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Embark, Framed, and Beyond the Yellow Brick Road

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EMBARK

BRIAN’S POV

allow if you’re still alive
six to eight years to arrive

That day in your Jeep five years ago when he mentioned going away to school…that was when you knew what this would be like…what it would be like to kiss him good-bye and watch the tail lights of a taxi cab take him to the airport…not to college on a four year stint, but to New York City and maybe for good. He fought the tears in his eyes when the kiss you were sharing turned into a hug, his palm pressed against your heart.

“I’ll take you, if you want,” you offered, fueled by an overwhelming desire to postpone the inevitable.

He shook his head, “No, I want to remember it like this,” his eyes glancing above your head at the light shining down in the darkness.

“Full circle,” you noted. So much had changed over the years, so much so that the end was indistinguishable from the beginning.

“Yeah.”

“You artists and your fucking symbolism,” you said, the edge in your tone disingenuous, not reflected in the way you were holding him. “You’ll be okay,” you reassured him, knowing that the reassurance wasn’t really for him.

“So will you,” he added, his hand running over your chest as if he was comforting you.

Goddamn little liar.

**********************
christ, you know it ain't easy,
you know how hard it can be

You don’t remember opening the car door for him or watching the taxi pull away; all you could see was a seventeen-year-old walking toward you under neon lights, shirt—and fear—less. You took the stairs back to the loft, shedding your clothes piece by piece as you got back to your bed.

Lying there, for the first time in five years, you didn’t need anything-- not a cigarette, not a drink, not even a blow job. You were content in that unsettling way, like someone tied to railroad tracks as the train gets louder and louder. So, you closed your eyes and let it hit you.

All of it.

The grief of responsibility.

The adoration you’d spent resurfacing as a debt to be repaid.

At some point in that deafening silence, you heard your cell phone ringing and walked in circles to find the pants you’d tossed away. You expected it to be him, but were actually relieved when it was Lindsey,

I didn’t expect you to answer; I was just going to leave a mess--”

“He’s gone.”

**********************
hurt me now,
get it over

You lit a cigarette just to comfort yourself, staring out the window, breathing in the smoke and silence between both of you. You didn’t know how to tell her that your mind was already playing tricks on you, that you’d already convinced yourself that if you just stood undressed in the window and smoked, he’d come back. You didn’t know how to tell her that that very thing had happened more times than you could count or that you could actually feel his arms wrapping around you from behind.

It was ridiculously romantic.

……

“I want him to know who he is,” you heard yourself telling her, your thumb perched on the bridge of your nose.

He loves you.”

You wondered if you should’ve warned him about what was coming next in life instead of fucking him, but you couldn’t figure out how to warn him about the peril of being the simultaneous object of someone’s desire and frustration and their hero all at the same time.

No matter what.”

……

You wondered if you were already revising your image of him, blurring his faults, embellishing the rest. He’d been gone an hour, and his hair was already blonder, his clothes tighter, the smile on his face always directed at you.

Would he grow into someone you barely recognized? Into someone who would see a raw version of himself in someone else and want to step up and smooth out the edges? Into someone who fell as hard as you did when handed a bounty of devoted innocence?

You hoped so.

And hoped not.

……

That night, when you went back to bed, you knew you were going to spend the next six hours fucking a memory.

**********************
this is a love attack,
I know it went out,
but it’s back

In his absence the next morning, you tried to rationalize how you let this happen to you, how he could have the audacity to leave his bar of soap in the shower…how you could be so fatally indulgent to use it, how it eventually crumbled in your hand--useless, leftover slivers jockeying for the drain. Afterwards, wrapped in his towel, you stood in front of the mirror thinking you were going to shave but could focus only on the reddening outline of your eyes. For several minutes you stayed right there watching what was happening inside you, fighting to keep it there, the emotion inside you nothing less than an unwelcome insurgency.

But the battle was decidedly lost. He was the one with the exit strategy, not you.

He was the one who left your wedding rings on the coffee table, right in front of you, knowing damn well you had no fucking idea what to do with them.

What am I? Lord of the rings?

….

One classic James Dean movie later, the rings sat alone on the sofa while you sat alone in a cab.

“Where to, sir?” the cabbie asked as you lit a cigarette and held it politely out the window.

“Downtown. Mercedes dealership.”

“Brand new one. Nice place.”

**********************
if I don’t find a honey to help me spend my money,
I’m gonna have to blow this town

You wandered the lot alone for several minutes before heading for the showroom, conscious of the barrage of safety glass you’d brought raining down the last time you were here. Mercedes had purchased the dealership years ago, remodeled it, and made sure their salesmen looked as good if not better than their product. The one approaching you at that moment was more proud of how smoothly his pants hung than the luxury automobile whose virtues he was preparing to extol:

 

 

 

 silver mercedes




“Beauty, isn’t she?” he asked. You barely smiled, circling the vehicle instead, your hands buried in the pockets of your black overcoat. It hung open, revealing the gray, designer suit you’d donned that morning—casual Saturday be damned. “New, too. Only had it for a week.”

