I came, I saw, I'm going.
I don't believe you're all that bad anyway

Where does it hurt?

It hurts in the place your eyes go when you look at me like I deserved the pity I'd been waiting for. Like I had to be forgiven so desperately. Like I required patience, a messy and disobeying pet. Like I was as genuinely stupid as the things I was saying. Doing.

I can bear a lot, but this?


None of us could afford coffee, none of us really needed it. We kicked the stones on the sidewalk until we ran out of stones. We kicked the leaves. We kicked the dirt. We were next to the wall separating the outdoor patio tables of the cafe and the street. I was tired. I was thinking about the lesbian I had to drink away earlier that year, and what the brick wall behind me had to do with the embarrassing revelation. My mind went to the water balloon fight we had across the street last year, a going away party for a couple of friends that got broken. That made me really tired to think about. But not coffee tired. More like, oh, say, Neil Young tired, watching your hometown die tired, Raymond Carver tired, fighting over little things tired, fuck it let's just go home and play cards or something tired. Lonely people kisses tired.

There were three of us. It was her, somehow, again. After a week of silence and pain, pity, self-doubt, that conspicuous gap when two good friends jump and don't make it. Her and her younger sister. She's this drunk, suicidal guardian angel that keeps bleeding and won't die. Because nobody wants her to die, or she gladly would. She's a listener. She has bad taste in movies. She wants desperately to be close to any kind of person that won't try to touch her. She saved my life, twice. She's alright.

The rain felt warm, at first. But it was hard. We all stood uniformly and shuffled like penguins to the pavilion half a block down the sidewalk, behind the tennis courts. I walked next to her. I wanted to touch her, somehow, just anything. Grab her shoulder as we walked, she would wonder what's wrong. Try to hold her hand, she'd put me in my place. Wrap around her entire side and she'd know how desperate I really was. Oh well. What can I say? Some people can only love what they can hold in their own two hands. The rest of us only love what we can't. Don't hold it against us.

So what am I doing here, anyway? Am I wasting my friends in the rain? Casting pearls before swine? Do I still need to be forgiven, even if I knew? Are we three at all worth each other's trouble or company? I looked at them. Wet, catching their breath, sharing a smoke, talking, carrying the fire the best they could. No. This time, no. We are not worth each other's trouble. But at least for my part, I owe more than I can give. To the both of them. And you never know. They might feel the same.

So, yes. Absolutely yes. We do belong to this world. We belong to one another.
God I'm sorry.

She spoke. "We're thinking about doing a movie night."
I looked at her. I looked down. I looked at her.
"Would you be interested in that?"
After a time, "Yeah. Maybe."
She smiled. She could tell. Once a predator, always. "You've been a little quiet. Penny for your thoughts?"
"No, it's just...nah."
"Oh come on. What?"
"Just thinking about shit that would get me in trouble."
"What, my hair?" She craned a little.
"Sorry, what?"
"My hair? About this not being the first time you've seen my hair wet? Is that it?" She was excited. She is a dog ready to go running. Her eyes are wagging her tail like a paper fan.
"No. What made y-...no. No, no it was..." I exhaled deeply "just, yeah don't worry about it." I stepped off the pole holding my back up and faced the rain.

"I think I'll have to take a rain check on the movie thing." I spoke quickly, not hurriedly, not alarmingly. "I'm growing a couple things back at the apartment, I want to go check on them. Besides, I'd be no fun tonight, I can tell." I looked at her sister. She was avoiding eye contact, giving anything to look oblivious. I clapped her shoulder, cheer up. I started to walk towards home.

I turned around in the rain. "Do you guys even know what a rain check is?"
There was no immediate, incredulous affirmative, I carried on before giving them a chance to admit to their shortcomings of trivial, almanac, Jeopardy knowledge. "When you'd pay for a baseball game that got rained out before it started, or any time before the 5th inning when they could call the game official, you could show your ticket stub to the box office and they'd give you what's called a rain check on your way out. It works like a voucher to the next home game you attend, even if it's not the makeup game they play for the game that you paid to see.

"It was a great idea, a fair marketing deal, a good intentions thing that promoted a good, working man's sport. It's a real traditional thing that serves in its small way towards giving the game the traditional feel it's got. It's like the take a penny, leave a penny system. I love those kinds of things. My Mom's still got rain checks from the Summer she was pregnant and Dad was still in grad school trying to finish up his journalism degree. She would take the subway up to Shea Stadium every chance she could get. Back then you could show up on game day, buy a ticket at the gate, and get a seat behind the home team dugout for $4.50. And she loved those loveable losers so much, too. It's like they kept her company, they were warm and down to earth. They knew how bad they were and she didn't care, and they didn't care. That's why she loved them. She used to keep a team calender in her bed, eating mashed potatoes and drinking cranberry juice all day, following her team. They told me after she got out of labor the first thing she asked about was how the Mets finished out the week."

I chuckled. "Yeah, she loved it. That entire Summer, she loved those guys. She loved them because they lost so well. Then a couple years later they won it all. That season was kind of a surprise to her and everyone, but she was happy for them then, too, even though we'd already moved out West at that point. It was sort of a one-and-done, though. They went back to being the same 'ol Bad News Bears for a long time. They won again, once, but nobody really thinks about that or counts that. She didn't either. She didn't like it when they won that time because they broke somebody else's heart to do it. A lot of hearts, actually.

"She still loved them though. Especially back then." I was looking at my shoes. They were filling up with water, listening while they drank. I started again, talking under the rain. "I just wish..." I stopped. "I wish my Dad..." I stopped. I held it there for a long time. A long, long time.

I turned and looked up. There they were, quiet and almost fascinated, listening to this rambling fool in the rain. I don't think they were used to me talking like that. Remembering things out loud. I did a lot of work to never talk about myself, and sure as hell not about family. It felt like I was giving them something new. Something they didn't want, not from their hearts anyway. But something they'd been waiting for. I felt rather pleased with myself.

Hah, I smiled. I turned and walked home in the rain. I love it when you get sentimental, kid. It's one of the only things you ever do that doesn't matter.

So please forget the things I said
I was dark in the heart and deep in my head
But I want you to know I loved you the best anyway

Best anyway

*sigh* Man, I wish I could convince myself to start smoking.


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