Jones next door plays the cello. He practices before bed each night, which acted as my lullaby when I first moved to Park Oaks Apartments. I met him the day I moved in. I told him how much I loved music and asked if he knew how to play Bach’s cello suites. He did. But, when his “girlfriend” cheated on him with his sister, Bach’s cello suites turned into songs by that crazy, Russian guy, Shostakovitch. Now, while lying in bed, instead of picturing cute little lambs jumping over the moon, I picture little lambs being sawed in half by cello bows.
I pounded on the wall but he didn’t hear me or he didn’t care. I pet my cat, Igor’s, head and he rubbed his face on my phone as I checked the time. I wasn’t going to fall asleep anytime soon so I rolled out of bed and squeezed myself into my oxymoronic plus size, skinny jeans.
I didn’t bother putting on a bra or changing out of my hoodie because the only people left at Barney’s were Jack and a bunch of lowlifes. I did, however, decide to put my hair up because I ran out of dry shampoo earlier. It still looked like shit so I put on a baseball hat that someone left on my bedpost. Yankees.
The cello music was louder in the hallway as I passed the 6 other tenants’ doors. The landlord lived at the opposite end of the building near the mailboxes so she was never there to tell him to shut the hell up.
I could see the flickering “Barney’s Pub” sign across the street through the glass doors of my building and it looked relatively quiet. I walked outside and the cold air made me regret not wearing a bra. I crossed my arms and sluggishly jaywalked across the street.
At Barney’s I saw Jack hitting on a pair of tits with blond curls at the end of the bar. He saw me walk in and said, “Hey, gin fizz?”
“Please,” I replied as slumped onto a stool. He used to make fun of me for ordering gin fizzes because “it’s an old lady drink” but then he finally tasted one of mine and realized they’re the most delicious cocktail ever. “Here ya go, hootchie,” he winked and slid the drink over to me.
We had sex one time, like 2 years ago. He was was surprisingly into butt stuff but he wasn’t very good and we agreed to never do it again. Anyway, he of course saw the tattoo on my ass that said “hootchie.” It was barely legible because I got it like eight years ago after Junior prom. My date, the recent winner of a bet, thankfully chose pink ink so you could only read it if you looked really closely. If I won, he was going to have “scrub” tattooed on his chest.
“Thanks,” I said. I took a sip and the bubbles made my eyes water.
“You look like shit,” he said.
“You’re in a mood.”
“Okie dokie then,” he said, and turned to walk back to Blondie.
“Wait a sec,” I said. “Sorry.”
He turned back to me and smiled. “It’s cool, what’s up?”
He always seemed like he was genuinely listening. He looked into my eyes so I looked back. I definitely had a better view. His eyes were a really nice, honey brown while mine were the actual color of shit.
“Dave called me again. I didn’t answer but he left a lame voicemail.”
Jack was there the day this crap started. I was sitting at the bar in the afternoon on a normal Thursday last year when my mom called to tell me that my little brother was in an accident. I started crying because I thought she meant that he died or something. Jack closed up early and drove me to the E.R. where we found Dave talking to the cops. It was his second DUI in two years.
He recently got out and hadn’t stopped calling me since. I knew he was probably trying to apologize since I hadn’t seen him since he got arrested. Either that or he needed a place to stay and he knew I’d give him one. I always did.
“Are you gonna call him back?” asked Jack.
“You should call him and tell him what a huge dick he is.”
Jack looked at me and then at my phone. He grabbed it and typed in my password. I couldn’t grab it back before it was calling Dave on cell. I decided to let it ring, even though it was 2 in the morning.
“Hey it’s Dave. I’m busy or something so call me back or leave a message.”
“Hey Dave, it’s Liz. But I guess you knew that…” I paused and looked at Jack. He nodded for me to keep talking.
“I got your voicemail and I miss you too. I agree that we should talk in person… so… do you remember Barney’s? Meet me there tomor-” Jack grabbed my phone and muted our voices with his bar rag. I glanced at his clenched jaw and wished he was better in bed.
“DUI, remember?” he whispered. I stared at him confused. “This is a bar, you idiot.”
“Shit. Fine, give it back.”
I put the phone back to my ear and blurted, “Meet me at my apartment at noon tomorrow,” and hung up.
“Smooth,” he said.
“You’re not just gonna let him use you again, right?” he asked.
“Okay, dad.” I rolled my eyes.
I saw a nice-looking, bearded guy over by the dartboard and walked over.
“Hey, I’m Liz” He looked me up and down, examining my attire.
“Don’t tell me,” I said, putting my hand over his mouth. “Play me.”
I grabbed the darts from his hand and threw one at the board. Bullseye. Complete luck, but I pretended it was intentional.
“Shit,” he said.
I could feel eyes watching me from behind the bar.
The Beard left my apartment around 11 a.m., which barely gave me enough time to take a shower and wash my sheets before Dave got there. I put on a Stravinski record so Dave would think I still listened to classical music. Little did he know, I hated it since Jones went into mourning. I heard a knock on the door at exactly noon and opened it to find an older, dirtier version of my little brother.
“Liard!” he yelled, opening his arms to me.
