weekinthehead: (me)

DISCLAIMERS

The works contained herein contain adult themes. If you are upset by harsh language, drug and alcohol abuse, sex, or untreated psychological disorders, then this is not the work for you. If you are upset by these things and you take a look anyway, please don’t complain to me if you don’t like what you see.

The circumstances contained therein are vaguely autobiographical, and the characters even more vaguely so. Many names, especially surnames, I made up on the fly, pulling them out of the ether—the ether being my long-term memory. There is rarely, if ever, a correlation between a name contained herein and the character. If you find it offensive, please let me know in the nicest way possible, and I’ll fix it.

Any parental characters contained herein are not, I repeat not representative of my parents, so please don’t ask me about it.

...also...

May. 19th, 2010 06:00 am
weekinthehead: (me)

(Note: Read either by scrolling down or clicking through the links, beginning HERE)

Who Now?

Apr. 10th, 2010 11:19 pm
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Dramatis Personæ



SEAN McCOY
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SEÑORITA
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AMBER YOSHIDA
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EUGENE
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MATEO FERNANDEZ
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TERRY McCOY
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SHANNON HEIDEBRECHT
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ROCKY BRISTOL
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GLEN ERIKSON
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KAREN FERNANDEZ
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SEAN'S NEMESIS
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CRAIG WILKERSON
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LISA GREEN
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On Thursday evening, a party had broken out in Rocky Bristol's basement apartment. Before the sun had gone down, symptoms--including beer bongs, pop music, and ironic line dancing--were reported in the other two floors of the house. Carriers spread the infection down the block of this average Midwestern college town, which had already been struggling, its immune system ravaged by graduation-week fever. By ten o'clock p.m., the party had become pandemic, and at the epicenter sat Sean McCoy.

Make no mistake; Sean McCoy did not ask to be there. He had planned on spending the evening lounging on Rocky's plaid love seat, enjoying some quiet, comfortable conversation with a small number of his fellow students who, like him, were scheduled to receive degrees on Friday morning. Now he was in the middle of an outbreak of celebration. The rhythmic rumbling from Rocky's speakers made quiet, comfortable conversation impossible. He had a decision to make: would he quarantine himself outside with a booster shot of tetrahydrocannabinol and nicotine; or would he remain inside and take the risk that he might actually enjoy himself?

Sean loathed crowds, but not enough that he had to run away; he chose to stick around.

Of course that meant he would have to mingle. Mingling meant more people asking him about his major or about his plans after graduation. This was a necessary evil, but one he could put off for a few more minutes by relaxing on the love seat and watching drunken clot after drunken clot of vaguely familiar faces drift by.

He sat up in terror the instant something occurred to him: among all those faces might be the one that belonged to his nemesis. "Fuck me," he muttered.

For the past two years, his nemesis haunted him like a wraith, invading his space, his life, and even his soul. He wouldn't allow himself even to think her name, lest it summon her from the fiery pits of hell from whence she came. Sure, putting her in those kinds of terms probably gave her more power than she deserved, but he didn't care. Every time he believed she couldn't hurt him anymore than she already had, she came up with something new and impossibly devastating. Based on their escalating pattern of experience, he calculated that the next time they met, it could mean for him a fate worse than death.

Sean feared his nemesis, but not enough that he had to run away; he chose to stick around.

Armored in his omnipresent cardigan sweater, he stood and prepared to mingle, albeit cautiously; any minute now, she might pounce on him from some dark corner.

And then, while he gave himself whiplash watching for his nemesis, someone else entirely pounced on him in a very different way. He'd never seen this woman prior to tonight, which was odd; although Sean didn't talk much to people on or off campus, he did watch and listen, so he knew the identities of pretty much everybody, even those he thought of as strangers. This new person was a total mystery.

Sean could only assume that she had never set foot in Rocky's apartment before, yet she strutted around as if she were the landlady. In a way, she did own the place. With her torso so magnificent that even her unattractive overalls failed to hide it, this maiden compelled dozens of men in their sexual prime to woo her. Any of these pale, Midwestern boys who were not stirred by their hormones were instead taken hostage by ethnic curiosity as they watched her hair, black and sleek, pour over her walnut skin and bright, almond eyes. Her lips, sharp and full, dared anyone to kiss them, and then blew off anyone who tried.

She woke something warm and desperate that Sean had long ago bound in chains he'd forged and tempered with deliberate ambivalence--thanks in no small part to his nemesis. This fragment of him strained and screamed and begged; and the effort involved in fighting it back anchored Sean to the very spot in which he stood as she strutted right up to him.

Her voice, an aria with a distinctly Latin rhythm and pitch, said, "My button is missing."

Which button had she been referring to? More importantly, why would she give him license to examine every inch of her body? He did, of course, and concluded that she meant the top button on her gorgeous hip. Now he needed to figure out how was he supposed to respond to that comment. It wasn't a question, so it technically left the field wide open for his default setting: harsh, comforting sarcasm. "I stole it."

"No, you didn't."

He wasn't ready for that response. "You don't know that." In retrospect, that might not have been the best thing to say, given that he needed to shut this down quickly before it evolved into an actual conversation.

"Then when did you steal it?"

"When you weren't looking."

"Course," she said with a smirk that melted the muscles in his neck and shoulders. "So why would you want to steal my button?"

He asked himself why he was pursuing this ridiculous narrative, but he had no answer. He tried to stop, but he couldn't help himself. "I'm half-Caucasian. Caucasians do that kind of thing. We're a very bad people."

"I'm a quarter Caucasian, and I'd never steal some stranger's button."

"Well then," he replied, on a roll, "based on your level of naïveté, that part of you was overcome by what is clearly superior genetic stock."

She snickered. "I think there was a compliment in there somewhere." Why was she still talking to him?

"Consider the source," he warned her. "We Caucasians are masters at subjugating other ethnicities, and are not to be trusted." He leaned in closer. "It's only by virtue of my Japanese heritage that I'm able to tell you this much."

She smirked again, sending an electric current down his spine.

"In fact," he added, "you probably shouldn't talk to me at all."

She then pouted, which nearly killed him. "Then who will I talk to?"

"You could talk to me," recommended some fraternity meathead.

Sean wanted her, enough that he had to run away; he chose to get the fuck out of there.

When she took her eyes off of Sean for a second to deal with her new suitor, he slipped into the crowd and disappeared, having long ago ceded any control he'd had over the situation.

Now, a good half-hour and five cigarettes after that exchange, he nestled in a lawn chair in a hidden nook, visible only from a gravel driveway behind the house. When Rocky had moved out of the dorms a couple of years ago and into this apartment, he'd immediately designated this space for Sean and Sean alone. Only an elite few knew about it, and all of them respected Sean's compulsion for solitude enough to leave him alone.

Wrapped in smoke, Sean's nerves settled a little. He slipped a joint from behind his ear, and right before lighting it with a match, he muttered, "Here's to the ladies." He said the words and took the hit not as a toast of affection, but rather as a prayer and sacrificial ritual to ward off that which he feared. He wasn't scared of all women, just the ones who made him yearn. He knew enough about yearning to know that indulging it tonight would only hurt tomorrow. Besides, in exactly one week, a bus was leaving for New York City with him on it, and just like that, he would never see or speak to this mystery woman again.

So why did she have to make this so difficult? She was stunning, smart, and sexy, and she was clearly flirting with him. Why would she do that? More to the point, was he flirting back? He thought he was rude and offensive, but judging by her persistence, he thought wrong. This didn't bode well; as a student of addiction, he knew full well that it could take control if not monitored constantly. The best way to beat addiction was to avoid the source of temptation altogether. Hopefully she would take his retreat as a sign of disinterest.

Hopefully not, declared the part of him he'd walled away.

Sean took a long hit, held it, exhaled, and spoke to his lap. "You have caused me enough trouble in my life, little buddy." After another hit, he added, "Okay, maybe little is the wrong word."

Unexpectedly, he heard a giggle. "Who are you talking to?" it asked.

Sean frowned and asked his crotch, "Since when do you have an accent?"

"Since they taught me English in preschool." In actuality, the voice spoke not from his pants but from behind him. To make matters worse, it could only belong to one person.

In response, his spine stiffened. He squeaked, "Hi?"

"I want my button back, medio gringo."

He didn't dare face her. "I threw it away."

"Why?"

"Because I'm a horrible person."

She stepped deliberately into his line of sight. "You're a horrible liar."

He extinguished the joint on the bottom of his shoe and lit another cigarette, giving himself another few moments that he didn't have to look at her. "If I wasn't a bad person, I wouldn't have left you with that pendejo." Wait, did he just try to impress a Spanish-speaker with a word in her native tongue? He needed to stop.

She rolled her eyes. "He was a cabrón. There's a difference."

"I'll defer to your judgment." The only Spanish he actually knew were a few words and phrases he picked up from his friend, Mateo.

Arching her eyebrows as she put her beer bottle to her lips, she took a lingering sip, and said, "Thank you for that, by the way."

"De nada." Okay, seriously, he needed to stop.

She put her free hand on one of her hips and let the bottle brush up against the other one. "Why are you here?"

"Biologically, socially, or philosophically?"

She shrugged. "Gimme all three."

"Biologically," he told her, "my mommy and daddy did a very naughty thing about twenty-three years ago."

She mulled this over as she took another sip. She asked, "And the other two?"

"Waiting."

"For the party to end?" she asked. "Because you could always just go home."

"Next week, my home's New York City," he told her. "Until then, it's Rocky's spare bedroom. And as long as these party pyres burn, I'll be sitting right here in this chair."

"You're gonna have to stand sometime between then and now."

"I don't have to stand until the dean calls my name tomorrow morning."

(To be continued...)

weekinthehead: (Default)

Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now …



On Friday morning, the dean called Sean's name.

"Fuck," he said.

Sean got to his feet, but only because he didn't want Amy McCreevy beside him taking his diploma. He grunted all the way up to the stage, where he greeted the academic heads and deans who shook his hands. At the end of the long line stood the president of the college, who handed him his philosophy degree and sent him to walk back to his seat, past the other students whose surnames landed before his in the alphabet.

For Sean, this meant that he risked contact with his nemesis. Slowly the line shuffled past the As, the Bs, the Cs, and the Ds. It was near the end of the Es that his neck began to tighten. When he got past the Fs and into the Gs, he held his breath. The first thing he saw, as always, were her most pronounced feature: her lips. Even when she was at her most relaxed and pleasant, they were always pursed in impatience; and it was a comfort to see that some things hadn't changed since he saw her last. Another feature of hers that tended to be irritated with him were her eyes. As he marched in front of her, he wanted to turn his head, but he had to look at them. They were as narrowed and cold as always, but this morning they were glazed and lifeless. More interesting was the fact that they didn't seem to acknowledge him at all.

He'd made it past her and to his seat without incident; so why was he disappointed? He promised himself that, after the pomp, the circumstance, and the parental obligations of the day had gone, he'd give himself a moment to get really baked and contemplate the issue. For now, he needed to focus all of his energy on remaining awake.

When the ceremony finally ended, his fellow students rushed away to find their families and show off. Sean wasn't particularly enthusiastic about doing this, so he waited until the auditorium was nearly empty before setting off to find his mother. She was exactly where he expected her to be: around the corner from the main entrance, smoking a cigarette and berating a cell phone.

"Are you fucking blind?" she shrieked, and then waited for a response. "Then he's fucking illiterate, because it's right there, in English." She held up a finger to her son; the universal signal that this would be over in a minute. "In paragraph twenty-three of article fourteen, fifth fucking line from the top of page one hundred and four."

Sean lit a cigarette of his own.

"Did he even read it?" She charged over and slapped the cigarette out of his hand before returning to her call. "He can cry all he fucking wants--his signature is all over the goddamned thing!"

As she listened to the other end, she beckoned Sean over, pointing at the diploma. He was never the kind of person who might beam with pride, but if he was, that's what he would be doing.

Before she snapped the phone closed, she told it, "I'm in a fucking meeting, okay? You tell his lawyer to call me if he has anything productive to add."

She turned her full attention toward Sean's philosophy degree, studying every molecule.

"I did it, Mother," he said.

"Hush," she snapped. "I'm trying to figure out why this thing is worth a sports car."

He sighed. "Mother."

Handing it back to him, she said, "You're lucky Uncle Bart doesn't care what your degree is in, so long as you have one."

"At least I did it." He tried to take it out of her hand, but her grip tightened.

She pulled on it, dragging him closer so she could deliberately press one of her thumbs on the inside of his wrist, sliding it under his robes and sweater and over his forearm. "You're lucky you made it out alive is what you mean. Do you promise that this shit is out of your system?"

He swallowed. "Yes."

"Really? Because that's what you said the first time, and we both know how that went."

He set his jaw. "I remember."

"You swear to me."

"I swear, Mother."

She let him go. "Then..." she didn't finish her thought because her phone buzzed. She flipped it open without looking at the number. "Yoshida," she told it, and then listened for a moment before replying calmly, "No, I can't come to your office this morning and show you what I'm talking about." As the phone spoke some more, that calm began to fade. "Because I'm in flyover country, that's why." She sighed and told it, "It was a family obligation I couldn't get out of." Gradually she walked out of earshot, away from the crowd of embracing families oozing out of the auditorium.

He lit a cigarette and scanned the crowd. There was no sign of his nemesis, nor of his mystery woman from last night. He was dying to ask someone about latter--in a subtle way, of course--but everyone around him had relatives to keep them occupied. After a while, though, he saw the person he most wanted to see in the whole world. After stubbing the cigarette out on a nearby brick wall and slipping it behind his ear, he held his breath and dove into the swarm.

"Eugene!" he shouted.

Sean's best friend turned around, surprised to see him. "Howdy," he said without much enthusiasm.

"Congratulations," Sean told him.

"Congratulations to you too."

"Where have you been?" he asked Eugene. "I haven't seen you since the breakup."

"Well," he replied, "I've been dealing with a lot of stuff."

"I know, but it's been a month."

"Listen, Sean," Eugene began.

"I know, I know," Sean said. "You have to get to your family. Why don't we meet tomorrow and play one last game of chess in the usual place?"

"Yeah," he replied, "I'll try."

"See you tomorrow?"

Eugene didn't get a chance to say anything else before he was swallowed up by the cloud of people. Sean swam over to safety and lit the remainder of his cigarette. He went through that and a fresh one and had been pondering a third when a friendly soul swooped away from his flock and tackled him with a hug.

"Hey, Mateo," Sean grunted.

"We did it, cupcake!" Mateo Fernandez shrieked while pinching Sean's cheeks.

"We certainly did," Sean tried to say.

Mateo hopped around in a circle like a sparrow in a roll-neck sweater and a black robe, chirping away. "Who knew this would be so hard?"

Sean shrugged.

Mateo stopped moving and frowned. "Cinnamon buns?"

"Yeah?"

"You're about to be assaulted from behind by a pudgy, balding, middle-aged man."

Sean closed his eyes and sighed. "Aw, shit."

A meaty palm slammed into his back, right between his shoulder blades, sending his skeletal frame sprawling. Mateo caught him before he could hurt himself. Sean regained his balance and said, "Hey, Dad."

His dad's hand shot out again, and this time, he was able to dodge it without much effort.

"Nice one, kid!" He wrapped an arm around Sean's shoulder. "You got those ninja genes from your mom's side of the family."

"Dad," he replied, "martial arts aren't hereditary."

"You tell that to your mother. She could neuter a man with the power of her mind." His head swiveled. "Where is she anyway?"

"Business."

"Typical," he snorted. "Woman flies halfway across the goddamned country and can't be bothered to spend time with her own kid." He then shoved Sean out of the way and extended a hand toward Mateo. "Where are my manners? I'm Terry McCoy, Sean's father."

"I'm Mateo, a friend..." he started to say as he shook Terry's hand; but he couldn't finish, as he was flinching in agony.

Sean's dad leaned in close and whispered, "You might want to work on that handshake, son, or people might think you're a little fruity."

With a terrified stare, Mateo said that he wished he could rescue Sean from this maniac.

Sean cocked his head slightly, conveying his deepest apologies, and that he appreciated the sentiment, but his family was his own cross to bear.

Terry McCoy released Mateo, who inhaled in relief.

Before Mateo could be subjected to further attention, he zeroed in on a shout from the airless mass of people nearby. "I think I hear my name."

"Matthew!"

"That's not your name," Sean told him.

"Gotta go!" He fluttered away.

"Who the heck is Matthew?" his dad demanded.

Sean shrugged.

His dad lowered his voice for conspiracy's sake. "That Mateo seems like a nice guy, but I think he might be a..." Mercifully, his next words couldn't be heard over a sound much like a tea kettle about to explode.

Sean turned toward the noise just in time to witness a blonde-haired, teal-eyed, five-foot-six-inch projectile in fashionable boots. It collided with him and kissed him full on the lips.

"Dad," Sean said as soon as he could get some air, "This is Shannon Heidebrecht."

Shannon squealed, hugged Terry, and blasted away.

Wide-eyed, his dad asked, "Did you see the tits on that? She was stacked!"

Sean chuckled in relief, knowing it couldn't get more awkward.

That's when fate, accepting the challenge, sent a voice their way that said, "Listen, my flight gets into La Guardia at about four-thirty today. If you want, I can come over and show you that clause after I excavate your head from your client's ass."

His parents' eyes locked, and all color and life drained from their faces.

She said, "Lloyd, I'll have to call you back in ten minutes." She clicked the phone off and said, "Terrance."

"Amber," he replied.

"Fuck," Sean sighed.

"Language!" they both snapped at him.

"You're looking good, Amber."

"Of course I am," she replied. "Sadly, you continue to deteriorate."

"Kiss my pink ass, you heartless bitch!" his dad barked.

His mother breathed in, and then exhaled. "Terrance," she said slowly, "we should not use this occasion to air our grievances."

"Then when?"

They both turned to Sean, who was careful not to make eye contact with either of them.

His father said, "I'm taking my son out for lunch."

"Nonsense," his mother replied. "You leave for Philadelphia tomorrow morning. I leave in three hours. I will be brunching with my child right now. You may enjoy his company afterward."

"Don't let me inconvenience you or anything," his dad muttered.

"No inconvenience at all," she replied. "Come along, Sean."

He threw his dad a helpless look and turned to his mother. "You know, we'll never get a table anywhere in town."

"I've already contacted the least offensive eating establishment in this city and offered them a tidy sum if they could guarantee us a seat when we arrived. You'd be amazed what a little money can achieve."

"I guess I would."

"I'm sorry you have to spend the rest of the day with that Neanderthal," she told him.

"It's actually okay, Mother."

"You remember you start at your uncle's firm one week from today, no later than ten a.m."

"I know, Mother."

"I have some paperwork for you to fill out that you'll need to bring in on the first day," she indicated her briefcase; "Tax forms, non-disclosure agreements, et cetera."

"Thanks."

As they climbed into her rental car, she fished her phone out of her purse and flipped it open. "Lloyd?"

An incoherent rant spewed from the receiver.

"Fuck you, Lloyd, my family is important!" After a pause for an apology from the phone, she proceeded, "I am going to be full of greasy, Midwestern shit today, so I'll need something to cleanse my palate." The phone ranted again. "No, you fucking imbecile, I'm trying to tell you that we should re-review the contract over dinner." She shook her head. "No, I can't fucking stand sushi. Have you heard of Bo's Thai in Hell's Kitchen?" She nodded. "I'll see you there at eight."

She tossed the phone back into her purse and turned back to Sean, smiling pleasantly. "Brunch, then? We don't have a lot of time."

(To be continued...)

weekinthehead: (Default)

Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now …

On Friday evening, Sean had no concept of time. Earlier, an evil sociopath by the name of Mary Jane had lined up all of his brain cells and shot each of them right through the dendrite. It had been a long, long day, and he wanted nothing more than to mourn it in his dreams, but yet another goddamned party had launched from Rocky's apartment. He had retreated already to his hideaway, and if he was lucky, he would pass out in the lawn chair and wake when it was all over. It wasn't particularly comfortable, but it was more so than the interior of the house, where he'd be forced to keep his eyes peeled for his feminine tormentors; both the angel from south of the border and the demon from south of everything.

Even as consciousness faded, his ears remained vigilant for those two voices. If even the tiniest note from either drifted out of the small talk and laughter from inside, he would run as far the fuck away as he could. He had nowhere to go but away, and that's the only destination he needed.

