Chapter 5: The End of the Night
Tracey unlocked the front door as all of us waited for the next person to filter up the stairs. I had to piss like a race horse after only three blocks of thinking. My kidneys were working overtime, as I tried to remember where the car was parked. Disorientation was a reoccurring theme in my life. It wouldn’t end with the slow descent of my youth; the future only days away.
I was the last in line, taking my shoes off and browsing the intricacies of the apartment. It was tiny, a narrow kitchen off of the living room, the fridge and stove barely squeezing in next to one another. The living room had a certain edge to it. A dark green couch took up the majority of the space, with an ugly worn purple chair a few feet away. The walls were mostly bare, with the exception of a few movie posters, High Fidelity, A Hard Day’s Night and The Goonies, all somewhat lingering in the background compared to the one lone piece of modern art. It was Alanna’s, a painting of a black sunset, the colors running off into the essence of all the other objects. The trees were falling apart; the grass and ground splitting in two like an earthquake had shook the painting’s hand, and lastly a dim lit figure on the left side by the tree, watching the entire world break off into pieces.
I didn’t quite understand it all from my initial glance, deciding to walk over and take a closer look. Alanna was in the bathroom with Amanda and Tracy, while Ronna and Joel sat on the couch, rolling individual joints as if it was some sort of competition. He was better, having more time to practice while making sure an overabundance of fifteen year olds refrained from stealing the tasty cakes each morning before school. Everett lingered close to me, as I peered into Alanna’s creative soul. She wouldn’t be able to explain her outspoken tact, or how some of the details were missing. In this way, it spoke louder than she ever could.
“This is really great.”
“Yeah, Alanna painted it like a year ago. It’s been here ever since.” Ronna licked her lips before moving the joint closer to her mouth. She spit little pieces of marijuana out on the floor, before, finishing her delicate masterpiece. Joel looked over and shrugged, taking his time to show her up.
“I really like it. It’s complicated, ya know?”
“Yeah, we know.” Everett walked into the kitchen, allowing himself the time to be alone. I could feel every individual look he was throwing around the room that night. The majority of them were directed at yours truly, as I attempted to be social with all of them. It would prove to be a beyond difficult task as conversations would dry up along with mutual buzzes and hopeful thoughts.
“So pick something to listen to Joel?”
“Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“It’s not gonna smoke any better.”
“You always say that, but we’ll see which one takes longer to burn.”
“You guys are funny.” Talking seemed like the only way to forget about my small bladder.
“Our bickering’s only amusing if you’ve just met us Noah.”
“Well, I guess that explains it.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Ronna stood up and walked into the kitchen. Joel and I could hear vague remnants of their conversation, Everett drunk and breaking down the details to somebody who already knew where it was all going. Joel finished his joint, drying it with his lighter. He then looked over at me, as I stood awkwardly in front of the painting, wondering if I was the topic of anyone’s conversation.
“So uh… You’re new here. Why don’t you pick something out to listen to?”
“Yeah, alright. Where are the CD’s?”
“Ronna’s are in that black case over by the stereo. Those are the ones you wanna pick from. Tracy’s will just make you depressed.”
“Yeah, okay.” I walked over to the small shelf where a tiny blue and gray boom box was sitting. I unzipped Ronna’s hefty case of CD’s and searched for something to suit all our moods. Anything about love, loss or marriage just seemed inappropriate. We needed songs about the sun and flowers. Hippy shit that helped us forget our troubles and also increased the process of sobering up. I knew I was done drinking from the instant we entered the apartment. The morning would be full of questions from all old and future family members. They would need explanations as to why we were so late, and where we had been for such a long time. No one ever settled on the idea of simply letting things lie. There were topics that needed to be brought up, some on drunken nights full of less than Christian exploits, others passed off as mediocre dining conversation. We would all talk with our mouths full occasionally, sometimes not having the convenience of washing it all down, quick and easy like a pill.
I browsed the alphabetized collection, the majority of which were burned from friends of friends. Some were mixes from certain special occasions while others were simply thrown together on a whim, the creator hoping for the best, the ultimate listening experience among friends. Records were important to these people, as it seemed like each page I flipped through offered another small look into their slightly complicated lives. Ronna was a mostly upbeat individual with a few sad dashed of lingering depression. Her CD collection reflected this as I passed Bright Eyes and Elliott Smith without too many second thoughts. It was somewhat difficult, looking for a record that would please everybody, and yet I found my solace in Odessey and Oracle. It felt like we need the Zombies that night, to rupture our thoughts and prolong good-byes.
