A Story That Has Not Yet Happened But Will Or Might Not
It will be dark outside. The time will be six p.m. Or abouts. And everything indoors will look and feel sour. Spaghetti-colored. A dank fume will float. A pale light will fade.
Michael will sit in an armchair shaking his head. His arms draped over the sides. Dead cactus molt. And he’ll stand. Open the curtains on the window. Look into the outdoors. Lamb will watch Michael. Then stare at his shoes. At the floor. The apartment will feel damp. Dumpy. Lamb will feel abandoned in some way. Lost. And the carpet will seem stained beneath his feet. For some reason, he’ll picture drug users. Dopers. Junkies. He’ll imagine the amounts of illegal drugs smoked, sniffed, and shot in the same room by previous tenants. With clumps of missing hair. Bone dented speckled skin. Lamb will think these people would have listened to the Rolling Stones. Done something strange with scabbed arms. Watched television then through smokescreen spires. And Lamb will watch television too. But under some other influence. Something soporific and tasteless. People will float aimlessly across the television screen in a lagoon-shaped pool. Celebrities. Tan. Blonde. Wearing European clothing. Taking European clothing off. A male celebrity will touch a female celebrity. The female celebrity will apply tanning oil. Someplace. Lamb will drag a cigarette. He’ll watch ash stack on the end.
“Where can I put this?” Lamb will say. He’ll hold out his arm.
Michael will look at Lamb’s hand then look away. He’ll say, “The floor.” And it will be quiet for a while. No one will know what to say.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t,” Michael will say later. His eyes will be fixed the television. He’ll watch a computer commercial. He won’t understand.
When Lamb arrived at his brother’s apartment, Michael will have told Lamb something. News. Bad news. He is broke. All his money is gone. Lost. Initially, Lamb will feel sympathetic but then he will see it as a good thing. Lamb will ask Michael how this happened and Michael will say he that doesn’t care. That he hates money. That Lamb was right, It’s time for a change. And they’ll decide to do something. They’ll run away. And they won’t know to where. But they’ll decide they will. To California. To Alaska. Or someplace further. Michael will wear a t-shirt. The t-shirt will say the word “STATE” in large black, block letters. The letters will look nattered, peeling away from frayed cotton like cracked, plastic tears. Michael’s chest will weep. Lamb will watch. He’ll walk to the refrigerator in the kitchen. Open it. Take out four cans of beer and hand two to Michael. They’ll watch a basketball highlights for five minutes. Michael will say the word “Damn” vacantly after each instant replay.
“I wish life moved in slow motion,” Michael will say.
“That would be nice,” Lamb will say.
“I wish we could fast-forward life too,” Michael will say. “Like, right now. I would fast-forward to the future.” He’ll change the channel.
Lamb will wonder what to do and not do anything. And later he’ll say, “Yeah” in a disengaged way. He will look at Michael and think about telling him something encouraging – maybe – but won’t because he won’t know what to say or how to say it.
“If we stay any longer,” Lamb will say. “We’ll never leave.” He’ll look over his shoulder. See Michael. Michael will yawn. Lamb will yawn. Michael will say, “Damn.” Lamb will feel old.
“I miss Jordan,” Michael will say. “I miss the Chicago Bulls.”
Michael will look at his watch. Think about how much his watch costs. Think about being broke. Sigh. Stare at the television. The television will sit where it always has. On the floor. Fifteen years old. Growing older. Out of date. Synthetic wood panels. Bent antenna foliates. Two-hundred pounds of tube, wire, and glass. Lamb will remember the day Michael moved into his apartment. They carried the television up three flights of stairs. Sometimes, it won’t turn on. It was their father’s a long time ago. Lamb will watch Michael watching the television and think something for several minutes and think something else after.
“I miss the playoffs too,” Michael will say. Still standing by the window. “Damn.”
Lamb will sit down. He’ll see his hands. His skin will look thin and bloodless. His fingers will feel sore when he moves them. He’ll picture male celebrities touching female celebrities with tan fingertips. He’ll stick his hands in his pockets. Hold them there.
“It’s whatever,” Michael will say.
Lamb will want to say something that will prompt action. Michael will position himself in a posture-supporting pose. Lamb will open a beer. Take a sip. When Michael hears him do this, he’ll do the same. Michael will sit back down in his chair. Put his hands on the armrests. The living room will be quiet. They’ll drink. They’ll get drunk.
“What do you think?” Lamb will say.
“I think I’m tired,” Michael will tell him. He’ll change the channel. He’ll change it again. And again. He won’t be able to stop. His head will fall forward. Lamb will picture Michael’s vertebral column bending in a posture-neglecting pose. Putting an unnecessary amount of pressure on his spinal cord. Cutting off the oxygen supply to his compressed organs. Michael won’t move. Lamb will wonder if Michael is paralyzed. The television will mumble something about bread. Bread for a balanced breakfast. Lamb will feel hot and take off his sweater. Drop it on a stack of magazines. The magazines will sit on a coffee table. The magazines will be old. Covers peeling from the corners. Like old paint. Bubbled. Ratted pages ripped. Stuck together gooey with fructose seed and egg.