What he hadn't counted on was a third voice addressing him directly from within his private nook. This one belonged to Shannon Heidebrecht, a part-time cohabitant of this abode, and it said, "Sean, we need your help."

He yawned. "Who's we?"

"Rocky, Mateo, and I," she replied. "And Glen."

"What the fuck is Glen doing here?"

"I invited him."

Sean lit a cigarette and stretched. "You're too nice to that guy, Shannon."

"He's not that bad."

"He's the most vile creature on the planet."

She shook her head. "You just don't like anybody."

"I like you."

"Can you come and help, then," she asked, "for me?"

He sighed. "Yeah, sure. I just need to get up."

His muscles begged to differ.

"All right," he told her, "I'll give it another go."

His muscles were still not on the same page as his brain.

"Sean," she begged.

"I'm trying," he said. "I think my big toe twitched."

With a grunt, she reached over and hauled him to a standing position.

He said to his feet, "Thanks for nothing, guys."

As he finished his cigarette and followed Shannon inside, she informed him, "The problem's in your room. We tried everything we could think of."

"What is the problem?"

"You have to see it."

"Right." After a quiet moment that allowed his imagination to have its way with him, he asked cautiously, "Is she here?"

"You mean the señorita?"

"No," he replied. "Yes," his libido interjected out loud. "No," he repeated once he regained control over his own damned throat.

"Are you sure?" Shannon asked. "I think she likes you."

"Really?" Sean's libido asked. "No," Sean clarified, "I'm referring to my nemesis."

"You have a nemesis? That is so cool! Who is it?"

"It is She Who Must Not Be Named," he said quite dramatically.

"You mean...?"

"Don't say it!" he snapped. "Do you want her to appear?"

"I do," Shannon replied. "She was always nice to me."

"I don't think we're talking about the same person."

"Are you sure," she asked, "because I'm talking about..."

"Don't say it!"

"How are we supposed to know if we're both talking about..."

"Don't!" Sean barked. "Besides," he added as they reached the entrance to the guest bedroom, "we're here."

Shannon took a good look around before opening the door. Sprawled out on the guest futon, with the appearance, mass, and vocation of an avalanche, was Rocky. His head dangled over the edge, aimed at a pool of watery vomit on the floor. Perched over him was Mateo, and behind Mateo, slouching and twitching like a sleazy, badly dressed squirrel, was Glen Erickson.

"What's new, tiramisu?" Mateo asked Sean after he and Shannon appeared next to them.

"The usual," Sean replied. "How long has he been like this?"

Glen suggested, "We need to check his pulse."

Mateo pretended he wasn't in the room. "About thirty minutes."

"I think he's dead," Glen told them.

Sean asked, "Does anyone know how he got this way?"

"I'll bet he choked to death on a sandwich!" Glen replied.

"He took a bong rip, then came in here," Mateo replied.

"To die!" Glen clarified.

Sean folded his arms. "Rocky's a fucking tank. It takes more than just a little weed to take him out."

"It was a lot of fucking weed," Glen told them.

"It was a lot of fucking weed," Mateo agreed.

Shannon interjected, "His last exam let out Monday at noon. He's been drinking every hour he's been awake since then."

"How many was that?" Sean asked.

She answered, "A hundred and four."

Glen whistled. "No wonder he died."

Sean had to concur.

"Is he gonna be okay?" asked Shannon.

"Course not," Glen snorted, "he's fucking dead!"

Mateo asked Sean, "So what's the plan, flan?"

"We should poke him with a stick!" suggested Glen.

Sean turned toward him and blinked. "Actually, Glen, that's a brilliant idea. Go get us a stick."

"Right on!" he shouted and stormed out of the room.

"Oh, thank God," Mateo sighed.

As he positioned his feet and crouched down beside Rocky's face, Sean muttered, "Aren't you glad you invited Glen, Shannon?"

Without the slightest bit of irony, she replied, "Yes, I am!"

Sean shook his head.

"He's getting us a stick!" she added.

Sean spoke clearly into the victim's ear, "Rocky?"

He groaned.

Sean gave the other two a thumbs up.

Shannon giggled in delight.

"Rocky? This is Sean. Can you hear me?"

He grunted.

Sean inhaled and took a few long moments to consider his words. He actually had no idea what he was supposed to do here, but the pleading faces of Shannon and Mateo demanded his help. He closed his eyes, sighed, and said, "I need you to listen very carefully..." He didn't have a chance to finish because a tree branch suddenly jabbed Rocky's skull. His concentration shattered, Sean lost his footing and fell into the puddle of vomit. Luckily, his sweater caught most of the damage. Given its condition, this could only be an improvement. He shouted, "What the fuck are you doing, Glen?"

"I'm poking Rocky with a stick like you told me to!"

"Well, don't!"

Glen pouted. "You guys never let me play with the dead guy!"

Sean told him, "He's not all that dead."

"Then why the fuck did you make me get this stick?"

Mateo put his hand on Glen's shoulder. "Don't you have drugs to sell?"

Glen squirmed out of reach. "If you don't want my help, then I'll just go!"

"Right on," said Mateo.

After Glen left, Sean turned his attention back to the non-dead pile on the futon. "Rocky," he said slowly, clearly enunciating what he said next. "A bunch of theater girls just brought over a kiddie pool and a twenty-gallon drum of petroleum jelly. I think they're going to wrestle."

Rocky's eyes popped open. He rolled over, sat up, and bounded out of the room, shouting, "Yes!"

"I need a twenty-gallon drum of petroleum jelly," Mateo chirped.

"Thanks," Shannon said and kissed Sean on the cheek.

"Nice work," Mateo agreed, also kissing him on the cheek. "You know, noodle puddin', he's gonna be really pissed when he finds out there's no kiddie pool."

"That's part of the plan," Sean replied.

Shannon made a sad face. "Oh, but I don't like it when he's pissed."

"I know," Sean commiserated, "but the rage will keep him awake until the party breaks up. And then you can be his favorite theater girl, and you know what that means."

"Yeah!" she squealed. "Kinky sex!"

"Then," Sean concluded, "coma."

Impressed so far, Mateo asked, "What happens when he finds out someone lied to him, super bon-bon?"

"You'll be there to blame Glen."

The other two applauded, and Mateo added, "You, my sweet Asian pastry, are a diabolical genius."

Sean blushed. "It's called a bean paste bun."

"Noted." Mateo fluttered back to the party, singing, "I'm gonna get Glen killed!"

Shannon said, "I'll go get some stuff to clean this up."

"Bring me a towel, a bucket of water, and some laundry detergent," Sean told her. "I'll take care of everything."

"But it's so icky!"

"Shannon, I just want to go to bed."

"But this is our graduation party!" she protested. "You belong out there!"

"You celebrate your way, I'll celebrate my way."

She slipped out and returned shortly with what he'd asked for. Before she closed the door, she told him, "Some of us will miss you, you know."

Peeling off his cardigan and dabbing the mess off his arm, he muttered, "You won't even notice I'm gone." He wiped up the floor, wadded up the towel, and dropped into the bucket, moving it all as far from the futon as possible. After shutting off all the lamps in the room, he lit a joint to cover up the smell and removed his shoe. Ten minutes later, he remembered to take off the other one. After an indeterminate amount of time passed, the latch on the door then clicked.

As if tiny engineers in Sean's neck turned cranks that engaged gears, which in turn engaged larger gears, his enormous, heavy cranium swiveled in the direction of the sound. Since the brightest source of light in the room spilled from the opening door, it was doubtful that the silhouette slipping inside even noticed him. His eyes had become used to the dark, so it didn't take long for the silhouette to fade into the shape of the individual codenamed "the Señorita."

Somehow she broadcast her sexiness while engaging in the traditionally unsexy activity of plodding over to the futon and throwing her limp body on top of it, right next to him. When her hair poured over his pillow and onto his hand, it triggered a panic that dissolved his muscles, leaving a staring, unmoving mannequin. His mostly dead brain whirred and wheezed, fumbling to find a quick, quiet greeting that would alert her to his presence without startling her. It came up with something that wasn't particularly clever, but was functional: "Hola."

She didn't even flinch. "Hola, yourself, medio gringo."

"You seem exhausted." That might have been the dumbest thing he could have possibly said at the moment.

She grunted.

"It's probably because you've been running through my daydreams." Improbably enough, this was 100 percent true.

His own pillow smacked the back of his head, knocking him off balance. He swayed for a minute and toppled backward onto the mattress, his face only inches from hers. If this made either of them uncomfortable, they were too tired to do anything about it. She groaned, "You too, now?"

"Why?" he asked. "Did you really think you were safe with me?"

"I kinda did," she replied, "for a minute there, anyway."

"Sorry to disappoint. I've been waiting to get you alone."

"Then what?"

"Then I was going to get you into bed."

She opened her eyes finally and chuckled. "You're good."

"You'll be saying that a lot tonight," he warned. "Except louder and gaspier."

"Make your move, Don Juan. I won't stop you."

He basked in her ability to pronounce Don Juan with the proper accent for a moment while he watched her pupils dilate a little and focus on him. He couldn't even lift his arm, even if she hadn't been kidding. "Give me a second," he told her. "I'm resting up."

"Take your time. I'm not going anywhere."

Content and relaxed, they sighed together.

"I saw you graduate today," she said.

"Are you stalking me?"

"Only a little bit." She added, "I was amazed you wore that stupid sweater."

"You could see it through the robes?"

"It's huge, niño. Couldn't miss it."

"It's not stupid," he explained. "It's my trademark."

"You use it to cover up those?"

His eyes shot open in panic. He was so wiped out he had forgotten he was exposed without it. "Cover what up?"

Her finger brushed the inside of his closest wrist--the same spot his mother had used as a weapon this morning--and ran up his forearm.

He gasped.

"Those."

Sitting up, he snapped, "I don't know what you're talking about!"

"Whoa," she said. "Calm down, niño."

Now he was on his feet, pacing. "I'm not a fucking child, so stop calling me one!"

"I didn't..."

"I'm twenty-three fucking years old," he barked. "I'm older than every other person in this fucking house!"

"I'm not..."

"What the fuck do I have to do to prove to you people..."

"Sean!" she shouted.

His tirade hit a brick wall. "You know my name?"

She patted the bed beside her. "Come back down."

The rage had been the only thing holding him up, so when it passed, he collapsed. "I'm sorry."

"So am I."

"You're right," he told her. "About the sweater."

"I know."

He laid beside her again and laughed. "I can't believe you know my name."

"They announced it when you graduated, you know."

"Yeah, but even I wasn't paying attention by that point."

"I wanted to know who you were."

His heart and lungs stopped what were doing for a moment so they could ask his brain if they had just heard what they thought they heard. It confirmed that this was indeed the case. Upon hearing this, his stomach squirmed, announcing that this was terrible news. If his crass, faux-racism and faux-misogyny didn't foul her impression of him, this unplanned but brilliantly timed outburst of lunacy should have. But it didn't! What was it going to take? Together, they reasoned that it was time to give crass another chance. "At least now you know what to moan."

She chuckled and hit him again with the pillow, but with less conviction than before.

His heart and lungs had started working again, but his stomach continued fretting.

"So you talk this way to all the girls, Sean?"

"Pretty much," he said. "You're all just notches on my belt."

She muttered. "No, we're not."

"How would you know?"

"I can tell."

"You should see my belt."

She mumbled something.

"Do you have a name?" he asked.

She didn't reply.

"You know, for my belt?"

She started snoring gently.

"Well shit," he said. "I'm not getting any sleep now." Still, he figured he might as well make the effort if she wasn't going to entertain him anymore. He pulled a sheet up over her shoulders, and then swiped the pillow she wasn't using and tossed it onto the floor, along with a thin blanket he'd been using. Finally he yanked off his socks, pulled off one of the two T-shirts he always wore, and dropped his pants, noting with some amusement that he wasn't actually wearing a belt.

When he turned around, he realized she had rolled over a little, making the front of his boxer shorts level with her face. He froze for a moment in panic. If she would open her eyes right then, it could go one of two ways: she could be outraged and leave, never to speak to him again; or she could prompt something pornographic.

Either outcome had its advantages.

She remained asleep, however, relegating Sean to a purgatory of unanswered questions and unknown intentions. "Buenos noches, señorita," he whispered before curling up on the floor under the blanket, staring off into space until he fell unconscious.

(To be continued...)

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Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now ...



On Saturday morning, Sean woke up on the floor, the sole occupant of the guest room. She could have been a dream, for all he knew. He dressed, made a pot of coffee, and washed his sweater in the kitchen sink with dish soap. This didn't remove the stain

On Saturday morning, Sean woke up on the floor, the sole occupant of the guest room. She could have been a dream, for all he knew. He dressed, made a pot of coffee, and washed his sweater in the kitchen sink with dish soap. This didn't remove the stain entirely, but given the sweater's dull, brown hue, it was unnoticeable anyway. Besides, he now had a lemon-fresh scent.

As usual, he avoided eye-contact with himself as he brushed his teeth, but while rinsing, he noticed lipstick on his cheek. Shannon's lipstick was pink, and this was a dark crimson. Against his will, his mouth curled up into a grin. He took it as an omen of a good day.

After breakfast, he waved goodbye to his father and strolled through the peaceful and empty town and onto the lifeless husk of campus. Any students who hadn't graduated had headed home or set about their summer routines. The only building open to the public anymore was the library, which rarely closed for anything.

He had arrived really early, but that had been the plan. He wanted to give the buildings a moment to hug him tightly one last time and tell him it was all going to be okay, as they had always done since the end of his third semester here.

Sean Akio McCoy may have been born in Saint Luke's Hospital in Upper Manhattan on September 13 to Terrance McCoy and Amber Yoshida-McCoy, but his life really began twenty years later in a local intensive care unit, where he woke up, cold, alone, and confused, with stitches running down his forearms. He'd shared his dorm room with no one; his true love had left him days before; and he'd had no friends to speak of. The cuts had been surgical, precise, and deep. He should have been dead.

Days passed. He listened to a counselor by the name of Roland say, "You need to remember, Sean, that the pint of whisky you had that night was the last drink you can ever have, because from what you told me, one is never enough."

"Wrong," Sean had replied. "It's too much."

"I think you're going to be okay."

Days passed. He listened to a doctor by the name of Paterson say, "I'd like to prescribe something to help you with that, Sean, but my office doesn't like to get into the habit of sending attempted suicides home with sleeping pills."

"I can try something else," Sean had replied, "like exercise."

"That's the spirit!"

Days passed. He listened to a lawyer by the name of Mother say, "Fucking boys' club over there. You'd think they never met a woman who passed the bar before. Long story short, Sean, they folded, and we're all going to pretend the last two semesters never happened. If you can promise me this is the last time you'll ever pull this stunt, I'll agree to let you stay."

"I promise," Sean replied. "I won't do it again."

"Because I can't keep doing this."

More days had passed, and he stepped out of the hospital and onto campus, which he saw honestly for the first time. For his rebirth, it would play the part of his new monastery. The liberal arts building would become his basilica, and the chair of the Philosophy Department would become his pope. Heroclitus and Parmenedes would become his prophets, Socrates would become his Christ, and Aristotle's spheres would be his god. He became their ascetic servant.

This was how Eugene discovered him, and their friendship took root in front of the library, on this cast-iron table, playing chess. Given the harsh realities and priorities of adulthood, today would probably be the last time they saw each other. Nothing could be more comforting than this; after the last couple of days for Sean, and the last month for Eugene.

His disappearance during this time had troubled Sean greatly. Eugene and his girlfriend had been together for well over two years. When word of their breakup had gotten back to Sean, he wanted nothing more than to do anything possible to help Eugene heal. Eugene, however, was nowhere to be found. Of course Sean knew where he lived, but showing up unannounced would run the risk of an encounter with Eugene's ex, who also lived there. Sean's loyalty and concern for him, unfortunately, was eclipsed by the fact that she was also Sean's nemesis.

An hour went by. Sean called Eugene's phone, which responded, "Howdy! This is Eugene. If my phone's off, that means I'm at work, in class, or sleeping. Leave a message."

Given the time and date, Sean crossed two of those possibilities off of Eugene's list. That left work. He swept the chessmen off the board and into his satchel and strolled over to Rocky's place. After dropping the bag off, he headed straight back out the door. He'd sold off his car in preparation for the public transit of the Big Apple, so he'd have to walk across town.

May's Café was a franchise eating establishment that promised a home-cooked meal. To Sean, this seemed more like a threat, but his perspective wasn't reliable, since neither of his parents had successfully cooked anything in their lives. Also, he guessed that most homes didn't deep-fat fry quite as many things. In this town, there were two restaurants bearing May's name. One sat near campus to feed off students' desire for pancakes and bacon at any hour. The one that employed Eugene was a little over two miles away. At top speed, Sean could get there in about forty minutes.

Forty-five minutes later, he arrived at a building bulging with families bidding farewell to each other with a meal, much like Sean and his father earlier that morning. Taking a deep breath, Sean eased his way to the front of the line to speak to a hostess, who clutched her enthusiastic cheer with fanatical devotion.

"Welcome to May's Café!" she sang. "How many in your party?"

"None."

"One, then?"

"No," Sean told her, "there's no one in my party."

"So you're by yourself?"

"I'm not here to eat."

Her focused mind could not grasp that concept.

"I need to talk to Eugene," he explained.

"Will you be needing a menu?"

"Why don't I talk to a manager and you can seat these people behind me."

Finally! Something she could understand! "Right away, sir!"

The manager, whose nametag said that she was Linda, informed Sean that he was out of his mind.

He sighed. "I just need fifteen minutes with him."

"That's just not possible," she replied. "Including Eugene, we have eight servers on the floor, along with two busboys, and we still can't keep up."

"Let me put it this way," Sean said, reaching into the pocket of his sweater. He extracted a roll of bills his mother had given him as a graduation present and counted out ten of the larger ones from the top. "That's for their trouble." He counted out two more. "That's for yours."

Linda blinked. "You know where the cook's entrance is?"

"Out back?"

"You have fifteen minutes, starting now."

Sean left the building, agreeing with his mother for one time in his life: he was amazed at what a little money could achieve.

He lit a cigarette and waited for Eugene to emerge. In comparison, Eugene and Rocky occupied roughly the same mountainous amount of space, but they distributed it differently. While Rocky resembled his violently jagged namesake along the Continental Divide, Eugene took after Appalachia. He was smoother and softer, with a gentle field of grain for hair. Even the frames he wore from his grandfather's glasses added to this image--large and round and filled with nostalgia. But when he pushed his way out the back door this morning, his shoulders were more stooped than usual, and defeat painted his face. Sean saw that look everyday in the mirror, and it had no business being on his friend.

"Sean?" Eugene asked, momentarily confused. "What are you doing here?"

"I just wanted to see if you were okay," he replied.

"I'm fine."

"You've never flaked out on a chess game before."

"I'm sorry," Eugene said with a sigh.

"It's all right," Sean assured him. "I'm worried about you. Especially after the breakup."

"It's just a lot of things to think about." Eugene shook his head. "I mean, I'm not moving to Montreal with her this summer, and my lease is up at the end of the month and I don't have any place to live, and then I have to figure out what to do with myself because I can't work here for the rest of my life."

"I know."

"I have a lot of important things to deal with."

"I understand."

"And I completely forgot I was going to work this morning."

"It's okay," Sean told him with a shrug. "We can probably reschedule for early next week."

"I don't think that's going to work, Sean."

"But I'm leaving on Thursday morning," he reminded Eugene, "And I'm probably never coming back."

"I know."

"Don't you want to see me before I go?"

"I'm sure Rocky will throw another party next week. I'll see you then."

"I was kind of hoping to get some time alone with you."

The color drained from Eugene's face. "Are you coming onto me?"

"What?" It was too bad Sean wasn't sipping coffee or milk or something, because the moment called for a spit take.

"Sean, I don't go that way."

"I'm not propositioning you!"

"Then what are you talking about?"

Sean chose his words carefully and enunciated them so they could be heard over the sound of his breaking heart. "I thought we had a special bond."

"Are you sure you're not hitting on me?"

Sean needed his legs to start working again, because he couldn't stand here and take this much longer. "Never mind."

