October 13th, 2015
In the afternoon light, we all gather around the dusty dining room table, the nine of us, in silence. The room is barely used, except for formal occasions, which we almost never have. Brad runs a finger through the dust and flops into a chair. Grady descends into the embrace of his like a king, at the head of us all, and Adam slips meek to his left side, his head low, his eyes wet. Clyde sits on Grady’s right, and his feet slam onto the tabletop, and he leans back, his filthy hair dangling while he tosses Skittles into his mouth. The smell in the room is one of long-discarded ashtrays.
Dean sits next to Brad, his eyes watching Rosie carefully. They balance between him, on either side, Dean’s hand resting protectively on Brad’s leg. As the unpredictable one, he is being surrounded by the angels of justice. Evelyn sits across from them with Nick, a quiet duo, Evelyn’s eyes avoiding Grady’s out of guilt.
So seldom are we all in a room together, motley as we are.
Grady’s voice is soft but firm into the silence and shuffling sound of use all assembling and settling.
“Tell me what happened.”
All eyes look to Adam, who stares a hole into the table.
“Ask Evelyn,” he says, and Evelyn winces.
“What? Why me? This wasn’t my idea.”
Rosie clears her throat, sharp and pointed.
“Matthew reached out to you, baby,” she says, and Evelyn bats at her blonde hair.
“Fine, whatever. I ran into Matthew about a week ago.”
The room shifts in its comfort. People tense, and relax, at once.
“He seemed in a bad way,” Evelyn continues. “I never met him, you know? So I wasn’t sure who he was, but he knew me. He introduced himself.”
Adam’s back straightens as he finds his voice and looks across the table at everyone in their eyes.
“So, yes. Officially, I will enter it, into record,” he adds with sarcasm dripping from his condescension. “After that occurred, I brought him here, to the lab. Clyde, Evelyn, Roseanne, and myself decided it best to keep it between us, with his sister’s future so uncertain.”
The members around the table react. Brad attempts to stand and is steadied by Dean and Rosie. Clyde’s smile is tight and his eyes gleam with malice. He’s waiting for a fight to break out.
“What?” Brad shouts from across the table, at Adam. “You what?”
Adam leans back in his chair, defensive to Brad’s questioning.
“He leapt,” he says to Brad, the emphasis on his voice conveying some certain meaning the house picked up and murmured at.
“Clyde caught him,” Adam goes on, and Clyde nods his swinging hair. “I felt I didn’t have a choice. Nor would have taken one, had it been presented.”
Brad’s face reddens and his sputtering becomes loud. Dean says soft things to him, and Rosie disconnects. Her arms are crossed and she watches Adam continue.
“That has...certain...troubling...implica…” Adam trails off, and settles into tears. His sobs are angry, and clutched in his fisted hands. He’s removed his tie for the day, but his shirt is unbuttoned and askew at the neck.
Brad’s breath is the loudest thing in the room, and audible beneath it are repetitions of the word “fuck.” Down the table, Clyde tosses a skittle into his mouth and chews it, ignoring everyone. Dean talks Brad back to his senses, and his breathing slows.
“If he’d known to do it,” Adam continues, his voice ragged tears into the fabric of the room. “But...he didn’t know. He couldn’t know. I didn’t...know…”
He mutters to himself until he slams his fist on the table, and everyone jumps but Grady, and Clyde.
“Jumped like the dragons do?” Grady asks, and Adam nods.
Brad’s own tears start in his throat and catch his voice strangled on its way out.
“Not that piece of shit,” he begs Adam, and Adam looks down, his reply disdainful.
“Yes, Brad, because we’re all so much better and well-behaved.”
Brad wipes tears from his eyes.
“You can’t just call him my brother,” he shouts, vehement.
“You fucking hypocrite,” Adam spits back, and Brad rises, Dean holding him back. Adam counters, two inches shorter and three years older, by standing up so fast his chair upsets, and Clyde lifts himself lazily up, a Skittle in his fingers, to stand between them as if he were waiting for a bus. Brad and Adam yell around him.
“You don’t know!”
“After all this time, Brad, what could it possibly matter?”
“I don’t want him around my family.”
Clyde squashes the red Skittle in his hand between two fingers, considering it carefully, and speaks quietly, in a silent patch of their screaming.
“He is your family.”
His point silences Brad back to the solace of only his tears, and he retreats to his seat.
