A Year In the Life of Oliver Black

last month

Jimmy is trying to find a song, I don’t know what song and I’m eating Doritos that he gave me I think, because bags of Doritos don’t magically appear and my jaw is not wired shut anymore and it’s fucking amazing. I am eating Doritos like I was born to eat them.

I’m on Jimmy’s bed trying not to watch him, his blue hair spiked up and I try so Goddamn hard not to stare at his lip ring, because I know he doesn’t remember and I don’t bring it up because he is my best friend and I tried, with Sadie I tried but she was fucking someone else, Patrick, she was fucking Patrick and I didn’t really like her anyway because Jimmy is standing here and he doesn’t remember but I do.

“Dude,” he says as he looks at me, “This is it. You remember I was telling you about that show I went to at that church, shit, last year I think? You didn’t want to go because it was a church?”

I stare at him as I crunch and there is orange Dorito powder all over my hands. It’s probably all over my face and I probably look like Chester Cheeto, but without the Cheetos but they’re the same color.

“Anyway, whatever. So, this band finally made an LP, and it’s so fucking good. But this song is by far the best. You ready?”

I nod, because music isn’t my thing. I mean, I like it and stuff, but I don’t know it like Jimmy knows it. I know books, but I don’t talk about that. I don’t talk about books and I don’t talk about writing stories about teenagers who sprout wings and get locked up because who the fuck sprouts wings? No one. Just like I don’t talk about the thing that happened and before it happened I hadn’t really thought about it, hadn’t really thought about anybody like that and I figured it was just me, just the way I was.

“Fuck yeah you are,” he says. He turns it up and the song begins, but it’s impossible to concentrate on because it’s getting more difficult for me he packs another bowl and we smoke and listen. He sits next to me on the bed and takes the Doritos and I drink more whiskey because I want to drink until I pass out and I don’t feel this way anymore and I’m getting a dizzy. I want to wake up not like this. I want to wake up someone else who isn’t thinking about his best friend naked.

I look over and he is moving with the music, drumming in the air and his dark blue jeans are too tight and he’s wearing these suspenders with dancing skeletons on them and I’m pretty sure that’s like a band reference but I don’t know music like Jimmy does and I reach over and pull the one closest to me, laugh as it snaps back onto his chest.

“Dude, what the fuck?” He says but he is laughing and he reaches around me to grab the whiskey and I don’t think about it. I am moving and pulling him closer.

I kiss him again.

last year

It is a shit day, the sky pissing rain and the clouds all black and dark. I want to tell the sky to suck it up and get over being goth, but nature doesn’t seem to listen to my threats.
I pull my hoodie over my exceedingly boring blond hair that will soon be a fire engine red courtesy of Jimmy, watch the stupid rain pelting sideways in the wind, slamming into the mint green side of the law offices across the street, stare down at the toes of my canvas shoes, black Converse All Star high tops with a scuffed up white toe and duct tape holding the soles on, push the door open and step outside preparing for the amount of sucking this is going to be.

Jesus fuck, it’s like being tortured by perpetual tiny stabs in the face. I try to run but it’s more of a jog limp jog limp combination, something like a drunk antelope drowning in the rain. I think back to the day I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking and broke my ankle stepping off the sidewalk into the street. Of all the stupid fucking ways to break a bone, of all the ways I’ve broken bones, I broke this one walking, and now I’m stuck jog limping the four blocks back to Jimmy’s place.

Fuck this day.

last christmas

The smoke wafts up, floats lazy like through the open window no screen because that is the way this house is, this piece of shit white paint peeled monster of a shithole filled with shit people, filled with me and my mom and my dumbass fuck up of a brother.
I think about Doritos and wish I had some Doritos, a whole bag of Doritos that I could just sit and eat, the orange powder shit coating my hands and even after I brush my teeth it’s like it will still be there waiting for me. Surprise Dorito taste like a Now and Later motherfucker. My stomach is telling me it needs this to happen, but I don’t have any money and there isn’t anything worth a shit in the kitchen except for maybe some beer or some liquor and what goes better with being super fucking stoned besides liquor? Doritos. But when life gives you liquor and not Doritos, it’s probably a sign to drink.
I light a Basic Light, disgusting and not what I prefer but it was all I could afford when Toby went to the store and in the hallway the floor is grey green carpet the color of sick dog vomit and I’m pretty sure I puked in this hallway once but it might have been somewhere else like Jimmy’s or something or maybe Sadie’s.

