In Gray House, the summer groans. I used to think it was the House pushing against the heat, its clapboard warping slow and support beams in the basement bending imperceptible, but it isn’t that. Now I know it’s the heat pressing in against us, trying and failing to have any kind of effect, now thousands of years since it began trying.
So the summer groans, and the House ignores it. Drafts of hot wind blow up the stairs into the courtyard, ruffling the glossy leaves of the plants therein. Condensation runs down the inside of my windows and never molds. Sweat stains first one, and then twelve, and then twenty of Grady’s shirts.
When I go home to Brad, Adam is waiting for me in the courtyard. He gives me a single, “Evelyn,” one eyebrow raised, his chest bare and glossy at its tan center. He is leaning on the wall beside his door, and he is smoking tobacco from his pipe as though there is nothing at all abnormal, and he is barefoot.
“Adam,” I reply, hesitating only for a moment to see if it’s me he’s waiting for.
“Long nights,” he says, but I can’t tell if it’s a greeting or a goodnight.
“Yeah,” I tell him.
Adam’s room has always looked directly into mine, and so we stand at opposite ends of the fountain and look across at one another for a moment before I go inside. Adam’s dark eyes look through me when he confronts me with a pointed question.
“Are you well?”
I stare back, thinking he can likely see my confusion, my happiness, my paranoia, my doubts and mistakes, and all the ways we need each other.
“Yes,” I tell him.
He holds me there for a moment longer with his expression. I don’t ask about him. He makes no comment on my answer. We just assess one another. It probably sounds romantic somehow, but it’s not. The look we exchange is shared when someone stops being your desire and your destiny and starts being your doom. It’s one I only see in Rosie and Clyde, usually. There is a fight, but we don’t have it. There is a reconciliation, but we don’t do it. There is a longing, but we don’t embrace it. There is an avoidance, but we don’t address it.
“Goodnight, Evelyn,” he says.
“Goodnight, Adam,” I reply, and we return to our respective rooms.
When I shut the door, I rest my head against the glass, my heart beating hard the double syllable which means the low and flat sound of hope and failure together. Ad-am. Ad-am. Ad-am. The feeling of dull anxiety and an inability to cry through the tightness in your throat. The way a slap feels, but never how it sounds.
I turn away from the hard truths of Adam, and all his inevitability, to find Brad asleep on my bed. He’s wearing his boxers, and his dog tags. I make a choice for the thousandth time to ignore my fate and try to make a new one, here with Brad.
It’s 1968 in my room, I can tell. This is our house on the base, and I pick up Brad’s clothes and throw them into the corner before I put on a long and sheer nightgown and climb into bed beside him. I find his uniform hanging from the top knob on the dresser, brushed neat for tomorrow. I pick off a stray piece of lint and he rolls onto his side, his hair falling just a half inch too long toward his eyes.
I think I am done with Adam and dwell on him not at all while I fall asleep.
I am thirteen again, but on the streets of Dummy Town, which are bright and washed in a pale glow. Each lawn is neat and tidy, each car in the driveway new. Mother’s push babies in strollers and boys follow in packs on their bikes. The street is perfect and suburban, post-war nuclear families getting back to the finer things in life.
Except I can see quickly they’re all wearing wolf masks; gray and brown versions of the same rubber template found in Halloween stores. The polyester fur traipses messy down the backs of father’s mowing their lawns and girls jumping rope.
“This is what the world looks like, to me,” I hear a soft voice, and I turn to see a young boy I thought…
“You,” I begin, and he answers me with Adam’s voice.
“I was here with you even now,” he explains.
And I feel the familiar sensation of Adam’s usurpation of all my outside dreams.
There was a boy I knew once, and had thought he was so strange. I couldn’t get him to befriend me how I wanted and I’d teased him. I found out years later he might’ve loved me, and never said. I thought it was something mine, that I might be able to keep, but…
Hadn’t he been Adam? I try to explain this to him, in the dream.
“No, that was before we met,” I tell him, and he looks down, and then away.
“There’s no time we’ve met,” he says, and stubs the ground with his navy blue Vans. “We’re together always.”
The wolves all begin to howl, the people under the masks becoming animals in slow and awkward ways. The boys climb down from their bikes and run on all fours down the street to the desert. The mothers retreat, their fur raised along their backs. The girls jumping rope put the nylon in their mouths and pull, and growl, and pull.
“This always happens,” Adam tells me, his voice the soft mockery of this teenage boy I’d once known and would now know forever as Adam. “Look.”
The sunlight grows tawny, and I feel him age and die and age and die several times beside me, implying he’s the knight who would save me from all this, and we are speeding fast through the generations of Big Bad Wolves, and how in time it will be just the two of us left, against a world of wolves.
“I don’t want this,” I tell him, and I might mean this destiny which has always kept us together, and I might mean the nightmare itself. I might mean I want to spare all young boys from these fates to which women have them chained. I might mean I want to spare them all from war. I might understand that every boy running from his violent purpose is Adam, and that it breaks my heart to know it.
While I watch the scene before me unfold, I understand that Adam is trying to tell me he’s all the boys I’ve ever met - every single one - and that in some capacity he’s always known it, and so have I.
I wake up crying, because everything in my memories has been replaced by him, and I can feel how much it hurt him to show me.