“Blood stains don’t wash out,” Clyde whispers to Brad, who screams back, “I KNOW.”
Clyde, undaunted, smiles his same malicious smile and continues to whisper. We all pause to listen.
“You got a little Tide? A little cllllllorox? Starch your collar, Brad? What do you know about that? You can tell me. It’s still there. You can trrrrrrace it with your fingerssss.”
Brad’s sobbing drowns him out, but Adam’s insistence peaks in his pushing desire to explain.
“I thought...maybe with what he’d gone through, I could slow things down. We could heal what never had the chance to heal. I was thinking of you.”
Nick peers long at Adam through a halo of smoke and breaks his silence with the bare truth beneath his brother’s excuses.
“You’re full of shit, love,” he says to Adam. “You must be honest with us if not yourself.”
“What the fuck does that mean?” Adam asks his twin.
“Oh, darling, isn’t this your dream come true?” he asks Adam, and Adam retorts, his voice rapid and flat.
“Eat shit, you fucking miserable motherless cunt, it isn’t like that.”
Brad chimes in, lighting a cigarette and gesturing with it elegantly.
“No, that’s true. This is all about how Adam doesn’t have enough friends.”
Under the table, Evelyn finds his ankle with the toe of her boot and kicks. He ignores her. Rosie rolls her eyes.
“I don’t want him around Rosie,” Brad argues.
“I can be around who I want,” she snaps back, and he frowns.
Rubbing Brad’s shoulders, Dean asks a timid question.
“What happened that was so bad?”
“Lots of stuff. He put a demon inside Clyde. He made Rosie feel-”
“You don’t know how I felt,” she cuts him off, but he continues.
“Jack didn’t want anything to do with me back in New York when Matthew came around. Same with you. Same with Clyde. You’re really cool now about Maxine, Adam? Fuck you, don’t lie. He fucked her the first chance he got.”
Adam cools, leans back in his chair, and crosses his arms.
“So your contention is that he shouldn’t be here because he might steal your woman? I’m maybe misreading your relationship with Roseanne in that case.”
Brad rises again, but Dean pulls him gently down to his seat, his wide shoulders flexing with a strength that could throw Brad through a window if he felt the need.
“Don’t fucking act like you felt any different when Evie came home!” Brad yells at Adam, and affects a fake and girlish voice. “Oh, Clyde, I know you’re better than me and I can’t measure up to the big bad wolf. Fuck you.”
Grady’s fist on the table top shuts us all up, and his shout freezes everyone’s blood.
We all wait for him to speak, breath held. He growls to the room the phrase he utters when he most wants someone to understand his meaning.
“No me importa.”
He lights one of his cigarillos with deliberate hands and speaks to the table in Spanish.
“Esta no es una familia. Estas juegos. ¿Que es? ¿Por que? Hay enfermedad aqui. Causada por el temor.” He looks at Rosie, and ashes his cigarillo.
“Mija, dice me. Are you home?”
She looks back at him, and hesitates.
“Have you felt home, Mija? Dice me.”
“Yes,” she says, her eyes on his.
“Tell me why.”
While she responds to him, we all become invisible to them.
“There was a time couldn’t see anything. It was like we had too much fun. That sounds stupid but. We didn’t know how to look at each other. Just what...we thought it might look like from the outside.”
“Mm. And now?”
Rosie’s voice becomes more and more the voice of a little girl.
“Matthew did bad things. Like some of us. But he doesn’t know how to be home like us, either. He brings back the same feelings people had back then.”
Grady smokes and considers her. She considers him back, their brown eyes lingering in the pools of the other’s. He has deferred to her, where he would not, to anyone else.
“Family,” he says. “Home. Mija, these words are not our language, si?”
“I am home, as I learned it, in your happiness. You have not been happy, Bebe. So I have not been home.”
His fingers reach out toward hers on the table, and tears begin in her eyes.
“Family. My family are those who love my Rose like I do. With enough care. If you are home, if this is your family, then I am. I feel my love in mi esposo y mi esposa. You’re loved, yes?”
“Yes,” she says quietly. He sets his jaw hard, and makes a threat to the room.
“Then no one will get hurt today.”
He considers the room like a king at court. We all wait for his ruling.
“This boy. El cuchillo. What is family to him?”
“Adam,” Rosie says softly into the silence, and everyone looks at him.
