3 Şubat 2021

Failing Upward Ch. 12

Ass

I screwed up again.

At least I didn’t think how it would make Sid feel. We stood alone talking on the porch, the waves roaring as a backdrop, and at first I wondered why he was so bothered by me feeling him up in front of Les and good ol’ Smith. I thought it was just a bit of fun.

I didn’t think.

He told me, “Don’t ever do that to me again.” The hurt in his face just cut me in two.

“It took everything inside to pull away from you in there. This isn’t a fucking game, Wes. Stop it.”

Maybe the cause for my serious lapse in judgment was because I’ve never had much self-control or at least never exercised it much. To be cliché, self-control and Sid were almost synonymous. To Sid losing self-control was like driving bamboo under his fingernails. To me it was more like a biting off a hangnail.

Hangnail or not, I did know what he meant. I shouldn’t be playing games. This was serious. Thinking I could win playing a game with Fate was ludicrous. I worried that changing time was like shooting craps. Nothing and everything had changed. My family still suffered. Sid suffered. I suffered. Every time I rolled, fate slapped my hand. My life had become just one helpless tumble after another. I had to admit, I enjoyed some of the helpless tumbles (falling into to bed with Sid for one), but the others were nasty falls. Sometimes when a person falls, the best thing to do was to roll with it. Why try to hold on anymore if the end result was being bloody and bruised?

As he stared out at the lake, his knuckles white, gripping the railing with one hand and his coffee mug with the other, I imagined he was trying to wrestle the dice away from Old Man Fate. For someone who didn’t want to play games, he was struggling to play. Didn’t he know the odds were stacked against him?

My eyes fixed to the same point as Sid’s in the distance. We watched as the dark flickering clouds boiled over the lake clashing against the bright starched sky surrounding us. The wind was gusting and white caps on the waves broke on the sand, slapping rhythmically. The storm would be here in an hour, maybe less. I sucked the ionized air into my lungs, waiting for Sid to speak.

“I don’t know anymore how much is you,” he said, “and how much is this sickness.”

Part of me wanted to reach for him, but another part of me knew better– knew how he’d react. How he’d step back from me, and his back would stiffen. He couldn’t lose his self-control. He was too close to me right now. I could smell and feel him through my pores like the sparks of ionized air around me. Even now I wanted him, and I knew he felt the same about me.

Only weeks before, I thought the same way he did now, that this feeling was a sickness. Now it’d become part of my life like breathing. Something I couldn’t live without, needed but could calibrate. Hadn’t Sid taught me? Breathing slow and quiet. Sometimes I’d forget and breath only through my mouth in long hard drags. The need I had for Sid was the same. I was sorry I’d lost myself earlier in front of Les and Smith. Sometimes, like before I’d forget and take Sid in like a sudden gasp from my lips.

But this was new for him. Part of the process of turning into an immortal was a loss of self. That part was horrifying for me too.

I blamed the roses and the Lancasters. What would he blame? A vial of serum and me? I should have seen it. Since self-control was so important to Sid, he would feel trapped losing it.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I know what you did in front of those two was just you being the Wes I love. Only I feel so different now, like you’re some kind of charged electron that I keep falling into. I don’t know. God, I can’t stand to be without you. It’s fucking painful. When I went to go change, I thought I was some heroin addict. Christ, Wes I was shaking. Right now I trying my best not to touch you, and I hate it. I want to touch you. I just don’t want to feel like I have to touch you. Do you understand?”

I nodded. Yeah, I knew that feeling. I remember groping him in the back seat of Alan’s car. That first kiss in the apartment and my anger when he denied me.

I knew he didn’t doubt I loved him. I was sad that he still wondered how much lust was mine, and how much was in bed with my DNA. I almost asked to go for a walk on the beach to talk about it, but that would be counter productive.

As I stepped tentatively beside him, I noticed Sid’s faded gray sweatshirt blotched with wet coffee stains from the cup he was holding. It bothered me. Spilling things all over myself was part of my nature. I was a klutz. Sid? He never spills so much as a drop of beer when he was falling down, shit faced, drunk.

As I watched him frowning at the horizon, I wondered if I’d been fooling myself. Maybe I had no idea at all what it was like for him. He was bound to me. What did that mean? We could stand out on the porch and talk about it, but I didn’t want anyone to overhear.

“Maybe we should go for a drive,” I suggested. After all, Sid’s car was parked around the casino şirketleri side of the house. He nodded.

