Chapter 3: Suburban Indulgence
“So you’re the brother?”
“And you’re the sister.”
“Yeah, that’s it. I see you’ve managed to find the one room in the house where it’s easy enough to zone the rest of them out?”
“They put me down here actually.”
“Oh, well I guess they knew then.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” I instantly felt some kind of vague connection. She understood, or at least was passing looks off with some mediocre sense of understanding. I hadn’t heard much about her at that point, the main explanation being that I would instantly pretend to forget about any and all affairs occurring in my sister’s life, soon to be sister-in-laws included. She looked like an exhausted angel, standing in front of the fold out in her grey waitress uniform, dirty blonde hair a frazzled mess pulled back for effect. Parts of the look didn’t suit her, I first thought, only later realizing that someone such Alanna Brinker was able to come up with the most intricate of explanations for any and all things.
She was a person I would never attempt to think about before. After all, members of the wedding party usually had other persecuted corners to wander off to. Although, there were always parts left out of order. My sister lacked a substantial amount of friends, most of them already having discovered topics of little interest to become a part of. They were on their way to mixing highballs with forced beauty pageants. Little league games and private schools with pedophile priests. This was the discourse of the upper class spectators, those who had lost their undeniable sense of wonder, trading it all in for dead grocery stores roses and dark brown BMW’s.
Gail was well on her way to gaining a substantial amount of family, and ones with brighter faces and wide-eyed anecdotes centered on their Ivy League experiences. It was common practice some places. They both had time to try on dresses and get to know one another. Despite the vastness of the Brinker household, Alanna couldn’t attempt to deny the invitation. She was a bridesmaid with an undeniable sense of loathing directed at the bride. There was one of them in every bunch and bushel. She wasn’t expecting someone like me, just as I wasn’t expecting somebody like her. She didn’t fit with the rest of them, at least not from my blurred overly idealistic point of view. She wasn’t all smiles. There wasn’t any available cushy transcendence in Alanna, but rather simply a worn smirk masked in a personality bred for shear recklessness. It would tear me apart and spread the pieces amongst all the former conquests and late night mistakes. It was going to be our weekend to fall apart together.
“So Shep seems to have taken a liking to you instantly.”
“Yeah, I don’t really understand it.”
“When he was a puppy, I was fifteen and dating Dave. We really baked out with Shep that year.”
“So you get it, huh?”
“Yeah, I’d say so.” She began to look around the room as if it was somehow foreign to her. We heard the dangling phrases of those she would never come to completely understand upstairs. We would later become oddities often spoken of at forgotten holiday excursions in each of their respective cities.
“Is this Cat Power?”
“Yeah, it is.”
“I thought so.” She paused briefly, re-examining potential like always. Sometimes it would take awhile for all of us to develop grandiose feelings on deeper emotions. Muriel was time spent walking in the wrong direction, and yet with Alanna at first, nothing was considered similar to a previous attempt at chances later thrown into garbage cans, tickets scratched with little to no possibility of winning the available jackpot. We figured out our individual dispositions in record time, a mere look working as a weekend pass to terrible dances around unanswered questions.
“So, here’s not the best place.”
“Place for what?”
“You wanna smoke, right?”
“How could you tell?”
“Gail’s somewhat mysterious younger brother who just graduated with a degree in English, sitting on the bed, listening to sad music. You’re a completely predictable vision.”
“Really, is it that obvious?”
“Fraid so, but right now you need to cheer up. I mean, think about it this way; the two of us predominately get free booze this whole weekend.”
“And that’s just the icing on the cake, right?”
“Alright, so maybe it is kind of a massive drag being here, but we mine as well take full advantage of the current situation.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“Alright, so do you wanna venture up to the attic? It’s considered Kosher up there.” She didn’t give me a second look, but rather wandered back up the stairs, exhaling in potential waves. We crept past the living room, Brian and Ken now stationed at the sides of their significant others. They were men I would never truly understand; never asking themselves profound life questions, but rather both finding their own portable means to become boxed into holes. Fred was the brilliant one; he was asleep in less than five minutes after the meal, avoiding the concept of plans and getting-to-know-you stories.
We walked up both flights of stairs, past the prom photos and those of extended family. They would be walking in straight lines, standing quietly, and waiting for liquids to sink in with the rest of us in roughly forty-eight hours. Some would understand our plight while others would forget to mention us in their wills.
