What Happened Next (Going Inside) – By: Odette

I think I left off where I was crouching in the grass on the side of the road and holding my forehead. I remember I looked up towards my house, thinking I should just get home and get Chris to help me. But when I faltered as I stood up, Jake grabbed my arm. He looked alarmed and said to come in to his house which was right there and I could sit down for a little while until I felt better. I said OK, sure, and through the haze of confusion, I picked my way over his cobblestone path with great interest, that this was a very unusual day.

I don’t think I mentioned before that the reason I was on the walk wasn’t just to get out of the house. I know every marriage has troubles and such, (this is what my younger sister tells me and she isn’t even married). But I was reeling from when Chris told me earlier, when I finally got out of bed at 2pm, that when his cousin died, he wasn’t this sad for this long. His declaration came while he was his playing Fifa Soccer video game without looking at me, thumbs flying, expression cold. What do you even say back to that? So I decided to head on out. I am pretty much queen of leaving before I say something hurtful and some awful words were on the tip of my tongue. So I slammed and banged may way out the front door, down the steps, along the path to the sidewalk of our street, and looked for Meliah in the trees. Maybe she was there. And maybe she knew I needed to be knocked out of my fixation of trying to find her.

So when Jake kind of guided me and my bleeding head in to his dark, college student house while his dog trotted along next to us, I was drunk with the perfection of the timing, stunned more from the victory of my silent fight with Chris than I was by the impact to my head, and distracted by the tight breathlessness in my throat. I noticed as soon as we walked in his door that he is a video game player too. There were lots of joy sticks or controllers…or whatever, all over the floor, next to scattered corn chips that his dog started to crunch. He nodded at them with seeming irritation. “My roommate was just out here.”

The couch across from the enormous TV, was either a dingy black or maybe dark red. Either way, I was a little worried about what I was going to sit on. I moved an empty plastic cup that had a drip of brown in the bottom, and sunk down into the outrageous pillowy-softness of it all. I looked up at Jake in surprise and he scratched his head, grinned nervously and said, “I know, it’s an old couch, kind of weird to sit on.” All I could think at that moment was, am I going to be able to get back up?

He just stood there examining me for a moment, squinting his eyes, which made me smile again. “You look like you’re ok.” he said. He was right. I was OK. My head stung a bit. But I hurt it worse last week when I closed the trunk on my forehead while unloading groceries from my car. This pain was going away quickly.

His house was grimy. But I couldn’t help but notice as he stood there assessing the damage to my head, he himself was so clean it was shocking. His teeth looked liked he had just gotten his childhood braces off and he smelled like a fizzing mint soap bomb. His hair was very short but he didn’t have any product in it like Chris likes to use sometimes when he plays a show. And Jake’s fingernails were clean and short. Chris’s are usually full of paint or soil from working in the garden with Zoe. I shook that sweet image from my brain. And God knows how old Jake was…probably early 20’s, my age when I got married. Just a baby. The most amazing thing were his eyes, light green with dark eyebrows and lashes as black and thick as his hair. His cheeks were flushed but I guessed probably from the stress of what was happening.

“I’ll get you some ice” he said. He left me to go to the kitchen while Milo sat with me and waited. My heart was pounding. This was so weird and a bit nerve wracking but also, not…because I wasn’t really afraid of men these days being almost 30. Now I was mostly just irritated by them. The word, “no” rolled off my tongue with an ease gained by years of use during club dancing, European youth hostel visiting, and dealing with suspiciously-chatty old men at the grocery store while I was a cashier in high school. I had one newly divorced professor that came through my line who randomly suggested I be his daughter’s personal dance teacher at his house? “No, thank you”. Another “usual” once told me that he couldn’t wait until I was legal. “Whether or not I’m legal will never make any difference to you.” I learned more about shutting down men at my grocery cashier job, than I did about the crazy amount of different types of produce one can buy. And then there was the music scene where I met Chris. When I was with him, I was off limits. And when I held his hand in public, it was amazing to be able to wear a crop top without worrying about creepy comments or looks from strangers. But that was more than 10 years ago.

He appeared with a slightly-damp paper towel and a black sock with some ice in it, then he brought then over and leaned over to offer them to me. I took them both then looked at the sock, dangling it in front of my face.

“Please tell me this is a clean sock” I laughed.

“I wouldn’t give you a dirty-ass sock.” He said. 

“OK, good” I said. Then looked at him and shrugged like…how would I know? I gently wiped a little bit of blood out of my hair with the wet paper towel, glanced up again at his face and blinked in surprise at the perfection of it, then gingerly put the ice sock on the bump on my head.

“OK this is what we are going to do,” he said with amusing authority. “This is tripping me out some, so I’m going to have a beer to chill out. Do you want one?”

“OK”

He paused, studying me. He must have gleaned some cues as I kept noticing his eyes because then he said, “Or gin? Do you want some gin?”

“Can you put some tonic in it?” I held his gaze for a moment and smiled and raised my eyebrows. His expression turned to utter surprise and I laughed in delight.

“Yes.” He said.

“And Advil?” I asked. “Do you have any of that?”

“No,” he scratched his chin seeming a bit nervous. “But I do have some weed.”

“That’ll work” I nodded and smiled at him again without any fear and he looked like his mind was blown. I saw him start to grin as he turned and hurried off to what I guessed was his bedroom to get the guilt-erasing substances. I have to tell you that I’m not very experienced in the world of pot-smoking. But in that moment I figured it wouldn’t make me more high than my migraine medicine does these days. I’ll tell you now that I was wrong. 

I also decided then and there that how could I be blamed for anything I did while experiencing the trauma of a head-injury? Here was a free golden pass (like the ones I used to be given to by managers to get into dance clubs with my younger sister)…a free pass to consciously make bad decisions, all on my own terms. And when I realized my head was spinning not with pain, but with what I wanted to do with Jake when he got back, I pet Milo’s soft head with amazement at what was happening. 

OK, I have to go and pick up the eggs from the organic egg lady and then make some lunch before it is time to get Zoe. More later.

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