Free Breakfast: Part Four
This is part four of Nathan Hare’s novella, Free Breakfast, which oook is serializing. Click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three. Look for part five coming soon!
Part Four: Carly
This one time, a few years ago, I remember seeing a fight downtown. It was super early, like three or four in the afternoon, and they fought right in the middle of the sidewalk. It happened so out in the open, right by the library even, and for whatever reason, there was just no one around. Not a single person. These two guys were alone in their fight, with no one to confront or stop them. I only saw it from the car window; me and my dad were driving somewhere and had stopped at the light. My dad even told me to look away. I remember thinking how strange it was, the juxtaposition of it all. That’s what life felt like sitting in the hotel room. It felt like I was watching a fight from the safety of my car. But it was as if one of the men opened the door and continued to fight in the small confines of my dad’s Civic. I was told I wouldn’t be hurt if I just looked away, but now I’m not so sure. The punches are coming so close.
We could have easily made our own breakfast. We both live in decent homes. We have food for free, every day at our disposal. All my life I have valued going out for meals. As a kid I used to beg my dad to take me anywhere for dinner. We’d find ourselves in a Denny’s along the highway, and even though I would get the same macaroni we had at home, it was something different. There was a certain peace in a change of scenery from the old house. Everything had stood the test of time in that place. I had looked through those windows my whole life, eaten every meal at the round table. The door was same one the police officer had knocked on after the car accident. And although my dad tried his best, he wasn’t the greatest when it came to cooking or cleaning. I’m going to assume that was what my mom was best at. So the house stayed messy, and there was nothing better than seeing the clean tile of a family restaurant.
Sometimes between bites of our meals my dad would tell me stories about my mom. I hardly remember her smooth brown hair, or pale green eyes. I can’t recall her tears falling on the side of her face in the hospital. And I definitely can’t remember when she and my dad first met. But I know the stories. And from there, I make my own memories. She was there at every one of my soccer games. She helped me with what to wear on every first day of school. She even gave me girl advice. She did everything TV taught me moms do, and even though the other kids couldn’t see her, I knew she was watching. Right? She’s got to be watching.
The day before we had been in the hotel, in the room that Melissa told Kevin in a dream her suicide note was in. I felt my eyes look over in his direction. He was wearing the stupidest outfit. His hair was almost sticking straight up. I guess his parents weren’t around much either. They were both actors, so they spent most of their time in the theatre working on whatever show they were putting on. I don’t think Kevin even knows them all that well, and if he doesn’t know them, then me and his parents are complete strangers. They would have their parties, where the house would be packed with men and women in flamboyant dress. Smoke would waft up to Kevin’s room, and every once and a while me and Kevin would run downstairs to grab something to eat or some extra batteries. I was always careful to avoid eye contact.
Carly had known me and Kevin forever, and she was there in the hotel room with us. She apparently had had the same dream as Kevin, and came to find the note. I find that hard to believe. I imagine she just saw us coming in and followed us up there. She lives like a block away from Sunny Days. We left the room, and since none of us felt like going to school, we went back to her place. We just sat in her basement and talked for a while. It was nice, around noon it began to rain, and from where I was sitting, the loveseat in between them both, I had a perfect view of the rain droplets hitting her small window. At some point we tried to start a movie but no one felt into it. Carly eventually suggested we go swim in the Sunny Days pool, which I guess is something she and her friends do a lot. Kevin immediately loved the idea. I hated it.
I hate pool chairs. The white plastic chafed against my skin. Sitting in the pool room, I was reminded of the swimming lessons I would take when I was younger. The pool provided this two-headed coin. When I was with my friends the pool was fun, and escape, but when it came time for swimming lessons things completely changed. I remember the teacher holding my body with two hands so I wouldn’t move when I practiced my kicks. Kick harder she would tell and I would move my legs in such succession until they hurt. But it was never fast enough. I watched Carly from the side. She and Kevin were the only ones in the water. Sunny Days was really dead, I noticed, as we walked in for the second time that day. Although maybe that’s not the best word to use, with the whole dead body situation. Her body curved as she swam, and as she dove deeper her movements had less of an effect on the surface. Her weight just barely created ripples, yet she moved so rapidly underneath them. It was quite beautiful.
“Cannonball!” Kevin yelled as he leapt into the water.
I noticed how pretty Carly looked. I always liked Carly. I even asked her out in like grade seven or something. We’re pretty good friends, and I like to think I wouldn’t give that up to be anything more. Although, one time last summer she held my hand as we were driving back from Kevin’s cabin on the lake. I’m not sure what she meant by it, but ever since then I wonder if she’s liked me a bit. From the pool chair I could see Kevin in the sauna. A chill ran through my body. I wondered who knew Melissa like I knew Carly, who had watched her swim and wondered how she got her body to move like that. Who had tried to give her a kiss in her room but got too nervous. Who had almost cried when she hadn’t answered her phone for two days, praying that something hadn’t happened, just to find out it had no battery. Who had gotten a knock on their door or a phone call on the same day me and Kevin had dressed up and gone for breakfast. It felt sad comparing and contrasting every tragedy to my own life, but maybe that’s only the way I or anyone can really relate. How can we really understand anything we haven’t been through? I felt a tug on my hand as Carly called for me to come in the water. I jumped in.
I could feel the bedroom fan through my sheets. The wind it created came through the duvet and pressed up against my lips like a kiss. It would come in these increments, and I counted the beats as the fan turned its head before placing its lips against mine. My head was covered and my eyes were closed, so I could only picture it rotating over the whole surface of my room. In my head I watched it plant a kiss on all of its contents: the door to right, the window on my left. It always seemed to slow down right before coming to me, and sometimes it felt as if it might just stop. But eventually I would feel the cold air, and for those few seconds everything felt very still and peaceful. It felt weird to personify the object like that, but that’s how I felt it. My hair was still a little bit wet from the night before, and I could feel its messiness even with my head against the pillow. My eyes still stung a bit from the chlorine, so I kept them closed, and waited for the kiss to come around.
The afghan had been lifted up. A cold rain took its place. Somewhere the rain has greeted someone as they return home from work. They will take off their shoes one by one, and maybe lie down on the couch. They will open a newspaper, and see my face staring back at them. And they will feel remorse, and they will tell someone I know they are sorry, and they may even attend the funeral, but that will be the extent of their sadness. The rain will justify their feelings so well. I watched as people swim in the hotel pool below where my body had once hung. Teenagers, to be specific. I recognized the girl from school. The boys however I can’t recall ever seeing. I am drawn to the more quiet of the two. I watch him as he says goodbye to the girl and climbs into the other’s car. I can feel his obvious affection for her. After the car ride he walks with a hunched back towards his back door. I am close to him as he takes off his coat and pours himself a glass of water. I lie next to him as he crawls into bed. As he closes his eyes, I place my lips against his.
Artwork by Jeff Ellom
Check out his flickr.
Free Breakfast by Nathan Hare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.