Eugene closed his eyes, clearly understanding what he had stepped into, but not comprehending how he could dig himself out of it. "I think you're seeing something that isn't really there."

"Clearly."

"Look," Eugene said, "we're friends."

"Sure we are."

"Please, Sean, listen to me."

"I am." This was no small feat given the pounding in his ears.

"I didn't know you felt this way."

Sean snarled, "So you assumed I was hitting on you?"

"I misunderstood what you meant."

Obviously he misunderstood, or they wouldn't be having this conversation. Not only were Sean's legs not moving like he was asking them to, but now they were dangerously close to failing him entirely.

Eugene continued. "So in your mind, we're best friends?"

"Please don't condescend to me."

"I'm just trying to understand what you're thinking."

"Yes," Sean said. "I did think we were best friends."

"Why didn't you say anything to me?"

"I thought it was a given."

"We just played chess every week."

"For the longest time," Sean told him, "playing chess every week was the only thing I lived for."

Eugene breathed, not having the slightest idea what else to say.

"Since the beginning of that semester," Sean continued, "you've been the only person with whom I've felt the remotest connection."

"What about all your other friends?"

"I don't really make friends, Eugene."

"Tell that to Rocky."

Sean frowned. "Why Rocky?"

"Because you're sleeping in his apartment, you dummy."

"He owes me a favor."

"Sean," he sighed, "don't be this way."

His blood began to simmer. "Don't be what way?"

"Don't be you."

It boiled. "Sorry I bothered you at work, Eugene."

"I'm sorry, Sean."

"You didn't do anything wrong." His knees began to solidify.

"Come on, Sean."

His legs strengthened enough to walk again, so he told Eugene, "I left some money with your manager to compensate you for your time."

"Sean!"

He strode away as fast as he damned well could. "See you at one of Rocky's parties."

"Goddammit, Sean, turn around!"

He'd never heard Eugene take the lord's name in vain before, and that was almost enough to make him stop. If he did, though, he'd never start back up again.

A half-hour later, he'd made it back to Rocky's place without a single coherent thought having crossed the border of his mind. Thousands of them waited right outside, however, with torches blazing and pitchforks and rakes sharpened. When he collapsed onto the futon in the guest room, they stormed the gates, scoring, stabbing, and slashing him.

His phone buzzed, but he didn't hear it.

(To be continued...)

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Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now ...



On Saturday evening, Sean didn't hear the words leaving his mouth when he shouted at Rocky, "Is this going to go on every night when I'm here?"

"What?" Rocky shouted back, not even slowing down as he waded through the crowd between him and the kitchen.

Sean followed persistently. "These parties!"

"Who farted?"

Sean raised his voice some more and enunciated clearly: "Is there going to be a party here every night?"

"Hell yeah!" he roared.

"I have to go to the bathroom!"

Rocky opened his refrigerator, which was stocked with one brand of beer and nothing else. "The fuck you telling me for?"

Sean breathed. "There's a line."

He crouched in front of the open door and began rummaging. "Then use the one in the apartment upstairs."

"There's a line."

Rocky rummaging became desperate. "Then go to the top floor."

"There's a line."

"Then get in line!" Triumphantly, he pulled out a beer, which appeared to Sean to be the very same brand as every other beer inside.

"Rocky, there's barely enough room in this house for the line!"

He shook his head. "Just go outside."

"You want me to go to the bathroom outside?"

"You're a dude;" Rocky told him while attempting to escape, "the world is your urinal."

"What if I had to..." Sean tried to think of the most genteel way to say what he wanted to say. "... do something else?"

"Take a shit, you mean?"

"Yes."

Rocky stopped in his tracks, and Sean collided with one of his shoulder blades, which had the same density of concrete. "Do you have to take a shit?"

"No, actually," Sean said. "It was more hypothetical..."

"Go outside!"

"I can't!"

"You have your private little area and some bushes," he explained to him. "Smoke some weed and relax, then go."

"I can't relax like that when I'm stoned."

Rocky's exasperation added to his already impressive size. "Then why do you get stoned?"

"To relax."

"Go outside!" Rocky screamed.

"I can't deal with crowds..."

"Out!"

"If anybody needs me," Sean told him, knowing full well that no one needed him, "I'll be outside."

"Go!"

Normally, winding Rocky up and lighting his fuse was the kind of metaphor-mixing Sean lived for, but the bruise Eugene had left on him was still puffy and now turning a dark shade of blue.

As soon as he stepped outside, he lit a joint. By the time he reached his chair, the buzz had settled in, but it in no way took the edge off of the day. He found a spot in some bushes nearby that was far enough away from his sacred hideaway that it wouldn't be tainted by what he had to do. He assumed the position, but relaxation didn't strike right away. This troubled him, because water came in at about eight pounds per gallon at sea level. Given that the elevation of much of the Midwest was about zero, he was carrying around roughly twenty pounds in his bladder. At least that's how it felt. However, since pounds were a measurement of weight and not of mass, he could lower that number by increasing his elevation.

He looked up. The house at which he was aiming a part of his anatomy was three stories tall. Maybe he could get up on the roof somehow. From a geological perspective, it didn't seem like much, but it might ease the discomfort and pressure just a little. Now he had to get up there. Was there a rain gutter he could climb?

Never mind. He was relaxed enough.

Every sight, sound, scent, and thought of anything not related to this moment retreated, leaving him alone in a blissful cocoon. After what felt like hours, a body of water the size of Lake Erie had passed through him, and the world returned abruptly, bringing with it the crunch of feet pacing the gravel driveway near his lawn chair. Something had invaded his space, and there was a chance it knew exactly what Sean was doing.

A panicked swear word stormed out of his brains and built up momentum in his lungs, but was halted by his teeth. He couldn't announce his presence until he knew what it was he'd be facing. His own little El Dorado here was known only to a small handful of people, including Rocky and Shannon, who lived there. A small number of houseguests were aware of it, as well, including She Who Must Not Be Named--someone who could smell weakness. She would take the still-fresh evisceration Eugene had delivered onto Sean as an opportunity to choke him to death with his own intestines.

He inhaled and peeked around the shrubbery. He'd forgotten that the Señorita Who Should Be Named also knew about the hiding place. He exhaled and stepped out. She hadn't seen him yet because her eyes were closed as she whispered the lyrics to the silent song she was dancing to. He smiled and took a seat, enjoying the show. When she opened her eyes and saw him watching, she didn't blush and awkwardly explain herself as he would have. Instead, she continued quietly singing--to him now--and sashayed all the way over to his lap, on which she sat.

He frowned. "Even though I never told you that you had a beautiful body, you still held it against me."

She laughed. "I've been looking for you."

He considered that statement, as well as her arms wrapped around his neck, and concluded that things were not going any way he would have anticipated. "Clearly I didn't hide well enough."

She bit her lip and swallowed. "I talked to Eugene today."

His neck tightened and his eyes squeezed shut. "That's an interesting coincidence," he told her. "I spoke to him today, as well."

"Please don't freak out again."

"I hope your conversation with him went better than mine did."

"I needed to see if you were okay."

"I'm fine." He wanted to jump to his feet and flee, but her soft weight held him down. "Who the hell are you?"

She ignored the question. "You know, he feels really terrible about it."

"Of course he did," he snarled. "That's why he sent a stranger to check up on me."

"I'm no stranger."

"You don't even have a name!"

"It's Karen."

"Pleasure to meet you, Karen," he said. "I'm Sean."

"I know," she whispered.

He closed his eyes again. "He was right about everything."

"He never said you weren't his friend, niño."

"You don't know that."

She took his chin in her hand and forced him to look into her eyes. "He specifically told me he never said you weren't his friend."

"Did he tell you that I had been completely wrong about our entire relationship?"

She nodded.

"Did he tell you how utterly humiliating the entire exchange was?"

"He didn't have to."

Sean's face flushed, so he pulled it away. "He evidently has a different definition of friend than I do." He stood, regardless of whom that might forcibly relocate.

She caught her balance effortlessly. "Everybody has a different definition of friend than you do, niño."

"Doesn't do me a whole lot of good, does it?" he muttered as he walked away from her.

She stormed past him and blocked his path. "Seems to me it does you a lot of good."

"How so?" He tried to slip to her left, but she wouldn't let him.

"Lots of people like you, even though you'll never admit they do, and they're okay with that."

He folded his arms. "Name one."

She folded hers right back. "Me."

"You don't count. I just met you."

"Fine," she replied. If she was insulted, she didn't show it. "Shannon."

"She likes everybody."

"Rocky."

"He just bit my head off."

"Way you act," she told him, "you probably deserved it."

"Nice." He turned and headed in the other direction.

She called after him, "Don't forget my brother."

"I don't know your brother."

"Sure you do. He's Matthew."

He sat back down on his lawn chair. "Now I know you're making shit up. I don't know any Matthew."

She rolled her eyes. "Okay," she sighed. "He probably told you his name's Mateo because he's a Chicano-be tonto."

"What?"

"You heard me," she clarified. "My brother's a tonto."

"But he doesn't have an accent."

"Sure he does. It sounds like yours."

"Touché," he apologized.

"English is his second language, just like mine, but he stopped speaking Spanish in grade school. I never did."

"Yeah, but Mateo?"

"He went through a phase in the eleventh grade."

He grinned. "Does anyone else know about this?"

"Probably not." She shrugged. "I never call him by his name when I'm around him."

"He is a flaming hypocrite!"

"Yeah, but he's open about it."

He shook his head. "I said hypocrite."

"Oh." She blushed. "So why is he a hypocrite?"

"He's constantly harassing Rocky about his real name."

"It's not Rocky?"

Sean beckoned her closer and whispered in her ear.

She giggled. "For real?"

"Eugene told me," Sean said. "He saw his transcripts."

"You have a nice smile, Sean," she said.

He blinked. "Thank you?"

"It's nice to see it." She held her hands out. "Let's go inside."

"There's drunk people in there."

"I'll protect you."

He let her pull him from his seat. "Promise?"

She just smirked.

They almost made it inside when they ran into Rocky. "Hey, you two."

Karen giggled again, but Rocky didn't notice.

"You have a moat now," Sean informed him.

He guffawed and slapped Sean's shoulder. "So you relaxed!"

Sean couldn't reply because his teeth were rattling.

Rocky added, "Sorry I snapped at you, buddy."

"It's okay. I deserved it."

Karen blurted out, "Is it true your name's Byron?"

Rocky turned crimson and gurgled in rage. "Who told you that? Sean?"

He shrugged. "I couldn't resist her feminine wiles."

She laughed and pulled him in the direction of safety.

Over his shoulder, he added, "I mean, have you seen her wiles?"

Behind them, they could hear Rocky bellow, "I'll kill you for this!"

(To be continued...)

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Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now ...



On Sunday morning, Sean returned from the dead with no provocation whatsoever. Something buoyed him up and into the kitchen, and he had no idea what it was. A generic sense of dread had weighed on him for much of his life, but it didn't seem to be present at the moment. This lack of dread would typically inspire a different dread, but today, it didn't.

He knew that he would soon be living under the oppressive thumb of his mother for an indefinite period. He knew his life would soon be defined not by the questions he pondered with long-dead thinkers, but by a fifty-hour-per-week combination of working and commuting. The friendships he'd cautiously nurtured with Mateo, Rocky, and Shannon would atrophy and die with distance. He knew that the exciting new relationship he'd sparked with Karen had snuffed itself out before it could even be ignited. He knew that his prized fraternity with Eugene could no longer be recalled without hurting. In short, he knew full well that the dread would return.

This morning, though, the inevitability of these things liberated him from the weight of them. Alone in the house for a few hours, he floated through the kitchen, sighing with the gentle rustle of ground coffee being scooped and whisked into a filter. After some finagling, water hissed and gurgled over the coffee, glowing with a sharp, bitter scent that stimulated him until he could pour a mug and carry it with him to the bathroom, where a hot shower massaged his bones and a toothbrush cooled off his gums.

He dressed and ascended the steps outside, leaving his sweater behind. Typically, he recoiled from sunlight, but today he let it splash over his skin, soaking his arms for the first time in years. Tobacco smoke charged into his lungs like an invading army, burning and pillaging everything it encountered, but in doing so, purged the last of the weeds choking his mind.

He descended back into the apartment and used the momentum to fill out the paperwork Uncle Bart had provided for him. Despite the guarantee of employment, he still had to fill out an official application for his records. This was a short process, given that he'd never held a job in his life. Rather than let this fact depress him, he let it remind him how fortunate his mother's affluence had been for him. In fact, in his present state, his usual turmoil and guilt seemed kind of silly.

He breezed through these questions, flipping through page after page with mechanical precision and rhythm, until he reached the W-4 tax form. That's when the gears stopped suddenly, smashing the entire assembly line. Someone had taken several highlighters and a magic marker and adorned the document with hearts, stars, curlicues, and a greeting: "O Hello flackey bubble-writer!"

Sean frowned so hard it hurt his forehead. "What the fart?"

Fortunately, Uncle Bart was a little more laid back than most on that side of the family, so getting another W-4 wouldn't be a problem. He studied the handwriting, jumped to some conclusions, and returned to the kitchen. His mood persisted as he sorted trash from aluminum cans and glass bottles, the aroma of alcohol and stale beer warming him, as opposed to chilling him with regret as it usually would.

There were limits to the way he felt, though, which he discovered as the morning drifted into the afternoon and the doorbell rang. He bounced up the stairs eagerly, but his cardiovascular system stopped him halfway. His soul may have been uplifted, but his biology hadn't gone anywhere. He finished the climb and opened the door with a cough.

"Good morning, zucchini bread!" Mateo sang over the ringing in Sean's ears.

"Come on down, Matthew," he wheezed, leading the way.

"She told you?"

Sean shrugged.

"I can't believe this," he twittered. "She's never even told Eugene about that, and I lived with the guy for three years! Why would she do that?"

Sean shrugged again.

"And this begs the question..."

"Here it comes," Sean muttered.

"Why were you holding her hand last night?"

"I wasn't holding her hand last night."

"Oh," Mateo said with a frown while digging his phone out of his pocket.

Sean held up the W-4.

"That wasn't me," Mateo snapped.

"Who was it, then?"

"It was the mescaline."

"Oh." Sean blinked. "For real?"

"Yeah," he admitted, "I was testing it out."

"And?"

"It worked."

"So you tripped out at your close friend's party and you didn't bring enough for everyone?" A plastic sandwich bag filled with a crumbled, brown substance sailed across the room, slapped Sean on the cheek, and dropped to the floor. He watched it land.

"You were supposed to catch it," Mateo told him.

"How am I supposed to catch it if I don't see it coming?"

"I was expecting synergy."

Sean poured two cups of coffee. "Are you tripping right now?"

"No," he explained, taking one of the mugs, "Byron and I pitched in for the four of us to get wasted tonight."

"Four of whom?"

"You, me, him, Shannon."

"You get two doses?"

"I'm not going to be there tonight."

"Why not?"

"I'm breaking up with Bobby."

Sean carefully swallowed a mouthful of hot coffee to keep from spitting it out all over the freshly cleaned counter. "Can I ask why?"

"I leave for Ithaca in two months, and he's got another year here." He sipped his coffee. "I like him a lot, but he's not long-distance material."

Sean sighed. "Who is, really?"

"Definitely not my sister."

"I told you, Mateo," he replied, "I did not hold your sister's hand."

"Why do I remember that you did?"

"Because you were out fucked out of your mind on mescaline."

Mateo grunted.

"I thought you and Bobby were good together."

"Not good enough." Mateo took another sip. "There's little things that don't quite work, like his table manners; I can't take him out anywhere. Also, he hates it when I call you desserts."

"Then stop calling me desserts."

"I like calling you desserts," Mateo insisted. "Besides, I'm not going to take relationship advice from you, Mr. Haven't Had Sex the Entire Time I've Known You."

"That's not true," Sean replied.

"When did you have sex?"

"Earlier this year."

"School year or calendar year?"

"Calendar year."

"Who?"

Sean blushed. "I shouldn't say."

"Say!"

He shook his head. "It's impolite to talk about it."

"That bad?"

"It wasn't bad, it was just a mistake."

"Were they in a relationship?"

"Yes," Sean replied, "but no."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"We just weren't compatible."

Mateo frowned. "Like, anatomically compatible?"

He didn't dignify that with a response.

"Anybody I know?"

"I'm not playing a guessing game with you."

"Boy or girl?"

"I told you..."

Mateo pouted and looked at the display of his phone again. He asked, "Are you sure you weren't holding hands last night, because I could have sworn..."

"It's Shannon."

"Really?" Mateo squealed. "Does Rocky know?"

"Their relationship has always been ephemeral, so I'm guessing he does," Sean told him. "It's not like it's a secret."

"It was a secret from me."

Sean shook his head. "You just assumed I was celibate."

"So what happened?"

"I told you I'm not discussing it further," he replied.

"About my sister..."

Sean sighed and poured another cup of coffee. "It was Valentine's Day. Both of us were having an incredibly frustrating night, and we kind of bumped into each other, and we were tired, and things happened."

"That's strangely anticlimactic."

"You asked."

"That reminds me," Mateo added, showing Sean the display of his phone which featured a digital photo of Sean and Karen, fingers intertwined.

"I didn't do that," Sean repeated.

"Pictures don't lie, pumpkin pie."

"You're going with a gourd theme today?"

"I just go wherever the mood takes me, butternut squash," Mateo replied. "Tell me the truth."

"She held my hand."

"Why would she do that?"

Sean explained, "I was undergoing heavy emotional trauma, and she talked me down."

"Truffle, you're always undergoing heavy emotional trauma."

"Eugene."

"Oh."

Sean didn't want to look Mateo in the eye, so he took a long, scathing drink from his coffee.

Mateo said, "I just thought it was weird because she has a boyfriend."

That long, scathing drink went right up into his sinuses. He became hysterical, gasping and ducking behind the counter.

"Oh, banana pudding," Mateo sighed and ran over to provide comfort. What he found, though, made him recoil. "Are you laughing?"

Unable to form words, Sean nodded.

"You don't laugh!"

Sean shook his head.

"Ever!"

He gulped down some air and coughed out, "This is the best news I've heard all week."

Mateo examined him through his tears and concluded, "Dios mio, this really is the best news you've heard all week!"

He inhaled, exhaled, and said, "Is she with him right now?"

"I don't know how to answer that question in a way that won't kill you."

"The truth should be fine."

"Yes."

With less urgency, Sean giggled.

"Are you gonna explain the joke, or did I have to be there?"

"I don't know if I can explain it, Mateo."

"Try."

"Okay," Sean started, and then stopped. He tried again. "It's like this:" The words to define this continued to elude him.

"Like what?"

He forced something out. "I got away with it."

"Got away with what?"

"Feeling this way."

"About my sister?"

Sean chuckled.

"Feeling what way?"

With a shrug, he replied, "Feeling anything."

"You're not a robot, churro."

Sean arranged his thoughts. "Feeling a little extra something for the opposite sex..."

"But not the same sex?" Mateo interrupted.

"Feeling a little something extra for someone of the gender to which one gravitates sexually..."

"Better."

"... and not having to hate myself for it."

A knowing grin crept across Mateo's face. "I know what this is about."

"I'm not talking about Shannon."

"I'm not talking about Shannon, either."

"We're not discussing that, Mateo."

"I understand," he reluctantly conceded, "but I don't get what the difference is. They both have boyfriends."

"Had in the other case."

"Tomato, tomato," Mateo replied.

"You're supposed to pronounce them differently."

"They're not different."

"They are," Sean said.

"How are they different?"

"For starters," he explained, "I actually like Karen."

"Okay, I'll give you that."

"And I never knew Karen was seeing someone."

"She really never told you about Patrick?"

"Is that his name?"

"It is."

"Does he call himself Pat?" Sean asked. "Because I'm inclined to irrational, negative opinions about men who go by Pat."

"Just Patrick."

"I also have a problem with Ray," Sean added. "Has she ever dated a Ray?"

"She has."

"Then I'm seriously going to reconsider my opinion of her, based on this new information."

"Ray was pretty cute," Mateo told him.

"Regardless, his name is Ray."

Mateo glanced at his watch and handed his mug back to Sean. "I have a thing," he said, "so I need to go."

"Don't be too hard on Karen. She was just helping me out."

"No," Mateo replied, "she was flirting with you before she knew you were damaged goods. She could have really hurt you."