Joel lit his joint as everyone slowly filtered back into the living room. Everett had another drink in a worn McDonald’s glass, Grimace passively drunk on each side. Ronna shook her head as she reassumed her position at Joel’s side. Alanna took everything in as she entered with Amanda and Tracy; all three reasonably freshened up, ready to let their sorrows pass in conversations heard by everyone. We weren’t drowning each other out anymore, the bar now only a prelude to where they all knew we would end up.
I walked past her on my way to the bathroom, only stopping briefly to answer her question.
“Did you pick this?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“Good. I’m proud of you.”
“I bet.” I entered the hallway and turned on the light in the bathroom. I took several breaths dead set on my own composure, as I relieved myself. Above the toilet was a picture of all of them at the Amusement Park, by the log ride. Joel, Ronna and Tracy were in the front, a trifecta of reliability. Amanda lingered off to the side in sunglasses, most likely staring at some brainless Bo in a wet T-shirt walking past. Then there was Alanna and Everett. She looked happy, her arm around his neck, his smile saying more than words ever could. They fit together in ways I could only think about. He remained in his dependable position throughout every troublesome endeavor, and yet that weekend was ours to flourish. It became something associated with loose feelings that only reminded us that all our sunsets were falling apart. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t in the picture. There would be others to frame on walls and let slowly dust collect.
I flushed and stared at my own reflection for longer than I should have. It seemed like a cliché, as I attempted to piece together who I was at that very instant. Was I vicariously living through others’ mistakes or simply taking the time to enjoy what Chicago had to offer? I remember the look I gave myself in Muriel’s bathroom mirror that night, after the joint in the woods. It was lined with all the normal depressing shit, my bloodshot eyes constantly at a loss, and yet there was a sense that I wouldn’t ever have to see myself there again. That felt good for some strange reason. Moving on always needed to happen, even if we all eventually ended up back where we started.
I stepped back into the living room, finding all of them in familiar places. Joel, Ronna and Tracy were on the couch, while Amanda occupied the chair on her cell phone, spouting off typical drunken girl banter to a guy who probably barely remembered her name. Alanna and Everett sat Indian style on the floor at a reasonable distance, his hands, mind and body wandering off to the previous week, where for the briefest of moments things seemed pleasantly perfect, and worth the pain, strain anguish and anger that had built up over twelve years.
I sat down next to her, reliably getting both joints that were circling in opposite directions at the same time. I loosely joked as I hit one, then the other before passing them on. We were quiet for awhile then, listening to the pop music in all its glory and the decline of Amanda’s phone conversation. She hung up like an angry housewife to a mistress aware that her husband was and had been cheating for some time. We all found it strangely comical, as it seemed to be the way certain people got when they were under the influence. Amanda was a parade of former loves and later regrets, all saved with detail in her blue glowing phonebook.
“So who was that?” Alanna said, passing the one joint to Everett.
“Zack, I think.”
“What do you mean, ‘you think’?”
“Well, I’m not too sure if it was him or Dean, but either way, I said what I wanted to.”
“Haven’t you slept with both of them?” Joel knew all the truths of Amanda’s illustrious affairs. Rumors would spread in the Mini-mart parking lot, or from the mouths of higher ups. Everyone was a friend of a friend, and yet their particular group managed to maintain all brash sensibilities as they moved from one direction to the next, sometimes spinning counter-clockwise on one-way streets and avenues.
“Yeah, but there was a big enough gap between them.”
“How big of a gap?” I couldn’t help but ask the obvious, my brain starting to settle into a more social area. Alanna and Everett were thoughts for a later date.
“I don’t know, like three weeks or something.”
“Ya know Amanda, I hate to break it to ya, but that really isn’t long enough.” Tracy said, as she passed like the rest of us.
“Well whatever. Why is it that all we do is talk about me when I’m drunk and we’re all hanging out.”
“Because you enjoy being the center of attention so goddamn much.” Everett chimed in between sips of his white Russian, half of which would later end up on the dusty gray carpet as he attempted to stand up.
“That’s not true. I just felt like calling them. I mean, they were having a party tonight, and didn’t invite me, those fuckers.”
“Well maybe that’s because you fucked both of them in less than a month.”
“Just stop it Everett. There’s no point in getting into this right now.” Alanna was tired of letting her internal clock tick louder and louder. She needed the silence of a clear and concise notion.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Of course, we could get into other stuff right now Alanna.”