“You should throw these away,” Lamb will say.
“I know,” Michael will say. He’ll answer distantly. “I should do a lot of things.” He’ll stop. He’ll say, “I don’t know if I can.” And he’ll swish his feel back and forth across the carpet. The carpet will seethe stink and dander. Lamb will feel malnourished.
Lamb will press his neck against the back of the sofa. Empty his can. For a moment, he’ll feel blind, as if the lights in the room have been turned out. He’ll run his fingers through his hair. His hair will feel long. He’ll think, It needs to be cut. He will decide to never cut it again. He’ll think, Tonight I am running away. Then there will be silence. Then a soft murmur from the street outside. Lamb will think he is not who he is anymore. He will feel like someone else, ready for something else. The room will feel like a different room. The light – the clammy, halogen glow of it– will suddenly become a blurred version of another vision. A wet one. Streaming upward. Bright. Exposed. Waterlogged Polaroid washout.
But Michael will break the silence. In a voice void of emotion – a tone detached, close to curious, only wanting information – he will say to Lamb, “Why don’t we go already? Why don’t we get the hell away from here? Nothing’s stopping us.”
Lamb will feel the light on his skin. He’ll hear the street. Feel half in, half out of his body.
“I know,” he will say. “Nothing ever was.”
Lamb will wait in his car with the engine running. He’ll watch Michael stumble from the front door of his building in the dark. Michael will carry a backpack. A plastic grocery bag full of his remaining cans of beer. A pair of sandals. Lamb will think Michael looks like a homeless person.
“It’s all right,” Lamb will assure him. And Michael will crawl awkwardly into the front seat. There will be a woman walking a dog in the grass beneath a street light. Lamb will look at her, listening to his ignition purr. The dog will bark several times. And when they pull away, Lamb will watch the dog watching him in the rearview mirror as they drive away. Lamb will see its teeth.
It will take a long time to make the car go from slow to fast. The motor will gargle. Lamb will listen. Dahumph. Mhurmm. Yyzzhlnn. Lamb’s chest will deflate, then rise slowly. He’ll feel nervous. He’ll feel happy. He’ll think about how strange it is to be traveling in one direction for so long then another so suddenly.
Eventually, they will have to stop. Lamb will think this and feel unsure of himself. He’ll think the word, West. And he’ll feel okay. The car will coast along the road. Behind the wheel, Lamb will become fascinated by the pavement ahead. The smoothness of the surface. So black and even. And after a while, his arms will begin to ache. He’ll rest them on the steering wheel and rub his hands together. He’ll remember raking leaves in his front yard years ago. The feeling from that day will return. He is a child. Too cold to move his elbows, hanging dead at his sides inside a thick winter coat. His shoulder blades wiggling back and forth in abrupt shivers. His father rubbed his arms for him. Told him to be a man. Lamb will recall autumn. The aroma of things burning in faraway places. It is autumn now. He’ll think things changing. When trees turn from green to yellow, slowly exposing their brown bones. When the southern air mixing with stark, Canadian breezes. He’ll think about hurricanes. Blizzards. Things to come. Lamb will wish it could be fall forever.
He will drive slow, then very fast. The radio will be on. A faint mumble somewhere in the background. For a while, they will ride in silence. Except for transient sounds. Speaker static. Michael slurping at a can. There will be nothing but the tires. And the road.
“Dad’s going to think we’re crazy,” Michael will say. And laugh. “He’ll be upset, you know?”
Lamb will keep his eyes on his lane. He’ll nod but Michael won’t see him.
“Remember how crazy he got when we dyed our hair in high school?” Michael will say.
Lamb will say, “Yeah” and change lanes without indicating. Michael will sway in his seat. He’ll spill some beer in his lap. He’ll say, “For God’s sake, slow down. You’re making me make a mess.”
The radio will read the weather report. The Northwest onslaught continues. Heavy rain due. Meteors light up sky. And in ten minutes they’ll be outside the city. And everything will look spread-out. And orange. The road. The median. The whole highway world will be coated in a wet layer of citrus nocturne. And it will glisten beneath the streetlights. And Lamb will think of his mother. And he’ll see her. She’ll be wearing a leotard. Neon orange neoprene. Dancing step-aerobics before a fifteen-year-old television set. She will be pregnant. Lamb will see himself inside of her. And he’ll feel happy then sad then happy again. And he’ll begin to laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Michael will say.
“Nothing,” Lamb will say, looking out his window. He’ll see a movie theater in the distance. Abandoned textile warehouses. Yellow floodlights. In the sky, planes will descend and disappear. Michael will watch them.
“Are we by the airport?” Michael will say. “I think we’re by the airport.”
“We are,” Lamb will say. He’ll look at the sky. See no stars. Clouds will stretch across the sky with blue moon burn.