Sean's instinct was to hug Mateo in appreciation, but he couldn't bring himself to initiate physical contact with another person, no matter how much he wanted to. He settled for saying, "Long distance, Mateo. You and me: potato, potato."

He gazed off into the distance and muttered, "She and I are going to have a long talk when she comes back next week." He returned his focus to Sean. "And you and me are continuing this tomorrow."

"I'll be here."

(To be continued...)

weekinthehead: (Default)

Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now ...



On Sunday evening, Sean wasn't here anymore. He had been expecting dramatic head trips once he had consumed his first hallucinogen a half-hour ago, but so far, he'd been disappointed. It wasn't until he took stock of his situation that he realize that his body may have still been folded up on Rocky's plaid love seat, but his mind had drifted off elsewhere.

Rocky had also drifted off elsewhere, physically this time, leaving him alone with Shannon, who was sprawled out with him on the mini-sofa. He had always enjoyed Shannon's company, but now that Mateo had excavated that carelessly discarded event from February, Sean couldn't help but remember what she looked like mostly naked. It was a fabulous memory, but Sean had to keep reminding himself that he shouldn't attempt to duplicate it at this very moment.

"Wow," she giggled. "Do you see that?"

"No," he replied.

"How about that?"

"No."

"That, then?"

"No."

Her hand lashed out and groped his face. "You need to look harder."

"I need to smoke," he told her through her fingers.

She massaged his lips and told him, "Not until you see what I see!"

He closed his eyes, and his resistance to the compulsion to lick and suck those fingers made his chest groan.

"What was that?" she asked.

"I see it!" he cried.

"I don't believe you."

He liberated his face. "It's on the wall."

"I'm not talking about the wall."

"You don't see it?" he asked her.

"See what?"

He didn't actually see anything, but he'd hoped to exploit her attention-span, which was miniscule even in total sobriety, by pointing at shadowy corner. "There!"

She followed his arm and her eyes then widened in delight. "Oh!"

With her distracted, he tore up thousands of stairs until he reached the safety of solitude, where he could safely indulge his recollections. This didn't last very long, however, because Rocky appeared out of nowhere and asked, "You want to take a shit, don't you?"

"Now?" Sean replied.

"Right now," Rocky told him. "You want to take a shit in your pants."

Sean pondered this for a moment and concluded that the statement was inaccurate. He really did not want to shit his pants. "No, I don't."

"Yes, you do."

Sean began to notice this conversation had evolved from a simple question-and-answer into something that could possibly be construed to be an argument. He wanted to avoid such a conversation, but he did have to speak truthfully. "No, I don't."

"Wouldn't it feel good to take a nice, long shit?"

Sean weighed the implications of this inquiry. Now that values had been thrown into the matter, he was forced to reevaluate his opinion on the issue. Frankly, he had to admit that a shit would feel good. Rocky even described it as a nice shit, so that only reinforced the notion that it would indeed feel good. This question, however, indirectly tied into an earlier one regarding the time and location of this shit. He had no desire to take this shit in his pants, no matter how nice it might feel, nor did he want to take this shit now, staining his reverie, and his pants, with that potential disaster. A shit, regardless of how nice it might be, was not worth the name-calling that would result. On the other hand, the name-calling wouldn't matter, because he would be leaving the area, both physically and spiritually, in only a few days. Still, the act of shitting his pants, considered impolite in most Western cultures, would make him a social pariah. Rocky might ostracize him, and since he had signed no legal contract regarding the guest room, Sean might find himself cast out of the apartment, alone and wearing pants that had shit in them.

Why would Rocky encourage him to shit in his pants if he was only going to throw him out because of it? Was he merely searching for an excuse? Had Sean already become the social pariah he had always feared he'd be? Perhaps he was somehow a burden to Rocky, who was too polite to say anything. That couldn't be it: Rocky had no respect for politeness.

Perhaps searching for meaning in this confusing, multi-layered question was a trap. Perhaps this conundrum was only presented as a test, wherein the only way to pass would be to examine the interrogation from the most simple of angles. Did Sean want to take a nice, long shit in his pants, or did he not? He weighed the evidence, rehearsed a carefully worded reply in his head, and turned back and delivered it: "No."

Rocky looked at him in disbelief. "Are you sure?"

During Sean's reconsideration of the question moments ago, had he added a negative or double-negative that reversed the meaning so much that the answer he had given was the opposite of what he truly intended? Did he just tell Rocky that he actually did want to shit his pants? This was not good. He couldn't just change his answer. That was indicative a lack of resolve, a state of being considered a fatal weakness by someone as masculine as Rocky. He couldn't just shit his pants, though. The real question was: was there some way that this erroneous decision could be enforced? Could Rocky actually coerce him into shitting his pants? Perhaps Sean should elucidate clearly his position on the matter before wrestling with the consequences. "I do not want to shit my pants."

"Not even a little bit?"

Sean hadn't anticipated compromise. While this might appease his rhetorical foe, keeping his pants free of shit was non-negotiable. "Absolutely not."

"You don't want to relax just a little, to let the warmth and pressure just flow away from your bowels?"

"When you put it that way," Sean said, "you're putting it graphically."

"What the fuck did you just say?"

"I said: stop asking me if I want to shit my pants."

"No you didn't," Rocky reminded him. "You told me you were taking a dump on a sheet of graph paper."

"I can assure you that those words did not pass my lips."

"Now you're talking about kissing my ass?" Rocky's face twisted into disgust. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Sean held up his hands in surrender. "I concede."

"Now you're telling me, in Spanish, that you're with seed? What does that even mean?"

Sean shrugged.

"You're the one who said it." Rocky lowered his head to make sense of the discussion, frowned at his feet, and declared, "We gotta get these lizards out of the carpet."

"We're on the landing behind your house."

"And?"

"There's no carpet here."

"I gotta throw up." He ran downstairs, leaving doors slamming in his wake.

Sean snorted in triumph. "Game, set, and match." He pulled a joint from behind his ear and wandered over to his private hideaway behind the house. He took a few thoughtful tokes and watched the smoke curl into a woman's hip, drifting upwards and becoming full lips that smirked triumphantly. Unfortunately, those lips were not Karen's, and neither were the brown eyes that sized him up.

His heart fainted, and his throat growled, "Fuck me."

"Not gonna happen, girlfriend," replied his nemesis.

"Rocky's inside," he told her.

"Ain't here for him."

"Shannon's inside?" he begged.

"Her, either."

"Then Eugene's not here."

She shook her head and lit a cigarette.

"You're not here to talk to me," he said.

"Ever get tired of being wrong?"

He stumbled over his thoughts, trying to work out some reason for her appearance. He concluded, "If you're here to talk to me, then you must be my anima."

"You just call me an enima?"

"Don't play dumb with me," he told her, and then he frowned. "Though, if you are technically a figment of my imagination, then you would be as dumb as I think you are."

She punched him in the chest. "Would a figment do that?"

"If the figment was you," he coughed, "then yes."

"Point taken." Putting her cigarette to her lips, she leaned in really close, supporting herself by holding onto the lawn chair's armrest.

He flinched as her bangs brushed his nose. "Let's not do anything out of character here."

"Don't flatter yourself, dumbass." The fingers of her left hand pried open his right eye so she could study it. "Dilated pupils, no major redness, and you're not particularly jittery." She released him and stepped back. "I'm gonna guess magic mushrooms."

"Ha!" he announced. "Way off!"

"Peyote."

"Ha!" he announced. He then lowered his volume a little bit. "Though maybe not as off."

"Mescaline, then."

He sighed. "Seeing as you're me, you'd have to get it right eventually."

"Who hooked you up with high-class shit like mescaline?"

"I think you know the answer to that question." He stubbed the joint out on the arm of the chair.

"Mateo."

"There's no way you would be able to know that if you weren't me."

"Mateo knows a guy named Casey who has some killer connections. Better than mine, even."

He chuckled and lit a cigarette. "Now I'm just making shit up."

She tossed hers into the gravel driveway. "You're not gonna let that go, are you?"

"There's nothing to let go," he insisted as he stood up so they would be on the same level. "It's simple: you're the most antagonistic relationship I've ever had with someone--almost mythically so--and you're here when there's no longer any reason for you to converse with me, so therefore you are nothing but a spirit guide, come to render unto me harsh truths."

"You want a harsh truth?"

"No, but you're here for a reason."

"You were never Eugene's friend."

He exhaled. "This again? It was only yesterday I covered this."

"No," she told him in a condescending voice, "yesterday he told you he didn't think of you the way you thought he did, but he was still your friend."

"You just said he wasn't my friend."

"I said you were never his friend."

"What's the difference?"

"For all your romantic notions about brotherhood, it was always about you and your feelings and your depression and your unrelenting, selfish bullshit."

"If this was the case, it would have come up when we had our little discussion, don't you think?"

"Of course not," she said. "He never had the slightest idea about that. He liked you too much to see what was really going on."

"Yeah, and what might that be?" he asked, sitting back down.

She lit another cigarette, and he wasn't sure, but her face might have been turning a little red. "I have my theories."

He rolled his eyes. "Regale me."

"You only hung around because of me."

"Now who's flattering themselves?"

"It's always been about me," she said.

"Please," he snorted. "I've been hanging out with him long before I ever knew about you."

"True," she agreed. "At first it was all about you. I used to see you at all those parties before you two met, just hanging out, waiting for someone to pay attention to you. Then he did, enabling your little addiction, and you started to have sucked his ass dry. You started meeting some of his friends, and you probably would have leeched off of them for a while, but then you saw me, and you couldn't get away."

He set his jaw.

"Tell me I'm wrong," she dared him.

"You're wrong." He was pinned against the ropes with no openings.

"If you really cared about him, then why did you never invite him into your room?"

"I'm a private person."

"Then what's his favorite movie?"

"What?" he replied.

"It's an easy question."

"I don't know."

She asked, "How about his favorite song?"

"Why would I know his favorite song?"

"Because that's the kind of thing friends know about."

"Maybe in your shallow little world."

She put a hand on her hip and smirked. "'Defibrillate,' by B.J. Salvage."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"It's your favorite song, isn't it?"

He sputtered, "I can't believe you know that."

"Why not? Couples talk."

"No," he clarified, lighting another cigarette so he didn't have to look at her. "I am literally not capable of believing that you would possess that information."

"You mentioned it in passing to him one day when it was on your car stereo or some shit, and he told me, and I remembered it because it's one of B.J.'s more obscure tracks, which is exactly the kind of thing a pretentious fuckwad like you would go for."

He stood back up, gritting his teeth. "Or, more realistically, you're aware of my favorite song because you're an aspect of my own soul."

"If that's what you want to make of this, then I'll oblige you," she drawled, "but don't go running away crying if it gets tough."

He flicked the cigarette away. "Oh, I think I can handle little ol' imaginary you."

"I'll take your word for it," she said, then touched the inside of her wrist. "Why didn't you ever tell your bestest friend about these?"

"He never asked."

She laughed. "Convenient."

"There's nothing convenient about it," he replied. "It's not something I'm ready to volunteer. If he was interested, he could ask."

"He was afraid to."

"Why would he be afraid to?"

"Because they're goddamned suicide scars, Sean!" she barked. "Real ones. Who wants to ask somebody about that?"

"I didn't think..."

"I do," she said. "Contrary to what your stuck-up East Coast ass believes, I think a lot. And I think that, if you really cared about him like you say, you would have told him about how I saved your life last summer."

"I almost fell off your fucking roof and you caught me. Not a big deal."

"You can't bullshit me, Sean," she chuckled. "We both know that's what I meant."

He snarled, "I thought we agreed we were never going to discuss that."

"I can change my mind if I want," she said. "Woman's prerogative."

He shook his head. "Don't go there."

"I so wanted to talk about you being so goddamned helpless."

Out of desperation, he nearly said her name, but he stopped himself and just said, "Please."

"I thought you wanted some harsh truths."

His knees buckled, and he plopped down on the lawn chair. "Fine," he sighed. "You win."

"That easy, huh?"

"Evidently."

"That ain't right," she told him. "Sean I know would have talked me into strangling him until his eyes bugged out."

He shrugged.

"Don't shut down."

He shrugged again.

"Talk to me, you fucking asshole!"

"No," he replied. "I said I wasn't discussing that with you."

"Then we'll talk about one of the million other fucking things we need to get through."

"Forget it," he sighed. "This was all a mistake."

"It was not a mistake," she rumbled from deep within her throat. And when he shrugged at her one last time, she whipped forward and grabbed the armrests of the lawn chair, shaking it so violently he almost fell off. "Goddammit, Sean!" she screamed.

"Are you finished?" he asked.

She punched him again in the chest.

"Now are you finished?"

"You're right," she conceded with a sigh. "This isn't the best time."

He closed his eyes. "I can't look at you anymore, okay? Just leave." When he opened them again, his nemesis was gone. He grinned and relit the joint. "Game, set, and match."

When he wandered over to the entrance to the apartment, Rocky was waiting for him, asking, "How's your pants?"

"Still free of feces," Sean replied.

"I'll see what I can do about that," Rocky told him.

(To be continued...)

weekinthehead: (Default)

Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now ...



On Monday morning, Sean woke up feeling like shit. He also felt refreshed and alive, ready to jump out of bed and tackle the world like a caffeinated linebacker. This made even less sense when he blinked his eyes open and found out it was 10:35 a.m. That meant he'd been sleeping only forty-five minutes. The effort of all this waking and thinking took its toll on him, so he decided to take a nap so he could recover.

Prior to 9:50 a.m., he'd been staring into the thick shadows of the guest room, watching wispy images of his nemesis repeat harsh truths to him that faded over time like an echo. The conversation he'd had with Eugene on Saturday had bludgeoned his perspective, knocking him to the concrete in a bloody pile. The conversation he'd had with himself last night kicked him in the stomach, and then it stomped on his face for a bit. This futon may as well have been made of salt, with sheets soaked in lemon juice as opposed to sweat.

Why did he have to see her? There was no good reason that his anima had to be antagonistic. He was always beating up on himself anyway. Shouldn't a drug trip be atypical? Would it have killed his subconscious to have sent Karen instead? Her presence on Saturday evening may not have healed him, but it had gently soothed away the pain. Sunday evening he could have nursed himself back to health. Instead he opted for torment. No wonder he hated himself so much.

That was where his mind had left him before oblivion anaesthetized him at 9:50, until he woke up and passed out again at 10:35, where he remained until the doorbell chimed early Monday afternoon.

He tried to get out of bed, but the futon apparently didn't want him to. Gravity had been turned up higher here, and the sheets had wrapped their still-damp tentacles around his limbs. The more he pulled and twisted, the more they pulled and twisted back. Was this still part of the hallucination?

"Coming!" he yelled when the doorbell rang again. Gritting his teeth with heroic desperation, he rolled off of the bed, stunning the linen monster that had seized him for just one second; all the time he needed to free himself.

"One second!" he shouted, pulling on a T-shirt and his sweater and bounding up the stairs. Gasping like an asthmatic fish, he opened the door, only to be blinded by the sunlight. Wearing it like a halo was Karen Fernandez.

He grinned, dazzling himself with his rapier wit. "So much for my vampire theory."

She grunted, pushed him out of the way, and shuffled downstairs.

As soon as he caught his balance, he chased after her. "You know you're not supposed to be here."

When she didn't respond, he clarified, "You're supposed to be at a completely different college."

She didn't turn around.

"With Pat," Sean specified.

Still facing the kitchen, she demanded, "Where is he?"

"Patrick?"

"Eugene."

"Why would I know where to find Eugene?" He carefully began to circle her, but she kept steering away before he could get a look at her. "We don't exactly talk anymore."

"What about Matthew?"

"I'm sure Eugene talks to Mateo all the time."

"No," she snapped, "where is Matthew? He's not answering his phone." She began to pace so erratically that he couldn't intercept her.

"I'm not your brother's keeper," he told her.

Burying her head in her hands, she collapsed onto Rocky's plaid love seat. "I don't know what to do!"

Why wouldn't she show him her face? His imagination carjacked his thoughts, taking them on a joyride down through some hilly, unpaved roads, until it returned, battered, shattered, and in flames. Was she hurt? Bruised? Cut? What the hell was going on? He caught his breath and focused his chi on his own cleverness. If he could get her just to chuckle--even just a little, ice might break, and he could see for himself what was going on. He knelt in front of her and whispered, "This is twice I've appeared to you in my underwear, and this is twice you haven't noticed."

When she looked up at him, he sighed in relief. Rather than the physical damage he feared, what covered her face was astonishment; astonishment and tears. But when her eyes recognized that he'd spoken the truth about his pants, they narrowed in disgust. "You should probably put some on then, Sean." She stood and walked to the stairs, her spine straight and furious.

Nothing about that reaction could be read in a positive manner. He gulped. "You probably don't want to talk to your brother right now."

Without slowing down, she replied, "Why would that be?"

"He's feeling a lecture coming on."

She stopped but didn't turn. "And what gives him the right to lecture me?"

"Something about holding a hand that didn't belong to your boyfriend."

She sobbed, "Oh, my god!"

"What?"

She shoved him out of the way again and threw herself onto the love seat. "Oh, dios mio!"

He shook his head. "I wish somebody would just tell me what the fuck is..." The last tumbler clicked into place, unlocking his still-damaged deductive reasoning. The clues were all in front of him: the bloodshot eyes, the glistening cheeks, the anger, the shame, and the time scheduled to be spent with a significant other cut short.

Oh, no, groaned his mind.

Oh, yeah! cheered his soul.

His stomach had nothing to offer.

"Um," he said. His aloofness had always liberated him from the obligation of providing comfort during minor crises like these; but now that he faced one from this angle, especially a crisis belonging to someone for whom he felt great fondness, he wished he'd had the practice. He needed to say something. "What happened?"

She leapt up from the love seat and assaulted him in a hug, burying her face in the lapels of his cardigan.

She hadn't answered his question. "Um," he said again. He hugged her back with stiff and confused arms. "It's going to be okay?" he assured her, albeit doubtfully.

"No it's not!" she cried.

How was he supposed to argue with that? "Yes, it is."

"No it isn't!"

He couldn't do this all day. If he was going to use reason to convince her that it was indeed going to be okay, he needed some details. Just as he made up his mind to ask for them, his soul butted in: What the hell are you doing?

I need to know what's is going on, his mind replied.

No, his soul explained, you need to pat her on the back and say, "There, there."

How am I supposed to convince her that it's going to be okay if I don't know the facts?

Are you emotionally crippled? his soul asked.

Yes.

"There," he said aloud as he patted her back, "there?"

Amazingly enough, this seemed to calm her down a little. "I don't know what I'm gonna do," she sobbed.

"There, there," he replied.

See? his soul boasted.

His mind agreed, I never should have doubted you.

She sniffed, "He left me."

Yeah, but why? his mind begged.

You're not entitled to know, his soul insisted. Just tell her you're sorry.

"Sorry."

"Why would he leave me?" she asked.

His mind muttered, That's what I'd like to know.

Knock it off, his soul snapped.

"I don't know," Sean replied honestly.

"I'm not good enough for him!"

"That can't be right."

"Why else would he leave me?" she demanded.

"Maybe he's not good enough for you."

"Why are you being so mean to him?"

"I'm not..."

She pounded his chest. "What did he ever do to you?"

"I just," he started.

"He's perfect!"

"I'm trying..."

Shut up! his soul barked.

You're probably right, his mind replied.

She whispered, "I just don't know what I did to deserve this."

"You probably didn't do anything wrong," he told her.

"Then why?"

"Maybe he's going through a lot of personal turmoil right now," he explained. "Maybe neither of you is at fault."

"Or maybe," she growled, "it's because he's a goddamn cabrón pendejo!"

What the hell? cried his mind.

You should have stuck to the script, replied his soul.

"There, there."

She cried a little more.

His mind conceded, I am totally out of my league here.

Just leave it to me, his soul said.

I'm wide awake! his libido announced.

"Uh, oh," Sean said.

"What is it?" she asked.

He rushed to the guest bedroom. "I need to get some pants on!" When he emerged a few minutes later, fully dressed, he chose to talk to her from the kitchen, just to be safe. He needed coffee anyway. "Sorry about that," he told her while he quickly prepared a fresh pot.

She snorted in a way that sent his libido back to bed. "I can't believe he left me."