“I’ll get the keys,” he said. I gave him space to breathe, letting him walk off alone to his room. This sadness was a chisel chipping at my heart. Hearing the sliding door shut felt like one more tap. I walked around the side of the house to the car. As the sand pushed cool between my toes, I thought maybe I should put on my tennis shoes. While sand and shoes don’t mix, we’d be in the car, and it was going to rain. Ah, I knew it was an excuse to go into the house with Sid. Instead I opened the door to his ’72 Cutlass S and waited in the passenger seat, brushing the sand off before I stepped inside. Same white interior, in the same pristine condition– minus one cracked windshield and bloodstained upholstery.

He came out the back door, head down watching his feet. He had on his old scuffed-up loafers. I wiggled my toes and sighed.

He stood with his hand on the door handle, hesitating. When he opened the door, it gave the familiar groan of raw metal grating against raw metal.

“Needs oil,” he commented, flopping into the white bucket seat and fiddling with the keys. “You wanna drive?”

I hesitated. I was pretty sure he was just being polite, but I wasn’t positive. Still, I think he’d be nervous with me driving his car– shit, I’d be nervous with me driving his car.

“No you,” I answered.

He pumped the gas once and turned over the ignition, smiling– at least his car was reliable. As he backed out he asked, “Where to?”

Now that was the question. I had in mind cruising around with no particular destination. Now for Sid driving aimlessly was a waste of time. Since I knew the area like the back of my hand, and the only thing he knew was that Lake Michigan was west, it was up to me to decide. Besides, there was a place I was dying to go to.

“Turn left up ahead. We can go to Cherry Point– it’s about twelve miles from here outside of Shelby.”

“Cherry Point? Let me guess. They sell cherries. Lots of them.”

“Yes, and the best cherry strudel you’ll ever have in your life. Almost as good as sex.”

Sid frowned and gave me the– what the fuck did you say that for– look.

“Well,” I protested. “It’s the truth. And the macadamia nut cookies are almost as good.”

“You aren’t going to make any smart ass cherry jokes like Lynn are you?” Sid asked. “Because I’m not in the mood.”

“No, why would I?” I asked. “They’re always at my expense anyhow.”

What was he all pissy about? He usually laughed at them the loudest. I tinkered with the seat belt, I wondering what Lynn was doing now. Not cooking, thank God. That I didn’t miss. But I was hungry.

Mmm, strudel.

“Seriously,” I added. “I love the place.”

I rolled down the window part way, just enough to taste the lake.

“Ok, we’ll go there– direct me.”

“Turn north on South 16th– it’s up ahead. Then take until it ends. That’s Cherry Point. On the corner of West Buchanan and 16th. It used to be this little roadside stand, but now it’s a bit more commercial, landscaping and all that. They sell tourist stuff– t-shirts and books along with the cherries and fruits and vegetables like you’d find at farmers’ markets. But it’s their baked goods that I crave.”

“So you say. Sounds like you’ve been going there since you were a kid.”

“Yeah,” I smiled, rolling the window down the rest of the way. “It’s one of those nostalgia things. There’s a lot of memories here near Shelby. Silver Lake, Ludington, Little Point Sable, all the places we went as a family. Maybe we didn’t travel much outside of Michigan, but we always had a good time here–“

“Seeing the world is great, but it would have been nice if my parents took us around the state. You know I’ve never even been across the Mackinaw Bridge?”

“No kidding? How about Mackinaw Island?”

“Nope.”

I turned on the radio. Reception stunk. Finally found a semi-good station.

“We’ll have to go some day. Great fudge. And that movie with Christopher Reeve, Some Where In Time was filmed there. You know the movie?”

“The one where Reeve’s tries to get back to his lover? What’s her name? She was in that show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Yeah, she was self-sufficient professional family doctor, not a helpless pioneer woman like yourself.”

“You mean Jane Seymour,” I added.

“Yes! That’s her name. ‘Come back to me.’ Right?”

I nodded. “Yeah, and I’m not a helpless pioneer woman anymore. I can take care of myself.”

Sid nodded although he didn’t look too convinced as he absently tapped a four-four beat on the steering wheel to the radio. He was too quiet, and he was getting those creases in his forehead– that meant trouble.

“I’ve been thinking,” Sid said slowly. “What if I stopped? What if I decided not to take any more serum?”

“You want to stop,” I said, keeping my voice flat as possible when I really felt like he’d just sucker punched me in the casino firmaları chest.

