The morning meets Adam’s tired eyes like an assault, pink at their rims like his mother’s glasses. He’s been up and working on the car for hours in the soft night, which crept in the cold garage to dawn, and now blooms cool on his face, jarring him awake and awake again with every raindrop. He rubs his eyes with grease-stained fingers.
The pertinent history of the world can be scrawled on a cocktail napkin at the end of any night. One sentence, and two names. Something along the lines of, but not required to hold the musical notes for, “Adam, I’ll see you when you get home. Evelyn.” I blotted my lipstick on it, once. A thousand years later, it soaked up the amber ring of his highball of sweating bourbon on rocks. From one place to the next, the lines are all straight, all precise, all the same path of the crows. Being with Adam means a straight shot, through the heart of all history, to wind up together anywhere, every time.
The belly of the garage is full of safe shadows and familiar smells and the silence of a man doing menial work to a muffled radio. He shuffles his feet from side to side while he inspects the fuel gauge and weighs the option of going to work, or trying to get some sleep. He brushes light the photo of me he has pressed over the speedometer.
(The heavy black stones of the unliving and unloved earth remain in dormant silence as the furnace of God cools the rock of his creation. Perhaps he’ll wear it in a ring on his knuckles, the stoicism of his iron son unbending some straight posture of the focus of his eyes. A slow cradle made to hold all the knowledge allowed to men, a conspiring scientist to his machinations).
Adam opens the creaking door of his car, patched with gray primer over the regulation navy blue that matches his jeans, and his demeanor, and his heart. He starts the car, and the radio lights up under the yellow plastic that covers the face of it. He squints against a headache while he lights a cigarette and cranks the window down against the resistance of stubborn mechanics and years of use. The bench seat within is worn smooth by the presence of him, to a reflective and glassy surface black like water reflecting darkness. He touches his combed brownish hair with nervous fingers and settles his legs, which make him moderately tall, in front of him.
While he drives nervous through the rain, Adam’s guitar case tricks him in the rear-view into thinking there’s someone in the backseat. It catches his dark eyes, and he imagines talking to it, but every time he imagines talking to nothing, in his sleep deprivation, the name of it becomes the same.
“Where are we headed, Evelyn?”
I’ll see you when you get home.
(I will wait in a place for you that the sun obeys the belligerence of our wish for light or darkness, and innocence is the currency that perpetuates our ability to create love into a tangible thing, held between our hands like a sputtering luminous insect. My voice is only used to say what I know to be the sounds that form your name and creation pins us to every surface like shine along water to show anyone looking that magic exists. If anyone comes looking, Adam...if anyone sees...I’m waiting there).
In his mind, the case answers with my voice.
“Are you gonna drive me around?”
He smiles faintly to himself in the car as he pulls up to a red light, the windshield wipers making a rhythmic thrumming as they sway.
“Yes, indeed. Anywhere you like. Just name it.”
I tap my chin with drama and hmmmmm loudly.
(The distance from the sun that allows for the conjuring of life from small voices and soft animal sounds in the dark parts of the mossy woods. The sensation of an insect crawling across your skin that moves you action; a heart newly pumping the blood of a boy and a girl who brings rocks to life, twisting stones from the river into letters to you with her small hands).
“Somewhere sunny,” I say, and he sighs.
“Yeah, where it’s warm and winter never comes. Like California.”
“But I like winter.”
In his visions, I lean my head against the window and my mouth presses nervously.
“You know I don’t like the rain, Adam.”
Eden is as fluid in its interpretations as it is in its validity. Yeah, I know about evolution and how there was no first man or woman. I also know the days only sometimes followed the nights, at times our belief was enough to make a sun rise. I know sometimes Adam was as dour as a professor when he explained the age of the earth in it’s sheerness. I also know sometimes he would shatter into nine versions of himself and they would echo laughter off the trees as they gave chase to me squealing, a newly made girl of 7 years old.
“Okay,” he relents. “California. All the sun and beaches you can stand.” He realizes with a tiny shock in his stomach that he’s been talking aloud. He stops, and throws his cigarette out the window. He thinks about how he must look crazy to the people beside him, and feels his cock stiffen slightly in his jeans.
“Evelyn, I talk to you, even when you aren’t around,” he says in a whisper, to the empty car.
Nick sucks warm backwash from the top of a can of coke in the dim light of his room. The curtains are drawn to an off-white glow, the yellowing light a left-over from the green checkered pattern thrown against the gloomy day. His room is tropically hot, and the banging on his door persists as he ignores it.