While the coffee maker gurgled away, he crossed the room and handed her a roll of paper towels. "Rocky doesn't buy tissues."

She blew her nose, and his libido slammed the bedroom door and bolted it shut. "What about Shannon?" she asked.

"I don't pretend to comprehend Shannon's relationship with cleaning and hygiene supplies."

"Whatever that means."

He returned to the kitchen for the coffee. Instinctively, he was aware that she was ready to tell him everything; she just needed a prompt. As headed back to the love seat with two mugs, he couldn't think of a single question that wouldn't make him come across as completely stupid. It didn't matter, really. "What happened?"

She waved the mug away. "I told you: he left me."

Okay, that didn't work, his mind said. Got any ideas?

You're on your own, his soul replied.

While figuring out what to do with all this extra coffee in his hands, he asked, "I mean, did he physically leave you, or was it more of a metaphorical, emotional abandonment?"

She laughed. "You really suck at this, niño."

You really do, his soul agreed.

"I would have been thrilled to pass this off to somebody a little more emotionally grounded," he told her, "like your brother."

"If my brother's on the warpath like you say," she said, "then he'll probably blame me for the breakup anyway."

He leaned on the counter, where he deposited the extra mug. "That's actually kind of awful."

"I was flirting with you."

"Yeah," he protested, "but you..." He frowned. "Okay, I can't really argue with that."

"It's not like you were flirting back."

"You didn't think that was flirting?" he asked. "Because I was worried you did."

She shook her head. "You couldn't have been less interested."

That's bullshit! shouted his libido.

"Then why did you chase me around like that?" he asked.

"Because you were weird and funny, and you weren't trying to get in my pants."

"Well to be fair," he said, "you were wearing overalls that first night."

She rolled her eyes. "Were you trying to get in my overalls?"

"So you're telling me that you exploited me to protect yourself from predators?" he asked as he sat next to her on the love seat.

"You got a problem with that?"

He shrugged. "Actually I think it's fucking brilliant."

"I got dumped anyway, so I don't think it solved anything."

"Why did he dump you?"

"Does it ever help knowing why?"

With a sigh, he acknowledged that, in his experience, it never did.

"There's something wrong with me, niño."

"There's nothing wrong with you."

"How can you say that?" she asked. "I mean, before Patrick dumped me, I got left by Aaron, and Jeff, and John, then Daniel, and Ray."

"Good old Ray," he sighed. "So what's your point?"

"The only thing all of those relationships had in common was that they ended with me getting dumped." She concluded, "God, I must be horrible."

"Oh, cut that out," he snapped. "You're not even in the same room as horrible."

"You don't even know me!"

"From a chronological standpoint," he admitted, "you're correct. But from an intuitive standpoint, I'd have to say you're pretty..."

All right, guys, his mind announced, I need an adjective.

You're the thinker, his soul replied.

Hot, suggested his libido. Or foxy! Fine? Smokin'? Caliente?

As he mulled this over, he turned his head to find her face much closer than he'd realized, and her eyes studying his.

I need something a little more dignified, his mind said.

His libido tried again. Voluptuous.

Nerve-wracking? offered his soul.

She asked, "Pretty what?"

Help? begged his mind.

Exquisite? tried his libido.

Flawless? tried his soul.

"You planning on finishing that sentence, niño?"

"I did finish that sentence," he replied.

She shook her head. "You're telling me that you just know, deep down in your heart, that I'm pretty?"

"Am I wrong?"

"I can't decide if that's the sweetest or the weakest thing a boy's ever said to me."

"I'd pick sweetest," he offered.

She helped herself to a sip of his coffee. "You're only telling me that because you want to fuck me."

Can't argue with that, agreed his soul.

True, said his mind.

Well, duh! added his libido.

Sean laughed and continued, "And from a psychological standpoint, you have remarkably high self-esteem."

She blew her nose again. "I need a drink."

"Nobody needs a drink," he snapped.

"I do," she replied, "but the bars don't open up for hours yet." She marched over to the kitchen and started opening cabinets. "Let's get drunk together. That'll be fun."

"I don't drink." He sighed as he watched her work. "Check under the sink, behind the bag of kitty litter."

She ducked behind the counter. "They have a cat?"

"They have a lot of spills."

She returned with a bottle of rum. "Glasses?"

"I said I don't drink."

"Just one glass, then?"

With a grunt, he pointed to a rack of drying dishes right next to her.

"You have a medical condition or something?" she asked.

"I just can't."

"Mormon?"

"We're not talking about it."

"Suit yourself," she told him while she mixed the rum with a stale soft drink. "The biggest, stupidest cabrón just set me loose, and I'm gonna have fun tonight if it kills me."

(To be continued...)

weekinthehead: (Default)

Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now ...



On Monday evening, Sean yelped with a bit more falsetto than he was truly comfortable with. "Are you trying to kill me?"

"Course not," Karen giggled. "Right now you're the only man who I don't want to die."

"Then maybe you should stop throwing sharp, metal objects at my fucking head."

"We're playing darts, niño," she reminded him.

"Which involves hitting the fucking dart board," he explained, "and not my fucking face!"

"I did hit the dart board!"

With his eyes, he followed the trajectory of the projectile in question and sighed, "Actually, I can see now that this is my fault."

With some amazement, she asked, "How is it your fault that I almost stabbed you in the face just now?"

"I am standing in front of a dart board."

"Estupido," she agreed with a half-shrug.

"On the other hand," he started.

"Yes?" She was really intrigued now.

"The board at which you should be aiming is perpendicular to the one in front of which I am standing."

Her eyes widened in shock, and she dropped the remaining darts. She covered her mouth, but not before asking, "What do you mean, 'perfume dick allure?'"

He was too baffled to respond.

She grabbed his cheeks in her palms and spoke directly to him. "You're not making any sense, niño."

Her breath, a combination of rum, tequila, fountain drinks, and decaying beer, utterly delighted him. "I said perpendicular."

She blinked and released him. "Oh."

He exhaled.

She grabbed his cheeks again. "You shouldn't use big words like that to a girl as drunk as me."

"You're not that drunk."

"You're so sweet!" She kissed him on the forehead. "And cute!" She released him for real this time and wandered away.

He followed, picking up the discarded darts.

She gazed over her shoulder at him with a smirk. "Why won't you dance with me?"

"Because I want you to continue to respect me."

She stopped suddenly and spun around. He rebounded off of her, and the darts flew out of his hands. Ignoring him, she asked, "Worried that you'll look like a pendejo?"

He knelt down to clean up the mess. "There's no point in worrying about something that will never come to pass."

She crouched down in front of him, impressing him with her ability to balance in heels. "Is that your way of saying yes?"

"It's my way of saying, 'I don't dance.'"

She grabbed a fistful of his T-shirts and got to her feet, dragging him with her and forcing him to drop the darts again.

"You're on your own," he told them.

She pouted. "But I thought you were hanging out here with me!"

"I was talking to the," he tried to say, but couldn't quite finish because she had been yanking on his arm and slapping his shoulder. "What?" he finally cried.

"I have an idea."

He raised his eyebrows in anticipation.

"Ask me what it is," she demanded.

"What is...?"

"Buy us drinks!"

"I don't drink," he repeated.

"Don't buy you a drink then, tonto," she said slowly, "buy me a drink."

"What if I don't want to?" The question sounded hypothetical, but it really wasn't. He had no desire to get this woman any drunker. The sun had barely even set.

"You have to!"

"Why?"

"You have to buy me a drink every time you don't dance," she explained.

"Karen," he replied, "that doesn't even make sense."

She grabbed his cheeks. "Makes more sense than your perfume dick allure."

He grunted.

"Thanks!" She kissed him on the nose and released him. "Gin and tonic. Lots of limes."

"I have to go to the bathroom first."

She searched the nearly empty pub for a perfect place for them to sit, calling out, "That's between you and your perfume."

Sighing, he took a detour to sweep the darts off the floor and return them to the bar before heading down a long, dark hallway. Hidden behind a pile of plastic crates and some empty kegs was a door leading to an alleyway. Used primarily as a loading entrance, it was the perfect place for someone to slip outside and smoke a cigarette or something more without drawing attention to him or herself. Sean and his nemesis were the only tobacco smokers in their social circle, and together they had declared this area a neutral zone, never to be sullied by their perpetual conflict. There were some things about his nemesis he'd miss, and here, joint in hand, haunted by nostalgia, it was safe to remember that.

Sean had fully integrated himself into Eugene's social circle around the same time Eugene, Eugene's girlfriend, Rocky, and Mateo had started turning twenty-one. Since Sean's alcohol problem had begun and ended long before he'd reached that crucial birthday, he had never associated drinking establishments with actual drinking. Therefore this pub had neither tempted nor threatened him; in fact, it became kind of a second home. He hadn't planned on saying farewell to this home this week, but fate had brought him here.

Now that ghosts that smelled of ozone surrounded him and kept him safe, he could finally catch his breath and ask himself a question that had been dogging all afternoon: what the hell was he doing? He knew full well that had warmed up to Karen over the course of their handful of encounters, but there was no excuse for the way he was following her around, fetching her drinks and cleaning up her messes like he was some kind of spellbound Sherpa. As far as he knew, there existed not a single chivalrous atom in his whole body, so it's not like he felt she needed a rescue.

She must have been playing him. She probably did this all the time. It made sense. Gifted as she was, both physically and intuitively, she had control over any heterosexual man she set her mind upon. The power of it all would make anyone tyrannical. Even Sean couldn't defend himself against her charms, and he was abstinent. It was all his own fault. If he had been direct with her when they had first met, all of this could have been avoided. He'd treated his complete antipathy toward human contact as a game, and when it was obvious that this game had only challenged and encouraged her, he should have shut it down before it escalated. Now he was trapped. He couldn't just flee down the alley, because they'd taken her car, and human decency prevented him from letting her drive home.

He plotted his course. From this moment on, he would play along. He'd sit back and allow her to burn herself out on grief. He'd then drive her to Mateo's apartment, walk home, and try to get some goddamned sleep.

"Are we agreed?" he asked himself.

Absolutely, said his soul.

It's about damned time, said his mind.

His libido shrugged reluctantly.

Upon returning inside, he slapped two bills on the bar and demanded, "Club soda and a gin and tonic."

Craig the bartender replied, "That is way too much money for a gin and tonic."

Sean pointed at the second bill. "That's for forgetting to put gin in the tonic."

Craig glanced at his watch. "Your date must have started early."

"She's not my date."

"Are you sure?" he asked. "Because she's treating you like a date."

"No," Sean sighed, "she's treating me like a bendy toy."

Craig looked over Sean's shoulder. "I'd be her bendy toy." His eyes glazed over. "Though I'd turn into her stiffy toy, if you know what I mean."

Sean closed his eyes. "No, Craig, I don't know what you mean. Could you explain it?"

"Um," Craig fumbled.

"You're referring to an erection, right?"

"I'll go get your drinks."

Sean shook his head. Unexpectedly, the marijuana made him chuckle. "Perfume dick allure."

When Craig returned, he told Sean, "Glen's talking to her. You'd better go and save her."

"Why do I need to save her?"

"Glen's talking to her," he replied.

Sean snapped, "She's not a fucking damsel in distress, Craig. She's a woman."

"She's drunk."

"Alcohol's not some magic potion that turns women into helpless slaves."

"Seems to me," Craig sniffed, "given your history with Glen Erickson, you should be more concerned about him being around women you're with."

Sean clenched his jaw so hard it almost snapped. "What did you just say to me?"

Craig grinned. "Lighten up, buddy. It's been years since that happened."

"There's no statute of limitations for what that fuck-bag did," Sean snarled.

Craig held up his hands in mock surrender. "Calm down, dude."

Never taking his eyes off the bartender, Sean swiped the bills from the bar and replaced them with a much smaller one.

Craig gazed past him. "Uh, Sean, he's taking off his shirt."

Sean bolted away so fast he knocked two barstools over. He skidded to a halt at the booth Karen had picked out and slapped his hand on Glen's shoulder with more than two and a half years of solid , pent-up fury. "Hi, Glen!"

"Ow, shit!" he yelled.

Sean growled, "You want to cover back up, don't you."

"Not really."

Sean squeezed. "That wasn't a suggestion."

"Fine!" He pulled his shirt back on.

Karen told Sean, "Glen was just showing me his surgical scars."

"Did he tell you why he had surgery?"

"Breast reduction," she replied.

Sean nodded. "You have to respect his honesty."

"I can't have children, either." Glen told them. He leaned in closer to Sean and added, "They can't resist me when they find out I'm shooting blanks."

Karen cleared her throat. "Glen was just leaving."

"I never said that," he replied.

She took Sean's arm. "Then we were just leaving."

Sean glared at Glen as they found a table near the dance floor.

"You really hate that guy," she said.

He groaned and took his seat.

She scooted closer to him. "What did he do to you?"

"He didn't do anything to me."

"Then what did he do?"

"I'm not going to talk about it."

"Then maybe you're going to tell me why you left me alone with him," she demanded.

"I didn't leave you alone with him," he replied. "He showed up when I was away."

"And you didn't come running when you saw him there?"

"I'm not some knight in shining armor," he told her. "I don't do rescues."

"You really do suck at this, niño." She sighed. "That cabrón made me sober. Where's my drink?"

"I left it at the bar," he admitted, "when I..."

"Came to rescue me?"

"Maybe?"

She kissed his cheek. "You're learning."

He blushed.

"Now go get it," she commanded.

No sooner did he get to his feet than two glasses appeared on the table. Craig held out his hand cautiously for Sean to shake. "I'm sorry about what I said back there."

"Yeah?" Sean asked.

"I wasn't thinking."

Sean shook his hand. "Forget it."

"Who's your friend, niño?" she asked. "Besides the bartender, that is."

"Craig," Sean replied, "this is Karen."

"Charmed," Craig said. "Sean and I go way back. We were best buddies for a long time."

"Really?" she asked.

"Yeah," Sean told her. "We were roommates our freshmen year."

"Didn't see you graduate," she informed Craig. "Dropout?"

"I took an extra year," Sean said so Craig didn't have to.

She sipped her drink, and then frowned at it. "All that extra learning makes you extra smart." She touched Sean's arm, leaned in close, and whispered, "Get rid of him."

"Why me?" he whispered back.

"You're my knight." She hopped off her seat and announced, "I gotta pee!"

Alone with Sean, Craig asked, "Are you sure you two aren't dating?"

"Hell no," Sean replied. "She thinks I'm gay."

"I can see why she'd think that."

"You, Craig, are all class." Sean shrugged and added, "Truth be told, it's the only reason she trusts me, so I don't tell her otherwise."

"Really?"

"She had her heart broken recently," he explained, "by a guy whose only motivation was getting his hands all over that admittedly spectacular body of hers."

"Oh."

"But she's going to be in town for a while, and I'm leaving in a few days, so maybe you have a chance."

Craig grinned. "You think?"

"I do," Sean replied. "I mean, you'd have to be her friend first. You know: get to know her, take her shopping, and listen; and I don't mean just wait for her to finish talking, either."

"Yeah?"

"Just be patient," Sean assured him. "Over time--and I'm talking about a lot of time, months at least--she might start to see you as something more than just a friend; something special, even. Someone she might be able to fall in love with."

Craig looked sick.

Sean slapped his shoulder. "Totally worth it, though. She's a bambina, don't you think?"

Craig exhaled. "I need to get back to the bar."

"Okay, that was kind of fun," Sean muttered as he took a long drink of his club soda. Waiting for his non-date to return, he stared off into space and cleared his mind.

A few minutes later, Karen disrupted his peace by sliding down next to him, carrying two full shot glasses, a pair of limes, and a salt shaker. "You really scared the shit out of that Greg guy."

"Craig," Sean said. "I hope one of those isn't supposed to be for me."

She licked the back of her hand and sprinkled salt on it. "Nada. What did you tell him?"

While she took her shot and sucked on the lime, he replied, "I told him that, if he didn't leave you alone, I was going to hit him with a stick."

She spit out the lime.

"I'm small," he continued, "but I'm wiry."

Laughing uncontrollably, she rested her head on his shoulder.

When she got her breath back, he added, "Also, it's a big stick."

"I'll bet," she purred.

"I'm talking about an actual stick," he clarified, "not making a metaphor for my penis."

She laughed again and begged, "Stop! You're killing me!"

They sighed together.

She said, "They wouldn't waste their time on me if they knew I was never gonna date again."

"What if you met a great guy?"

"Too late," she replied. "All guys ever do is hurt me."

"You don't understand," he insisted, "what if you met a guy, and he's interested in more than just your ravishing looks? He treats you like a human being for once; like a queen, even?"

"I'd stay away from him."

"Really?"

She nestled deeper into the hollow area between his chest and shoulder. "He's only gonna break my heart tomorrow."

He whispered into her hair, "All paranoia aside, say you keep on encountering this guy, and one evening, you're alone with him, and he's sitting closer, and you can feel his breath on your cheek..." He had to pause for a moment to let a shudder pass through him. "... the chill building on your neck simmers, and he says something extraordinary, and his lips accidentally brush up against your skin, and all you want to do is lunge forward and kiss him with all the love and rage you've kept dammed up all this time." He breathed. "Again, would you reconsider?"

She pulled away from him, but not that far. Her hand rested on his shoulder, burning through his layers of clothing. She focused on his eyes, and then on his lips, and then his eyes again. Then she whipped around and downed another shot of tequila without partaking in the ritual of licking and sucking. "Nada!" she replied.

What the fuck was that about? shrieked his soul.

I had nothing to do with that, his libido declared.

I thought we had a deal, added his mind.

Sean shrugged. "Your loss."

"Not really," she told him. "I'm thinking of switching over to girls."

"You don't say."

"I wonder if Shannon would be up for some experimentation."

He took a long, much-needed gulp of his club soda. "I'm not sure if there's anything she's not up for."

She stared off into space. "It would put to rest something I've been wondering for a long time."

"What's that?"

"Are they really that big and perky?"

"Yes," he replied before he realized what he was doing.

Her eyes widened. "What?"

He coughed. "I heard."

She studied him, a mischievous smirk creeping up her cheek.

"From Rocky," he clarified.

"You and Shannon?" she laughed.

"It's not what you think."

"You dirty, dirty boy!"

He glowed red and hid his face in his hands.

"Dirty, dirty, dirty!"

(To be continued...)

weekinthehead: (Default)

Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now ...



On Tuesday morning, Sean couldn't help but notice how dirty the apartment had become. It was fine when he left yesterday afternoon. What the hell did Rocky and Shannon do last night? Another goddamned party? Maybe it was for the best that he hadn't been here for that. A night away from the lawn chair was a nice change. Still, cleaning up the mess gave him something to do while he gulped down a pot of coffee, waiting for the inevitable ring of the doorbell.

He'd been preparing a second pot of coffee when it finally came. With a grunt, he strolled across the living room and up the stairs. He couldn't say whether it was physical exhaustion, emotional resignation, or simply his joints aching from his awkward sleeping arrangement that slowed him down; regardless, he was in no particular hurry.

Eventually he made it, and on the other side of the front door stood a scowling Mateo. "We need to talk, Sean."

"Can't say I didn't see this coming," Sean moaned and slammed the door in his face.

Of course, he didn't lock it, so Mateo followed immediately, chattering. "Where is she?"

Sean chuckled. "I had a conversation almost identical to this one yesterday."

"I said, where is she?"

"Beats the hell out of me," Sean replied without slowing down. Nothing was getting between him and more coffee.

"Are you telling me you misplaced my sister?"

"She wasn't misplaced when she left here half an hour ago." When Sean looked up, he noticed that Mateo hadn't come alone. Behind him stood Eugene, his arms folded. Behind Eugene, Glen was scrambling onto Rocky's plaid love seat and trying to balance on one of its arms. Behind everybody, Shannon bounded down the stairs with an enormous roll of paper in her arms.

Eugene spoke first. "What the heck was she doing here a half-hour ago?"

"Getting into her car and leaving," Sean replied, not really paying attention. Instead he was watching Glen and Shannon, both of whom were now standing on the love seat, unfurling a full-color, clip-art-adorned banner that read, "Sean A. McCoy's Intervention." It took Sean a few moments to push past the confusion of this sight and get to the point that he could cry, "What the fuck is that?"

