“I need those windows cleaned today, Logan. Right now. I have a date coming to pick me up tonight and this place is disgusting!” she shouted. “And clean up that mess.”
My blood began to boil, because she was such a mess. How’d someone get so far gone in life? Once they were so far gone, was there any chance of them ever coming back? I miss you so much, Ma… “I’m not cleaning that up.”
“Yes you are.”
“Who are you going out on a date with, Ma?”
She sat up straight, as if she was some kind of royalty. “None of your business.”
“Really? Because I’m pretty sure the last person you went out on a date with was some scumbag who picked you up on a corner. The time before that it was my deadbeat father, and you came back with two broken ribs.”
“Don’t you dare talk about him like that. He’s good to us. Who do you think pays most of our rent? Because it definitely isn’t you.”
A just-graduated-high-school, almost eighteen-year-old who couldn’t make rent—I was such a loser.
“I pay half, which is more than you can say, and he’s nothing but a piece of shit.”
She slammed her hands on the table, irritated by my words. Her body had a slight tremble to it, and she was becoming more fidgety. “He’s more of a man than you could ever be!”
“Oh?” I asked, charging toward her, starting to search her pockets, knowing exactly what I would find. “He’s more a man? And why is that?” I questioned, finding the small baggie of cocaine in her back pocket. I dangled it in her face, and watched the panic spill over her face.
“Stop it!” she shouted, trying to grab it from me.
“No, I get it. He gives you this and that makes him a better man than I could ever be. He beats you, because he’s a better man. He spits in your face, and calls you shit, because he’s a better man than me. Right?”
She started tearing up, not at my words, because I was certain she rarely ever heard me, but she teared up from fear that her white, powdered friend was in danger. “Just give it to me, Lo! Stop!”
Her eyes were hollow, and it was almost as if I was fighting with a ghost. With a heavy sigh, I tossed the baggie on the table, and watched her wipe at her nose, before opening it up, finding her razorblade, and setting up two lines of coke on the dining room table.
“You’re a mess. You’re a goddamn mess, and you’re never going to get better,” I said as she sniffed up the powder.
“Says the boy who’s probably going to walk into his bedroom, shut the door, and snort up your own treat that your daddy gave you. He’s the big bad wolf, but little red riding hoodie boy keeps calling him back to get his fix. You think you’re any better than me or him?”
“I am,” I said. I used, but not too much. I had control. I wasn’t wild.
I was better than my parents.
I had to be.
“You’re not. You have the worst of both of us in your soul. Kellan is good, he’ll be okay forever. But you?”—she set up two more lines of coke—“I’ll be surprised if you ain’t dead by twenty-five.”
It stopped beating.
Shock rocketed through me as the words fell from her lips. She didn’t even flinch when she said them, and I felt a part of me die. I wanted to do the complete opposite of what she thought I’d do. I wanted to be strong, be stable, be worthy of existence.
But, still, I was that hamster on the wheel.
Going round and round, and getting absolutely nowhere.
I walked into my bedroom, slammed my door, and lost myself in the world of my own demons. I wondered what would’ve happened if I never said hello to my father all those years ago. I wondered what would’ve happened if we never crossed paths.
I met my father on a stranger’s front porch. Ma took me to some house that night and told me to wait outside. She said she’d run in fast, and then we would go home, but I guessed she and her friends were having a lot more fun than they thought they would.
The porch was trashed, and my red hoodie wasn’t the best for the winter cold, but I didn’t complain. Ma always hated when I complained; she said it made me look weak.
There was a broken-down metal bench on the porch that I sat against, my legs bent into my chest as time passed by. The railing of the porch had peeling gray paint and cracked wooden slats, along with frozen snow that was never shoveled away.
Come on, Ma.
It was so cold that night. I could see my breath, so to entertain myself, I kept blowing hot air out of my mouth.
People went in and out of the house throughout the night, and hardly even noticed me sitting on the bench. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a small pad of paper and the pen that I always had with me, and started to doodle. Whenever Ma wasn’t around, I kept myself busy by drawing.
I drew a lot that night, until I started to yawn. Eventually I fell asleep, tucking my legs inside of my red hoodie and lying down against the bench. When I was sleeping, I didn’t feel as cold, which was kind of nice.
“Hey!” A harsh voice said, waking me from my sleep. The moment my eyes slightly opened, I was reminded of the coldness. My body began to shiver, but I didn’t sit up. “Hey, kid! What the fuck are you doing here?” the voice questioned. “Get up.”
I sat up and rubbed my eyes, yawning. “My ma is inside. I’m just waiting.” My eyes focused in on the guy speaking my way, and my eyes widened with nerves. He looked mean, and had a big scar running down the left side of his face. His hair was wild, peppered with black and white, and his eyes kind of looked like mine. Brown and boring.
“Yeah? How long have you been waiting?” he hissed, with some kind of cigarette hanging between his lips.
My eyes moved up to the darkened sky. It was light when Ma and I arrived. I didn’t answer the man. He groaned and sat down next to me. I scooted closer to the edge of the bench, as far away from him as I could get.
“Chill the fuck out, kid. Ain’t no one gonna hurt you. Your mom’s a junkie?” he asked. I didn’t know what that meant, so I shrugged. He snickered. “If she’s in that house, she’s a junkie. What’s her name?”
“Julie,” I whispered.