Fuck Sadie.

There is a half empty fifth of vodka sitting on the counter behind an empty McDonald’s bag on a tan counter buried under dirty dishes, and there is a cockroach inside the bag, probably two or three but at least one and it scurries out of sight on it’s back legs. We are trash here in this house. Trash living in trash, being shit on by cockroaches and making more trash for more cockroaches to live in and those cockroaches make more cockroaches until this is just one big Goddamn cockroach trash house and the windows break from all the cockroaches and trash and it pours onto the street and we are exiled from this city.
The vodka tastes like shit and I put the bottle to my lips and take another long pull, take a drag on my disgusting cigarette and ash in the sink on top of the dishes. The terrible taste makes my eyes water, my weird eyes and I have two different colored eyes, like really different because one is blue and one is hazel, this weird sort of hazel color with brown on the outside and green on the inside and Sadie says I have interesting eyes but what the fuck does that mean? You’ll give me a blow job and then say I have interesting eyes? Seriously, what the fuck does that mean? Did she say that to Patrick when she was fucking him?

I don’t want to think about Sadie so I dump the rest of the bottle in the McDonald’s cup and there’s still a little bit of Sprite or maybe just melted ice at the bottom and oh well, too late to worry about dumping it out now. Tastes like watered down shit.

I pull my brother’s old jean jacket on over my hoodie and black stocking hat and lucky me there are gloves in the pocket of his jacket that I can wear the smoke of my cigarette drifting into my eyes as it rests between my lips and I am outside sipping on my drink and trying not to fall on my ass heading toward downtown because why not? Why not go downtown even though it’s probably just about time for the stupid drunk college kids to leave the bar and make terrible decisions that they will regret in the morning on the many walks of shame back to their rental houses.

God, the fucking Christmas lights are up and they’re awful, the wreaths are green hideous monsters on the door and the lights are burning my retinas out of my eyes. Why are there so many Goddamn Christmas lights anyway? Why are these lights up and people are wasting their money on burning more electricity when they could be doing something worthwhile but instead they’re putting up their stupid lights and buying stupid presents for their overfed families and to say I hate Christmas would be the biggest understatement.

What’s to love about the time of year you get to watch everyone else celebrating and getting shit and when you are nine years old you have to write about Christmas at school and all you have to write about is the puke you cleaned up in the hallway because your mom and some douchebag got so drunk and fucked up they puked and there was no Christmas tree, no lights, no thing that made it any different than any other stupid day of the year so you tell the teacher to fuck off and get sent to principal’s office, and you never turn in the writing assignment.

The lights are moving or maybe I’m spinning and then I have a strand of lights in my hand, I’m un-lighting main street, what I can reach, get my hands on, and I tear them all down, tear down the lights and make this city look like how it should look.

last week

The light flickers above me, the tile cold and disgustingly wet on my cheek, from piss or blood I can’t tell. There is excrutiating pain in my temple from the giant Nike shoe pressed on my cheek, pushing my face into the floor, maybe trying to push me right through the ground into the earth’s core where I will melt into oblivion.
“I don’t give two shits about you or your fucked up life, fag. But if I hear about you from Shaina again, I will fuck you up. Who the hell would blame me? You don’t talk to her, you don’t look at her. You don’t exist. You shouldn’t exist.”
James spits and I can feel it land on my cheek and I marvel at his aim as the shoe is lifted from my face and he and his buddies exit the bathroom, I marvel at the way he called me a fag and then in the next breath told me to stay away from his girlfriend who was my partner on an in class assignment the day he was referring to. I lay on the floor as the bell rings, can feel how fucked up my face is and my arm and my ribs hurt and it hurts to breathe a little, it just hurts.
This will fuck everything up. I am now late to class looking like I got my ass kicked so the school is going to call my foster parents who will tell my probation officer, and then I will have to go to my appointment with my probation officer and I will piss in another cup and pass the stupid drug test but she will look at me and she will ask questions and my foster parents will say stuff about the fighting even though I’m not fighting, just getting my ass kicked by an overly testosterone filled douchebag, and also about how quiet I am and how they don’t trust me and I steal because their kid steals their money and it is blamed on me, he steals their liquor and it is blamed on me because I am an easy target. It’s just easy with the kid who came from the drug house and why hasn’t he quit school yet because he will, just wait and watch he will, just like his brother the drug dealer.
I push myself up and the brace on my arm did nothing to protect it and it’s probably broken again the way it’s throbbing but sort of numb, like it’s growing bigger and might explode. I want to see it explode in bright blood red and white bone and muscles and cover everyone near me.
In the mirror my face is puffing up by my eye, my lip is split and bleeding and there is distinct cleat print from a Nike shoe on my cheek. I pull some paper towel and wipe the spit off my face and head to English class because what the hell else better is there to do?