……

“How many have you sold?”

He seemed overly pleased that you’d acknowledged him, mimicking you with his hands in his pockets, “Two.”

“And your colleagues?” you inquired.

He raised his hand, his fingers forming the shape of a zero.

When you opened the door to the silver sedan and sat behind the wheel, you could almost feel the excitement of a possible sale oozing from his pores. He opened the passenger side door and sat beside you.

 

 


interior of Mercedes




“She’s fully customizable,” he began while you ran your fingers over the leather steering wheel. “Voice activated, comes with twenty different scripts you can use and space for twenty more—"

“She?”

“I’m sorry. He or she, whichever you prefer.” He reached over and put the key in the ignition and the car started with barely a whisper. “Completely keyless, too, if you prefer.”

You nodded.

You knew he was watching you as your eyes perused the interior, and you were content to let him.

 

 


Mercedes cabin




“We have an identical model to this one, same color and everything, that’s just come in, if you’d like to try it out.”

“I would.”

He tried to contain the enthusiasm in his voice, “Okay, let’s go.”

You followed him outside, and he turned to you, “Sir, if you’ll wait right here, we’ll bring her out.”

You nodded again, removing your cell phone from your interior pocket, and checked your messages. There was one…from Justin. You never heard it ring. The message had been left at three twelve a.m.; you stared at your shoes while you listened:

"Hey. I went straight to your voice mail because it’s so late. Obviously, I’m here and I basically threw my stuff in Maya’s place, you know, Daphne’s friend I told you about, and then we went out. Oh my god, I’m completely trashed." He sneezed before continuing, "I’m totally allergic to this apartment. Jesus. I think I left my allergy medicine in your coat when we went out the other night. Okay, so anyway, we went to this club and it was insane; you would’ve loved it--exactly your kind of place. Oh my god, I totally think you should buy it. And Brian, listen to me, the men here are so much hotter than Pittsburgh. I mean, whoa. I think I just stood there with my mouth hanging open.

"Oh my god, I’m going to sneeze ag-- wait, no, false alarm. Oh, oh, and that’s what I wanted to tell you, that was the name of the club—‘False Alarm.’ Don’t you love that? Do you know there’s no limit on your voice mail, and I could just talk for hours and hours if I wanted to? Okay, I’m just kidding; I’m not going to do that.

"I have to go; I have to pee so bad.

"Oh my god, I’m such a lesbian; I don’t want to go to bed without you… I miss you. Bye."

When you closed your phone and looked up, the car and it’s pimp were about six feet in front of you, “Ready, sir?”

**********************
and if the offer is shunned,
you might as well be walkin’ on the sun

The car drove tighter than Justin the first time you fucked him, smoother than the porcelain skin of his ass, the V8 engine exuberant yet responsive, a deferent spirit that felt all too familiar. Your tour guide pointed out a few features and then sat back as you merged onto the interstate, encouraging you to, “See what she can do.”

A sense of relief came over you as you picked up speed, though you found yourself reluctant to trust it. The highway was wide open, and you took advantage of it at almost a hundred miles an hour. City street or stretch of highway, the ride was effortless. He’d given you his business card when you were in the showroom, but you’d tossed it in a plant when he wasn’t paying attention. When you saw a sign indicating a rest area one mile ahead, you turned your head and looked right at your passenger.

You both knew he didn’t believe what he was saying, “Want me to drive for awhile? Give you a chance to check out the special features?”

You raised your eyebrow, shook your head, a smile on your face.

……

There were truckers in the parking lot, but the area reserved for cars was empty, except for an abandoned, rusted burgundy Chevrolet with a flat tire and an elderly woman watering her dog and smoking next to her Cadillac. You pulled into a parking space, killed the engine and unfastened your seat belt. He took his cue from you and freed himself as well.

You reached into your coat pocket and produced a pack of cigarettes to which he began to object, but you cut him off, “I’m buying this car.” You tilted the pack in his direction, offering him one.

“Don’t smoke.”

“Suit yourself,” you replied, cracking your window, smoking it with your left hand as your right unzipped your pants, stroking yourself as you kept your eyes glued to his face. “Don’t suppose you have an aversion to other things in your mouth?”

He gave the parking lot a quick, nervous glance, and then met your gaze again, an I can’t believe this is happening, tentative smile on his face, “Not really.”

“Didn’t think so.”

He loosened his tie as he raised the arm rest between you and leaned down. You rested your hand on his back over his crisp, white, cotton shirt, closing your eyes when you felt his hand on your dick.

“Interesting commission,” he told you, the last words he spoke before you felt the wet warmth of his mouth. He was a better sucker than seller. Your checkbook was lying on his back when he swallowed.

“Who do I make it out to?”

"'Pittsburgh Mercedes.'"

He was staring at the seventy-seven thousand, one hundred and seventy-five dollar check when he said, “On second thought, maybe I will have a cigarette.”

The memo on the check read: Payment in full.

