused all his attention on the newspaper dispenser by the curb. I was getting ready to say goodbye. I sat up straight in the passenger’s seat. I reached for the door handle.

“You’re really going home with that guy?” Christian said, “I mean, look at him,” and I did. Danny stood there, bent over reading the paper through the plastic window of the newspaper dispenser. He squinted his eyes behind his glasses. His eyes rarely opened all the way. He stumbled backwards and then forward again. He bumped into a woman walking on the sidewalk behind him and then apologized in a yell. As Danny watched the woman go on walking he ran his hand over his buzzed hair that I cut not too many Saturday’s ago.

On that Saturday morning Danny decided to make Old Fashioned’s. The brandy, bitters and sugar sat out on the kitchen table ready to go, but he was out of ice cubes. The only thing in the freezer was a plastic juice container filled with frozen water. He cut it open. With a knife and hammer, he chiseled the block of ice into pieces. I watched from the door way as ice flew all around the kitchen. It was the best Old Fashioned I’d ever tasted. I set up a chair and pulled out the buzzer. He took his shirt off and sat down. I ran the buzzer along his scalp letting his hair fall to the kitchen floor, on top of the melting ice. It stuck to my bare feet.

“You don’t even seem that into him,” Christian said in the driver’s seat.

“I don’t?” I laughed, because it was funny to me. I got the feeling he meant to say it the other way around.

“No, you don’t,” he said, looking very serious, “You should come with me. You deserve better.”

I can imagine now, on this Tuesday morning, what better could be. I can picture Christian holding my hand as we walk down the street. He makes it clear to everyone that I am with him. He touches me as if I were special, as if he’s never touched another person’s skin before. He looks me in the eyes when we make love. He asks me why I keep mine shut. He respects me for speaking freely, not knowing I speak freely because I don’t really care what he thinks of me. He doesn’t avoid the heavy subjects, like where we’re going. He forces them on me and I sigh. He wants me all the more because I sigh, because I won’t give him an answer. Just the thought of better is exhausting.

Last night I didn’t sit in Christian’s car long enough to imagine what better could be. I didn’t take the time to weigh my options. When Christian said, “Come with me. You deserve better.”

I said, “No, I don’t really,” and opened the door.

After Danny and I got back to his house, after I threw up, but before we got in bed and turned off the lights, we were sitting on the back porch. We finished our beers. Danny found an open bottle of red wine on top of the fridge and brought it outside. He drank from the bottle and passed it to me. I took it down and feared it might not stay there. The last thing I wanted to do was go back to the bathroom, look down in the toilet bowl and think about Danny’s Dutch girl some more.

“I don’t think this is good anymore. It tastes like vinegar,” I put the bottle down on the table, hard enough to make it shake.

“I don’t mind. I’ll drink it, if you don’t want to,” Danny said, grabbing hold of the bottle. He took a long, hard swig, but I pulled it away from him before he finished. He coughed a little and spilled.

“I just said it didn’t taste good. I didn’t say I wasn’t gonna drink it.” I said, bringing the bottle to my mouth.

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