Shep followed closely behind, eventually curling up on the orange shag carpet against the wall. They were all covered with posters from better times, thoughts of beauty and what mattered most in the world still filling our spaced heads with unimaginable delusions of grandeur. She opened her purse and untwirled the bag bought from Joel in the Mini-mart parking lot. He had a stationed facility and many business partners filtering around the suburban outskirts. It was a beautiful disposition to be in. The contradiction of modern society. We would all miss him once others discovered the truth. There would be mad dashes in all directions, and more college drop-outs picking up former positions of power. We would be the ones missing Joel, though. He was what helped the two of us unwind gracefully.
Alanna began to break it all up into smaller pieces on Joni Mitchell’s reminiscent blue face. The opposite wall was lined with bins of forgotten pass times. Books about movements, albums with dirty plastic sleeves, cardboard boxes full of clothes that would never be worn again, Colleen too much of a ditzy sentimentalist to ever throw things away. Ken would burn copies of The Catcher in the Rye if the company asked him to. He didn’t find inspiration in any of the same transferable modes; his blood only loosely flowing through his daughter’s veins.
“So do you wanna roll this?”
“Not really. I can’t.”
“You can’t roll a joint? You? After four years of college?”
“It wasn’t a part of any Anthropology finals.”
“Well ya know, it really should be. What has man evolved into?”
“I don’t know. I guess liberal studies aren’t what they used to be.”
“Yeah, I guess not.” She began to meticulously place the pieces in our flimsy white means to an end, licking her lips, and pausing to take another faded breath. Our silences were never awkward. I forgot to think about things to say, to inevitably pretend to be interested. It wouldn’t be like that with her. Muriel had an array of boring stories; weekends spent in dire locations with family and supposed best friends, shooting the shit before the next bus rounded the corner. I would sit quietly on her large red couch, watching saved programs and slouching deep enough into the cushions to avoid the looks of disappointment, first from her father and then slowly falling down the chain, past the oldest brother and sister, her mother, the younger ones and finally from Muriel herself. The sad thing was that they were all absolutely right. We weren’t the best suited science experiment.
“So where’s your dad? I didn’t get to meet him yet.”
“He’s asleep already I think.”
“It’s like not even nine yet.”
“Long day in the car.”
“Jesus, I can only imagine. The last time the four of us were in the car was when I was in like ninth grade.”
“Yeah, it’s been about the same for us.”
“We went to the Coney Island to visit my aunt Fiona.”
“How was that?”
“Pretty shitty. I can’t really recall any of the arguments at this point, but I think there were a lot of them.”
“There always is.”
“Man, it’s weird thinking about the idea of the family vacations. It’s so fucking iconic, but at the same time, they’re never perfect. They always manage to somehow fall apart about two hundred miles in.”
“I thought you were the more optimistic one.”
“You’ve only known me for fifteen minutes Noah. Expect the worst.”
“The sad thing about you saying that is that I always do.” She lit her dilapidated creation with the quickness of a track runner, taking two silent puffs before passing it on to me. Shep didn’t take any time thinking about standing up. He walked away from the carpet, stationing himself at her side. I searched through the faded record covers for something to help us forget our troubles. There were numerous solutions, both of us finally settling on Plastic Ono Band.
It felt appropriate, the solo record that spoke louder than previous sounds and reiterations for all of us to simply let it be. Bands broke up in common practice and would reunite in a matter of days. None of it seemed like a big deal. Alanna and I would become aficionados at remembering moments in the past both of us weren’t alive for. We would have been so much better at being young in the sixties, not completely fucking it up like our parents before us.
“So thanks for this.”
“Hey no problem. I’m just glad it’s not only me and them this weekend.”
“I feel the exact same way.”
“So how do you feel about my brother marrying your sister?”
“I don’t know really. I mean, they seem to suit each other.”
“Yeah, I know, but that’s kind of the main problem, isn’t it?”
“I suppose. I don’t know. I figure after this wedding I’m not going to really have to see my sister ever again.”
“Because she’ll have her own separate life all of a sudden?”
“Well yeah, that’s part of it. I mean, she’s had her own separate life for awhile. It’s just now she has something keeping her mind off of the rest of us.”
