I am not just working on one novel. I’ve laid aside a second, most of it a stringy mess, but with clear bits shining through. This is the clearest passage in that tangle, and it dates from 2010. This weekend, bits of this text have presented themselves instead of fragments of Jorinda and Joringel.
Damien owned the house at twenty– it had been his grandmother’s, and when she died, she left it to him. His older brother paid him rent to store all his crap in the back bedroom, and Damien worked at a pizza place doing deliveries.
I slept on the living room floor in my sleeping bag, and lived out of my backpack. Most nights, Damien slept out on the couch, and I camped out right up against it, so that he had to step over me to get up in the night.
I liked it because every time he got up to take a leak, or get a snack, or get ready for work, he’d lean over and put his hand on my shoulder.
“You okay, Jel?”
“Yeah, I’m okay.”
Then he’d tuck my hair back behind my ear, pull the sleeping bag up to my neck against the fury of the air conditioner, and scritch the back of my head. I’d lie awake hours just for those moments.
It went like that for a while. Damien would come home from delivering pizzas. Maura would come over after school– I wouldn’t bother going– and the three of us got stoned and played video games. I got really good at first person shooters. Mostly Maura would watch, commenting in her squeaky girl voice, punctuating most of Damien’s sentences with the titter.
“Omuhgawd, I can’t look when you just explode his head like that!”
“Then don’t look, dipshit,” I quipped. “And it was my head.”
“Well, how was I s’posed to know? It was totally a guy on the screen.”
“Naw, it’s good, it’s good. They’re just pixels, Maura,” Damien cooed.
“It’s so bloody, though. It’s mean,” Maura whined.
“Video games are supposed to be mean. Catharsis. Testosterone and stuff,” I never took my eyes from the screen.
“Naw, it’s not mean, Maura. You can’t be mean to pixels,” Damien hummed absently.
“But all that blood. It’s just gross.”
I have a thing against wireless controllers. Mice, too. Give me a hard connection. None of this dead battery shit. At least, that’s what I say to people. It’s what they’d rather hear. Especially when the real answer is that there are times when all I want to do is take that convenient cord and wrap it around some poor idiot’s neck and pull. Y’know. Catharsis. Testosterone and stuff.
“Aw, Maura, c’mere, just snuggle down here. You don’t have to look,” Damien held his arm open away from his chest and Maura curled up, burying her face in his shoulder while he played.
I fragged Damien seventeen times that night before he called it quits. He went into his bedroom, storm clouds and pout, and Maura got up to follow him. I heard the door lock behind them.
Console off, sun set, I just sat in the dark room for a bit. Then I could hear them breathing heavily, so I drew my knees up to my chest and covered my ears with my arms. When they started to moan, I made for the front door.
The night was cool, frosted with October, but I had no idea where to go. I could hear Damien and Maura from the front lawn, so I walked down the hill out to Main, and then from main into the center of town.