“Jesus Christ…” She put her head down and shook it with a unique rhythm all her own.
“Dude, just don’t right now.” Joel placed the remains of Ronna’s joint in the ashtray. It hadn’t lasted nearly as many rotations as his, a fact he was quietly proud of.
“Well then when the fuck is the right time to bring all of this up. I mean, C’mon guys, let’s be real for once.” He had a go at standing up, the floor no longer dry.
“God damnit Joel, what the fuck is your problem tonight anyway?” Tracy stood up and headed into the kitchen, quickly returning with a roll of thin paper towels to sop up the mess.
“Oh man, I’m sorry. I uh…”
“Don’t worry about in Everett.” Ronna slouched more into the couch.
“How can I not worry about it? I mean, this is my fucking life guys.” He looked right at her when he said it. She just stared down, the exquisite heartbreaker, reduced to a calm form of public embarrassment.
“Go sober up Everett.”
“How would you suggest I do that Alanna?” She stood up at this remark, Tracy quickly dabbing at the minimalist spill.
“I don’t know. Stop drinking, maybe go puke or something. Whatever fucking works man.” Alanna took the drink out of his hand like a mother scolding her child. It didn’t really faze him as the rest of the room stared at the ground, letting the scene play out as if it was a bad habit.
“Man, I can’t believe you. I mean, all night the two of us have just been pretending like nothing happened. I mean, that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Just let it all go back to normal again. Man, what the fuck Alanna? I can only be here for so long before I decide that you’re not worth it.”
“Just go compose yourself a little bit.”
“Fine.” He took a breath and cracked his neck. “Sorry to cause a scene, especially in front of the fiancé’s brother. I know he wasn’t expecting this.”
“Actually he was Everett. I told him before we even met you tonight”
He didn’t reply to her, but rather took his leave from the living room. Alanna sighed and took a sip of the white Russian as we all pretended like nothing happened. It was beyond simple, becoming intertwined in Alanna’s little messes. She had made a mistake that she would regret for some time, and yet moving on was never an option for him, nor was it for the rest of them.
The complications of friends and lovers always became a thought ending brief with somebody simply turning around in the opposite direction. Neither person wanted to accept that it would rip them apart, slow and steady until one gave in. It was the saddest of displays, my own life briefly mirroring that of those who surrounded me. I had seen it before, and even participated in my own lackluster fantasy spun into a bitter cold reality. Muriel and I would have been better off on opposite sides of the classroom, each of us deciding on different members for our group projects.
“So who’s gonna go talk to him other than me?” Alanna sat back down as eyes turned towards Joel, his particular position being the most helpful. He shook his head, knowing it wouldn’t make much of a difference.
“Fuck… fine, but you know that you owe me big for this Alanna.”
“Yeah, I know.” He stood up, exhaling bigger than he had the entire night, and walked off into familiar territory. She sat back down on the floor and allowed the appropriate amount of time to pass. It was time to think about other various topics and to let the buzz slowly creep up on all of us. I was at an absolute loss for words and dignity. It had been selfish of me to think about interfering. I had no real business anywhere.
We listened for a little while longer, none of us being able to think of anything to break the ice. Alanna stood up from the floor and turned to me. It was a strange look as if I had become her new codependent. I was the one who had to stand back and listen, offering shreds of advice in-between thoughts of where it was all going. Was I a minor solution to her long-lasting Everett problem or was she my answer to more than just the weekend?
“I’m going out for a cigarette. Come with me Noah.”
“I don’t smoke.”
“I know.” The room looked elsewhere as I followed her out. The streets were reasonably quiet, the occasional car passing with only the intentions of getting home. It was almost two, thoughts of how little sleep I was inevitably going to get, starting to take over in mass quantities. I always operated on pure motor functions. With youth it seems like everyone is pushing themselves to see how far they can go. I was running out fast, my somber depression from the strenuous car ride seeming to have a grandiose effect on my immune system.
She lit her cigarette and placed the pack back in her purse. It didn’t seem like a bad habit with her, but just a way to relieve stress. I thought about the inclination of someone as perfect as Alanna being stressed. It didn’t seem normal in the least bit. People falling in love with her was somewhat of a problem, though. It usually wasn’t an advantage, and I was slowly sinking like the rest of them, by her own accord. We could have just been anti-social soon-to-be sort of family members that night, but instead she decided an evening of frivolous summer living full of back stories from the previous week was more appropriate. I didn’t mind, though. It seemed like the only way I was going to get to know her.