a few days ago

“You know, your speech in English class was really good, but you just stared at the floor the whole time,” this kid says as he sits down across from me. Black hair, tight black clothes, black Vans, emo looking douchebag with a big mouth. Different school, same kids.

“Uh, okay. So?” I ask as I awkwardly pull my notebook out in effort to get in my head and out of this shit of a school for the next forty minutes. My arm is fucked up again and they had to reset it and now it’s in this stupid sling and it hurts like a motherfucker because I get ibuprofen. Over the counter ibuprofen, and it is passed out to me from the office and I have a social worker here who meets with me and what the hell is this kid doing? My empty tray is beside me and I wished I’d had the foresight to set it in front of me, but then this kid probably would have just moved it out of the way.

“So, Mrs. DeAugustine is going to kill your score for that,” he says like that should mean something to me, and he is pulling out a sandwich and cookies and a fucking juice box, the kind of juice box kids in elementary school drink. Who is this kid? What high school junior drinks a fucking juice box?

“Um, thanks, but I really don’t give a shit,” and I look down as I click my pen hoping he will get the message and get the hell away from me. This kid has friends, I know this kid has friends because I’ve seen him laughing with people, talking to people in class. Why is he not with his friends.

“Why are you still here?” I ask.

“Better than sitting alone,” he says and starts eating what looks like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “Why don’t you care? About your speech, I mean. Grades are kind of important. At least, they are at the moment. In ten years no one is going to care about the A I got on a speech, but right now? I keep my GPA a 4.0 because it’s easier to get scholarships, and that’s my guarantee out of this place.”

“That’s great for you. College is not for me. Hell, I just want to get out of this school and go back to Jimmy’s. Put in my time, go home.” And I try not to think about if I fucked up too bad, if i fucked up so bad Jimmy won’t get near me again or if I fucked up so bad they don’t let me go home. The blank page of notebook paper stares at me, promises the possibilities of a different life for a little while, but I keep talking. I don’t know why I keep talking to this kid, but maybe now that I’m thinking of my best friend and my old life that wasn’t maybe so great but it was mine, I’m missing it, and now I can’t shut up. “I should be gone in a few weeks anyway, no need to get used to this.”

He shrugs as he finishes his juice box, pulls out his cell phone from his backpack and stares down. Great. I can try and pretend not to be awkward now and stare at the stupid notebook page because I cannot concentrate enough to write or I can be an asshole and get up and go to the library where I should have just went in the first place, but fuck, I was hungry.

I look up when emo kid makes a sort of grunt noise, I don’t even know, but he’s turning to stare at something in the lunchroom and he flips someone off, somewhere. Without a word, he gathers his trash and walks out and I think about how much I miss Jimmy’s place, and even home and my stupid fuck up of a brother Toby. The evil you know, and all that bullshit.

a few months ago

“Ollie, wake up!”

I’m yawning and my brother is above me shaking me but I don’t know why and I’m pretty sure I’m still drunk. It can’t be morning and I think yesterday, or today, I don’t even really know, was Friday.

“I don’t have school,” I mumble.

“Ollie, for fucksake, wake up! Can’t you hear what’s going on?”

“Fuck off Toby,” I mumble and pull the pillow over my head. It is immediately jerked out of my hands.

“Ollie, Dad’s here. Now, you can sneak out with me and let mom take him back, again, and get the shit beat out of you, again, or we can crash at Jen’s place for the rest of the night. Your call.”