“I see where you’re going with all of this.”
“Somehow I figured you would.”
“Of course, it’s not going to be so easy for me to avoid them.”
“Well maybe you should move away.”
“What, and leave all of this behind? Shep would go through several stages of withdrawal.”
“Yeah, I suppose that’s true.” I tried to hide the obvious sinking feelings in my stomach. She was playing games with loaded guns. I was in no condition to be falling in love again, especially in that particular lost city. I thought about how life was going to fall apart the second we all returned, our eyes all fixated on the objects slowly passing us by out of the fogged car windows. I didn’t want to become like my father, to learn to hate all of those around me. He escaped in books and closed bedroom doors. Our house was his cubicle, the bills mere icons on a static computer screen.
“So were you planning on doing anything tonight?”
“Well, I’m supposed to meet some friends from work once they get off.”
“Oh yeah, where at?”
“I know it’s sort of pathetic. I mean never in a million years did I see myself as a regular anywhere, but it’s weird how things change, ya know?”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Besides, it should be fun.”
“I’ve been under the impression for some time now that bars are never really fun.”
“Well you’ve never been here before now.”
“Do you have any idea how bad you are at convincing me that this is a good idea?”
“You honestly wanna stay here, sit alone in the basement, and feel sorry for yourself?’
“It’s not the worst of plans, is it, especially now that I’m stoned?”
“I don’t know. I mean, how long can you sit and think about your ex-girlfriend before it sinks in that she wasn’t worth it.”
“How do you know that’s why… I mean, I didn’t say anything.”
“Gail mentioned it yesterday, I think.”
“Well there’s a lot she doesn’t know.”
“Yeah, I know, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything Noah.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Well, I’m going to get a shower real quick. Whatever you wanna do man.” She was up and out of the room again like every space in her house was a passing fad. I didn’t understand her shear impulsiveness yet. It didn’t seem at all unbecoming, but rather odd that every conversation would ultimately turn into words centered on taboo subject matter with Alanna. She was past the point where it became common practice to figure out what was worth it. The motions were already set in stone, the final checks written to all those who knew about her common escapes.
There weren’t ever necessarily means to an end, but rather random beginnings popping up everywhere, zooming in on the two of us from multiple angles. I was more than ready for some untimely discourse, an escape into the unknown spectrum of lost Chicago souls. There would be so many of them, all drawn to the idea that they were somehow, as if out of a bad work of winded fiction, the later novel in a dying repertoire, falling for the unexplainable spectacle that was Alanna Brinker. I was last picked for the team, late for the drawing, and constantly waiting in the back of the line. I didn’t think any of them would understand how incredibly difficult it was to pretend like nothing was happening.
Then again, all of us were sick of regular modes associated with common practices. It was time for looks that meant more, empty glasses sitting silent on the bar representing thoughts of words left unsaid. We would talk with enlarged pupils the rest of the night.
I walked down the stairs in the foyer feeling like Peter Fonda. They were all still in the living room perusing through old photo albums and discussing future plans. I stepped past again, trying to avoid all of the looks. Violet slept in a new blue recliner, her mouth wide open, all the rest of them trying to act like they didn’t hear the loud sinking snore. The girls were still increasingly loud and vibrant in the only way they knew how; talking shit on those they would see, dressed in new clothes, carrying wrapped boxes for the future failure that weekend. Family was a part of life that everyone quickly got sick of. There were always stories to tell, most of which were left better unsaid.
I couldn’t think of anything remotely incriminating to place on Gail. She had a vivid imagination centered on my supposed late night excursions, and yet I couldn’t think of any loser boyfriends, or drunken escapades at high school parties. She had been the perfect concept of an older sister since my birth, and yet all of her predisposed actions meant to help me come to some greater understanding of the world around us, only came off as petty attempts at trying to make me more in her image.
She wanted me to take the time to study, to fall in love with the quiet ones, and above all else sit back and smile while the rest of the spinning world passed the both of us by. It was never me. I was the second born, the one who spent time thinking rather than placing myself in uncomfortable group positions more commonly known as extracurricular activities.
I would spend my time adlibbing conversations with Bob Dylan, the both of us reaching some sort of out of body understanding, taking the time to listen while we starred at blue ceilings, smoke lingering above us, before eventually fading into all the surrounding objects, creating a scent of utter indifference. We would only climb mountains if it was absolutely necessary, for the sake of the view, not the dire sense of accomplishment associated with it.