I turned and looked out the passenger window. From this side of the car there were no dark clouds in the distance; the sky was deceptive, pretending to be a clear, bright day, but I could feel the storm around me and the pressure building in my head. Or maybe the pressure was from what Sid just told me: that he doesn’t want to be with me– not forever. There’s no need for him to be immortal now with no Shackleton and with the Community sterile. No need for him to take the serum except to be with me.

I could feel his eyes on me, assessing the damage. I couldn’t turn to look at him, afraid I’d give away how I felt. I felt selfish and small, wanting him with me always.

“Since I’ve never taken it in this time, maybe I don’t have to. I don’t know. I mean what would happen?”

“I don’t know the answer,” I said, and I knew my voice gave me away; it was short and cutting. “Turn here.”

“Wes, look at me.”

I did. I could see the dark in the distance and the pain in his face.

“I’m sorry Sid. I mean, I don’t know what it’s like for you. If there’s any way you don’t have to take the serum, don’t.”

“This is so hard. I don’t know what to do.”

“Hello? It’s me?! Do you think I have a clue what to do? Fuck no. We came on this car ride to figure this all out.”

I played with the radio dials to keep my hands busy, all the while my brain was doing over 100 mph driving over whys and what fors, searching for avenues to convince Sid to be with me.

“Sounds as if you changed your mind about going back to our time,” I said.

“I thought about your argument, about making it worse. Maybe you’re right.”

I looked in his face. I couldn’t do to him what had been done to me. I could manipulate him. I could beg him. I could cry. Hell, I could easily cry, but for what? Keep him miserable beside me for all eternity?

“Listen, as far as the serum goes, it’s got to be your decision. It doesn’t matter to me,” I lied.

He frowned, and I knew he didn’t believe me.

“So ok, it does matter to me. But Peter was right. You’ll resent me, and I don’t want that. I’ll love you no matter what, so fuck the serum. And I’m sorry for the way I treated you in front of my brother and Smith. I know it’s no excuse, but sometimes I get this irresistible urge to fuck your brains out. Or for you to fuck my brains out. Part of it is the roses, but most of it is me. And hey, I’ve had a taste of the serum too, and it wasn’t pleasant. Roses and serum aside, I’d still lust after you.”

“Thing is I’ve always had the urge– it’s the irresistible part I don’t like.”

“You know, that hurts,” I said half jokingly. “I’ve always thought of myself as completely irresistible and now you’ve gone and burst my illusion.”

“Well, maybe when you’re wearing those leather pants…”

“Up here,” I pointed down the road. “See where it turns? Park in the field across the street.”

Sid slowed and pulled into the lot. There were more than a few customers, good considering a storm was coming. As we stepped outside the car, I could smell cherries and the cool moist air boasting from the lake. I was cussing myself for not wearing my shoes as sharp pieces of gravel bit into my tender arches as I hobbled through the driveway.

I was right. It had changed some over the years, but it was essentially the same– an old flat white painted barn converted to a roadside stand with white lattice for trim, and the barn doors standing open, inviting the public inside to shop and pick through their wares. I went straight for the pastries while Sid browsed around the shop, thumbing books and knickknacks.

As I checked out which pastries to buy, I kept thinking about Sid’s change of mind. I knew I shouldn’t feel like it was a betrayal. It was his life, but there was a part of me that resented he could make that choice.

I couldn’t decide on which cherry strudel so I took two. I was deciding on which paper plate filled with macadamia nut cookies I wanted when I heard these little squeals from behind a rack of sweatshirts. Two teenage girls peeked around. A petite blonde with a pink tank top shoved her friend into me. Auburn hair and tangerine lips filled my face, and she sputtered and stuttered. I stepped back. I grinned wide at her– God, she reminded me of Karen: petite frame, sparkling green eyes and a Jackson Pollack splattering of bronze freckles on her nose and cheeks. But what made me really smile was her fashion color nonsense: just like Karen, she was another redhead who insisted that red was her color. She hiccupped before me, dressed in clashing red from her clunky clogs down to her tight hip hugger shorts and her color un-coordinated purse (which she was frantically digging in). Even her hair ties were red.

“Mr. Grant?” she stammered, sticking her purse in my face. “Could I get your autograph?” She met my eyes and added: “I have all your CDs.”

I noticed Sid watching me and chuckling güvenilir casino as the cute blonde eyed my ass.

“Sure,” I said.

Still scavenging her apple red purse, she sighed with success, handing me what looked like an envelope and a purple marker. I fruitlessly juggled the strudel, cookies, paper and pen. Then I noticed she was looking directly at my crotch. Shit, it was like having my sister ogling me. Both our faces turned red. Hers was almost the color of her purse.