I look up and Toby’s greasy brown hair hangs in front of his pimply face and he smells like fast food and cigarettes and beer and I can’t help it. The room is spinning and then I am throwing up on the floor and he is swearing at me and I don’t want to move because my head is pounding and that’s when it happens, that’s when I fully realize, vomit on my floor and the smell so strong in my nostrils it feels like I could vomit again, middle of the night after my fucking sixteenth birthday, Dad is home. Happy sweet sixteen Ollie.

I am trying to put shoes on and Toby is already out the window when our door slams open and Jesus, did he get bigger when he was locked up? My Dad fills the doorway, he fills the room with his meanness and anger and I marvel at my likeness to this man, the same shade of blond hair if mine wasn’t dyed red and the same sharp features, ears that stick out just a little, but I am not my Dad. He towers over me, the beer gut harder than it was, blue jeans and a wife beater which has always been so appropriate, and I think he has the coldest blue eyes of anyone ever. He is ice, the way icicles fall and spear people to death.
He is speaking but I can’t focus and the room is still spinning a little, I am a deer in the headlights and his fist is the car. I go down on the first punch as he tells me I am shit, fall face first in my own puke and his face in my face as he presses me down, his mouth filled with rotting teeth and smelling like decaying animal flesh. I want to cry. I want to have punched him first and ran out the door forever. I want to tell him that he is a piece of shit, the worst person, that he will be getting prison fucked to death in Hell for the rest of eternity for all his sins, at least, if I believed in Hell and I want to, just for people like him.

“Let’s just clean up this mess you been makin’,” he says as he grinds my face into the floor and I swear to myself I will never have kids. I will never be this man, never, and I will never fall so low that I need to bring people down to my level with my fists. I will kill myself before this happens.

When my dad finally leaves I lay in a vomit blood mess on my floor, tears and snot running down my face, terrified that he has broken my jaw this time and wondering how the fuck I fix it.


Ezra sits down across from me again, red eyes and a mess of black hair and his eyes look like raccoon’s eyes, like he hasn’t slept at all since he started sitting with me a few days ago. We’ve settled into a silence that is vast and difficult to ignore and each day he sits in the back corner in class away from his friends that he used to sit with and he sits with me in the lunchroom a table to ourselves and we exist in this strange not friendship I guess because he thinks it’s better than being alone.

“My brother is going to be an engineer,” he says, staring down at his untouched sandwich and juice box.

“Mine’s a drug dealer,” I say and he looks up and I look away. “He quit school and that’s what he does.”

“Is that why you don’t live at home anymore?” He asks.

“No, I was pretty much out the door a few months before that living with my friend Jimmy.”

He is quiet and I yawn, wonder why the fuck school cafeterias don’t have coffee because it would be the greatest thing to have some coffee so I don’t space out in geometry. I kind of like the class. Everything makes sense in math. You have formulas and proofs and people aren’t there to fuck anything up, there’s no emotion or disappointment. It’s not easy like English class, or memorizing shit for history, but I like it, the way it is either right or wrong.

“My dad is dead. Cancer.” He pushes his sandwich back and forth between hands, not looking up.

“Jesus, that sucks.”

He nods his head, black hair falling into his face, the blonde of his roots just beginning to show. “It does, yeah.”

“Mine is an asshole. He broke my jaw the last time I saw him. I was home celebrating my birthday with a dimebag and a bottle of Jack from my brother. He had a candle stuck in a hoho,” I remember. It was a decent night, would have been, because Toby and I don’t normally get along, but we did that night.

“Jesus,” he says, “he is an asshole.”

He doesn’t know the half of it, and I don’t tell him.

“You want to get drunk with me tonight? My mom’s going to stay with her parent’s for the weekend and I told her I had to work, so it’s an adult free house.”
I am going to say no, but I think I can probably sneak out and back in pretty easily and it’s been awhile since I’ve had a drink and now it’s all I can think about.