The fridge was full of temporary modes of escape. I grabbed another import, and flipped the cap off with the opener on my key chain. I slowly leaned against the counter, and began to take small frequent sips. It was only a matter of time before they decided to ask questions. Colleen and Gail walked in with bright grins, all of them slowly getting drunk as if it was the only appropriate way to deal with one another. My mother sipped one glass of white wine, which would inevitably knock her out by the end of the night. Violet would think about waking her up, as she made her way out of the living room and into the guest bedroom. There wouldn’t be any second thought, though. All of us knew Joy slept better on the couch.
I sighed and tried to look like I wasn’t in any sort of position to listen. They saw right through my perfectly crafted façade and decided to dig deep, let their true feelings spurt out in sentences with underlying feelings of disappointment. Colleen didn’t even know me, and yet she could venture a few guesses as to why I was on my way out. Gail formed opinions as if it were common practice, like saying the pledge of allegiance every morning before the bell rang. She would never take the time to stare before talking. Thoughts were already comfortably determined.
“So where were you?”
“I was with Alanna, in the attic. She uh… wanted to show me the records.”
“There’s a lot up there, huh?” Colleen chimed in, before burping the remains of her cocktail up in her mouth, and then without much thought excused herself back into the other living room with yet another full bottle of untimely forgetfulness.
“Yeah, definitely.” We watched her walk out of the room, leaving both of us the available window to spout off at one another. The arrival hadn’t given Gail nearly enough time to truly let me know what she thought, and the dinner was more so centered on Ken’s shattered views of youth; his entrepreneurial position passed off as the American dream. It was beyond nauseating, thinking about how they had all settled comfortably into their brick buildings, no thoughts of big bad wolves blowing away their hard-earned community of patriarchs.
“So the two of you are kind of hitting it off, huh?”
“Not really. I mean, she’s pretty cool. I wouldn’t call it anything other than that.”
“So is there any particular reason why you’re bothering me right now?”
“What, you’d rather stand her alone and drink your beer?”
“Yeah, either that or I’ll venture back down into the basement.”
“Ya know, I knew it was a bad idea putting you down there.”
“Because we’re not gonna see you all weekend.”
“Well it’s not like all that much is happening right now.”
“We’re all getting to know each other.”
“I sort of O.D.ed on getting to know everybody during dinner.”
“Don’t take anything Ken says seriously. He’s just like that.”
“What, a prick? Yeah, I know. I mean, I kind of figured Gail. It’s not a big deal. I’m not worrying about that. I just don’t feel like sitting in the crowded living room talking about wedding favors.”
“It’s not just that.”
“Well whatever. Can you leave me alone?”
“Yeah, alright fine. Sorry to bother you Noah.”
“It’s fine Gail.” She walked out again, reasonably angry. I stood alone for roughly five minutes before my mother wandered onto the white and green tiled floor, placing her empty wine glass in the kitchen sink. She seemed reasonably tipsy, her eyes breaking down every and all elements of the Brinker kitchen. Joy was the type of woman to stare at fixtures, before taking the time to think about their lush importance to the overall picturesque quality of the room. She would flip through numerous catalogues, pull over to garage sales, always looking for that one superficial object that seemed to fit. Colleen seemed to be better at it, the matching salt shakers and table clothes all present for one shear purpose, to get under Joy’s skin.
“Gail said you were hiding in here.”
“I bet she did.”
“Why don’t you just come into the living room?”
“I don’t really want to.”
“Is it because of what Ken said at dinner?”
“No, not really. I mean, I don’t give a shit about that. I’m just… Well I’m waiting for Alanna.”
“Oh, well do the two of you have plans or something.”
“I guess we’re going to some bar with her friends from work.”
“Oh well, why don’t you just stick around here?”
“Why not see something I haven’t seen before mom?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’m probably going to be going to be soon anyway. Be careful tonight, okay?”
“Yeah, don’t worry I will.”
“Alright, and try to be nicer to everybody.”
“I can’t continually mask my contempt mom.”
