And Now I KnowbyTransverse©
I had the hardest time deciding whether to put this in the Romance section or the Gay Male section. I wish they didn't have to be separate. Oh, well. Decisions, decisions. Don't forget to vote! Happy Valentine's, everyone!
The man he had talked to on the phone called it the Wonderland Spread.
There were a lot of the blue tiger-lily-looking ones; they made a kind of fan around the rest of the plants. In the middle there were some yellow things that looked like giant dandelions, and in the middle of those were some brown, tubular things at the end of long, green stalks. The man had given him a name for those, too, but Sen thought they looked like turds. A full spread for the bargain price of four hundred dollars, plus a free bundle of shit sticks; when you came across a deal like that, you took it. You were apt to regret it for the rest of your life if you didn't.
He pressed his lips together tighter. The woman next to him - some friend of Ange's, Mary or Terry or something - placed a hand on his arm, squeezing. He looked over at her, struggling to keep his face straight. It wouldn't do at all to have a laugh here; people would look at him funny. He turned back toward the front.
He looked around, taking the place in. It was nice enough; they kept the lawn mowed regularly, at least. And some of the statues here were very nice; lots of them were angels.
Ange liked angels.
Maybe he would buy her a crystal one for her next birthday. It was coming up, and he didn't want to get caught without a gift like he had the previous year. He didn't get laid for two months after that little fuck-up.
It was cloudy now, even though it had been sunny when they started this whole charade. Sen hoped it didn't rain; he really didn't want to have to sit and listen to this stupid service while he drowned. He turned back toward the front.
The minister - Sen had never known his name, never cared to - was talking about sheep and the Lord. He sobered a little; if there was anything Angela was serious about, it was the Lord. He was the reason she never danced dirty or went to bed naked; the reason Sen had to get up every Sunday and trudge to the overheated barn Angela called church and give away money. He was Angela's lifeline. He snorted.
Still fighting the giggles, Sen put a serious expression on his face. They were putting it into the hole now.
The twenty thousand dollar wooden box disappeared from view. Sen's hands started to shake, and he gripped his knees to keep them still. He closed his eyes, and suddenly all the funny was gone, and there was something else, a
(crash a crash a crash crash crash)
Then he smiled again, understanding what must be happening. It was a hoot, it really was, if you had a sense of humor. Ange didn't really have much of a sense of humor, and this was certainly an elaborate trick to play, but she was doing it, all right. Like a pro. He almost giggled, and had to slap his hand against his mouth to stop.
The woman next to him squeezed his forearm again.
When it was done, she spoke.
"Are you coming to Suze's?" she asked, hushed.
It took Sen a moment to find his voice, but he did. "No," he said. "I think I'm just gonna go home."
"Okay," she said, standing. "Just call one of us, if you need anything, you know?"
"Sure," he said.
She walked away. He sat.
He blinked a few times and suddenly it was dark. There wasn't a hole in front of him anymore; just some dirt. A little hill. A squirrel ran onto it. He reached down beside him and picked up a rock. He missed, but it ran away. He sat some more.
It got cold. He stood up, and walked back to his car. It was in C lot. By the people in the wall. He got in, started it. Drove home.
He parked it in the garage. He went inside. He sat down on his couch, and turned on the TV. He stared at the screen. It was really colorful. The pictures looked nice when they moved.
After a while he noticed a glare. It was from the sun. He got up, closed the blinds. He went into
their room. He laid down, and closed his eyes. He supposed he went to sleep.
Later, he opened his eyes. It wasn't bright anymore. He stood up. He took off his clothes. He went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. He stood under the water for a few minutes. It was warm. Nice.
He got out. He dried off. The towel was warm, too, but not as nice as the water. He put on some clothes. The TV was still on. He stared at it some more. It was Shark Week. A man who'd lost both arms, separately, to sharks while surfing was learning to balance on his board again. Sen laughed. Fucking idiot. He checked his watch.
His eyes got tired; Shark Week sure was bright. He got up, and went to the garage. There was a pile of dirty clothes in front of the washer. He put them in. He stood there (just for a second, he could swear), staring. The buzzer went off.
