The weeks pass.
Daniel fits right in. He seldom talks.
We seldom talk …
… except about instrumental things, like where is the remote for the television in the common room. But I think about him, almost every day, although I had made a firm commitment on that first night to completely exorcise him from my mind. I don’t need the grief.
But aside from the senseless things about remote controls, Daniel doesn’t talk. Not at all. Not even small-talk. The only time was that time on the path, and that did feel kind of forced, now that I think of it.
And I have only seen him once come out of his room to actually watch television, and that was just news – half an hour, in silence with me and Quiet Man from Grant, who I think was half asleep, anyway.
Is Daniel autistic? What do I even know of that? I’m not a shrink or a doctor.
But he has these weird habits. He stacks everything neatly in the kitchen, for example. Plates, utensils, even sponges. And I can see it in his room, too, when I dare cast a look through the window, those days when I pretend that it’s interesting to walk the small garden strip behind the house and that I like the Pacific chill more than my health.
It’s not as if I want to know more. I can barely handle my own shit. I don’t want to know why somebody began to drink or somebody got clubbed with the leg of a chair.
And yet, several times I feel like chatting him up, for no reason at all. Is it because he is a guy my age who doesn’t look that bad? Is it because I’m bored? Lonely? Or because I imagine he is the only one I can talk to – really talk to – because the rest of the guests are too far into their own worlds or too far away from mine?
But I never quite have the courage to try. That part of my mind that keeps track of where the gun is all the time, tells me in no uncertain terms to stay where I am. And he will soon be gone, anyway. Or I will. What does it matter?
Well, of course, it matters. It matters enough to find other excuses. Is it that he is often wearing sunglasses, even indoors? That’s creepy, right? Maybe he has an eye condition? No. Not that. That’s another excuse for a warning not to be taken seriously. For me not to take my gut seriously. Jeremy wore sunglasses all the time. But then again, it was Miami …
Anyway, fuck the sunglasses and all the other reasons.
Because since Daniel doesn’t talk at all, it is easier to pretend that he doesn’t want to, anyway. I think I see him often enough each day in the common areas, although I haven’t counted. But then he always quickly retreats to his room.
I know a lot about when he goes into his room. Because Mr. Conway installed him right beside my room. So he stays in Ridgway. I stay in McAuliffe. There is no difference to me, but now you know the names. You should also know that I’m freaked out that there are only 5 inches of cardboard wall between us and I never even hear him cough. It’s always quiet in there.
Jeremy was always quiet right before he exploded. He could go around for days in our house in Miami like he was contemplating something deep and profound. He would stare at the ocean. I think he was brooding all the things that had gone wrong – with the movies, with the important people he wanted to get closer to. He told me as much when I asked. But he lied. Those were the surface thoughts that gave him a reason to close himself in.
Beneath those waves there was a deep dark current, and it gradually came closer to the surface, and then it erupted and next thing I knew I would get a fist in my face. One time I could hardly breathe, I thought he had broken my nose, but it was just because there was so much blood.
Then he cried and told me how much he loved me and that it was only temporary. He would get his shit together. He would be the hero he always knew he could be and who I loved.
But of course, I didn’t love him. I remember back home – in that distant place that is faded like an old photograph somebody forgot in the window … There was Ian Cassidy.
There was that one time Ian threatened me, or so it sounded like. He had his problems. His dad’s fishing boat had not been going well. Everything in school had been going to hell. Then we had an argument, and he raised his voice and said something I don’t remember, but it involved pushing me off a cliff. I broke up the next day and never even looked at him again, no matter how many remorseful notes he passed along to me in history class.
Jeremy was attractive in many ways, but I didn’t love him as much as the crack I inhaled, starting every Friday and then suddenly it was weekend all week.
He could always get that for me. Easy. No hassles. If only I stayed …
I had screwed up so many things in my life before I met him that it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, and then it’s easy to take the next step. Because I was looking for the next way to prove to the world I didn’t give a damn. That I was okay with being a screw up and with some people I loved leaving me much too early.
So who cares?
I was going to show the world I could jump off a cliff, or drive too fast, or go out with the bad boys.
That couldn’t hurt me, and if it did, I couldn’t care less.
And so I could do cocaine.
The illusion worked very well until it didn’t anymore.
I left Jeremy. Then I almost killed myself on a cold turkey. Then I found out Jeremy had followed me half-way across the states, and he almost killed me when we met. I don’t think he had planned that. He wanted forgiveness. He wanted me back. But there was too much beneath the dark waves, and that somebody had dared to leave him like that made the current unstoppable. It had to come up and my back still hurts because of it.
Since then … Well, I’ve been looking for a place where men don’t go quiet. Where they are predictable, but in a way, I can control. Like Mr. Conway’s methodical, anal-retentive sorting of his military paraphernalia in that attic of the house that looks like a goddamn museum but which most people are never allowed to visit. That and his fussy wife, whom he doesn’t have the balls to divorce. Yeah, go figure.
And now I have a neighbor who is predictable but not in the way I like.