“Yeah. Yeah, let’s do it.”

the day after the kiss

I wake up and look around, my mouth filled with cotton and I can’t remember where I am, but I’m in my underwear and then I realize Jimmy is next to me and we are in his bed. He’s next to me and snoring and also half naked and we’re just next to each other, not like super close or anything. I have no idea what happened but there is panic and there is my breathing and I kind of feel like my heart is going to explode. I find my clothes and get dressed, lace up my chucks, and I’m climbing out the window because I don’t remember last night, don’t remember why we’re in our underwear, don’t know why I can’t breathe and my heart hurts.

I walk to the grocery store and it’s starting to get cold out in the mornings, I’m shivering and I’m sick feeling and I want a drink. I want a drink and some donuts.
I want to know what happened.

I don’t want to know what happened.

It’s cold inside the store and no one pays me any mind as I head to the bakery and find a box of powdered donuts and then I head to the liquor aisle and love that it’s kind of hidden and I open a pint of whiskey and the donuts.

I’m through the pint and on my fourth donut before there is a policeman and I am laughing but it’s not really funny and there aren’t supposed to be this many tears during laughter and everything is just so utterly fucked, and I struggle and try to run away from this guy but he is chasing me through the store and I run through those flapping doors where they keep the stock and he is following me and I wonder if he will shoot a sixteen year old white kid for stealing alcohol and then running away, and I think he might if I was black, which makes absolutely no sense to me but I guess hate is a big scary thing that sucks.

I turn a corner and my shoe slips in something wet and I am falling onto the cement of the floor stockroom floor, the way my arm gives out as it catches me and I am down. I am down and everything hurts because I am so Goddamn stupid and a coward. A stupid fucking coward.


We’re sitting in Ezra’s room, him at his desk in front of his computer and me on a black bean bag chair that has a back to it, and it’s actually super comfortable. It has a tag on it that says Big Joe, and it is hilarious that the bean bag has a name. His name is Big Joe. And we’re drinking PBR because that is what he has, a giant stash of PBR his brother bought for him the last time he was home and Ezra said he’s been hiding it in his closet for a rainy day. I guess that day is today.

“My girlfriend–ex-girlfriend–Sarah, she dumped me for my best friend. Ex-best friend. Sort of puts a strain on the friendship, you know?” He says and he tips the beer back, his adam’s apple bobbing as he finishes it off and tosses it across the room. There is music playing, something slow and mellow and not at all like anything Jimmy listens to, and it makes me sleepy and I hate it.

“I dated a girl named Sadie. She was fucking a guy named Patrick.” I shrug. “Shit happens.”

His room is dark, lit by an old lamp with a beer can base or something, shoved in a corner on his black desk. He has white Christmas lights strung up on his bed, because he has one of those high beds that has like, the desk set up underneath it, like this little hidden cave or something. The lights were plugged in when we came in but I asked him if I could unplug them and then I told him the story about the lights last Christmas, and how I didn’t get caught but that I did get caught with an empty bottle of liquor and some donuts at the grocery store and how I ran and ended up with this broken arm.

“Are you serious?” He says through a laugh, and it’s kind of high pitched, his laugh, and it makes me want to laugh.

“It was a bad night and an even worse morning,” I say and I can feel my buzz kicking in.

“Why? What’s bad enough to do something so, I don’t know, so easily detectable?”

“Easily detectable?” I repeat and I stare at him, and he’s wearing these thick rimmed black glasses that magnify his eyes, and he looks kind of ridiculous. He doesn’t wear them to school and I guess he must have contacts. “Who says shit like that?” I say through laughter.

He shrugs. “I guess I say shit like that. Is it better if I say what made you want to do something so stupid? I mean, you had to know you were going to get caught. Or was that the point?” His brown owl eyes are staring at me and I look away, look at his blinds and wonder what’s going on outside.

I finish my beer and switch it for another, thinking about the last time I was drunk, missing the only place I feel at home. Finally I answer, “Yes. It’s better to say why did you do something so stupid.”
Out of the corner of my eye I see him shake his head and he has like a smirk on his face as he stands up. “You want to do shots? I have tequilla.”

“How can I say no?”

“I don’t believe that you can,” he says and pulls out a fifth of Jose from his closet and downs a long drink, hands the bottle to me and I follow suit.

“Oh, Jesus, I forgot,” I say as my sinuses go crazy and my eyes tear up. “I forgot how terrible this shit is.”