He put them in the dryer, adding one of the fabric sheets. The clothes started to swirl. He watched them, just for a few minutes, really. They stopped spinning.
He took them out, then carried them inside. He dumped them on the bed. He folded them. He put his boxers in his drawer, making sure they didn't stick out on the sides of it. Ange hated that. He didn't want to have to hear her nag.
Her dresser mirror had finger prints. He sighed, and went to the bathroom. He got some Windex and a rag. She liked her mirrors clear. She would be happy when she saw this. Maybe he would get laid.
When it was clean, he put the rag in the hamper in the corner. It was wet, but Ange would just have to deal. There was a twinge in his chest, and he almost had a thought. Something dangerous. Scary. He turned from the mirror and walked away. He checked his watch again, frowning this time.
He went to the kitchen, suddenly hungry. He thought about what he'd last eaten. Then, he wondered when he'd last eaten. He couldn't remember. He pulled out a pack of sandwich meat. He sat in front of the TV again while he ate it. Sharks swam around more fucking idiots in underwater cages. He wondered briefly what it was be like to a shark. It looked kind of fun.
He didn't know what they were so worried about, really. He tried to think of why they might be so concerned, but it got scary if he did. It wasn't like they even had anything interesting to say. Maybe they were calling him because nobody else was around to listen to their stupid problems. He should just pick up and tell them to go to hell. It wasn't like they could hurt him via telephone.
He didn't answer.
They came by after that.
Sometimes he just sat on the sofa watching TV, even though they could see him from the front window, but most of the time he hid in the coat closet until they went away. Even though some of them yelled for him, sometimes for the better part of an hour, he stayed in there.
He had the locks changed after Phil finally came by, threatening to come in if he didn't answer the door on his next visit. They were best friends, and Phil had had a key. He and Phil used to hang out a lot; he liked Phil. He liked a lot of the people that came to the door, but the scary told him he'd better not let them in, or there would be trouble. Bad trouble.
Eventually they went away.
Shark Week had ended a while before; now they were doing some crap documentary about polar bears. Exactly how long it had been, Sen couldn't tell, but he always watched this channel before Ange got back from work. He was running low on food, though. Again. He didn't understand how he had eaten so much in one day. Ange was supposed to go shopping. Maybe she had hit traffic on her way home. He would just have to go. He checked his watch again, sighing. He had time; she didn't get home until eight most days.
He considered (for all of a millisecond) that he should maybe call her office. You know, just to make sure she had left. He had the phone in his hand when the scary came again. He dropped the phone, trying to think of things besides Ange. His body didn't like to think of her. He felt better if he left it alone. And she would come home soon.
He was just being silly.
He checked his bank accounts later. There were two hundred and fifty thousand more dollars in his secondary checking than there ought to have been. He didn't think too hard about how they had gotten there.
He went out to get some food. Burger King. He hadn't had hot food in a long time. There was only one guy behind the counter. He was thin, and his dark hair was kind of blue under the fluorescents. Sen thought it was cool. Maybe he would get blue hair, too.
"How can I help you?" the guy asked. He lifted one eyebrow at Sen.
"Um," Sen said. "I'll have a number three."
"With cheese, or without?"
"Small, medium, or large?"
Sen scanned his card. Processing…
The man handed him a receipt. "412," he said.
He went to sit down by a window. He couldn't see much. There was snow on the ground, and more in the air. It blew almost horizontally to the right, banking up against the wall between the lot and the street. It looked like the baby powder he had wasted from the can once in the bathroom. Ange had given him hell for that one, but they'd had sex afterward, so it was okay. His groin tingled. He should leave soon. He wanted to be there when she got home; she'd be pissed about driving in the snow, and she'd probably start a fight with him.
His cock liked it when she was pissed.
"I guess your legs are tired," someone said. Sen looked up, startled. It was Blue Hair. He was sneering.
"Oh," he said, taking the bag. "Thanks, I guess." Blue Hair walked away.
Sen pulled the food out and started to eat. He finished fast, and he just sat watching the snow. It was pretty. Ange liked looking at the snow, too. Said it reminded her of God. Like she needed reminding.
"Are you planning to get the hell out of here sometime?"