"I made you a banner!" Shannon announced as she and Glen finished hanging it on the wall.

"Aren't you supposed to be at work?" he asked.

"That's where I made you the banner."

"She works at a copy shop, you idiot," Glen told him.

"It's always slow right after graduation," she explained.

"Ah." Sean nodded. "Say, does anybody want any coffee? There's plenty, and it's Rocky's, so I'm not paying for it."

"I'll have some," Glen said.

"Does anybody besides Glen want any coffee?" Sean repeated.

"Do you have any cream for it?" Shannon asked.

"I don't know," Sean replied. "It's your refrigerator."

Fighting the uphill battle against the group's attention-span, Eugene cleared his throat. "Sean, what was Karen doing before she left?"

"Drinking lots of water."

"Before that," Eugene sighed.

"Snoring," Sean said.

Eugene growled. "What was she doing here all night?"

"Sleeping?" guessed Shannon.

Sean touched his nose and pointed at her with a wink.

She applauded. "What do I win?"

Sean handed her a steaming mug. "This." He looked at the rest of the group. "Eugene? Mateo?"

"I want some," Glen informed him.

"I know you do," Sean replied.

Mateo shook his head in frustration. "That can't be all you did last night!"

"She did vomit, I think," Sean admitted. "About three-thirty she flew out of the guest room and hid in the bathroom for a while."

"Did you hear any of this?" Eugene asked Shannon.

"Why would I?" she asked back, handing Glen a cup of coffee.

Eugene massaged the bridge of his nose. "Because you live here."

"I'm a heavy sleeper."

"Got any milk?" Glen asked. When Shannon turned to face him, he gazed lovingly a her chest and said, "Of course you do."

"There's nothing in the refrigerator," she told him.

Sean couldn't help but be warmed by the comfortable chaos before him. He might not be able to understand or deal with people in general, but years of being around this particular group had made exceptions of them. He knew which buttons to push, which levers to pull, which switches to flip, and which cranks to turn to wind them up send them clattering off in whatever direction he chose. If he wanted to, he could circle the subject all day and never tell them a single thing they wanted to know about Karen. He'd really miss them all when he was gone--except for Glen.

On the other hand, he hadn't slept more than a few hours in the past two days, and all he wanted was some peace. He leaned on the counter, took a sip from his mug, and began formulating an elegant exit strategy. "Shannon, didn't you think it was odd that I was on the love seat when you guys woke up?"

"Well," she replied, "Rocky did."

Mateo frowned. "Crumb cake, why were you on the love seat?"

"Because your sister was passed out in the guest room." For no good reason, Sean's patience left the building, and now he wanted them to follow it--screw elegance. "And that should void out whatever this fucking intervention is supposed to be," he told them, his voice rising, "so why don't you people take your fucking banner and get the fuck out of my apartment!"

"It's my apartment," Shannon reminded him.

"And get the fuck out of Shannon's apartment!" Sean amended. "Except for Shannon. She can stay."

"Aw!" she cooed. "Thank you!"

Glen rolled his eyes. "You really need to do something about that temper of yours."

Sean finally got a chance to address a question that had been bugging him for a while now. "And what the fuck is he doing here?"

"He's the one who told us about the way you and Karen were behaving last night," Eugene replied.

"What did he tell you?" Sean asked.

"That you were all over each other like rabbits at prom," Glen said.

Despite himself, Sean was impressed. "Nice simile. Think of that yourself?"

Glen scoffed, "No!"

Mateo held up his hand. "That one was mine. After I saw you guys on Saturday."

"Did we look like actual rabbits to you?" Sean asked.

"You saw bunnies?" squealed Shannon.

"Guys," Eugene barked, "can we get back to last night at the bar?"

"And the bunnies!" she added.

"I have a question," Sean told everyone. "It's more of a multiple choice quiz, really."

Eugene groaned. "Does it have to do with Karen?"

"Is there a prize?" Shannon asked.

"Yes to Eugene and no to Shannon."

She sulked, but was cute about it.

"Out of the three of us who were at that bar last night," Sean began, "which one of us took off his or her shirt?"

"I was just showing her my scars!" Glen shouted.

Mateo sighed. "So what exactly went on between you two, gingersnap? And please, no more games."

"But I like games," Shannon whined.

"Not now!" Mateo snapped.

"Easy," Eugene breathed.

"I'll tell you whatever," Sean said, "but just let Shannon be Shannon."

"Thank you," she chimed in.

"Sorry," Mateo said sheepishly,

"Well?" Eugene insisted.

"We went to the pub," Sean explained. "She told me that Patrick had dumped her, so she drank herself stupid to take her mind off of it. I brought her here to sleep it off."

"Why didn't you bring her home?" Mateo asked.

Sean said, "I was worried she might have alcohol poisoning, and someone needed to watch over her."

"I could have done that," Mateo told him.

"I didn't know where the fuck you were, Mateo," Sean replied. "We both tried calling you and you never bothered to answer the phone."

Mateo blushed. "I was kind of with Bobby."

Sean frowned. "I thought you had broken up with Bobby."

Eugene gasped. "You dumped Bobby?"

Shannon pouted. "But I liked Bobby!"

Glen scowled. "Fuck Bobby."

"We'll talk about Bobby later," Mateo sighed. "I'm sorry I wasn't around."

Sean said, "She tried to get in touch with you too, Eugene. She told me you're practically a brother to her."

"Yeah," Eugene sighed.

"Well," Sean continued, "your phone was off, so she was stuck with me."

"Sorry," Eugene said, "I had..."

"Your head up your ass?" Sean suggested.

Eugene recoiled.

"That wasn't very nice, Sean," Shannon scolded.

"You're right," he agreed. "Sorry."

"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to," she said.

"That was uncalled for, Eugene," Sean told him. Under his breath, he muttered, "It wasn't untrue, either."

As Eugene and Sean awkwardly avoided looking at each other, Glen grumbled, "Should have known Sean wouldn't try anything. He's been a eunuch ever since his ass got dumped however long ago that was."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Mateo sang before he could stop himself.

"What?" asked Eugene.

"What?" asked Glen.

Eugene frowned. "Did Mateo just mean what I think he meant?"

Sean blushed and broke eye contact with everyone now.

Eugene brightened. "That's great news, Sean! Who with?"

"Not going to say," Sean mumbled.

"That's very gentlemanly," Eugene admitted. "Can you tell me when?"

"A few months ago."

Eugene asked, "How long have you known, Mateo?"

"I've only known since Sunday." He shrugged. "It kind of slipped out."

Eugene turned to Shannon. "Did you know?"

"Kind of," she squeaked.

Eugene slapped Sean's back. "So why didn't you tell me, buddy?"

Sean shrank from the subject. "It was a one-time thing. Not something I felt like making a big deal out of."

Shannon blushed.

"Still," Eugene said, "I'll bet it was one heck of a release for you."

Shannon sighed, "You bet it was."

"What?" yelped Eugene.

"What?" Glen asked. "How would you know it was a release?"

"Oh, my gosh!" Eugene breathed.

"This is awkward," Mateo chirped.

"I'm not the one who made it awkward," Sean told him.

"What's so fucking awkward?" Glen demanded.

With a sigh, Mateo said, "I should probably go check on my sister. Thank you for looking out for her, figgy pudding."

Sean smiled. "Don't mention it, Matthew."

"Who's Matthew?" Shannon asked.

"Wait a minute!" Glen declared. "Sean fucked Shannon?"

Eugene, Mateo, Sean, and Shannon all closed their eyes impatiently.

"Has everybody fucked Shannon?" he asked. "When do I get my turn?"

"Glen!" Shannon yelled, which is something no one in the room had ever heard before. "Get the fuck out of my house!"

"But you're my ride," Glen whined.

"I'll drive you," Mateo offered.

"Fuck that!" Glen snorted. "I wanna ride with her!"

Mateo shrugged. "Walk then."

"Okay, I'll ride with you."

When they were gone, Shannon sat on Rocky's plaid love seat and covered her face in her hands.

"Um," Eugene said.

"When I said 'no big deal,'" Sean told her, "I didn't mean that you're no big deal."

"Oh, I know!" she replied convincingly.

"Does Rocky know?" Eugene asked.

She got to her feet. "I told him right after."

Eugene was incapable of comprehending Rocky and Shannon's relationship. "And he was okay with that?"

"He was just glad I had a nice Valentine's Day."

"It was nice," Sean told her.

She floated over and kissed him on the cheek with a sigh. "You bet it was." After glancing at the time, she announced, "I need to get back to the shop. I am the manager after all. See you tonight, Sean."

"I got nowhere else to go," he replied.

She skipped up the stairs, leaving Eugene and Sean alone together.

"So," Sean said.

"So," Eugene replied.

"Are you going to tell me what the fuck this was all about?" Sean asked.

"I feel kind of dumb right now," Eugene replied.

Sean shrugged. "That's a good start."

Eugene stepped onto the love seat and began removing the banner from the wall. "Mateo calls me this morning," he explained. "He says Karen left him about a hundred messages yesterday saying she was coming back to town, but she never makes it to his house. Of course, if she did, it's not like he was there."

"Now we know why that is," Sean told him, grabbing one end from Eugene.

Eugene grinned that grin Sean had been missing for the past month. "That's a whole different set of questions."

Sean smiled back. "You'll have to ask him about Bobby. I know nothing."

"You know more than me."

"Clearly the information I had was erroneous."

"Anyway," Eugene continued, "He and I meet up and drive out to the copy shop to see if Shannon heard from her. And that's where we run into Glen."

They rolled up the banner, and Sean asked, "How could any of this be called an intervention?"

"That was all Shannon's idea," he replied. "I don't understand how her mind works."

"Nobody does."

"I was worried about you," Eugene said, "and so she turned it into a thing."

"Why were you worried about me?"

"Because you're fragile, Sean. You're like a kewpie doll."

"I don't know how to take that."

Eugene picked up the roll of paper. "It means that I do care about you."

"That was never in doubt."

With a chuckle, Eugene shook his head. "Yeah, it was."

Sean looked at his feet. "Yeah, it was."

"Why don't we talk about the rest of this later," Eugene said, glancing at his watch.

"There's not a lot of later left," Sean reminded him. "I leave tomorrow night."

"Tomorrow morning, then," Eugene suggested. "At the table in front of the library. So I can kick your butt."

"Really?"

Eugene headed for the door. "I think I can find the time for a friend."

"Where you going with that?" Sean asked.

He looked at the roll of paper his hand. "This? I was going to recycle it."

Sean swooped over and grabbed the banner. "I've never had an intervention before. I want souvenirs."

"Suit yourself." Eugene called from the stairs, "And be ready bright and early. I have work later."

"No problem," Sean replied. "The week I've had so far? I am passing out no later than eight o'clock."

(To be continued...)

weekinthehead: (Default)

Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now ...



On Tuesday evening, at about a quarter to twelve, Sean groaned, "Why the fuck can't I just go to sleep?" He sucked down the last of a joint and held his breath, hoping it would knock him out. He'd stopped drinking caffeine at noon and even avoided food with simple carbohydrates. His mind had shut down for the night, but his body wouldn't stop moving. Was it the cigarettes keeping him up? If that was the case, fuck sleep, because he wasn't quitting smoking for anything.

He stared into space, bleary-eyed and bleary-brained, until an unknown amount of time had passed. That's when the headlights from a pickup truck punched him in the face. Only one person he knew drove a pickup truck, and that did not bode well for him. Sure enough, the driver jumped out of the cab, strutted over to the lawn chair, fists clenched, saying, "Hey."

"Hey," Sean replied.

"What are you doin'?" the driver asked.

"Sitting here," he said back. "You?"

"Standing here."

The spots in his eyes fizzled away, and he saw the last person he wanted to see standing there. The details of her silhouette solidified, starting with her denim-clad hips, generic athletic jersey, and distinctive, cheekbone-length hair; followed by her engorged, painted lips sucking eagerly on a cigarette; then her nose, turned slightly up; and finally her eyes, dark and dead and angry.

Karen sitting in his lap had raised his blood pressure; this face tonight frightened his heart enough that it pounded maniacally against his ribcage, begging to get the fuck out as far away from there as possible. His stomach couldn't say the same. Confronted with the same face, it just curled up in a ball in the hope of dying. The rest of Sean stood up to look her in the eye. "I'd say your name," he told her, "but I'm afraid that will only give you power."

"I'd say your name," she replied flicking away her cigarette butt, "but I don't speak 'Pussy.'"

Sean fought and fought, but it was in vain. A furious laugh blew out of his chest, draining all the adrenaline from his body. His knees buckled, and he had to use the back of the lawn chair to keep from falling over. Normally, his nemesis would exploit this display of weakness somehow, but this time she was too busy laughing herself, sitting on the bumper of her truck and wiping the tears from her eyes. He sat next to her. "I've never seen you do that before."

"I've laughed plenty around you."

"Yes," he admitted, "but you were always laughing at me, not with me."

"I guess there's some truth in that," she said.

He chose then to put an end to his silly prohibition on names. "How are you, Lisa?"

"Do you really care, Sean?"

"I do, actually," he replied.

"I guess maybe you do," she sighed. "Ain't been good, I'll tell you that."

"Breaking up with him was your idea, you know."

She shook her head. "It was mutual."

"Of course it was." He rolled his eyes and tossed away the cigarette in his hand.

"'Sides," she told him, "it was you I broke up with."

He leapt to his feet and sputtered out, "That is the biggest, most melodramatic load of shit I've ever heard coming out of your mouth!"

"You fucking know it's true."

"Think about it, mouth-breather," he growled. "New York is far enough away from Montreal that I'd never have to see you again."

She lit another cigarette and stood slowly. "You think about it, you fucking moron..."

"'Fucking moron,'" he muttered. "How clever."

She ignored him. "You two would have been back and forth and I never would have seen the end of it. They're not that far apart, you know."

He turned his back to her. "You know I've only seen him twice since you two split up. And I'm not sure if I should count the second time."

"Why not?"

"Intervention."

She laughed. "What kind of intervention?"

"The stupid, not-thought-out kind," he replied. "Still, that's twice as much as I've seen you, so I should be grateful."

"So the other night doesn't count 'cause you were tripping?"

With an "Aw, fuck," he turned back to her.

She shrugged and smiled a little. "You have a drug problem, Sean."

"No fucking kidding."

"Not with using, you idiot," she clarified. "It's that you're doin' it wrong."

"Well I very well can't do it right if you keep interrupting me."

She finished her cigarette in an uncomfortable silence, then asked, "So what now?"

"I say something harsh, yet devastatingly clever," he replied, "and you threaten violence if I don't shut up, and naturally I don't shut up, and you storm off before you can't help but hit me." He shrugged. "It's a classic."

"We both know that's not gonna work this time, Sean."

"That's right." He looked away again. "Without Eugene holding you back, you can commit acts of violence upon me, then storm off."

"That's not why I never hurt you."

"Are you sure, you sadistic hyena?"

She actually sounded hurt. "What did you just call me?"

He ignored the question. "Because beating the shit out of a sickly Asian kid is exactly the kind of thing a redneck like you would get a kick out of."

Her voice dropped almost to a whisper. "Why are you doing this?"

"Because we don't have to hold back anymore, you brain-dead slut!" This took him by surprise. He'd never called anyone a slut before and actually meant it. Now he was starting to question himself. Did he really hate her that much, or did he just hate the way she made him feel? He could avoid being dealing with most people by acting aloof and cranky, but she'd never let him get away with that. What made it worse was that he couldn't tell whether his jaw clenched around her due to fear, rage, or something else. That kind of uncertainty really pissed Sean off.

After considering all of this, he decided to break precedent and walk away before he said something else he'd regret.

It was too late for that, however, because her hand clamped down on his shoulder, turning the world into a spinning blur that flashed white when his back slammed into the grill of her truck. "Say that word again!" she shouted.

"Okay:" he agreed, finding his breath again; "Brain-dead."

She shook him hard enough to rattle his teeth.

"What?" he whined. "I didn't say slut!"

"Shut up!" Her fingers wrapped around his throat. For all the threats she'd given him over the years, she'd never actually choked him before. These truly were interesting times.

His courage returned with every convulsion of his heart. "No."

She grabbed a fistful of hair on the back of his head and yanked it back so he would look her in the eye. Hers were pink and glistening, just like his. "Sean," she begged, "please stop."

He coughed. "I don't know how."

In a move that surprised neither of them, she kissed him. He kissed her back just as fiercely, wondering if this was what he had been intending to do all along.

Her fingernails clawed his shoulders, tearing his sweater off. He pulled her hair with one hand and squeezed her upper arm with the other. She responded by biting his lip, harder than he imagined anyone ever could. He gasped and pulled away. They glared at each other between breaths, and he saw that her teeth were red with his blood. He had to taste it. They grappled each other uncomfortably, the discomfort only seemed to spur them.

Yet something about the way she tugged his undershirt out of his pants filled him with a feeling he was quite familiar with throughout his young adult life: a moment of clarity. He shoved her away.

"No," she replied and kissed him again.

He shoved her again and barked. "Stop! We can't do this!"

"Why the fuck not?" she shouted.

"Because it's wrong!" he shouted back.

Down the block, a light went on.

"There's nothing about us that's right," she told him, easing her soft yet taut body against his. "Why should this be any different?"

"Fuck!" he shrieked loud enough to create an echo. He stormed around her truck, eager to put as much of anything he could between them.

"No!" Shaking her head, she followed him. "You don't get to walk away from me! Not after everything you've done to me!"

"What the fuck did I do to you?"

"Don't you understand?" she pleaded. "I need to get you out of my fucking system!"

"How do you think I feel?"

She wrapped her fingers around his throat again, but without the same force as before. "Then stop running away from this!"

"This isn't going to solve anything, and you know that." A tear dropped from his chin onto the back of her hand, and he hated himself for letting that happen." Even though it's what I want more than anything else in the world right now."

She threw him back so hard that he lost his balance and fell onto the gravel driveway.

He laid there, waiting for his breath to return and his pulse to slow down just a little.

She popped open the tailgate of her truck, sat down on it, and lit a cigarette. "You dead over there?"

"Working on it," he wheezed as he forced himself to his feet.

"Get your week ass over here, and I'll let you smoke one of mine."

"There's a first time for everything he muttered, plopping down next to her. She let him have the one she'd already lit. He tasted her lipstick, wondering how she had any of it left after all the face-mashing earlier.

"I wish you wouldn't be right," she told him. "I really hate that shit."

"I know."

She inhaled. "I came by on Sunday, but you weren't up to talking."

"I remember that," he replied, "a little bit."

She smiled. "You weren't here last night. Out with Karen, I hear."

He shrugged as much as he could, having been bitten, scratched, and hurled as much as he had that evening. "And here we are."

"Do you even know why I've been trying to find you?"

"Which part? The violence or the other thing?"

She closed her eyes and bit her lip. "Well," she admitted, "that, too." With a sniffle, she continued, "Anyway, I wanted to give you a present." She held out her hand, in which sat a small block of wood, half the size of a pack of cigarettes. On one end sat a hinge that could be used to unfold the block into a small, wooden pipe.

Sean and Lisa had been smoking marijuana out of that pipe together for years. It was the only way they got along. It even had a name. "The Dude?" he asked. "You're giving me the Dude?"

She nodded.

"That's insane."

"Have I ever told you how I got it?"

She sighed. "A long time ago, I did something bad to some people I cared for a lot; some people I protected."

"They probably deserved it."

"Not them. Not like that." She shook her head. "One of them gave this to me. I don't know why." She took a moment to wipe her nose. "I've held onto it for four years. It's been a reminder to me of where I came from, and why I'll never, ever go back." She flicked her cigarette into the driveway. "I want you to use it for the same thing."

"I don't understand."

She breathed. "I don't think people like you and me are meant to be with people like Eugene. We never fit in with them, you notice that?"

He nodded.

"Maybe we're too stuck in our own heads. Maybe we're not good enough for them. I don't know. All I know is that we can't go sharin' our lives with these people and expect anything good to come out of it."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"You know it does; to you anyway."

"Then what are we supposed to do?" he asked. "Die alone?"

She shrugged. "I don't have all the answers. I'm not smart like you."

"I'm not as intelligent as you think I am, especially not about this kind of thing."

"Then keep your head down until you figure something out."

"That's what I've been trying to do," he told her, "but you kept getting in the way."