“He really said that?” Evelyn asks Rosie, and she shrugs.
“He did, a long time ago.”
“He’s home to a lot of us, I guess,” Brad says, his voice calm now. “He’s always there and he’s under our feet and everything. He’s family to Evie most, but he’s my brother.”
Evelyn begins to cry.
“Clyde is family to me,” she says, and Clyde slides an orange Skittle across the table to her. She thanks him under her breath and puts it in her mouth.
“We talk about where we’ve gone away from more than we talk about who we come back to,” Grady observes. “We don’t need to look outside. Or at us from the window.”
He looks pointedly at Evelyn, who wipes her eyes.
“New people make us look a different way at ourselves. At each other. We get lost in the perception of ourselves beyond truth.”
Grady grinds out his cigarillo.
“The boy stays. Anyone want to leave? Talk to me.”
Rosie’s tears begin.
“I want to leave because we’re maybe all naive to think there’s a way into everyone’s heart and what if there isn’t? If there isn’t, it’s like losing roulette. I think I would die. I got lucky a lot. I got cocky. I realized that I might not be loved by these men. If that’s real, there’s no reason for us to be together.”
“I want to leave,” Nick responds, his accent slipping all his vowels to short and summery versions of themselves. “I can’t do another loss of this sort. I won’t have a brother to have him taken from me again. I won’t do, not again. I think often of starting over. I would like no more of my lovers to fall by the way. No more of my children. No more of my parents. I do get tired, darlings, like you would not believe.”
Dean squeezes his fingers from across the table.
“There’s too much loss out there to have any unnecessary loss in here,” he agrees with Nick, who mouths a kiss at him.
“The little angel is spot on,” he says.
Clyde puts his feet on the floor and looks at his own hands, holding the candy. His flat voice is toneless and the same even volume.
“Sure have looked down long highways lately. All go in a circle, though. Save me some gas. It’s a girl that did it. Always is. Get to thinking all roads lead to Rome, you know what I mean?”
No one answers. He chuffs and continues.
“Eve’ll tell you Rome fell a long time ago, and Rosie that if Clyde Barrow got one thing it’s ain’t enough gas to get there.”
Adam clears his throat.
“I won’t be leaving, but I am willing to remove Matthew and go elsewhere with him, if only to make people comfortable. But I won’t be abandoning him.”
“Evelin?” Grady asks Evelyn, who is crying into Nick’s arms. “You want to leave, Blanca?”
“No,” she sputters. “I can’t, I love him.”
“You love Matthew?” Brad asks her. “You don’t even know him.”
“Suck my dick, Brad,” she snaps at him. “His ghost has been my brother the whole time he was gone, so this barely feels fucking different to me.”
Grady nods to himself.
“I hear fears,” he says. “Fears we must treat like it’s our love. Bonita wants to find a path into hearts and share her love. It’s beautiful, no?”
“Fuck yeah,” Clyde nods.
“Vampire, you’re afraid of your heart being broken. After so long it can be broken. Break it on me, por favor.” Grady slaps his chest. “Right here, Nicholas.”
He fixes his stare on Evelyn.
“You aren’t afraid, Blanca, and I never seen you do it, but I seen you say it a lot. It doesn’t mean stop, it means slow down. We slow ourselves down when someone comes home and we can’t do that. Si? We can’t step away from one another. Christmas is coming and we need to be together, bebes.”
The cold realization comes into the room that we all might be alone together, finally and at last, for the first time in almost a year, when the year died on itself in frozen clarity. We would bunker down together the way we always did, but this time with no one new. This time, for the first time, we would stop the self-conscious dancing we had done trying to welcome the outside, inward.
“Jack is gone, isn’t she?” Evelyn asks the room in a small voice.
“Yeah,” Clyde answers, his voice too loud and jarring.
“We should be alone together,” Rosie says, her voice desperate. “I want us to be. I want Matthew to be alone with us.”
“I feel like a wall came down,” Brad comments, and Adam nods in agreement.
“Everyone that is ever going to be home here, is now home.”
“Looks like the lab monster only just got in under the wire,” Nick quips, and no one laughs. Matthew came home not the hour that his twin sister left, and the fence went up around Gray House, and the moat was dug, and the fires were lit in the signal towers. We are closed forever, and now looking only at each other.
The Gray Family