“Fine. I’m sorry I asked.” She gave me a quick hug before walking back out of the room. I could hear her fake regret while declining to stay up with the rest of them. She was exhausted by her own accord, making it all seem like common practice. I knew that even Joy could only handle feelings of inferiority for so long before an inevitable retreat into timely insomnia sunk in. She would be awake like the rest of us, lying in bed waiting for something to take over. It would always be a difficult procedure, falling asleep in foreign beds, trying not to dwell on past and future plans.
The beer descended quickly as I flipped through the newspaper. Not one shred of a sentence appealed to me, global or local, things seemed the same everywhere. They were continually fixated on their own personal downward spiral. Everybody drew their chances and waited for disappointment. I simply wanted to feel unspoken emotions. There was a necessity for something new, something that contained more reliable variables. I would come to a greater understanding of each suburban intricacy she was a part of that night. It would be a complete takeover. She would explain it all like remedial grammar. I would choose which rules to abide by and let others simply pass away.
She didn’t take as long as I expected, eventually walking past the carnival and into the kitchen, a black dress highlighting her essence in true penetrable fashion. She was an Audrey Hepburn with more than just looks. Her personality sparked thoughts of late night bedroom conversations, Sunday mornings avoiding the clergy and both of deciding to spend our time lost together. It was a slow snow-covered path to indecisiveness, and both of us were tired of walking down it alone, looking at the other lackluster footprints being blown away by winds of conformity.
“Yeah, sure.” I stood up quicker than she had the entire night. I didn’t think about appearing faintly anxious or overly optimistic. All emotions were instantly simply pressed into book bindings, to later be founds by lost spectators, loosely browsing for a disheveled piece of mind. We would all be drawn to answers placed on windowsills as cars beeped their horns while they passed. Alanna Brinker had far too many pieces to analyze in one sitting.
Ken and Colleen didn’t say much. Brian asked us to stay, only to have his sentence once again cut off by Alanna’s brilliant ability to simply not give a shit. I saw all of their eyes roll, with the exception of Violet who would have wished us a fond farewell if she could have only remembered meeting Alanna an hour earlier. I didn’t think much about what they most likely said once we left; how we were looking for the wrong kinds of answers, losing ourselves in what surrounded those who were already lost in the crowd.
I could hear Ken’s speech, Brian’s lack of words, Gail changing the subject and Colleen commenting on whatever it was Gail inevitably brought up. They were programmed to wonder haplessly in their own skin, about reasons why we were somehow managing to understand each other. It wasn’t simply a sign of the times, an offshoot of our generation’s lack of upward mobility. It was bigger than that. Both of us needed the common escape, the long drive down dimly lit suburban streets, watching all the front lights turn off, turning away trick-or-treaters and pervert bible salesman.
I followed Alanna to her car, a green Ford with rust on the edge of the doors and a broken tape deck. It suited her well. I could only imagine the nights she spent in that car, headed towards some divine location to unwind with those that simply got her. I had lost that feeling with Muriel. My friends saw me change into a mush puddle, waiting around our intricate apartment for a phone call. I would pick her up from classes, sit in the car with Belle and Sebastian, waiting for her to finish up a phone call or decide where we were off to. She would ask me to pick up her friends, and later drive them home, our conversations always walking the borderline between brief and nonexistent. They had anything but respect for me, and with each look before the car door shut; I could vaguely tell that they knew it was only a matter of time before one of us broke the news to the other. I should have thought things through. Looks always meant something more.
She backed out of the driveway, flipping through the radio stations before ultimately settling on “Don’t Worry Baby”. For a second I had almost forgotten we were on the verge of summer. Late nights spent with friends getting high in secluded suburban locations, the parking lot with broken light bulbs, or the backyard of the house for sale. We found all of them. They started out as secret excursions into the unknown, before we eventually milked them for all they were worth. We would become nervous as cops drove by with large flashlights, asking us our business. I was looking forward to running into all the readily available barriers with Muriel that summer. I figured she would have enjoyed some larger sense of who I was, seeing my bedroom, the posters of dead rock stars and resurrected super heroes lining the walls. That was me. I was consistently hiding away from it all. Open spaces were a perversely difficult concept.
“So who all am I meeting tonight?”
“Well you seem more than a little anxious all of sudden Noah.”
“No, just sort of curious actually.”
“Well we have to pick up Amanda first.”
“Oh, well cool.”