“I’ll be back,” Ezra says through a laugh and I look around his room while he is gone. He has plastered his gray walls with posters of bands and movies I think, has a black bookshelf on the wall next to me. I look at his books, find Orwell’s 1984 and Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, a bunch of Stephen King novels that I’ve never read because as much as I love the movie Stand By Me, that’s really the only thing I’ve encountered by King that is at all anything I like. I tried to read the one about the Hotel because Jimmy said the movie was so good, but it was just so long and descriptive and boring. I keep reading titles until there, tucked behind every teenage outcast’s copy of Catcher in the Rye, is Kurt Vonnegut. Ezra only has Welcome to the Monkey House and I pull it out because it has my favorite short story of all time, Harrison Bergeron flip to the page it begins on, this copy still stiff like it hasn’t even been opened before.

“What book is that?”

“Jesus!” I startle and drop the book and I can feel him looking at me with his eyes that are too big in those stupid glasses as he sits back down in his desk chair, leans back and spins around.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. Oh, Vonnegut. My brother gave me that. Thought I’d like it because I like Chuck Palahniuk, but I haven’t read it yet. Have you read it?” He sits back down and opens another beer.

I shrug because my heart is still beating really fast and I feel like he’s staring at me and laughing. I glance over when I take a drink of my beer and when I see that he is not, I feel a little better. “Yeah, I have. Vonnegut’s the best. What I’ve read at least. He’s a lot different than Palahniuk, more subtle, or something. I don’t know. He’s not so in your face with disgusting shit. Lullaby was almost too hard to read in some parts, but I loved it because of that shit.”

“I guess I’ll have to read it,then. And Lullaby, for that matter. It’s been on my list of books to read, but school has kinda taken over my life. And I’ve been writing music a lot lately, so there’s that,” he says and he turns back to his computer and asks me if I want to listen to anything. “I know this is probably not your kind of music. But what can I say, I have a soft spot for Elliott Smith because was just fucking amazing.”

“I have no idea who that is.”

“Elliott Smith? Man, it’s been a long time now, but the guy was brilliant. Until he shoved a knife through his heart and then bye bye Elliott Smith.”

“Jesus, is that even possible?” I press on chest where I think my heart is and it’s so hard. How do you get a knife through that and how fucked up are you if you’re trying?

“I guess it is. I mean, he’s not here anymore. Anyway, what do you want to hear? I don’t want to be the asshole who controls the music.”

I shrug because it really doesn’t matter. “I don’t know. I don’t really listen to music that much. I mean, I do, but usually Jimmy picks the music. I know we used to listen to the Descendents a lot.”

“The Descendents it is.”

The music begins, it starts and it is immediately home, immediately Jimmy and I want to smash something and I want to cry but I don’t cry because what the fuck is the point in that? I want to shut the music off. I want to go home. I want a cigarette or some pot.

I want to keep drinking.

“Hey, dude, are you okay? Oliver?”

I stare down at the carpet, thinking about home, thinking about what I can’t stop thinking about so much that I can’t concentrate on anything sometimes. “I haven’t looked at Facebook. I haven’t called him. Nothing. I disappeared. I didn’t call him before they sent me away, didn’t see him. He might know where I’m at, but I don’t know. He probably hates me. He will probably pretend nothing happened again and I will pretend with him when I see him but he might hate me instead. If he remembers what I can’t really remember because I don’t know what happened. Not really. Just pieces of it, just when I kissed him, and that he was drunk and he probably hates me. So, when I go home it’s going to be like, home home with my mom and brother and hopefully my dad is gone, but I’m not holding out hope because the social worker knows what a piece of shit home I have.”

“Oliver, wait, wait, slow down. Getting a little buzzed here. A little drunk, maybe and I didn’t completely follow.”

“Jesus, that was out loud. Okay.” I shake my head and that all just came vomiting out and I turn my eyes to him and I want to punch him but I don’t because I don’t hit people not ever, I don’t hurt people like that. So I give him a look that I hope will wither him. And I can’t sneak back to my room yet because I am too drunk and I know that I should probably walk it off for a long time before I go back.

I stand up and sway a little, guzzle the rest of the beer and think about leaving.

