Submit (Page 14)

Submit (Songs of Submission #3)(14)
Author: C.D. Reiss

“Let’s just go,” I said. “Don’t try and deal with anything today.” I pulled him toward the Honda. “Please.”

He looked down at me, big blue eyes lined with webs of red.

“We have so much to do,” I said. “I need you. Please.”

He blinked as if some of what I said got through.

Theo was getting closer, waving and trotting as if he thought he might miss us. I pulled Darren away and tried to shoot Theo a warning look. I wasn’t a praying person, but I prayed there would be no fights. No accusatory words. No defenses. No excuses. I shoved Darren into the passenger side just as Theo reached us.

“Lassie…” he said.

“Back up, Theo.” I strode to my side of the car.

“I have feelings about it too. I stopped her from jumping off the Ferris wheel.”

“I’ll let you know when we have the funeral if you have the balls to come,” I said as I opened the door.

“You’re the one who betrayed her. You did that scratch track without her.”

I slammed the door before Darren could hear another word.

“I’m going to kill him,” Darren said.

“Not today.”

I knew that I had a limited time to figure it all out. I felt the thoughts I didn’t want to have push against the defensive wall that kept me functioning. I needed that wall. It was the percussion section, keeping the beat, organizing the symphony of reactions and decisions that needed to happen. Without it, the whole piece was going to shit.

I pulled out of the parking lot. Theo got small in my rearview. “We need to make arrangements,” I said. “Are you up for it, or am I driving you home?”

“I don’t know what to do.”

“Do you have money?”

He shook his head. “There was a life insurance policy. For both of us. In case. I checked it when she tried the last time.”

“Okay. Let’s take care of it. Then, I don’t know.” I took his hand at the red light. “Let’s just keep our shit together until the sun goes down.”

“Then what?”

“We fall apart.”

We made it home before sunset. The funeral home had dealt with worse, and we did what the grieved often did. We dumped everything in their lap and let them tell us what we had to do. Darren signed the forms to allow them to retrieve the body. We let them arrange a cremation. There would be no big funeral, no open casket, just a thing at my house. I didn’t know what you called such a thing, but the funeral director seemed to know and nodded, letting it slide.

Then we ran back to my house and made phone calls, sprawled on the couch together. I’d called three people I knew weren’t around, leaving messages and moving on, when I heard Darren weeping Adam’s name into his phone. I felt glad enough to leave him alone. He needed someone besides me. He’d lost his sister, his only family. He deserved to have someone else to love him.

But my gladness was shouted down by something darker, more insidious, more selfish. A deep, evil stab of loneliness that I would have done best to ignore. I should have stayed in the living room to have Darren’s warm body next to me, but he needed to be alone. He wouldn’t want to go to Gabby’s room, and I didn’t feel right forcing him onto the porch. So I slipped into my room, crawled under the covers and hugged my pillow, wondering who was going to braid my hair tomorrow.

CHAPTER 11

I texted Debbie, asking for a few days off and explaining that my best friend had died. She called, but I rejected it. I got dinged and blooped and buzzed a hundred times over by everyone we had ever known. I answered some, thanking people for their condolences, but I just wanted to be left alone, so I shut off the phone and cocooned myself under the covers.

I got out of bed the next night. The house was empty. I showered, ate a few crackers, and went back to bed.

I turned my phone back on, under the covers, and scrolled through all the kind words and long messages. I resented them. I was grateful for them. I wanted to be around people and eviscerate the longing lonely hole in my body. I earned the isolation and wanted nothing to do with another living soul. Fuck everybody. I needed them. I hated them.

I tried to remember things about my friend, nice stories to cheer me under the dark, damp covers, but my brain wouldn’t jog anything loose. I could only remember our most hackneyed scenes. Graduation day. The last time I had seen her, the last time I spoke to her. Everything else was scorched earth, as if it had never happened, or like some mature, godly part of me was protecting the weak, repellent part of me from more hurt by refusing to release painful data.

Someone knocked on the door at some point, maybe just some delivery person, but it woke me up. I scrolled through my messages. So sorry/That’s terrible/Can I bring you something to eat? Et cetera, et cetera. Everyone was so sweet, but I didn’t know how to accept their kindness. The phone vibrated in my hand, and though I’d been ignoring it for however many hours, I looked at this message.

—Debbie told me—

I didn’t know how to respond to Jonathan. We weren’t in a place in our relationship where I could ask him for anything or expect him to intuit what I needed. His text made me feel lonelier than any other. I answered, feeling as if I were shouting down an empty alley.

—Tell her I’m going to work day after tomorrow—

—What are you doing now?—

—I’m under my covers—

—Alone?—

—y—

—A crime—

I smiled, and the feeling of levity cracked the brittle shell of sorrow, if only for a second, and tears streamed down my face.

—Don’t make me laugh, f**khead—

—May I join you under those lucky covers?—

When I read the message, I didn’t feel his request in my loins, but on my skin. I wanted him to touch me. Kiss me. Breathe on me. Talk to me. Hold me for hours. The desire wasn’t just between my legs, but in my rib cage, my marrow, my fingertips. Could I give up the consuming protection of loneliness and indulge in a few hours with Jonathan? Was I worthy of a little comfort? Probably not. And I hadn’t forgotten the submissive thing. No. He was going to drag me into a pit of defilement and humiliation. Seeing him would only draw him closer to me than he should be, ever.

I texted:

—I need you—

I hit send. I shouldn’t have. I should have made a much cooler, distant statement. At the very least, I should have been witty in admitting I was a filthy, repugnant mess of need. But I didn’t. Three words and I’d debased myself.