Blue Hair again. He was wiping off some tables now, looking angry. Sen noticed that the lights were mostly off and the OPEN sign was no longer lit. He stood.
"Yeah," he said. "I suppose so."
Blue Hair stopped frowning, and smiled a little. "I'm sorry," he said. "I just fucking hate being here."
Sen laughed. Just a little. "How're you getting home? I don't see your car. Will someone pick you up?"
"Nah," he said, shrugging. "I'll walk."
Sen was confused. He must have looked confused, too, because Blue Hair laughed. "I live a few blocks away," he said. "And I have a coat. This weather is nothing to fuck around with."
"I could take you home," Sen said.
"Yeah?" he said, taking a deep breath. "I'm glad you offered, 'cause I really don't fucking feel like walking my ass home."
Sen laughed again. More than a little this time. It was weird, and it made him think of
things he really shouldn't. He stopped.
Blue Hair disappeared for a few moments. When he came back, he had on a puffy trench coatish thing that Sen had never seen before. It had green fur around the collar. Blue Hair smirked.
"Not everyone can afford Ralph Lauren," he said. "Besides," he continued, turning off the last of the lights, "it's got character."
It was a great deal more than a few blocks, if Sen did say so himself. It was almost eight miles.
"Do you walk home every day this far, even in the winter?" Sen asked. He blinked, a little surprised at himself. He hadn't so many words at once in…well, a while. Couldn't have been that long, though, right? Ange still wasn't home from work.
He didn't dwell on it.
"Yeah," Blue Hair said, sounding proud. "It's not so bad."
Sen didn't believe him.
"You don't believe me do you?" he asked, smirking again. Sen wished he would stop. It was making him want to smile, and smiling reminded him of things.
"Well…" Sen said.
"Probably because I'm lying," he said, looking out of his window. "It's actually pretty fucking bad. Rotten."
"Can't someone give you a ride? Your parents? Friends, maybe?"
"Your parents, or your friends?"
Sen didn't have anything to say to that, and Blue Hair didn't say anything else. Sen wondered how long Blue Hair had been at this; walking eight miles to work.
"Six years," Blue Hair said. "They died the year I graduated from college."
Sen thought back, wondering if he had said anything out loud.
"No, you didn't have to say it out loud," Blue Hair said. "People always ask the same fucking questions. And I have a knack for reading faces."
Sen sat back in his chair, a tad put off. Blue Hair sensed this, too.
"I'm sorry," he said, looking down at his hands. "Sometimes I'm mean when I don't want to be."
"It's okay," Sen said. And it was.
"Thanks," Blue Hair said. He sat forward, squinting through the windshield. "It's the next little house on the right," he said, pointing.
Sen turned the car into the narrow driveway. It was split down the middle, with patches of grass that were probably green in spring growing up between the slabs of cement. The house itself was small, and covered with siding that had once been yellow but was fading into beige. The windows were dirty and hard to see through, but otherwise undamaged, and the door, which was cherrywood, was really quite nice. The small yard was covered with snow, but Sen could tell there were small bushes lining the short walk between the driveway and the porch.
"Pretty shitty, huh? It's only two bedrooms. Can't afford much on the peanuts they pay at that fucking heart disease factory."
Sen barely heard him, still transfixed by the house. It looked a lot like the one he and Ange had first purchased, right after they got married. His paintings hadn't quite made the hot shit list yet, and they were still struggling then. He felt the scary coming on again, and for a moment he hated it for hurting him when he was trying to remember things. Good things. He hated its guts.
Then he turned back to Blue Hair.
"It's beautiful," he said. Blue Hair looked at him for a long moment, not saying anything. Then, he smiled. For real.
"I know," he said. "I love it."
He got out of the car, his face scrunching as the wind hit it. He trotted to the door, pulling out his keys. Sen let his window down, sticking his head out into the cold. "Hey!" he shouted.
Blue Hair turned back toward him, still squinting. "What?" he said.
"What's your name?"
He smirked again. "Nelson," he said. "But everyone used to call me Tag."
"Oh," Sen said. "I'm Sen. Well actually, it's not Sen, it's-"
"Andersen," Blue Hair said, smiling for real again. "I know." He went inside.