Nick slips black tuxedo pants up over his long and pale legs, and fastens them at his razor hips. His eyes are cold and icy blue, but sunk low and deeply shadowed in his face. He opens the door by unlocking several locks and cracking it against the light from the hallway. The cut of it highlights the shadows of each definable rib of him.
“Fuck off,” he says in greeting to Adam. He looks down at him slightly from a tall height, thin enough that with an exhalation and some fortitude, he could slip his white body through the crack he’s made.
Adam scowls at him, and pushes his way past Nick and into the cave of his room. Nick maneuvers his room in darkness through the heat and Adam finds a chair near the door and sits in it. Nick dons a shirt and jacket, and musses his rat’s nest of black hair.
“What can I do for you, mate?” Nick asks Adam, his accent resting close against the vowels he smears with the heavy and dark paint of his voice.
Adam lights a cigarette in silence as Nick reveals the pharmacy he keeps in his bureau drawer.
“You can’t be out already,” he says over his shoulder, and he finally turns when Adam, his voice cracking, answers him from the dark.
“I had sex with Evelyn last night.”
Nick swallows past something solid and bitter that sticks in his throat.
Nick carries in his heart two things that make him feel safe when an enemy breaches something precious within himself. One is the opening 45 seconds of Lily by Kate Bush, and the other is the faces of his siblings in the firelight of Eden; the first memory he has of laughing with a family.
To have had the flame blown out, is the thought that builds the resentment within him. He paws through his pill bottles, selects one, and sucks his soda down. It masks the flavors of tears and the resident burn at the back of his esophagus, and he feels a little more hatred. To have had the flame blown out. On a fragile thing that, given the chance, he would have preserved or loved better.
“You only known that bird 6 days, Adam.”
Nick has no objects of sentimentality but a photo of me from our yearbook, wherein I am pixelated and black-and-white. The photo is taped with a haphazard finality onto a section of wall visible to him when he lays asleep, wedged behind a shelf and away from the view of anyone else. Adam shifts in his chair and takes long drags.
“I know,” he says.
Nick haunted each night the solid maple wood floor of Eden, his shoes holding firm one swaying place under the shattered lights of new stars. In the heat of summer and fogged chill of winter, he haunted our nights, his presence a reminder of the eyes of God forever on us while I danced with my shadow; the same sad shape, and the same blue of his face across the waters.
Nick’s car is burgundy and roomy inside. Over all things within it, is a fine silt of cigarette ash, and the scent of carpeting and antique perfume. He drives in silence, his eyes watching the road with the tenseness of his singular focus while Adam struggles to articulate what he knows. His hands move slow over the steering wheel, cigarette in hand. He draws life from it as he sucks the smoke down his throat. His eyes soften, pale and sheen, to a quiet boy that girls will giggle over as he passes. If he combed his hair, if he wore different shoes, if he spoke up in class…
Nick’s close and black shape tears a hole, sarcastic, into the fabric of a moment. If he can’t belong, then he will do it comically, impressively. He becomes impossible by the inches he puts between himself and everyone else. He and Adam drive out of town to the low-rolling desert marked by an early rain and green brush. They beach themselves on the hood of his car, and he listens to Adam with an obstinate smile, his shoulders slumped, and his head down, as if he were praying for the strength needed to never apologize.
Brad’s day begins with the contemplation of suicide. At the sting of his alarm that rouses him from sleep, he rolls over in his bed, the sheets gray and cold, the blanket blocked red and blue and gender-apathetic, and fumbles under his bed for the flask laying in the tear of his box spring. He lays back against the cooling surface of his pillow and takes a long pull. He has 45 minutes to get ready for school, but he doesn’t need it. He sets his alarm early so he can think about stealing his father’s gun and shooting himself in the head and finding his way somehow back to the garden. And, failing that, fish from beside the flask a bright red pair of my panties, which he wraps hard around his first erection of the day, and cums into, soundless in the house of his father.
While he touches himself, he thinks of his dreams, all of them nightmares. They stick heavy to his mouth, proving that he was panting as he ran from monsters in the night the coal-black of wolves. He swallows hard and listens to the rain pelting his window faster and faster as a storm begins. He thinks of holding me in a lightning storm, close in a warm twin bed together, and listening to me cry.