"I got the same problem," she replied. "Get it now?"

Reluctantly, he nodded.

She handed him the Dude, "I want you to promise me that you'll leave here and never come back. Not to me; not to Eugene."

"I can't."

"Try."

He thought about it for a while. The ember on his cigarette was long dead when he admitted to himself that she might be right. "I will."

"So what now?"

"We both stated our piece," he replied, picking a chunk of gravel out of his hand, "in our own unique ways."

She sniffed.

"Maybe I should just pick up my sweater and go back inside."

"That's not gonna be enough, Sean." She looked away from him.

"What is?"

"I don't fucking know."

He turned her face back toward his and kissed her, tenderly this time. She responded in kind. But when she tugged on his undershirt again, he jumped to his feet. "Please," he said, "we can't."

She stood in front of him. "Do you trust me?"

He didn't have to answer.

She pulled his shirts over his head, tossed them into the back of her truck, and kissed the welts she'd put on his chest. She kissed the bites on his neck and circled around to his back to get to the gashes her nails had left there. Finally, she kissed his palms, the marks on the inside of his wrists she wasn't responsible for, and then his lips. They sat on the tailgate, and she handed him his shirts so he could pull them back on. Together, they laid down, their foreheads touching, and just stroking each other's hair.

Before she drifted off to sleep, she sighed, "I hate you, Sean McCoy."

"It's mutual, Lisa Green."

"If this isn't closure," she said, "I'd like to know what is."

Some time later, he awoke and slipped out from under her arm. He retrieved his sweater and tiptoed downstairs to the bathroom, where he cleaned the wounds he could reach and bandaged his hands with Rocky's first-aid kit. When he emerged, he saw Shannon leaning on the guest room's doorframe, sipping a beer.

He grunted.

"Aren't you going to ask me why I'm standing here?"

"No," Sean replied, strolling past her.

"I'm here to say four words to you," she told him anyway.

"There's nothing I can do to stop you."

"Here they are:" she announced; "'About time, you two.'"

"Go away, Shannon," he growled.

With a giggle, she fluttered away. "And I'm off!"

(To be continued...)

weekinthehead: (Sean)

Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now ...



On Wednesday morning, Sean turned the coffee pot off, but only for a little while. As to be expected, he'd not slept since he left Lisa's arms. His thoughts and emotions had twisted into a Gordian knot, which Rocky attempted to hack to bits by bursting out of his bedroom and bellowing, "About goddamned time, you two!"

It didn't actually help at all.

Sean poured himself another cup of coffee and headed upstairs for a meditative cigarette. As soon as he got outside, he pulled out his phone and stared at it. Should he call Lisa? Was there anything left for the two of them to say to each other? The whole experience did have a certain finality to it. Even so, his fingers searched her out on his contact list. It was filed under W, as in Who Should Not Be Named, She.

He'd never been in a position before where he craved her voice, and that weirded him out. He needed to talk this through with someone, but no one came to mind. Rocky wouldn't have nothing useful to offer; anything Shannon suggested wouldn't make any sense; giving Karen Fernandez alcohol poisoning had shaken Mateo's opinion of him; and Eugene...

Oh, shit.

He called up Eugene's name on his phone and found himself with another dilemma that wouldn't have vexed him as recently as yesterday: should he call Eugene's cell phone or his ground line? If he called the ground line, he might accidentally have another conversation with his nemesis; but on the other hand, if he called Eugene's cell phone, he might not accidentally have a conversation with his nemesis. Decisions, decisions.

He called the cell.

In no time at all, they met at their favorite cast-iron table and set up the board and its pieces. If Eugene was curious about Sean's bandaged palms, he didn't let on. The game was casual and friendly, just like Sean had pictured it would have been this past Saturday. Warmth and comfort bloomed in him as they bantered and chatted about nothing in particular. Sean was almost sad that he won the game, but he couldn't realistically draw it out much longer.

Eugene had other ideas. "Best out of three?"

Sean agreed enthusiastically. This contest lasted longer as they gossiped and caught up with each other. A lot of trivial bits of life had passed by over the course of the four games they had missed. Eventually, though, Sean found his king and a handful of pawns facing off against Eugene's king and two rooks.

"Checkmate," Eugene announced. He looked at his watch. "I can do one more, but this time, we play for real."

"So you don't want me to let you win like I did just now?" Sean asked.

"You mean like I let you win the first time?"

"That was you going easy on me?" Sean asked with a grin. "Because I couldn't tell the difference between that and when you actually think you're playing."

Eugene snorted indignantly. "I promise this will only hurt a little."

For half an hour they brutally attacked each other, both on the board and verbally, until Sean worked up the nerve to say, "Thanks for making the time for this, Eugene."

"Oh," he replied, "I had the time, I just..." He scratched the back of his head. "I didn't want..." He sighed. "I was afraid..." He moved one of his pawns. "I couldn't..."

"You couldn't handle more than one crazy person at a time."

"That's not what I was going to say," Eugene whined. "You and Lisa aren't crazy. You have an illness. And I know it's really hard for you, and I want to be able to help, but it's tough on me, too."

He couldn't look bear to look Eugene in the eye after hearing that, so he concentrated on deciding where his chessmen should go next. "I know."

"And I still have to live with her, and it hasn't gotten any easier."

Sean shrugged and captured one of Eugene's bishops with his queen. "I can't comprehend how it was ever easy in the first place."

"You know," Eugene replied after taking Sean's queen, "you don't have to pretend you hate her anymore."

"I'm not pretending anything."

"I know you two. The way you guys are always going at it, I wouldn't be surprised if you were hooking up behind my back."

While picking up his knight and preparing to inflict damage, Sean froze and squeaked, "Hooking up?"

"Yeah. Especially now that you don't have to worry about little ol' me."

The color drained out of Sean's face. "Why are you talking about Lisa and me hooking up we'd never do that are you crazy what the fuck are you talking about?"

Eugene gently punched his arm. "Not that way, you dummy."

Sean blinked and removed Eugene's remaining rook from the board, placing his knight in its place. "Oh."

"I meant, like, for coffee or something. The two of you have more in common with each other than you ever had with me. You're kindred spirits."

"Psychoses and disorders are not a solid foundation upon which to base a relationship," he said as he watched Eugene scoot his queen to safety. "If it were, I'd be hanging out right now with the guys from my support group."

"Drugs aren't a solid foundation, either."

Sean pursued Eugene's queen with his knight. "They are if they're a psychotropic like THC."

"I wouldn't know." Eugene's queen backed into a corner. "What I do know is that you both have this black hole in your lives. It's like you didn't even exist before you met me."

"Really?" Sean was taken aback, but not enough that he couldn't make his next move. "You don't know anything about Lisa's early life?"

Eugene sprang his ambush, taking out Sean's favorite piece. "I know that Lisa comes from New Mexico, and sometimes, when she doesn't think I'm around..." He paused, and as he did so, Sean nudged his bishop over just one square. "...she cries and apologizes to someone who's not there."

"Huh."

"And you." Eugene took a moment to look at the ramifications of Sean's move. "You're still full of surprises."

"No," Sean replied, wondering if Eugene had recognized the strategy he was using against him, "I'm really as dull as I appear to be."

"You never told me you and Craig used to be roommates."

"We were best friends for a while." Sean shrugged as Eugene steered his king away from some potential threats. "Then we drifted apart. You know how things go."

"So what are you going to do about her?"

"About Lisa?" That was a good question. Last night's confrontation was inevitable, though awfully bizarre. Eugene was right; Sean and Lisa did have a lot in common, maybe a little too much. That certainly explained why they couldn't stand to be around each other. More importantly, it explained why they couldn't keep away from each other. It didn't matter, in the end. She made him promise he'd leave her behind, and despite their history--or maybe because of it--he fully intended to honor that promise.

"No, about Karen."

Oh. That was completely different. Sean slammed his rook onto the board. "I don't know what you mean."

With a pawn, Eugene captured the rook. "In my experience, no one who ever says that sentence actually doesn't know what the other guy means."

"She wasn't flirting with me, Eugene." Sean avenged the rook with his remaining knight. "Boyfriend, remember?"

"Not anymore, remember?" Eugene noticed how exposed his king suddenly was, so he began to back it away from the action.

Sean breathed and jumped his knight again, this time to a spot where it blocked nearly move Eugene's king could make. "It's not safe."

"My king or the thing with Karen?" Eugene maneuvered his queen, just in case the answer was the first one.

"My bus leaves in less than eighteen hours. It's not a lot of time."

"You should use it wisely."

"Or," Sean said, "I could just slip away before anybody notices I'm gone."

"That is a pretty typical move for Sean McCoy," Eugene replied with a shrug. "How's that kind of thing been working out so far?"

"I don't know what I'm supposed to do here, Eugene."

"If it helps," he told him, "we're throwing you a little party tonight at Rocky's place before you leave."

"A party at Rocky's?" Sean gasped melodramatically. "That never happens!"

"You should invite her."

"She'll come with Mateo. I assume he's invited."

"You know what they say about assumptions," Eugene reminded him. "They make an ass out of U and..."

Sean snorted. "And?"

"Ah, heck, I think I said it wrong." He shook his head. "It doesn't matter. You need to invite her."

"I don't have her phone number."

"I do."

"Wouldn't it be weird if I called her?" Sean asked.

"Why?"

"Because I've never called her before," he replied. "And she might get the wrong idea."

"The only reason she'd get the wrong idea is if you didn't call her." Upon seeing Sean's blank look, he continued, "You know, she'd get the idea you don't want to see her again. You do want to see her again, right?"

"I think so?"

"Then call her."

"I can't."

"Yes, you can," Eugene insisted. "It's ten buttons, then Send. Two buttons and Send if you use my phone."

Sean stuttered, "I mean... I just... This has nothing to do with chess."

"It does now," Eugene replied. "We're going to have a friendly little wager."

"What kind of wager?"

"If you can't put me in checkmate in two moves, you have to call her and ask her to come over tonight."

Sean studied the board again. Checkmate in two moves was a forgone conclusion. He'd used this strategy time and time again, and Eugene had never been able to beat it. In fact, the point of no return was about four moves ago, and they both knew it. Typically Eugene would have forfeited by now. What was he up to? Had he figured out a way out of this trap? Whatever this thing was that Eugene was planning, Sean wanted to see it. "You're on."

They reached over the board and shook hands, causing Sean to wince through his bandages.

Eugene chuckled. "This reminds me of something my grandfather used to tell me."

"What's that?"

"He said that if someone comes up to you carrying a fresh, unopened deck of playing cards, and he bets you a dollar that he can make the Jack of Diamonds jump out and spit cider in your eye, don't take the bet."

Sean asked, "Why not?"

"Because they probably know something you don't know."

"Yeah," Sean insisted, "but it seems to me that, if he's got a stunt like that planned, a dollar is hardly a cost-effective way to fund it."

"A dollar was worth more in my grandfather's day."

"Even adjusting for inflation..."

"Are you messing with me?" Eugene asked.

"A little bit," Sean replied.

Eugene rolled his eyes. "Did you even listen to what I just said?"

"You told me a ludicrous, surreal, cautionary fable wherein the moral is that there is no such thing as a sure bet."

"Exactly."

"And you couldn't tell me that before I shook your hand?"

"Of course not," Eugene replied. "You wouldn't have agreed to it if I had."

"What I'm taking from this is that the outcome of this game is rigged."

"Take whatever you want out of it."

"With this information in mind, why should I honor this bet?"

Eugene smirked. "You don't think you can checkmate me in two moves?"

"I didn't say that," Sean replied. "What I said was that I think is that you're going to do something that falls outside the realm of the standard rules that will keep me from winning this game."

"The standard rules still apply here, Sean," Eugene assured him. "If I do anything other than move my pieces in a legally sanctioned manner, I forfeit."

"Okay, then." Sean picked up his remaining bishop and slid it across the board. Before he removed his fingers from the piece, he considered Eugene's words carefully. His eyes scanned the rest of the pieces on the board, calculating any move they could make, no matter how improbable, that could aid the king in any way, whether by capturing Sean's bishop or obstructing its path to the king. There were no such moves. From this position, the king could only move to one square, and Sean would follow that move up by positioning his rook to place the king in check and block all possible escape. Checkmate in two moves, just like he promised; so why was Eugene so goddamned smug about it? With a cautious sigh, he released the chessman.

"Is that your move then?"

"Yes."

"Really?"

Sean gritted his teeth, unsure of his answer. "Yes."

"You can change it if you want to."

"If I expect you to honor the rules as part of our wager, then I am also obliged to obey them myself," Sean told him, albeit hesitantly. "That being my case, my hand left the bishop."

"I just don't want you to wonder how you could have done things differently."

"I won't. This is a solid move. Also: check."

"Suit yourself," Eugene replied, then swept the board clean with the back of his hand.

Sean jumped to his feet. "What the fuck did you just do?"

"I won."

"No, you didn't. You just forfeited the game!"

"I did," Eugene admitted, "but my bet was that you could checkmate me in two moves. Looks to me like you failed to do that."

"That is bullshit, Eugene."

"What would you rather do: argue semantics with me to win a silly bet, or see Karen tonight?"

"Son of a fuck!" Sean conceded.

"You can use my phone."

"I don't know what to say when she answers," Sean stammered, blushing. "What do I say?"

"You're so adorable," Eugene chuckled. "I mean, just look at yourself."

(To be continued...)

weekinthehead: (Sean)

Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now ...



On Wednesday evening, Sean took a long look at himself in the mirror of Rocky's bathroom and didn't like what he saw. Specifically, he didn't like the way his enormous, gray T-shirt hung off of his hunched-over shoulders. He looked like a bulimic zombie.

He pulled the gray shirt off, leaving his formfitting black undershirt. When he stood up straight, the difference startled him.

"This I can work with," he said to himself.

Then he caught sight of his khakis, battered as always, and two sizes too large.

"Never mind," he sighed. Why did he even dress like this? How could anyone stand to look at him? And what was the deal with his hair?

He strode over to the guest room, asking Shannon as he passed by, "What time did I tell Karen to come over?"

"How should I know?" she replied.

"You're not very helpful," Sean told her.

Most of his belongings had already been shipped over his mother's apartment, but he still had two suitcases left. One of them contained the clothes he preferred to wear; the ones he now couldn't bear to see himself in. The other contained the tailored suit he'd purchased this spring for funerals and job interviews. He'd planned on wearing it on his first day of work Friday, but he didn't see why he couldn't get a little extra use out of it. He changed his pants, but decided to leave the jacket behind to keep his cardigan company.

Dragging along the starched, fitted pinstriped shirt that went with the suit, he returned to the bathroom to make some more decisions about his appearance. Specifically, should he go tucked or untucked? Since his natural inclination drifted toward entropy, untucked made the most sense; but he also never wore clothes that fit, so it could go either way. He pulled the shirt over his shoulders, stuffed it inside his pants, and took stock of his appearance. With his build, his Asian features, and the way his hair couldn't seem to control itself, he gave the impression of being too cool to put up with your shit. He tilted his head back, narrowed his eyes at his reflection, and sneered, "Yeah, whatever, babe."

That wouldn't do at all.

Then another dilemma came to his attention. "Do I need a belt?"

"What are you doing in there?" Eugene's voice asked from the other side of the door.

Sean told him, "I'm trying to figure out what to wear."

"Are you sure this is a productive use of your time?"

He pulled his shirt out of his pants and stormed out of the bathroom. "Somebody needs to tell Karen not to bother," he growled on the way to the guest room.

"Too late," Karen announced with a giggle.

He froze in mid-stride. "Fuck me in the ear!"

She stepped up to him with that incredible smirk on her face. "I don't have the equipment for that, niño, but I can use my finger if you want."

"Um," he replied.

She tickled his earlobe, which snapped him out of the spell her presence had put him under.

He grabbed her wrist to make her stop.

"What happened to your hand?" she asked.

He remembered the bandages. "I fell," he told her. "When I slipped. And not when somebody pushed me."

"Want me to kiss it better?"

"That's not a bad idea."

Her lips curled up into another smirk, her eyes examined every inch of him, and her throat purred, "Lookin' good."

He examined her in return and replied, "Not looking so bad yourself."

"I didn't have a lot of time to get ready."

"I wouldn't worry about it," he told her. "For a woman with your natural grace, the kind of preparation to which you're referring is superfluous."

"Superfluous? Look at the mouth on you!" she laughed, and then she did.

He remembered he still had her wrist in his hand, so he released it. "What are your plans for the evening?"

"Same as yours."

"Mine are to trade sharp banter with people I really like and maybe get baked."

"Mine, too."

"Except for the getting baked part," he clarified. "You told me the other night that you don't do that."

"Maybe I'm feeling adventurous."

"What a coincidence," he replied. "I'm feeling like taking you on an adventure."

"I just don't want to try it and cough my lungs out around all these people, though," she told him.

"All what people?"

"Rocky and Shannon and Eugene and Matthew."

Sean blinked and turned to see the four of them scattered throughout the living room, awkwardly drinking beer.

Eugene waved.

Mateo groaned, "I'm gonna need a lot more alcohol."

"Bedroom?" Karen asked.

Sean shook his head. "Rocky made me swear I wouldn't do that."

"Not even for his good friend in his last hours here?" she pouted.

Rocky stood his ground. "There's no windows, and I don't want to spend the next six months getting the smell out."

Karen stamped her feet, striking the perfect balance between petulant and cute. "But it's so cold out!"

"Sean has a sweater!" Shannon suggested.

"I do," Sean told her, "its famous."

"Fine," Karen conceded, rolling her eyes.

Sean ducked into the guest room, grabbed his cardigan, and followed Karen up the stairs and out the door. He dug the Dude and a lighter out of its pocket, and then she pulled on his sweater and sat on his lawn chair.

She took the paraphernalia out of his hands and asked him, "How do I do this?"

He crouched in front of her. "Breath slowly, but deeply. When it hurts, stop and hold."

With her finger, she invited him to come closer. "I don't bite," she told him, "I only nibble. Besides, I need you to hold the lighter."

He worried that decreasing the already miniscule distance between them would make it difficult to talk over the violent thumping of his heart, but he moved anyway.

She tossed her hair and put the Dude to her lips, which glowed from the the porch and street lights throughout the neighborhood. Were her lips as soft and as warm as they looked? While she had kissed his cheek, his nose, and his forehead, those were not the most sensitive patches of skin on his body; to understand fully, he would need to investigate with his fingers, or even better, his own lips.

Imperceptibly, he shook his head to dislodge that thought and set about the important business of intoxicating this young woman before him. He flicked his lighter and brought it close to the pipe.

She laughed and pulled the Dude away. "What?"

"Sorry," he replied. "I must have spaced out."

They took their positions again, and she inhaled the flame, exhaling cobalt smoke a few seconds later. "It wasn't that hard."

He took the Dude from her and put it to his face. "You'll get stoned anyway."

He was about to fire up his own hit when she asked, "You didn't space out just now, did you?"

He was glad he hadn't lit the Dude, because he would have coughed for a long time. "Excuse me?"

"I know that look."

"It's the look of someone who hasn't slept very well all week," he told her.

"Don't lie to me, Sean."

He breathed, trying to figure out what was happening. "I don't know what I'm supposed to tell you."

"You're not supposed to give me that look!"

"What look?"

She got to her feet and slapped her hands to her face. "I can't deal with this!"

"Karen?"

He moved out of the way as she stormed to the other side driveway, turning her back to him.

What the fuck? shouted his mind.

What the fuck? shouted his soul.

What the fuck? shouted his libido.

"What the fuck?" whispered Sean. He fought his stiffening knees and stood. He crossed the gravel driveway and circled around in front of her, but she still wouldn't look at him. The situation called for something dramatic on his part, but since he had no idea what that could be, he stroked her hair. "Karen," he said.

She began to rock back and forth to his rhythm, still staring at the gravel at her feet. "I'm sorry about that."

"You've had a really bad weekend," he replied, "and you're not used to marijuana."

"It's not that! I finally meet a decent guy and he has to go all the way to fucking New York. Can't you stay just one more day?" She slouched. "No, you can't. Look at me. I'm making an idiot out of myself. Over a guy I just met three days ago."

"A week ago."

"Whatever." She buried her face in his chest. "Don't go."

"I have to."

"This isn't fair," she sniffed.