“So I’m sorry about everything.”
“What, up there? It’s not a big deal.”
“But it is sort of a big deal Noah. I mean, I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do.” She sat down on the cracked front steps. I followed suit again; the two of us a picaresque scene from a movie we both walked past while browsing the new releases.
“Well you’re either gonna be with him or you aren’t.”
“He’s my best friend Noah.”
“Well, I didn’t think it worked like that with guys and girls.”
“What, you’re pulling the When Harry Met Sally thing on me, where you say they can never be friends?”
“I think I might be, and it’s just not me drunk either. I do sort of buy into all of it.”
“It’s amazing the shallow propaganda the film industry feeds us about love on a daily basis.”
“I know. It’s kind of nice though, isn’t it?”
“What, to buy into something that’s not in the least bit plausible?”
“Uh yeah, I mean, love has to be big like that sometimes.”
“Jesus, you’re a pretty cliché drunk.”
“I’m sorry. I just…Well I suppose it’s easier to be like this when you’ve just met somebody.”
“What do you mean?” I froze. I thought she would have been able to figure it out from there, but like Everett I was fucking the majority of things up big time. He should have done it all sooner, though. Sometime between ninth and tenth grade when he was really sure about her, he should have just said it. It would have made things easier. They would have fallen apart; both deciding to linger on opposite sides of the hallway, before the eventual time it took to piece things back together. By senior year it would have been easy to date, before college completely ripped them apart.
Then it would have been a sign of youth, something they couldn’t fully grasp at the time, and would never completely understand no matter how long they stayed up thinking about it, starring at cold dorm room ceilings and rolling over to each unique creak in the bed. Instead it lasted longer than it ever should have and managed to explode on the first night I met her. I suppose some could call it bad timing, but I didn’t buy into any of that. It was something else entirely.
“Nothing really. I don’t know where I’m going with all of this.”
“Yeah, me neither.” She exhaled and briefly put her head down in her hands.
“So are you gonna go up and talk to him at all?”
“I don’t think so. We’ll work it out tomorrow, when he’s of sounder mind.”
“He was serious though, Alanna. I mean, no offense, but this is sort of a fucked up situation.
“Yeah, I know, but this really isn’t the time to figure things out. I mean, I just wanted to get drunk tonight. Ya know, to show you a good time, because the next two days are gonna be full of a lot of bullshit for both of us.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“I suppose I didn’t really take the time to think about any of it too much, but whatever. You were supposed to be my Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card tonight, Noah.”
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”
“Hey, it’s okay. These things happen, right?”
“I guess…” I tried to hide my smirk, as I couldn’t even imagine such a pure complication in my life. While I had occasionally been the friend in love with the other friend, all my boyhood crushes died off around freshman year of college. From that point it was a slew of occasional infatuations some leading to a mediocre feelings of perfections, others quickly turning into a mess without as much background. They would run sometimes on drunk nights when I managed to say everything, while other times they would stay. That was the majority of what it always came down to; Alanna not having such a convenience. They were attached at the hip. It was going to be a difficult procedure of separation
“You think this all ridiculous, huh?”
“Sort of. I mean, it’s just I wasn’t expecting it is all, even when you told me, I didn’t think it would happen, but whatever. It’s fine Alanna.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“So how sober are you?”
“Do you wanna leave?”
“I wouldn’t mind leaving. I’m sort of beat.”
“Alright, we’ll go up after this cigarette.”
“Okay.” We sat quietly as I waited for her to finish. The silence was beyond pleasant. It didn’t feel like we had to say much of anything else, at least not then. She flicked it on the ground as we headed back upstairs. Amanda was half-asleep in the chair, Joel having returned to the living room, packing up a small bowl to reinstate his buzz, which most likely fell apart with the forced heart-to-heart in the bathroom. Everett was nowhere in sight, his location becoming instantly apparent to the both of us.
“How is he?”
“He’s passed out in the bathtub. He’ll be fine tomorrow. I mean, I figure one of us will be checking in on him every time we have to pee.”
“Which is almost something to look forward to.” Ronna’s wit had hit its peak for the night.
“Fuck… I’m sorry guys.”
“It’s not your fault Alanna.” Tracey said as she leaned her head back on the couch. Our party had quickly descended, all of us ready for time to ourselves.
“Yeah, I guess… I don’t know. I think we’re gonna go, though.”
“Oh, well… Are you okay to drive?” Joel said.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Well, okay.” She turned to me as she searched through her purse for the keys.