Adam told me once there were no churches in Eden because there was no guilt. Brad thinks of he and I dancing in the late twilights of the garden and how we must’ve made holy ground under our feet. Down the long alleys of trees lit green with the heavy bulbs of the lowest of moons, my twin brother and I must’ve hunted for pirate gold and found it glistening in the piles of the garbage not used for the world newly made. Brad knows in his heart we would have found a use for every spare piece God himself could find not shape into something to his liking. Murder victims. Cock rings. Arson. Baby GAP.
With 20 minutes left, he brushes his dirty blonde hair in the bathroom, leaves cum smeared on his hands, and applies to his mouth Revlon lipstick in Ravish Me Red. He strokes the smoothness it leaves behind with his index finger until he has 10 minutes left. As if coming to himself, he stops, frozen, blinks his deeply blue eyes in surprise, and begins to wash his face and hands, until all that’s left is the red of his skin scrubbed nearly raw and newborn. Our skin might as well be the same, to Brad. His and mine, or even anyone’s. What difference is skin in the end, but the barrier that keeps us all from becoming each other’s blood?
In the kitchen of his father’s house, Brad takes nothing to eat or drink, and passes on soft, sneakered footfalls to the back door into the garage. He opens it, the dim light remaining from the night before pooling around him in the untouched morning, quiet in the rain.
“BRADLEY,” his father will bark on some mornings, and he will flinch, but continue to his car.
Brad’s car waits in the same silence, like a doll’s house in a forgotten playroom. The blue light of morning washes the red of it in pale gleams, and the interior is cold on his skin when he slides in. He touches the steering wheel and repeats out loud what he says to himself every day before twisting the ignition’s key and leaving, briefly, his life behind him.
“Your daddy buy you that car?”
He says it low, into the steering column, like his future might be staring back at him from there. He imagines it as a wall hit fast and the airbag deploying with the crack of his breaking nose against it. He looks at himself in the rearview and makes his blue eyes something closer to the color of steel.
“Fuck yes, he did,” he answers himself, and reverses into the rain.
As far as I’ve come from Eden, it’s around me every morning when I wake up, the sounds and colors of it heavy in my dreams. It’s still within me, in the early morning while I’m pale of thought and the worlds blend together to form some impression of the morning.
But yesterday, I was a girl with a garden, and today is different. I sit up and feel groaning aches in my legs and my back, echoing by my pulse the painful throb I feel from between my legs. The gloom of the rain makes me nervous I’ll have nightmares, but the night that preceded this one hangs heavy in my memory.
Brad’s feet on the stairs makes me lay back in defeat. His form in the door beats me back to a place where I now have to explain what happened to me. I bury my way under the cream comforter, printed with pink roses. The fabric smells like sunlight because my mother still hangs her laundry on the line outside. I pretend to be asleep, because I know he’ll try to wake me.
Brad climbs into bed with all his clothes on, including his shoes. I hear the sounds of him rustle between my sheets and his long and puffing breaths lift easy the strands of my hair as he cuddles toward me.
“Good morning, little baby,” he says soft to me.
“Mm,” I hum at him. I wonder if he knows I’m faking it. He waits, patient, and breathes into my hair from behind me. Minutes tick by, and his arms are heavy around my waist.
“You’re gonna be late,” he mutters.
“No, I took a shower last night,” I tell him.
He breathes deeply.
“Your hair smells good.”
“You do, too.”
The house is empty in the mornings, or I might worry at who would find us this way. My room is messy and I mentally pick out clothes off my floor to wear for the day. Brad’s jeans warm to the temperature of the world under our blanket.
“I had sex with Adam last night,” I tell the cotton over my eyes. I hear Brad make a sound in his throat, and I feel his arms shift. He squeezes me tighter.
“Will you tell me about it?”
“Yeah,” I tell him, and he kisses my shoulder while I hesitate. How do I tell anyone what happened, between Adam and I?
Adam and I met…
Me and Adam decided…
Adam and I went to school together…
Does any of it matter, really? He found the napkin, let’s say, on which I left my lipstick and my last current phone number. He asked me out on a date 6 days ago, and we went and sat by the river that bore us to existence. He played me Neil Young songs on the radio of his Charger because all that had been created in those 6 days, was all we knew at the riverside, including ourselves, and on the night before we were made to rest, I ended up against him, in the dim kitchen of his parents’ house, with only the light of the stove on.
I told Brad in halting sentences, while I put on my clothes, and he watched me.