“Yeah, and then there’s Ronna and Tracey from work, and Ronna’s boyfriend Joel.”
“He’s the one who got you the weed, right?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“And then there’s Everett.”
“He’s a long story.”
“What is he, your boyfriend or something?”
“No, not exactly. It’s complicated. It’s like… Well, have you ever had that one friend that’s been your friend forever, and you eventually get to the point where you both forget about the fact that you’re the opposite sex, because it’s not really about that?”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“Okay, well it’s like that with the exception that both of us got drunk last weekend and slept together.”
“Are you serious?”
“Fraid so. It was a temporary lapse in judgment. I was having a bad day, and getting really sick and tired of seeing Brian and your sister swoon all over one another, and I got drunk and uh… yeah.”
“Well this is kind of weird that you’re telling me all of this right now.”
“No, not really. I mean, I figured you’d prefer to be filled in.”
“Well yeah, it’s just... Actually, never mind.” I didn’t want to say it. The inclination, which had appeared at random from the second she stepped into the basement, seemed a bit out of sorts for typical car conversation. I didn’t want her to know. I was one to blow things way out of proportion from the very start. She didn’t need to think about me as anything other than a temporary visitor to her particular neck of the woods. I would be gone on Sunday anyways, back to familiar faces in bars and looks from people who graduated with me, now all of a sudden obtaining much more direction. I was headed for a position mirroring my father’s lack of creativity. It was plaguing my every thought much in the same way she was. Utter opposites were everywhere.
“Yeah, okay. Well just don’t get drunk and say anything tonight, because I’ve kind of been avoiding him all week.”
“I won’t, but uh…Is it a good idea for us to be going out drinking tonight?”
“Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, I’m of a much sounder mind now. I don’t see myself sleeping with him again.”
“Well, I guess that’s good.”
“Trust me, it is.”
“Of course, aren’t things going to be slightly awkward?”
“No, probably not. I mean, I don’t think so. I’m using you as cover.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I don’t see any huge scenes happening with my brother’s fiancé’s brother at my side.”
“It’s kind of weird when you put it like that.”
“Whatever. Just try and have fun tonight, okay Noah?”
“Will do.” The two of remained mostly silent after that, the majority of our comments focusing on what song was on the radio. She pulled into the small apartment lot, Amanda sitting on the front steps with her short red skirt and matching purse. She was on Colleen’s side of the family, a more than obvious fact the second I noticed the inherited cleavage.
Amanda Muir was lost like the rest of us. After two years of undeclared discourse at State, she decided to come home and reevaluate a few things. She moved out of her parents’ house and into a small apartment on the other side of town, the lonely career at the help desk at JC Penny’s offering with it enough freedom to simply forget about her past, which was lined with ex-boyfriend and callow nicknames passed around in high school locker rooms. At twenty-one she seemed thirty-five, dolling herself up in noticeable clothing and walking around looking for Mr. Right Now. There would be tons of them, drunk and making sure she saw them stare. That was her initial purpose after all.
Amanda stepped into the backseat, fixing the strap on her left red heel and instantly looking me over. She appeared ready for the weekend, despite the fact that it was only Thursday.
“Well, that took long enough.”
“Sorry, you know how hard it is to escape my house sometimes.”
“Yeah, I guess I do.” Her eyes caught mine in the rearview.
“So you’re the brother, huh?” I tried not to smirk as I first looked over at Alanna, simply shrugging at the same comment it seemed I would be receiving all weekend. I turned my head and looked back at her. She would have been beyond beautiful if she hadn’t tried so hard to look slutty. It was common practice to walk into bars and hope to be noticed. Amanda majored in boyish howls from across rooms. It was her bread and butter as she could very easily add up the amount of Bills, Johns, and Brads she had slept with in the past month. They all looked the same and said exactly what was on their minds. Quick lines that would offend everyone except Amanda. She understood playful banter, and would more than often get off on it.
“Yeah, I’m the brother.”
“Man, you don’t seem anything like Gail.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“Yeah, but I can just sort of tell, ya know?”
“Face it Noah, you’re just far too obvious.” I turned back to Alanna and sunk in my seat. I could feel the length the night stretching out over many drinks and conversations about who I was and where I was going. They would all see something in me that was easily understood. It was always far too difficult pretending as if I was some sort of mystery.