“Woah, hold on there. You realize I have this handy thing right in front of me called a computer, right? Whoever this friend of yours is, we can look him up. Jimmy?”
My look must say something because he raises his hands in defense. “I don’t care, Oliver. It seems like you care, but I don’t, not about things like that. My brother’s gay. So what? A shitload of people are.”

“I care! I can’t go back home! Not to my place, not with my dad there! I can’t be around Jimmy but I can’t not be around him if I’m home! And I have to take a piss!”

“Okay, that’s like, the easiest part of this to fix, because we have this thing down the hall. Bathroom. It’s a bathroom, you take a piss, it’s a bathroom, go because you can’t resist!” And he is singing, singing as he shows me to a very lavender room and everything is clean and it smells like fucking clean laundry.

“Your bathroom smells like clean laundry, Ezra. That’s weird.” And I shut the door and put my hand against the wall and try not to make a mess because I have this feeling that I just don’t want to get it dirty. It’s too clean to use. Can a bathroom be too clean to use? I flush and wash my hands and it’s the fancy foamy soap in this triangular shaped soap tower and it smells like cinnamon. I might be in love with this cinnamon soap it smells so good.

“Dude, what are you doing?” Ezra asks as I sit back down in Big Joe with another beer.

“Getting drunk. I can’t unsay any of those things I said, but I can keep drinking. Cheers,” I say, raising the beer in the air and then guzzling.

“Okay, I meant why were you sniffing your hands.”

I look down and I was because cinnamon and I raise my right hand to my nose again and inhale. “This soap is amazing. I want to live inside that bottle of soap in your bathroom.”

He laughs and shakes his head, runs his hand through his hair. “Oliver, dude, you don’t need to unsay anything. You can actually tell me shit if you want. I probably will give you terribly blunt comments and bad advice because apparently, according to Sarah, I probably have Asperger’s Syndrome. Yeah, no, you’re understanding. That’s what she told me after she told me about fucking Jonah. Fuck ‘em. Hey, call him. This Jimmy guy. You can use my cell phone. Do you know his number?”

“Ezra, it’s like, fuck me, it’s only twelve thirty? I thought it was going to be three in the morning or something, and I was going to have to sneak in super fucked up.”

Ezra has taken his glasses off and one of his eyes is a little crossed and his black hair is hanging in his face and I don’t know if I want to punch him, throw up on his pretentious argyle socks or hug him because I don’t hate him. I do none of these.

I reach my hand out palm up. “Give me your phone.”

two months later

Ezra parks at Stan’s Diner and it’s been not that long but it feels like forever. I don’t want to go in and my heart is trying to get out of my chest but I can see Toby is already waiting in a booth and he is the same, clothes too big and hair too greasy and reeking of cigarettes and grease. He is the same.

Ezra looks at me nods his head toward the diner, says, “Come on,” and I follow him in because I was the one who asked him to drive me, I was the one who set this up, I was the one who lied to get myself here.

I slide in across from my brother and he already has a coffee ordered for me because he knows that is what I will get, and I dump a bunch of sugar in and maybe I don’t need to tell him today. Maybe I can wait but I know that I’m not going home anytime soon. There is no chance of that now, not after what I did.

I move my finger in a pile of spilled of sugar on the table, white on tan, make swirls.

“So, I’m Ezra. Toby, right?”

I look up and my brother is staring holes into Ezra, his hazel eyes our mother’s, because he was lucky and got the two genetically normal eyes and really, if he took care of himself he’s the good looking one, and he sort of sighs and nods.

“So, out with it, Ollie. Is this the Jimmy replacement?” And his voice isn’t like his voice, it’s different.

“I don’t know what the fuck that means, Toby. This is my friend Ezra.”

“Okay,” he says nodding his head. “Sure. What, did you need money or something little brother? ‘Cause I don’t live with Mom anymore. I moved in with Jen and Pikey a while ago, so, yeah. Not happening. Sorry.”

“No, I don’t need money, asshole. I’m at an okay place right now. I mean, it’s not great, it’s a foster home and they have this douchebag of a son, but it’s better than Mom’s. The court won’t let me come back home now anyway. Or my probation officer or whatever.”
He looks up at me, his big hazel eyes pools staring pits into me, looking at me like he doesn’t know who I am. Maybe he doesn’t. “What did you do?” His voice is controlled, a knife in a surgeon’s hand.