“When’s the last time you looked in the mirror?” I said.
“You’re not even gonna hug me?” he asked.
I wrapped my arms around his waist and he squeezed me too hard like he did when we were little. He smelled like weed.
“But seriously, you look like shit.”
“What?” he asked.
I was muffled by his shirt so I let go and yelled, “You look like shit, Dave!”
“And you smell like shit too.”
He had the same dark blond hair as me, and it was now almost as long as mine. He grew a beard in jail too, but not a good one. It was the kind that boys grew in middle school just to prove that they could grow one.
“You’re 24 and you already look like dad.”
“I just need a haircut.”
“I think you need more than a haircut.”
“So…” He stood awkwardly in the doorway. “So, we were gonna talk.”
“Right!,” I said in an unnaturally peppy voice. I cleared my throat. “Right. Come in.”
He walked over to my living room and I shut the door. I stood there watching him circle around like a dog and he finally decided on a spot on the couch. Igor rubbed against his leg and got white hair all over his dark jeans. “Hey, buddy,” I heard him whisper. I went over to the kitchen and poured two cups of coffee. “You still drink it black, right? I don’t have cream. I might have milk and sugar but I’m not sure-”
“Black is fine.”
After I handed him the mug, I noticed it was the one that says There’s a good chance this isn’t coffee. I wasn’t sure if he noticed.
“You didn’t visit,” he said before I even sat down.
“No!” He stopped me. “11 months. You didn’t visit, Liz. Almost a year and you didn’t even try to talk to me.”
“David. Come on.” I said calmly. “You know why.”
“I’m not dad,” he said, crossing his arms like a 4-year-old.
I sat on the couch next to him and put my hand on his back.
“I’m not mad at you,” I said. “Well actually yeah I am… or was, at least. Well yeah I still am.” I sounded nervous.
He looked at me, surprised I was admitting it.
“David, I thought you were dead,” I started crying. Pathetic. “We just went through that same thing with dad. When mom called…I”
“I know,” he said, staring at a spot on the floor.
“And you promised if I let you stay with me you wouldn’t get into trouble. And the next day I get that fucking phone call!”
“Okay, but I won’t do it again. I’ll try really hard, Lizard. I pwomise,” he said, talking like a baby.
So, we decided that Dave would sleep on my couch… again.
While he was in the shower, I decided to go to Barney’s. I stopped at my mailbox on the way out. There was an envelope in there so I keyed in and took it out. No return address. The piece of paper simply contained a 12-point, Times New Roman Why?
My blood rushed to my head. It was definitely from Jones.
I walked back down the hall, threw the “letter” in the trash and walked across the street.
“Hey,” I said, walking in the door to Barney’s. Three middle-aged men turned to look at me.
“She’s talking to me, guys, sorry,” said Jack
“Hey, guys,” I said, waving to the table of beer guts. I turned back to Jack. “He’s in my shower.”
Jack started making a drink. I went over to the bar and hopped on a stool. He set the glass in front of me. “You look nice,” he said.
“Oh, yeah. I went crazy and wore mascara today,” I said. He laughed.
I slid the drink back toward him.
“You don’t want gin?” he asked.
“You drink it, it’s a little early for me.”
“He looked like my dad, Jack” I said resting my face in my hands.
Jack took a sip and walked around the bar to sit next to me.
“What do you mean?” he asked, knowing exactly what I meant. I leaned over and put my head on his shoulder.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
“You can do what you can do. He’s an adult, Liz. And you’re not his mommy.”
“Yeah okay but my mom’s too tired to help him. Do ya blame her?” I didn’t. He was a complete dick for putting her through all of this for the hundredth time. She went through it for 25 years before dad died and then David took his place.
“There’s nothin’ wrong with helping your brother but he’s responsible for his own life. Well, irresponsible in his case,” he chuckled at his own, stupid joke and shut up when he saw my face.
“Well I should head home, I just wanted to keep you updated I guess.”
I got up and faced him. “So… thanks,” I said, and hugged his head to my chest.
“Seriously thanks for telling me, Liz. And just shout if you need anything,” he winked.
The bell rang when I pushed the door open and I trudged across the street back to Park Oakes.
Back home, Dave was already asleep on the couch. He was probably out all last night getting high. I always prefered him as a pothead over a drunk, but he could have waited more than a week after being let out of jail. I always hoped the pot would keep him away from alcohol.
The first time he got in trouble for it, he was 14. My dad came into my room and said, “Please go talk to your brother.”
“What?” I said.
“Just go look what’s on his bed. Your mother was cleaning his room and found it in his closet. I’m too mad to talk and your mother is a mess” my dad said, and stormed down the stairs.
I tiptoed to my teenage brother’s room to find him sitting next to an old shoe box on his bed. I was hoping it was gay porn ro something of that nature, but instead it was a homemade bong and some marijuana crumbs. I couldn’t think of anything to tell him except that it’s illegal and he could get in a lot of trouble for it. Little did I know, that would be the least of our problems.
I sat on my favorite chair and Igor jumped on my lap.
I turned the TV on and watched a rerun of Full House. I always liked that show except for the cheesy, moral-of-the-story moments where Bob Saget teaches a lesson to his crying daughter. Dave was drooling on my couch cushion and his arm was hanging off.