“Get Amanda to the car, I’m gonna pee, maybe say a few things that aren’t gonna be remembered tomorrow anyway.”
“Okay.” She made it all sound beyond casual, as if after one cigarette and the briefest of conversations, her head was on straight again. I helped Amanda stand up and took the last hit from Joel’s bowl. It would keep me up for longer than intended, which wasn’t necessarily the worst of possibilities. There were still songs left unheard, and the beckoning of a pinball machine. I wanted the entire house to wake up to my high score. Although part of me knew, I wouldn’t have the strength.
“So we’ll probably see you tomorrow, right Noah?” Joel said as we were three steps on our way out.
“Uh, what’s tomorrow? I mean, I have a rehearsal dinner to go to.”
“Everett’s parents are out of town, so he’s throwing a huge party tomorrow.” Ronna said.
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, we’ve been planning it all week.”
“And I guess I’m going now?”
“Well yeah, I mean, Alanna’s going, and you’re sort of her friend all weekend, so we figured you’d be there.”
“Uh yeah, okay… Well I guess I’ll see you guys tomorrow then.” I wondered out confused to their fond farewells. It was most likely going to be a repeat performance of the events that had just perspired; only this time there was going to be a bigger audience. Amanda and I had some trouble with the stairs, before eventually making our way outside, and getting in the car. I expected zero conversation as she looked as if she had talked far too much already, dozing off at random increments from the backseat. I was wrong.
“So you have a crush on my cousin, don’t you?”
“Ya see, it’s my theory that the majority of guys like you fall for Alanna.”
“What do you mean ‘guys like me’?”
“I mean, the intellectual types. See all the idiots fall for me, and I don’t know why. I guess it’s just one of those things that happened in high school and has carried on ever since. Do you know what I’m talking about?”
“I can’t think of anything that’s carried with me since high school.”
“Well you’ve been a loser since high school, right?”
“Fuck off Amanda.”
“I’m just kidding, but uh… You know what I mean, right? I mean, you understand why you’re falling for her.”
“I’m not falling for her. We’ve known each other for one night.”
“That’s all it takes sometimes.” It felt like that scene, where the less than knowledgeable ones try to preach to those who are at least good at pretending like they have it all figured out. She wasn’t going to let up.
“Just drop it.”
“No, I wanna know man.”
“I’m here until Sunday. There’s no point in starting anything.”
“Who lives their life like that Noah?”
“Sane people who have lost the majority of their motivation.”
“Well, okay.” She passed out fast after that as I waited a bit longer. Alanna seemed normal again as she entered the car. I wanted to ask about their conversation, but didn’t feel as if it was any of my business, despite the fact that she had tried desperately to place me somewhere in the middle. I was over-analyzing all my thoughts, feeling like Woody Allen on a good day. We often excused geniuses for their actions, no matter how strange or unbecoming they were. It would be acceptable for me to tell her exactly how I felt at that moment, but at the same time, unfamiliar objects passing both us by on the long drive home seemed more worthwhile.
She drove with the grace of several trained alcoholics, neither of us ever losing our cool. We watched Amanda stumble up her apartment stairs, before turning back to the car with a smile and waving. She had the comfort of walking into her empty nest drunk, her cat the only judgmental eyes she would see. Living alone was starting to appeal to me, as I thought about the possibilities of setting up shop in a brand new location. I wouldn’t know anybody and everything that happened would be all my own. I was somewhat tired of sharing memories with others, all of us becoming somewhat depressed or overly reminiscent the second the thoughts started to resurface.
Those with Muriel still hurt, and more so than my somewhat shattered college experience, myself and many others walking around our small familiar town, past iconic inscriptions on brick walls lined with graffiti. We would all search for warm places to shack up for the night, before coming to copious amounts of fond realizations the next morning, term papers and finals the farthest thoughts from our brain. I would somewhat miss all of the indecisions of my early twenties. It was like staying up late with no real purpose other than reminding yourself what it’s like to be alive, sinking eyelids only mere distractions to the bigger picture, whatever it may be.
She rounded the corner to the house, all the outside lights off. The engine sputtered for a bit, before turning off. We stepped out of the car and walked towards the house. She stopped me before I could even put my hand on the door knob, once again reaching into her purse for the white package, a few drags remaining.
“Ya know, you can tell it’s an addiction when it prevents others from falling asleep.”
“You’re too high to sleep right now anyway.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” She lit her cigarette and exhaled like it was all a passing fad. Every night was something to forget about with Alanna.