“Could you hang on to these for me?” I asked, and she grabbed both my cherry strudels, then my cookies, caressing them like they were mithril. I cleared my throat. “Who do I write this to?”

“Ashley. Ashley Peters.”

“All right Ashley Peters.”

I wrote a short message and handed it back, which set off another giggling cascade.

“Thank you Mr. Grant.”

“Call me Wesley.” More giggles. Lots more. I thought about winking at her, but changed my mind. After checking out my package, I didn’t want to give her any encouragement.

“Thank you, ah, Wesley.”

“Um. Could I have my strudel back?”

“Sorry Mr. Grant– I mean Wesley.”

“–and my cookies?”

Sid was having way too much fun. I could see he had a book, Ghost Ships of The Great Lakes, and a couple of sweat shirts in his arms along with a grin wide enough to split his face.

I went up to the counter next to Sid to pay. And I heard him talking to the cashier about me. I set my things next to his.

“Isn’t that lighthouse on my shirt the one you’re always going on about?” Sid asked, pointing at his purchase.

“Yes, it’s at Little Point Sable.”

“It’s only a few miles from here,” the gray haired cashier chimed in.

“Want to go?” he asked me.

I wanted to, but I looked over my shoulder at the girls, hoping they hadn’t heard our conversation. I didn’t want to get followed.

“Could I have a quart of cherries too?” I asked the cashier. She turned and poured them from one of the quart baskets into a zip-lock baggy. I said under my breath to Sid, “Sure, I’d love to, but we’d better hurry before the storm breaks.”

As I hotfooted to the car, trying hard to avoid the sharpest chards of gravel, I heard the girls calling, “Goodbye, Wesley,” and I half assed waved back while Sid laughed into his new sweatshirts.

I slammed the car door shut behind me, organizing my pastry.

“Now, you weren’t any help at all,” I said.

“I didn’t want to interrupt– it being your first real autograph and all.” He leaned into me, crooning, “Mr. Grant, your eyes are sooo much bluer in person.”

“Fuck you,” I said. “She wasn’t looking at my eyes. Whatever happened to sweet innocent teenage groupies?”

“What universe do you live in?” he laughed. “Groupies have never been sweet or innocent.”

I opened the strudel on top and carefully ripped off the end, popping it in my mouth. This was the perfect way to avoid what was really eating at me.

“Well, you do have beautiful eyes Mr. Grant,” he said and patted my knee. I tore off more strudel and ate. God it was good. Flaky, melting in my mouth. Tart cherries with just the right sweetness. I think psychiatrists are right, there are some foods that recall memories. I sighed, closing my eyes, chewing. Major comfort food.

“Where to?” he asked.

“Follow Buchanan. It’s right off this road on the left side– of course.”

I opened my eyes and took another bite. Sid was staring at me.

“My God,” Sid said. “How am I supposed to drive with you eating that?”

“What’s that suppose to mean?”

“You’re over there licking your fingers and moaning. Take at look at yourself in the rearview mirror–“

I screwed the mirror around for a gander. I had gooey cherry juice on the corner of my mouth. I licked it off.

“Oh, like that’s gonna help,” he said.

“So now I can’t eat?” It wasn’t like I was intentionally tormenting him.

“It’s not like we can pull off to the side of the road and park. It’s daylight.”

“Was I suggesting you do it?” I asked. “This is ridiculous. Maybe you’re right. Maybe you better quit taking the serum if it’s making you this crazy.”

I wrapped the twisty back around the end of the strudel’s plastic bag. I’d wanted to go out to the lighthouse with Sid a few moments ago, but now I was wondering if we shouldn’t– maybe he’d think that was another elaborate ruse to get him horny. One moment he was joking with me, the next he was picking at me.

Fuck it. This was his idea. We’d go to the lighthouse.

“I’m sorry Wes,” he said.

I wondered what he was sorry about? Teasing me about lecherous groupies? Accusing me of erogenous eating? Or deciding against immortality?

“Turn here,” I said.

We followed the narrow inlet road along the towering dunes on the right. The sky was dark and heavy over the tops of the trees where the road took a ninety degree turn. We passed quiet private homes and beaches until we got to the state park. The parking lot was almost empty. One last straggling family was packing, deserting the beach. Mom was swiping sand from her two towheaded children’s feet, and Dad was organizing the back of their SUV– coolers on one side and rainbow towels and beach umbrellas on the other.

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