“Ever think we’d end up here?”
“Here” was the curb in front of my dad’s house at eleven in the evening. “Here” was hands-in-the-hooded-sweatshirt-pockets-s
“What?” The click of the cell phone closing.
“Never mind. So, anything?”
He shook his head. “Nada.” He sat down next to me. “How about we get some 40’s?”
I thought for a second. “The roof?”
He smiled. “The roof.”
When I was about 15 or 16 years old, Hector and I would cut school, and hang out in my room listening to records, getting high or drunk sometimes, and talking for hours. We’d sit on the roof, going through my window. My dad was never around, my mom was long-gone, and he lived with his grandparents.
We walked up the stairs to my old room. “You know, this place always seemed bigger when we were younger,” he said, lighting a cigarette.
I laughed. I’d heard my dad say the same thing one time when we’d gone to see his dad’s place one summer, upstate. We’d stayed for a week, and I had hated the whole stay. “Yeah well, 6 years adds some size to ya,” I said, opening the door.
“You ever think about him?”
I paused for a second. “Sometimes. You ever think about your parents?”
His mom stabbed his dad while he slept. “Sometimes,” he said, taking another drag.
“It’s weird. I was thinking, on the drive here, if he’d even recognize me.” I rubbed my arms almost instinctively. You can’t feel tattoos, that’s the point. Still, you can tell that your arms are different from when you were a kid.
“You were pretty ugly then, man. With that hair, ‘member?” Hector motioned with his hands, the cigarette smoking as he waved them above his head.
I smiled. “Fuck you. At least I wasn’t a fatass.” He feigned being shot in the heart. “Ow, that hurt.”
The walls were bare, but I instinctively looked in the corner behind the door. Every time. Scratched into the wood of the walls, faint, was “HOW LOW CAN YOU GET?” There weren’t enough coats of paint that could cover it. I’d been 12 when I did that with a knife I’d found the empty lot across the street. It had been empty then. There was a new house in the lot that we’d noticed as we’d arrived earlier.
I lost the knife in college, when I moved to Philadelphia.
We crawled through the window, climbing out onto the roof. The shingles were still warm. It’d been over ninety degrees during the day. Hector stubbed his smoke out next to him, reaching for another one.
“It’s a wonder you still get laid, smelling like smoke.”
He rolled his eyes. “Yeah well, you know…”
“Yeah.” I lay back, staring up at the sky while he lit up next to me. “Remember when we sat out here all night? Tried to watch the sun come up?”
“Uh-huh. Tied ourselves to the TV antenna with that cord you found, in case we fell asleep and fell off.” He laughed. “Shit, we were so out of our minds…” he trailed off, smiling. I propped myself up on my elbows. “Sucks, nothing going on tonight.”
“Well, actually, Helena’s having a party at her place.”
I made a face. “Like I said, nothing going on.” She’d broken up with him the year before, but in a circle of friends, she was hard to avoid. She also threw lame parties where random people we didn’t know would show up and make everyone really uncomfortable.
We’d been friends years ago, before she’d started dating this one guy.
I scratched at my chest. “Lemme get a drag?” He passed the cigarette over. It tasted terrible. “Needed that,” I said.
“Uh huh. You can’t lie to save your life man, man. You know that?”
I didn’t say anything. It was true.
It wasn’t the same. Too much time had passed, and too much was going on for it to have any sort of meaning anymore. We both looked at each other, and got up and headed for the window without saying anything. Didn’t have to. I was about to start my second year teaching. Hector and Emily were going to get married in the spring. She tattooed, and he was getting his nursing degree.
“So, you gonna wait another five years to come back and see the place again?” He unlocked the car door.
“I’m going to sell it.” He didn’t say anything as we drove away, drumming his hands against the wheel to a drumbeat that didn’t match the radio.
“You know, I ran into your dad last year, when you were in Florida.” It was my turn, I didn’t say anything. “He told me he’d tried to call you at Christmas.”
I remembered. “Yeah.”
Hector didn’t say anything for a while. Finally, he pulled over at the red light. Around us, the neighborhood was quiet. There was a single light on in a house right behind us on his side of the car. “I’m sorry man, he told me then. He’d just wanted to say hi apparently. He didn’t want you to know, he was worried that you’d stress over it. He’d apparently known he had it for like a year. He didn’t want to bother you.”
For a few minutes I didn’t do anything. Hector sat back in the car, suddenly fumbling for another cigarette. I opened the door, and got out, walking around to the front of the car.
“John! John, what the fuck?” he called out through the open window.
I looked up again. It’d only been 5 minutes since we’d left the roof and I’d looked at the sky, and seen nothing.
Yelled, for a good half minute, non-stop. A single shamelessly bad and loud scream. I swore, I yelled more, I swore again, and I spit in the curb, crouching down. Hector watched from the car. He dropped his cigarette.
I walked back, and got into the car. Hector still looked at me. “You cool?”
I took a deep breath. “Yeah, I’m cool. Had a moment.”
He sighed. “Cool.” The light in the window went out.
“Wanna get that 40 you’d wanted?”
He started up the car.