“So why can’t you just smoke in the house?” I said, as I leaned against the railing by the steps. It was freshly painted, I could tell from the lack of rust.
“Are you serious? My parents don’t condone much of anything I do, smoking being the least of it.”
“Well I suppose I should’ve figured that.”
“Yeah, well there are a lot of things you’re not really thinking about Noah.”
“You’d be surprised.”
“Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot on my mind at this very instant.”
“Oh yeah, like what?”
“I don’t know. Have you ever wondered why two people like your parents would ever get together and decide to have kids? I mean, if they would have just taken the time to think about it first, then they would have realized that it was just a bad idea, ya know?”
“Well, we’re the fuck-ups, though. They thought they were batting a thousand with Brian and Gail.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s true.”
“I know what you’re saying, though. I mean, my parents still pretend that they’re in love with each other, which is more than a little revolting.”
“Mine don’t, which makes the idea of my entire existence just seem like one gigantic mistake.”
“Yeah, but we weren’t accidents Noah, just failed attempts at rolling a seven two times in a row.”
“If they had only known.”
“Exactly.” She shifted her weight towards me, letting the smoke linger in clouds around us.
“So can I ask you something Noah?”
“Why do you suppose it went wrong with you and your girlfriend?”
“Uh… I don’t know really. Muriel and I both sort of knew it was the end before we even decided to make it official.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, it was my last semester, and she was always all over the place. I felt as if the entire relationship was more like something owed to me as opposed to something else, ya know, something we could call bigger than the both of us.”
“So then why did you go through with all of it?”
“I don’t know. It had been awhile. I felt like my last semester would be better if it was full of drunken nights and mediocre sex.” She smiled, shaking her head lightly and let her cigarette fall to the ground in plain view. She wanted all of us to walk past it the next morning on our way out, as a subtle reminder that some bad habits aren’t easily hidden.
“I suppose I can understand that.”
“I figured you could, but uh… The weird part about the whole Muriel thing is the fact that she ruined a lot of things for me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I can’t listen The Smiths anymore.”
“Really? How come?”
“I don’t know, just because we listened to them a lot when we hung out. I mean, there are a few other bands like that with her, but they seem to be the main one. “The Queen is Dead” makes my kind of stomach hurt.”
“Well that sounds like something you should maybe get checked out.”
“Yeah, I’ll have to schedule an appointment.”
“Definitely.” Both of us quickly ran out of things to say after that, merely giving each other looks that wouldn’t learn. She unlocked the door as we stepped into the foyer. The house was much more pleasant at night, small nightlights bought in dollar bins, illuminating both our paths to inevitable dreams of one another. She hung her jacket up on the hooks by the door and turned to me.
“So uh… Thanks for waiting with me tonight. I mean, through all the bullshit.”
“No problem. Thanks for getting me out of the house?”
“So uh… I suppose we’ll see each other tomorrow morning.”
“It’s not too far off, huh?”
“No, it’s not.”
“Well goodnight Alanna.”
“Goodnight Noah.” I took a short breath, not expecting much more than a memory of her walking upstairs to help my sleepless night. She leaned in fast, her hands at her side, our lips coming together for the briefest of moments. It felt perfectly wrong and yet was what I needed. It was that subtle reassurance, that inclination of possibilities, and another forced perspective of my inevitable downfall. I wouldn’t be able to shake this one off, call it bad timing, or a lapse in judgment. She wasn’t a passing fad or simply a way to pass to the time. Alanna was real, for better or worse, and I would never regret knowing that.
She pulled away faster than expected, not allowing either of us the time to let things take their toll. We were both ready for separate beds and the comfort of staring up at the ceiling with no substantial manifestation of any answers
“I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have… I mean, tonight was bad, and I’m still sort or drunk.”
“It’s okay. I uh… You had to figure I would fall for you this quick.”
“Yeah, I sort of saw it coming in the attic.”
“I need sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow Noah.”
“Yeah, see ya.” She walked up the stairs as I tried not stare, frozen in my incomplete emotions. Feelings were mixed and there was no plausible explanation for what had just happened and what was well on its way to my own self-destruction. I stepped down into the basement, finding Shep asleep on the rug next to the fold out. I didn’t listen to anything other than my fragmented thoughts as I waited for them to eventually stifle and run away without looking back. The morning would be full of new procedures and modes of action. I wouldn’t have to be so adamant about hating everything, not anymore anyways.