Lamb will begin to feel tired. He’ll think things like, It’s getting late. Or, Is this a mistake? Or, Is it too late to turn around? And he’ll picture himself on a bed with white sheets in a sunlit lit room. When he looks at the ceiling, he’ll see a roadmap of America. Highways running across the ceiling. Down the walls. Into outlets. The Plains States will make shapes in different forms. Kansas will be a mirror on the wall. Nebraska will be a drawer in the dresser. Oklahoma will be the ceiling fan spinning around and around in a cyclonic revolutions.
Lamb will feel cold. He’ll shake with soft frisson. His teeth will chatter. He’ll open his eyes. When he does, he’ll see a billboard. And he’ll read, Beverages. Groceries. Cigarettes. Behind it, low buildings will lie in an empty field. A strip mall. A shopping center. They’ll paint their own cold contours along the earth, glowing blue like ice cubes. Bitter. Dry. Glacial.
They’ll stop at motel with a pool. Lamb will hardly be able keep his eyes open. He’ll hold his head up with his hands. Lamb will give Michael money and Michael will hurry inside. For something. To use the bathroom. To rent a room. Lamb will climb out of the car. Lean against hood. He’ll sit there for fifteen minutes, wondering what to do. He’ll pull himself completely on top of the hood and lie down. He’ll feel cold then hot then cold again. He’ll hear a plane in the sky but he won’t see it. The sound will pass. The time will pass. The feeling will pass. Then Michael will emerge with a room key. And he’ll say, “I don’t have to work tomorrow.” And he’ll smile. And he’ll feel like crying.
In their room, they’ll sit on double beds. Sip warm beer. Watch more television. There will be a lady on the screen rubbing instant hair-removal lotion across her thighs. Michael will drink two cans of beer at once. Lamb will drink one. His head will begin to bounce. He won’t be able to tell if he’s beginning to get drunk or if he’s only tired. He’ll cross his arms in front of him as if to protect himself from something. He’ll think this and feel confused. Michael will stand up. Walk to the window where an air conditioner will buzz.
“Are you comfortable?” Michael will ask at an unchecked volume.
“I don’t know,” Lamb will say. “I can’t tell.”
Michael will look at Lamb. He’ll say, “You’re twitching.” And Lamb won’t say anything. And Michael will say, “Around your mouth.” And he’ll point at Lamb. And Lamb will look at Michael’s fingers.
“My mouth always twitches,” Lamb will say.
“I don’t know,” Michael will say. “I’ve never noticed.”
“I know,” Lamb will say. And he’ll try to change the subject by saying, “You really think we’ll make it to wherever we go?”
“I know we will,” Michael will say. His voice will be full of liquid-courage. “I want to see the Grand Canyon,” he’ll say. And Lamb will nod, picturing a wide, cracked world. With ancient wounds gaping, hanging wide open with clay scabs. Lamb will lick his lips. He’ll breathe into his pillow.
After a while, Michael will walk across the room to the bathroom. He’ll shut the door. And Lamb will close his eyes. He’ll feel static particles circulate through the walls and warm his skin. On the bridge of his nose. On his eyelids. He’ll think about where he and Michael are. They will only be thirty minutes away from where they live. Lamb will see himself and Michael in his head. Still sitting still. Drinking in Michael’s apartment. Stirring. Doing nothing. Waiting for something. Wondering where to go. How to get there.
Lamb will sweat. He won’t know why. He’ll sit up. Move to the edge of the bed. He’ll stay there for several minutes. Wonder whether or not to move. He’ll hear water running in the bathroom sink. Michael will brush his teeth. Lamb will walk over to the window for a minute then walk back. He’ll sit down in front of the television. And Michael will walk out of the bathroom. His hair and face will be wet. He’ll look at Lamb looking at the screen. There will be a man on a park bench smelling a paper bag in the snow. Lamb won’t be sure if the man is smelling the bag or only looking into it. Michael will walk over to his bed and sit down in a way identical to Lamb on his. Snow flakes will move gradually across the television. Off the screen. Onto the floor. Lamb will watch. Michael won’t see. Lamb will pull a blanket over his head and listen to the sounds around him. Somewhere in the room, Michael will be doing something, then nothing for a while. Under the sheets, Lamb will hear noise from the nearby highway seep through slowly. There will be sirens. Then none. Planes landing. Taking off. Meteors igniting the sky. Motors will groan. Cough exhaust. Carry people to and from their hometowns. Their faces will look tired. Their ribs will be soft. This will be the way it will be.
Lamb will feel the coarse fabric of the sheets around his shoulders. The sheets will smell familiar then foreign. His body will begin to ache in deep regions. He’ll wonder what he ever did to feel so sore. He’ll think about moving. Unsure if it will make his pain worse. He’ll consider sitting up, but won’t know how. He’ll close his eyes. Then open them. And he’ll decide to close them again in a little while. He’ll think, When it’s time. He will not move for a very long time.
Adam Moorad lives in Brooklyn and works in publishing. His writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in 3 A.M. Magazine, Elimae, PANK, Pindeldyboz, and Word Riot. Visit him at http://www.adamadamadamadamadamadam.blogspot.com.