He whispered into the top of her head. "You don't have to tell me that."

"I just didn't expect to have my heart broken twice in one week."

"I didn't expect to find out I still had one."

"It's gonna be so easy for you out there," she told him. "Girls are gonna fall all over you and you'll forget all about me."

"Why would you say anything so horrible?" he asked. "Besides, I doubt you, of all people, will have any trouble whatsoever finding someone to love you."

"But they're not gonna be you."

"Maybe I'm not so great, Karen. Maybe the only reason I even care about you is because you pay attention to me and make me feel good about myself. I am kind of self-absorbed."

"You really are."

He laughed. "See?"

"Can you tell me why anyone wants to be around anyone else if it doesn't make them feel good?"

Sean said, "That doesn't explain why anyone likes Lisa."

"Just because she's nasty to you doesn't mean she's nasty to everyone. She and I get along pretty good actually."

"Well, you can't be perfect."

She pulled him a little closer so she could rest her head on his shoulder. "You're not like the rest of them at all, you know. Patrick and Aaron and Daniel..."

"Don't forget Ray."

"Or John." At the mention of John, a growl roared through her. "I thought he was really into me, like I was so into him, but he took off the instant I told him I wanted to take it slow. All they ever want to do is get their hands up my shirt."

"Karen, do you honestly believe that your looks haven't influenced my treatment of you?"

"Niño, you hung around despite my looks."

He couldn't argue with that.

She sighed, "Don't go."

They leaned away from each other at that remark, and he froze. He now understood what she meant earlier when she'd told him she "knew that look." He knew it, too. It was single-minded, but had no idea how to go about getting what it wanted; and at the same time, it studied intently for any sign of a mutual desire. He also knew what was supposed to happen next: they would continue to stare at each other, paralyzed by the imagined consequences of their potential actions and the million ways they might be misinterpreted--until one of them would take a chance and lunge.

He freed himself before that could happen and told her, "No."

"Why not?"

Déjà vu, he thought. "Because I'm going home."

"This is your home now."

"No, it's not." He shook his head. "I made a promise."

"I don't care about your promises!" she snapped. "I want you to stay."

He swallowed. "Why are you doing this to me?"

"Because it's not fair!" She turned her back on him again. "I've been waiting for someone like you for so long, and now you're leaving." She sniffed. "I can't believe I'm being like this over a guy I've only known for three days."

"A week."

"Whatever."

He swooped over and wrapped his arms around her waist. "You know what?" he declared. "This is not a productive use of our time."

She lifted her head just a little, brushing her cheek against his. "Then what would be?"

He pulled away, noting how cold his body now felt without her. Grabbing her hand, he guided her onto the street. "I'll show you."

"What about everybody inside?"

"Fuck 'em," he replied. "I've known them for years, and I'm not going to miss them any less if I see them another second. You, on the other hand, I've known the least, so naturally I would like to spend as much time with you as we have. I'm just trying to even the score a little. Am I making any goddamned sense?"

She shook her head.

"You're just going to have to trust me," he told her.

They walked the rest of the way down the block in silence, but she frowned as he led her onto a darkened porch. "This is where Eugene lives," she said.

"Yes, it is," he replied, ringing the appropriate doorbell.

"Eugene's at Rocky's house."

"Eugene's not the only one who lives here."

After a few minutes, his nemesis emerged from inside, carrying a cigarette and lighter in one hand and a half-empty bottle of bourbon in the other. Sean couldn't help but notice an almost subtle sway to her step that suggested that much of that bourbon had been consumed tonight. After lighting the cigarette, she examined the people standing before her. If she was surprised to see either of them, she didn't show it. "Karen," she said.

"Lisa," Karen said back.

Lisa turned to Sean. "Shit-stain."

"Australopithecus," Sean said.

"Back for more?" Lisa asked him.

"Back for more what?" Karen asked him.

He held up his bandaged hand without a word.

"Wait," Karen said, "you told me you fell down."

"He did fall down," Lisa said.

"She pushed me," he told Karen.

"He had it coming," Lisa added.

"I really did."

"Why are we here, Sean?" Karen asked.

"Why are you here, Sean?" Lisa asked.

"I was hoping to borrow my hideaway for a little bit," he replied.

Lisa settled herself down on a beat-up deck chair and pointed to the door with her thumb. "You know where to find it." As they headed upstairs, she added, "About time, you two."

Sean blushed and muttered, "If I never hear that phrase again, it'll be too soon."

Karen whispered, "You gonna tell me what that's all about?"

"That wouldn't be productive," he told her.

When they crossed the threshold of Lisa and Eugene's apartment, Karen looked around. "So?"

"Roof," he replied, indicating a large window between the kitchen and the bedroom.

"We can go out there?"

"I used to do it all the time," he said. To prove it, he picked up a slightly moldy throw rug covered in dead leaves that sat just under the windowsill. As they crawled outside, he explained, "Back when they were still dating, there were a lot of parties in this house."

"I know," she said. "I've been to a few of them."

"Then how did I never see you before?"

"I been asking myself the same question all week, niño."

"Regardless," he continued, "Eugene designated this rooftop as my own private hideaway for when the crowd became too much."

"Like what Rocky did."

"Rocky got the idea from Eugene."

"You spend a lot of time out here?" she asked.

"As much as I could."

"That explains why you and I never met before."

The roof had just enough of a slope to it that they couldn't lie down, but months of experience had taught him the best place to throw the rug and position himself. She peeled off the sweater and handed it to him before she sat between his knees, using him as a back rest. When she was comfortable, he draped the enormous sweater over the two of them like a blanket.

"You're right," she told him. "This is a much better use of our time."

They sighed together.

(To be concluded...)

weekinthehead: (Sean)

Previously, on Week in the Head...


And now, the conclusion of



Thursday morning arrived only a few minutes after they got comfortable. Now what the hell was Sean supposed to do?

Maybe Karen was right. Maybe he could stay just for a little while longer. He could always just buy another bus ticket. He would only stay until this feeling went away. Who knew how long that would take? It could take weeks; maybe months; or maybe even longer. She would have to return soon to school, which was in a different town, so that meant he wouldn't have to break his promise to his nemesis. He wouldn't be able to stay with her because she lived in the dorms, so he'd have to find other arrangements. With the remains of his trust fund, he could afford a furnished apartment if he wanted one. Unfortunately the trust fund could only be stretched so far, and he'd need to get a job. Without experience, he'd have to look into something bottom-rung, like food service. He'd most likely be stuck in the kitchens, as most wait-staff uniforms in the Midwest consisted of short-sleeved polo shirts, and his scars would make most customers uncomfortable. He could go into retail, but being a college town, it was unlikely that he'd be stocking shelves in a place as cool as a book or music store. Either way, he certainly had the smarts to make it into middle management, maybe even higher. And he wouldn't have to remain there forever; he could go wherever Karen's education took her when she graduated. If this feeling hadn't gone away by then.

His other option was to leave her warmth and promises behind for a cold, expensive life of uncertainty. What was he going to do?

Karen tilted her head back so her forehead touched his chin, and she crossed her eyes to peer up his nostrils. "I can see your brain."

"Yeah?" The corner of his mouth turned up just a little. "What's it look like?"

"It's green and squishy and gross."

"I don't think that's my brain."

"Yeah, it is," she said. "I can see what you're thinking. You're thinking you don't want to go."

"Maybe it is my brain."

"So don't go."

He shook his head.

She took his arms and wrapped them around her shoulders. "Just think," she whispered, "if you stayed, we could lie like this on the futon for hours until we fell asleep. It's warmer there, you know."

He groaned.

"Or we could fool around, if that's what it takes to make you miss your bus. I'm not above getting naked for you." She purred, "I mean, I was hoping to do that anyway."

"Please don't."

She sighed. "So I can't say nothing to make you change your mind."

There were an infinite number of things she could say that would make him change his mind. In fact, she'd said several already. He held his breath and dug in his heels in anticipation of her discovering the one thing that just might break his resolve. "No," he lied.

"And you can't wait just a little longer?"

"If I don't go now," he replied through gritted teeth, "I never will."

"Then don't go ever."

"Karen, please."

"Why do you have to go?" she demanded.

"Because..." How could he put this? He'd spent countless hours thinking about this very subject, but he'd never found words for it. "Because it's time for me to grow up."

"You're never gonna grow up living with your mother."

"There's nobody I can think of who would make me grow up faster," he told her.

"That's bullshit!" she snapped. "She's forcing you to move in with her and work for your uncle."

"Nobody's forcing me to do anything. In fact, she's been trying to talk me out of it all year."

"That's not how I heard it."

"Then you heard it wrong," he explained. "I called her this past January and told her I wanted a job with Uncle Bart, and she said no way. I contacted Uncle Bart myself and made the arrangements, and then I took more practical, business-oriented courses for my final semester, just to prove to her I was up to it."

"Why would you have to prove yourself to her?"

"Because she thought I'd be happier in grad school someplace out west, like Berkley or UCLA or IU."

Karen laughed. "Indiana University's not 'out west.'"

"Everything's 'out west' to her." He sighed and stared up at the clouds overhead. "When I tried to kill myself, she came down here to rescue me from everything she saw as toxic in my life, like my ex-girlfriend and Glen and even Craig. But I told her that I wanted to stay, and not only did she trust me, she fought the entire board of trustees, who were ready to throw me out to avoid any potential litigation."

"But I heard she's so nasty to everybody."

He smiled. "She's abrasive, but that's just the way..." He thought long and hard and said, "Wait a minute! Nobody here has met my mom. Not your brother, not Eugene..."

"Lisa did."

"She what?"

"Last summer, she says. They hated each other, apparently."

"Oh," Sean breathed. "I forgot all about that. You'd think they'd get along better, both being evil dragon witches and all."

"I thought you were just telling me how wonderful your mother was!"

"I didn't say she was wonderful," he clarified. "She's a vicious monster, but she's my mother, and she looks out for me, so I love her."

"I don't get you sometimes," she told him, "but I still don't want you to go."

He didn't respond to that because something else she'd said had stuck in his mind. "So you and Lisa talked about me?"

"A little," Karen replied. "After graduation, when I met you."

His heart jumped a little, but he acted cool. "I'm dying to know. What did she say?"

"She said you were an asshole."

He shrugged.

"And stuck up."

He shrugged again.

"And you were a spoiled, big-city crybaby who never worked a day in his life."

"I was hoping I'd learn something new from this." Really, though, those words were probably the most soothing thing he could possibly ask for tonight.

"She also said you were the one guy who never let her down."

He laughed. "That's because she knows she can count on me being a spoiled, stuck-up, big-city, crybaby asshole."

"I don't think that's how she meant it," Karen told him.

"How do you think she meant it, then?"

"She wouldn't say, but I could tell it was a good thing."

He shook his head. "I think you're reading something into it that really isn't there."

"I don't think so," Karen insisted, "because she said that right before she told me she was sorry you guys could never be friends."

"She said that?"

"Yeah."

"Lisa Green?"

She nodded.

"The same woman we just saw downstairs? Short hair? Blue jeans? Cigarette growing out of her mouth?"

"She didn't say those exact words," she clarified.

"Well, then."

"She said it like this:" Karen lowered her voice and spoke in a slow, Southwestern trailer-park drawl; "'Ain't a whole lotta things I regret these days, but this feud I got goin' on with that shithead's one of them.'" Her impersonation didn't sound a damned thing like Sean's nemesis, but at the same time it was dead on.

He laughed, both at the performance and at its revelation. "She said that?"

"God's honest truth."

"You think you know someone..."

She turned her whole body to look directly at him. He tried to free her from his arms to make it easier on her, but she held on tightly, determined to do it herself. With the sloped rooftop and the long drop, he worried this was going to end badly, yet somehow she squirmed just right and ended up with her legs wrapped around his waist and her eyes peering deeply into his. "You don't have to go," she reminded him.

"Yeah, I do."

"You can be a grown-up here with me."

"This isn't home. New York is."

"What's so great about fucking New York?"

"Pizza," he replied. "And hot dogs. And Coney Island. And Prospect Park. And entire city blocks made out of glass. And the subway. And cute little pubs propping up gorgeous brownstones. And a whole bunch of little corner bodegas that look exactly the same but are owned by different people."

"What's a bodega?"

"It's like a deli, or a convenience store..." His face brightened up. "And the company my uncle owns is on Fifth Avenue, between Thirtieth and Twenty-Ninth, and you know what that means."

"I don't, actually."

"It means I can step outside and look up, and there's the Empire State Building."

"How can you love it so much if I'm not there?" she asked.

"You can be."

"No, I can't," she said. "There's all that noise and no sky and all those windows and, like, a billion people all staring at you. I thought you hated people."

"I do, but there they hate you right back. Everybody wins."

"Big cities scare me."

"Small towns used to scare the fuck out of me," he told her. "The movies always made them out to be these cesspools of intolerance and judgment. I came out here anyway."

She bit her lip. "There's nothing at all I can do to make you stay?"

"No, there isn't," he forced himself to reply.

"Gotta love a challenge," she said with a smirk, and then she kissed him.

Sean had only the most limited experience with kissing, especially since he'd left home to come to school in the Midwest. The first one of these was between him and his now-ex-girlfriend, both of whom were so lonely and frightened at the time, that they found desperate solace in each other. Years later with Shannon, he'd also found solace, but for a different reason; in their minds, neither he nor Shannon had been kissing the other, and they both knew it. As for his nemesis, well, the less said about that the better.

This was not any of those kisses.

With her palms resting on either side of his jaw and her thumbs stroking his fuzzy sideburns, Karen drew him in. Her lips beckoned him even closer by only brushing up against his so gently that they floated away at his slightest gasp. It was over before he even realized what had happened; as ephemeral as a soap bubble.

Without releasing his face, she peered deeply into him. Her stare promised comfort, offered hope, and begged him to stay just a little longer.

He was confronted with a choice between letting down one of the softest, most beautiful angels he'd ever met or letting down two of the angriest, meanest demons who'd ever terrorized him.

I know which one I'm voting for, declared his libido.

The answer's quite obvious, stated his soul.

For once, concluded his mind, I think we're all in agreement.

"Karen," Sean said, "I need to go."

What... cried his libido.

...the... cried his soul.

...fuck? cried his mind.

"No!" she gasped. "No, no, no!"

"I have to go," he told her.

"You don't have to do anything!"

He set his jaw. "Yes, I do."

She scrambled off of him. "What the hell is wrong with you? You won't even give this a chance?"

"Please, Karen."

"No!" she shouted. "There's no reason I should make this easy for you!" She crawled back through the window, leaving him alone with his sweater and the moldy throw-rug. Below him a few moments later, the front door to the house slammed open.

He followed her trail inside and downstairs. As he strode across the porch, a hand clamped onto his thigh. He looked down at Lisa sprawled on the deck chair, but she didn't look back up at him.

"Easy there," she said.

He took his nemesis's advice, along with a couple of deep breaths.

She handed him the half-finished cigarette she'd been puffing on. "You made the right call, you know."

He took a long drag. "Why does it feel like I made a huge goddamned mistake?"

"Because it was hard to do," she replied. "But you tried the easy way before, you know, and it didn't stick."

He sighed. "Yeah."

She took her cigarette back. He couldn't tell, but she might have been fighting back tears. "Go get her," she told him.

He wanted to say something else, but really, nothing was there.

As he headed down to the sidewalk, he heard her mumble something that put a big smile on his face: "Asshole."

He found Karen in front of the entrance to Rocky's apartment, hugging herself. "I'm sorry," she said.

"Please come with me to the station," he replied.

"What?" she yelped. "I can't go there and be crying all over you the whole time!" She sniffed. "Look at me. I don't believe this. I'm going downstairs, and everybody's going to wonder why I'm being like this over a guy I only knew for three days."

"A week."

"Whatever." She sighed, "I don't know what to say."

He knew exactly what to say. He could tell her that he understood what she was going through. That they fell hard for each other. That he spent the last seven days thinking about her smirk, her frown, her lips, her hips, her eyes, her tears, her overalls, her walk, her laugh, and her voice begging him not to leave. That he was ready to tear up his bus ticket if only she asked him just one more time to do so. That they'd both suffered enough. He actually told her, "I want you to come to the bus station with me."

"You don't want me to. I'll freak out."

He groaned, "Oh, for the love of fuck, Karen! Would you just come with me?"

His exasperation put that smirk back on her face. "Okay, I'll go."

He should have told he that he loved her, but instead he said, "It's going to be okay."

He took her hand and led her downstairs, where the other four were carrying on just fine without them.

Eugene noticed their entrance first, and he grinned broadly. "We were starting to wonder about you guys!"

Mateo rolled his eyes. "Jesus Christ, Sean, you're supposed to be on a bus in half an hour. Don't you own a watch?"

"No," Sean replied.

"We packed for you!" Shannon explained as Sean watched Rocky disappear into the guest room without a word.

"Are we all going to put him on his bus?" asked Eugene.

"Right on!" Rocky's voice bellowed through the apartment.

Eugene continued, "Then we need to figure out how to make the trip."

"I'll drive him," Karen offered. "The rest of you can meet us."

"Oh, honey," Shannon told her, "you're not driving. Not with the night you're having."

"Well we can't fit six people in one car," Mateo said.

"We can if I sit on Sean's lap," Karen replied.

Sean shrugged and smiled.

"We'll take my car then," offered Shannon. "It's big enough."

Rocky emerged from the room and hoisted Sean's luggage upstairs.

Sean was impressed. "You guys seem to have this all planned out."

"Well it's not like you were here to help," Mateo told him as he followed Rocky.

Karen chased after her brother, yelling, "What the fuck, Matthew?"

"Yeah," Sean agreed, "what the fuck?"

Eugene put his hand on Sean's shoulder. "He adores you, buddy, but you're breaking his sister's heart. He's got priorities."

Shannon paused on her way outside. "Maybe you're breaking his heart, too."

Sean collapsed onto Rocky's plaid love seat for the last time and buried his face in his hands. "Am I the worst person in the world, Eugene? Am I making the biggest mistake in my life?"

"You want the truth?"

"Probably not," Sean admitted, "but tell me anyway."

"I think the biggest mistake you made in your life was trying to end it."

Sean held out his hand. "Touché."

Eugene hauled him to his feet and clapped him on the back. "It's time to get you home."



The End

weekinthehead: (Default)

The original opening to Friday Morning:



On Friday morning, the dean called Sean's name.

"Fuck," he said.

"On your sodding feet, McCoy," said the man already standing to his right. "I have to sodding do this, you have to sodding do this."

Sean followed these orders, mostly because he didn't want Amy McCreevy to his left taking his diploma. "Up your arse, McCoy," he grumbled.

If misery truly loved company, then there was no one he'd rather be miserable with than Ryan McCoy, who laughed at him. "Arse? You can use the language, but you'll never be one of us."

He and Ryan had never before exchanged more than three words at a time, but this morning, they'd formed a very special bond. "Oh," he replied, "You mean I'll never be a Mick like you?"

Ryan's major was political science; Sean's was philosophy. Ryan's extracurricular activity was American football; Sean's was an alcohol-abuse support group he sporadically attended. Ryan belonged to a fraternity; Sean had no friends. Ryan grew up on the east side of the Atlantic; Sean grew up on the west side. The only thing they had in common was a surname.

"That's limey, yank."

Sean's racist grandfather used to tell all sorts of tales of the multicultural squad he fought with in the war. Culture didn't make a difference during times of extreme duress, whether it be mortar fire or the pompous drivel of a city councilman talking for forty minutes about the future. During times like those, you depended on the man next to you.

"You're a McCoy, Ryan, deal with it."

"I grew up in Manchester, tosser," Ryan told him. "That makes me just as Irish as you."

Sean would have loved to continue the debate, but the time had come to greet the academic heads and deans, then walk back to their seats past the other students whose surname landed before theirs in the alphabet. For Sean, this mean that he risked contact with his nemesis. When he passed by her, he moved quickly, holding his breath so he could be as quiet as possible. Apparently this was successful, as the moment passed without a scene.

The ceremony finally ended, and the McCoys shook hands.

"Pleasure," Sean said.

"Likewise," Ryan said back. "Now go fuck yourself, or whatever it is you yanks do."

"And you bugger off, or whatever it is you limeys do."

"Cheers, mate." With that, Ryan McCoy went to find his family, and they never spoke to each other again.

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