**********************
you don't have to prove to me
you're beautiful to strangers

Justin called that night, regaling you with the details of his first evening in NYC and telling you what wild adventure he’d planned for that night. He was upbeat, seemed happy. You laughed in all the right places, asked a few questions, offered a little advice, and said nothing of your replacement therapy several floors below.

When you hung up with him, you grabbed your brown leather jacket, and took the stairs all the way down to the garage, where you found the Mercedes right where you’d left it—parked next to the ‘vette, to which you mumbled an apology when you chose the more luxurious of the two.

The interior of the vehicle was beautifully lit and smelled better than aftershave in a locker room.

 

 

 interior Mercedes at night

 



You wanted to drive it at night to take advantage of the trademark night vision system the sedan was famous for. This time, you drove north, a powerful invincibility overtaking you. You tested the navigation system, and then flew down a dark, deserted road with porn you’d just downloaded playing on the dashboard pc. Hearing those men grunt and moan in stereo through the car’s state-of-the-art sound system convinced you that this gem of an automobile was worth every single penny.

And then some.

Time flew as fast as you did. Finally.

 

 

 Mercedes clock

 



You wouldn’t arrive back at the loft for two hours, amazed that you still had three-fourths of a tank left.

**********************
I said to my reflection, ‘let’s get out of this place’

On Sunday, you abandoned the loft.

Over the years, you’d return there often when you needed a change of scenery, or when you couldn’t get any peace and quiet at work, or when there was someone you wanted to fuck. But that morning, you packed the things you’d need for the next week and emailed some very high-dollar movers with whom you were personally acquainted. All of your personal effects were to be packed and moved before the end of the week. When you got in the car, it greeted you with the male voice you’d downloaded and synced the night before.

And scared the fuck out of you.

You knew exactly when you were leaving Pennsylvania and crossing into West Virginia because he told you a mile before the border. Every time he spoke, you found yourself picturing the man behind the voice. Muscular? Intelligent? Easy?

You deleted him when you entered West Virginia, switching over to the car’s default female voice. You didn’t care who she was, what she looked like, or if she was fuckable. The tenor of her voice was completely unremarkable, mirroring the miles and miles of country road. The rings sat boxed and alone on the passenger seat. When you arrived at the house, you sat in the driveway, unable to compel yourself to bring them inside. Instead, you hid them in one of the car’s plethora of hidden compartments where they’d remain until you could figure out what to do with them.

By late Sunday afternoon, you couldn’t find anything else to occupy your mind which became a problem because you couldn’t relax. You ended up sitting on the floor in what would later be Gus’s room (but was empty at the time) with your laptop on your lap and a bottle of Scotch beside you. Again the restless feeling returned in the quiet of sunlight pouring through the window, streaking the hardwood floor. You emailed Theodore, telling him he needed to replenish the cash account to the tune of almost eighty thousand dollars, and then surfed the ‘net until you were so drunk you couldn’t see the screen. Your last coherent thought before you fell asleep was that Justin was full of shit.

It isn't always better the second day.

**********************
come Monday,
it’ll be all right

On Monday morning, you called Cynthia from the car and told her that you were going to be late. It was an extremely bright Monday morning, so much so that you were squinting behind your sunglasses as you drove to the bank. Once inside, a teller who looked too young to even have a job, let alone be a bank teller, led you to the vault of safety deposit boxes and then left you alone.

You pulled a key ring with two keys out of your pocket and opened the box to which you held the only key, the one with your personal effects. You slid it out and laid it on the table the bank provided. Inside were the things you expected to see: Gus’s birth announcement paper clipped to an early sonogram (the one where you proved to Lindsey that he was a boy), titles to your loft, the house, Kinnetik, the ‘vette, and now the Mercedes, your bracelet, a copy of your will, Lindsey’s and Mel’s, and Michael’s in case anything ever happened to both he and Ben at the same time. That document gave you the comic book store and Justin the exclusive rights to Rage, and it also ensured that you’d take care of Debbie in the event that she wasn’t able to care for herself.

You took the ring box out of your pocket and opened it for what would be the last time for almost six years. After making room in the safety deposit box, you closed the small, burgundy case, sat it inside, and returned the drawer to its slot. As you exited the vault, the teller approached you again, “Mr. Kinney, what else can we do for you today?”

“Nothing, thank you,” you told her as your arm pressed the glass door of the bank open, the bright sun destroying the chill in the air as you found your sunglasses again, “That’ll be all.”

The end.

Go on to Framed

Lyrics taken from Smashmouth’s Walkin’ on the Sun, The Beatles's Ballad of John and Yoko, Patsy Kline’s Leavin’ On Your Mind, Smashmouth’s Walkin’ on the Sun again, Sam Cooke’s Another Saturday Night, Smashmouth’s Walkin’ on the Sun one last time, Carly Simon’s You Belong to Me, Squeeze’s Tempted , and Jimmy Buffet’s Come Monday. Brian’s car is a 2007 Mercedes S550.