I dozed off for a while but was woken up by Shostakovitch. It was dark outside and Igor was on the couch in the crater left by my brother. He was gone. I checked my phone and saw it was a little after midnight. I decided to brush my hair instead of looking for Dave.
Walking into Barneys, I saw the Beard over by the darts with some girls and considered going over. Instead, I sat at the bar like usual. He was staring at me, burning a hole through my jeans. I daydreamed about the night before.
“Make it a double,” I said, exiting my fantasy.
“Where’s your broth-”
I shushed him. I didn’t want to talk about my stupid brother.
“Fine,” said Jack. “Here ya go, hootchie.”
I took my drink from his hand. “Yeah, fuck you.”
I heard the bell ring when the door shut closed and turned to find David standing there.
“Dave, what are you do-”
“Wha thefuck did you call ‘er?” he mumbled. Fucking drunk.
“What?” Said Jack.
“What. Did you call. My sister?”
He put his fists up like a Rock’em Sock’em Robot, but stumbled over to the wall. Jack went over to help him and I followed. David wound up his arm to punch Jack but his fist landed on my face.
I fell backwards onto the ground and saw my hands covered in blood. I thought my nose was broken and so did Jack. He tackled Dave to the ground and wailed on him until The Beard went and pulled him off. The whole thing was completely idiotic.
“Are you fucking kidding me?!” I yelled.
All three of the buffoons turned to look at me. Jack ran over to help me and I put my hand up for him to stop. “Liz, come on. You’re bleeding.” He tried grabbing my arm.
“Don’t touch me,” I said. He backed off, looking offended.
I crawled over to a barstool and helped myself up. I rolled my eyes walking past the macho men and went outside.
Jack ran out after me and yelled, “Liz, wait!”
I stopped in the road and turned to face him.
“What do you want?” I asked, walking backwards.
“What am I supposed to do with him?” he said, pointing to my brother.
I turned back around and continued toward my apartment.
“I don’t fuckin’ care,” I said, just loud enough for him to hear me. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I walked into the apartment building and went to my mailbox. There was another letter.
I could forgive you.
Jones’ handwriting this time.
I ran down the hall to his room and knocked on the door. As soon as he opened the door I said, “Jones, you don’t wanna be with me.”
He was standing in the frame of his door in a towel. He was probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever had sex with. He had a thick, brown beard and the best hair.
“What happened?” he said, looking at my nose.
“Listen, I know you think you wanna be with me but that’s just because you haven’t really thought about it.” I brushed past him to go into his apartment.
“I’m gonna throw some clothes on,” he said.
I sat down on the worn out, suede couch across from his cello. I wanted to stomp on it. I probably wouldn’t have gone over there if it weren’t for the weeks of sleepless nights because of that damn cello.
“Do you need a towel?” he shouted from his bedroom.
I touched my nose and it was still wet with blood.
“Yeah,” I shouted back.
He came back out in what he knew was my favorite flannel and jeans.
He was too good for me. He was sweet, honest, talented, sober.
“So what are you talking about?” he asked, tossing the towel on my lap.
“You don’t want to be with me. We aren’t good together.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Okay,” I stood up to walk out.
“Wait a sec,” he said, holding up his finger. I sat back down.
“We were actually great together.”
“What do you mean?” I said. “We only lasted a month!”
“And whose fault is that?” he said.
“Your bangin hot sister,” I mumbled under my breath.
“Okay see that’s your problem.” Apparently he heard me.
“Me wanting to have sex with more than one person is not a problem. And if it is a problem, it’s not my problem. It’s yours. And we weren’t even dating! You imagined that or something.”
He was pacing around with his arms crossed.
“I love you, Liz,” he said. He kept pacing around.
“Are you serious?” I said, laughing a little.
“Dead serious,” he looked right at me.
“Okay well maybe I love you back,” I blurted. “But come on.”
“You and I both know I’m the best you’ve ever had,” he said, smirking.
I smiled back because he was right. “But you can’t trust me.”
“If you would just try not to bang my sister again then maybe I could trust you,” he said, raising his voice.
I heard someone knocking on the door of my apartment next door.
“We’ll talk,” I said and got up to walk out. Jones smiled and said, “Okay, we’ll talk.”
I looked down the hall to see who was at my door and it was Dave. He was accompanied by the Beard from the other night. “Thanks, you can just leave him here,” I said unlocking my door. Dave walked in and plopped himself on the couch.
“Uh, can I come in?” asked the Beard. I considered it for a second but said, “No, but thank you,” and shut the door.
Igor jumped up on Dave’s chest and they both slept like that while Jones played a cello suite. I fell asleep in my chair, picturing little lambs.
I woke up around noon and Dave and Igor were still sleeping. I hid his shoes in the freezer and put his coat on. I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote: don’t you dare leave again. I taped it to the inside of my door and walked over to Barney’s.
The bell rang and Jack looked relieved to see me.
“I didn’t think you wanted me to come over there so I just had that scruffy guy bring Dave over to-”
“Gin Fizz,” I said.