Sen let his window back up, wondering how in holy hell he'd known that. Then he remembered his credit card. He didn't smile again (the scary was still lurking nearby, after all), but it was a near thing.
Sen didn't want to go to the house. There was a lot of scary there. More than there was out here, at least.
He drove around.
The salt trucks were out, and he passed eight of them before he went home. Dusk settled into full dark, and the landscape around him disappeared into the darkness. He sighed, knowing he had to go back home.
He turned onto SR-43 and blinked as new snow drifted up from the road onto his windshield. He slowed down, doing twenty five until his driveway came into sight. He turned, switching into all wheel drive so he could make it up the hill.
He parked, bundling his coat so that he could keep the snow out of his shirt. Bracing, he stepped out of the car, slamming the door shut behind him as he ran for the door. He hadn't bothered with the garage; he'd left the automatic opener on the shelf. His car would be alright.
He unlocked the front door, stepping inside and closing it behind him. He took off his coat and scarf, hanging it in the closet and heading toward the bedroom. He checked his watch.
It was no big deal. She was just running late. He wished she would hurry, though; he hadn't seen her in
(seven months it's been seven months)
a while and he wanted to talk to her. He missed her. Just a little, though; he wasn't so big of a baby that he couldn't wait for her to get home from work.
He stripped, slipping on some sweatpants. He got in bed. He closed his eyes.
"Don't tell me, Sen!"
"Why not? Don't you want to know?"
"It'll ruin the fun!"
"Fine, fine. Just close your eyes. I'll guide you."
"Okay, no funny business."
He placed his hands over her eyes, just in case. It was autumn, and the leaves were falling. There was a big oak tree on a hill, and it was her favorite place in the world. She'd told him so, off hand one day. She didn't think he'd remember.
He led her to it, stopping as they stood under it. The grass was green beneath their feet, and the gnats hovered in swarms above it. The sunshine filtered through the leaves and made her hair glow. Sen smiled, and took his hands away.
She gasped, and her hands clapped to her mouth. She walked around in a little circle, silent, until she squealed, kicking at a pile of leaves. She spun around; a little pirouette. She turned to him, pulling him in. They kissed, and the whole world was grand. Then she let go, and jumped into the leaves. He rolled in after her, and they played.
She stopped, laughing, and started kissing him again. She got serious, reaching between his legs. He gasped and she groped him, and she smiled. It was wicked, and he loved it. Then she laughed again, and stood. She ran around to the other side of the tree, still giggling.
"Oh, no you don't; not this time."
He ran around after her, laughing too. He stopped when he reached the other side of the tree.
She was laying on the ground bleeding everywhere. There were big steel things impaling her, and she was wheezing because she couldn't scream.
The summer and the oak fell away, and he was on a highway in the frozen sleet. She was on the shoulder, wheezing still. He tried to move, but his feet stayed where they were. She wheezed some more.
Nobody drove past, and she kept wheezing.
He couldn't speak, even thought he tried. So he stared.
She stopped wheezing.
His body moved then, and he raced to her, and then there were suddenly flashing lights and please sir get out of the way let us help her ten four copy that please sir-
Sen's eyes snapped open, and he sat up, suddenly afraid. The scary was here, he could feel it, it was squeezing his heart, and he couldn't breathe he couldn't breathe he couldn't breathe.
He squeezed his chest and gasped, and there was water dripping off of his chin and out of his eyes. He tried to make it stop but it wouldn't, and he rocked back and forth. Maybe he could shake it off.
He groaned in between the gasps now and he was drowning in it. He got out of bed, and ran in the darkness. He tripped over a foot hassock and fell onto the carpet. He crawled into the closet and shut the door. It was her closet; it smelled like Ange in here. The scary let go of him, and disappeared into the darkness. Sen sighed and leaned back into her clothes, inhaling.
It was bad dream; the worst kind. The kind that felt like a memory. But he was all right now, he was fine; he was awake and had a grip on things. Ange would be home from work soon and then he could really forget about it.
He stayed inside for a while.
When he came out, it was kind of light outside. The clouds were heavy and low, though; it was going to snow again today. Hard, probably. Sen crept back to the bed, unsure of why he was tiptoeing. He looked at the clock. It was 6:32.