Under the table I uncross my ankles and my foot is tapping a rhythm on the floor and I’m pushing the sugar around on the table. I didn’t think this through. Toby will probably just hate me after I tell him because it’s not like he’s ever really cared that much for me to begin with.

“I didn’t do anything. Not anything that affects you, at least.”

“Because I am your brother,” and his gestures are big, pointing to himself and to me,

“And that should fucking mean something.”

“Toby, I don’t care about what you do, alright? I admitted that Dad is a piece of shit, okay? My social worker went digging through my medical records because I was getting headaches from my jaw. Apparently I had set off some red flags with her.”
He looks away and nods his head. “Yeah, okay. Good. He’s still there, ya know. Dad. He’s probably going to kill her one of these days, but fuck, what do we do, Ollie?”

“We can make her leave?”

“Right, yeah. Clearly that’s an option. You’re supposed to be smart one, dumbass.”

Next to me Ezra looks down and then at me, points to his phone and excuses himself. Pretty sure there is no phone call, but I don’t blame him.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Toby says, rubbing his hands down his face. “I know, okay? Would you please just say it?”

“You know what, Toby?”

He is noticeably not looking at me, everywhere but at me. “I know you’re a fag, okay? I mean, gay. Fuck. Sorry.”

“What do you mean you know I’m gay? How the fuck do you know that?”

“Seriously, Ollie?” He sighs. “Sadie told me, okay. She told me about, like, you know. Blowjobs, okay? Said you couldn’t get it up. Jesus.” He wraps his hands around his white coffee mug and stares into it and shakes his head a little. “So, is that the reason we had to have this super important meeting here? ‘Cause I’ve got shit I have to do.”

“Um, yeah. I guess that’s it. Pretty anticlimactic.”

“Yeah, that’s what she said. About you,” Toby says and he’s laughing at the stupid joke, shaking his head and laughing and I laugh a little.

“Shit. Coffee’s already paid for,” he says as he slides out, still chuckling, and throws a couple dollars on the table. “And Ollie, do yourself a favor. Go talk to Jimmy. The twat came over to my place just to find out what happened to you.”

“Yeah, well, that was probably before I drunk dialed him and left a ridiculous message.”

“No, the last time he asked about you was a few days ago. Ran into him at the gas station. Said he missed you. Just fucking visit him, you pussy,” he says as he walks away.

I finish my coffee and head outside. Ezra is sitting on the hood of his old maroon Toyota, more rust than maroon and he looks up at me when I stop next to him.

“Phone call my ass,” I say. “That looks like one of those stupid jewel games, asshole.”

He shrugs. “Yeah, well. You didn’t need me in there for all of that.”

“No, not really.”

“It was getting pretty fucking awkward for me.” He slides off his car. “So, we heading back?”

“Um, no? Yes. One more quick stop?”

“You look like you’re going to pass out. It’s just anxiety. Breathe.”

“I might pass out.”

“You’re not going to pass out if you sit down and take a few deep breaths, okay? Come on.”

We get in the car and slam the doors. When he starts it some whiny ass singer going on about something getting crossed out, or nothing getting crossed out blares loudly from his speakers and it’s just terrible.

“You have terrible taste in music, Ezra. This is awful.”

“Bright Eyes? Seriously? Fuck off. Where are we going?”

“Back to your place.”


I direct him to Jimmy’s and my hands are shaking and it’s hard to breathe again because his car is in the driveway and my chest might explode and I know that’s not really possible but passing out is possible.

“I’ll be in the car. Don’t worry,” and he holds up the Vonnegut book, Welcome to the Monkey House, “Take your time. I got this covered.”

Taking a few deep breaths doesn’t help much but I get out of the car anyway and I see a face as the shade is opened and then he’s there, and he looks the different but the same and he’s in front of me. His hair is blue and green now, hangs around his face but the sides are shaved, think it must be a pretty tall mohawk when it’s up, and he looks thinner and super pale, like he’s been sick or something. His brown eyes are staring a hole into me.

I guess this is where I’m supposed to speak, so I say, “Hey.”


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